Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

The Delta surge.,


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This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.

Credit…The New York Times

Coronavirus cases are once again rising in the U.S., fueled by the Delta variant and the sagging vaccination campaign.

Infections are now rising in almost every state. During the last two weeks, daily case numbers have increased by at least 15 percent in 49 states, and have at least doubled in 19 states. Places with low vaccination rates — including Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana and Nevada — are seeing full-fledged outbreaks. Hospitalizations have also started to rise, though at a slower rate.


New daily hospitalizations in the U.S.Credit…The New York Times

“The big takeaway from this moment is that the pandemic isn’t over,” said my colleague Mitch Smith, who tracks the virus for The Times. “There are some real areas of concern, but we are also in a much, much better place than at previous points during the pandemic.”

Almost half of all Americans are now fully vaccinated, and studies have shown that the shots offer powerful protection against all known variants of the virus, including Delta. Cases and hospitalizations are also low compared with previous peaks, and deaths are occurring at some of the lowest levels since the early days of the pandemic.

Still, things may look different for you, depending on your geography.

In much of the country, especially the Northeast, the Upper Midwest and the West Coast, case rates remain relatively low and vaccination rates are comparatively high. Vermont, the state with the highest vaccination rate, is averaging 11 new cases a day.

But it’s a different story in areas with lower vaccination rates. In parts of Missouri, I.C.U. beds have become scarce. In Mississippi, where cases were up 70 percent over the last two weeks, health officials have urged older adults to avoid large indoor gatherings even if they have been vaccinated. And in Louisiana, which has the country’s second-lowest vaccination rate, with only 36 percent of the population fully vaccinated, the average daily caseload has doubled since the start of July.

The surge also arrives at a time when the national vaccination effort, which has become mired in partisan politics, has drastically slowed. About 550,000 people are receiving a vaccine each day, down from the April peak of 3.3 million shots a day.

“We’re in a tricky middle ground,” Mitch said. “It’s a moment for awareness, but I don’t think it’s a moment for panic — particularly if you’ve been vaccinated.”

Even though I’m vaccinated, I can’t help but worry about getting a breakthrough infection, and possibly ending up with long Covid — the constellation of symptoms from the disease that can linger for months.

So I was heartened to read in a recent report by my colleagues Apoorva Mandavilli and Benjamin Mueller that many scientists now believe breakthrough infections are unlikely to lead to long Covid.

“Long Covid is a manifestation of the long-term damage the virus can do in a body,” Apoorva told me. “In most people with a breakthrough infection, the virus never gets a chance to find a foothold because soon after infection, the immune system kicks in and destroys it. In the rare instances where a breakthrough infection is severe enough to cause symptoms, there is still a chance of long Covid, but in the vast majority of cases, a breakthrough infection will have no effects, in the short or long term.”

Apoorva told me that if you’re vaccinated, you don’t need to worry about long Covid, unless you have an immune condition that prevents you from producing a strong immune response.

“In most vaccinated people, the risk of long Covid is likely to be very small,” she said. “If you are still concerned, you can wear a mask indoors, especially as the number of cases with the Delta variant rises.”

A large new study found that people living with H.I.V. are more likely to become severely ill with Covid-19 and more likely to die if hospitalized, compared with others infected with the virus.

Researchers collected data on more than 15,000 people from 24 countries who were infected with Covid-19 and H.I.V. Nearly 92 percent were being treated with antiretroviral drugs. After adjusting for other factors, the researchers estimated that H.I.V. infection increases the odds of dying from Covid-19 by 30 percent. The study also found that nearly half of H.I.V.-infected men older than 65 who are hospitalized for Covid-19 may die.

The data is especially pressing because many countries with high numbers of people with H.I.V. are battling surges of the coronavirus, fueled by the contagious Delta variant and a dearth of vaccines. About 95 percent of the people with H.I.V. included in the analysis were from sub-Saharan Africa, which is home to two-thirds of H.I.V. cases worldwide.

Scientists said that the results suggest that people with H.I.V. should be first in line for vaccines, along with older adults and others with weak immune systems.

  • Politicians and medical experts in Australia are trading blame for a slow vaccine distribution as the country struggles to contain a coronavirus outbreak in Sydney.

  • Thousands of protesters in France and Greece marched against the inoculation campaigns in both countries after the authorities announced new coronavirus vaccination requirements this week.

  • A homeopathic doctor in California became the first person to face federal charges for selling fake Covid-19 vaccination cards, the authorities said.

  • Frustrated with lagging military vaccinations, an Alabama base is requiring some G.I.s to provide proof of shots.

See how the vaccine rollout is going in your county and state.

I live in Holland. My daughter and two granddaughters live in Platte City, Mo. It has been almost two years now since I was able to see and hug my daughter. My youngest granddaughter is 15 months old and she hasn’t met her “opa” yet. Mr. President, please lift the travel ban, at least for fully vaccinated people like me, because this situation is hard to cope with on both sides of the ocean.

— Gaaike Euwema, Haren, Netherlands

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