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The Executive Briefing - Friday, April 29th

1st human bird flu case in CO

COVID Recap:

  • Moderna has sought EUA approval for kids under 5, with many parents hopeful that their youngest may get shots by June. (NPR)
  • Both LA and San Francisco have swelling case counts, including hospitalizations rising in LA. (KHN)
  • Awareness and use of COVID treatments like antivirals and monoclonal antibodies - which can reduce the length and severity of illness and need to be administered early after symptom onset - are still extremely low in the US. (Reuters)
  • Amid multiple superspreader event-related outbreaks in DC, staff at the hotel hosting the upcoming White House Correspondents dinner say they weren’t approached about any special testing or vaccination requirements. (Axios)
  • US COVID deaths varied greatly by geography, with more in the South. (CIDRAP)
  • Researchers are using machine learning to study long COVID and possible treatments. (STAT)
  • COVID deaths among the elderly continue to grow - even those who are vaccinated are struggling to dodge these new, more infectious variants. (WSJ)

Today’s Health News:

  • The first human case of H5 bird flu in the US was recorded in Colorado. The person was working to cull an infected flock of birds. (Reuters)
  • Antibiotic use in young kids appears to be tied to a lower vaccine response to several standard childhood vaccines. (CIDRAP)
  • The first possible US death in the unusual childhood hepatitis outbreak is being investigated. Children in at least  four US states and 12 countries have been affected. (Today)
  • Mental health in kids got “profoundly” worse during the pandemic, according to a new study. (Reuters)
  • Africa is seeing a rise in measles after the pandemic disrupted childhood vaccinations. (AP)

Best Questions:

What can we infer from Dr. Fauci’s comments that the pandemic is over? Will the CDC drop guidelines that change how we handle COVID cases?

Dr. Fauci made headlines this week by saying that the US is “out of the pandemic phase.” He later corrected himself, saying we’re out of the “acute” phase, and into the endemic phase. What he meant more broadly is that our overall case counts are relatively low compared to the highest levels during this past winter’s surge, and we’re going to continue to intermittently give boosters to folks to keep those case counts relatively low. COVID isn’t over, it’s just transitioning into a different phase and, yes, potentially different response in the long term. Do we expect major CDC guidance changes right now? No. At some point, we might expect to see loosening of quarantine recommendations for exposed people, since so many people will regularly be exposed as the virus becomes part of our everyday lives. We haven’t heard anything from our friends at the CDC about that happening just yet.

Can we trust rapid tests against the BA.2 variant?

Rapid antigen tests do work against BA.2, but it might take a bit longer for rapid tests to actually show a positive test. Because BA.2 is more infectious than Omicron and other previous variants, you might be contagious before you actually test positive on a rapid test. The key is to test early and often, and if you get a negative test but have symptoms, you should still self-isolate and test again. Two rapid tests taken 24 hours apart is much closer to the accuracy of a PCR test than a single rapid test.

Can I use tests that expired over a year ago?

While the FDA has extended the expiration dates on many COVID tests, a year may be too old to continue using. Before you do anything, check the FDA website for your specific brand of test and check to see if it’s been extended. Some have gotten multiple extensions, so it’s possible your tests are still good or only recently expired. If you have the option, a non-expired test is always preferred, but a recently-expired test may still work if that’s all you’ve got on hand.

Can you use an antiviral after exposure to COVID to prevent illness?

While Tamiflu and other flu antivirals have been used this way for years to prevent or reduce the severity of illness after someone is exposed to flu, that’s not currently the way that COVID antiviral pills are used. Right now, you can only get a prescription for an antiviral after a positive COVID test, and they should be started in the first five days after symptom onset. In the future, we may see this change and antivirals being used preventatively after exposure, but for now, they’re reserved for positive cases.

Best Read:

Are We in the Middle of an Invisible COVID Wave?

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Disclaimer: This post is meant for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute, and is not intended as, any form of medical, legal or regulatory advice or a recommendation or suggestion regarding the same.  No recipient of this information should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.