Internet Explorer 11 is not supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

The Latest on How California, the U.S. Are Responding to COVID

The U.S. has dedicated $300 million to next-generation COVID testing; Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to punish doctors who spread COVID-19 misinformation is criticized; and the pandemic looms large over BART’s 50th anniversary.

(TNS) — A bill on California Gov. Gavin Newsom's desk that would punish doctors who spread COVID misinformation is being decried by critics as a potential free speech nightmare. The Bay Area's COVID cases fell to their lowest levels since mid-April, prior to the summer surge. And here's how to stay abreast of all The Chronicle's COVID coverage.

U.S. dedicates $300 million to next-generation COVID tests

The White House has allocated $300 million for the accelerated development of next-generation coronavirus tests, the National Institutes of Health announced Thursday. Two new funding opportunities are available for diagnostic test manufacturers as part of the incentive program. The first opportunity is to develop accessible over-the-counter tests that can be used by people with disabilities, while the second seeks to improve the performance of over-the-counter tests to ensure ease of use. "Tests should aim to minimize or eliminate the need for serial testing and performance should be unaffected by variants," the agency said in a release. It expects the products will be ready for commercial use within two to three years.

Vitamin D doesn't prevent COVID-19, studies find

Vitamin D supplements do not protect individuals against COVID-19 or other respiratory infections, according to two large clinical trials published yesterday in BMJ. For the first study, researchers at the University of London enrolled 6,200 people over the age of 16 who were not taking vitamin D supplements at the start of the trial. A six-month supply of oral supplements was provided to 2,674 of the participants, while 2,949 participants in the control group were not offered vitamin D. All had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. "Among people aged 16 years and older with a high baseline prevalence of suboptimal vitamin D status, implementation of a population level test-and-treat approach to vitamin D supplementation was not associated with a reduction in risk of all-cause acute respiratory tract infection or COVID-19," the authors wrote.

In another trial conducted by Oslo University researchers in Norway, some 34,601 adult participants were given low-dose vitamin D supplementation in the form of cod liver oil from November 2020 to June 2021. The supplement did not provide a reduced risk of COVID-19 or other respiratory infections, the study showed. "Vaccination is still the most effective way to protect people from covid-19, and vitamin D and cod liver oil supplementation should not be offered to healthy people with normal vitamin D levels," Peter Bergman of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden said in a related editorial.

White House details fall COVID-19 battle plan

The Biden administration on Thursday detailed its plan to deliver updated COVID-19 vaccines to Americans this fall, as well as other steps it plans to take to "effectively manage COVID-19 and minimize its disruptions, and to stay prepared for whatever may come." High on the list of priorities is rolling out the new shots to tens of thousands of locations nationwide to ensure easy access for those who want them. The vaccine will be available for free to over 90 percent of Americans within five miles of where they live. The White House will make additional efforts to reach out to high-risk individuals and renew its campaign to battle misinformation. The administration also plans to purchase 100 million additional at-home, rapid tests from domestic manufacturers in anticipation of a winter surge. It anticipates the expansion of test-to-treat sites across the nation. Officials will call on schools and businesses to ramp up their mitigation measures, offering consultations on how to help make indoor air quality improvements. Finally, the White House reiterated that it is working toward transitioning procurement and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments to the commercial market.

Republicans prepare to shut down $22.4 billion request for COVID-19 funding

Few Republicans are willing to even entertain President Biden's request for $22.4 billion in emergency funding to deal with COVID-19, the Associated Press reports. While the administration says the money is needed for additional COVID-19 vaccines, testing programs and research and development, GOP lawmakers say federal spending on the virus needs to wind down, not ramp up. Montana Senator Roy Blunt, a member of GOP leadership, said that people can pay for their vaccines like they pay for other aspects of their health care, and "there's really no reason that the government should be paying for all of that." The White House is also asking for $4.5 billion to bolster efforts to fight monkeypox. Officials said they have already depleted significant reserves from the national stockpile to provide more than 1.1 million vials of vaccine.

Children's COVID cases rise for second week in a row

There were 90,639 confirmed child COVID-19 cases in the U.S. last week, according to data published Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association. That marks a 14 percent increase in infections from two weeks ago — and the second week the numbers have gone up despite national trends showing falling case counts in the general population. Many schools have reopened without masking requirements and other virus mitigation measures.

Global COVID cases fell 12 percent last week

COVID-19 cases worldwide dropped by 12 percent last week compared to the week before, according to the latest update from the World Health Organization. But Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned the positive trends may not continue into the fall. "You might be tired of hearing me say the pandemic is not over. But I will keep saying it until it is. This virus will not just fade away," he said. The WHO plans to publish a set of policy briefs next week to help governments step up ways to reduce transmission, including guidance for testing, clinical management, vaccination, infection prevention and control, risk communication and community engagement, and managing misinformation. The United States, Japan, the United States, South Korea, Russia, and China were the countries with the most reported cases for the week ending Sep. 4.

Long-term heart issues found in people with mild COVID infections

In a study of 346 previously healthy patients with mild initial COVID-19 illness, researchers found that 73 percent had cardiac symptoms — including palpitations and chest pain — more than 3 months after infection. About 57 percent of the participants reported ongoing issues after nearly one year in the study published Monday in Nature. Comparisons were made between participants with and without cardiac symptoms, as well as a control group of individuals with no previous COVID-19 infection and no known heart disease or comorbidities.

Pandemic's toll looms large over BART's 50th anniversary

In its half-century of existence, BART has been no stranger to controversy, crises, criticism, uncertainty and the region's shifting economic tides. But as the transit system prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary, no one could have anticipated its vulnerability following the pandemic. A one-week span in March 2020 "changed everything" for BART due the launch of the pandemic's shelter-in-place orders.

Anxiety and depression may raise odds of long COVID, study finds

Psychological stressors may play a greater role than physical ailments in a patient's likelihood of experiencing symptoms of long COVID after a coronavirus infection, according to a study published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry. In a cohort study of 54,960 individuals who were surveyed for 19 months starting in April 2020, "depression, anxiety, perceived stress, loneliness, and worry about COVID-19 were prospectively associated with a 1.3- to 1.5-fold increased risk of self-reported post-COVID-19 conditions, as well as increased risk of daily life impairment related to post-COVID-19 conditions," the researchers found. "Our results should not be misinterpreted as supporting a hypothesis that post-COVID-19 conditions are psychosomatic," they said. "First, among respondents who developed post-COVID-19 conditions, more than 40 percent had no distress at baseline. Second, symptoms of post-COVID-19 conditions differ substantially from symptoms of mental illness."

Third Democratic senator this week tests positive for COVID-19

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez is the third Democratic senator this week to test positive for COVID-19, his office announced on Wednesday. "The senator is in good spirits and incredibly thankful to have been fully vaccinated and boosted," Francisco Pelayo, his communications director, tweeted. Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff announced he tested positive for the virus earlier on Wednesday during a planned eight-day trip to India, while Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen on Tuesday said she had tested positive. All three are isolating and working remotely, per CDC guidance. The Senate returns to the Capitol this week following its summer recess and is expected to hold multiple votes. Their absences may throw off the chamber's 50-50 makeup if votes are cast along party lines.

Critics denounce bill punishing doctors who spread COVID lies

Gov. Gavin Newsom has until the end of the month to sign or veto a bill that would make California the first state to let regulators punish doctors who give patients false information about COVID-19 — but which critics say would be a free-speech nightmare. State law already prohibits doctors from violating the accepted standard of medical care by lying to patients or mistreating them for any illness, including COVID-19. Doctors who do this risk being disciplined by the state's medical boards or losing their license altogether. Read more about AB2098, which specifically calls out COVID-19, and why some people think it tramples on the rights of doctors to express their medical opinions.

Don't dispose of old vaccine doses, U.S. health officials tell providers

COVID-19 vaccination program providers working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will continue to make the original monovalent mRNA vaccines available to those 6 months and older for their primary series, and for boosters for children ages 5 to 11, according to a directive from Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. They should not discard the doses despite the anticipated availability of the new bivalent doses targeted at the omicron variant. "There shall be no disposal of the monovalent COVID-19 mRNA vaccines at this time outside of the usual parameters," the guidelines said.

(c)2022 the San Francisco Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
From Our Partners