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Hello. We’re looking at four new virus developments – two encouraging, two disturbing.
There are two encouraging news about the pandemic – and two disturbing developments. Let’s take them one at a time, starting with the positive.
1. Nursing home deaths are on the decline.
They fell by more than 60% between the end of December and the beginning of February. The main cause is simple: Nursing home residents were among the first to get vaccinated.
This graphic – from my colleagues Matthew Conlen, Sarah Mervosh and Danielle Ivory – tells the story:
This is another sign of the potency of vaccines. The decline in deaths has happened surprisingly quickly, said Dr Sunil Parikh, epidemiologist at Yale University. This has happened even though most residents and nursing home workers have yet to receive their two vaccines – and it has likely continued over the past two weeks, which is not illustrated in this graph.
“I’m almost at a loss for words to see how amazing it is and how exciting it is,” said Dr. David Gifford, chief medical officer of the American Health Care Association, which represents healthcare facilities. long-term care.
Nursing home data adds to the evidence that vaccines don’t just work in research trials – they work in the real world, too. (A new study on Israel, published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine, offered the same message.)
2. Another vaccine looks excellent.
The Food and Drug Administration released a report on a vaccine it has yet to approve – from Johnson & Johnson – and the data was overwhelmingly positive.
Like the two vaccines that are already given in the United States – from Moderna and Pfizer – Johnson & Johnson ruled out both death and hospitalization in its research trial: about 20,000 people received the vaccine in the trial, and not a single one was hospitalized with Covid -19 symptoms a month later.
“I will never cease to be amazed to see zero hospitalizations among those vaccinated, study after study,” Dr Aaron Richterman of the University of Pennsylvania wrote. “It’s amazing.” Dr Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease expert, called the results “formidable.” Dr Kavita Patel wrote: “I would definitely recommend it for me and my patients.”
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has also significantly reduced the number of moderate and asymptomatic Covid cases. He hasn’t eliminated them, but vaccines don’t need to eliminate all cases of Covid to end the crisis. A sharp reduction – and a sharper reduction in severe cases – can eventually turn this terrible coronavirus into another manageable virus.
(Nursing home data also helps make this point: The number of confirmed cases has fallen by more than 80%, which is even more important than the drop in deaths.)
One of the main advantages of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is that it only requires one injection, which makes it easier to administer than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which require two. An FDA committee will meet on Friday and the agency may approve the vaccine soon after.
3. But the number of cases is no longer decreasing.
The number of new cases has stopped falling in the United States:
The same is happening all over the world:
I don’t want to overreact to a week of data. But you can see a change in these lines. The most likely explanation is the more contagious variants of the virus, such as the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in Britain.
Tellingly, cases first stopped falling in much of Europe, where this variant is more prevalent. A senior health official in Germany on Friday warned that the country could be heading for another “turning point” after weeks of falling infections.
It’s a reminder that the pandemic is far from over. The variants have the potential to cause new epidemics, especially if unvaccinated people become lax when it comes to wearing masks and social distancing.
4. And vaccinations have stalled.
This is not a good trend:
Storms last week are the main cause of the slowdown in vaccination, having temporarily closed sites and delayed vaccine shipments. Whatever the reason, however, it will have consequences: fewer vaccinations mean more deaths.
The Biden administration’s biggest task over the next two months is to ramp up the pace from the current 1.4 million vaccines per day to around three million per day.
Other Covid developments:
The federal government is supporting the testing of an online portal to help the public find vaccines.
Moderna said he would test modified vaccines to protect against a variant first discovered in South Africa.
A new variant is spreading in New York, researchers say.
Ghana and other West African countries will start vaccinating people as part of Covax, a global vaccine-sharing initiative. But as rich countries buy most of the supply, inequalities persist.
Corruption scandals reveal how powerful and well-connected people in South America have skipped the vaccination line.
THE LAST NEWS
President Biden has appointed three people to the board of directors of the United States Postal Service. If confirmed, they would give Democrats the power to oust Louis DeJoy, the post general manager appointed by President Donald Trump.
Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, said the economic fallout from the pandemic had disproportionately affected women and suggested that improved child care policies could help the economy.
Repairing damage from the Capitol Riot – including overturned 19th-century lanterns and damaged busts – could cost more than $ 30 million.
Biden lifted the green card freeze, ending the Trump administration’s ban on legal immigration.
Other great stories
Hollywood moment of podcasting
In 2005, the New Oxford American Dictionary named “podcast” – a broadcast and iPod coat rack – its word of the year. Some saw it as an odd choice, as the Chicago Tribune reported: “Few of us have met him and he certainly hasn’t gained the public visibility that makes him a defining word of 2005.”
The industry has come a long way. You can now choose from around two million podcasts. Celebrities and past presidents have flocked to the medium. Big companies like Amazon and Spotify have invested large sums of money in podcasting. And Hollywood reclaims the rights to the shows, turning them into TV series.
To make sense of it all, The Times is publishing a series on podcasting this morning. It includes: Ben Sisario on the state of the industry; Margaret Lyons on the advantages of podcasting over television; Jemele Hill and other podcasters offer recommendations and interviews with kids who already present their own shows.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook
Yesterday’s Spelling Bee pangram was anarchic. Here is today’s puzzle – or you can play it online.
Here are today’s mini-crosswords and a hint: Coffee Additive (five letters).
If you want to play more, find all of our games here.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. – David
PS The New York Times published a report calling for changes to make his workplace more diverse and inclusive.
You can see the first printed page of the day here.
Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about Merrick Garland. On “Sway”, Kara Swisher interviews Sacha Baron Cohen.