America must balance the need to protect the population from the coronavirus with growing pandemic fatigue and begin “inching” toward normalcy, Dr. Anthony Fauci says.
“The world and the United States, and particularly certain parts of the United States, are just up to here with COVID, they just really need to get their life back,” Fauci said in an interview with Reuters. “You don’t want to be reckless and throw everything aside, but you’ve got to start inching toward that.”
See more: Covid 19 home test
Although more than 2,000 Americans continue to die from the coronavirus each day, the daily death total fell 9% last week from the previous week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday. Deaths are a lag indicator – new infections and hospitalizations have been in decline for weeks, and both fell more sharply last week.
Fauci said states aggressively rolling back restrictions could result in unnecessary infections, but that strict mandates also can take a toll.
“Is the impact on mental health, is the impact on development of kids, is the impact on schools – is that balanced against trying to be totally pristine and protecting against infection?” he said. “I don’t have the right answer to that.”
Also in the news:
►Adidas dropped its mandatory vaccination requirement for U.S. employees, citing the Supreme Court’s decision to block the proposed federal requirement. “Though no longer required, we strongly encourage all employees to be vaccinated,” the company said in a statement to USA TODAY.
►The U.S. on Wednesday reached 100,000 reported COVID-19 deaths for 2022, John Hopkins University data shows. The 100,000th death of 2020 was reported on May 23 as the first wave was ending. The 100,000th death of 2021 was reported Feb. 2.
►Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said in a White House briefing the agency is contemplating a change to its mask guidance in the coming weeks.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 78 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 928,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 418 million cases and over 5.8 million deaths. More than 214 million Americans – 64.5% – are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
View more: Antonio Conte went six nights without sleep
📘 What we’re reading: Every week, the CDC updates its list of countries that should be avoided due to COVID-19 risk. After nearly two years of living in the pandemic, travelers are ignoring the agency’s guidance.
Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s free Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.
Police sweep into gridlocked Ottawa as trucker protest drags on
Busloads of police officers descended on downtown Ottawa on Thursday, handing out warnings to protesters to abandon the three-week demonstration where more than 300 parked trucks have clogged streets and angered many residents of the Canadian capital. Work crews began erecting fences outside Parliament, where embattled Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared that it was ‘”high time these illegal and dangerous activities stop.”
Some of the Freedom Convoy protesters were unmoved. Pat King said he was prepared to “watch them hit me with pepper spray.” He dismissed threats to have the trucks towed away, saying tow truck operators won’t touch the parked vehicles.
California now set to move from pandemic to endemic
California officials on Thursday will unveil a plan for coexisting with the coronavirus, which scientists say could last for years. The plan presumes the state is entering an endemic stage, where the virus still exists in the community but becomes manageable as immunity builds. This week California lifted its latest indoor masking mandate, and officials said they would announce at month’s end when the mask requirement for schools would be dropped.
“The focus is going to be being prepared and being ready,” said California’s health secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly.
Institute: 73% of Americans are immune from omicron
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimates that 73% of Americans are currently immune to the omicron variant, a number that means future surges would create far less disruption to society, some experts say.
The institute figures that about half of eligible Americans have received coronavirus booster shots, plus there have been close to 80 million confirmed infections – and many more that have never been reported. All good signs in the battle for immunity. The institute estimates the immunity percentage could reach 80% by mid-March.
The notion of a “herd immunity” that could bring the pandemic to a screeching halt has disappeared amid variants, waning immunity and vaccine hesitancy among millions of Americans. But the immunity numbers should prevent or lessen new illnesses in protected people and reduce the amount of virus circulating overall, likely easing the brutal impact seen in previous waves, experts agree.
200 million free, at-home tests have arrived at U.S. homes
More than 50 million American households have received free at-home COVID-19 testing kits that started going out in late January, according to a White House official. “85% of the initial orders are now out the door. And in the next several days, we will complete the shipping of all of the initial orders,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said at a news briefing Wednesday.
View more: ESPN
The Biden administration ordered 1 billion tests to be sent through the U.S. Postal Service to Americans who sign up through daypg.com. Each household was eligible for four at-home tests, regardless of the number of household members.
The U.S. Postal Service said tests will ship within seven to 12 days of ordering, and all orders are mailed through First-Class Package Service, but many Americans who ordered tests as soon as they were available Jan. 18 have still not received an email with tracking information once their order has shipped.
“Once the package ships, over 60% are delivered within 24 hours and 90% within 48 hours,” Zients said.
Organ transplants break records in 2021, despite challenges set by COVID
During the first year of the pandemic, organ transplants plummeted by half. But the dearth didn’t last for long.
Last year, a record-breaking 41,354 transplants were performed, according to preliminary data from United Network for Organ Sharing, the first time the U.S. has ever exceeded 40,000 transplants. Dr. Matthew Cooper, president of the UNOS Board of Directors, said the organization continues to see transplantation “increase substantially.”
Despite obstacles created by the pandemic, a harmonious combination of technological advancements, cooperation between medical facilities and solidarity among Americans drove up lifesaving transplants in 2021, experts say.
A summary of data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network shows donors with resolved COVID-19 who still test positive 21 to 90 days after the disease onset are unlikely to transmit the infection. So far, the CDC has reported only three cases of donor-derived COVID-19 to lung recipients.
There have been no cases of COVID-19 transmission to nonlung recipients.
– Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY
Contributing: Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; The Associated Press