Coronavirus – The Latest News and Information
Alabama resident Christy Carpenter said she and her family were not vaccinated against COVID-19 because of concerns over how soon the vaccines were rolled out. Carpenter family members were skeptical, at first, over how quickly the vaccines were created compared to other vaccines that took years to develop.
But now, Carpenter said she regrets that her family did not get vaccinated. Maybe if they had, her 28-year-old son, Curt, would not have died of COVID-19 in May. Carpenter was also infected with the coronavirus but recovered from the disease.
Carpenter said her son, who contracted COVID-19 in March, initially thought the pandemic was a hoax. But, Carpenter said her son’s last words were: “This is not a hoax, this is real.”
In recent weeks, the number of COVID-19 infection cases has been rising across the country, dispelling myths still held by some that the pandemic is a hoax. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported over 37 million COVID-19 cases have been reported nationwide, with the average of daily new cases reported at 116,740 as of August 20, a 14 percent increase over the previous 7-day moving average of 116,740.
Public health officials say the majority of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and death involve people who have not been vaccinated. Health authorities also point to the highly contagious Delta variant playing a major role in the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.
Although COVID-19 vaccines have been proven effective against the coronavirus disease and its variants, U.S. health officials plan to offer a third COVID-19 booster shot to Americans beginning September 20. Data reviewed by the health experts show protection from the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines begin to wane over time. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the two vaccines for emergency use authorization in December. On August 23, the FDA gave full approval to the Pfizer vaccine, which is now the first COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 16 years old and older.
In announcing the plan on August 18, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, and FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock, said booster shots will be offered to people starting eight months after their second dose. Health care providers, nursing home residents, and other seniors will likely be the first ones eligible for a booster shot. The officials anticipate booster shots later in the year for people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which did not roll out until March 2021.
Delta Variant Symptoms
The Delta variant, first identified in India in December 2020, is now the predominant strain of COVID-19 in the United States, according to the CDC.
Scientists continue to research the Delta variant that has also infected fully vaccinated, along with those who have not been vaccinated. Fully vaccinated people say they have experienced symptoms similar to a head cold, along with original COVID-19 symptoms, such as:
- Loss of taste or smell
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
As scientists are learning more about the variant, research teams are also studying patients struggling with long-term effects from the original COVID-19.
For instance, researchers at the University of Texas Health San Antonio are exploring how COVID-19 affects the brain. Investigators, there are examining patients who developed problems with memory and thinking after recovering from coronavirus disease infection. Researchers say COVID-19 changed patients’ brains in ways that elevate the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Similarly, children are also having to deal with long-term effects from COVID-19. According to the CDC, some children have developed Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a rare but serious condition associated with COVID-19. As of July 30, 2021, CDC had received reports of more than 4,400 children across the country diagnosed with COVID-19-associated MIS-C.
Updated Mask Guidelines Spark Controversy
The spike in COVID-19 cases led the CDC and local communities, particularly those that are current hotspots for the virus, to update mask guidelines for adults and children.
Because the Delta variant is near twice as contagious as other variants and schools are beginning to start, the CDC recommended indoor masking for students 2 years old and older, staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of their vaccination status. The federal health agency also recommended schools maintain at least three feet of physical distance between students within classrooms.
The CDC’s recommendation has sparked controversy among some parents and elected officials who are against mask mandates for schools. In Florida, for instance, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear masks, despite Florida reporting record-high numbers of COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant, and involving children and adults.
DeSantis went so far as to instruct the state’s Board of Education to withhold pay from superintendents and school board members who follow the CDC’s recommendation.
DeSantis is not the only governor taking an anti-mask stance. Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbot issued an executive order banning school districts and local governments from implementing mask mandates.
Abbot’s ban is now facing a legal challenge from the El Paso City Council, which defied Abbot’s order and voted to have the city/county health authority issue a mask mandate for 30 days.
During an August 14 emergency meeting of the El Paso City Council, Dr. Hector Ocaranza, the city/county health authority, said that the city has been “very hard hit and is considered very vulnerable.”
Three days after the El Paso council meeting, Abbot, who does not wear a mask but is fully vaccinated, announced on Aug. 17 that he tested positive for COVID-19. Mark Miner, Abbot’s spokesperson, said in a statement that the governor was not experiencing symptoms and will isolate at the Governor’s Mansion. Abbot is getting Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment.
Vaccinations Continue To Cause Division
Despite the growing number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, America remains divided over getting vaccinated. The CDC’s Data Tracker shows 50.9 percent of Americans12 years old and older have been fully vaccinated as of August 18.
Heidi Lucas, a resident of Jefferson City, Missouri, who directs the Missouri Nursing Association, has been trying to convince her sister, Ashley to get vaccinated. Ashley Lucas, who lives in Orbisonia, Pennsylvania, is a traveling certified nursing assistant at area nursing homes.
Ashley said she does not consider herself an “anti-vaxxer” but she has seen the randomness of COVID-19, some nursing home residents get infected while others do not. Ashley does not believe getting vaccinated will change the odds. Ashley said she also believes there needs to be more long-term research on the vaccines’ long-term effects.
Armando Celentano, who co-owns the Argosy Restaurant and Bar in Atlanta, Georgia, and is fully vaccinated, feels differently. In July, Celentano established a policy to only serve fully vaccinated people at the small, privately-owned restaurant. Celentano said he established the policy after he and three of his employees, all of whom are fully vaccinated, tested positive for COVID-19.
When asked in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution why he made that decision, Celentano said, for him, it was about “quality of life and safety for my staff and guests.”