By Tara John and Isabelle Jani Friend, CNN
The United States can “move forward safely” into a less disruptive phase of the pandemic, a maskless US President Joe Biden said in his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, in which he outlined his plan to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Thanks to the progress we have made this past year, Covid-19 need no longer control our lives,” Biden said as he acknowledged that Americans are “tired, frustrated, and exhausted” with the pandemic.
Covid-19 cases are falling in the US, but numbers are still very high. More than 1,600 people are dying of the virus every day, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) seven-day average of new deaths, as the US closes in on the milestone of one million total Covid-19-related deaths.
Despite that, Biden highlighted the CDC’s recently updated mask guidelines, which show that “most Americans in most of the country can now be mask free,” CNN’s Maegan Vazquez reports.
Here are the main takeaways:
- From next week, Americans can order additional free at-home Covid-19 tests supplied by the US government. “If you already ordered free tests, tonight, I’m announcing you can order another group of tests. Go to Covidtest.gov starting next week and you can get more tests,” Biden said.
- A new initiative will provide free antiviral pills to Americans who test positive. “We’re launching the ‘Test to Treat’ initiative so people can get tested at a pharmacy, and if they’re positive, receive antiviral pills on the spot at no cost,” he said.
- Biden said now was the moment for people to begin going back to work regularly, following two years of pandemic-related changes to the workplace. “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again,” he urged.
- Biden called for a bipartisan “reset” from the polarization of the past two years. “We can’t change how divided we’ve been. But we can change how we move forward — on Covid-19 and other issues we must face together,” he said.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q: What should parents do if their kids are anxious because of restrictions like masks being removed?
A: After two years of pandemic restrictions, several states have announced they
If your child continues to be concerned, you could still have them mask — even if others around them are not, says CNN’s Medical Analyst, Dr. Leana Wen.
“Ease into social and extracurricular activities. Don’t start with the school dance with hundreds of people in a room, but rather with a playdate or birthday party with two or three good friends,” she added.
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READS OF THE WEEK
Hong Kong struggles with Covid as the world moves on
Hong Kong is mulling a full lockdown due to an Omicron-fueled surge that has pushed hospitals and morgues to the limit. As many countries in the world choose to live with the virus, Hong Kong’s strict zero-Covid policy bans contact between Covid-19 patients and their immediate families who do not test positive.
Fighting back tears, Hong Kong residents Laura and Nick struggle to comfort their sobbing 11-month-old daughter, Ava, through a phone screen. They were barred from visiting Ava at Hong Kong’s Queen Mary Hospital, where the infant is recovering from Covid-19 after testing positive last Monday, CNN’s Kristie Lu Stout, Jadyn Sham, Rhea Mogul, Teele Rebane and Lizzy Yee report.
But after widespread outrage, Laura and Nick were reunited with Ava four days later, leaving government quarantine as a family a week after their ordeal began on Monday. Despite the happy reunion, the US Department of State updated its travel advisory for Hong Kong on Wednesday, asking citizens to reconsider travel to the city “due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”
Millions of children have lost a parent or caretaker to Covid-19, study estimates
At least 5.2 million children globally have lost a parent, grandparent or family member who helped care for them to Covid-19, according to a new study, which the authors describe as a “heartbreaking hidden pandemic.”
The study, published in the medical journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, looked at Covid-19 mortality data from 21 countries from the start of the pandemic through October 2021 and estimated the number of children who lost a parent or caregiver, Jen Christensen reports.
Of the children who lost their parents, three out of four lost their fathers. Preteens and teens were the most likely to be orphaned, with two out of three children who lost a parent being adolescents. While beyond the scope of the study, real-time data using the same model suggests the number of kids who lost a parent or caregiver is around 6.7 million as of January — outpacing the current total number of Covid-19 deaths of more than 5.9 million.
Covid-19 is killing more people in the US now than during most of the pandemic
Plummeting Covid-19 case counts across the US have led to the lifting of mask mandates and more conversations about steps toward normality — but more people are dying of the coronavirus now than during most of the pandemic, Deidre McPhillips reports.
A common refrain early in the pandemic was that Covid-19 was most deadly for the elderly and people with certain health conditions. The people dying from the virus now tend to be younger than before, and they’re overwhelmingly unvaccinated, experts say.
Experts also worry that social determinants of health are starting to play a larger role in who becomes seriously ill and dies from the virus. Extremely high transmission rates mean the virus is reaching everyone, said Dr. Faisal Masud, director of the critical care center at Houston Methodist hospital. But it’s hitting those from disadvantaged neighborhoods especially hard. These are the people who are more likely to be uninsured and who may delay care, leaving chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension untreated.
Testing, especially as the Omicron-fueled wave subsides, is as important as ever, experts caution. “Testing is how we see the virus. We can’t see it if we do not test,” said epidemiologist Dr. Michael Mina.
The CDC recommends Covid-19 testing:
- If you have Covid-19 symptoms
- If you have known or suspected close contact with the coronavirus
- Before or after travel
- For screening in schools, workplaces, etc.
- When asked by a health care professional or public health official
Most importantly, Mina said, access to testing is “absolutely crucial to get treatment fast.” Read more here.
During the pandemic, pets have become a joyous addition to many families, but how do they impact our health? From reducing stress to lowering cholesterol, Dr. Sanjay Gupta explores the ways your furry friend is looking out for you. Listen Now.
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