The theory that the coronavirus pandemic originated from a Chinese lab drew little support from a joint World Health Organization-China study on the origins of the global crisis that has claimed almost 2.8 million lives.
The report released Tuesday backs the previously accepted theory that the virus was most likely transmitted from bats to humans through another animal. The report also suggests the role played by a Wuhan seafood market from which human cases were traced was uncertain. Research published last year in the journal Lancet suggested the market may have served to further spread the disease rather than being its source.
The report cites several reasons for all but dismissing that possibility the virus escaped a lab in Wuhan, a sprawling city of 11 million people where the virus was first identified. The report say such accidents are rare and that the labs in Wuhan working on coronaviruses and vaccines are well-managed. It also notes that there is no record of viruses closely related to the coronavirus in any laboratory before December 2019 and that the risk of accidentally growing the virus was extremely low.
Matthew Kavanagh of Georgetown University suggested that firmer conclusions will be difficult unless the Chinese government provides more data.
“In the end, focusing on the future (capacity for proactive detection, better response) may be a more fruitful,” Kavanagh tweeted. “We need @WHO responding to this pandemic, preparing for future, not stuck in US-China confrontation.”
Also in the news:
►Canada has suspended use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine among people under the age of 55 as a precautionary measure over concerns the vaccine may be linked to rare but severe instances of blood clots in some immunized patients.
►The University of Connecticut football team cut its spring practices short because of positive COVID-19 test results and subsequent contact tracing protocols, the Hartford Courant reported. The Huskies were one of a small number of FBS teams to opt out of the 2020-21 season.
►Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismissed the WHO-China study as a “sham,” linking it to a Chinese disinformation campaign. the Wuhan Institute of Virology “remains the most likely source of the virus – and WHO is complicit,” Pompeo tweeted.
►England had a glimmer of good news: London had no deaths reported for one day. During a spike in cases during January, more than 200 deaths a day linked to the virus were recorded in the capital.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 30.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 550,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 127.7 million cases and 2.79 million deaths. More than 180.64 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 145.8 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: As a growing number of states have removed eligibility requirements for getting vaccinated, it’s become less clear why some act faster than others. Read more here.
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Baylor basketball coach wants COVID testing to end for Final Four
Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey says the NCAA should stop COVID testing at both the men’s and women’s tournaments ahead of the Final Four so no player runs the risk of testing positive and being ruled out. “Wouldn’t it be a shame to keep COVID testing and you’ve got kids that end up test positive or something and they don’t get to play in a Final Four?” she said.
Mulkey, whose team was eliminated Monday night, spoke hours after CDC director Rochelle Walensky warned that infections, hospitalizations and deaths are again on the rise across the nation. “Right now I’m scared,” a shaken Walensky said. “I just worry that we will see the surges that we saw over the summer and the winter again.”
‘Skating on a knife’s edge’: Scientists worry US could see fourth surge
As COVID-19 cases creep up again across the country, federal officials and epidemiologists say they’re worried we could hit another tipping point, leading to a fourth significant surge of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Average daily reported cases are up 10% compared to a week earlier, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows, with more than 30 million COVID-19 cases reported since early last year. Hospitalizations and deaths, which usually lag cases by a few weeks, have inched upward as well, after a decline and plateau that began in early January.
“We’re skating on a knife’s edge right now,” said Nicholas Reich, a biostatistician at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Read more here.
– Karen Weintraub
US surpasses 550,000 deaths as vaccine push accelerates
More than 550,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus epidemic, according to Johns Hopkins University data, claiming the lives of 1 in every 600 residents. The nation is still averaging about 1,000 deaths per day. But more than a dozen states will open vaccine eligibility to all adults this week in a major expansion of COVID-19 shots for tens of millions of Americans. According to President Joe Biden, vaccine distribution will increase to a new high of 33 million this week.
It also comes amid a worrisome increase in virus cases and concerns about balancing supply and demand for the vaccines.
“Just please hold on a little while longer,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky said during a White House briefing. Several Northeastern states and Michigan have seen the biggest increases; some are reporting hundreds or thousands more new cases per day than they were two weeks ago.
California reported the second-lowest rate of COVID-19 spread compared to other states in the week ending Sunday, but a top United States public health official on Monday described a “recurring feeling I have of impending doom” as infections once again are on the rise across the nation.
California ranked 49th among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. Thirty-four states had more cases in the latest week than they did in the week before. The U.S. has surpassed 30 million coronavirus cases.
There was some good news on the vaccine front: The double-shot vaccines sweeping across the nation reduce the risk of infection by 80% after just a single dose two or more weeks after vaccination, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
California ranked 24th among states in share of people receiving at least one shot; 29.3% of its residents are at least partially vaccinated. The national rate is 28.2%, a USA TODAY analysis of CDC data shows.
– Palm Springs Desert Sun
Biden says 90% of adults will be eligible for vaccine by April 19
President Joe Biden said Monday that 90% of American adults will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines by April 19, and vaccination sites would be within five miles of an individual’s home.
Biden’s new timeline beats his previous May 1 goal for nationwide eligibility by nearly two weeks. The remaining 10% of the population would be eligible by that time, he said.
“More vaccines, more sites, more vaccinators, all designed to speed our critical work,” said Biden, who also announced that the federal government would distribute a record 33 million vaccine doses this week.
The Biden administration is racing against the spread of virus variants that may fuel another surge in cases, especially with states loosening restrictions that helped limit transmission but also hurt the economy.
Biden urged governors who have lifted mask mandates to reinstate them, and he warned Americans that the battle against the virus is not over and could actually reverse course, so they need to remain vigilant and adhere to safety measures.
“If we let our guard down now,” he said, “We could see a virus getting worse, not better.”
Contributing: The Associated Press