COVID TRACKS — MARCH 5, 2021
March 8, 2021
Editor’s Note: Covid Tracks is the Boiling Point’s bi-weekly column on the Covid-19 pandemic. Compiled by BP science reporter Juliet Wiener from medical journals, official government websites and briefings, national news sources and original reporting, Covid Tracks is published on the opposite weeks from the Covid Tracker, our bi-weekly survey of cases and vaccines reaching the Shalhevet community.
BY THE NUMBERS
Over the last seven days, 10,928 new Covid cases were reported in Los Angeles County, an average of 1,561 per day. This is a 23.4% decrease from two weeks ago.
Covid spread per 10,000 residents by neighborhood since the beginning of the pandemic:
- Beverlywood: There have been 635 cases per 10,000 residents.
- Crestview (Pico-Robertson area): There have been 845 cases per 10,000 residents.
- Hancock Park: There have been 573 cases per 10,000 residents.
- Westwood: There have been 455 cases per 10,000 residents.
- Valley Village: There have been 778 cases per 10,000 residents.
- Brentwood: There have been 452 cases per 10,000 residents.
- As of March 5, 2,284,375 vaccines have been administered in Los Angeles County. (Source: Los Angeles Times)
- At Shalhevet, 56.5% (57 out of 101) of students and faculty members surveyed said at least one person whom they live with had received either one or both doses of the vaccine as of Feb 23. (Source: Boiling Point Covid Tracker Feb. 23)
- California is expecting to receive the new Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccine as soon as next week and 1.1 million doses of this vaccine within the next three weeks according to California Governor, Gavin Newsom. (Source: KTLA)
- Today there are 176 Covid patients currently in LA County hospitals with 429 of them being in the ICU (intensive care unit). This is a 50.4% decrease from two weeks ago. (Source: LA County Daily Covid-19 Data)
- Many LA County hospitals remain at their maximum ICU capacity. Cedars Sinai, however, has now declined to a 92% occupancy from a 116% occupancy two weeks ago. (Source: Los Angeles Times)
Three main coronavirus variants — mutated Covid-19 strains– have been detected in the US: B117 (United Kingdom variant), P1 (Brazilian variant), and B1351 (South African variant). Some of these variants are more contagious and possibly more deadly than the original virus strain. The South African variant shows resistance to certain Covid treatments — for example, monoclonal antibodies.
- The UK variant now accounts for 20% of Covid cases in the U.S. (Source: New York Times)
- So far, 206 cases of the B117 and 3 cases of B1351 have been identified in the state of California. (Source: CDC)
- Additionally, a new variant emerging in California, CAL.20C, has been detected and is responsible for nearly 50% of Covid-19 cases in Southern California. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center are working to determine whether this variant will be more contagious, more deadly, or more resistant to vaccines. (Source: Cedars-Sinai and Boiling Point interview with Dr. Eric Vail)
The CDC announced this morning its first set of guidelines for those who are fully vaccinated.
Activities that fully vaccinated individuals can now resume include:
- Visiting other fully vaccinated people indoors without masks or social distancing
- Visiting unvaccinated people from one other household — if they are low risk for severe illness — indoors and without mask wearing or social distancing
- Fully vaccinated people do not have to get tested or quarantine after coming in contact with someone who is positive for Covid-19 if they do not have symptoms.
- When in public, however, fully vaccinated people should still wear masks, social distance, avoid medium-larger gatherings, and follow travel requirements. (Source: CDC.gov)
Johnson and Johnson’s single dose, adenovirus Covid-19 vaccine was authorized for emergency use by the FDA on Feb. 27 for people ages 18 and older.
- This vaccine has 66% efficacy overall, 72% efficacy in the US, 85% efficacy in preventing severe cases of the virus, and 100% efficacy in preventing death.
- Johnson & Johnson has promised 20 million doses by the end of March and 100 million doses for the US by this summer. (Sources: FDA, Johnson & Johnson, and White House Covid-19 press briefing on Feb. 24)
President Biden said March 2 that the U.S. was now on track to have enough vaccines for all U.S. adults by the end of May — two months earlier than previous estimates.
He also announced that the White House had brokered a deal for the pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. to help Johnson & Johnson ramp up production of its just-approved one-dose vaccine. Merck & Co will provide two facilities for making Johnson & Johnson vaccines and “fill-finish” services. However, it is still unknown how quickly they will increase production. (Source: The White House)
In other vaccine news:
- Moderna is currently developing booster shots to be administered in addition to both vaccine doses, tailored specifically to combat the South African variant. On Feb. 24, Moderna began preparing for a Phase 1 trial of its first booster shot, which will start in mid-March. These trials will be composed of volunteers who both have and have not been vaccinated against Covid-19. The first trial phase will focus on safety and immunogenicity rather than efficacy of the booster. (Source: White House Covid-19 press briefing on Feb.26)
- Pfizer and Moderna are beginning trial testing their mRNA vaccines in teenagers and children to see if they are safe and effective in these age groups. The Pfizer vaccine is already cleared for use in people as young as 16, while the Moderna vaccine is cleared for people 18 and up.
- Moderna is also now studying how the vaccine works in teens ages 12 to 17, and in March plans to begin testing in ages 6 years to 6 months old.
- Pfizer plans to begin studying how the vaccine reacts in ages 6 to 12 in April.
Data for the 12-to-17 age group are expected by the beginning of fall, while for ages 12 and under it will take approximately a year to collect data, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci. (Source: White House Covid-19 press briefing on Feb.19)
- President Joseph Biden’s plan to administer 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days as president is on track to be successful. Now, the average number of people being vaccinated daily in the US has reached 1.82 million, and more Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine than have tested positive for Covid since the start of the pandemic. (Source: Bloomberg)
- On Feb. 27, the U.S. House of Representatives passed President Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill, the American Rescue Plan. The bill passed the Senate early Friday morning by a vote of 50-49. and now heads back to the House for a final vote later this week on the bill that the Senate passed. If passed, the American Rescue Plan will create a national vaccination program, implement regular testing protocols to safely reopen schools, supply families struggling in the pandemic with financial relief, create and fund numerous jobs in public health, support small businesses and essential workers, and work to contain Covid-19 through testing, vaccination, and other means. (Sources: The White House and The New York Times)
- The Federal Government has deployed 800 federal personnel as vaccinators with an additional 1,000 federal personnel deployed to serve in operational roles at community vaccination sites. Moreover, 1,200 National Guard members were deployed as vaccinators, including in California where guard members have been distributing vaccines at California State University, Los Angeles. (Source: White House Covid-19 press briefing on Feb. 24)
In the past 5 weeks, the White House has nearly doubled weekly supply of vaccine doses. The White House has increased vaccine supply to states, territories, and tribes to 14.5 million doses this week from 8.6 million doses when they took office. Additionally, through the Retail Pharmacy Program, the White House has increased the allocation to pharmacies to 2.1 million doses. (Source: White House Covid-19 press briefing on Feb. 24)
Shalhevet continues to host students for on-campus learning for two grades at a time, two days a week. On Monday and Tuesday, 11th and 12th grade students are attending on-campus leading while 9th and 10th graders will attend on Wednesday and Thursday.
On Feb. 25 and 26, Shalhevet hosted two socially distanced outdoor Purim megillah readings at the school, one on Purim night with an afterparty for students, and the second on Purim morning. For those who were not able to attend in person, megillah reading was also broadcast via Zoom.
Starting last week, some General Studies classes are now meeting for in-person learning on campus including United States Honors History, and Intergogating Evil in British Literature. (Source: Boiling Point reporting)
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, emphasized the importance of taking Covid-19 precautions seriously in spite of continued drop in case numbers, said on Feb. 26 at a White House press briefing that “Now is not the time to relax restrictions.”
“We may be done with the virus, but clearly the virus is not done with us. We cannot get comfortable or give in to a false sense of security that the worst of the pandemic is behind us — not now, not when mass vaccination is so very close, when what we need to prevent this is truly imminent. We must continue to be vigilant and committed to consistently taking the steps to stop the spread of Covid-19.
“Where the pandemic goes from here is dependent on our collective behavior and resolve to do our part to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities… I know people are tired, they want to get back to life, to normal, but we’re not there yet. Give us time. We need to get more vaccines into our communities and to get more people vaccinated. This is our path out.”