COVID in California: Booster shot for children 5-11 may get approval this week – San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco is in a new pandemic place: It no longer has COVID-19 case rates that are lower than those of the nation overall, a reversal of its status throughout the pandemic. Legislation aimed at getting more people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 seems to have fallen out of vogue among California lawmakers. Masks, on the other hand, are being strongly recommended by health officers from around the Bay Area as coronavirus infections continue to climb.

Scientists get closer to identifying symptoms of long COVID

Using machine learning, scientists working with the National Institute of Health have discovered patterns in electronic health record data to better identify patients who may be suffering from long COVID, which is marked by wide-ranging symptoms, including shortness of breath, fatigue, fever, headaches, “brain fog” and other neurological problems. These symptoms can last for months, or in some cases years, after an initial COVID-19 diagnosis, according to the study published Monday in The Lancet. Because symptoms are similar to those of other diseases and conditions, identifying long COVID has proved challenging until now. The researchers had access to data from the National COVID Cohort Collaborative, with information representing more than 13 million people nationwide, including nearly 5 million COVID-19-positive cases. The machine learning systems classified approximately 100,000 patients in the N3C database whose profiles were close matches to those with long COVID, according to the NIH. “The models can learn from a greater variety of patients and become more accurate,” said Dr. Melissa Haendel, from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, whose team examined the patient data. “We hope we can use our long COVID patient classifier for clinical trial recruitment.”

NYC edges close to “high” COVID levels, reinstates indoor mask recommendation

New York City’s health department issued an advisory Monday noting that the city is approaching a “high” level of COVID-19, based on the increasing number of new cases and hospitalizations. The agency is strongly recommending but not requiring that New Yorkers wear masks in all indoor public settings. It also advised that those at high risk of severe illness and those over the age of 65 should avoid crowded settings and limit get-togethers. In response to the uptick, Mayor Eric Adams encouraged residents to take personal precautions in lieu of issuing any new mandates.

“I encourage all New Yorkers to go out and pick up a free at-home test as soon as they can to remain prepared, to mask up in indoor public settings, and to take advantage of the life-saving treatments we now have readily available to fight COVID-19,” he said.

As new infections surge, USPS offers another round of free coronavirus tests

Residential households in the U.S. are now eligible for another order of free at-home tests on Each order now includes eight rapid antigen coronavirus tests, which are supposed to arrive in two separate packages of four tests in each package. Each package will ship free with its own tracking number.

A booster shot for children ages 5 to 11 may get approval this week

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 5 to 11 as early as Tuesday, according to multiple people familiar with the plan who spoke to the New York Times. An advisory committee of vaccine experts is scheduled to meet with officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday, according to the report. That will likely be followed by an independent recommendation from Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the agency. In a clinical trial conducted by Pfizer, an additional vaccine dose of the Pfizer vaccine for 5 to 11-year-olds showed a sixfold increase in antibody levels against the wild strain of the coronavirus one month after receiving the booster, compared with one month after receiving a second dose. They would become the youngest age group eligible for booster doses.

FDA approves the first at-home test for detecting coronavirus, flu and RSV

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized the first non-prescription multi-analyte coronavirus test kit. The Labcorp Seasonal Respiratory Virus RT-PCR DTC Test, which is available for use without a prescription, allows an individual to self-collect a nasal swab sample at home to identify and differentiate multiple respiratory viruses at the same time, detecting influenza A and B, commonly known as the flu, respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV, along with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Results for the samples, which must be submitted to Labcorp for testing, are delivered through an online portal, with follow-up from a health care provider for positive or invalid test results. “While the FDA has now authorized many COVID-19 tests without a prescription, this is the first test authorized for flu and RSV, along with COVID-19, where an individual can self-identify their need for a test, order it, collect their sample and send it to the lab for testing, without consulting a health care professional,” said Dr. Jeff Shuren, director of FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “The rapid advances being made in consumer access to diagnostic tests, including the ability to collect your sample at home for flu and RSV without a prescription, brings us one step closer to tests for these viruses that could be performed entirely at home.”

Children’s COVID cases skyrocket amid nationwide BA.2 surge

Reported COVID-19 cases among children numbered 93,511 in the U.S. last week, up from 62,467 cases recorded in the previous week. Children represented over 18% of cases nationally, according to data published Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. Nationwide, cases have climbed by about 60% over the past two weeks following public health officials lifting most virus mitigation measures as the highly-infectious omicron subvariant BA.2 and its BA.2.12.1 sublineage, became dominant. Pediatric COVID cases dropped to their lowest point this year in the first week of April, with 25,915 cases reported, but have increased by more than 260% since then.

BA.4 and BA.5 sub-lineages elevated to ‘variants of concern’ by European CDC

The BA.4 and BA.5 sub-lineages of the omicron coronavirus variant were reclassified from variants of interest to variants of concern  by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, as public health experts worry they may drive another swell of cases across the continent. “Preliminary studies suggest a significant change in antigenic properties of BA.4 and BA.5 compared to BA.1 and BA.2, especially compared to BA.1,” the agency wrote in its bulletin. It added that the variants show signs of evading immunity, meaning even those previously infected with omicron are susceptible to reinfection. “The currently observed growth advantage for BA.4 and BA.5 is likely due to their ability to evade immune protection induced by prior infection and/or vaccination, particularly if this has waned over time,” the agency said.

S.F. schools report highest number of COVID cases since winter omicron surge

San Francisco public school students and staff reported 320 COVID-19 cases last week, including 303 exposure cases where those infected were on a school site within 48 hours of showing symptoms or testing positive for the coronavirus. That is the highest figure since late January, at the tail end of the winter omicron surge. That also marks a 15% increase in cases at schools from the previous week. Infections on campus have been on the rise since the San Francisco Unified School District lifted its mask mandate a month ago. They also reflect a substantial increase in community spread, with San Francisco reporting one of the highest case rates in the nation. The city’s coronavirus positive test rate reached 11% on Monday — more than twice California’s overall rate of 4.4% 

Coachella and Stagecoach festivals lead to a jump in COVID cases, hospitalizations

Following the Coachella Valley Music and Arts and Stagecoach country music festivals, which took place over three consecutive weekends in April, Riverside County is reporting a substantial jump in coronavirus infections. COVID-19 cases have increased 736% in the region around the Empire Polo Club in Indio, the venue where the festivals were held, since May 1, according to the Desert Sun. Hospitalizations are also on the rise, according to the report. There were 62 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the region as of Friday, up 12 from Tuesday. Health officials are urging residents to resume indoor masking and stay up to date on their vaccinations through the current wave. “Since increases are being seen in many areas of the country as well as across the county, these increases may be attributed to waning immunity, spread of more contagious variants, and potentially decreased use of mitigation measures, such as masking,” Riverside County Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Chevinsky said.

Fauci indicates one time was enough

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief White House medical adviser, said Sunday that if Donald Trump ran again for president and won, he would not be sticking around. Asked by CNN’’s Jim Acosta on on Sunday if he’d stay in his post should Trump return, Fauci laughed and said, “Well, no.” Asked if he’d have confidence Trump could deal with the pandemic, Faudi replied, “If you look at the history of what the response was during the administration, I think, you know, at best, you can say it wasn’t optimal.” He added, “History will speak for itself about that.” Trump has not announced whether he will seek the office again.

Pfizer vaccine fades against omicron within weeks of doses 2 and 3

Immunity against the omicron coronavirus variant fades within weeks of receiving a second and third dose of the Pfizer, according to a study published Friday in JAMA Network Open. Danish scientists found antibody levels fell rapidly after completing the vaccination series and were less protective than they were with the earlier wild, alpha and delta coronavirus variants. Compared to the latter, protection against omicron fell from 76% four weeks after the second shot and was down to 19% by 12 to 14 weeks. The authors said an additional booster may be needed especially for older people, but “conserved T-cell immunity and non-neutralizing antibodies may still provide protection against hospitalization and death.”

U.S. death toll just short of 1 million for pandemic total

Tracking by researchers at Johns Hopkins University on Sunday showed the United States has closed to within 400 deaths of the tragic reality that 1 million Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19. The death toll nationwide was 999,602 as of Sunday night. The Johns Hopkins project has been a widely used and respected tool since the pandemic began. President Biden on Thursday ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff to honor the Americans who have died from COVID-19 as the death toll nearede 1 million.