Hot on my announcement that I've been asked to join the board of directors of Doctors For America, I have some less pleasant personal news to report as well: After dodging it for nearly 2 1/2 years and obsessively tracking cases & fatalities connected to it for most of that time, I finally tested positive for COVID-19 myself a few days ago.
I actually started feeling slightly off about two weeks ago, but I also happened to get my 4th vaccination shot (or 2nd booster, if you prefer) right around the same time, so for the first few days I just assumed I was having stronger-than-usual side effects from the shot.
By last Wednesday, it was clearly something more serious, but a home-based COVID test came back negative so I figured it was just a really nasty head cold + seasonal allergies. By Friday my wife was also experiencing symptoms and she ended up having a miserable Mother's Day weekend...while I was starting to recover.
I'm not going to mince words here: While the Omicron variant wave of the COVID pandemic appears to have mostly subsided nationally (the 7-day new case average has plummeted from an all-time high of around 800,000/day nationally in mid-January to around 55,000/day now), I think the seemingly across-the-board abandonment of mask mandates at the federal, state and local levels is still a big mistake.
I would have waited until new daily cases drop further (to perhaps 10 per 100,000 per day, or around ~33,000/day nationally) and hold at that rate or lower for a solid month before giving the "all clear" for vaccinated folks to remove their masks at most indoor settings.
For unvaccinated people, of course, I'd want them to be required to wear masks indoors in public until they actually get vaccinated (which, aside from young children, nearly all of them should have done already; it's been nearly a year since they've been widely available, for God's sake).
The Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds, an effort to bolster protection as schools reopen amid a surge of infections caused by the omicron variant.
The agency also cleared booster shots for children 5 to 11 with compromised immune systems. And it said anyone eligible for a booster could get the shot five months after receiving the second Pfizer-BioNTech shot, down from six months.
The FDA actions are expected to be reviewed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its panel of outside vaccine advisers this week. Assuming the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which is scheduled to meet Wednesday, signs off on the additional shots, CDC director Rochelle Walensky is expected to officially recommend them later that day.
For the past couple of months now, most of my COVID scatter-plot charts...whether measuring vaccination rates, new case rates or new death rates...have been based primarily on partisan lean. That is, at both the state and county levels, I've been using the percent of the 2020 Presidential vote won by Donald Trump as the basis for comparison.
Federal health officials on Thursday advised Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus that they could stop wearing masks or maintaining social distance in most settings, the clearest sign yet that the pandemic might be nearing an end in the United States.
The new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caught state officials and businesses by surprise and raised a host of difficult questions about how the guidelines would be carried out. But the advice came as welcome news to many Americans who were weary of restrictions and traumatized by the past year.
“We have all longed for this moment,” Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the C.D.C. director, said at a White House news conference on Thursday. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”
It's important to note that "in most settings" caveat: