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Pandemic

A record-high number of kids are getting hospitalized as overall Covid-19 hospitalizations soar past the Delta peak

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It follows a record number of new Covid-19 cases in children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

There were more than 325,000 new cases in children in the US in the week ended December 30, according to data released this week by the AAP, which means a 64% increase in new cases in children compared to the previous week the AAP.

And Covid-19 hospital admissions reached a new milestone across all age groups.

On Tuesday, 112,941 Americans were hospitalized with Covid-19, according to the U.S. Department of Health.

The new number far exceeds hospital admissions during the Delta variant surge – nearly 104,000 in early September. It is also creeping up on the pandemic high number of Covid-19 patients hospitalized in a single day – 142,246 on January 14th last year.

“Unfortunately, this is the result of a highly transmissible variant, the Omicron variant,” said US surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN on Tuesday.

In just four weeks, Omicron jumped from an estimated 8% of new infections to an estimated 95% of new infections, according to the CDC.

The Omicron variant is up to three times more contagious than the Delta variant, the CDC announced on Tuesday.

More intensive care units in hospitals are now approaching capacity limits.

Nationwide, 1 in 5 hospitals with an intensive care unit reported that beds in that department were at least 95% occupied last week, according to DHHS data. And nationwide, more than a quarter of the intensive care beds were occupied by Covid 19 patients.

The general surgeon reiterated what many doctors reported this winter: The vast majority of hospitalized Covid-19 patients are not vaccinated and have been boosted.

“Remember, these vaccines work. These boosters are more important than ever, ”said Murthy.

And millions more children who are going back to school could soon get a booster vaccination.

Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday, “Nobody, in my opinion, has suffered more from social isolation from out of school more than children.”

“I think we want children to go to school. But if we want them to go to school then we have to do everything we can to keep them in school,” said Offit. “With masking, social distancing, and vaccination, we can really get this under control.”

“If the teachers have to be vaccinated, the bus drivers have to be vaccinated and the children over 5 have to be vaccinated, and then we can have what we all want, the precious thing we all want, which is to have our children back” in school . But we should do it responsibly, “Offit said.

Dr. Medical analyst Leana Wen told CNN’s Wolfe Blitzer on Tuesday that the pandemic is different for those who are vaccinated at this point in time and restrictions on those who are vaccinated are “not sensible”.

“At the same time, we cannot say ‘Let everyone have Omicron’ because we will overwhelm our health systems. So there is this practical middle ground that we need to figure out, ”she said. One example she used was not to close things “but to require internal masking with quality masks”.

CDC updates guidance on masks and isolation

Cloth masks are still fine to protect against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, as long as they fit well and filter the air properly, the CDC said.

The CDC referred to its existing guidelines on mask use in updated recommendations on isolation after a positive Covid-19 test and quarantine after exposure.

People should wear other masks to protect against a positive test and five days of isolation, as people can remain infectious for up to 14 days after a positive test, the guidelines say.

In light of the criticism, CDC is updating the Covid-19 isolation recommendations with instructions on testing

“Masks are designed to hold back droplets and particles from the airways. They also give you some protection from particles emitted by others, ”the CDC noted in Tuesday’s update.

All masks should fit snugly so that air doesn’t escape around the edges of the mask but rather is filtered through the material, the CDC said. All masks should have a wire so that the mask fits snugly over the bridge of the nose. Cloth masks should be made up of multiple layers of cloth, the CDC said.

Using a cloth mask over a surgical-style disposable mask can provide good protection, the CDC said. The CDC recommends holding cloth masks up to the light, saying if light shows through, it’s too thin.

Pediatrician answers your questions about Pfizer boosters for children ages 12-15The rapid spread of the Omicron variant helped the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approve booster doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 12-15, said acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock on Monday.

For anyone 12 and older, the FDA has also cut the time between the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine and the booster dose from six months to five months.

The FDA has also approved booster doses for some immunocompromised children ages 5-11, including those who have received an organ transplant.

“Amazing Numbers” of Omicron Cases in Children’s Hospital

In the country’s largest children’s hospital, Covid-19 hospital stays have quadrupled in the past two weeks – powered by the Omicron variant, the most contagious strain of the novel coronavirus that has ravaged the United States.

“We already have amazing numbers of this Omicron surge here,” said Dr. Jim Versalovic, chief pathologist at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.

From infants to teenagers, this hospital has a flood of young Covid-19 patients.  This is what parents want others to know

“We broke previous records made during the delta climb in August.”

Sequencing showed that 90% of the hospital’s youngest Covid-19 patients were infected with the Omicron variant, Versalovic said.

Like the surgeon general, Versalovic said that vaccinations are vital to minimize hospital stays from Covid-19.

Still, more than 80% of school-age children in the Houston area are unvaccinated, Versalovic said.

And more than a third of the hospital’s youngest Covid-19 patients were under 5 years old. “Unfortunately, these children still do not have access to a vaccine,” said Versalovic.

In New York, “we are now seeing more Covid than in previous waves,” said pediatrician Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez.

“And it is worrying that the worst winter is not over here. And we are getting ready for what is to come.”

Doctors: Don’t underestimate the effects on children

Pediatricians have admitted that some patients with Covid-19 may actually have sought treatment for a different condition and happened to test positive for coronavirus.

But “it is clear that the majority of cases have Covid-19 as either a major factor or a determining factor in their hospital stay,” said Versalovic, Texas Children’s chief pathologist.

And the recent record number of Covid-19 pediatric hospital admissions – along with the serious illness of some children – means the current surge should not be ignored.

“We would be stupid at this point in time to further minimize the Covid-19 pandemic in children,” said Bracho-Sanchez.

Early studies suggested that Omicron caused less serious illness than the Delta variant. But Omicron is much more contagious.

And early research suggested that Omicron may cause more upper respiratory problems, unlike previous strains that caused lower respiratory problems.

Upper respiratory complications can be more dangerous for young children than adults, Bracho-Sanchez said.

“We can’t treat children’s airways as if they were adults’ airways,” she said.

“And for us pediatricians, we know that respiratory viruses can lead to … croup and bronchiolitis, the inflammation of the upper respiratory tract that gets children into trouble.”

CNN’s Deidre McPhillips, Ben Tinker, Virginia Langmaid, Miguel Marquez, Matthew Hilk, Maggie Fox, Katherine Dillinger and Jen Christensen contributed to this report.

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Pandemic

Thousands in Hong Kong volunteer to adopt hamsters amid COVID-19 fears

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HONG KONG, Jan 19 (Reuters) – Thousands of people in Hong Kong volunteered to adopt unwanted hamsters on Wednesday after a government mass culling order raised alarm over COVID-19 fears that panicked owners would abandon their pets .

Authorities on Tuesday ordered the culling of 2,000 hamsters from dozens of pet shops and storage facilities after tracing a coronavirus outbreak to a worker at the Little Boss pet shop, where 11 hamsters subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.

Scientists around the world and Hong Kong’s health and veterinary authorities said there was no evidence animals play a major role in transmitting the coronavirus to humans.

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But after adopting a zero-tolerance policy for COVID-19, Health Minister Sophia Chan said on Tuesday she couldn’t rule out possibilities of transmission and therefore the government couldn’t take any chances.

Soon after, health workers in hazmat suits were seen coming out of pet shops across the city, carrying red plastic bags into their vans. Around 150 pet shop customers were quarantined.

Public broadcaster RTHK said some hamster owners were seen dropping off their pets at a government facility in the New Territories, while groups quickly formed on social media to find new owners for unwanted rodents.

Ocean, 29, a hamster owner and admin of the Hong Kong the Cute Hamster Group on the Telegram social media app, said the group has been contacted by nearly 3,000 people willing to temporarily care for unwanted animals .

Three young owners were pressured by their families to get rid of their hamsters even though they’ve all owned them for more than half a year, said Ocean, who declined to give her last name because she feared angry reactions from those who wanted to cull them supported.

“Many pet owners don’t know the exact risks and give up their hamsters,” she says.

Bowie, 27, one of the volunteers in the group, is now the owner of two new hamsters.

“This is ridiculous,” said Bowie, who already owned three other hamsters. “Animal life is also life. Today it can be hamsters or rabbits, tomorrow cats or dogs.”

The local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), which runs veterinary clinics, told Reuters “numerous” concerned pet owners have reached out to them for advice.

“We urge pet owners not to panic or abandon their pets,” the SPCA said in a statement.

SPCA listed ways to maintain strict personal hygiene for human and animal safety, including never kissing, coughing, or snorting around pets, and washing hands after handling them.

The average lifespan of a hamster is about two years, according to animal welfare organizations.

‘OVERBLOWN’

Aside from ordering the culling, authorities have ordered dozens of pet shops to close while importing and selling small mammals has been suspended. Buyers of hamsters after December 22, 2021 have been asked to hand them over to the authorities for culling and not leave them on the street.

The authorities have set up a hotline for inquiries. It was unclear how many hamsters had been handed over.

Most Hong Kong newspapers on Wednesday featured images of people in hazmat suits outside pet shops and illustrations of hamsters on their front pages, with Ta Kung Pao daily showing a tiny rodent inside a spiked virus particle.

Vanessa Barrs, a professor of pet health at the City University of Hong Kong, said the move to kill the hamsters offered for sale may be justified on public health grounds, but fears of infection at home are overblown.

“Millions of people around the world have pets, and there have been no documented cases of pets transmitting infections to other people,” Barrs said.

“The theoretical risk is there, but it just doesn’t happen.”

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Additional reporting by Aleksander Solum; Letter from Marius Zaharia; Edited by Simon Cameron Moore

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Pandemic

Children account for less than 0.2% of Covid-19 deaths in the US, according to CDC data

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Staff from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation investigate a Hong Kong pet shop Tuesday, January 18, 2022, which authorities said was closed after some pet hamsters tested positive for the coronavirus. Kin Cheung/AP

Hong Kong authorities say they will euthanize around 2,000 small animals – including all hamsters in pet shops – amid concerns over Covid-19 transmission.

On Tuesday, officials said they found 11 hamsters from the city’s Little Boss pet store had tentatively tested positive.

According to Dr. Leung Siu-fai, Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation, imported from the Netherlands in two batches, one on January 7 and one on December 22.

The samples were taken after it was confirmed on Monday that a 23-year-old worker at the store in Hong Kong’s busy Causeway Bay district was infected with the Delta variant.

In general, health authorities have said that the risk of animal-to-human transmission is possible but low.

Environmental samples taken at the store’s warehouse where the small animals are kept also confirmed traces of the coronavirus, officials said.

Authorities have asked the store to hand over all of its small animals, including hamsters, rabbits, chinchillas and guinea pigs, and people who bought hamsters after December 22 to hand over their animals for testing and euthanasia.

In addition, pet shops that sell hamsters were asked to give up the animals. Imports of all small animals into the city have been suspended and all pet stores selling hamsters have been ordered to shut down immediately. Those pet shops can reopen once all of their small animals have been tested and their results found negative, authorities added.

Officials said Tuesday they would also review quarantine measures for imported small animals, including possible pre- and on-arrival testing.

“We cannot rule out that these animals already had the corona virus when they were imported. Against this background, we cannot rule out that people who come into contact with these animals are at greater risk [of infection]said Dr. Edwin Tsui, head of the Health Protection Center at the Ministry of Health, at a news conference on Tuesday.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Covid-19 cases have been documented in animals likely to have contracted the virus from humans, but there is less evidence to suggest the possibility of animal-to-human transmission .

In November 2020, Denmark said it had found a mutant strain of the coronavirus in its mink population that had spread to humans. In response, the government announced the culling of 17 million mink to stop their spread.

The Hong Kong Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) says it is “shocked and concerned” by the decision to euthanize more than 2,000 small animals, adding that it “failed to consider animal welfare and the human-animal bond.” ”

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COVID-19 health emergency could be over this year, WHO says

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GENEVA (AP) – The emergencies head at the World Health Organization said on Tuesday that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic — deaths, hospitalizations and lockdowns — could be over this year if huge inequities in vaccinations and medicines are addressed quickly.

dr Michael Ryan said during a vaccine equity panel hosted by the World Economic Forum that “we may never end the virus” because such pandemic viruses “end up becoming part of the ecosystem.”

But “we have a chance to end the public health emergency this year if we do the things we talked about,” he said.

The WHO has called the COVID-19 vaccination imbalance between rich and poor countries a catastrophic moral failure. Less than 10% of people in low-income countries have received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Ryan told the virtual gathering of world and business leaders that the tragedy of the virus, which has so far killed more than 5.5 million people worldwide, would continue unless vaccines and other tools were shared fairly.

“What we need to do is get low disease incidence levels with maximum vaccination of our population so nobody has to die,” Ryan said. “The problem is, it’s death. It’s the hospital stays. It is the disruption to our social, economic and political systems that caused the tragedy – not the virus.”

Ryan also weighed in on the growing debate over whether COVID-19 should be considered endemic, a designation some countries like Spain have been calling for to be better able to live with the virus, or whether it is a pandemic nonetheless – which includes increased measures that many countries have taken to combat the spread.

“Endemic malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people; endemic HIV; endemic violence in our inner cities. Endemic by itself does not mean good. Endemic just means it’s there forever,” he said.

Public health officials have warned COVID-19 is highly unlikely to be eliminated, saying it will continue to kill people, albeit at much lower levels, even after it has become endemic.

Colleague Gabriela Bucher, managing director of the anti-poverty organization Oxfam International, referred to the “tremendous urgency” of a fairer distribution of vaccines and the need for large-scale production. She said resources to fight the pandemic were “hoarded by some companies and some shareholders.”

John Nkengasong, director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lamented the “total breakdown in global cooperation and solidarity” over the past two years and said it was “completely unacceptable” that only 7% of Africa’s population was fully vaccinated be.

He also sought to dispel the belief of some that vaccine hesitancy is widespread in Africa, citing studies showing that 80% of the continent’s population would be willing to get vaccinated if vaccines were available.

The comments came on the second day of the online alternative to the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, which has been postponed over pandemic health concerns.

Speaking at the event, world leaders such as Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett discussed approaches to tackling the pandemic. He said his country, which was quick to launch a widespread vaccination campaign, had a strategy to be “at the forefront of medicines and vaccines” against COVID-19.

Citing the advanced research in Israel, Bennett said, “We want to be the first in the world to know how vaccines and the new variants interact.”

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said separately that his country has a high level of vaccination because society values ​​protecting the elderly and vulnerable. He plans to maintain strict border controls until the end of February.

He said he was trying to balance restrictions with keeping the economy open, but that “a so-called zero-COVID policy against the Omicron variant is neither possible nor appropriate”.

In a separate news briefing on Tuesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Omicron variant of COVID-19 “continues to sweep the world” and said 18 million new COVID-19 cases were reported last week.

___

Associated Press reporters Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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