The problem child of COVID-19 vaccines was back in the news this week. After South Africa suspended the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine’s use when it failed to slow the spread of the predominant B.1.351 variant, vaccination using this vaccine has been suspended and then resumed in many European countries following reports of blood clots in some people who received it.
This week, the CDC published a new data page about the coronavirus variants now circulating in the U.S. The page provides estimates of how many new cases in the country may be attributed to different SARS-CoV-2 lineages, including both more familiar, wild-type variants (B.1. and B.1.2) and newer variants of concern. These new data are useful, but the page has some presentation problems
When the University of California at San Diego started planning out their campus reopening strategy last spring, a research team at the school enlisted Ravi Goyal to help determine the most crucial mitigation measures. Goyal is a statistician at the policy research organization Mathematica (no, not the software system). I spoke to Goyal this week about the challenges of modeling COVID-19, the patterns he saw at UC San Diego, and how this pandemic may impact the future of infectious disease modeling.
Our current phase of the pandemic may be described as a race between vaccinations and the spread of variants. Right now, it’s not clear who’s winning. Despite our current vaccination pace, the U.S. reported only 10,000 fewer new cases this week than in the week prior—and rates in some states are rising.
In the White House COVID-19 briefing this past Monday, equity task force director Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith showed, for one fleeting minute, a slide on completeness of state-by-state data on vaccinations by race and ethnicity. The slide pointed out that racial/ethnic data was only available for 53% of vaccinations, and most states report these data for fewer than 80% of records.
In a press conference on Wednesday, NYC mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed that the recently identified NYC variant (since christened B-1526) is outpacing the original strain in spreading speed, and his senior advisor for Public Health, Dr. Jay Varma, said that these two variants combined account for 51% of all cases in the city.
As of this past Monday, K-12 teachers in every state are now eligible for vaccination. Teachers were already prioritized in most of the country, but Biden directed the remaining states to adjust their priority lists last week. The federal government also pulled teachers into the federal pharmacy program, previously used for long-term care facilities. But there’s one big problem: we have no idea how many teachers have actually been inoculated.
This week, I wrote a story for Popular Science that goes over what we know (and don’t know) about the most common settings for COVID-19 infection. The story allowed me to revisit a database on superspreading events and issues with a lack of contact tracing data in the U.S.