COVID news: who needs updated boosters, CDC, relief fraud
In the United States, over 95 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic as of Friday, Sept. 16, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Additionally, more than 1 million people in the U.S. have died. Worldwide, there have been more than 611 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, including about 2 million in the past week, and over 6.5 million people have died.
Almost 224 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated as of Sept. 16 — 67.7% of the population — and over 109 million of those have gotten their first booster shot, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
Most people in the country, about 49%, live in a location where COVID-19 community levels are considered medium and high, the agency says as of Sept. 16. Masks are advised in high-level regions.
About 51% of Americans reside where COVID-19 levels are considered low, according to the CDC.
The omicron BA.5 subvariant dominated U.S. cases for the week ending Sept. 10 and made up 87% of COVID-19 cases, agency data estimates show.
Pfizer and Moderna’s new, updated COVID-19 boosters target this subvariant and BA.4, another omicron version, after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the shots for emergency use on Aug. 31, McClatchy News reported.
Here’s what happened between Sept. 11 and 16.
Who needs to get an updated COVID booster? What to know about the new shots
Now that updated COVID-19 booster shots are available, you may wonder who needs the updated doses — and when to get them.
Pfizer and Moderna developed “bivalent” boosters targeting two offshoots of the coronavirus omicron variant spreading in the U.S. — the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. After both companies adjusted their existing COVID-19 vaccines, the shots received a green light from the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use on Aug. 31.
The BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants “have shown an ability to evade our immunity more so than any other variant yet,” Dr. Scott Roberts, a Yale Medicine infectious diseases doctor and assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine, told McClatchy News in a statement.
According to the latest virus tracking data, BA.5 accounted for about 87% of cases across the country for the week ending Sept. 10, while BA.4 made up 2% of cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.
“The virus continues to mutate at a rapid pace, and our challenge is to do the best that we can to keep up with the virus,” Dr. William Gruber, senior vice president of Pfizer Vaccine Clinical Research and Development, told McClatchy News in an interview.
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US moved online, worked more from home as pandemic raged
During the first two years of the pandemic, the number of people working from home in the United States tripled, home values grew and the percentage of people who spent more than a third of their income on rent went up, according to survey results released Thursday, Sept. 15, by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Providing the most detailed data to date on how life changed in the U.S. under COVID-19, the bureau’s American Community Survey one-year estimates for 2021 showed that the share of unmarried couples living together rose, Americans became more wired and the percentage of people who identify as multiracial grew significantly.
And in changes that seemed to directly reflect how the pandemic upended people’s choices, fewer people moved, preschool enrollment dropped and commuters using public transportation was cut in half.
The data release offers the first reliable glimpse of life in the U.S. during the COVID-19 era, as the one-year estimates from the 2020 survey were deemed unusable because of problems getting people to answer during the early months of the pandemic. That left a one-year data gap during a time when the pandemic forced major changes in the way people live their lives.
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What are the side effects of the omicron booster? Here’s what the FDA says
After being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, health centers and pharmacies are administering COVID-19 booster shots that target the omicron variant.
National chain pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens have opened appointment slots for the updated shots, The Charlotte Observer reported.
Pfizer’s new booster is available for people ages 12 and up, and individuals who are at least 18 years old can get Moderna’s shot, according to the FDA.
Before booking an appointment, some may be concerned about the potential side effects of the boosters.
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Dentist used fake restaurant businesses to steal millions in COVID funds, feds say
A former Oregon dentist filed dozens of fraudulent loan and grant applications, in some instances using fictitious restaurant businesses, to steal nearly $11.5 million in COVID-19 relief funds, prosecutors said.
Salwan Adjaj, 43, pleaded guilty on Tuesday, Sept. 13, to “wire fraud and aggravated identity theft,” the United States Attorney’s Office District of Oregon said in a news release.
From September 2020 to May 2021, Adjaj submitted dozens of loan applications to the Small Business Administration (SBA) to acquire Economic Impact Disaster Loans (EIDL) and funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), prosecutors said.
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Feds in Florida and two other states to lead crackdown on COVID-19 relief fraud
After losing billions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds due to phony claims, the U.S. government has started deploying investigative teams in South Florida, California and Maryland to zero in on criminal organizations that are suspected of stealing from public programs offering small business loans and unemployment insurance.
The federal strike-force teams were picked in these states not only because they have experienced significant relief fraud during the pandemic, but they also boast the resources to help combat the escalating problem across the country, federal authorities said in an announcement Wednesday, Sept. 14.
“In some ways, this is a novel approach dictated by the type of fraud we’re dealing with,” Kevin Chambers, the Justice Department’s associate deputy attorney general, said in an interview with the Miami Herald. “But it’s not uncommon to go to districts where the prosecutors have developed a particular expertise in specific financial crimes.”
In effect, the three teams working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Florida, California and Maryland will have the authority to investigate and prosecute COVID-19 economic relief cases anywhere in the country — without the Justice Department in Washington calling the shots, as it has done with Medicare fraud strike forces deployed in major cities nationwide since 2007.
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Reporters Mike Schneider, Evan Moore, Daniella Segura and Jay Weaver also contributed to this report.