Coronavirus weekly need-to-know: long COVID, more free tests, booster shots for kids

Matt Rourke/AP
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In the United States, more than 83 million people have tested positive for coronavirus as of Friday, May 20, according to Johns Hopkins University.

To date, more than 1 million people in the U.S. have died, including about 1,000 since last week. Worldwide, there have been more than 523 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, including about 3 million new cases since one week ago.

Additionally, over 6.2 million have died from the virus globally. Roughly 220 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated as of May 20 — 66.5% of the population — and 102 million of those people have gotten their first booster shot, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Roughly 95% of the U.S. lives in a location with low or medium COVID-19 Community Level, the agency says as of May 20. About 4% of Americans reside in an area with a high COVID-19 Community Level. For them, it’s recommended to wear a mask while indoors in public.

The CDC reports the weekly average of COVID-19 cases has risen nationwide as of May 11. Cases are 30.7% higher compared to the prior week’s average, according to the CDC.

Omicron and its subvariants dominated all positive U.S. cases for the week ending May 14.

Here’s what happened between May 15 and 20.

Long COVID isn’t just after severe cases — most were never hospitalized, study finds

Long COVID — a condition in which virus symptoms persist after the coronavirus infection — is not exclusive to those who experience a severe case of the virus.

In fact, most people diagnosed with long COVID, roughly 76%, were never hospitalized after they got sick with COVID-19, a new study published as a white paper on May 18 has found.

In the analysis, researchers examined health care claims data of 78,252 patients officially diagnosed with long COVID from Oct. 1, 2021 until Jan. 31, 2022, according to work by the nonprofit FAIR Health. The paper has not yet been peer-reviewed.

The top three symptoms these patients experienced post-COVID across all age groups were breathing abnormalities, cough, and malaise and fatigue, the research found.

Keep reading for more on the study:

Long COVID isn’t just after severe cases — most were never hospitalized, study finds

FDA clears COVID booster shot for healthy kids ages 5 to 11

U.S. regulators on Tuesday authorized a COVID-19 booster shot for healthy 5- to 11-year-olds, hoping an extra vaccine dose will enhance their protection as infections once again creep upward.

Everyone 12 and older already was supposed to get one booster dose for the best protection against the newest coronavirus variants -- and some people, including those 50 and older, can choose a second booster.

The Food and Drug Administration’s authorization now opens a third shot of Pfizer’s vaccine to elementary-age kids, too — at least five months after their last dose.

Continue reading below:

FDA clears COVID booster shot for healthy kids ages 5 to 11

Traveling this summer? CDC recommends everyone test for COVID in days before flying

If you are traveling internationally or within the U.S. this summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you test for COVID-19 in the days before flying.

The agency’s recommendation for all travelers regardless of vaccination status came in an update to its COVID-19 testing website on May 16.

“Consider getting tested as close to the time of departure as possible (no more than 3 days) before your trip” when heading to any destination, the CDC said.

For more, keep reading here:

Traveling this summer? CDC recommends everyone test for COVID in days before flying

You now can order a third round of free COVID home tests. Here’s how to get them

Every household in the U.S. is now eligible to order a third set of free, at-home COVID-19 tests.

People who sign up to receive more tests will get two packages of four rapid antigen tests each, according to the United States Postal Service. The packages will ship for free and will come with tracking numbers, USPS said.

The first round of orders, sent out in January, contained four tests each. In the second round, sent out in early March, people could order up to 8 tests, McClatchy News reported.

Those interested in signing up to receive the free tests can do so at covid.gov/tests, a website operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. People can also order tests over the phone by calling 1-800-232-0233, according to the website.

Continue reading for more information:

You now can order a third round of free COVID home tests. Here’s how to get them

COVID test that can detect flu and another virus now offered without prescription

A test that can detect and differentiate between COVID-19, the flu and another common respiratory virus is the first available without needing a prescription, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA authorized the Labcorp Seasonal Respiratory Virus RT-PCR DTC Test for people to use at home on Monday, May 16, a news release said.

The tests are for those feeling sick with respiratory viral symptoms and can identify “influenza A and B, commonly known as the flu, respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV, along with SARS-CoV-2,” the FDA said.

Continue reading below to learn more about the Labcorp test:

COVID test that can detect flu and another virus now offered without prescription

Few eligible families have applied for government help to pay for COVID funerals

On a humid August afternoon in 2020, two caskets ― one silver, one white ― sat by holes in the ground at a small, graveside service in the town of Travelers Rest, South Carolina.

The family had just lost a mom and dad, both to COVID-19.

“They died five days apart,” said Allison Leaver, their daughter who now lives in Maryland with her husband and kids.

When Leaver’s parents died that summer, it was a crushing tragedy. And there was no life insurance or burial policy to help with the expense.

“We just figured we were just going to have to put that on our credit cards and pay it off, and that’s how we were going to deal with that,” Leaver, a public school teacher, said with a laugh of resignation.

But then, in April 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency offered to reimburse funeral expenses for COVID victims — up to $9,000, which is roughly the average cost of a funeral. And the assistance was retroactive.

Leaver applied immediately.

Continue reading here:

Few eligible families have applied for government help to pay for COVID funerals

1 in 9 COVID hospital patients die or get readmitted within 30 days, study finds

One in 9 hospitalized COVID-19 patients die or get readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of being sent home, a new study has found.

Deaths were observed more often in men, older individuals, those with comorbidities and people who had a history of prior hospital stays, according to the peer-reviewed research published May 16 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Study authors called the rates of COVID-19 hospital readmissions and deaths “common.”.

“Despite fears of high rates of readmission after COVID-19 hospitalizations, we found that outcomes in the 30 days after discharge were consistent with admissions for other medical diagnoses,” researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada wrote.

Nearly half of COVID-19 patients discharged returned to the hospital because of lung issues, a news release said.

Keep reading for more on the study:

1 in 9 COVID hospital patients die or get readmitted within 30 days, study finds

Don’t throw away your COVID masks — they could make concrete better, WA researchers say

During the COVID-19 pandemic, disposable face masks became a staple for millions of people. But what should you do with them once they’ve been worn?

Researchers at Washington State University may have found a purpose for those used masks: using them to make concrete more durable.

In a paper published last month in the journal Materials Letters, researchers said cement with mask materials mixed into it was 47% stronger after curing for 28 days than cement typically would be.

The study indicates that masks, which are “forming a new waste stream that poses a considerable environmental risk to the ecosystem” when they’re not disposed of responsibly, can be “upcycled” to minimize waste, researchers said.

The article continues below:

Don’t throw away your COVID masks — they could make concrete better, WA researchers say

Doctor gave patients plasma from people with COVID as bogus protection, CA officials say

A California doctor is accused of giving his patients plasma donated from people who had COVID-19 as a bogus form of protection against the virus, officials said.

Donald Plance, a doctor in Tujunga, was charged Tuesday, May 17, after he was accused of giving his patients fake COVID-19 vaccination cards and injecting his patients with plasma, the Los Angeles County district attorney said.

“It is disturbing that people, especially medical professionals, continue to use the pandemic as an opportunity to deceive the public,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a news release. “Fake COVID vaccination cards are illegal and endanger our collective health and well-being.”

Between August and November 2021, Plance made his own vaccine cards to give to his patients, officials said. The cards had seals of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as Health and Human Services, according to the district attorney.

For more, keep reading:

Doctor gave patients plasma from people with COVID as bogus protection, CA officials say

Woman serving life in prison organizes $2 million COVID fraud ring, feds say

A 37–year-old woman serving life in prison on a 2005 murder conviction ran a $2 million COVID-19 fraud ring in California, federal officials say.

Natalie Le Demola, formerly of Corona, and 12 other people face charges including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Central California reported.

Not all of those accused in the case have been arrested yet, according to the May 17 release.

Continue reading here:

Woman serving life in prison organizes $2 million COVID fraud ring, feds say

Associated Press reporter Lauran Neergaard, Nashville Public Radio reporter Blake Farmer, and McClatchy reporters Don Sweeney, Maddie Capron and Vandana Ravikumar also contributed to this report.