Health Highlights: March 9, 2021
Airlines Ask White House for Standardized COVID Credentials for Passengers
Uniform guidelines are needed for credentials showing that travelers have been tested and vaccinated for COVID-19, major airline, airline labor unions and business groups say in a letter to the White House.
While a number of countries and groups are trying to develop so-called "vaccine passports," airlines are concerned that having a mix of regional credentials will cause confusion and that none will be widely accepted, the Associated Press reported.
The airline industry believes one set of rules for such documents will help revive travel.
"It is crucial to establish uniform guidance" and "the U.S. must be a leader in this development," more than two dozen groups said in the letter sent Monday to White House coronavirus-response coordinator Jeff Zients, the AP reported.
The groups also said that COVID-19 vaccination shouldn't be required for domestic or international travel, and want the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to take a leading role in developing travel credentials.
There was no immediate comment from the White House.
The type of information to include in such credentials is currently being worked on by the World Health Organization and the United Nations' aviation arm, the AP reported.
Many People With Long-Haul COVID Had No Symptoms When Infected
Nearly one-third of people with long-term coronavirus symptoms say they didn't have any symptoms when first infected, a new study finds.
Researchers analyzed the medical records of 1,407 people in California who tested positive for the coronavirus. More than 60 days after their infection, 27% had post-COVID-19 symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, cough or abdominal pain, The New York Times reported.
Bu nearly a third of the patients with long-term symptoms didn't have any symptoms through the 10 days after they tested positive, according to the study. It was published on the preprint site MedRxiv and has not finished undergoing peer review.
The study is one of the first to focus exclusively on people who weren't hospitalized when infected with the new coronavirus and provides important new information about the lasting health effects of the virus, the Times reported.
A similar pattern is being seen at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, according to David Putrino, the system's director of rehabilitation innovation.
"Many people who had asymptomatic COVID can also go on to develop post-acute COVID syndrome," Putrino, who not involved in the study, told the Times.
"It doesn't always match up with severity of acute symptoms, so you can have no symptoms but still have a very aggressive immune response," said Putrino, who co-authored a previous smaller study on the topic.
Many U.S. Colleges Cancel, Shorten Spring Break
Spring break has been canceled or scaled back by many U.S. colleges in an attempt to reduce partying that could spread COVID-19.
Texas A&M University decided on a three-day weekend instead of an entire week off for students, while the University of Alabama and the University of Wisconsin-Madison nixed spring break but will give students a day off later in the semester, the Associated Press reported.
The University of Mississippi also canceled spring break, but will end the semester a week early.
And while many college students will still travel to sunny party spots or take other trips such as skiing in the mountains, others say they reluctantly decided not to travel this year, the AP reported.
Michigan Tech's weeklong break began Friday, but 21-year-old Justin Martin decided to visit family in Michigan instead of making that epic senior year trip to Florida he once envisioned.
"I don't want to travel all that way, first of all, especially with everything being shut down. It just doesn't seem worth it, especially with COVID too," he told the AP.
"Definitely, no planned trips. Definitely wearing masks this year," said Brady Stone, a 21-year-old journalism major at Texas A&M. "We are kind of hunkering down and staying safe. I think most of us, if we are going anywhere, it is back to their hometowns."
White House Provides $250 Million to Reduce COVID-19 Inequities
The Biden administration will provide $250 million in federal grants to community organizations that encourage underserved and minority populations to get COVID-19 vaccinations and follow safety measures to prevent infection.
The initiative is meant to help local governments boost COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and other pandemic mitigation measures, while teaming with groups that best know how to support their communities, according to a U.S. Health and Human Services Department official, CBS News reported.
The program was announced Monday by Vice President Kamala Harris in remarks to the National League of Cities, which includes thousands of cities, towns and village leaders.
Harris, who has been trying to reduce racial, cultural and socioeconomic disparities in COVID-19 vaccinations, urged league members to embrace the plan, CBS News reported.
The White House and other federal agencies have held listening sessions with various groups with a focus on increasing vaccine confidence and addressing other barriers. When she was still a California senator, Harris introduced the COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act of 2020, CBS News reported.
"Our communities are dying at disproportionately high rates," Harris said in February during a virtual roundtable with participants from local black chambers of commerce from across the country. "We've got to remind people that the vaccines are safe, that they will save lives."
According to the latest data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the vaccination rate among white Americans was over 2.5 times higher than the rate for Hispanic people and nearly twice as high as the rate for Black people.