Coronavirus weekly need-to-know: Long COVID, delta variant, ivermectin drug & more

Here’s the coronavirus news you should know for the week of July 30-Aug. 5, 2021.

Here’s the coronavirus news you should know for the week of July 30-Aug. 5, 2021.


Each week, we offer you a roundup of our noteworthy coronavirus coverage.

More than 35.4 million people in the United States have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Friday morning, Aug. 6, according to Johns Hopkins University. That includes more than 615,000 people who have died nationwide.

Globally, there have been more than 201 million confirmed cases of the highly infectious virus, with more than 4.2 million reported deaths.

More than 165.6 million Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Aug. 5 — about 50% of the total population, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracker shows. About 61% of adults and 58% of people aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated in the U.S.

Here’s what happened between July 30 and Aug. 5.

How do COVID-19 infections differ in vaccinated vs. unvaccinated people?

To be clear, infections are occurring in both unvaccinated and vaccinated people, but to a much lesser extent in the latter group. That’s because the vaccines have proven effective even against the delta variant, which is more contagious and may cause more severe disease.

According to CDC national estimates, people who are vaccinated benefit from an 8-fold lower risk of developing COVID-19 once infected and a 25-fold lower risk of hospitalization and death. (There’s a difference between just getting infected and going on to develop the disease the coronavirus causes.)

On an individual level, risk of severe disease or death is reduced 10-fold or greater in vaccinated people, while risk of infection is reduced 3-fold.

Here’s what the most up-to-date studies show about how infections differ in vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Some people are taking an anti-parasitic to treat COVID-19. That’s a bad idea

Some people itching to get their hands on a COVID-19 cure are putting themselves in danger for taking unprescribed doses of ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug used to treat diseases such as river blindness or scabies in people and prevent heartworm disease and other infestations in animals.

Yet, several federal and international health agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization, have advised against using ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19 outside of controlled clinical trials.

Here’s why.

Delta coronavirus variant spreads as easily as chickenpox

An internal document from the CDC, first obtained by The Washington Post, sheds light on how easily the delta variant can spread — and what it means for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

The delta variant, which experts fear may lead to more severe illness, has spurred a noticeable spike in COVID-19 cases throughout the country. Last week, the CDC said 83% of cases were of the highly transmissible variant first identified in India in December 2020.

The variant is as contagious as the chickenpox and is more transmissible than the viruses that cause Ebola, the common cold and the seasonal flu.

Continue reading to learn what else the document revealed.

Can kids develop long COVID-19? Study offers clues

Long COVID-19 has mostly been studied in adults, yet it continues to be an enigma to the many doctors and scientists studying patient cases.

Even more of a mystery is how common the condition is in children infected with the virus, and how it manifests in their bodies. There’s no test to confirm long COVID-19, and younger kids may not be able to explain what they’re feeling, challenging doctors’ efforts to diagnose them properly.

Now, a new analysis of data of nearly 7,000 kids who tested positive for COVID-19 and experienced symptoms, part of the U.K.’s ZOE COVID Symptom Study, may quell some parents’ fears.

COVID-19 vaccines were designed to prevent death — not infection

Let’s cut to the chase: COVID-19 vaccines are doing exactly what they were designed to do, and that’s to prevent severe disease, including the need for hospitalization, and death — even in the delta variant’s presence.

Yet there remains the misconception that the shots were designed to prevent infections altogether, leading people to believe the vaccines aren’t working as they should when they learn about breakthrough infections among the vaccinated.

While data show the COVID-19 shots are preventing infections in many outbreak scenarios, the fact they are happening doesn’t suggest failure, experts say.

Stores and restaurants are bringing back mask mandates

Mask rules are making a comeback at retailers and restaurants as the U.S. sees a rapid rise in coronavirus cases, coupled with concerns over spread of the highly contagious delta variant.

Home Depot on Monday joined a growing list of stores requiring employees to wear a face mask, regardless of vaccination status. Shoppers will have to do the same.

Here is a list of stores and restaurants that have brought back mask mandates.

‘Supplemental’ COVID-19 shot for those who got J&J vaccine offered at CA hospital

A San Francisco hospital appears to be the first in the nation to offer people who got the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine a follow-up dose for added protection, likely to help ward off the delta variant.

Those who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can receive a second dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, health officials say.

The hospital will prioritize San Francisco residents for the supplemental shots but will also serve residents of other California counties while supplies last. It’s unclear if people living outside the state are eligible.

COVID-19 breathalyzer may eventually replace nose swabs for kids

Researchers are working toward creating COVID-19 “breathalyzers” for kids that could be faster, cheaper and more comfortable than other types of testing, a new study shows.

The research found that infected children exhale unique biomarkers that aren’t detected in breath tests from adults.

Effective breath tests for children could lead to “large-scale screening” of students at schools or other large settings where kids congregate, researchers say.

Yelp tool lets you see restaurants’ COVID-19 vaccine requirements

Yelp just rolled out a new feature to help foodies stay informed about health and safety protocols at their favorite restaurants, including COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

Starting Thursday, Yelp will allow restaurants and other businesses to indicate whether proof of vaccination is required to visit or if their staff has been fully vaccinated.

The website’s new tool comes as a growing number of restaurants and retailers are moving to become vaccinated-only establishments, turning away customers who haven’t gotten the shot.

Follow more of our reporting on Full coverage of coronavirus in Washington

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Katie Camero is a McClatchy National Real-Time Science reporter. She’s an alumna of Boston University and has reported for the Wall Street Journal, Science, and The Boston Globe.

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