Planning on Going Back To The Office, Hitting The Gym or Attending a Wedding? A Guide To Staying COVID Safe

Dr. Anthony Fauci declared last month that the U.S. is transitioning “out of the pandemic phase,” following mask mandates lifting across the country. However, that doesn’t mean COVID-19 is behind us. Surges continue in different parts of the U.S., while an estimated 300 people die every day because of the virus.

So it’s understandable that some people — at least the ones who have been trying to protect themselves and others from the highly-contagious virus for the past two years — are feeling a bit confused about what exactly they should be doing at this stage of the pandemic to stay healthy and safe.

Dr. Joseph Khabbaza, a critical care medicine specialist and pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic, tells Yahoo Life, “A lot of people have been given a sense that this is probably over for most of us. The answer isn’t going to be the same for every two people.”

Khabbaza says that’s because every person has to assess their own individual risk factors when it comes to getting COVID. Dr. Prathit Kulkarni, an assistant professor of medicine in infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine, agrees, telling Yahoo Life: “Safety precautions at this stage in the pandemic are related to one’s personal risk of having a bad outcome from COVID-19, vaccination status and one’s personal risk tolerance. All situations are slightly unique and require an individual and situational risk assessment.”

With the exception of people who are immunocompromised or elderly, though, “if you’re fully vaccinated and up-to-date on boosters, your personal odds of getting severe illness are very low, even if you come across the virus,” says Khabbaza. “Whereas for people who have not been vaccinated they may not factor in that they are at high risk for severe illness. But that’s something some people have chosen.”

How can you protect yourself in general?

In a nutshell, getting vaccinated and boosted if eligible is still the right call — especially if you’re more vulnerable to severe illness from COVID — and offers “the best protection,” says Kulkarni.

He adds: “Folks who are at higher risk for a worse outcome from COVID-19 may wish to enhance their protection from contracting COVID-19. The best way to do this is with a well-fitting mask. N95 respirator-type masks afford the greatest individual protection.”

Kulkarni says that “the folks who are potentially at the highest risk at this point in the pandemic include unvaccinated individuals, especially older persons, folks who are at higher risk but have not yet been boosted such as older persons or people living in nursing homes and people with significant immunocompromising conditions.”

Both Kulkarni and Khabbaza say it’s also important to know what the COVID rates are in your area or where you’re traveling to. “Following CDC’s tracker of COVID activity around the country can also be helpful to get a gauge for how things are going in a particular geographic area,” says Kulkarni.

Planning on going back to the office, hitting the gym or attending a wedding? Keep these precautions in mind to stay COVID safe and healthy.

Flying on a plane

With multiple U.S. domestic airlines including Delta, American and United dropping mask requirements on flights, you may be wondering how to stay safe while traveling on packed planes. The CDC states that it continues to recommend that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings at this time. But depending on your own personal risk factors and risk tolerance, while at the airport, “if you’re able to space apart from people and avoid close sustained contact, then a mask is not going to be needed,” says Khabbaza. But when you’re in prolonged close proximity to others, it’s a good idea to mask up.

For example, Khabbaza shares that he doesn’t wear a mask while walking around the airport because he’s in motion and able to distance himself from others. However, he puts on a mask while in the security line “because of close contact.” He then takes it off walking to the gate and while sitting at the gate “because I’m away from other people.” Once on the plane, Khabbaza puts his mask back on. “Ventilation in airplanes seems to be good, but to me, it’s easy enough to minimize my risk in a setting with others by wearing a mask,” he says. “That’s where you’ll get more value for masking.”

Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, told CNN that wearing a mask in the highest-risk settings while traveling is key. “That includes during boarding and deplaning when the ventilation systems on airplanes are often not running,” she says. “Don’t drink or eat at those times.”

Although airlines often hand out sanitizing wipes as you board, Khabbaza explains that, from a COVID transmission standpoint, “I don’t think that would have much of a barrier.” That’s because “contact with surfaces is not as big of a mode of transmission as initially thought, if at all,” he says. That said, it doesn’t hurt to wipe down the seat and tray table for hygiene’s sake.

Kulkarni agrees, saying, “In general, wiping down surfaces via routine cleaning can be generally helpful for avoidance of transmission of several different infectious organisms.”

Eating at a restaurant

In general, it’s safer to dine outdoors when feasible. “Similar to the initial stages of the pandemic, outdoor transmission of COVID is very limited compared to indoor transmission,” points out Kulkarni.

Khabbaza says to keep in mind that “if you are choosing to dine in a restaurant, most of your risk is when you’re sitting down and eating, which is much of the time.” Putting on a mask while walking for “a few seconds to your seat” or wearing one on the way to the restroom may not change the fact that there’s a “slightly higher risk of indoor dining right now,” he says. “Theoretically, it could lower it a little bit, but you’re drinking, eating, talking and laughing when seated and not moving around — that’s where the risks are.”

Khabbaza says the safest way to dine indoors is by choosing restaurants with big open windows to further lower the risk of transmission or going to restaurants during off-hours “when they’re not full.”

Working in an office

If you’re alone in your own office or in a private cubicle, a mask likely isn’t needed. “It will be hard to transmit if far away from others and there’s a barrier with cubicles,” Khabbaza says.

But he stresses that it’s important to know your company’s policy on vaccinations and whether employees need to show proof of vaccination to better assess the risk. “If vaccination is mandatory that certainly makes things a lot safer,” Khabbaza says. “But if you’re in close sustained contact all day at work, masking is probably not a bad idea, especially in times of high cases.”

Wearing a mask can also help put co-workers and employers who are more vulnerable at ease. “If you’re working with people you know are immunocompromised or elderly, it’s OK to try to protect them with masking,” he says.

Along with distancing and good ventilation, Wen told CNN that “testing that’s done at least once a week can help catch early, asymptomatic COVID-19 cases and serve as an additional layer of protection.”

Visiting a public pool

The good news is that the virus doesn’t transmit through water, per the World Health Organization. There’s also the protective benefit of being outdoors while at a public pool. However, Khabbaza points out that “close sustained contact with someone in a pool might have some of that risk.”

If the pool isn’t crowded, it’s easy to avoid people and space apart. “But if it’s a crowded pool party, there’s a risk and masks aren’t feasible,” he says.

When going indoors, such as to the locker room, it’s a good idea to put on a mask if there are several people close by. The CDC recommends bringing extra masks and storing them in a plastic bag in case one gets wet.

Going to the supermarket

In general, supermarkets are “lower risk from a COVID standpoint because you’re not really in close sustained contact — a lot of it is walking by people,” says Khabbaza, “and you can space out in a line at the cashier.”

But if you’re concerned or immunocompromised, he says, “just wear the mask, and then you have a barrier over your nose and mouth.”

Working out at the gym

The size, crowd and ventilation matter when it comes to gyms. Small boutique gyms that rely on fans to circulate the air are going to be “a little [riskier] if crowded because there’s not much ventilation,” says Khabbaza. “In the really big gyms, spacing can be done” so you can distance yourself from others. Large gyms are also more likely to have an HVAC system for better air filtration.

“If you can space out, it’s going to be relatively safer compared to smaller gyms where spacing isn’t much of an option,” says Khabbaza.

While wiping down gym equipment isn’t essential from a COVID transmission standpoint — “it would be very hard to get it, especially if you’re not touching your face,” Khabbaza says — it’s a standard recommendation to do so before and after using gym equipment in general.

Attending an indoor party or wedding

If you’re at a high risk of severe illness, “it might be reasonable to avoid weddings at times of [COVID] surges,” says Khabbaza, who recommends wearing a well-fitting N95 mask at group events, particularly if you’re more vulnerable. “If you’re anxious about the possibility of getting it, weddings may not be best for you during times of surges.”

That said, most weddings take place at “big venues where you can space out a bit,” he says. “If you’re spaced out and in a mask, you should be very good about minimizing your risk.” But Khabbaza says that the best protection is being up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, which makes the odds of severe illness “extremely low, assuming you have a normal immune system,” he says.

You can also go one step further to assess the risk of attending a larger social gathering: Dr. Preeti Malani, chief health officer at the Division of Infectious Diseases and Geriatric Medicine at the University of Michigan, told NPR that before a big event, “ask if people must be vaccinated and/or tested to attend and if they have to show proof or are on the honor system.”

Staying at a hotel

While you don’t need to wear a mask when you’re in your own hotel room, you might want to put one on while riding the elevator if it’s crowded or if you’re staying at a big hotel with longer elevator rides that stop at multiple floors. “A short elevator ride will be on the lower end [of the risk spectrum], but not impossible,” says Khabbaza. “But transmissibility becomes higher when in close contact.”

A 2021 study found that in elevators without proper ventilation, an infected person coughing can transmit viral particles “all across the elevator enclosure.”

Another option to stay safe: If you don’t want to mask, wait for the next empty — or mostly empty — elevator if it’s feasible, or take the stairs, suggests Khabbaza.


Source: Planning on going back to the office, hitting the gym or attending a wedding? A guide to staying COVID safe now.

Further reading:

Monkeypox: Doctors warn of ‘massive impact’ on sexual health services as staff self-isolate (Yahoo) |…

Monkeypox outbreak linked to superspreader event at adult sauna (Yahoo) |…

MISCExplainer: What to Know About Monkeypox (Visual Capitalist) |…

Human monkeypox: an emerging zoonosis (Lancet) |…

First monkeypox genome from latest outbreak shows links to 2018 strain (NewScientist) |…

Monkeypox virus evades antiviral CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses by suppressing cognate T cell activation (PNAS) |…

FDA approves first live, non-replicating vaccine to prevent smallpox and monkeypox (FDA) |… Nov 3, 2021

ACIP Meeting – Orthopoxviruses Vaccines (CDC) | Israel reports first case of monkeypox, suspects others (ABC) |…

New York officials investigate case of suspected monkeypox (Miami Herald) |…

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Why Some People Get COVID More Than Once

Although the federal government does not collect data on COVID reinfections, and nor do health authorities in WA and Queensland, Victoria recorded almost 10,000 reinfections between late December 2021 and late March 2022. This compares with just 108 known reinfections in Victoria during the previous two years. NSW plans to release state reinfection data soon.

As the Omicron sub-variant BA.2 continues to fuel more infections, the spectre of repeat infections is well and truly upon us. Current vaccines were designed to protect against the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, and while the shots are crucial in shielding us from severe illness and death, they are less effective in preventing infection by newer variants.

 Unfortunately, natural immunity gained from a Delta infection also won’t stop us getting infected with Omicron. We learnt this with the rise of Omicron in South Africa late last year, when a population with relatively high natural immunity from previous coronavirus infections still fell victim to the merciless Omicron wave.

Reinfections have become something of a hallmark of Omicron. Since the rise of this highly transmissible strain, the number of people reinfected with coronavirus has spiked, in a pattern that is unique to the strain. Imperial College London researchers estimate a reinfection with Omicron is 5.4 times greater than with the Delta variant.

A letter published in The New England Journal of Medicine indicated that a previous COVID-19 infection was 90 per cent effective at preventing an infection with the Alpha, Beta or Delta variants, but only 56 per cent effective against Omicron.

In England, where Omicron has driven a spike in reinfections, provisional data from the UK Health Security Agency shows 10.7 per cent of all positive COVID-19 cases were reinfections in the last week of March.

The data shows that the number of weekly reinfections jumped from 20,000 to 50,000 in just one month, with reinfections occurring across all age groups, despite high vaccination levels. (A reinfection was counted when someone tested positive on two tests taken more than 90 days apart.)

Waning immunity is playing a part, along with the easing of restrictions. But the potent variable here is the rise of the BA.2 variant of Omicron, which is rapidly becoming the dominant strain globally.

A non-peer reviewed Swedish study suggests Omicron BA.2 could be more contagious than the original BA.1 strain due to its higher viral loads in the nose and throat. (The first case of a new recombinant variant combining BA.1 and BA.2, known as XE, was detected in New South Wales on April 9. Watch this space.)

The good news as far as reinfections go, is that catching the same variant twice is fairly unlikely. So if you got sick with Omicron BA.1, you’re probably in the clear when it comes to catching BA.2.

A more likely scenario is being reinfected after having Delta or an earlier strain. You’re more likely again to get infected if you’ve had no prior COVID infection at all, and that likelihood increases further if you’re unvaccinated.

While reinfection is no fun, the plus side is that it gives you excellent immunity when coupled with vaccination. The combination triggers a broader range of antibody and white cell responses in your system, meaning you are less likely to suffer serious illness on reinfection.

A preprint study from Qatar confirms that the best defence against Omicron BA.1 or BA.2 infections is a prior infection plus two vaccinations and a booster shot. This reduces the risk of infection by 77 per cent, compared with 52 per cent if you got three doses but had no prior infection, the study found.

Senior research fellow at the Kirby Institute’s infection analytics program Dr Deborah Cromer says COVID-19 may follow the trajectory of other respiratory viruses, such as the flu, when it comes to reinfection.

“People will get the flu once, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get the flu again,” she says. “They probably won’t get the flu twice in one season, but obviously, there are people who do. And if you’ve had the flu vaccine, it doesn’t mean you won’t get the flu, but your symptoms will probably be less severe.

“I think what we’re talking about is a respiratory virus that will keep changing, but if people’s immunity levels keep being maintained at a high level, then it should hopefully not be too severe.”

That’s pretty much how the 1918 Spanish flu petered out. The first couple of years of that pandemic were the worst in terms of severe sickness and death, but as the virus changed and spread over the following decades, it continued to infect people but was far less dangerous.

The key problem in Australia, though, is a lack of good data. As more people rely on rapid-antigen tests, there are fewer samples available for sequencing. ANU infectious diseases physician Peter Collignon says we need systematic surveillance to monitor infections and genomic sequencing to better understand how reinfections will impact us.

“Instead of having a one in 1000 chance of dying, is there one in 10,000 if you’re reinfected? What’s your chance of getting into hospital? And how is it proportionate to your socio-economic condition and your age? We need that sort of data to be able to plan for the future.”

Timna Jacks

By: Timna Jacks

Source: Why some people get COVID more than once


More contents:


How Many Cases and Deaths Could The Covid-19 Omicron Variant Bring In The US

Covid-19 cases are surging upward again in the United States, and public health experts are warning the fast-spreading omicron variant may push the number of infections to their highest level yet. Whether this surge will be followed by an unprecedented level of hospitalization and death is uncertain, but researchers say it’s possible the most devastating phase of the pandemic is yet to come.

Already, countries like South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Denmark have seen sharp spikes in new Covid-19 cases, with some areas reaching record highs. South Africa has reported far fewer hospitalizations from omicron compared to previous waves, but the UK is is in the midst of a sharp rise in hospitalizations, about 30 percent higher week over week.

The big reason is that omicron appears to spread far more readily than the delta variant that has been dominant worldwide since the summer — omicron is 25 to 50 percent more transmissible, according to some UK estimates.

The current moment is an eerie echo of December 2020, when the first major variant of Covid-19 began infecting people around the world. But a key difference now is that there are effective vaccines that have been widely deployed in some countries. In the US, more than 70 percent of the population have had at least one dose of a vaccine and 30 percent of those vaccinated have received two doses and a booster, which should absorb some of the impact of omicron.

Yet epidemiologists and health officials are sounding the alarm about another tsunami of infections — in hopes people will take more precautions, and to help hospitals and health workers prepare to care for the sickest patients. “Omicron could be just as deadly as delta even if it causes milder disease,” Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist who has advised the White House, told reporters this week. Considering the potential impact on the health care system is also crucial as decision-makers weigh another round of restrictions — closing schools, banning large gatherings, reimposing mask mandates.

In one of the most comprehensive forecasts to date, researchers from the Covid-19 Modeling Consortium at the University of Texas at Austin on Friday chalked out 18 different scenarios for omicron. Their study was not peer-reviewed, but the findings show that the US is facing yet another dangerous variant while the conditions for spreading it — the holiday season — are at their most favorable.

The most optimistic pathway in the study would lead to more than 50 percent fewer deaths compared to last year — the six-month period spanning December 1, 2020, to May 1, 2021 — while the most pessimistic route would end with 20 percent more fatalities than that grim period last winter and spring.

“Everything we’ve seen so far — growth in Denmark, growth we’re seeing in the United States, in Canada, in the UK — suggests that these scenarios are actually very plausible … for our country,” said Spencer Fox, associate director of the UT Covid-19 Modeling Consortium.

A lot depends on the mutated virus itself, particularly how badly it sickens unvaccinated (and vaccinated) people. While some early reports have hinted that omicron causes a lower rate of severe Covid-19 illness compared to prior variants, there’s still not enough data to be sure. “It’s too uncertain right now to say that,” Fox said. (The UT model currently assumes that omicron’s severity is the same as with delta in unvaccinated people with no prior infection, and that protection against severe illness from prior infection and vaccines may be similar or reduced.)

Getting a booster dose of a Covid-19 vaccine is the most effective action an already-vaccinated individual can take to protect against the variant, and if enough people get an extra shot, thousands of deaths could be averted this winter, according to the models.

However, communities around the US have so far responded in drastically different ways to the Covid-19 pandemic — some imposing policies that have slowed transmission, and others rejecting those policies and suffering terrible consequences in the form of overwhelmed hospitals and thousands of preventable deaths. So it’s likely that both the best and worst scenarios could play out in parallel over the coming months, in different places.

Omicron is set to become the dominant Covid-19 variant in the US

As people head indoors to warm up from the cold and celebrate the winter holidays, omicron will find ample opportunities to jump from lung to lung. In addition to its greater transmissibility, early results also show omicron can better evade the shielding provided by the immune system that’s built up from vaccines or from prior infections. One recent study suggests that antibodies produced to counter past versions of the virus are far less effective at curbing omicron, which could make the variant more likely to cause a breakthrough infection or reinfection.

At the same time, the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 is continuing to wreak havoc, having recently pushed the US death toll above 800,000. Flu could come roaring back this winter, as well, generating a fresh wave of hospitalizations among the most vulnerable to that infection, too. The combined threats of all these respiratory illnesses could push some hospitals to horrific new levels of overcapacity — especially those already stretched thin from staffing shortages and other strains after two years of crisis.

Specifically, experts worry that hospitals will have to ration care or turn patients who need life-saving care away — something many hospitals had to do in earlier Covid-19 surges — if a a lot of new severely ill patients come flooding through the doors.

“Besides the toll of suffering and death which will inevitably go up if, in fact, we have that convergence in the winter months of flu and omicron and delta, we could get our hospital systems overwhelmed,” Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said Thursday. But how bad, exactly, could it get?

Fox and his colleagues modeled Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths through the winter and into May 2022. For their 18 scenarios, they tweaked factors like the transmissibility of omicron, differing degrees of severity of the virus, the level of immunity in the US population, the likelihood of reinfection among Covid-19 survivors and breakthrough infections among those vaccinated, and the number of people who topped up their vaccine doses with a booster.

Under all the scenarios they modeled, omicron supplanted delta and became the main driver of Covid-19 infections, pushing case counts higher. “The first key finding is that unless significant transmission reduction happens in our communities, we’re likely to see an omicron surge that rivals the previous peak that we saw in January 2021,” Fox said.

The most optimistic scenario emerged in the researchers’ model when omicron was 50 percent more transmissible than delta and 10 percent better at eluding immunity from vaccines and previous infections, yet led to equally severe illnesses. That scenario also presumed many people will get boosters — at 80 percent uptake by March 2022 — but that no other policy or behavior changes are made to reduce transmission.

It predicted a Covid-19 peak in mid-January 2022, but with 8 percent fewer cases and 43 percent fewer hospitalizations than the same six-month period the year before. It also led to 54 percent fewer deaths, totaling 152,000 (still a grim result).

The worst outcome arose when the model assumed omicron was just as transmissible as delta, but far more evasive of prior immunity and much more likely to cause severe disease. In this scenario, prior immunity was 85 percent less effective at preventing infection from omicron, and protection against death was 22 percent lower. In this worst case, vaccine booster uptake remained fairly low, reaching only 57 percent by the end of March 2022. This resulted in Covid-19 cases peaking in early February 2022 and 342,000 deaths over six months, a 20 percent increase from 2021.

That Covid-19’s devastation could be even worse in an era of vaccines and treatments is tragic, a stark consequence of failing to get the pandemic under control across the country.

However, if the booster uptake rate increased to 80 percent, Covid-19 cases in this scenario dropped by 5 percent, hospitalizations by 12 percent, and deaths by 13 percent. That translates to 1.3 million averted infections and 39,000 lives saved between December 2021 and May 2022.

The scenarios show that there is a bit of luck involved in how harsh the next few months will be, but specific actions like getting booster doses of vaccines rolled out can vastly improve the outlook.

The US is not united when it comes to Covid-19

For millions of Americans, now two years into the pandemic, omicron is triggering an exasperating episode of déjà vu.

However, the question of the variant’s severity is still unclear. And researchers warn that even if omicron turns out to be less dangerous for individuals, it could still cause widespread damage if it continues to spread out of control.

The context for the omicron surge also varies throughout the country, something not accounted for in the UT Austin simulation. “This analysis is really just looking at an average across the whole country,” said Fox.

There are things it doesn’t factor in: the rate of preexisting health conditions, access to health care, exposure to prior waves of infection, adherence to mask-wearing, and vaccine uptake — which can be radically different around the country. Around 72 percent of the US population have received at least one shot of a Covid-19 vaccine, but in states like Idaho and Mississippi, only half have gotten it.

New Hampshire, meanwhile, is above 90 percent. There are around 90 million people who are unvaccinated against Covid-19 throughout the country, but many are concentrated in distinct regions, often aligned with political views.

That means omicron could play out quite differently in different parts of the country, with some places facing far more hospitalizations and deaths than others with high vaccination rates. And given how readily omicron can spread, the regions with lower vaccination rates that have so far lucked out of previous waves may now be vulnerable.

This is definitely not the time to let our guard down

People who have not been previously infected or immunized against Covid-19 face the greatest risk of omicron infection. But omicron has also shown that vaccinations are not an impermeable shield against infection.

Many omicron cases have been detected in people who completed their course of Covid-19 vaccines, even in some people who received booster doses. It’s a disheartening prospect for people who have rigorously followed public health advice throughout the pandemic, eager for it to be over.

“I share the frustration,” said Justin Feldman, a research fellow and social epidemiologist at Harvard University. “Unfortunately, I don’t think that [the coming omicron wave is] something that individuals can solve with their own personal behaviors.”

The most impactful measures for dealing with Covid-19 have to happen at the policy level, according to Feldman. That includes easily accessible widespread testing for Covid-19 to detect infections early so people can isolate from others and seek treatment, something the US is still struggling to do.

It also includes mandates for vaccines, quarantine and isolation rules for workers, regulations for indoor ventilation, making high-quality masks widely available, and training a corps of pandemic responders to administer tests, treatments, and vaccines.

“These are things Biden should have been trying to build since January 20, but largely hasn’t because the administration went with a very vaccine-centric approach,” Feldman said.

The pandemic playbook of maintaining social distancing, rigorous hand-washing, wearing face coverings, getting tested for Covid-19 after a possible exposure, and getting vaccinated remains useful, even if it doesn’t completely solve the problem.

With omicron, there are some tweaks to this; namely, for eligible vaccinated people to get boosters, and for people to ditch cloth face masks for higher-quality options like N95 respirators and KN95 masks.

Regardless of what course omicron takes throughout the country, health officials are bracing for a situation that will get far worse before it gets better. “I think we really do need to anticipate there probably will be a surge and increase in hospitalizations over the coming months,” Gounder said. Just how dangerous it will be is partly in our hands.

Umair Irfan

Source: How many cases and deaths could the Covid-19 omicron variant bring in the US? – Vox


More contents:

Covid Surge Worse Than Anything We’ve Seen

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said boosting vaccination rates will not be enough to contain soaring coronavirus infections across the country, Bloomberg reported, calling for tough action as countries across Europe come down hard on the unvaccinated and prepare drastic measures to smother the outbreak.

Key Facts

Merkel reportedly told officials from her conservative party on Monday that many Germans don’t appear to understand how severe the country’s outbreak is, according to Bloomberg, calling on individual German states to implement tougher restrictions this week.

The measures would exceed new restrictions barring unvaccinated people from public transport and many areas of public life—which apply in areas where hospitalized Covid-19 patients exceed a certain threshold—and health minister Jens Spahn said he could not rule out another nationwide lockdown.

Some politicians in Germany are debating following neighboring Austria—which went back into full lockdown Monday after a more targeted, unvaccinated-only lockdown—in requiring everyone to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

From February next year, Austrians refusing the jab will face fines of up to €3,600 ($4,000), with smaller penalties for those refusing booster shots.

Czechia and Slovakia have also started to make life harder for vaccine holdouts—Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger reportedly called the measures a “lockdown for the unvaccinated”—barring them from using various services, entering restaurants and public events.

Crucial Quote

By spring, “pretty much everyone in Germany… will be vaccinated, cured or dead,” Spahn said at a news conference Monday. “With the very contagious delta variant, it is very, very likely … that anyone who is not vaccinated will over the next few months become infected.”

Key Background

Europe has, again, become the center of the pandemic. Cases and deaths have been rising there even as they mostly fell around the world. The World Health Organization said it is “very worried” about the situation, warning that an additional 500,000 deaths could be recorded by March if sufficient steps aren’t taken.

Many countries, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, are facing dramatic surges and infections are at record-breaking levels. Slovakia, Slovenia, Austria, Czechia, Germany and the Netherlands are all at, or have hit, new highs and cases are rapidly rising in other countries.

Violent protests against new lockdowns and other restrictions have erupted across the bloc as governments scramble to contain rising cases. Many of these measures explicitly target the unvaccinated, who experts and officials warn are undoubtedly driving the new wave by refusing provably safe and effective vaccines.

Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip.

I am a London-based reporter for Forbes covering breaking news. Previously, I have worked as a reporter for a specialist legal publication covering big data and as a freelance journalist and policy analyst covering science, tech and health. I have a master’s degree in Biological Natural Sciences and a master’s degree in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge. Follow me on Twitter @theroberthart or email me at

Source: Covid Surge ‘Worse Than Anything We’ve Seen’: Germany Mulls Tough Restrictions As Europe Targets Unvaccinated With Lockdown, Compulsory Shots


Further Reading

Czechs, Slovaks target unvaccinated people in step behind Austria (Reuters)

Not Just Austria—Here Are The Countries Making Covid-19 Vaccination Compulsory For Everyone (Forbes)

Europe’s Carrot vs. Stick Approach to COVID-19 Vaccination (Atlantic)

Austria Sends Unvaccinated Into Lockdown—Here’s How Other Nations Are Limiting People Who Don’t Get Covid-19 Shots (Forbes)

Merkel Says Covid Spike ‘Worse Than Anything We’ve Seen’ (Bloomberg)

‘We Have To Face Reality’: Austria Announces Nationwide Vaccine Mandate, Full-Scale Covid-19 Lockdown (Forbes)

Lockdown And Restrictions Resurface In Europe As Continent Battles Another Covid Surge (Forbes)

FDA Committee Says It’s Safe For All Adults Who Got J&J’s COVID-19 Vaccine To Get a Booster

The Food and Drug Administration should authorize a second “booster” dose of Johnson & Johnson’s JNJ, +0.74% COVID-19 vaccine for adults who were initially vaccinated with this vaccine, according to a group of scientists and clinicians that advises the regulator.

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted 19-0 that allowing adults who were initially vaccinated with the J&J shot to get a booster is safe and effective. Their recommendation is based on giving a booster to those 18 years old and older at least two months after they got their first shot.

“This does look more like a two-dose vaccine,” Dr. Michael Nelson, a professor of medicine UVA Health and the UVA School of Medicine and a temporary voting member of the FDA committee.

One difference with this booster recommendation is that the group of people who would qualify for the J&J booster can get it two months after getting their first dose, compared with six months after the primary series of shots for the mRNA vaccines developed by Moderna Inc. MRNA, -2.31% and BioNTech SE BNTX, -1.06% /Pfizer Inc. PFE, -0.43%.

If the FDA follows the advice of the committee, which it is not required to do but often does, it means that all three COVID-19 vaccines that are available in the U.S. have authorized boosters, with the caveat that there are restrictions in place on who can get a mRNA booster.

The mRNA boosters are reserved at this time for people older than 65 years old, adults who are at high risk of severe disease, and those who face higher exposure to the virus because of their jobs.

About 15 million people in the U.S. have received the J&J’s adenovirus-based COVID-19 vaccine. J&J’s stock is up 2.6% so far this year, while the broader S&P 500 SPX, +0.75% has gained 18.1%.

By: Jaimy Lee

Jaimy Lee is a health-care reporter for MarketWatch. She is based in New York.

Source: FDA committee says it’s safe for all adults who got J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine to get a booster – MarketWatch



The Janssen COVID‑19 Vaccine has not been approved or licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but has been authorized by FDA through an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for active immunization to prevent Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID‑19) in individuals 18 years of age and older.

The emergency use of this product is authorized only for the duration of the declaration that circumstances exist justifying the authorization of the emergency use of the medical product under Section 564(b)(1) of the FD&C Act, unless the declaration is terminated or authorization revoked sooner.

Healthcare professionals should be alert to the signs and symptoms of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia in individuals who receive the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. In individuals with suspected thrombosis with thrombocytopenia following administration of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine, the use of heparin may be harmful and alternative treatments may be needed.

Consultation with hematology specialists is strongly recommended. The American Society of Hematology has published considerations relevant to the diagnosis and treatment of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia following administration of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine (

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