The first case of the so-called Delta Plus variant has been detected in Israel, according to a report on Wednesday. The development came as a top health official announced that vaccinated travelers entering Israel from virus hotspots could be forced to enter quarantine.
The Delta variant, which is believed to be twice as contagious as the original strain of COVID-19, is thought to be responsible for 90 percent of new cases in Israel over the past two weeks. The Delta Plus strain has an extra mutation from the Delta variant, the significance of which is still unclear.
The new strain was found in a vaccinated woman who entered Israel from abroad, the Haaretz daily reported, without identifying the traveler’s country of origin.
A man who came in contact with the woman in Israel has since contracted COVID-19 and genetic sequencing is being performed to check whether he is also carrying the Delta Plus strain, the report said.
The information was not immediately confirmed by the Health Ministry.
Also Wednesday, coronavirus czar Nachman Ash announced that vaccinated travelers returning from high-risk destinations will be forced to enter isolation, following an outbreak of the Delta variant in Israel that has seen the daily COVID-19 caseload swell to 500 infections.
“We will expand the quarantine requirement to the vaccinated who return from countries with serious travel warnings,” Ash told reporters.
Currently, Israelis who are vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 are exempt from quarantine upon returning to the country, unless returning from COVID-19 hotspots to which travel is barred: Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, India, Mexico and Russia. This order does not extend to over a dozen countries flagged in travel advisories for their high COVID-19 caseload, including the United Arab Emirates, Seychelles, Chile, Costa Rica and Georgia.
Despite Ash’s assurance on the change of policy, during a meeting of the so-called coronavirus cabinet earlier Wednesday ministers did not approve such a measure.
The ministers approved an order saying that all travelers from abroad will now have to self-isolate until receiving a negative COVID-19 test result from samples taken upon landing.
But the government largely steered clear of introducing new restrictions to rein in the rising morbidity rates blamed on the Delta variant.
Despite the rise in cases, Ash told reporters Wednesday the prospects of a new lockdown being introduced were low.
Israel’s Health Ministry released data on Monday showing that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine appears to largely prevent hospitalization and serious cases, but is significantly less effective against preventing the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
According to the ministry, the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 has dropped by some 30 percent to 64%, given the spread of the Delta variant. The data shows that during May, when the strain was less prevalent, the vaccine was 94.3% effective. The data, however, also shows that the vaccine is still highly effective against preventing serious symptoms and hospitalization. During May, that figure stood at 98.2%, and during June, it was 93%.
Quebec's test positivity rate highest since May as COVID-19 infections climb – CBC.ca
While the number of new COVID-19 cases in Quebec remains low when compared to the peak of the third wave, the test positivity rate hit 1.4 per cent on Sunday.
That’s the highest it’s been since late May, and new public health data shows infections are on the rise.
Quebec has reported an average of 139 new cases a day over the past seven days, up from an average of 57 a week prior.
Quebec Public Health reported 154 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 347 new infections were identified on Friday and Saturday.
There have been no new deaths attributed to the disease since Thursday but there are 61 COVID-19 patients in hospital — of those, 17 are in intensive care.
Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious diseases specialist at the McGill University Health Centre, told The Canadian Press that the current trends are concerning as they show “there is still ongoing community transmission.”
The increased rate is based on fewer tests, he said.
On May 31, Quebec recorded a test-positivity rate of 1.5 per cent based on 15,783 tests. While on Sunday, Quebec analyzed only 11,202 tests.
With that data in mind, Vinh said the concern lies in the future, as schools and university classes resume in late August and September.
“If it’s already increased when we are in the ‘safe’ outdoors,” he said, “what’s going to happen when we’re in the indoors?”
Quebec’s public health institute reported that 84.6 per cent of residents 12 and up have received at least one dose of vaccine while 68 per cent are adequately vaccinated.
Delta variant stirs worldwide worry
Meanwhile, health officials in the United States are sounding the alarm over the rapid spread of the delta variant which is described as extremely contagious, even among vaccinated people. It may also cause more serious disease than earlier coronavirus strains.
“High viral loads suggest an increased risk of transmission and raised concern that, unlike with other variants, vaccinated people infected with delta can transmit the virus,” said Rochelle Walensky, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in a statement last week.
On Friday, the CDC released data from a study of an outbreak in Massachusetts in which it said three-quarters of those infected had been fully vaccinated.
The CDC recommends that Americans wear masks in areas with substantial transmission “regardless of vaccination status.”
The highly contagious variant, which was first discovered in India in late 2020, has spread around the world and now accounts for the majority of cases in Canada and various other countries.
As of late July, the delta variant accounted for about five per cent of new cases in Quebec, compared to nearly 90 per cent of new cases in Ontario.
For now, Quebec is continuing to scale back restrictions. For example, bars and restaurants are now officially allowed to serve alcohol until 1 a.m.— one hour longer than what was previously allowed.
Stadiums, venues and festivals can welcome 15,000 spectators outdoors, up from 5,000.
The details on all changes can be found here.
U.S. vaccination rate hits the highest pace in weeks – CTV News
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Sunday that 816,203 additional doses were administered, the fifth straight day the agency recorded more than 700,000 shots in arms. That brings the total number of doses administered to 346,456,669, according to the CDC numbers released Sunday.
The seven-day average of administered doses is now 662,529 per day, the highest average since July 7.
Additionally, Sunday was the third day in a row that the seven-day average of people getting their first shots topped 400,000. The last time that metric was over 400,000 was the July Fourth weekend.
That’s still less than a quarter of the peak in mid-April, when nearly 2 million people were getting their first shot each day.
If the U.S. picked up vaccinations to the April pace, it would take only a month and a half to reach all eligible people.
Per CDC data released Sunday, 168.4 million people are fully vaccinated, or 49.6% of the U.S. population. Among vaccine-eligible Americans — meaning those who are 12 and older — 58.1% are fully vaccinated.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, hopes the recent surge in cases driven by the Delta variant is changing the minds of the vaccine hesitant, he told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday. Collins noted that in the last two weeks, vaccination rates have increased 56% nationally.
“This may be a tipping point for those who have been hesitant to say, ‘OK, it’s time,'” Collins said. “I hope that’s what’s happening. That’s what desperately needs to happen if we’re going to get this Delta variant put back in its place.”
Overall, the seven-day average of people becoming fully vaccinated each day is at 247,385 people per day.
Twenty states have now fully vaccinated more than half of their residents, including Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state, as well as Washington, DC.
On the other hand, the states with the lowest percentage of their population vaccinated are Alabama and Mississippi, which have 34% and 35% of their residents vaccinated, respectively.
Correction: An earlier version of this story and headline gave the wrong timing for when the doses were administered. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the additional doses Sunday, but it’s not clear when they were all administered.
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Delta spreads 'like wildfire' as doctors study whether it makes patients sicker – CTV News
LOS ANGELES —
With a new wave of COVID-19 infections fuelled by the Delta variant striking countries worldwide, disease experts are scrambling to learn whether the latest version of coronavirus is making people – mainly the unvaccinated – sicker than before.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that Delta, first identified in India and now dominant worldwide, is “likely more severe” than earlier versions of the virus, according to an internal report made public on Friday.
The agency cited research in Canada, Singapore and Scotland showing that people infected with the Delta variant were more likely to be hospitalized than patients earlier in the pandemic.
In interviews with Reuters, disease experts said the three papers suggest a greater risk from the variant, but the study populations are limited and the findings have not yet been reviewed by outside experts. Doctors treating patients infected with Delta described a more rapid onset of COVID-19 symptoms, and in many regions an overall increase serious cases.
But the experts said more work is needed to compare outcomes among larger numbers of individuals in epidemiologic studies to sort out whether one variant causes more severe disease than another.
“It’s difficult to pin down increase in severity and population bias,” said Lawrence Young, a virologist at the UK’s Warwick Medical School.
In addition, it is likely that the extraordinary rate of Delta transmission is also contributing to a greater number of severe cases arriving at hospitals, the experts said.
Delta is as contagious as chickenpox and far more contagious than the common cold or flu, according to the CDC report.
Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in San Diego, said the clearest indication that the variant may cause more severe disease comes from the Scotland study, which found that Delta roughly doubled the risk of hospitalization compared to an earlier version.
The majority of hospitalizations and deaths from coronavirus in the United States are occurring in people who have not been vaccinated. But there is evidence that the shots are less effective in people with compromised immune systems, including the elderly.
For vaccinated, otherwise healthy individuals, the odds are that if they contract COVID-19 they will only experience asymptomatic or mild disease, said Dr. Gregory Poland, infectious disease expert at the Mayo Clinic.
“But they can pass it on to family members and others who may not be so lucky,” Poland said. “We have to be vaccinated and masked or we will, for the fourth time now, endure another surge and out of that will come worse variants.”
The rate of severe illness, especially in regions where vaccination rates are low, is again straining healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic.
“This is like a wildfire, this is not a smouldering campfire. It is full-on flames right now,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, senior medical director of infection prevention and control at Colorado’s UCHealth.
Research from China suggesting that the Delta variant replicates much faster and generates 1,000 times more virus in the body compared to the original strain highlights the biggest danger of this new wave, Barron said.
“It is hard to tell if they are more sick because of the Delta variant or if they would have been more sick anyway,” she said.
Other doctors said patients infected with Delta appear to become ill more quickly, and in some cases with more severe symptoms, than those they treated earlier in the pandemic.
“We are seeing more patients requiring oxygen sooner,” said Dr. Benjamin Barlow, chief medical officer at American Family Care, a 28-state chain of urgent care clinics.
At his clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, Barlow said that around 20 per cent of patients are testing positive for COVID-19, compared with two to three per cent a few weeks ago. Patients are assessed at that time for potential hospital admission and oxygen support.
David Montefiori, director of the Laboratory for AIDS Vaccine Research and Development at Duke University Medical Center, said the Delta variant is more infectious and leads to faster onset of illness – particularly for the unvaccinated.
“Frankly there’s a severity that comes from this variant that is a little more severe,” Montefiori said on a webcast last week. “It’s not just easier to transmit, it makes you sicker.”
(Reporting by Deena Beasley in Los Angeles, Josephine Mason in London and Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Daniel Wallis)
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