President Joe Biden released his 2024 budget proposal with a clear focus on creating a more equitable economic system by increasing taxes on the ultra-wealthy and corporations, and increasing investments that help all of us, including the most vulnerable communities, families, and children. This is the responsible vision that can move us forward and leave no one behind.
The subvariants of subvariants edition. When the pandemic was declared in March 2020, scientists had one cause for optimism: the COVID-19 virus appeared to mutate slowly. That meant when a vaccine was developed, it might not need regular updating over time.
However, now we are learning that scientists’ early optimism was misplaced. And each major variant that has emerged has proven to be more infectious than its predecessor – a pattern scientists have no reason to believe will end. “This virus has probably got tricks we haven’t seen yet,” Tulane University virologist Robert F. Garry told the Washington Post. “We know it’s probably not quite as infectious as measles yet, but it’s creeping up there, for sure.”
The vaccines currently being injected into the arms of Americans were based on the original strain of COVID-19 that emerged in late 2019 in Wuhan, China. That strain eventually yielded to the more evolutionary successful and more infectious alpha, which in turn yielded to delta, which hit the U.S. hard in the summer of 2021. Delta eventually gave up the stage to omicron variant BA.1, which was 50 percent more transmissible than delta. BA.1 itself has been largely supplanted by BA.2, 30 percent more transmissible than its BA.1 predecessor.
Now there are new variants. BA.2.12.1 is surging through the U.S., particularly in the Northeast, and probably accounts for most of the spike in new cases. It is estimated to be 25 percent more transmissible than BA.2. And South African scientists are studying two variants that are close cousins – BA.4 and BA.5. More transmissible than their predecessors? You guessed it. “The evolution is much more rapid and expansive than we initially estimated,” University of Minnesota infectious disease expert Michael T. Osterholm told the Post. “Every day I wake up, I fear there will be a new subvariant that we have to consider…We’re seeing subvariants of subvariants.”
So: what can we do? The answers are simple. Congress must quickly pass a COVID-19 supplemental funding bill – and then it will need to pass another one later this year. These bills must fund expanded testing in the U.S. Right now, estimates are that new cases are exceeding 50,000 a day, but experts warn this is a gross undercount, because results of home tests largely aren’t reported (to say nothing of people who get sick but aren’t tested at all).
Second, we must fund vaccine research so that newly developed vaccines are flexible enough to handle the newest subvariants. Research takes dollars; Congress must provide them. Third, we must understand that the pandemic does not end until it ends everywhere. Because of that, we must invest billions in making sure vaccines are available and accessible throughout the world. We’re not safe until we are all safe.
Congress must act. It is past time.
As of Wednesday, May 4, 65,866 new COVID-19 cases were reportedin the U.S., a 54 percent increase over the previous two weeks. And 17,877 hospitalizations were reported, up 19 percent. Daily deaths were at 375, down 3 percent. Tweet this.
$22.5 billion — The amountof funds the White House said is needed to secure oral antiviral and other treatments, continue testing, provide vaccinations for the uninsured, fund research on new vaccines that protect against future variants, and accelerate global vaccine efforts. Tweet this.
More than 1 in 5
More than one in five Black, non-Hispanic women and more than one in six Latinas did not have enough to eat in the prior week, according to a National Women’s Law Center analysisof U.S. Census Household Pulse survey data collected March 2-14. Tweet this.
More than 2 in 5
More than two in five Black, non-Hispanic women and nearly one in three Latinas experiencing some level of food insufficiency could not afford enough food for the children in their household. Tweet this.
More than 4.5 million women (15 percent of women who rent) reportedbeing behind on their rent. This includes 23.8 percent of Black, non-Hispanic women; 16.6 percent of Latina renters; and 10.9 percent of White, non-Hispanic renters. Tweet this.
Evictions– which increased slowly after a national eviction moratorium ended in August 2021 – began rising rapidly this winter and spring as federal aid aimed at helping renters ran out. The Eviction Lab at Princeton University estimates that in March 2022, the eviction rate was at 97 percent of historic, pre-pandemic levels, and affordable housing advocates warn it will soon rise well over 100 percent because of rapidly increasing rents.
Rental prices in the U.S. have risen 17 percent over the past year, according to Redfin. Rents rose by a third in several cities in Florida, and by 40 percent in Portland, Oregon.
The Centers for Disease Control reportsthat so many people caught the omicron variant of COVID-19 last winter that almost 60 percent of everyone in the U.S. has antibodies to the virus in their blood. That is even higher for children 11 and younger – nearly 75 percent. But experts caution that antibodies do not provide nearly as much protection as vaccines.
The numberof new COVID-19 cases reported in Puerto Rico in the last week. This rate – the highest in the U.S. — stands in sharp contrast to the approximately 200 cases a day that were reported through much of March. The spike comes after Puerto Rico lifted most COVID-related safety precautions on March 10 and as new, more contagious omicron subvariants spread through communities.
Nearly 15 million
The coronavirus pandemic led to nearly 15 million excess deaths worldwide, the World Health Organization estimates. This number – more than twice that of a previous estimate – includes both people who died from COVID-19 and others who died from indirect causes such as health care shortages as hospitals and health care systems were overwhelmed.