Currents News Staff
Big news coming from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Wednesday, Dec. 23 with the authorization of the first antiviral pill for COVID patients.
Omicron has taken over the past two weeks, and now accounts for 90-percent of new cases in several regions of the U.S. The FDA granted Pfizer’s new antiviral pill – Paxlovid – emergency use authorization.
“Folks that took paxlovid early, within three days of symptom onset, had a 90% reduction in hospitalization or death compared to those that took the placebo,” said Professor of Medicine and Surgery at George Washington University, Dr. Jonathan Reiner. “So this is a very, very potent agent.”
One problem? The highly-effective treatment has to be administered within the first five days of symptoms, making hard-to-come-by tests all the more important, even as retailers like Walgreens and CVS limit the number of tests customers can buy at once in the face of sky-high demand.
Meanwhile, the now-dominant, highly contagious Omicron variant – first detected in the U.S. just weeks ago – is helping drive new COVID-19 case numbers back up to levels last seen three months ago in the midst of the Delta surge.
New infections are jumping more than 20 percent over last week with nearly 70,000 people hospitalized with the virus.
“I’m pretty worried that the surge that we’re going to see in the coming weeks is going to be worse than the surge that we saw last winter said Emergency Medicine Physician Dr. Richina Bicette-Mccain.
COVID deaths are rising 11 percent over last week as the CDC reports COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in 2020 and life expectancy dropped by nearly two years.
Despite the spike in cases, holiday travelers do not seem deterred, with the TSA screening around 2 million or more people a day for the past six days.
The CDC director is reminding holiday travelers to stay safe.
“How safe your holiday is is about how safe you are in the time leading up to the holiday,” said Director Of The US Centers For Disease Control And Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
As Israel considers rolling out a fourth dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for medical workers, the immunocompromised and people over 60, U.S. health officials say, they will follow the science.
“Right now we feel confident if you have a booster that you have a high level of protection against overall infection,” said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, “particularly against hospitalization and death, the most severe outcomes of COVID.”
Meanwhile – after the United Kingdom reduced the required isolation period for vaccinated people who test negative twice for COVID from 10 days to seven, new debate arose over whether the U.S. should follow suit.
“We’re actively examining those data now,” said Dr. Rochelle, “and doing some modeling analyses to assess that. And we anticipate that we’ll have some updates soon.”