While You Were Sleeping: Coronavirus updates for February 22

Coronavirus

There were several developments in the coronavirus pandemic you may have missed overnight.

Here’s a look:

Nearing 500,000 deaths. The U.S. stood Sunday at the brink of a once-unthinkable tally: 500,000 people lost to the coronavirus.

A year into the pandemic, the running total of lives lost was about 498,000 — roughly the population of Kansas City, Missouri, and just shy of the size of Atlanta. The figure compiled by Johns Hopkins University surpasses the number of people who died in 2019 of chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s, flu and pneumonia combined.

“It’s nothing like we have ever been through in the last 102 years, since the 1918 influenza pandemic,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Masks into 2022. The nation’s leading infectious disease expert said Sunday that it’s “possible” Americans will need to continue wearing masks into 2022 to protect against COVID-19.

Asked by CNN’s Dana Bash whether Americans will need to continue masking into next year, Dr. Anthony Fauci responded: “I think it’s possible that that’s the case.”

Fauci went on to predict when the U.S. will see a degree of “normality.”

“I think we’ll have a significant degree of normality…as we get into the fall and winter by the end of the year,” he said.

Costco vaccines. The warehouse retailer Costco has begun offering COVID-19 vaccinations at select locations.

The vaccines are currently being offered in cities in California, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Washington and Puerto Rico.

“Our pharmacies will be administering COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they are available, in accordance with CDC and state guidelines,” the retailer said in a statement.

Vaccines down under. Australia started its COVID-19 inoculation program on Monday, days after its neighbor New Zealand, with both governments deciding their pandemic experiences did not require the fast tracking of vaccine rollouts that occurred in many parts of the world.

Other countries in the Asia-Pacific region that have dealt relatively well with the pandemic either only recently started vaccinating or are about to, including Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore.

Catherine Bennett, an epidemiologist at Australia’s Deakin University, said countries that do not face a virus crisis benefit from taking their time and learning from countries that have taken emergency vaccination measures such as the United States.

“We’ve now got data on pregnant women who are vaccinated. Natural accidents, like incorrect dosing, happen in a real world rollout,” Bennett said. “All of those things are really valuable insights.”

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