Moderna says updated vaccine effective vs. BA.4 and BA.5

Moderna says updated vaccine is effective against BA.4 and BA.5

Moderna says an updated version of its COVID-19 booster shot appears to be effective against the newer omicron subvariants. In a news release to investors Wednesday, the drugmaker said its bivalent vaccine, which it hopes will be authorized for use this fall, showed a significant increase in antibodies against BA.4 and BA.5, which are on track to become the dominant variants in the US in the next few weeks. “In the face of SARS-CoV-2’s continued evolution, we are very encouraged that mRNA-1273.214, our lead booster candidate for the fall, has shown high neutralizing titers against the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, which represent an emerging threat to global public health,” said Stéphane Bancel, the company’s CEO, in a statement. “We will submit these data to regulators urgently and are preparing to supply our next generation bivalent booster starting in August, ahead of a potential rise in SARS-CoV-2 infections due to omicron subvariants in the early fall.”

SF Mayor London Breed tests positive for COVID-19

San Francisco Mayor London Breed has tested positive for COVID-19, her office said in a statement Wednesday. She is vaccinated and boosted and feeling well, the statement said her. She will be conducting meetings from home and will follow all isolation and quarantine protocols as recommended by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, not attending any public events while isolating. This week, Breed attended the Golden State Warriors championship parade, posing with many of the team’s star players. She also met with San Francisco’s department heads and commissioners at City Hall, attended a Juneteenth celebration in the Fillmore district, and hosted an outdoor movie night in the Presidio with State Sen. Scott Wiener. Follow the emerging story here.

Israel enters the “sixth wave” of pandemic due to BA.5

Public health officials in Israel said the country is experiencing another COVID-19 surge as they reported the highest number of daily cases and hospitalizations since April, according to news site Haaretz. “We are in another wave, the sixth wave of the pandemic, which is characterized mostly by the infection of at-risk groups. We attribute the rise in infection to the BA.5 variant of the omicron family, which is already found in over 50 percent of the [genetic] sequencing test results,” Salman Zarka, the country’s COVID czar said in a briefing on Wednesday [in Hebrew]. The BA.5 omicron subvariant made up about 70% of the sequenced cases in Israel last week. No pandemic restrictions have been reinstated but Zarka said if there are more severe outcomes “it is possible that we will have to not only recommend wearing masks in closed spaced, but require it in a regulation. But I hope we won’t need to do so.”

COVID surges across Europe as newer variants take hold

Several countries in Europe are reporting a fresh wave of COVID-19 cases driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of omicron, which are 10% to 15% more infectious than BA.2, according to The Guardian. French vaccination chief Alain Fischer said on Wednesday that the country is nearing a two-month peak of daily cases, with 95,000 reported on Tuesday. “The question is, what intensity does this wave have?” Fischer said, speaking on France 2 television. In one week, hospital admissions in France are up 27% and intensive-care admissions 17%. Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, the Netherlands and Denmark are also reporting a sharp upswing in cases and severe outcomes. The variants have led to significant excess deaths in Portugal, which also has the second highest new case rate in the world. “The holiday season is about to start, almost all restrictions have been relaxed — things could take off again very fast indeed,” French health expert Dr. Damien Mascret told France 2 television. “It’s concerning that only 29% of over-60s have so far got the fourth dose to which they are all entitled.”

Martha Stewart tests positive for COVID-19

Television personality Martha Stewart on Tuesday disclosed that she has tested positive for the coronavirus. “I’m sad to report that I tested positive for Covid-19,” Stewart, 80, said in a clip posted to her Instagram account. “I am feeling fine but I am sticking to the rules and isolating.” She added that she was “heartbroken” to miss a party for her signature skincare line in New York City. “Cheers to what I am sure will be a fabulous event.”

Children must show negative PCR test result to play in parks in Beijing

As part of China’s “dynamic zero-COVID” policy, families who want to take children over three years of age to play in public parks in Beijing will be required to provide a negative PCR test result within the past 72 hours to use the playground, according to CBS News, citing an announcement posted online Tuesday by the government agency that operates the parks in the capital.

Gov. Newsom rolls back more pandemic executive orders

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday lifted several of California’s remaining pandemic-related executive order provisions while maintaining the COVID-19 state of emergency. Fifteen additional provisions are set to expire on June 30, after which only 5% of the executive order provisions issued throughout the pandemic will remain in place, according to his office. “As California navigates the evolving pandemic, the state remains laser-focused on keeping Californians safe while advancing our ongoing recovery,” Newsom said in a statement. “We’re continuing to deploy proven strategies and programs that allow us to swiftly and effectively respond to changing pandemic conditions, take on equity gaps, and keep us moving forward.”

Bay Area infants and toddlers start getting COVID shots

Tuesday marked the first day that infants and toddlers 6 months to 4 years old could get vaccinated against COVID-19, following federal and state approvals for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines over the weekend. Inside Exposition Hall at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds on a sweltering afternoon, one-year-old Bert Avina helped make history: he became one of the first babies in the Bay Area to get his COVID-19 vaccine. Read more about the long-awaited roll-out of vaccines to the last age group in America to become eligible for the life-saving shots.

Biden visits clinic, celebrates COVID shots for kids under 5

President Joe Biden visited a vaccination clinic Tuesday to celebrate that virtually all Americans can now get a COVID-19 shot Tuesday after the authorization of vaccines for kids under 5 over the weekend. The Associated Press reports that while anyone aged six months and up is now eligible for vaccines, the administration cautioned that it expects the pace of shots for the youngest kids to be slower than older ones, as parents are more likely to rely on their children’s pediatricians to administer them. “We’re the only country in the world doing this right now,” Biden said, as he and first lady Jill Biden met with newly vaccinated children and their parents at Church of the Holy Communion in southeast Washington. As he handed out hugs to kids, Biden spoke of his youngest grandson, Beau, aged two, being newly eligible for vaccination. “Everybody knows I like kids better than people,” he joked.

BART ridership for Warriors parade was highest since start of pandemic

BART reported its highest single day ridership since March 2020 on Monday, as Bay Area residents streamed into downtown San Francisco for the Golden State Warriors’ championship parade. The transit agency said in a statement posted to social media that it had 190,519 documented riders, adding that many riders were not counted because of long lines and a Clipper card shortage. That number still falls short of the 568,068 people who rode BART trains for the 2012 San Francisco Giants World Series victory parade and 551,000 people for the Warriors’ 2015 championship parade. The agency added that ridership on a typical weekday before the pandemic was about 400,000. Read more about how the Warriors parade helped boost BART ridership to a new post-pandemic high.

Infections remain roughly level in California

California is reporting about 36 new daily coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, a number that has not dipped significantly since the beginning of June. The numbers do not include results of widely used home tests that are not reported to officials, nor cases that simply go undetected. Santa Clara County and San Francisco are reporting the highest level of infections in the state, with 50 and 48 new daily cases per 100,000 residents, respectively. The coronavirus test positivity rate in California has increased to 11.4%, according to state data published Tuesday. The test positive rate, which tracks the percentage of tests coming back positive for COVID-19, is up 2.7 percentage points from the previous seven-day average.

California COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths on the rise

While reported COVID-19 infections are stable in California, hospitalizations and deaths are increasing, state data shows. There are 2,862 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state, across marking a 27% rise from the previous 14-day average, according to state data published Tuesday. About 15 Californians are dying daily with COVID-19, nearly double the average reported last week.

Recent BA.2 infection unlikely to protect against BA.4 and BA.5, report says

Those who were recently infected with the BA.2 and BA.2.12.1 omicron subvariants are unlikely to have protection against the rapidly spreading BA.4 and BA.5 sublineages of the virus, according to a report posted Tuesday on MedPage Today. “It’s expected that there’s probably not much cross-protection between them,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security told researchers from the medical journal. Substantial genetic changes in the number and type of mutations in the receptor-binding domain of the spike protein of the virus increase the chances of reinfection with the newer variants, as does the time since last infection, the experts said. Data suggest the period of immunity is getting shorter with each new variant but Adalja said barring definitive studies how soon someone becomes vulnerable to reinfection “probably varies from person to person.”

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