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US sends Covid-19 surge team to southwest Missouri after Delta variant fuels rise in cases and hospitalizations

By Aya Elamroussi, CNN

The US government is deploying a Covid-19 surge team to provide public health support in southwest Missouri, where the spread of the virus is filling up hospital beds once again.

The surge of Covid-19 cases is so high in the city of Springfield, Missouri, that the CoxHealth hospital system began transferring patients infected with the virus to other facilities to provide better staffing. At Cox South, a Springfield hospital, 12 Covid-19 patients were transferred to other facilities in the region between Friday and Monday morning.

Over the past week, the Missouri Covid-19 caseload came in second highest in the country, with 15.5 new cases per 100,000 people daily, or 108 cases per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University data published Sunday. Arkansas claimed the highest rate at 15.7 new cases per 100,000 people each day, the data shows.

“We’re already starting to see places with low vaccination rates starting to have relatively big spikes from the Delta variant,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

“We’ve seen this in Arkansas, Missouri, Wyoming. … Those are the places where we’re going to see more hospitalizations and deaths as well, unfortunately. And any time you have large outbreaks, it does become a breeding ground for potentially more variants,” he told CNN on Monday.

About 56% of adults in Missouri have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose and 39.4% of residents are fully vaccinated, CDC data shows. Arkansas had fully vaccinated 34.6% of its total population as of Tuesday, CDC data shows.

Overall, data shows that Covid-19 is expected to swell in less vaccinated communities, especially as the Delta variant continues to spread in those areas.

“If ever there was a reason to get vaccinated, this is it,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN on Tuesday.

Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, added that America has ample vaccine supply, but there is still a significant portion of people who don’t want the shots.

“There are places in the world, where people would do anything to get vaccine, and yet we have a substantial proportion of people in very specific regions of the country who just do not want to get vaccinated,” he added.

In response to the more contagious Delta variant, the Biden administration said it would deploy response teams comprising officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to areas with a high spread of the virus and low vaccination rates.

In Missouri, the surge team will include an epidemiologist, research assistants, a health communication specialist, contact tracers and others who will help with vaccination and outreach, according to the health department.

“More team members will be added, both remotely and in person, to assist with data and research, vaccine uptake strategies and outreach,” said Lisa Cox, a communications director with the Missouri health department.

100% of Maryland deaths last month were unvaccinated people

In June, all Covid-19 deaths in Maryland occurred in unvaccinated people, according to a tweet Tuesday by Michael Ricci, communications director for Gov. Larry Hogan.

Additionally, Ricci tweeted, 95% of new Covid-19 cases in the state — as well as 93% of new hospitalizations — occurred in people who were unvaccinated.

Full FDA approval for Pfizer vaccine may come this month, former White House adviser says

Federal data shows that as of Tuesday, 47.5% of the US population is fully vaccinated.

And while the current seven-day vaccination pace of 490,918 people becoming fully vaccinated daily has plateaued since two months ago, experts are hoping that could change soon.

The US Food and Drug Administration could fully approve Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine this month, according to Andy Slavitt, a former White House senior adviser for Covid response, adding that the full authorization could sway people who have yet to get their shot.

“That will be a telltale sign for them to say ‘Why am I on the fence any longer? This has now been fully approved by the FDA,’ and even though it’s got a great record already, that will I think be another stamp of approval,” Slavitt said.

The FDA does not comment on pending approvals, but officials across the Biden administration have said they expect the agency to grant full approval.

Currently, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccines are administered under Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA.

A recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that 31% of adults who have yet to get vaccinated would be more likely to get a shot that has been fully approved by the FDA. The report polled 1,888 US adults.

Study finds prolonged changes to resting heart rate and sleep

People infected with Covid-19 may experience changes to their resting heart rate that last for months, in addition to changes in sleep duration and step count, according to data published Wednesday.

The study, published in JAMA Network Open, used wearables to track biometric data from 875 people — 234 who tested positive for Covid-19 over the course of the study and 641 who tested negative.

Researchers observed the largest difference in the resting heart rate of positive participants versus negative. Covid-19 positive participants showed an intermittent slowed heart rate followed by an extended elevated heart rate which “did not return to baseline, on average, until 79 days after symptom onset,” according to the study.

“Individuals with Covid-19 took longer to return to their (resting heart rate), sleep, and activity baselines compared with symptomatic individuals who were Covid-19 negative,” said the study authors, who are affiliated with Scripps research.

For just over 13% of the Covid-19 positive patients, these effects lasted even longer. In 32 participants, resting heart rate remained more than 5 beats per minute higher than their baseline for over 133 days.

Covid-positive participants showed an increase in sleep duration which lasted an average of 32 days after symptom onset, and a decrease in step count which lasted an average of 24 days.

“We found a prolonged physiological impact of COVID-19 infection, lasting approximately 2 to 3 months, on average, but with substantial intraindividual variability, which may reflect various levels of autonomic nervous system dysfunction or potentially ongoing inflammation,” the authors wrote.

The study collected only Covid-19 symptom data in the acute phase of the infection, which limited researchers’ ability to compare long-term physiological changes with long-term symptoms.

Another study finds people more likely to have health complications if they had a severe case of Covid-19

Vaccines are not only effective in preventing severe illness from Covid-19, they also prevent its long-term health effects, according to experts.

People who were severely ill with Covid-19 are twice as likely to need to go back to the hospital for a Covid-19-related complication in the future compared to patients who had mild or moderate symptoms, according to a new study from the University of Florida.

The researchers examined patient records for nearly 11,000 people treated in their health system. Of those patients, 114 had severe Covid-19 and needed to be hospitalized. Another 211 had mild or moderate Covid-19.

The other patients were treated for unrelated health problems. Researchers tracked these patients for six months.

“Data are, unsurprisingly, showing that people who aren’t vaccinated are more likely to get sick,” study co-author Arch Mainous said in a news release Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, our data show that even if people are willing to take their chances with COVID-19 because they are not concerned about the disease, they are now more likely to have a complication like a heart attack or stroke because of this. Vaccination is critical.”

Patients with severe Covid-19 were twice as likely to go back to the hospital for a heart attack, stroke, pneumonia or pulmonary embolism, according to the study, published online in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

Researchers say the study should encourage everyone to get a Covid-19 vaccine, particularly those people who are at a high risk for developing severe disease.

™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Naomi Thomas Jen Christensen, Lauren Mascarenhas, Deidre McPhillips and Virginia Langmaid contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Health

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