10 states reach Biden’s vaccination goal; FDA authorizes third antibody drug; global cases drop 14%, WHO says: Live COVID-19 updates

Ten states, mostly in the northeast, have now reached President Joe Biden’s goal to vaccinate at least 70% of adults with at least one dose by July 4, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday. 

And multiple studies are indicating that immunity may persist for months — or even years.

A majority of people infected by COVID-19 still have antibodies against the virus 10 months later, according to a study published Monday. Two other studies published Monday studied people who had been exposed to the virus a year ago and found that cells retain a memory of the coronavirus that only strengthens over time (though the result may not be derived from vaccines alone). 

National Institutes of Health director Anthony Fauci said Wednesday at an appropriations hearing that people who have been vaccinated will probably need to get a booster shot to maintain their immunity, but when that shot may be is unclear.

Also in the news:

►A southwestern Ohio woman won the state’s first $1 million Vax-a-Million vaccination incentive prize, while a Dayton-area teen was awarded the first full-ride college scholarship offered by the program, the state announced Wednesday night. The number of first doses given to Ohioans age 16 and up has increased by 40% in the week after Gov. Mike DeWine announced the vaccine giveaways, according to a USA Today Network Ohio analysis of state vaccine data. 

►Disneyland fans won’t need a California address to get into the park after June 14. Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will welcome visitors from outside the state beginning June 15, park officials said Wednesday. The park had reopened in late April after a 412-day, pandemic-induced shutdown — but only to California residents.

►43% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders aged 18 to 44 feel COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, said a survey by the Pacific Islander Center of Primary Care Excellence and the American Association of Psychologists, reported The Yappie.

►Deaths by suicide fell 9% at the height of the pandemic shutdown compared with previous years, a surprise given increases in reported levels of stress, anxiety and depression. 

►Pedestrian advocates want to keep some of San Francisco’s most prominent streets, like the main road into Golden Gate Park, off-limits to cars. Others are pushing back, saying they need to drive to work, drop off kids and get around. The debate has been marked by dueling rallies and strident arguments over safety and climate change in the densely packed city.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.1million confirmed coronavirus cases and 591,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 168 million cases and 3.49 million deaths. More than 359.8 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and more than 289.2 million have been administered, according to the CDC. More than 131.8 million Americans have been fully vaccinated — 39.7% of the population.

📘 What we’re reading: Millions of school-aged children spent the last academic year trying to learn at home as the COVID-19 pandemic raged around them. For many, it wasn’t easy, and when they return to buildings in the fall, they are going to need extra support, experts say.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Facebook lifts ban on posts that claim COVID-19 was man-made

Facebook will no longer take down posts claiming that COVID-19 was man-made or manufactured, a move that could fuel more speculation and conspiracy theories on how the deadly virus started.

A Facebook spokesperson said Wednesday in an emailed statement that the company regularly updates a list of claims that have been removed from the platform during the pandemic on the advice of health experts.  

The spokesperson also added that the original language had been removed from the list because of the surging debate about where the virus originated. 

“In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made from our apps,” the Facebook spokesperson said. “We’re continuing to work with health experts to keep pace with the evolving nature of the pandemic and regularly update our policies as new facts and trends emerge.”

– Terry Collins 

FDA authorizes third antibody drug

U.S. health officials have granted emergency authorization to a third antibody drug to help reduce hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19.

The FDA said Wednesday it authorized the drug from GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology for people with mild-to-moderate cases of COVID-19 who face extra risks of severe illness, including seniors and those with underlying health problems.

There has been low demand for two similar drugs already available, due mainly to the logistical hurdles of delivering them and confusion about their availability. U.S. health officials have been trying to raise awareness of the treatments, connecting people who test positive for COVID-19 with information about nearby providers.

The drugs are delivered as a one-time intravenous infusion at a hospital or clinic and should be given within 10 days of the start of symptoms.

WHO reports cases and deaths have dropped globally

The World Health Organization reported Tuesday that coronavirus cases have dropped 14% worldwide in the past week, and deaths are down 2%. Over 4.1 million new cases have been reported, as well as 84,000 deaths.

Though encouraging, the WHO still warns that cases were still rising in many regions, like in India and Central America.

 “There’ll come a time when we can all take off our masks, no longer have to keep our distance from each other, can go safely to concerts, sporting events, rallies and restaurants — as people in some countries are able to do now because they have no COVID-19 transmission,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a Monday COVID briefing. “But for most of the world’s population who aren’t yet vaccinated, we’re not there yet.”

Biden tells agencies to step up probe into coronavirus origins

Days after a U.S. intelligence report revived concerns about the origins of COVID-19, President Joe Biden said Wednesday he has asked the intelligence community to “redouble” its investigatory efforts into how and where the coronavirus emerged.

“I have now asked the Intelligence Community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days,” Biden said in a statement.

The order comes after reports that three researchers at a lab in Wuhan, China, the city where the coronavirus pandemic is believed to have originated, fell sick in the fall of 2019.

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