I wrote a tipsheet on covering COVID-19 vaccines for The Open Notebook. The piece provides tools and resources specifically for writers on the vaccine beat—both those who have been covering the pandemic for months and those who are now incorporating vaccine news into other aspects of their reporting. But this advice also applies more broadly to anyone simply talking about vaccines.
The number of COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals is now the lowest it’s been since early November. About 7,000 new patients were admitted each day this week—while this is still a huge number, it’s a notable drop from the peak (18,000 per day) we saw earlier in the winter.
Usually when we do a COVID source callout, we’re putting our sights on a dashboard that’s actually five separate dashboards or a state that likes to surprise us when they update their dataset. This is to say that, usually, we don’t call out an actual source of coronavirus. But that’s what New York Governor Andrew Cuomo apparently wants to be when he grows up, as he opened up limited indoor dining on February 12th for New York City.
The CDC continues to improve its vaccination reporting. The agency is now regularly reporting demographic data on its dashboard—including race, ethnicity, age, and sex. But when it comes to tracking who’s getting vaccinated in America, we still have a long way to go.
Under Biden, national public health leadership could require that all public schools report their case counts, testing numbers, and enrollment numbers to the federal government—and publish these figures in a systematic way. But the new CDC guidance largely retains the status quo for school COVID-19 data.
The 7-day average for new cases was under 100,000 this week for the first time since October—but it’s still far above the records that America set during our spring and summer surges. n White House briefings this week, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that it will take a unified effort for us to continue this trend, especially as coronavirus variants pose an increased threat.
This past Monday, the COVID Tracking Project announced that it will soon close its operations. The Project will release its final update on March 7; then, after two more months of documentation, analysis, and archival work, it will close out in May.
Since our main stories this week focused on NYC, here are a couple of updates from the federal public health agencies. This includes CDC vaccination data, vaccination demographics, and a survey from the Department of Education.
Nobody who got any of the vaccine candidates was hospitalized or died from COVID-19. That’s huge, especially as variants continue to spread across the U.S. J&J’s numbers are especially promising when it comes to variant strains. Moderna and Pfizer released their results before the B.1.1.7 (U.K.) or B.1.351. (S.A.) variants reached their current notoriety, which makes J&J’s overall efficacy numbers look worse by comparison. But the fact that no one who got the J&J vaccine was hospitalized no matter which variant they were infected with is a cause for optimism.