Get ready. The variants are taking over.
The UK variant (B.1.1.7) is spreading rapidly and doubling roughly every 10 days. That’s the message from the latest study on the coronavirus in the U.S. The study from Scripps Research Institute in California was released Sunday.
Researchers analyzed half a million coronavirus tests and hundreds of genomes. They predicted that in a month this variant could become predominant in the U.S. The likely result will be a surge of new cases and increased risk of death.
This new research confirmed the warning last month from the CDC. It had said that B.1.1.7 could become predominant by March if it behaved the way it did in Britain.
The research team estimated that the transmission rate of B.1.1.7 in the U.S. is 30% to 40% higher than that of more common variants. That figure may rise as more data comes in.
The results from some parts of the United States are even more worrisome. For example, in Florida, the new study indicates the variant is spreading particularly quickly.
In Florida, scientists estimate that more than 4% of cases are now caused by B.1.1.7. The national figure is thought to be in the 1% to 2% range. If that’s true, then a thousand or more people may be getting infected with the variant every day.
This variant also appears to be more deadly. A study from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggested that the risk of dying of B.1.1.7 is 35% higher than it is for other variants.
However, vaccinations do work. In Israel, the variant is now predominant. Yet, new cases, severe illnesses and hospitalizations have dropped significantly in people over 65. That’s because the group was given top priority for vaccines.
The Big News
Vaccines in Older People
Real-world evidence (from Israel) is building that Covid-19 vaccines work in older people. Close to 90% of people aged 60 and older in the country have received their first dose of the Pfizer—BioNTech 2-dose vaccine so far. There was a 41% drop in confirmed Covid-19 infections in that age group, and a 31% drop in hospitalizations in recent weeks. In comparison, for people aged 59 and younger — of which just more than 30% have been vaccinated — cases dropped by only 12% and hospitalizations by 5% over the same time.
Virus Variant Is More Lethal
Scientists have released data showing that the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 is linked to more deaths. The chance of dying is around 35% higher for people who are confirmed to be infected with the new variant. The risk is most pronounced for older men. The chance of death for an 85-year-old man increases from about 17% to nearly 22% for those confirmed to be infected with the variant. This data is still preliminary.
FDA Guidance Coming on Vaccines for Variants
The FDA is concerned about new Covid variants. It is developing guidance to help vaccine, drug, and testing manufacturers adapt. Existing vaccines, treatments and tests still work well enough, said the FDA’s acting commissioner, Janet Woodcock. But now is the time to get ready for a future when they may not. The FDA will advise manufacturers on how to adapt their products.
AstraZeneca Vaccine Does NOT Work on South African Variant
Covid-19 vaccine does not appear to offer protection against mild and moderate
disease caused by the South African viral variant, according to a study. In
both the human trials and tests on the blood of those vaccinated, the vaccine
showed significantly reduced efficacy against the 501Y.V2 viral variant. South
Africa has stopped the rollout of the vaccine.
Vaccine Distribution Improving
The U.S. is now vaccinating more than 2 million people per day as distribution improves. That’s what is needed in the race versus the virus variants.
The Coronavirus Numbers
Here are the numbers from Monday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
- 106,227,670 Infected Worldwide
- 2,318,696 Deaths
- 27,008,565 Infected in the U.S.
- 463,482 Deaths in the U.S.
Tesla shares surged 743% in 2020. And everyone is suddenly BUYING the stock. However, some of the smartest investors are SELLING Tesla. And they’re buying EV Pre-IPOs instead. Go here for details – before Feb. 28.
Markets have started off with a bang this week.
Stock markets are higher, led by Japan. The Nikkei 225 benchmark index gained 2% to close over the 29,000 level. That was the first time that happened in more than 30 years – since August 1990!
In the U.S., long-term interest rates – as measured by the yield on the 30-year Treasury bond – has breached the 2% mark. That was the first time in over a year. The thinking is that President Biden’s stimulus plan will boost U.S. economic growth and eventually lead to higher levels of inflation.
And finally, Elon Musk is at it again. Tesla announced it bought $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin. And it will now accept bitcoin as payment for its cars.
Needless to say, this sent bitcoin soaring to a record high over $44,000. Any bitcoin-related stock will follow.
Yours in Health & Wealth,