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Coronavirus live updates: 'No evidence' coronavirus variant is in US, HHS assistant secretary says

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(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 80.2 million people worldwide and killed over 1.7 million of them, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Here’s how the news is developing Monday. All times Eastern:

Dec 28, 9:31 am
TSA reports highest number of airline passengers since pandemic hit

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on Sunday saw the highest number of people screened at the airport since the pandemic hit, a spokesperson tweeted Monday.

The 1,284,599 people screened at airports nationwide marks the sixth day in the last 10 with more than 1 million airline screenings. “If you choose to travel, please wear a mask,” Lisa Farbstein, the TSA spokesperson, wrote on Twitter.

Dec 28, 8:00 am
US may not see 3rd wave of COVID-19: HHS assistant secretary

Health experts have been worrying about a third wave of COVID-19 hitting the U.S. after the holidays, as already 9 million people have traveled during the season. But speaking to “Good Morning America” Monday morning, Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said the country may not see another big spike in cases.

“How bad it will get really depends on what people do. After Thanksgiving, in the Midwest and the Northern Plains, we did not see a spike in cases, and in fact, it continued to go down,” he said.

He added that while traveling does put people at higher risk of contracting the disease, we will not necessarily see another spike if people follow the rules.

“Limit travel if you can. If you’re sick, please don’t travel. Always wear a mask and watch your distance. And be careful, it’s not really the travel, but it’s mixing your bubble with a new bubble once you get there,” Giroir said.

He added that this week, 4.7 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will be delivered to the U.S., getting the country closer to the government’s goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans by the end of the year.

Dec 28, 7:56 am
‘No evidence’ coronavirus variant is in US: HHS assistant secretary

Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spoke to Good Morning America Monday morning to discuss the new coronavirus variant taking over the U.K.

“We don’t have proof that it’s here, but we do suspect that it is likely here, given the global interconnectedness,” Giroir said. “We have no evidence that it’s here. It’s certainly not widespread here, but we need to look and make sure it’s not here.”

He added that while “there is increasing evidence that it really is more transmissible” or contagious, due to the viral load that people with that strain have been shown to have, there is “no evidence that it is more serious.”

There is no evidence that people who become infected with the variant are more likely to be hospitalized or die, Giroir said.

“And we still believe — don’t have absolute proof — but we have very good evidence and a good belief that the vaccines will still be effective,” he added.

Dec 28, 4:24 am
California hospital explains how it will allocate medical resources in case of shortage

Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, California, released a patient information sheet documenting how they will use their medical resources should they see a shortage due to an overwhelming number of new patients following the holidays.

“We are not currently in this situation, but could be based on ongoing increase in hospitalized COVID-19 patients,” they told ABC News, adding that on Sunday they had their highest number of patients (189) in a single day.

In the letter, the hospital explained that due to rising cases of COVID-19 in the community, they may experience limited resources. These include life support machines (like a ventilator or breathing machine), intensive care unit (ICU) beds and healthy medical staff to care for patients.

If there is a shortage of resources, a team of medical professionals will review the cases of all patients who are critically ill to determine how these resources should be shared throughout the hospital.

“If a patient becomes extremely sick and very unlikely to survive his/her illness (even with life-saving treatment) — limited medical resources may go to treat other patients who are more likely to survive,” the letter reads.

“Our community is facing a public health emergency that has severely constricted the medical resources available to patients in the Los Angeles County and greater Southern California region. Hospitals such as ours are working hard to meet the dramatic rise in needed care during this COVID-19 surge. We expect to face additional challenges moving forward after the holiday season,” the hospital said in a statement.

Dec 28, 1:59 am
CDC issues new guidance on vaccinations for people with underlying health conditions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines for people with underlying health conditions planning to take a COVID-19 vaccine.  

They CDC said that adults with underlying medical conditions — who are more at risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 — can receive a vaccine against the virus as long as they have not had a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in it.

The new guidelines state that people with HIV and those with weakened immune systems due to other illnesses or medication should be aware that information about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for their group is not yet available. While people with HIV were included in clinical trials, more data is required to provide safety guidelines regarding the effects a vaccine could have on them. The same is true for people with autoimmune conditions.

People who have previously had Guillain-Barre syndrome or Bell’s palsy may receive a COVID-19 vaccine, though experts are still acquiring more data about their groups as well.

The CDC added that people should continue to follow coronavirus health measures — such as wearing a mask and staying 6 feet away from others — after receiving the shot, as experts have more to learn about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions.

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