Roy Exum: COVID Surges On

Friday, December 31, 2021 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Multiple websites are reporting there are over 300,000 new cases of COVID every day in the United States. That is 2.1 million cases in one week and that is unprecedented since the coronavirus first showed up two years ago. “It is unlike anything we have ever seen,” said Dr. James Phillips, the chief of disaster medicine at George Washington University, who called the latest surge – driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant -- worse than when COVID-19 was at its peak.

Far more sobering is the Centers for Disease Control’s data that deaths are up 18 percent, now over 1,500 a day, and the CDC is saying the nation could see 44,000 deaths in the first two weeks of the New Year. And when you believe nothing can get worse, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday that those who are unvaccinated are 17 times more likely to get the disease and 20 times more likely to die from it than those who are fully vaccinated.

CDC data shows that 62 percent of the American people are fully vaccinated and 33 percent have gotten booster shots. It is believed the nation’s ICU resources are 78 percent occupied (about 20 percent are COVID patients) but hospitals are badly strained, they are understaffed, and “battle fatigue” is not an adequate description anymore.

The Guardian reports that on Wednesday there were 488,000 cases of the virus in the U.S, according to a New York Times database. “However, even that figure is likely a serious undercount of the true numbers of positive cases,” the newspaper read, “due to the rising popularity of home tests and people who are infected but asymptomatic.”

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FROM POLITICO.COM: The Marine Corps announced Thursday that it has kicked out more troops for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. The total number of discharges has risen to 206, up from 169 last week.

The fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law Monday, dictates that the military services cannot dishonorably discharge members for vaccine refusal. The discharges must be either honorable or general under honorable conditions. Where things stand: Overall, 95 percent of all active-duty Marines have received at least the first dose, while 86 percent of the Reserve force has received the first shot.

The service received 3,247 requests for religious accommodation, with 3,115 of those having been processed and zero requests approved citing readiness concerns. The Marine Corps has 1,007 administrative or medical exemptions.

The other services: Overall, 95 percent of airmen and guardians are vaccinated, while the Army says 98 percent of its active-duty force has at least one shot, and the Navy says 99 percent of sailors have received the first dose.

The Air Force has separated 27 airmen, while the Army and Navy are waiting until January to discharge soldiers and sailors for refusing the vaccine. The Air Force and Space Force received more than 10,000 religious accommodation requests for the COVID-19 vaccine, and 2,100 were disapproved.

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On Thursday the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) announced the state has received shipments of the Merck and Pfizer oral antiviral treatments for COVID-19.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization for molnupirvar by Merck and an emergency use authorization for Paxlovid by Pfizer as oral antiviral treatments of COVID-19. Early studies indicate these treatment options may reduce severe outcomes from COVID-19 including hospitalization or death. These treatments are recommended for individuals who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19 or have underlying medical conditions.
Both drugs require a prescription.

The press release read: The Tennessee Department of Health coordinated a distribution plan of molnupiravir and Paxlovid with Walmart pharmacies across the state. This treatment is free, and Tennesseans can visit to find a participating Walmart pharmacy near them. Initial supply in the state is limited as the first allocation from the federal government was 5,000 courses of molnupiravir and 1,000 courses of Paxlovid. TDH anticipates additional allocations in the coming weeks as production increases.

While antivirals may help treat COVID-19, vaccination is the best approach to prevent infection. Tennesseans aged 5 and above are encouraged to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Individuals ages 16 and above who received an mRNA vaccine may also be eligible for a booster shot at six months or more after they complete the initial series. For adults ages 18 and older who received single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a booster dose is recommended at two or more months after the initial vaccine. More information on vaccine locations, including available vaccine products, is available at

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