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Pandemic

South Korea considers reimposing restrictions as COVID-19 cases surge

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Commuters wearing masks to avoid contracting coronavirus disease (COVID-19) walk on a zebra crossing in Seoul, South Korea, on July 5, 2021. REUTERS / Kim Hong-Ji

  • S.Korea reports 1,212 new cases every day
  • Movement restrictions in Seoul extended
  • Officials warn against reintroducing harder curbs
  • Delta variant is fired by young and unvaccinated

SEOUL, Jul 7 (Reuters) – South Korea reported the second highest number of daily new COVID-19 cases of all time on Wednesday, just days after it began easing social distancing restrictions in some parts of the country, aided by a accelerated vaccine introduction.

With the majority of the 1,212 new cases coming from densely populated Seoul, officials extended movement restrictions in the capital and surrounding areas for at least another week and are considering bringing restrictions back to the highest levels.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said the country’s fourth wave of the virus, fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant, is spreading rapidly, particularly among unvaccinated people in their twenties and thirties.

Kim urged people in this demographic to get preventive testing “to protect not just yourself, but everyone in your family, friends, school and the country.”

“If the situation is not under control after two to three days of surveillance, we may have no choice but to implement the strictest of all social distancing levels,” said Kim.

President Moon Jae-in ordered military mobilization to support wider contact tracing and urged authorities to set up additional testing centers in densely populated areas, President spokeswoman Park Kyung-mee told reporters on Wednesday.

The daily number of cases was the worst since December 25, when South Korea saw a third wave of the pandemic.

Officials had sought a full reopening of the country in the past few weeks. Movement restrictions in much of the country were eased on July 1, although officials in the greater Seoul area held back as they watched the number of cases rise again. Continue reading

Health experts said the easing of measures restricting business hours and social gatherings outside of Seoul, as well as the knowledge that further easings would come, fueled public self-satisfaction, especially among socially mobile younger people in the capital.

Around 85% of new locally transmitted cases occurred in the Seoul metropolitan area, which is home to more than half of the country’s population.

“While the infection rate has decreased in the over 60s due to the vaccination campaign, transmission continues in the unvaccinated group,” said Kim Tark, associate professor of infectious diseases at Bucheon Hospital at Soonchunhyang University.

“It’s a reminder to speed up vaccination for people under 60.”

VACCINATIONS ARE ARRIVING

Only 10% of the country’s 52 million people are fully vaccinated, while 30% have received at least one vaccination, most of them over 60 years old.

The Korean Medical Association urged the government to refrain from making hasty decisions to ease social distancing policies with low-level vaccinations.

The country received 700,000 doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine (PFE.N) (22UAy.DE) from Israel on Wednesday under an exchange agreement, along with a separate shipment of 627,000 direct-purchase doses. Continue reading

Some of the new supplies will be sent to the greater Seoul area for vaccination programs due to begin on July 13, authorities said.

Improved vaccination rates have helped bring South Korea’s death rate down to 1.25% and the number of serious cases to 155 by Wednesday, up from 1.41% and 311 cases reported during the previous high in late December.

The country reported a total of 162,753 infections and 2,033 deaths during the pandemic.

Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Miyoung Kim and Jane Wardell

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Pandemic

New report shows quality of nursing home care spiked during COVID-19

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – A new report shows the quality of care afforded to residents of long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic spiked significantly.

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living says it released a new report on Thursday, March 26, which details data on the quality of care in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

AHCA/NCAL said the data highlights the commitment of dedicated caregivers to raising the standard of care for the benefit of residents during an unprecedented global public health crisis. The report follows data the organization issued which highlights improvements over the last decade.

The Association said the report found long-term residents in nursing homes were hospitalized 15% less during the pandemic than they were before while 8% of short-term patients saw functional improvement during the same time period.

AHCA/NCAL also aid the report found 72% of more than 110,000 infection control focused inspections of nursing homes conducted during the pandemic were deficiency-free.

The organization said the report acknowledges the devastating effects of the pandemic had on nursing home residents, however, the tragic loss of life was due to the nature of the virus, not because of inadequate care from caregivers.

Thanks to life-saving vaccines and treatments, as well as enhanced infection control, AHCA/NCAL said nursing home residents are much safer from the virus. Specifically, it said nearly 60% of nursing home resident deaths due to the virus happened during the first 7 months of the pandemic – before vaccines were available.

The Association also said COVID uniquely targets elderly patients and those with underlying health conditions, with the risk of death for those 85 and older being 340 times higher than for those ages 18 to 29.

The report also found independent research from various academic institutions overwhelmingly found a high spread of the virus in the community is correlated with outbreaks in nursing homes. At the height of the Omicron surge in mid-January, it said nursing home residents were more likely to die of complications from the virus compared to the height of the winter surge in 2020 – before the availability of vaccines.

Lastly, the report found over 730,000 nursing home residents have recovered from COVID-19.

“Our heroic long-term caregivers never wavered from our commitment to our residents during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL. “Nursing homes should be recognized for their efforts during this once-in-a-lifetime global crisis, and as we continue to focus on improving the quality of life for our residents, lawmakers and health policy officials must also work with us to implement lasting change by providing resources necessary to further enhance care.”

AHCA/NCAL said it also released a report which highlights federal data indicating the quality of care in nursing homes has risen over the past decade before the pandemic. It said the two quality reports underscore the significant strides providers have made and the continued commitment to better the lives of residents – no matter the challenges providers face.

To read the full Nursing Home Quality Improvement During COVID report, click HERE.

Copyright 2022 WIBW. All rights reserved.

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Pandemic

Select Kroger pharmacies join national “Test to Treat” COVID-19 Initiative

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CARMEL, Ind. — A spokesperson for Kroger says 12 locations are now ready to participate in the Biden Administration’s “Test to Treat” initiative.

“Any store that has the “Little Clinic” sign with the pharmacy next door, basically,” said Eric Halvorson, a Kroger spokesperson.

White House officials announced the “Test to Treat” program earlier this month during President Biden’s State of the Union address. Back then, officials had said hundreds of COVID-19 treatment pills would be shipped out to pharmacies nationwide by the end of March.

“This is something that was created by the federal government and medical experts who were saying we needed another option to reduce the spread of COVID,” said Halvorson. “We’re making it available as quickly as we can to as many people as we can.”

Friday, Halvorson said select locations had finally received enough supplies to launch the program in their stores.

Gen Con 2022 to keep mask mandates for now

That means Hoosiers can now go to a participating Kroger location, get a rapid COVID test, and then immediately get a COVID-19 treatment pill if they are eligible and their result comes back positive.

“If they have symptoms, they can come in and find out: Are they sick? Do they need something to reduce the severity? Because that’s ultimately another element of this is to make sure that the people who have the greatest risk of a severe condition get the treatment they need,” said Halvorson.

All 12 participating Kroger locations will carry either the Pfizer or the Merck COVID-19 treatment pill.

“That will be up to what’s delivered to the pharmacy. And everything we’re seeing right now indicates we will have plenty of supply. No reason to indicate that we would have to worry about any of that,” said Halvorson.

Officials with Kroger said only those who are considered high-risk would be eligible to get the treatment.

Indy doctor talks chances of Moderna vaccine for kids getting approved

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), conditions and factors that may place someone at high risk for severe COVID include, but are not limited to:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Dementia or other neurological conditions
  • diabetes
  • Down syndrome
  • Heart conditions
  • HIV
  • Immunocompromised state
  • Mental health conditions
  • obesity
  • pregnant
  • Sick cell disease
  • tuxedo
  • Organ or blood stem cell transplant recipient
  • stroke
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • tuberculosis

“Providing the anti-viral agents through our Kroger pharmacy is another way that we can help reduce the spread of COVID and fight it in a different way to make people healthier and safer from the pandemic,” said Halvorson. “We just want to make sure that people have access to another treatment, another option to protect themselves, their families, and their neighbors.”

Halvorson said he strongly recommends Hoosiers call ahead to check the availability of their store before they arrive. He also urged suspected patients to book an appointment online in advance.

Lastly, if you are unable to make it in for an appointment in person, Halvorson said Kroger is also offering virtual appointments.

“If somebody isn’t able to make it into the clinic, they can go to Kroger Health online and do a telehealth visit. There will be an expert on the other end of the screen who can guide them through doing the test at home and then they would be advised about getting a prescription from there,” said Halvorson.

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Covid-19 Cases, Treatments and Omicron News: Live Updates

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Credit…Aly Song/Reuters

The surge of Covid cases across China, driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, is straining hospitals and prompting lockdowns of neighborhoods in Shanghai, which until recently had been held up as a crown jewel in the government’s strategy for fighting the pandemic.

Shanghai, China’s largest city, has seen few cases until recently. Now, it is reporting more than 1,500 a day, and many residents are expressing anguish and dismay about China’s zero-tolerance approach to the virus.

On Friday, anger and grief welled up online after a Shanghai hospital confirmed reports that a nurse who worked there, Zhou Shengni, had died from an asthma attack after finding the doors of its emergency department shut because of Covid restrictions.

“Due to pandemic prevention needs, the emergency department of our hospital’s southern campus had been temporarily closed,” Shanghai East Hospital said on its website. Ms. Zhou’s family rushed her to another hospital, but she died late Wednesday after “attempts to save her failed,” Shanghai East said.

“Just think, this happened in Shanghai, and it was a medical worker treated like this,” read one of many comments about Ms. Zhou’s death on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media platform. “What about regular folks? Not just in Shanghai, but other parts too.”

The outbreak has fanned a rising debate in China over whether the government should rethink its stringent “zero Covid” strategy of eliminating all infections with relentless force, rather than finding a way to cope with higher levels of infection, as most countries have.

But officials across China have given no indications that the government is reworking its strategy. Instead, they insist that any easing of restrictions could exacerbate the surge of infections and further strain the medical system.

“We hope that everyone slows down their life at this time, cutting down on outings and moving around,” Wu Jinglei, the director of the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission, said at a news conference on Thursday. “Pandemic prevention in our city has entered the most critical stage.”

On Friday, Shanghai’s health commission reported that it had identified 1,609 Covid cases the previous day, 1,580 of which were asymptomatic. China has recorded over 29,000 cases so far in March. That represents a significant spike for the country, which has kept cases low since quashing the world’s first outbreak, which began in the city of Wuhan, in 2020.

The current outbreak has strained Shanghai’s medical system as hospitals and isolation hotels are crowded with patients, residents have said on social media. The city government has started issuing a daily list of hospital clinics that have suspended outpatient and elective treatments and surgeries in order to cope with the Covid cases.

Zhang Wenhong, one of Shanghai’s leading infectious disease experts, told residents on Thursday to be patient while the authorities worked to curb the outbreak.

“All of a sudden medical resources are under strain” in Shanghai, Dr. Zhang wrote in a long post on Weibo. “If we don’t counter its speed with our own, we won’t have a chance to beat the Omicron race,” he wrote, adding that the government would need to ramp up its vaccination campaign.

Beneath his post, many commenters insisted that China rethink its approach to the virus.

“Exhausting social resources, degrading the quality of life and existence, dragging down economic development and urban vitality — where’s the sense in this pandemic prevention,” one commenter wrote. “The zero-infection strategy needs thinking over.”

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