Two studies this week added to a growing body of research that has found lingering COVID-19 symptoms to be common, especially among patients with severe cases.
Among 270,000 people recovering from COVID-19 that researchers studied, 37% still had at least one symptom three to six months later, according to an Oxford University and the National Institute for Health Research study published Tuesday.
“COVID-19 appears to be associated with long-term effects that are common and diverse,” the study concluded.
Among the most common lingering symptoms the study found were trouble breathing, abdominal issues, fatigue, pain, and anxiety and depression.
The study also made note of cognitive symptoms, including “brain fog,” a phenomenon characterized by “word finding difficulties or poor concentration.” Cognitive symptoms were seen in about 8% of patients and were more common among the elderly.
The study also found evidence of long-term symptoms in people recovering from the flu, but symptoms months after infection were more than twice as common with COVID-19 than they were with influenza.
Meanwhile, a study released Wednesday of 2,433 patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, found that 45% reported at least one symptom a year after they were released from the hospital. The most common symptoms included fatigue, chest tightness, sweating, anxiety and muscle pain.
Among severe cases, 54% reported at at least one symptom a year after leaving the hospital. But lingering symptoms were also common for less severe cases with 41.5% reporting at least one symptom after a year.
Also in the news:
► American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue have joined United Airlines in requiring employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
► Alabama lawmakers on Friday approved a plan to use $400 million of COVID-19 relief funds to build new prisons with Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey calling the construction plan “a major step forward” for the prison system.
► “Aladdin” on Broadway is canceling its performances through Oct. 12 as it struggles to contain a COVID outbreak among the musical’s company. The show was closed for 18 months and had just reopened Tuesday.
► Hawaii authorities arrested two California tourists for submitting fake COVID test results to avoid the mandatory 10-day quarantine period required for all unvaccinated visitors to the state.
► All employees at public colleges and universities in Nevada will be required to receive COVID vaccines by Dec. 1 or face termination, the state board of regents voted.
► Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh tested positive for COVID-19 just days before the justices were set to return to the courtroom to begin a new term, the court announced Friday.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 43.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 700,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 234.2 million cases and 4.7 million deaths. More than 184.8 million Americans — 55.7% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
📘 What we’re reading: Vaccine mandates are not new to American history. From smallpox to COVID, here’s what public health learned.
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With the original version of the virus that causes COVID-19, the country’s current vaccination rate of about 65% would have been enough to stop the spread. Unfortunately, the now-dominant delta strain is more than twice as contagious and requires more people to be immune through vaccination or previous infection for the virus to stop spreading, experts say.
“Now we need 85 to 90% vaccinated against delta,” said Dr. Eric Topol, vice president for research at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, and a national expert on the use of data in medical research.
It’s not an impossible number. In countries like Portugal, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, upwards of 80% of the total population are now vaccinated, and cases and deaths are falling.
That seems unlikely to happen in the United States, where only 55% of the total population is fully vaccinated, and 12% of Americans say are adamantly opposed to it.
– Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
U.S. surpasses 700,000 coronavirus deaths
The United States surpassed 700,000 coronavirus deaths Friday night, half of them in the last nine months alone as the delta variant drove a brutal surge across the weary nation.
The U.S. reached 600,000 deaths in June, when daily deaths had dropped to under 400 amid hope that the crisis, at least at home, was near an end. Vaccines were widely available to all American adults and teens. For free.
Three months and 100,000 deaths later, 2,000 Americans are dying per day. And millions have lost interest in the fight. Football stadiums are packed with maskless fans, some in states that ban vaccination and mask requirements.
Reaching 800,000 deaths isn’t a longshot, and the specter of even 1 million deaths looms. Winter will bring crows to indoor venues; people will socialize inside. All that increases transmission risk, said Ogbonnaya Omenka, an associate professor and public health specialist at Butler University in Indianapolis.
“Given the current rates and expectations, the possibility of reaching 800,000 by the end of 2021 is not unreasonable,” Omenka said. And beyond that, “because the ending depends mainly on human preferences, we can hit that (1 million) number.”
– John Bacon
Hospitals oust unvaccinated workers in preview of nationwide mandates
President Joe Biden last month announced all hospitals that take Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement must vaccinate their workers. While health leaders acknowledge and support mandatory vaccination, some worry workforce disruptions punctuate a widespread shortage of health care workers at hospitals and clinics nationwide.
New York this week gave the nation an early glimpse of what the Biden administration’s 50-state vaccine mandate for health care workers might look like. The Empire State’s hospitals dismissed or suspended dozens of workers for failing to meet a Monday deadline requiring workers get at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Anticipating service disruptions from frontline health workers quitting or getting fired, health systems from New York City to upstate delayed non-emergency operations, cut clinic hours and paid travel nurses up to $200 an hour to fill vacant shifts.
– Ken Alltucker, USA TODAY
A pill to treat COVID? Early results are promising.
The drugmaking company Merck announced Friday that a pill it has been testing for treating COVID-19 is effective. If approved for use by the FDA, it would be the first treatment for COVID in pill form.
The pill for people sick with the disease cut hospitalizations and deaths by half when taken within five days of symptoms appearing, Merck said. The company expects to submit its data for authorization from regulatory agencies around the world soon.
Merck studied 775 adults with mild to moderate cases who were expected to be high risk due to age or underlying conditions, and 7.3 were hospitalized or died within 30 days, compared to 14.1% who received the placebo.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said the announcement was “good news.”
California announces mandate vaccine for schoolchildren
California will require eligible students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend school in-person, but only after the Food and Drug Administration fully approves the vaccine for more school-aged children, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday.
“I believe we’ll be the first state in America to move forward with this mandate and requirement,” Newsom said from a school in San Francisco.
Newsom said he expects the mandate to be in place for by July 1 of next year for students in 7th through 12th grade.
– Erin Richards, USA TODAY
Supreme Court declines to block New York City’s vaccine mandate for teachers
The Supreme Court on Friday declined to block New York City’s requirement that public school teachers receive COVID-19 vaccinations, marking the second time the nation’s high court has declined to wade into the issue.
A group of teachers in New York had asked the Supreme Court for an emergency injunction to block implementation of the mandate, which required them to receive a shot by 5 p.m. Friday or face suspension without pay when schools open Monday.
– John Fritze, USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press