The Perfect Enemy | COVID in California: Common rapid home tests have low sensitivity for omicron, study finds
December 9, 2022

COVID in California: Common rapid home tests have low sensitivity for omicron, study finds

COVID in California: Common rapid home tests have low sensitivity for omicron, study finds  San Francisco Chronicle

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The new BN.1 omicron offshoot, which the CDC designated a subvariant of concern last weekend, has already taken off in the Western region of the U.S., including California, accounting for 6.2% new cases last week — substantially higher than the national average. Moderna says its bivalent booster shot provides “significantly higher” protection against the omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants compared to its original formula. Still, demand for updated bivalent booster shots is on the decline in the U.S., down 17% on Nov. 2 compared to the prior week, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cambodian presidents tests positive after meeting with Biden

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday he has COVID-19 and is leaving the Group of 20 meetings in Bali, just days after hosting President Joe Biden and other world leaders for a summit in his country’s capital. The diagnosis came as the heads of the G-20 leading economies and other nations began a two-day meeting on the Indonesian resort island, the Associated Press reports. In a posting on his Facebook page, the Cambodian leader said he tested positive for the coronavirus Monday night and an Indonesian physician confirmed the diagnosis on Tuesday morning. He canceled his meetings at the G-20 as well as the upcoming APEC economic forum in Bangkok to return home. The White House said Biden tested negative Tuesday morning and is not considered a close contact as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Veterans home outbreak results in $58 million settlement

A federal judge has approved a nearly $58 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed in response to the deaths of dozens of veterans who contracted COVID-19 at a Massachusetts veterans home, reports the Associated Press. “It was with heavy hearts that we got to the finish line on this case,” plaintiffs attorney Michael Aleo said Tuesday, the day after the settlement was approved by a judge in U.S. District Court in Springfield. The coronavirus outbreak at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke in the spring of 2020 was one of the deadliest outbreaks at a long-term care facility in the U.S. Attorneys for the plaintiffs said 84 residents died and roughly the same number were sickened. A total of 164 plaintiffs include veterans who tested positive for the disease and survived, as well as the families of those who died. Several of the veterans who survived COVID-19 have died of other causes since the lawsuit was filed, Aleo said. The original settlement amount announced in May was $56 million, but that was increased to about $58 million with the addition of three additional plaintiffs, he said. The families of veterans who died will receive a minimum of $400,000 each, while veterans who contracted the disease and survived will receive a minimum of $10,000 under the settlement’s terms.

White House’s Jha says winter surge is unlikely — mask mandates off the table

Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, does not expect the U.S. to experience a substantial holiday surge like it did last year with omicron. “We are in a very different place, and we will remain in a different place,” Jha told the STAT Summit in Boston on Tuesday, noting that 90% of Americans have received at least one dose of vaccine and “a large chunk of Americans have gotten infected.” While he acknowledged that newer variants could change the picture, Jha said, “I believe we are in a way better place no matter what Mother Nature throws at us.” He added that Americans are unlikely to see the return of any mandatory virus mitigation measures such as indoor masking requirements or attendance caps on large gatherings. “We are now at a point where I believe if you’re up to date on your vaccines, you have access to treatments … there really should be no restrictions on people’s activities,” Jha said. “I’m pretty much living life the way I was living life in 2019.”

CVS pharmacists can prescribe Paxlovid now

CVS Pharmacy on Tuesday announced that pharmacists at more than 9,000 of its locations nationwide can clinically assess COVID-19 positive patients and, if eligible, prescribe the oral antiviral treatment Paxlovid. The service is available in 49 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. CVS Pharmacists can assess eligible COVID-19 positive patients and prescribe oral antivirals at most locations. “Enabling pharmacists to evaluate patients and prescribe Paxlovid when clinically appropriate increases patient access and reduces barriers to care and treatment for those who need it,” said Prem Shah, president and chief pharmacy officer of CVS Pharmacy. “Paxlovid has proven to be an important tool in the fight against COVID-19 by helping to reduce the severity of symptoms in patients at high risk for severe cases of the illness.” Walgreens previously offered the service at a “limited number of stores.”

Rapid home tests have low sensitivity for omicron, study finds

Commonly used rapid antigen home tests fail to reliably detect an omicron COVID-19 infection in asymptomatic people, according to a study published Monday in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection. Dutch researchers tested 3,600 asymptomatic people with suspected COVID-19 between January and March, when omicron accounted for up to 99.5% of cases in the Netherlands, using self-administered rapid antigen tests and PCR tests. The overall sensitivities for the three bands used — sold under the retail names of Flowflex, MPBio, and Clinitest — were 27.5%. A quarter of the participants who tested again within 10 days of getting a negative result from a rapid test were positive. “Self-testing in asymptomatic individuals may only detect the minority of infections,” the authors wrote. “Repeated self-testing in case of a negative self-test is advocated to improve the diagnostic yield, and individuals should be advised to re-test when symptoms develop.”

White House to seek billions in additional COVID-19 response funding

The Biden administration plans to request billions of dollars in additional funds for the U.S. coronavirus response before the year ends, the Washington Post reports. Officials will reportedly seek $8.25 billion for domestic COVID-19 response efforts, including developing future vaccines and treatments for virus variants and research into long COVID. The request is expected to meet pushback from GOP members who oppose further funding for COVID-19 response and question how some previous funds were used, according to the Post. The move would come amid concerns about a winter uptick in cases driven partly by new omicron subvariants. Case and hospitalization rates remain relatively low nationwide compared to earlier in the year but ticked up the past two weeks, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reports that 10.1% of eligible people age 5 and older have received their bivalent booster.

Biden touts ‘once a year’ promise on vaccines

President Biden on Monday repeated the promise that most Americans will only need to receive an annual booster shot against COVID-19 despite widespread skepticism from infectious disease experts who think waning vaccine efficacy will necessitate more than one dose every 12 months. Touting the updated bivalent booster as part of the federal government’s “Countdown to Thanksgiving Vax Up America Tour,” Biden encouraged people to schedule their vaccine appointments today. “Omicron did not even exist when the first vaccines against COVID were developed,” the president tweeted. “Now, we’ve got an updated vaccine that’s highly effective against omicron that most folks only need to get once a year.” Kevin Munoz, the White House’s assistant press secretary, said federal officials want people to get maximum protection before an anticipated winter surge. “Ahead of Thanksgiving, we’re making a new push to get Americans their updated vaccines so we can all gather safely this holiday season,” he said.