CDC forecasts 100,000 COVID deaths in next few weeks

mask up, wash up and stay clear and safe

By Madeline Holcombe | CNN

The United States could face as many as 100,000 more Covid-19 deaths in less than a month, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The nation reported more than 4,000 Covid-19 deaths Wednesday, only the third day ever to cross that threshold, bringing the death toll to at least 406,001 people, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracking data.

And by February 13, that number could reach 508,000, according to an ensemble forecast published by the CDC. The last forecast, on January 13, projected up to 477,000 deaths by February 6.

The CDC’s ensemble forecast comes as the US on Thursday marks one year since the first patient with Covid-19 was identified in the US — a number that has since ballooned to more than 24.4 million, per Johns Hopkins.

While the US is far from out of the woods, CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins data shows slight dips in new daily cases.

New cases are down 21% compared to last week, the largest week-over-week drop since the pandemic began. As of Wednesday the average number of new cases over the last seven days remained high, at 194,252 — but that marked a dip below the 200,000 per day average the country has consistently seen for weeks.

As of Thursday morning, 43 states were reporting decreases in new Covid-19 cases greater than 10% compared to last week, according to CNN’s analysis.

Six states — Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Carolina, Texas and Vermont — were holding steady compared to the week prior. Only Virginia showed an upward trend in cases greater than 10% compared to last week.

And according to data from the COVID Tracking Project, the US has a 9.81% positivity rate over the last seven days, dropping below the 10% threshold for the first time since late November.

Biden team tackles Covid-19

President Joe Biden is taking steps to recalibrate the country’s response to the virus, with an emphasis on vaccine distribution. There remain significant challenges with vaccine supply across the country, according to state officials. And sources tell CNN that Biden and his advisers are inheriting no coronavirus vaccine distribution plan from the outgoing Trump administration.

New CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Thursday told NBC News the agency was working with the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed, vaccine manufacturers and the states to understand the supply issues.

But in the meantime, “right now, I think we still have vaccine on the shelves that we need to get into people,” she said. Federal officials are looking at a “diverse” rollout plan, she said, involving community vaccination centers, stadiums and mobile units to get vaccines to everyone across the country.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and Biden’s chief medical adviser, said the United States can reach the President’s goal of 100 million shots in 100 days — and may even be able to surpass it.”

“The President has made this his top priority,” Fauci told ABC’s “Good Morning America,” adding he was set to meet with Biden later Thursday to brief him on Covid-19 and vaccine distribution.

“As he says, he’s going to do everything that he needs to do to make sure we have a successful rollout of the vaccines, get it into people’s arms and get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can,” Fauci said.

Biden also announced the US would rejoin the World Health Organization, a move Fauci said was important for an effective global response.

“The official announcement that we are rejoining, we’re going to live up to our financial commitments and a whole bunch of other things, it was really a very good day,” Fauci said. “The response I’m getting from my colleagues all over the world is really very, very refreshing.”

California deaths and severity of cases remain high

Most coronavirus metrics have been improving in California, an epicenter of the virus in the US. But the severity of cases in the state and the death toll remain high.

California added 22,403 new cases Wednesday, which is well below the average daily number for the state of 38,000.

But it also reported 694 new Covid-19-related deaths Wednesday, the second-highest single-day toll to date. The previous high of 708 was recorded nearly two weeks ago.

In Los Angeles, the rate of death among hospitalized Covid-19 patients has nearly doubled in recent months.

Since November, hospitalized patients in Los Angeles County have had about a 23% chance of dying from the disease, health officials said Wednesday. That rate marks a significant increase from the prior three months when Covid-19 patients had an approximately 12% chance of dying, according to the county’s Department of Health Services.

Along with the fatality rate, the length of hospital stays for coronavirus in Los Angeles County jumped from about seven days between September and November to about nine and a half from November to January, suggesting the severity of illness in those hospitalized has jumped, LADHS said.

“This trend does not mean the virus has become more virulent or that care in hospitals worsened during the surge,” Health Services Director Christina Ghaly explained. “Rather, we believe these trends are because hospitals, facing capacity constraints in the setting of the surge, became more selective in determining which patients to admit.

“In other words, hospitals are discharging more of the lower-acuity patients home with oxygen. They are admitting only the most critically ill patients.”

But with a limited supply of coronavirus vaccine, state epidemiologist Erica Pan said it may take four to five months to get all Californians over the age of 65 vaccinated.

‘A constant pattern of basically running out’ of vaccine

The push to get people vaccinated has grown as officials race to distribute doses to meet their demand.

As of Wednesday, more than 16.5 million doses have been administered in the US and nearly 2.2 million Americans are fully vaccinated, the CDC said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state is administering about 65,000 doses a day — a rate that will deplete its current supply in two or three days. “What’s clear now is that we will be going from week to week and you will see a constant pattern of basically running out, waiting for the next week’s allocation and then starting up again,” Cuomo said.

The state will receive 250,400 doses next week, but Cuomo urged Biden to increase the supply to states immediately.

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“At this current rate of supply, it takes seven and a half months to get enough vaccine for the currently eligible population,” Cuomo said.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a statewide mask mandate on Tuesday while the state waited for more vaccine doses.

“At the end of the day, vaccine supplies are limited, so while we continue to ask the federal government for more vaccines and faster, we have to keep working together to stop the spread today,” Evers said, “by continuing to wear our masks, staying home whenever we can, avoiding gatherings, and doubling down on our efforts to keep our friends, neighbors, and families safe.”

ECDC Rapid Risk Assessment On COVID-19 Variants (VOC 202012/01, 501Y.V2 & P.1) – Jan 21st

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Mutation of SARS-CoV2 – current variants of 
concern – EN –

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The #1 question on everyone’s mind is how much of a threat do the three recently emerged variants pose to the pandemic response. Already we are seeing nations move to limit international travel, and increase lockdowns, in hopes of slowing their spread. 

While there is still much we don’t know about how these variants will behave – in terms of enhanced transmission, reinfection risks, and susceptibility to our current vaccines – the ECDC has published an update to their initial assessment published on December 29th.

The ECDC has raised their risk assessment to High/Very High based primarily on the enhanced transmissibility of these variants. They acknowledge significant knowledge gaps regarding these three variants in the following excerpt from the report. 

Knowledge gaps 

There are currently many uncertainties and knowledge gaps related to the impact of the VOC 202012/01 or other variants (i.e. 501Y.V2 and lineage P.1), including the extent of geographical spread across the EU/EEA, affected age-groups, transmissibility and severity. The overall impact of the disease epidemiology at population level, including reinfection and effect on vaccination, and the longer term evolution of the variants and emergence of new variants is also unknown. Epidemiological and phylodynamic analyses, together with antigenic and genetic characterisation analyses, are urgently needed on an ongoing basis

The 29-page PDF is very much worth downloading and reading it its entirety. I’ve only reproduced the executive summary below. 

Risk related to the spread of new SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern in the EU/EEA – first update
Risk assessment

21 Jan 2021

This risk assessment presents the latest available information on the recent emergence of three variants of concern, VOC 202012/01 identified in the United Kingdom (UK), 501Y.V2 identified in South Africa, and P.1 identified in Brazil and Japan.

Executive summary

Viruses constantly change through mutation and variations in the SARS-CoV-2 virus, due to evolution and adaptation processes, have been observed worldwide. While most emerging mutations will not have a significant impact on the spread of the virus, some mutations or combinations of mutations may provide the virus with a selective advantage, such as increased transmissibility or the ability to evade the host immune response. In this update we report new information on the spread of three virus variants (VOC 202012/01, 501Y.V2 and variant P.1). These variants are considered to be of concern because of mutations which have led to increased transmissibility and deteriorating epidemiological situations in the areas where they have recently become established.

Based on the new information, the risk associated with the introduction and community spread of variants of concern has been increased to high/very high and the options for response have been adjusted to the current situation.

Variants of concern

VOC 202012/01 was first identified as being of concern in the south of the United Kingdom (UK) in December 2020. The first sample in which it could be identified has been traced back to September 2020. Since then, it has become the predominant variant circulating in the UK. It is characterised by a significantly increased transmissibility, which has contributed to increases in incidence, hospitalisations and pressure on the healthcare system since the second half of December 2020. The UK has implemented stricter non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce transmission. Preliminary studies indicate that there is no evidence that VOC 202012/01 is associated with a significantly different infection severity or that it disproportionally affects certain age groups more than the previous circulating viruses. However, as a result of the increased incidence, by January 2021 the UK had reported the highest daily COVID-19 mortality since the start of the pandemic. Ireland, where local circulation of VOC 202012/01 has also recently been identified, has experienced an increase in case numbers and hospitalisations, growing pressure on the health system and has also had to implement stricter NPIs. Denmark has also observed community transmission of VOC 202012/01 and in response has strengthened NPIs and prolonged measures throughout January 2021.

The variant 501Y.V2 was first identified in South Africa in December 2020, where it is now the most prevalent variant. Preliminary results indicate that this variant may also have an increased transmissibility. However, as for VOC 202012/01, at this stage it is uncertain whether the 501Y.V2 variant causes a change in disease severity. As per 19 January 2021, 501Y.V2 has been identified in 10 EU/EEA countries. One cluster of this variant is currently being investigated in France. In addition to France, Israel and the UK have also reported cases or clusters of non-travel-related 501Y.V2 cases. The remaining cases identified in the EU/EEA have mostly been travel-related, but not only from South Africa.

The P.1 variant has so far only been identified in Brazil, and in travellers from Brazil (mostly from the Amazonas State) reported in Japan and South Korea. The capital of Amazonas, Manaus, is currently experiencing an upsurge in COVID-19 cases, putting significant pressure on the healthcare system.

The under-ascertainment of SARS-CoV-2 infections in general, and the very small proportion of cases undergoing sequencing in most EU/EEA countries, may lead to a large under-ascertainment of the true number of VOC 202012/01, 501Y.V2 and P.1 infections, and other potential variants that may contribute to rapid epidemiological changes.

Risks associated with virus variants

ECDC assesses the probability of the introduction and community spread of variants of concern in the EU/EEA as very high due to their increased transmissibility. Such an increased transmissibility is likely to lead to an increased number of infections. This, in turn, is likely to lead to higher hospitalisation and death rates across all age-groups, but particularly for those in older age groups or with co-morbidities. Consequently, stricter NPIs are needed to reduce transmission and relieve the pressure on healthcare systems. Therefore, the impact of introduction and community spread is considered to be high. The overall risk associated with the introduction and community spread of variants of concern is therefore assessed as being high/very high.

Options for response

Member States should continue to monitor local changes in transmission rates or infection severity to identify and assess the circulation and impact of variants. In order to detect introductions of known variants, as well as the emergence of new variants, Member States need to increase the level of surveillance and sequencing of a representative sample of community COVID-19 cases.

Member States should prepare laboratories for increased testing turnover. Laboratories should consider implementing diagnostic pre-screening for variants of concern (e.g. N501Y and deletion 69-70), ensure resources are available to manage an increasing number of requests for detection and characterisation of COVID-19 samples, and increase sequencing capacity by making use of all possible sequencing capacity from clinical, diagnostic, academic and commercial laboratories across different sectors.

In order to control the spread and impact of the SARS-CoV-2 emerging variants with increased transmissibility, a combination of compliance with NPIs – including potentially stricter NPIs than those currently in place – and strengthened case detection with contact tracing is required. Since the population groups driving transmission will not be targeted with vaccination for some months, Member States are recommended to be very cautious about relaxing NPIs. Furthermore, in light of the evidence of substantially higher transmissibility of the new variants of concern, national authorities should rather be ready to enforce even stricter measures, communicating and engaging with the population to encourage compliance. In general, contact tracing should be reinforced, and its scope widened in relation to cases suspected to be infected with new variants.

In order to slow down the importation and spread of the new SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, ECDC recommends that non-essential travel should be avoided. In addition to recommendations against non-essential travel, and restrictions on travel for those infected, travel measures such as the testing and quarantining of travellers should be maintained, in particular for travellers from areas with a higher incidence of the new variants. If sequencing is inadequate to exclude the possibility of a higher incidence of the new variants, as per ECDC guidance on genomic sequencing, proportionate travel measures should also be considered from areas where there is a continued high level of community transmission.

Member States should prepare their healthcare systems for a further escalation in demand due to the increased transmissibility of the new variants of concern.

Member States are encouraged to accelerate the pace of vaccination for high-risk groups, such as the elderly and healthcare workers. At this stage, vaccination should be focused on protecting those most at risk from severe disease, and reducing morbidity, mortality and the burden on healthcare systems. It is important to use the available vaccines to provide protection for those who are most vulnerable and for key workers against the current circulating virus variants in the EU/EEA, and hopefully also against one or all of the new variants of concern. Assessment of VOC 202012/01 suggests cross-immunity is present, while investigations into the other variants of concern are still on-going. Member States should monitor vaccine effectiveness for these new variants. Breakthrough infections should be monitored, carefully investigated (including sequencing the virus variant causing breakthrough infection), and reported to public health and regulatory agencies to allow for an overview at country and EU-level. In addition, Member States should explore options for optimal use of the limited number of vaccine doses.

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Risk related to spread of new SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern in the EU/EEA, first update – 21 January 2021. ECDC: Stockholm; 2021. 

Risk related to the spread of new SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern in the EU/EEA – first update – EN – [PDF-1.46 MB]

While these are the three highest profile variants currently on our radar, there are almost daily reports coming in from around the globe of new variants that have yet to be explored.  Most will prove inconsequential, but COVID continues to evolve and adapt, and additional VOCs (Variants of Concern) are likely to emerge over time. 

The DeLorean Might Be Coming Back As an Electric Car

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek: The DMC DeLorean has been out of production for almost 40 years, but now we’ve learned that the iconic vehicle might be coming back as an electric car. In 1995, Stephen Wynne bought the company’s old inventory and trademark to relaunch the brand based in Texas. At first, the plan was to bring back the same vehicle with more modern technology in low volume. For the past 5 years, the company pushed for the adoption of new rules for low volume vehicle production with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These new rules were finally recently adopted, but the delay was so long that it complicated DeLorean’s plans. The engine that they plan to use is not going to be compliant with emission standards starting in 2022 and the landscape has changed significantly.

In a new blog post, the company is now hinting that going electric with the DeLorean: “That said, with EV’s becoming more mainstream, we’ve been considering switching to an all-electric as the future. It certainly makes for an easier path through emissions maze which still looms large over any internal combustion engine. While an electric Cobra or Morgan may be a little extreme for their potential market, we’ve already seen that an EV DeLorean — as we displayed at the 2012 New York International Auto Show — is not such an ‘out there’ idea.” The company hints at being in the process of looking to secure financing to bring an electric DeLorean and says “stay tuned.”

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Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Police arrest Navalny’s associates in Moscow ahead of planned opposition rallies

Following widespread reports of police officers issuing warnings to opposition figures and activists across Russia, law enforcement officials in Moscow have arrested several of Alexey Navalny’s closest associates. This comes ahead of countrywide protests opposing his detention planned for Saturday, January 23. On the evening of January 21, police detained the opposition figure’s press secretary, Kira Yarmysh, as well as Anti-Corruption Foundation employees Lyubov Sobol, Georgy Alburov, and Vladlen Los. Similar arrests have also been reported in three other cities so far.

Turkey-based Relatives of Uyghur Detainees Pause Protests After Chinese Consulate Accepts Demands

A group of Turkey-based Uyghurs have suspended daily protests in front of China’s consulate in Istanbul after consular officials agreed to accept documentation of their family members held in internment camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) at the behest of the mayor, group members said.

The group said in a statement last week that the office of Istanbul mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu had acted as a mediator between the demonstrators and the consulate, which was ultimately “forced” to accept the some of the demonstrators’ documents. The statement, dated Jan. 13, said that the group had agreed to suspend gatherings at the consulate after 17 days of uninterrupted protests.

Demonstrators recently told RFA’s Uyghur Service that they are working on revising the written materials they have prepared, which include testimonies and lists of demands. The mayor’s office plans to compile the materials and deliver them to the Chinese consulate, they said, although a date has not yet been set to do so. It will be up to the consulate to decide how to respond.

Authorities in the XUAR are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps since early 2017. Chinese officials have said the camps are centers for “vocational training,” but reporting by RFA and other media outlets shows that detainees are mostly held against their will in cramped and unsanitary conditions, where they are forced to endure inhumane treatment and political indoctrination.

Habibulla Kuseni, himself a relative of a camp detainee, spoke with RFA about the Istanbul mayoral office’s intervention and mediation between the consulate and Uyghur activists.

“The mayor’s office called in some of our kinfolk and informed them that the Chinese consulate would be accepting their demands and that we could select two people from among [the demonstrators] to meet with them,” said Kuseni, who has also spearheaded efforts to get Uyghur children into school in Turkey.

“But [the people who met with them] said they were not going to submit only their own demands. They requested that they be able to submit a compilation of the requests of all the demonstrators who have relatives in the … camps.”

Kuseni said he was pleased the mayor’s office intervened in the situation and that he hopes the consulate accepts all of the documentation.

“This is a sign that our 17 days of protests have resulted in something,” he said.

“In the next few days, all of us will fill out forms, which will be collected in one place and then … be sent to the consulate through the mayor’s office. If they agree to our demands, we will then discuss what to do next. If they do not agree, we will continue our activities.”

Growing pressure

Jevlan Shirmemmet, a Uyghur youth in Istanbul, told RFA that protests in front of the consulate began on Aug. 14, 2020, with demonstrators specifically advocating for the Chinese government to account for the whereabouts of missing family members. However, the consulate had never indicated it would be willing to accept any materials from the group until daily gatherings began.

“The mayor’s office asked us to stop our demonstrations in the meantime,” Shirmemmet said.

“We couldn’t say no to this, and so, because we also need time in order to collect materials from others, we decided to take a period of time off [from demonstrating]. But we’re stopping only temporarily.”

Mirzahmet Ilyasoghli, another Uyghur youth demonstrator, said swelling support throughout Turkey and abroad is also likely to have helped to pressure the consulate to respond.

“These demonstrations of ours, first of all, we can say that our fellow Uyghurs have been very active in it—young people, older men and women, and elders … alike all took part in them,” Ilyasoghli said.

“These 17 days of activism spurred Turkey to action. This has put a lot of pressure on China, who hasn’t yet been criticized sufficiently for this. We also think it has put pressure on the Turkish government,” he added.

“Around 100 people showed up [to protests] and we were able to achieve results like this. There are some 50,000 Uyghurs in Turkey. This is a clear sign that we could achieve great things if just 1,000 Uyghurs were to stand up.”

Chinese officials did not respond to requests for comment on the activists and their protest.

Reported by Azigh for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by the Uyghur Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Caribbean Scotch Bonnet is So ‘Hot’ that Suppliers Are Struggling to Meet Demand — Repeating Islands

Daphne Ewing-Chow (Forbes Food & Drink) elaborates on the high demand for the Capsicum chinense—the Scotch Bonnet pepper. A sure fire way to distinguish between ‘locals’ and ‘foreigners’ at a Caribbean dinner table is to listen out for the request for ‘pepper sauce,’ a hot and tangy flavouring that is typically made of the indigenous […]

Caribbean Scotch Bonnet is So ‘Hot’ that Suppliers Are Struggling to Meet Demand — Repeating Islands

Seja feliz agora

Do you know what I’m saying to you here? Go! Walk, believe in yourself. Sometimes the heart squeezes, but at the right pace, we shorten life, not in the ‘shallows of the world’, as Guimarães Rosa would say, but in the significant advances we make. I think that it is from this that our enthusiasm for life is born, and everything that promotes our laughter.

Pensamentos.me/VEM comigo!

Quando as pessoas não acreditarem nos seus sonhos, e por vezes, tentarem te fazer desistir, dizendo ” deixe pra depois […] não acredite nelas. Seja feliz agora. Tenha coragem, esteja disposto a se apresentar diante da vida desarmado. Não leve consigo culpa, raiva ou qualquer sentimento negativo por muitas não te acompanharem. Sabe por que falo isso? Porque a vida não espera. Você estando pronto ou não, ela simplesmente, irá te estender a mão.

Esteja preparado para conciliar as pazes consigo mesmo. Acredite, muitas vezes, vemos o inesperado acontecer. Claro, algumas pessoas vão se opor em relação a sua felicidade. Mas, você só poderá tomar duas atitudes, são elas: desistir ou seguir.

O futuro pega na nossa mão e chama pra ele […]. Não é bonito isso? Certamente. E você só terá que largar o medo de lado, sim! e ir embora, pois a estrada te convida a andar “léguas…

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Biden puts forth COVID strategy, requires mask use to travel – Los Angeles Times

The U.S. mask order for travel being implemented by Biden will apply to airports and planes, ships, intercity buses, trains and public transportation. Travelers from abroad must furnish a negative COVID-19 test before departing for the U.S. and quarantine upon arrival. Biden has already mandated masks on federal property.

Although airlines, Amtrak and other transportation providers now require masks, Biden’s order makes it a federal mandate, leaving little wiggle room for passengers tempted to argue about their rights. It marks a sharp break with the culture of President Trump’s administration, under which masks were optional, and Trump made a point of going maskless and hosting big gatherings of like-minded supporters. Science has shown that masks, properly worn, cut down on coronavirus transmission.

Biden also is seeking to expand testing and vaccine availability, with the goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office. Zients called Biden’s goal “ambitious and achievable.”

Source: Biden puts forth COVID strategy, requires mask use to travel – Los Angeles Times

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