COVID-19 Weekly Newsletter: Mask Updates | Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP
COVID-19 Weekly Newsletter: Mask Updates |  Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP

COVID-19 Weekly Newsletter: Mask Updates | Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP

As many mask mandates are repealed, the federal government extended its travel mask mandate by one month, and a new study illustrates the value of sensible mask use.

Florida’s New Pediatric Vaccine Guide

On Tuesday, March 8, the Florida Department of Health issued a tutorial recommends against the COVID-19 vaccine for healthy children aged 5 to 17. This update comes a day after Governor Ron DeSantis held a round table and heard from various doctors across the country, including the state surgeon, Dr. Joseph Lapado, who referred to data showing that healthy children are at low risk of dying from the virus, while young boys receiving the vaccine are at increased risk of developing myocarditis. This is the first state guidance that goes against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation for children over 5 years of age to be vaccinated.

WHO now recommends being boosted

This week, an 18-member advisory group convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that it strongly supports the “urgent and broad access” to booster doses. This is a change from the organization’s recommendation last year that boosters are not necessary. The task of the expert group is to evaluate the effect of variants of concern and to assess the effectiveness of the vaccine against them.

Mask mandate in public transport extended by one month

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) travel mask mandate was set to expire next week on Friday, March 18th. This week, the TSA extended the deadline by one month to April 18, giving the CDC time to revise its policy framework to determine when it is safe for the mask mandate to be lifted. This is the second time this deadline has been extended. With the recent change in the CDC guidelines, which say Americans can be maskless in indoor environments and upcoming trips during the spring break, various stakeholders, including the aviation industry, hope the agency will soon lift the mask mandate. Currently, only three states have mask mandates in place: Hawaii, Oregon and Washington.

HHS used COVID-19 agents

As the challenge of COVID-19 became apparent, Congress allocated significant funds to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These agents accelerated the availability and affordability of COVID-19 tests, vaccines, and other life-saving interventions. Now these funds have run out. Congress was asked to provide additional emergency aideven if now seems unlikely in the light of more urgent priorities.

Wearing masks a few weeks longer leads to the best cost savings

COVID-19 imposes significant costs on healthcare and the economy as a whole. Vaccinations prevent serious illness and temper virus transmission, making them a cost-effective intervention at the individual level. In order to make a dent in the covid-related costs at the societal level, a high percentage of the population must be fully vaccinated and boosted. In addition, as a recent U.S. model study Demonstrated widespread mask use for a few weeks after the high vaccination rate is achieved would maximize cost savings. The authors explain this effect by pointing out that the virus continues to circulate for some time after a “target” vaccination rate is achieved. In the simulation, the “high target rate” of 70-90% still leaves up to 30% of the population unvaccinated and therefore vulnerable to serious illness and death. The unvaccinated also contribute to the spread of the virus, although they themselves remain asymptomatic. (Like a reference point: This week, only 65% ​​of the total U.S. population received either two mRNA doses or one dose of the single-dose vaccine, and only 44% have been boosted. Depending on when the highest possible vaccination rate is achieved, using the mask, according to the study, could save billions of dollars in direct and indirect costs. In any case, 100% vaccination coverage can be unattainable, not least because not everyone can be vaccinated (eg young children). Therefore, a sensible continuation of masking can be helpful, especially in cold seasons. This week’s report from the CDC gives a different illustration from the real world: it was found that schools with a mask mandate had a lower incidence of COVID-19 among students and staff than in schools where masks were optional.

Caution is advised for MAB use

Just as arbitrary use of antibiotics can lead to the emergence of drug-resistant bacterial strains, the use of monoclonal antibodies (MABs) against SARS-CoV-2 can lead to the emergence of treatment-resistant SARS-CoV-2 strains. The authors of a recent study documenting such cases urges caution. Proper management of MABs is particularly important in light of their varying efficiency against various virus strains.

The FDA continues public outreach and education

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released answers to several “frequently asked questions” in the form of short video clips. At the agency video channelthe director of the FDA’s Center for Biological Evaluation and Research (CBER) clarifies (in a short video) that a booster is needed, even if a person had had a “natural” infection, that children are best protected against COVID-19 through vaccinationand also deals with other commonly raised topics.

Omicron vs. Delta Infectivity

Data from a large study in Norway confirmed that Omicron is more contagious than the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2. In households with an infected individual, the so-called “secondary attack rate” or infection of other members of the household was found to be 25% for Omicron and 19% for Delta. The unvaccinated were at greater risk of becoming infected than the vaccinated.

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