COVID-19: Weekly Update (September 26, 2022)

The World Health Organization (WHO) expressed concern over the limited ability to identify new COVID-19 variants. Moderna is seeking authorization for its Omicron-specific boosters in children.

As of September 21, the 7-day moving average of daily new cases decreased by 10.6% compared with the previous week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition, there is a 9.9% decrease in hospitalizations and a 12.2% decline in deaths compared to the prior 7-day moving average.

Biden: the pandemic is over

President Joe Biden said on CBS's "60 Minutes" interview that the pandemic is over.

"We still have a problem with COVID. We're still doing a lotta work on it. It's -- but the pandemic is over. If you notice, no one's wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it's changing," said Biden, who recovered from COVID-19 in August.

The president's statement was met with criticism, as over 300 people are still dying from COVID-19 daily in the US. The situation, however, had significantly improved since January 2021, the peak of the pandemic, when more than 3,000 died every day.

Concern over new subvariants

Epidemiologist Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said during the World Health Organization's (WHO) briefing that the organization is currently tracking about 200 sub-lineages of the Omicron variant, which now accounts for 99% of COVID-19 cases globally. According to Kerkhove, BA.5 sub-lineages such as BA.2.75, BA.4.6, and BF.7 are on their radar.

"Our ability to track variants and subvariants around the world is diminishing because surveillance is declining. The number of tests is declining. The number of sequences that are being conducted and shared is declining. And that limits our ability to assess the known variants and subvariants, to track and identify new ones," she said.

Moderna's boosters for children

Moderna asked the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorize its updated booster shots for adolescents ages 12 to 17 and kids ages 6 to 11, the company announced on Twitter.

In September, US health authorities issued the emergency use authorization (EUA) for Moderna's boosters in individuals 18 and older. The bivalent vaccine is targeting the original strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The authorization of bivalent booster shots fueled controversy, as it relied on data from a clinical trial with mice. Moreover, some experts cite a lack of data on booster's benefits in younger populations.

Guidelines for healthcare personnel

The CDC updated COVID-19 prevention and control recommendations for healthcare personnel. According to new guidelines, healthcare facilities now can choose not to require all staff to wear well-fitted masks and respirators in counties where community levels are not high. As of September 22, 93% of counties have low or medium community levels.

"Updates were made to reflect the high levels of vaccine-and infection-induced immunity and the availability of effective treatments and prevention tools," the CDC says.

However, wearing mask or respirators are recommended for those who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection, or had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, or if there is an outbreak in the healthcare setting.

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