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Texas Deploys Medical Help; Illinois Cracks Down: Virus Update

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 8/26/2021 Bloomberg News
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(Bloomberg) -- Texas deployed another 2,500 medical staff and equipment to health care facilities throughout the state as hospitalizations near a record. 

Illinois issued broader measures to contain the delta-fueled outbreak, mandating masks indoors statewide and expanding vaccine requirements to all health-care workers, teachers from preschool through high school, and students and staff at higher education institutions. Kentucky, Florida and Georgia led U.S. states in per-capita hospital admissions. 

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The U.K. plans to study why some vaccinated people suffer breakthrough infections and others don’t. India recorded the most daily cases in more than a month.   

Key Developments:

Global Tracker: Cases top 214.3 million; deaths pass 4.4 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 5.06 billion doses administeredMost big hedge funds mandate vaccinations for return to officesAre Covid shots working? What the real world tells us: QuickTakeThe hybrid work revolution is already transforming economiesSeptember promised return to normal that continues to elude U.S.

Anthem Requires Vaccines for Return to Office (4:03 p.m. NY)

Anthem Inc. is requiring employees to be vaccinated before returning to offices. The health insurer announced the requirement to staff internally earlier this month, a spokeswoman confirmed to Bloomberg News. The requirement also applies to workers who have patient- or customer-facing jobs. Most Anthem offices in the U.S. remain closed.

UAW Won’t Push to Mandate Vaccines (3:55 p.m. NY)

The United Autos Workers, the largest U.S. auto union, doesn’t plan to push its members beyond voluntarily taking a Covid-19 vaccine, barring a national mandate, President Ray Curry told reporters in a call on Thursday. 

The UAW is open to having discussions with employers about vaccine mandates and voluntary disclosure of vaccine records, but the ultimate goal is that “we would respect the wishes of our membership,” Curry said.

CVS Limits Purchase of Home Tests (3:23 p.m. NY)

CVS Health Corp. is limiting customers’ purchases of rapid, over-the-counter Covid-19 tests, with a maximum of six packages available online and four in its pharmacies, as the spread of the delta variant spurs demand. 

Put in place this week, the limits apply to Abbott Laboratories’s BinaxNOW along with a test from the startup Ellume, according to an email from a company spokesperson. Both tests are available without a prescription. Abbott and Ellume didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. 

Surging interest in rapid virus tests had made the products a scarce commodity at some online retailers and in certain stores.

Arkansas Inmates Prescribed Anti-Parasite Drug (3:10 p.m. NY)

Arkansas health officials are investigating reports that a county jail prescribed to inmates an anti-parasite drug often used for livestock, the Associated Press reported. 

Amy Embry, director of the Arkansas Medical Board, said the investigation opened two days ago but declined to give details. The sheriff of Washington County confirmed on Tuesday that inmates had been prescribed ivermectin, AP reported. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned against using the drug, which is approved in lower doses to treat two conditions in humans caused by parasitic worms, to prevent or treat Covid-19.

Texas Deploys More Help to Hospitals (2:55 p.m. NY)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott deployed another 2,500 medical staff and equipment to health care facilities throughout the state as the hospitalization rate nears a record set in January.

The Lone Star state had 13,928 hospitalized patients on Tuesday, close to the record 14,218 set on Jan. 11, before vaccinations became more widespread. Almost half of the state’s trauma service areas had fewer than five beds available in intensive care units, with four areas having run out of them altogether.

The new deployment brings the total number of additional, state-funded medical personnel to 8,100.

S. Carolina Mandates Masks on School Buses (2:30 p.m. NY)

Masks will be required on school buses starting Monday in South Carolina, even though the state has passed a law prohibiting local mask mandates in schools. 

“More protective measures are needed to lower the risk of virus transmission and keep our schools open and operating as safely as possible,” Molly Spearman, state superintendent of education, wrote in a memorandum released Thursday. 

Several local school districts have defied a state law that bans mask mandates in schools. South Carolina has one of the nation’s worst per capita outbreaks, according to CDC data. 

Rationed Care Reported to Loom in New Mexico (1:30 p.m. NY)

Bed and staffing shortages could push New Mexico hospitals to ration care in a matter of days, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported. About 50 patients were on intensive care unit waiting lists as of Wednesday, according to the newspaper.

“Our hospitals are virtually full” and New Mexico could implement so-called crisis care standards if nothing changes, David Scrase, state human services secretary and acting health secretary, was quoted as telling reporters on Wednesday.

Faced with the delta variant, officials in Idaho also said this week they may have to ration care. 

U.K. to Study Why Breakthrough Cases Happen (1:30 p.m. NY)

The newly-formed U.K. Health Security Agency will lead a study into why some vaccinated people get breakthrough infections and others don’t. 

The study involves about 50,000 staffers in the National Health Service who enrolled in other Covid-related studies under which they get PCR tests every two weeks and regular antibody tests. Antibody results of those who test positive for Covid-19 despite having two vaccine doses or a previous confirmed infection will be analyzed for how their immune response differs from those who don’t contract the virus.

 Understanding the immune response will help “vaccine developers who can target key components of the immune response effectively for future booster vaccines,” said Susan Hopkins, Public Health England’s Covid response director.

Wyoming Prison Staff Now Fueling Infections (1:05 p.m. NY)

The Wyoming Department of Corrections is attributing an increase in Covid-19 infections largely to unvaccinated staff, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. The most recent round of testing results revealed 24 positives, including 15 employees, the newspaper said.

“Historically, we’ve had far more positives in our inmate population, as a percentage of the population, than we’ve had for staff,” said Paul Martin, a corrections department spokesman quoted by the Star-Tribune. “I think that trend is changing now.”

L.A. Schools Report 2,600 Cases (12:35 p.m. NY)

Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest in the U.S., has 2,612 active cases among staff and students, a rate of infection that puts it higher than the district’s service area overall. Only six of the cases were connected to school-based transmissions and none were among vaccinated people. 

LAUSD recorded more than 3,600 cases among students and employees in baseline testing before school started between Aug. 2-15.

Classes resumed August 16, with mandatory testing and mask wearing. The district’s overall case rate was 38 per 100,000 people, compared with 31 for the community it serves.

Illinois Mandates Masks (11:55 a.m. NY)

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, issued a statewide indoor mask mandate starting Monday and expanded vaccine requirements, saying “we are running out of time as our hospitals run out of beds.” 

Pritzker’s administration required this month that employees at state-run congregate facilities be vaccinated. That mandate now expands to all health-care workers, including those in public and private nursing homes; teachers and staff at Pre-K through 12th grade schools; and personnel and students at higher education institutions. 

Covered individuals must receive their first dose by Sept. 5 or be subject to regular testing. The shrinking hospital-bed capacity is mostly due to tight staffing, rather than space constraints, Pritzker told a news conference. 

Kentucky, Florida Lead in Hospital Admissions (11:20 a.m. NY)

Kentucky, Florida and Georgia led U.S. states in per-capita hospital admissions for Covid-19 during the week that ended Monday, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention update published Thursday.

Florida had the most admissions during the period with almost 15,100 new patients, reflecting the strain of the delta variant on health care. The per-capita number varies widely, from 31.1 per 100,000 residents in Kentucky to a low of 2.2 in Vermont.

The CDC reported 5,665 U.S. deaths during the week through Tuesday, a 23% increase compared to the previous seven-day period. 

Pfizer Taps Brazil Producer (11:04 a.m. NY)

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE announced a deal with a Brazilian manufacturer to produce 100 million doses of their vaccine annually for Latin America. 

Under the terms announced Thursday, the Brazilian pharmaceutical company Eurofarma Laboratorios SA will perform the so-called fill-and-finish process in which the vaccine is put into sterile vials. Eurofarma will begin manufacturing finished doses at its facility in Sao Paulo in 2022.  

U.S., Israel Resilience Slips, Europe Steady (5 p.m. HK)

Bloomberg’s August Covid Resilience Ranking showed stark shifts as the delta variant slipped through strict border curbs in some places and dented the protection provided by vaccination in others. 

Countries leading vaccination and reopening efforts like the U.S. and Israel dropped as delta drove new infections. That seeded breakthrough infections of people fully immunized while sending unvaccinated people into critical-care wards.

Places highly ranked previously for stamping out the virus’s spread, like New Zealand and Australia, also plunged, as delta infiltrated their defenses, forcing strict lockdowns.

European nations were the most resilient with a middle-ground strategy of widespread immunization and reopening based on vaccination status. Nine of the top 10 were from the continent, with Norway holding on to the top spot for a second month.

India Cases Reach One-Month High (2:33 p.m. HK)

India recorded 46,164 new cases Thursday, the most for a single day in more than a month. Kerala reported a surge in infections that could threaten the state’s economy, which had held steady in July as cases declined.

The total tally now stands at 32.6 million. Almost 604 million vaccine doses have been administered so far but only 9.6% of India’s population is fully inoculated against the virus, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker. Covid-related deaths rose by 607 in a day to 436,365, as per the latest health ministry data.

Israel Cases at Record Despite Vaccinations (11:37 a.m. HK)

Israel, one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, posted record new infections.

Israel was the first to approve booster doses in late July. That followed an early, aggressive approach to immunizing its people. More than 72% of the population is covered using the most effective mRNA shots available. 

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