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Coronavirus Updates November 2021

Arcadian

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I got my booster last week and i struggled with it. I'm just now starting to feel normal again.
 

MamaBee

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I got my booster last week and i struggled with it. I'm just now starting to feel normal again.

I’m glad you’re feeling better. Your immune system must be strong…The only reaction I got was a sore arm..I wish I had a stronger reaction..
 

DutchJackie

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Here in the Netherlands we’re starting a “Lockdown Light “ for three weeks. New records for positive tests have been set… :cry:
 

dk168

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New issue with our NHS app in that it currently does not record booster injections.

This is causing an issue with some EU countries such as France that requires evidence of booster on entry (exact details unknown).

Hopefully the NHS app will catch up and get updated. However, it took them at least 6 months if not longer in order to link lateral flow tests performed at home or work to be linked to the app. Therefore, I am not holding my breath!

Covid-19 is still very much alive and kicking!

DK :(2
 

Arcadian

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I’m glad you’re feeling better. Your immune system must be strong…The only reaction I got was a sore arm..I wish I had a stronger reaction..

I would have been happy with a little less...lol The first day after I was like, oh no biggie, and then it just went downhill. If I hadn't gotten the shot I would have thought I might have had Covid again. Might have affected me more because of that.
 

MamaBee

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I would have been happy with a little less...lol The first day after I was like, oh no biggie, and then it just went downhill. If I hadn't gotten the shot I would have thought I might have had Covid again. Might have affected me more because of that.

I heard that if you had Covid your reaction to the vaccine would be more severe. My son had Covid but he didn’t get any reactions. :think:
 

missy

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The latest​

With coronavirus cases on the rise in areas across the United States and vaccines now available for adults and children ages 5 and older, many families are at odds on whether to get immunized. Post reporter Peter Jamison tells the story of one such family in West Virginia, where a vaccinated mother fled from her own home because the adult daughter she lived with refused to get the shots to protect against the coronavirus. The father, who was vaccinated, stayed behind. And when he died — presumably of a heart attack — some in their family blamed the vaccines.

Under orders from the Oklahoma governor, the state's National Guard has defied a Pentagon policy mandating that all service members get the coronavirus vaccine, allowing personnel to decline immunization without fear of retribution. Currently, it appears that Guard members can do so but would be required to get the shots if they were activated on federal orders, such as an overseas deployment. The move may pave the way for other Republican-led states that are challenging mandates to institute similar measures.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has called a special legislative session dubbed “Keep Florida Free” to consider four bills aimed at blocking employer-issued coronavirus vaccine mandates. The bills would increase penalties for local governments, public and private businesses and others that require vaccination – or masks in schools. If passed, fines for such violations would increase from the current $5,000 to $10,000 for small businesses and $50,000 for businesses with more than 100 employees.

Across the Atlantic, Austria — which is seeing a surge in covid-19 infections and hospitalizations — has ordered millions of unvaccinated people into lockdown. The country, which is among the least vaccinated in the European Union, recently reported more than 13,000 new cases. Now, unvaccinated adults and children ages 12 and older may leave home only for essential reasons such as work, doctor visits or grocery store runs.

In Lebanon, nearly 40 percent of doctors and 30 percent of nurses have left the country since 2019 — straining a nation once known for turning out some of the best health-care workers in the Middle East. Amid the ongoing pandemic, the head of Lebanon’s Order of Physicians said most recent medical school graduates are seeking employment abroad. The reason, it seems, is multifaceted. But, for many, the breaking point was the devastating explosion that killed more than 200 people in Beirut in 2020.

Other important news​

Three snow leopards in a Nebraska zoo died of complications from covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, illustrating that even animals are at risk.

Despite President Biden's vaccine mandate, roughly 4,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents and employees — or about 20 percent — have yet to roll up their sleeves.

What some companies are doing when the pandemic breaks the global supply chain: Rewrite the production playbook.
 

missy

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Speaking of children.

Just over 1.35 million children under age 12 years have received the COVID-19 vaccine since it was approved on Nov. 2, putting them behind the initial pace set by 12- to 15-year-olds in the spring, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Specific figures for children aged 5-11 years are not yet available, but CDC data show that 1.55 million children under the age of 12 years had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of Nov. 15, of whom almost 204,000 already had been vaccinated before Nov. 2. For children aged 12-15, the first 2 weeks after approval on May 12 produced almost 2.1 million vaccine initiations, according to the CDC's COVID Data Tracker.



That dataset reveals several other noteworthy differences between the two age groups in the 10 days after approval:

  • There were over 7,000 vaccine initiations on the first day in the 12-15 group; the younger group had 32.
  • The older children reached 100,000 per day in 3 days; the younger children took 8 days.
  • The older group topped 200,000 vaccinations per day on six different days; the younger group didn't get above 175,000.
Children under 12 made up 27.5% of vaccine initiations in all age groups during the 2 weeks from Nov. 2 to Nov. 15, versus 3.4% for 12- to 15-year-olds and 1.2% for 16- and 17-year-olds, the CDC said, while also reporting that 3.6% of children under age 12 had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, compared with 57.8% of those aged 12-15 and 64.4% of 16- to 17-year-olds.

Meanwhile, the first full week of November marked the second consecutive increase in the number of weekly child COVID cases, with 122,000 reported for Nov. 5-11. The number of new cases has now surpassed 100,000 for 14 consecutive weeks, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association said in their weekly COVID report. That report, which covers state health departments, has not included current information from Alabama, Nebraska, and Texas since the summer.

Regionally, the increases over the past 2 weeks were spread out among the East, the Midwest, and the West, while the decline that had been going on for several weeks in the South has largely come to a halt. The states with the highest percent increases over those 2 weeks are all in New England: Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, the AAP and CHA noted. In a separate report, the AAP said that Vermont has the second-highest child vaccination rate (81%) in the country, just behind Massachusetts (82%).
 

missy

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NIH Begins Long-term Study of Children With COVID-19​


The National Institutes of Health has begun a long-term study of the effects of COVID-19 on children and young adults.

Researchers will follow 1,000 children and young adults ages 3-21 who have tested positive for the coronavirus. The study will look at the effects on physical and mental health, including their development and immune responses to the virus.

"Although we know that children are vulnerable to COVID-19, we still do not have a clear picture of how COVID-19 affects them in the long term," Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement.


The study is supported by Fauci's institute under the National Institutes of Health. Researchers have enrolled their first participant at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD.


"In adult patients, the long-term sequelae of COVID, including post-acute COVID-19, can significantly affect quality of life," Fauci said. "Our investigations into the pediatric population will deepen our understanding of the public health impact that the pandemic has had and will continue to have in the months and years to come."

The U.S. has reported more than 6 million COVID-19 cases in children during the pandemic. Although kids are less likely to have a severe illness, many children have had significant short-term and long-term effects, the NIH said. Children can also get inflammatory symptoms that can affect multiple organs, which has been called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C.

The study will track the long-term health effects of COVID-19 and try to find the risk factors that lead to complications, the NIH said. Researchers will also evaluate the long-term immune responses to the virus, screen for genetic factors that could affect how children respond to the virus, and find out if immunological factors affect long-term outcomes.

Children may be eligible to take part in the study if they tested positive for COVID-19 in the past, even if they didn't have symptoms, the NIH said. Participants will receive a full physical exam and full medical history. Household members who didn't get COVID-19 may also be asked to enroll as part of the control arm of the study.

Children must have consent from parents or guardians to enroll. During follow-up visits, participants will get additional scans, questionnaires, and methods for tracking health, development, and quality of life. The researchers think the study will take about 6 years to complete, the NIH said.

Additional details are available at ClinicalTrials.gov.
 

missy

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FDA OKs COVID-19 Booster Shots for All Adults​

— Pfizer, Moderna boosters now authorized as well​

by Molly Walker, Deputy Managing Editor, MedPage Today November 19, 2021


Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all adults


The FDA expanded the emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for Pfizer and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines to include booster shots for all adults, the agency said on Friday.
Every adult who received a COVID vaccine at least 6 months prior will be eligible for a booster dose of mRNA vaccine. Previously, Pfizer and Moderna vaccine boosters were limited to those who had received a two-dose primary series at least 6 months before, and fell into specialized groups, such as adults ages 65 and up or younger adults with high-risk medical conditions or at high risk of occupational or institutional exposure to the virus. (The agency previously authorized Johnson & Johnson boosters for all recipients of that vaccine starting 2 months after the single-shot regimen.)

"Streamlining the eligibility criteria and making booster doses available to all individuals 18 years of age and older will also help to eliminate confusion about who may receive a booster dose and ensure booster doses are available to all who may need one," said Peter Marks, MD, PhD, director of FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in a statement.
The Pfizer booster dose is the same as the two primary shots (30 μg), while Moderna's is a half-dose (50 μg) of its primary shots.
The EUA was granted on the basis of safety and immunogenicity data provided by each manufacturer.
For Pfizer, the agency reviewed immunogenicity data from "approximately 200 participants" ages 18-55. Interestingly, FDA made no mention of data released via press release last month from Pfizer's randomized booster trial of over 10,000 individuals ages 16 and up. The phase III trial found that the booster dose was safe and demonstrated a relative 95.6% efficacy versus those who had only received a two-dose primary series.

Moderna's EUA was granted on the basis of immunogenicity data from 149 adults from P201, a phase II trial, who received the two-dose 100 μg series (the dose authorized under EUA) plus the booster dose, which FDA said "demonstrated a booster response."
FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) had previously discussed these immunogenicity data back in September (Pfizer) and October (Moderna) prior to the authorizations for high-risk populations. But there was no VRBPAC meeting to discuss this EUA. Previously, the agency's advisors had shown no appetite for boosters in all adults, voting against Pfizer's initial application by a vote of 16-2 and not wanting to discuss it during Moderna's review.
In Friday's announcement, FDA noted the increased risk of vaccine-associated myocarditis and pericarditis, but determined that "the benefits of a single booster dose [...] outweigh the risks" in adults ages 18 and up.
The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet later on Friday to discuss recommendations for boosters.
Last Updated November 19, 2021
 

dk168

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The booster I had on Wednesday 17 November showed up in the NHS app today as part of my Covid-19 vaccination record.

>>>feeling grateful.

I shall continue with performing lateral flow test at home every 2 weeks.

I feel for those who are unvaccinated for medical reason(s) like my mum and brother for restrictions imposed on them due to no fault of their own except for having medical conditions that are contraindicated to receive the approved vaccines. :(

DK :))
 

missy

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The booster I had on Wednesday 17 November showed up in the NHS app today as part of my Covid-19 vaccination record.

>>>feeling grateful.

I shall continue with performing lateral flow test at home every 2 weeks.

I feel for those who are unvaccinated for medical reason(s) like my mum and brother for restrictions imposed on them due to no fault of their own except for having medical conditions that are contraindicated to receive the approved vaccines. :(

DK :))

Glad you got the booster @dk168 and I, too, feel for those who cannot get vaccinated for valid medical reasons. And those who can and refuse are putting those like your mom and brother at risk. Which is, IMO, absolutely unacceptable.
 

dk168

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Glad you got the booster @dk168 and I, too, feel for those who cannot get vaccinated for valid medical reasons. And those who can and refuse are putting those like your mom and brother at risk. Which is, IMO, absolutely unacceptable.

When I read the leader of an antivax group in one of the EU countries could not attend a rally/demonstration as he himself contracted Covid-19 and had to isolate, I could not help but to smirk, sorry!

DK :oops2:
 

Karl_K

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1 local hospital is back on visitor restrictions and surge status.
The other 2 are not far beyond but since they stopped accepting anyone's insurance on medicaid the one hospital is bearing much more than 1/3 of it once again.
Hospitalized cases doubled in 1 week.

We know of 2 breakthrough cases both j&j with no booster. Neither is in the hospital.
 

missy

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Another Covid wave begins.

The vast majority of those who need intensive care and ventilators are unvaccinated. That’s the common refrain across America and much of the world as a new wave of Covid-19 infection sweeps the globe—something that in the past has been followed by surging hospitalizations and deaths. In Europe, lives lost to the coronavirus will reach 2.2 million by March based on current trends, the World Health Organization warned. In the U.S., which has led the world in infections and fatalities since shortly after the pandemic began, a sixth wave is forming up as the delta variant rips through populations of vaccine refusers. Michigan, the latest U.S. hot spot, had a seven-day case rate of more than 600 per 100,000—triple the national average. Here’s the latest on the pandemic. —David E. Rovella


"
Prognosis

N.Y. Signals MTA Mandate Unlikely; Resilience List: Virus Update​

Bloomberg News
November 22, 2021, 5:44 PM EST Updated on November 23, 2021, 5:09 PM EST


Norway, Denmark, Finland, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, South Korea and Switzerland are the only countries that didn’t slip into the bottom half of Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking in the past 12 months.
Michigan is the latest U.S. hot spot, with a seven-day case rate more than triple the national average as the nation struggles with yet another surge. Denver is renewing a mask mandate.
Deaths in Europe from Covid-19 will reach 2.2 million by March based on current trends, the World Health Organization warned, pushing for more vaccinations. European Union officials are trying to agree on how to manage vaccine rollouts. Germany’s top health official reiterated that the country can’t rule out any measures to contain the fourth wave, while its inoculation drive showed signs of reviving. "
 

missy

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The perfect Christmas gift: freedom​

In New Zealand’s difficult transition from Covid Zero to living with the virus, there’s one part of the country that has shouldered much of the burden: Auckland.
So it came as a relief when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said people living there will finally be able to leave its confines starting Dec. 15. They will have their freedom in time for Christmas.
New Zealand’s largest and most dynamic city—home to a third of its 5 million people—has been locked down for more than 90 days, while most of the rest of country has been living with minimal restrictions. By the time the cordon around the city is lifted, it will have been more than four months since residents were able to leave.
Auckland has had the misfortune of being at the epicenter of New Zealand’s delta-variant outbreak since it was first detected in the community in August.

To keep the rest of the nation largely Covid-free while vaccination rates accelerated, the government ringed the city off, putting police checkpoints on the borders to the north and south and allowing only essential workers with permits to pass. Those caught trying to leave were fined.
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Chairs and tables outside a closed cafe in Auckland.
Photographer: Brendon O'Hagan/Bloomberg
As Ardern grappled with how to let Aucklanders out of the city without spreading the virus to the rest of the country, especially regions with low vaccination rates, some unusual ideas arose. One Cabinet minister even suggested Aucklanders could each be assigned specific times when they'd be permitted to venture out.
Now, the key to the reopening plan is that only vaccinated people or those who have a negative test result within 72 hours of departure are able to exit. Police will have discretion to enforce the rules and do random spot checks. Violators will face a fine of NZ$1,000 ($700).
While Auckland is fast approaching the government’s 90% vaccination goal, other areas are lagging behind, raising concern. In Northland, a region that neighbors Auckland and is a popular holiday destination for the city's dwellers, just 74% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated. For New Zealand’s Maori population, it’s lower still at 65%.
People living outside of Auckland—like me—are nervous. For so long we have largely been protected from the virus, and soon there will be a good chance it’s headed our way. But there’s also a sense of gratitude to Aucklanders: We have been able to continue with our lives while they have been stuck juggling home schooling, working from home, battling loneliness and anxiety and facing financial stress.

If any New Zealanders deserve a decent Christmas break, it’s Aucklanders.—Ainsley Thomson
 

missy

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After three weeks of Covid-19 vaccinations for U.S. children ages 5 to 11, some familiar patterns are starting to emerge.

Kids are being vaccinated faster in the same states where adult rates are higher, according to a review of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Vermont leads the country, with 27% of their 5-to-11 population getting a first dose as of Nov. 22. It tops most other states for the total population, as well. Likewise, states in the South — Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana — that lag behind in adult vaccinations also are slow in getting first doses to younger children.

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In total, the CDC showed that 2.84 million young children, or 10% of that population, have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Vaccines for young children were cleared for use by the government on Nov. 2.

At least some of the difference may be from delays in data reporting. The CDC information trails the situation on the ground by several days, and the vaccine effort in young children is still only a few weeks old. A handful of states have clear data issues, as well: Idaho’s CDC figures show no data for children ages 5 to 11, and Maryland’s CDC data are far below what the state itself reports.

But not all of the gaps among states can be explained by paperwork. The child vaccination disparities mimic what the U.S. has seen over the last 11 months of giving Covid shots, and all of the politics, doubts and debates are likely to repeat themselves.—Drew Armstrong
 

dk168

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A new variant from South Africa is causing significant concerns so much so that swift travel restrictions will be in place for travellers from SA and ? 6 other countries from that continent.

Good to see we have learnt our lessons the hard way about closing borders quickly after the dreadful consequences in April 2021 with the Delta variant!

Stay safe everyone, it is far from over!

DK :(2
 

Lula

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This variant is causing some trouble. Dow Jones futures already down 800 points on this news

Wall Street Journal
By Gabriele Steinhauser
November 25,2021

JOHANNESBURG—South Africa’s government is considering new public-health restrictions to contain a fast-spreading new variant of the coronavirus that scientists say has a high number of mutations that may make it more transmissible and allow it to evade some of the immune responses triggered by previous infection or vaccination.

The warning from the South African scientists and the Health Ministry, issued in a hastily called news briefing Thursday, prompted the World Health Organization to call a meeting of experts for Friday to discuss whether to declare the new strain a “variant of concern.”

The WHO uses this label for virus strains that have been proven to be more contagious, lead to more serious illness or decrease the effectiveness of public-health measures, tests, treatments or vaccines. Other variants of concern include the Delta variant that is now dominant world-wide and the Alpha variant that drove a deadly wave of infections across Europe and the U.S. last winter and spring.

While the scientists said they were still studying the exact combination of mutations of the new variant—currently dubbed B.1.1.529—and how they affect the virus, its discovery underlines how changes to the virus’s genome continue to pose a risk to the world’s emergence from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It just again reinforces the fact that this invisible enemy we are dealing with is very unpredictable,” said South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla. He said the government would hold discussions over the weekend on whether new restrictions on social gatherings and other activities such as travel were necessary to stem the spread of the new variant.

“This is going to present a major challenge,” he said, urging all South Africans who haven’t gotten vaccinated against Covid-19 to do so now. Only around 24% of South Africa’s 60 million citizens are fully vaccinated.

Researchers first detected B.1.1.529 on Nov. 12, said Tulio de Oliveira, who heads the Centre for Epidemic Response & Innovation at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University and is a member of the WHO working group monitoring new coronavirus variants. Since then, the variant has driven an exponential rise in Covid-19 infections in the country, albeit from a very low level, with the number of new infections topping 1,200 on Wednesday, about four times as many as two weeks ago.

B.1.1.529 is now responsible for around 90% of cases in South Africa’s most populous province, Gauteng, home to the political and economic capitals of Pretoria and Johannesburg, quickly crowding out the Delta variant. It has also been detected in neighboring Botswana and in a South African traveler in Hong Kong, said Prof. de Oliveira.

Prof. de Oliveira said he expected the WHO working group to give B.1.1.529 a new name taken from the Greek alphabet, which suggests that it would either be declared a variant of concern or a “variant of interest.” Variants of interest have genetic changes known to affect how the virus works, but still require further study, according to the WHO.

The new variant has more than 50 mutations compared with the coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan, China, in 2019. More than 30 of those mutations are in the spike protein, through which the virus attaches to human cells and which is the main target of the current crop of Covid-19 vaccines.

While many of these mutations appear to be new, several are known to scientists from other variants of concern, where they appeared to make the virus more contagious or allowed it to evade parts of the immune response prompted by vaccination or a previous Covid-19 infection.

“All these things give us some concern that this variant might have not just enhanced transmissibility, so spread more efficiently, but might also be able to get around parts of the immune system and the protection we have in our immune system,” Richard Lessells, an infectious-disease specialist at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform, said during the briefing.

Dr. Lessells said he and other colleagues were still studying whether B.1.1.529 was mostly infecting unvaccinated people and whether it leads to more serious cases of Covid-19. “The mutation profile gives us concerns, but we now need to do the work to really understand the significance of this variant and what it means for the response to this pandemic,” he said.

Botswana’s government said Thursday that all four infections with B.1.1.529 it had detected were in people who were fully vaccinated and got tested ahead of planned travel.

In contrast with most other prominent variants, which can be detected only through time-consuming and costly genome sequencing, the presence of B.1.1.529 gets flagged in some of the commonly used polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests, Prof. de Oliveira said. That makes it easier to track and is one of the reasons why South African scientists were able to pick up on its fast spread in the country so quickly.

Maria Van Kerkhove, who leads the WHO’s technical work on Covid-19, said the agency’s experts were keeping a close eye on the new variant because of the high number of mutations.

“This is one to watch. I would say we have concern, but I think you would want us to have concern,” she said during a question-and-answer session on social media. “We have people who are on this.”

She added that the best way to avoid the emergence of new variants was to contain the spread of the virus. “Everybody that’s out there needs to understand that the more this virus circulates, the more opportunities the virus has to change, the more mutations we will see,” she said.
 
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missy

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New COVID Variant Sparks U.S. Travel Ban for Southern Africa​

— Characterized as "red flag," but questions remain about immune escape, transmissibility​

by Molly Walker, Deputy Managing Editor, MedPage Today November 26, 2021


The U.S. will ban travel from South Africa and several other African nations starting on Monday due to the emergence of the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529), which may have the ability to evade COVID vaccines and increase the risk of reinfection.
A statement from President Biden noted that he was briefed by his chief medical advisor, Anthony Fauci, MD, about the variant, and ordered the travel ban from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. Politico reported that the CDC also advised the president on the travel ban.

"As we move forward, we will continue to be guided by what the science and my medical team advises," Biden said.
Fauci told CNN on Friday that there's no indication that Omicron is in the U.S. right now, but "it's possible." He also characterized its large number of mutations as a "red flag."
The variant "has some mutations that are raising some concerns, particularly with regards to possible transmissibility increase and possible evasion of immune response," he said. "We don't know that for sure right now, this is really something that's in motion."
The European Union, the U.K., Israel, Singapore and the U.S. are among the countries imposing travel restrictions on southern African nations.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also weighed in with a statement that named B.1.1.529 a variant of concern (VOC) following a meeting of their Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE).

"This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning," the group wrote. "Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs."
South Africa first reported Omicron to the WHO on Wednesday, noting that "infections have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant."
The variant was first detected in Botswana, but spread to South Africa, where it was first detected on November 9, the statement said. Reports indicate there are 87 confirmed cases worldwide. All but 10 of these cases are in South Africa -- six are in Botswana, two in Hong Kong and one apiece in Israel and Belgium.
A report from Nature noted that Omicron contains more than 30 mutations to the spike protein, and these changes have been "linked to heightened infectivity and the ability to evade infection-blocking antibodies." In addition, all 77 virus samples from South Africa's Gauteng province from November 12 to 20 were B.1.1.529.

"My big concern is transmissibility, we've had other immune escape variants like beta and lambda which never took off. The key question: more or less transmissible and can it out compete delta?" tweeted Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, of Baylor College of Medicine.
Other unanswered questions noted by experts include the question of whether the variant causes more severe disease, which should be apparent as more data accrue.
 

missy

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OMICRON variant of concern


The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a new coronavirus variant to be "of concern" and named it Omicron.
It had a large number of mutations, and early evidence suggested an increased reinfection risk, the WHO said.
It was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on 24 November, and has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.
A number of countries around the world have now decided to ban or restrict travel to and from southern Africa.
Travellers from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini will not be able to enter the UK unless they are UK or Irish nationals, or UK residents.
US officials said flights from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi would be blocked, mirroring earlier moves taken by the EU. It will come into effect on Monday.

Brazil and Australia also introduced travel restrictions.

'Bad news - but not doomsday'​

On Friday, the WHO said the number of cases of this variant, initially named B.1.1.529, appeared to be increasing in almost all of South Africa's provinces.
"This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,"the UN public health body said in a statement.
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It said "the first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November".
The WHO said it would take a few weeks to understand the impact of the new variant, as scientists worked to determine how transmissible it was.
A top UK health official warned that vaccines would "almost certainly" be less effective against the new variant.

But Professor James Naismith, a structural biologist from the University of Oxford, added: "It is bad news but it's not doomsday."
He said mutations in the variant suggested it may spread more quickly - but transmissibility "is not just as simple as 'this amino acid does this'" and was determined by how mutations worked together.
Only about 24% of South Africa's population is fully vaccinated, which could spur a rapid spread of cases there, Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (Spi-M), told the BBC on Friday.
Meanwhile, US infectious disease chief Dr Anthony Fauci said that while the reports on the new variant threw up a "red flag", it was possible that vaccines might still work to prevent serious illness.
"Until it's properly tested... we don't know whether or not it evades the antibodies that protect you against the virus", Dr Fauci told CNN.


The WHO has warned against countries hastily imposing travel restrictions, saying they should look to a "risk-based and scientific approach".

However, in addition to the UK, and the US and the EU, a host of other countries have also announced restrictions:
  • Australia announced on Saturday that flights from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, the Seychelles, Malawi, and Mozambique would be suspended for 14 days. Non-Australians who have been in those countries in the past two weeks are now banned from entering Australia
  • Japan has announced that from Saturday, travellers from much of southern Africa will need to quarantine for 10 days and take a total of four tests during that time
  • India has ordered more rigorous screening and testing for travellers arriving from South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong
  • Iran will ban travellers from six southern African countries, including South Africa. Iranians arriving from the region will be admitted after testing negative twice, state TV says
  • Brazil also said it was restricting travel to the region from six countries in Africa
South Africa's Health Minister Joe Phaahla told reporters that the flight bans were "unjustified".
"The reaction of some of the countries, in terms of imposing travel bans, and such measures, are completely against the norms and standards as guided by the World Health Organization," he said.
Echoing his words, Angelique Coetzee, chairperson of the South African Medical Association, told the BBC that the travel restrictions on her country were premature.
"For now, it is a storm in a tea cup," she said.
Only about 24% of South Africa's population is fully vaccinated, which could spur a rapid spread of cases there, Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (Spi-M), told the BBC on Friday.
Stock markets across the world also fell sharply on Friday, reflecting the fears of investors over the potential economic impact.
The FTSE 100 index of leading UK shares closed 3.7% down, while main markets in Germany, France and the US also sank.
Presentational grey line

A "variant of concern" is the World Health Organization's top category of worrying Covid variants.
The decision adds weight to the mounting scientific worry about the potential of this new variant, but it doesn't change any of the facts.
The variant has an astounding collection of mutations which are thought to increase its ability to spread and bypass some, but not all, of the protection from vaccines.
However, we still don't have the clear real-world data.
We don't know for sure that it spreads faster, makes vaccines or drugs less effective or whether it leads to more severe disease.
The WHO have also given it a name and ended days of speculation that we would end up in the slightly ridiculous position of calling the new variant the "Nu variant".
There have even been arguments about the correct pronunciation of the Greek letter Nu (it's technically a "Nee").
Instead, you can guarantee we'll be talking a lot about Omicron in the weeks to come.


Presentational grey line

Variants explained
 

missy

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Coronavirus Updates: The latest​

Health authorities have identified a new variant of the coronavirus with some alarming characteristics. It first cropped up in Botswana and is believed to have contributed to a sharp rise in infections in South Africa.On Friday, the World Health Organization officially named it a “variant of concern,” meaning there's evidence that it's more transmissible or more virulent than previous versions of the virus.

Scientists are particularly worried about this one, known as omicron, because it has an unusual number of mutations — more than have been found in other highly transmissible variants such as delta. Many appear on the spike protein, the part of the virus that binds to human cells and enables it to gain entry. The fear is that these changes could help omicron more easily get around the body's immune defenses and render the vaccines less effective. “This is the most concerning variant we’ve seen since Delta,” Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, told The Washington Post.

The announcement of the new variant sent financial markets tumbling, prompted countries around the world to restrict travel from southern Africa, and set off a frantic scientific effort to figure out just how dangerous the evolved pathogen might be. Such a reaction is to be expected at a time when delta is already resurging across Europe and the United States. But it's important to keep the situation in perspective. Scientists still know little about the new variant outside its mutation profile. And so far only a few dozen confirmed cases have been identified in a handful of countries. Public health recommendations haven't changed: get vaccinated, get boosted, get tested when you've got symptoms, and mask up in risky settings. Read our FAQ on the variant for more.

As the Biden administration tries to gauge the threat from omicron, the United States will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries in the region. A senior administration official tells my colleague Annie Linskey that the policy is being implemented in “an abundance of caution in light of a new covid-19 variant circulating in Southern Africa." The decision came after the White House arranged a meeting between U.S. and South African doctors to learn more about the variant's spread. “We want to find out scientist-to-scientist exactly what is going on,” President Biden’s chief medical adviser Anthony S. Fauci said in a CNN interview.

As shoppers hit the stores for Black Friday, the Dow plunged more than 900 points on news of the new variant, marking its worst day of 2021. Airline and cruise company stocks dropped. So did oil prices. But investors flocked back to companies that did well during the first year of the pandemic, including Zoom and Peloton.

Infections continue to soar in Michigan, now the country's virus epicenter.Covid-19 patients, most of them unvaccinated, are flooding into hospitals across the Wolverine State, pushing the health-care system into crisis. The state's caseload has hit a record high, and hospitalizations are soon expected to do the same. One health executive described the situation as “almost unmanageable.” At least two dozen other states have seen cases rise at least 5 percent in the past two weeks, signaling that the fifth pandemic wave predicted by health experts is indeed upon us.

Other important news​

Europe is entering its second pandemic winter with rising cases, rising deaths and revived restrictions. The frustration is palpable.

Global health leaders warn the situation in Europe could be a “window into the future for the Americas.”




There’s a new variant of the coronavirus that’s been identified in South Africa, and it’s causing some alarm. Scientists are still analyzing the new strain, but it has many more mutations than previous versions of the deadly pathogen. With much of the world still unvaccinated, health experts are worried their fears may soon be realized—that the virus will evolve into ever-more transmissible, possibly more dangerous forms that could circumvent existing shots. Concern that the new strain could fuel more outbreaks, even as a new infection wave is already gathering steam across the globe, has prompted nations including the U.S. to quickly block travelers from southern Africa countries, though the variant has already been found elsewhere. Here’s how stocks took a dive on the news, the latest on the new strain and the pandemic. —David E. Rovella
 

dk168

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The new variant of concerned now named Omicron, has been detected in Belgium, the first confirmed European case, for a lady who has yet to be vaccinated, tested positive on 22 November, 11 days after a trip to Egypt via Turkey.

Concerns have been raised that the variant has already spread more widely due to lack of connection of this lady with southern Africa.

Fingers firmly crossed that by imposing swift travel restrictions, we could delay another potential wave long enough to allow more people to be vaccinated or have their boosters, so as to avoid the festive spirit being taken away again.

DK :(2
 

missy

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missy

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The new variant of concerned now named Omicron, has been detected in Belgium, the first confirmed European case, for a lady who has yet to be vaccinated, tested positive on 22 November, 11 days after a trip to Egypt via Turkey.

Concerns have been raised that the variant has already spread more widely due to lack of connection of this lady with southern Africa.

Fingers firmly crossed that by imposing swift travel restrictions, we could delay another potential wave long enough to allow more people to be vaccinated or have their boosters, so as to avoid the festive spirit being taken away again.

DK :(2

I would call the other countries swift but USA not so much. They are waiting til Monday instead of the immediate action the other countries wisely took IMO.
 

missy

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Just wanted to add surely the Omicron variant will become global. No question. The closing of borders will slow it down a bit but it’s too late and it will indeed become global. No doubt in my mind. I’d love to be proven wrong though.
 

Asscherhalo_lover

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AND now NY calling halt on ALL elective surgeries.


Gov. Kathy Hochul orders halt on elective surgery amid COVID spike, Omicron​

By
Carl Campanile
November 26, 2021


FUDGE. We are NOT ready to deal with this again. So many people suffered while waiting. This is awful.
 
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