Solving COVID: May 19, 2021
Cases continue to drop in the U.S., Nepal sees a new wave, and more
Where things stand
Cases of COVID-19 continue to fall in the U.S., reaching their lowest weekly average in nearly a year at 31,100. "Cases are going down, deaths are going down, hospitalizations are going down, vaccinations are going up," Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases professor at Vanderbilt University, told CNN. More than 600,000 kids age 12 to 15 were vaccinated on the first day they were eligible, The Wall Street Journal reports. India's second wave seems to be leveling off, but deaths are spiking: The nation on Wednesday reported 4,529 COVID deaths, the highest single-day death toll reported by any country in the pandemic. India's outbreak has overflowed into neighboring Nepal, where cases are skyrocketing and the health-care system is quickly becoming overwhelmed.
Biden: Coronavirus cases down in all 50 states
For the first time since the start of the pandemic, coronavirus cases are down in all 50 states, President Biden announced on Monday. This comes as 60 percent of Americans have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot. Despite the gains, "we're still losing too many Americans" to COVID-19, Biden said, and people who refuse to get vaccinated "will end up paying the price." Biden also revealed that in June, the United States will send additional doses of the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines abroad. "We know America will never be fully safe until the pandemic that's raging globally is under control," he said. "No ocean's wide enough, no wall's high enough, to keep us safe."
U.S. to share 20 million more vaccine doses
President Biden announced Monday that the United States would send at least 20 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccines to other countries. The commitment adds to the 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine the Biden administration already promised to share by July 4. The new batch of vaccines to be sent overseas will include those made by Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson, which, unlike AstraZeneca's, have been approved for use in the United States. "We need to help fight the disease around the world to keep us safe here at home and to do the right thing helping other people," Biden said. "It's the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do, it's the strong thing to do."
GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi aim for COVID-19 vaccine authorization before year's end
GlaxoSmithKline said Monday that a Phase 2 trial of its COVID-19 vaccine, developed with French partner Sanofi, showed a "strong neutralizing antibody response" in adult participants of all age groups and raised no safety issues. "We believe that this vaccine candidate can make a significant contribution to the ongoing fight against COVID-19 and will move to Phase 3 as soon as possible to meet our goal of making it available before the end of the year," said Roger Connor, president of GSK's vaccines program. The Phase 3 trial, expected to start in the next few weeks, is slated to involve 35,000 adults from a number of countries. The vaccine is based on Sanofi's seasonal flu vaccine, combined with a immunity-boosting adjuvant from GSK. The companies had hoped to seek regulatory approval in the first half of 2021, but pushed back those plans after disappointing results in December.
European Union to reopen borders to vaccinated visitors
The European Union is set to reopen its borders to those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or are traveling from a country that's considered safe, The New York Times reports. During a meeting on Wednesday, ambassadors from the 27 member states reportedly agreed to allow in visitors who have either received an approved COVID-19 vaccine, including any of the three that have been authorized for emergency use in the United States, or are coming from a list of countries that will be finalized later this week. According to The Washington Post, this agreement is expected to be formally approved in the coming days, although the Post notes that "individual countries will still be able to set their own rules about what they require from aspiring visitors." While it wasn't officially revealed when the reopening will begin, the Times reports that "the new measures could go into effect as early as next week."