Assume UK variant is deadlier, Fauci says; social distancing, masks needed until late July, model predicts — 9 COVID-19 updates

As of Jan. 24, 110,628 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. — the lowest figure since Dec. 14, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project. 

In addition, no state is reporting more than 600 hospitalized COVID-19 patients per million for the first time since Nov. 3, according to a Jan. 24 tweet from the Tracking Project.

Eight more updates:

1. The U.S. surpassed 25 million COVID-19 cases Jan. 23, according to data from Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University. 

2. The U.S. needs to assume that the U.K. coronavirus variant is more deadly than the most dominant strain currently circulating worldwide, Anthony Fauci, MD, said during a Jan. 24 interview with CBS' Face the Nation. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' remarks come after British officials said early data shows higher death rates for those infected by the variant, known as B.1.1.7. British researchers originally said the strain was more infectious, but did not cause more severe illness.

3. President Joe Biden plans to implement a new travel ban for South Africa and reimpose other COVID-19-related travel restrictions Jan. 25, reports NBC News. The reinstated restrictions would ban non-U.S. citizens who have recently been to the U.K., Ireland and 26 countries in Europe that permit open travel between their borders.

4. COVID-19 vaccine supplies will be "the most limiting constraint" for the Biden administration's goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses in 100 days, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said during a Jan. 24 interview with "Fox News Sunday." Dr. Walensky said she expects the U.S. to dramatically scale up vaccine production by late March. 

5. Merck stopped developing two COVID-19 vaccine candidates after both failed to produce sufficient immune responses in clinical trials, the drugmaker said Jan. 25. 

6. Moderna's vaccine proved effective against the U.K. and South Africa variants, the drugmaker said Jan. 25. However, the company plans to develop a booster shot for the South Africa variant, known as B.1.351, after finding its vaccine produced a weaker response against this strain.

7. Vaccines alone are not enough to stop COVID-19 outbreaks in the U.S., with masks and social distancing still necessary efforts until at least late July, according to a New York City-based Columbia University model shared with The New York Times. Scientists predict it will still be months before enough Americans are vaccinated to take the wind out of the pandemic.

8. Social distancing rates in the U.S. fell drastically as the pandemic continued, according to a study published Jan. 22 in JAMANetwork. Researchers analyzed survey responses from 7,705 participants completed between April 1 and Nov. 24, 2020. All U.S. regions experienced decreases in COVID-19 mitigation efforts from early April to late November, with adherence in the final survey week significantly lower in the Midwest than all other regions. Protective behaviors that had the largest reported decreases included having no close contact with non-household members and avoiding eating at restaurants. Read more here

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 25,128,825

Deaths: 419,228

Counts reflect data available as of 9:30 a.m. CST Jan. 25.

More articles on public health:
Mixing COVID-19 vaccine doses OK in rare situations, CDC says
Weekly hospitalizations dip after 16-week increase; vaccines appear less effective against South Africa strain — 6 COVID-19 updates
21 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Jan. 25


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