White House officials say President Joe Biden is experiencing “very mild” symptoms after testing positive for COVID-19 Thursday.
In addition to being fully vaccinated and twice-boosted, the 79-year-old is also taking the antiviral Paxlovid to ensure he’s protected from serious illness. Biden’s doctor, Kevin O’Connor, expects the president to respond favorably to the drug, “as most maximally protected patients do.”
In April, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha acknowledged Biden could catch the virus as he returned to regular activities amid high levels of community transmission in the country.
“I wouldn’t say it’s just a matter of time,” Jha said. “But, of course, it is possible that the president, like any other American, could get COVID.”
Since then, increased transmission has led to a rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
Twenty-five states had more COVID-19 cases in the week ending Thursday compared with the week before, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. Hospitals in 33 states reported more COVID-19 patients than a week earlier, and 18 states reported more deaths.
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Health experts expect Biden to do ‘quite well’ with COVID at 79
Although older people tend to have more severe disease from COVID-19 and the majority of deaths have been among those over 75, health experts agree with President Joe Biden’s doctor that he will have a mild disease course.
“I would expect him to do quite well,” said Dr. Daniel Griffin, an infectious disease specialist with Pro Health Care in New York.
Vaccines and two booster shots would have reduced Biden’s risk of a bad case of COVID-19 by 90%, he said, and the Paxlovid by another 90%. Plus, the president is not getting any other treatments, like steroids, that might reduce his ability to fight infection.
Experts add Biden is healthy and active and is not known to have any diseases, such as diabetes, that are associated with bad outcomes from the virus.
At this point in the pandemic, the people who end up hospitalized and dying with COVID-19, “it’s not a 79-year-old who’s healthy, whose weight is in check, who’s active” and fully vaccinated and boosted, Griffin said. Rather, most of the hospital admissions he’s seeing right now are among the unvaccinated.
– Karen Weintraub, USA TODAY
Disparities in overdose deaths widened during COVID, study shows
Black and Indigenous people saw the highest increases in drug overdose death rates during the pandemic’s first year, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Systemic inequities are root causes of the widening disparities, researchers said. And the pandemic exacerbated those disparities, bringing on stressors and economic instability, as well as social isolation causing many to use alone.
Among Black people, drug overdose death rates soared 44% between 2019 and 2020, and American Indian and Alaska Native people saw a 39% increase. White people saw an increase of about 22%. Overall, rates rose 30%, with illicitly manufactured fentanyl driving the overdoses, resulting in more than 91,000 deaths.
– Nada Hassanein, USA TODAY
Combining flu shot and COVID booster could increase side effects
The flu vaccine can be safely given at the same time as a COVID-19 booster, according to a new study, though about 10% of recipients reported more side effects than with the booster alone.
Most of those side effects were mild, reported mainly on the day after vaccination and were in line with already known side effects, including fatigue, headache and muscle pain. A dozen people reported being treated at a hospital in the week after vaccination, though it’s not clear whether their hospitalization was related to the shots.
The study considered more than 92,000 reports to the government’s v-safe program between September 2021 and May 2022, of people who got both shots. Of those who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, about 20% reported side effects compared with more than 26% of Moderna recipients.
– Karen Weintraub, USA TODAY
Study: Unvaccinated first responders more likely to get COVID, miss work
Unvaccinated first responders in the U.S. were less likely to believe in the vaccine’s effectiveness and more likely to develop COVID-19 compared with their vaccinated counterparts, a study found.
More than 1,400 law enforcement officers, firefighters and other first responders in Florida, Minnesota, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Arizona participated in the study, which published Tuesday in JAMA Network Open. Researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine collected weekly nasal tests, recorded COVID-related symptoms, and captured first responders’ attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccines.
Unvaccinated first responders had higher rates of infections, more days of COVID-19 illness, and more hours of missed work compared with those who were vaccinated. Law enforcement officers had the lowest rate of COVID-19 vaccination, the study found.
Investigators say the study’s findings emphasize the need to create vaccination campaigns and educational materials specifically tailored to first responders and law enforcement.
Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.
Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.