Every US state has at least one variant coronavirus case; Biden says 100 million vaccine goal ahead of schedule: Live COVID-19 updates

The United States reported a record 949 new variant cases on Thursday night, bringing the country to 5,804 known cases of variants that threaten a declining level of coronavirus cases. With Vermont’s reported cases, every state in America has now discovered variants.

The variants can spread more easily, dodge treatments and immunities, or both. In all, the U.S. has added more than 2,000 variant cases in the last week. Thursday’s report is the first since Tuesday’s.

The biggest changes were in Texas, which added 182 cases to reach 420; Florida added 159 cases to reach 912; Pennsylvania doubled its tally to 138; andIowa went from 25 variant cases Tuesday to 63 Thursday.

Vermont reported its first five cases of B.1.1.7, a variant first seen in the United Kingdom. It is America’s most common variant.

The P.1 variant first seen in Brazil was spotted in several new states, with four cases in Arizona, two in Nebraska and one in Massachusetts. The B.1.351 variant first seen in South Africa was detected in Hawaii, which reported five cases.

Meanwhile, a new analysis says the coronavirus pandemic probably started in China’s Hubei province a month or two before late December, when a cluster of cases tied to a seafood market was first detected.

And Utah is among the latest states to announce an expansion in COVID-19 vaccine eligibility, with residents 16 years and older allowed to get the vaccine starting March 24. Maryland looks to do the same by April 27, while Illinois is aiming for April 12. Nevada is also making its vaccines available to those 16 years and older starting Monday, but only if they have an underlying health condition. 

Also in the news: 

►President Joe Biden said on Twitter that his goal of administering 100 million coronavirus vaccinations will be given Friday, 42 days ahead of his target date. Biden previously set a goal of 100 million shots in 100 days.

►The Orlando Sentinel filed a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Health Thursday for “allegedly violating the state’s public records law by not releasing location information on mutated strains of COVID-19,” even as variants rapidly spread around the state, the paper said.

►AMC Theatres said it will have 98% of its U.S. theaters open by Friday, including more than 40 locations in California. Movie theaters have been among the hardest-hit businesses by the pandemic.

►A fourth lawmaker in the Idaho House of Representatives has tested positive for COVID-19 in less than a week’s time, just as lawmakers are debating a bill that would ban the state’s local governments from mandating masks. 

►More than 60 Iowans have tested positive for a variant of the coronavirus that experts warn spreads more easily and may be deadlier than the version that previously swept through the state, officials announced Wednesday.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 29.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 539,600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 121.7 million cases and 2.68 million deaths. More than 151 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 115.7 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: 

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Low-dose aspirin may help avoid COVID’s worst outcomes

A new study is adding to the growing body of evidence that low-dose aspirin helps lessen the harsher effects of contracting the coronavirus.

The study, conducted by George Washington University researchers and published in the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia, examined the records of 412 patients admitted to U.S. hospitals with COVID-19 from March to July of last year.

Of those, nearly 24% had taken aspirin seven days or less before hospital admission or within 24 hours after admission. More than 40% of those patients had improved results in key areas compared to patients who did not take the cheap, widely available drug.

“Aspirin may have lung-protective effects and reduce the need for mechanical ventilation, ICU admission, and in-hospital mortality in hospitalized COVID-19 patients,” the report concluded.

The researchers warned that a randomized controlled trial would be needed to establish a causal relationship. But a study conducted around the same time last year in Israel also found a link between taking so-called baby aspirin and better COVID-19 outcomes.

Anti-Asian hashtags soared after Trump first tied COVID-19 to China on Twitter, study says

The week after then-President Donald Trump first used the hashtag #chinesevirus on Twitter, the number of people using the hashtag increased more than tenfold, and they were much more likely to include anti-Asian hashtags than those who used #covid19 in their tweets.

Anti-Asian bias and attacks have grown exponentially over the past year in conjunction with anti-Chinese rhetoric. This week’s deadly shooting in Atlanta, in which six of the eight people killed were of Asian descent, has contributed to fears throughout the Asian-American community.

Trump’s use of the phrase in speeches and on Twitter, which critics called racist, preceded a cascade of its use by others online. The mean number of daily users in the #covid19 group rose by 379% after Trump’s tweet, compared with an increase of #chinesevirus by 8,351%.

“There were a lot of arguments that ‘Chinese virus’ was a scientific term and was no different than COVID-19. But in fact, you see a large difference,” said Yulin Hswen, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.

She was one of a group of researchers who tracked the number of anti-Asian hashtags that were used together with the neutral hashtag #covid19 compared with #chinesevirus. They found evidence of an association between the latter phrase and anti-Asian language. Read the full story.

– Elizabeth Weise

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