A $10 billion measure aimed at bolstering the U.S. government’s COVID-19 defenses stalled in the Senate on Wednesday and is expected to remain in limbo for weeks.
Republicans sought a vote on an amendment preserving immigration curbs imposed by then-President Donald Trump that the Biden administration is slated to end on May 23, the Associated Press reported.
“Why did Republicans say no? Because they wanted to cripple COVID funding legislation with poison pills that they knew would derail this bill,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. said Wednesday.
The funds are needed to pay for tests and treatments and allow the U.S. fight the next stage of the pandemic, which is not over even though many countries are behaving as if it is.
The U.S. is averaging 29,711 new cases a day, according to a New York Times tracker, down 2% from two weeks ago but a higher number than recorded in the last two days.
Cases are rising in 28 states again as the highly infectious BA.2 subvariant of omicron spreads. They are up 86% in Nebraska from two weeks ago, up 73% in Nevada, up 63% in New York, up 57% in Hawaii and up 135% in Washington, D.C.
The country is averaging 15,223 hospitalizations a day, down 26% from two weeks ago. The daily death toll has fallen below 600 to 599, in welcome news.
The World Health Organization said Wednesday that BA.2 accounted for about 94% of new cases globally in the latest week, the latest data point to show just how dominant it has become.
A panel of U.S. experts convened by the Food and Drug Administration met Wednesday to discuss key questions for future COVID-19 booster campaigns. The panel did not take a vote or make any decisions but focused on whether vaccine makers need to update vaccines to address new variants. Current vaccines are based on protecting against the original strain of the virus, but that has been replaced by new variants in the past two years.
“This, as my colleagues have said, is a very complex situation,” said Oveta Fuller, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Michigan medical school and a member of the committee. “I don’t think the public understands how complex it is, and I don’t think we understood until a number of things came up today.”
The meeting came just a week after the FDA authorized a fourth booster shot for people aged 50 and over, even though many Americans have not yet had a first booster dose.
The European Medicines Agency COVID task force on Thursday said it was too early to consider a fourth shot.
“There is currently no clear evidence in the EU that vaccine protection against severe disease is waning substantially in adults with normal immune systems aged 60 to 79 years and thus no clear evidence to support the immediate use of a fourth dose,” the task force said in a joint statement with the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
Other COVID-19 news you should know about:
• Residents of Shanghai are struggling to get meat, rice and other food supplies under anti-coronavirus controls that confine most of its 25 million people in their homes, fueling frustration as the government tries to contain a spreading outbreak, the AP reported. People in China’s business capital complain that online grocers often are sold out. Some received government food packages of meat and vegetables for a few days. But with no word on when they will be allowed out, anxiety is rising.
• Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo have tested positive for COVID, joining a slew of Democrats, lawmakers and Biden administration officials to contract the virus. Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, the assistant House speaker, and Rep. Scott Peters of California announced their own positive tests, the New York Times reported. A White House official said President Biden, who has not tested positive for the coronavirus, was not considered a close contact.
• People who contract COVID are facing a fivefold increase in the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis and a 33-fold increase in risk of a potentially fatal blood clot on the lungs, the Guardian reported, citing data published in the British Medical Journal. The findings, based on a study of more than 1 million people with confirmed cases of COVID, may explain a doubling of the incidence of, and deaths from, such blood clots in England since the start of the pandemic.
• Germany’s lower house of parliament on Thursday voted against a bill requiring anyone aged 60 and over to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in a defeat for Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Reuters reported. Germany’s vaccination campaign is faltering with around 76.6% of Germany’s population having received at least one dose – lower than the more than 80% in other western European countries such as France, Italy and Spain. Daily infections are at a high level in Germany but have dipped in the last week or so, with 201,729 new cases reported on Thursday.
Here’s what the numbers say
The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 495.2 million on Monday, while the death toll rose above 6.16 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. leads the world with 80.2 million cases and more than 983,828 fatalities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 218 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 65.7% of the population. But just 98.3 million are boosted, equal to 45.1% of the vaccinated population.