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COVID-19 Marks One Year: Disruption & Devastation Continues

This month marks one year since the first COVID-19 case was detected in the United States and has infected more than 25 million people. The pandemic has caused more than 420,000 deaths and is expected to surpass 600,000 according to President Biden.

COVID VARIANTS AND VACCINES
So far, the newest variants of COVID-19 from Brazil (variant P.1) and South Africa has been found in Minnesota. The English variant (variant B.1.1.7) initially spread in Colorado and cases have been detected in 24 states. Both California and Florida are approaching 100 cases. Moderna said testing shows its vaccine offers protections against new variants.

Earlier this week Merck announced it was halting development of its two COVID-19 vaccine candidates after inferior immune responses during Phase 1 of clinical trials.

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION CHANGES
President Biden is expected to approve new travel restrictions for non-U.S. citizens coming to the United States. Former President Trump had imposed travel restrictions for those coming from Brazil and Europe, where COVID-19 variants had been found, but ended these restrictions as he left office.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced that beginning this week, all travelers flying into the U.S. will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 tests before boarding. Additionally, the CDC will require passengers two years and older to wear masks on all airplanes, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride-share vehicles.

The CDC updated guidance to allow up to six weeks for individuals to receive their second vaccine dose. This expands the timeframe for states struggling to schedule the booster shot.

TEXAS
Texas has been scrambling to keep up with vaccination rollout and tracking inoculations after a wobbly start. According to Dr. John Zerwas, who has advised Gov. Greg Abbott, tracking the different facets of the virus and vaccine rollout has challenged the state’s data systems, including syncing issues with ImmTrac2, the software chosen by the Texas Department of State Health to monitor the vaccine rollout. This has led to reports of unused vaccines and overloaded phone lines. 

Despite these hiccups, Texas is the first state to provide more than 1 million doses, primarily via large hubs in urban areas. After problems with vaccine appointment slots that filled immediately after opening, Harris County has implemented a new website with a waitlist that will randomize eligible individuals.

The Texas Department of State Health Services estimates the vaccine will be available to the general public sometime in spring 2021, but that could change. So far Texas has been allocated more than 3.8 million vaccine doses. 

NEW MEXICO
Like other states, New Mexico has faced challenges rolling out the vaccine. First, the state had to clarify the priority list, which currently includes critical health care workers, nursing home residents and staff, people 75 and older, and those 16 and older who are at risk of a severe illness. 

As of this week, all 309 nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in New Mexico have had a vaccination clinic for staff and residents. 

The state has received at total of 221,375 vaccine doses and more than 500,000 residents have registered for one. Health Department Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said that about 7,000 residents are vaccinated daily. 

OKLAHOMA
Oklahoma has received more than 490,000 vaccine doses and administered more than 278,000 of them. Oklahoma City is participating in a new trial for the Moderna vaccine on children from ages 12-17 and in a couple weeks another study on children ages 2-17. 

At this time, Oklahoma is still focused on vaccinating the population of 65 or older before moving to Phase 2. Oklahoma’s plan says ‘critical infrastructure personnel’ are included in Phase 3, which will begin when vaccine production details are known.  

COLORADO
Colorado has formed an equity task force to address vaccine disparity statewide after recent data showed dramatic differences across Denver. The state launched a central vaccine hotline (1-877-268-2926) to help elder Coloradans sign up for the vaccine. 

Colorado is on track to get 70% of its population aged 70+ vaccinated by the end of February and to have 85% of frontline healthcare workers receive their second dose. As part of Phase 1B, teachers and childcare workers will be in the next group to receive vaccines as several large school districts have moved back to in-person learning. 

The state has administered more than 450,000 vaccine doses. 

LOUISIANA
In Louisiana, hospitals have administered 147,000 doses and the state is receiving only around 58,000 vaccines per week. Gov. Jon Bel Edwards expects vaccine shipments to increase by 5-10% over the next four to five weeks. 

For more information, contact PESA Vice President Government Affairs Tim Tarpley

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