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COVID-19

SARS-CoV-2 Update

It’s time for our next 14-day moving average determinations for SARS-CoV-2 for the United States and my thoughts on vaccines, SARS-CoV-2 therapeutic agents and mutant viruses. We use the WORLDOMETERS aggregators data set to make any projections since it includes data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Military, federal prisons and the Navajo Nation.

SARS-CoV-2 infections per day have been increasing in the United States for 16 consecutive weeks despite underreporting by states and the failure to capture positive home tests and a decreased screening program in most states. Deaths per day had been decelerating at a rapid rate in the United States but are now increased by 65 more deaths per day. The number of infections have increased as the Omicron BA.2.12.1, BA.2, BA.4, and BA.5 variants of SARS CoV-2 have spread across the nation. The CDC estimates that BA.2.12.1 accounted for 5.0% of isolates, BA.2 accounted for 0.3%, BA.5 accounted for 89.1%, BA.4 accounted for 12.9%, and B.1.1.529 accounted for 0% in the week ending July 23.

CDC

We frequently hear messaging from health officials and politicians that Omicron is “mild,” especially compared to the Delta variant, and as a result, many of our patients believe that they no longer need to wear their masks. This is a dangerous misconception. SARS-CoV-2 still remains a highly transmissible, airborne virus. The following graph, based on CDC data from April 2, 2022, shows that Omicron deaths in people over 65 are much higher than Delta deaths in the same age group. In fact, the peak of Omicron deaths in people over 65 years of age is 163% higher than the Delta peak. The death rate from Omicron is only lower than Delta in the populations between 12 and 64 years of age. Until we have more data on these newer mutants of SARS-CoV-2, we will not know the lethality of each variant. It may take months to measure objective differences in the death rates of new circulating variants. We recommend that all of our patients and family members continue to wear N95 masks in all enclosed spaces.

In patients treated with Paxlovid for five days who have persistent symptoms and continued positivity, we feel that clinicians should consider giving a second course of Paxlovid for five days. Boucau et al have demonstrated that in a study of seven patients with recurrent symptoms, “High viral loads (median 6.1 log10 copies/mL) were detected after rebound for a median of 17 days after initial diagnosis. Three had culturable virus for up to 16 days after initial diagnosis.” This was not due to resistance-associated mutations of the virus, suggesting that the course of therapy may be inadequate in this group of persistently infected patients. 

NY Times

The Omicron variant has continued to mutate just like Delta. There are now 239 Omicron sub-variants (an increase of 28 in the last two weeks) that have been assigned Pango lineages, including 116 sub-lineages of BA.2 (an increase of 4 in two weeks), one sub-lineage of BA.3, 14 sub-lineages of BA.4 (an increase of 3 in two weeks), and 24 sub-lineages of BA.5 (an increase of 7 in two weeks). The BF lineage (new six weeks ago) now has 11 sublineages, an increase of 5 in two weeks. The BE lineage (also new six weeks ago), with BE.1 first detected in South Africa, Austria and England, still has 4 sublineages. There are also new lineages from six weeks ago: BC.1 (Japan), BC.2 (Peru), BD.1 (UK), BG.1 (Peru), BG.2 (US, Denmark, Canada), BG.3 (Peru), BG.4 (Israel).

Unless people continue to wear masks and get vaccinated, including their third dose of the vaccine, we will see further spread of the Omicron variants and increase in deaths in people who are not vaccinated, those who have waning immunity, the immunocompromised population, and others with risk factors, particularly those older over the age of 64. SARS-CoV-2 is now in the top ten most common causes of death for children. Anyone over the age of 5 years can now get vaccinated in the United States at no cost. This should get done immediately. 

In Monterey County, as of 7/31/22, 0.1% of 0-4 year-olds and 38.6% of 5-11 year-olds have received the first two doses of vaccine, while 72.6% of 12-17 year-olds have received two doses. Only 53.2% of Monterey County residents have received a third dose of the vaccine. On June 17, The FDA authorized both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for use in children ages 6 months to four years. We believe children under 5 should be vaccinated as soon as possible. We would anticipate, with the start of school on August 5 and the low vaccination rates in our county, that we’ll have a marked increase in the number of infected patients. All Monterey County residents should get up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as possible. 

Monterey County Health Department
Monterey County Health Department

On 7/29/22, the United States had 99,061 documented new infections. There were also 286 deaths. Twenty-two states did not report their infections, and 28 states didn’t report their deaths. In the United States the number of hospitalized patients has been increasing in many areas and was 44,207 on July 29, an increase of 9% compared to the previous 14 days. Now there are 4,723 patients who are seriously or critically ill; that number was 4,180 two weeks ago. The number of critically ill patients has increased by 543 in the last 14 days, while at least 6,327 new deaths occurred (an increase of 65 deaths per day from the previous 14 days). The number of critically ill patients has increased for the seventh time in twenty-four 14-day periods. Patients are still dying each day (average 387/day). Omicron BA.2, BA.2.12.1, BA.4, and BA.5 variants causing infections should continue to increase and critically ill patients may continue to increase. Deaths, which usually lag two to four weeks behind exponential increase in infections, are increasing now. Past infections with a BA.1 or BA.2 variant will not prevent infections with BA.2.12.1, BA.4, or BA.5. 

As of 7/29/22, we have had 1,055,020 deaths and 93,054,184 SARS-CoV-2 infections in the United States. We have had 1,883,613 new infections in the last 14 days. We are adding an average of 941,807 infections every seven days. For the pandemic in the United States we are averaging one death for every 88.20 infections or over 11,338 deaths for each one million infections. As of 7/29/22, thirty-eight states have had greater than 500,000 total infections, and 37 states have had greater than 5,000 total deaths. Seventeen states (Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, New York, Arizona and California) have had greater than 20,000 deaths. Four states (Florida, Texas, New York, and California) have had greater than 70,000 deaths. California and Texas have each had greater than 89,000 deaths with California having 93,704 deaths (20th most deaths in the world). 

As of 7/1/22, in the United States, 26.72% of the population has had a documented SARS-CoV-2 infection. In the 18 months preceding 7/1/22, 23.97% of our country became infected with SARS-CoV-2. On 11/20/20, there were 260,331 (cumulative) deaths in the US from SARS-CoV-2. 

In the last 18 months, there were 794,889 new deaths from SARS-CoV-2. For fifteen of those months, vaccines have been available to all adults. During these fifteen months, 483,923 people have died of SARS-CoV-2 infections. Most of the hospitalizations and deaths could have been prevented by vaccination, proper masking, and social distancing. 

As of 7/29/22, California was ranked 32th in the USA in infection percentage at 27.07%. In California, 23.1% of people were infected in the last 18 months. As of 7/29/22, 38 states have had greater than 25% of their population infected. 

Worldwide, average deaths per day are 2,263 for the last 14 days, which is a 417 deaths-per-day increase over the previous 14 days. The United States accounts for 19.97% (452 per day) of all deaths per day in the world over the last two weeks. Worldwide infections per day were 1,030,492. The United States accounts for 13.06% of those infections (or 134,544 infections per day). 

FDA-Approved Oral Drug Treatments for SARS-CoV-2

Pfizer has developed PAXLOVID™, an oral reversible inhibitor of C3-like protease of SARS-CoV-2. The drug inhibits this key enzyme that is crucial for virus production. The compound, also called Compound 6 (PF-07321332), is part of the drug combination PAXLOVID™ (PF-07321332; ritonavir), which just successfully completed a Phase 2-3 trial in humans in multiple countries. The preliminary results were announced on 11/5/21 by Pfizer. The results show that 89% of the hospitalizations and deaths were prevented in the drug treatment arm. The drug was administered twice a day for five days. No deaths occurred in the treatment group, and ten deaths occurred in the placebo group. The study was stopped by an independent data safety monitoring board, and the FDA concurred with this decision. Pfizer applied for an Emergency Use Authorization for this drug on 11/15/21. This drug was approved on 12/23/21. We have only been able to obtain PAXLOVID™ for two patients who we successfully treated with this drug obtained from CVS in Salinas (East Alisal Street; phone number 831-424-0026). They were expecting another shipment on 1/28/22. In my opinion, this agent, if more widely available, could markedly alter the course of every coronavirus infection throughout the world. 

Merck has developed the oral drug Molnupiravir, which induces RNA mutagenesis by viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses. According to Kabinger et al, “Viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase uses the active form of Molnupiravir, β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine triphosphate, as a substrate instead of cytidine triphosphate or uridine triphosphate. When the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase uses the resulting RNA as a template, β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine triphosphate directs incorporation of either guanine or adenine, leading to mutated (viral) RNA products. Analysis of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase–RNA complexes that contain mutagenesis products has demonstrated that β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine (the active form of Molnupiravir) can form stable base pairs with either guanine or adenine in RNA-dependent RNA polymerase explaining how the polymerase escapes proofreading and synthesizes mutated RNA” (quotation modified for clarity). The results of the phase 3 trial of Molnupiravir were published in the NEJM article “Molnupiravir for Oral Treatment of Covid-19 in Nonhospitalized Patients” by Angélica Jayk Bernal, M.D. et al. (December 16, 2021 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2116044). In this phase 3 study in the Molnupiravir group, 28 patients were hospitalized and one death occurred. In the placebo group, 53 patients were hospitalized and 9 died. Overall, 47% of hospitalizations and deaths were prevented by Molnupiravir. If you do a post hoc analysis and just look at deaths, Molnupiravir would prevent 89% of deaths. An Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA for Molnupiravir was approved on 12/24/21.The dose of Molnupiravir approved is four 200 mg capsules orally twice a day for five days. Diarrhea is reportedly a side effect in two percent of patients. I treated my first patient with Molnupiravir on 1/28/22. Currently more Molnupiravir is available weekly in the United States than PAXLOVID™ (see chart below; data from PHE.gov). Locally Molnupiravir is still available at CVS in Monterey (Fremont Blvd.; phone number: 831-375-5135) and CVS in Salinas (East Alisal Street; phone number 831-424-0026). 

FDA Approved Intramuscular Prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2 Immunocompromised Patients

Evusheld (from AstraZeneca) contains two human monoclonal antibodies, Tixagevimab (150 mg in 1.5 mL) and Cilgavimab (150 mg in 1.5 mL), in separate vials. According to the manufacturer, “Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab are two recombinant human IgG1κ monoclonal antibodies with amino acid substitutions to extend antibody half-life (YTE), reduce antibody effector function, and minimize the potential risk of antibody-dependent enhancement of disease (TM). Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab can simultaneously bind to non-overlapping regions of the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Tixagevimab, Cilgavimab, and their combination bind to spike protein with equilibrium dissociation constants of KD = 2.76 pM, 13.0 pM and 13.7 pM, respectively, blocking its interaction with human ACE2, the SARS-CoV-2 receptor, which is required for virus attachment. Tixagevimab, Cilgavimab, and their combination blocked RBD binding to human ACE2 with IC50 values of 0.32 nM (48 ng/mL), 0.53 nM (80 ng/mL), and 0.43 nM (65 ng/mL), respectively.” Each monoclonal antibody is administered intramuscularly to immunocompromised patients in two separate injections every six months. Evusheld availability in California is limited and has been rationed/distributed by our local Public Health Department only to hospitals. Physicians in Monterey County who want to receive a distribution (or redistribution) of Evusheld need to be added to the list of eligible facilities by the State Therapeutics group. The first step is for the Monterey County EMS Agency (phone: 831-755-5713) to make a request to the State Therapeutics group to have the facility added to the system for further verification.  Due to extremely limited availability, evidently the State Therapeutics group is currently only considering additions on a case by case basis.  Physicians who wish to submit their facility for consideration will need to provide the following information to the Monterey County EMS Agency:

  1. Facility/Provider Name for Registration
  2. Provider Type (Hospital, Pharmacy, Etc)
  3. Shipping Address
  4. Contact Name(s)
  5. Contact Email(s)
  6. Contact Phone Number(s)

As for my immunocompromised patients: We provided this information by email to the Monterey County EMS Agency on 1/26/22 and will update you when or if we become an eligible provider and receive our first doses of Evusheld. 

On 2/24/22, the FDA revised its dosing guidance for Evusheld, doubling the dosage of its two components, Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab, from 150 mg each to 300 mg each. They explain, “Based on the most recent information and data available, Evusheld may be less active against certain Omicron subvariants. The dosing regimen was revised because available data indicate that a higher dose of Evusheld may be more likely to prevent infection by the COVID-19 Omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.1.1 than the originally authorized Evusheld dose.” Patients who have already received their first administration of Evusheld intramuscularly will need to contact their healthcare provider to get a second 150 mg injection of Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab. If you have not received Evusheld yet, the correct dose is 3 mL/300 mg of each monoclonal antibody injected intramuscularly. This large volume necessitates administration of the antibodies in the gluteus, with two separate injections. 

Watching World Data

Over the next few months, we’ll be paying close attention to correlations between the SARS-CoV-2 data, the number of isolates identified in various countries and states, and the non-pharmaceutical interventions (like mask mandates and lockdowns) put in place by state and national governments. Data on infections, deaths, and percent of population infected was compiled from Worldometers. Data for this table for SARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in Location was compiled from GISAID and the CDC. It’s worth noting that GISAID provided more data than the CDC.

LocationTotal Infections as of 7/29/22New Infections on 7/29/22Total DeathsNew Deaths on 7/29/22% of Pop.InfectedSARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in LocationNational/ State Mask MandateCurrently in Lockdown
World580,770,176(14,426,888 new infections in 14 days).905,4056,417,498(31,678 new deaths in last 14 days)2,8087.45%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)A lineage isolateV01.V2 (Tanzania)APTK India VOC 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa 2% of isolates in July 2021)R1 (Japan)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 + BA.3 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)Four new recombinants 12/31 to 3/22)BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
USA93,054,184(ranked #1) 1,883,613 new infections in the last 14 days.
99,081(ranked #4)
22 states failed to report infections.
1,055,020(ranked #1) 6,327 new deaths in the last 14 days. 28628 states failed to report deaths.26.72%*
*Not updated for four weeks by Worldometers
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)R1(Japan)         Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Recombinant Delta AY.119.2- Omicron BA.1.1 (Tennessee, USA 12/31/21)\BA.2BA.2.12.1 (United States)BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)BA.2.75 (India)NoNo
Brazil33,795,192(ranked #3) 545,075 new infections in the last 14 days. 42,816 (ranked #8)678,375(ranked #2; 3,230 new deaths in 14 days)22815.66%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
India 44,000,138(ranked #2); 270,067 new infections in 2 weeks.20,408
526,312(ranked #3)543.12%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)APTK India VOI 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)BA.2.75 (India)NoNo
United Kingdom*
*No reported data for 7/29/22
23,304,479(ranked #6) 229,119 new infections in 2 weeks.183,953 (ranked #7) 
2,373 new deaths in 2 weeks
33.95%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)XD (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantXF (Delta/BA.1) recombinantXE (BA.1/BA.2) recombinantBA.2BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)BA.2.75 (India)NoNo
California, USA10,698,178(ranked #14 in the world;  317,309 new infections in the last 14 days).18,71593,704 (ranked #20 in world)
687 new deaths in the last 14 days
5127.07%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)BA.2BA.2.12.1 (United States)BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
Mexico6,711,847(ranked #18) 337,971 new infections in 14 days).24,893(ranked #9)327,525(ranked #5)1135.09%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
South Africa4,004,555(ranked #33; 4,704 new infections in 14 days).354101,982 (ranked #18)56.58%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)       C.1.2 (South Africa, July 2021)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)BA.2BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
Canada4,012,359(ranked #32) 4,896 new infections in 14 days).43,583(ranked #24)10.44% .B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Poland6,065,332 (ranked #21; 35,385 new infections in 14 days). 3,391116,556 (ranked #15)916.06%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + (South Africa November 2021),Omicron/B.1.1.529 +BA.3 NoNo
Russia18,576,973(ranked #9), 96,039 new infections in 14 days).11,422382,352(ranked #4 in world)3912.71%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)R1 (Japan) B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Peru3,895,486(ranked #37, 181,125 new infections in 14 days). 6,467214,195(ranked #6)4111.48%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Iran7,376,794(ranked 17th; 106,771 new infections in last 14 days)7,849141,891(ranked #12)548.55%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)


NoNo
Spain13,226,579(ranked 11th;   136,103 new infections in 14 days).7,783(ranked #18)110,719 (ranked #16)10928.26%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
France33,786,766 (ranked #4; 967,865 new infections in the last 14 days).45,515 (ranked #6)151,983 (ranked #10)
1,407 new deaths in 14 days
8951.52%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Germany30,853,312(ranked #5; 1,170,323 new infections in 14 days.).66,003 (ranked #4)143,972 (ranked #11)
1,437 new deaths in 14 days
11736.58%
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
South Korea19,620,517 (ranked #9 940,375 new infections in 14 days).85,275(ranked #3)24,999 (ranked #38) 3538.20%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Vietnam10,776,484 (ranked #13; 17,339 new infections in 14 days).1,80343,093 (ranked #25)110.86%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Netherlands8,331,315 (ranked #18; 57,081 new infections in 14 days).3,23822,492 (ranked #41)448.40%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Denmark3,059,984 (ranked #39) 20,125 new infections in 14 days1,0376,639 (ranked #81)1152.44%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo




Taiwan4,545,636(ranked #29)
330,436 new infections in 14 days
23,289 (ranked #10)8,833 (ranked #69)
916 new deaths in 14 days
5719.01%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Japan12,118,112(ranked #12)
2,117,392 new infections in the last 14 days
230,055(ranked #1)32,286(ranked #30)1169.64%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo

What Our Team Is Reading This Week

COVID-19

SARS-CoV-2 Update

It’s time for our next 14-day moving average determinations for SARS-CoV-2 for the United States and my thoughts on vaccines, SARS-CoV-2 therapeutic agents and mutant viruses. We use the WORLDOMETERS aggregators data set to make any projections since it includes data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Military, federal prisons and the Navajo Nation.

SARS-CoV-2 infections per day have been increasing in the United States for 14 consecutive weeks despite underreporting by states and the failure to capture positive home tests and a decreased screening program in most states. Deaths per day had been decelerating at a rapid rate in the United States but are now increased by 29 more deaths per day. The number of infections have increased as the Omicron BA.2.12.1, BA.2, BA.4, and BA.5 variants of SARS CoV-2 have spread across the nation. The CDC estimates that BA.2.12.1 accounted for 17.3% of isolates, BA.2 accounted for 1.4%, BA.5 accounted for 65.0%, BA.4 accounted for 16.3%, and B.1.1.529 accounted for 0% in the week ending June 25.

CDC

We frequently hear messaging from health officials and politicians that Omicron is “mild,” especially compared to the Delta variant, and as a result, many of our patients believe that they no longer need to wear their masks. This is a dangerous misconception. SARS-CoV-2 still remains a highly transmissible, airborne virus. The following graph, based on CDC data from April 2, 2022, shows that Omicron deaths in people over 65 are much higher than Delta deaths in the same age group. In fact, the peak of Omicron deaths in people over 65 years of age is 163% higher than the Delta peak. The death rate from Omicron is only lower than Delta in the populations between 12 and 64 years of age. Until we have more data on these newer mutants of SARS-CoV-2, we will not know the lethality of each variant. It may take months to measure objective differences in the death rates of new circulating variants. We recommend that all of our patients and family members continue to wear N95 masks in all enclosed spaces.

NY Times

In patients treated with Paxlovid for five days who have persistent symptoms and continued positivity, we feel that clinicians should consider giving a second course of Paxlovid for five days. Boucau et al have demonstrated that in a study of seven patients with recurrent symptoms, “High viral loads (median 6.1 log10 copies/mL) were detected after rebound for a median of 17 days after initial diagnosis. Three had culturable virus for up to 16 days after initial diagnosis.” This was not due to resistance-associated mutations of the virus, suggesting that the course of therapy may be inadequate in this group of persistently infected patients. 

The Omicron variant has continued to mutate just like Delta. There are now 211 Omicron sub-variants (an increase of 12 in the last two weeks) that have been assigned Pango lineages, including 112 sub-lineages of BA.2 (an increase of 8 in two weeks), one sub-lineage of BA.3, 11 sub-lineages of BA.4 (an increase of 2 in two weeks), and 17 sub-lineages of BA.5 (an increase of 2 in two weeks). The BF lineage (new four weeks ago), with BF.1 first detected in England, Denmark, Spain and Scotland still has 6 sublineages. The BE lineage (also new four weeks ago), with BE.1 first detected in South Africa, Austria and England, now has 4 sublineages (one new in the past two weeks). There are also new lineages from four weeks ago: BC.1 (Japan), BC.2 (Peru),BD.1 (UK), BG.1 (Peru), BG.2 (US, Denmark, Canada), BG.3 (Peru), BG.4 (Israel). 

Unless people continue to wear masks and get vaccinated, including their third dose of the vaccine, we will see further spread of the Omicron variants and increase in deaths in people who are not vaccinated, those who have waning immunity, the immunocompromised population, and others with risk factors, particularly those older over the age of 64. SARS-CoV-2 is now in the top ten most common causes of death for children. Anyone over the age of 5 years can now get vaccinated in the United States at no cost. This should get done immediately.

In Monterey County, as of 7/17/22, 0.0% of 0-4 year-olds and 38.3% of 5-11 year-olds have received the first two doses of vaccine, while 72.4% of 12-17 year-olds have received two doses. Only 53% of Monterey County residents have received a third dose of the vaccine. On June 17, The FDA authorized both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for use in children ages 6 months to four years. We believe children under 5 should be vaccinated as soon as possible. We would anticipate, with the start of school on August 5 and the low vaccination rates in our county, that we’ll have a marked increase in the number of infected patients. All Monterey County residents should get up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as possible. 

Monterey County Health Department
Monterey County Health Department

On 7/15/22, the United States had 94,037 documented new infections. There were also 207 deaths. Twenty-one states did not report their infections, and 28 states didn’t report their deaths. In the United States the number of hospitalized patients has been increasing in many areas and was 40,650 on July 15, an increase of 20% compared to the previous 14 days. Now there are 4,180 patients who are seriously or critically ill; that number was 3,400 two weeks ago. The number of critically ill patients has increased by 780 in the last 14 days, while at least 5,412 new deaths occurred (an increase of 29 deaths per day from the previous 14 days). The number of critically ill patients has increased for the sixth time in twenty-three 14-day periods. Patients are still dying each day (average 387/day). Omicron BA.2, BA.2.12.1, BA.4, and BA.5 variants causing infections should continue to increase and critically ill patients may continue to increase. Deaths, which usually lag two to four weeks behind exponential increase in infections, are increasing now. Past infections with a BA.1 or BA.2 variant will not prevent infections with BA.2.12.1, BA.4, or BA.5. 

As of 7/15/22, we have had 1,048,693 deaths and 91,170,571 SARS-CoV-2 infections in the United States. We have had 1,663,488 new infections in the last 14 days. We are adding an average of 831,744 infections every seven days. For the pandemic in the United States we are averaging one death for every 86.94 infections or over 11,503 deaths for each one million infections. As of 7/15/22, thirty-eight states have had greater than 500,000 total infections, and 37 states have had greater than 5,000 total deaths. Seventeen states (Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, New York, Arizona and California) have had greater than 20,000 deaths. Four states (Florida, Texas, New York, and California) have had greater than 70,000 deaths. California and Texas have each had greater than 89,000 deaths with California having 93,017 deaths (20th most deaths in the world). 

As of 7/1/22, in the United States, 26.72% of the population has had a documented SARS-CoV-2 infection. In the last 18 months, 23.97% of our country became infected with SARS-CoV-2. On 11/20/20, there were 260,331 (cumulative) deaths in the US from SARS-CoV-2. In the last 18 months, there were 788,562 new deaths from SARS-CoV-2. For fifteen of those months, vaccines have been available to all adults. During these fifteen months, 477,596 people have died of SARS-CoV-2 infections. Most of the hospitalizations and deaths could have been prevented by vaccination, proper masking, and social distancing. 

As of 7/15/22, California was ranked 32th in the USA in infection percentage at 26.27%. In California, 22.3% of people were infected in the last 18 months. As of 7/15/22, 38 states have had greater than 25% of their population infected. 

Worldwide, average deaths per day are 1,846 for the last 14 days. The United States has 20.96% (387 per day) of all deaths per day in the world over the last two weeks. Worldwide infections per day were 910,374. The United States accounts for 13.05% of those infections (or 118,821 infections per day). 

Watching World Data

Over the next few months, we’ll be paying close attention to correlations between the SARS-CoV-2 data, the number of isolates identified in various countries and states, and the non-pharmaceutical interventions (like mask mandates and lockdowns) put in place by state and national governments. Data on infections, deaths, and percent of population infected was compiled from Worldometers. Data for this table for SARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in Location was compiled from GISAID and the CDC. It’s worth noting that GISAID provided more data than the CDC.

LocationTotal Infections as of 7/15/22New Infections on 7/15/22Total DeathsNew Deaths on 7/15/22% of Pop.InfectedSARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in LocationNational/ State Mask MandateCurrently in Lockdown
World566,343,288(12,745,232 new infections in 14 days).903,2726,385,820(25,848 new deaths in last 14 days)1,7377.26%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)A lineage isolateV01.V2 (Tanzania)APTK India VOC 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa 2% of isolates in July 2021)R1 (Japan)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 + BA.3 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)Four new recombinants 12/31 to 3/22)BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
USA91,170,571(ranked #1) 1,663,488 new infections in the last 14 days.
94,037(ranked #4)
21 states failed to report infections.
1,048,693(ranked #1) 5,412 new deaths in the last 14 days. 207
27 states failed to report deaths.
26.72%*
*Not updated
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)R1(Japan)         Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Recombinant Delta AY.119.2- Omicron BA.1.1 (Tennessee, USA 12/31/21)\BA.2BA.2.12.1 (United States)BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)BA.2.75 (India)NoNo
Brazil33,250,117(ranked #3) 816,054 new infections in the last 14 days. 107,959 (ranked #4)675,145(ranked #2; 3,145 new deaths in 14 days)29915.42%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
India 43,730,071(ranked #2); 241,552 new infections in 2 weeks.20,044
525,660(ranked #3)563.10%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)APTK India VOI 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)BA.2.75 (India)NoNo
United Kingdom*
*No reported data for 7/14/22- 7/16/22
23,075,360(ranked #6) 334,295 new infections in 2 weeks.181,580 (ranked #7) 33.63%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)XD (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantXF (Delta/BA.1) recombinantXE (BA.1/BA.2) recombinantBA.2BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)BA.2.75 (India)NoNo
California, USA10,380,889(ranked #12 in the world;  226,544 new infections in the last 14 days).8,69493,017 (ranked #20 in world)
397 new deaths in the last 14 days
1626.27%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)BA.2BA.2.12.1 (United States)BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
Mexico6,373,876(ranked #18) 339,174 new infections in 14 days).34,885(ranked #9)326,335(ranked #5)744.84%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
South Africa3,999,751(ranked #33; 5,528 new infections in 14 days).406101,918 (ranked #18)36.57%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)       C.1.2 (South Africa, July 2021)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)BA.2BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
Canada4,007,463(ranked #32) 61,376 new infections in 14 days).1,88143,555(ranked #24)5110.43% .B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Poland6,029,947 (ranked #21; 14,313 new infections in 14 days). 1,974116,470 (ranked #15)215.96%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + (South Africa November 2021),Omicron/B.1.1.529 +BA.3 NoNo
Russia18,480,934(ranked #9), 47,540 new infections in 14 days).4,457381,794(ranked #4 in world)4012.65%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)R1 (Japan) B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Argentina9,426,171(ranked #14; 58,999 new infections in 14 days).———–140,365 (ranked #14)——–20.47%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gama/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Colombia6,223,497(ranked #19, 48,316 new infections in 14 days).3,523140,365 (ranked #13)2611.97%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Peru3,714,361(ranked #38, 84,565 new infections in 14 days). 10,610235,526(ranked #6)1510.95%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Iran7,270,023(ranked 17th; 31,434 new infections in last 14 days)4,772141,477(ranked #11)138.43%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)


NoNo
Spain13,090,476(ranked 11th;   272,292 new infections in 14 days).19,211(ranked #12)109,348 (ranked #17)13427.97%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
France32,818,901 (ranked #4; 1,609,976 new infections in the last 14 days).119,684 (ranked #1)150,576 (ranked #10)10850.05%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Germany29,692,989(ranked #5; 1,300,360 new infections in 14 days.).123,046 (ranked #2)142,535 (ranked #11)13435.21%
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
South Korea18,680,142 (ranked #9 310,285 new infections in 14 days).38,864(ranked #8)24,712 (ranked #38) 1636.37%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Vietnam10,759,145 (ranked #12; 11,748 new infections in 14 days).95643,090 (ranked #26)10.85%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Netherlands8,274,234 (ranked #16; 83,979 new infections in 14 days).6,52722,422 (ranked #41)548.07%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Denmark3,039,859 (ranked #39) 23,810  new infections in 14 days1,5676,551 (ranked #81)852.10%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo




North Korea (DPRK)4,770,400 (ranked #24; 25,670 new infections in 14 days)5007418.34%Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Taiwan4,215,200(ranked #30)
412,171 new infections in 14 days
25,310 (ranked #10)7,917 (ranked #73)11417.63%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Japan10,000,720(ranked #13)
671,200 new infections in the last 14 days
97,339(ranked #5)31,528(ranked #34)347.95%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo

What Our Team Is Reading This Week

COVID-19

SARS-CoV-2 Update

It’s time for our next 14-day moving average determinations for SARS-CoV-2 for the United States and my thoughts on vaccines, SARS-CoV-2 therapeutic agents and mutant viruses. We use the WORLDOMETERS aggregators data set to make any projections since it includes data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Military, federal prisons and the Navajo Nation.

SARS-CoV-2 infections per day have been increasing in the United States for 14 consecutive weeks despite underreporting by states and the failure to capture positive home tests and a decreased screening program in most states. Deaths per day had been decelerating at a rapid rate in the United States but are now increased by 8 more deaths per day. The number of infections have increased as the Omicron BA.2.12.1, BA.2, BA.4, and BA.5 variants of SARS CoV-2 have spread across the nation. The CDC estimates that BA.2.12.1 accounted for 42% of isolates, BA.2 accounted for 5.7%, BA.5 accounted for 36.6%, BA.4 accounted for 15.7%, and B.1.1.529 accounted for 0% in the week ending June 25.

CDC

We frequently hear messaging from health officials and politicians that Omicron is “mild,” especially compared to the Delta variant, and as a result, many of our patients believe that they no longer need to wear their masks. This is a dangerous misconception. SARS-CoV-2 still remains a highly transmissible, airborne virus. The following graph, based on CDC data from April 2, 2022, shows that Omicron deaths in people over 65 are much higher than Delta deaths in the same age group. In fact, the peak of Omicron deaths in people over 65 years of age is 163% higher than the Delta peak. The death rate from Omicron is only lower than Delta in the populations between 12 and 64 years of age. Until we have more data on these newer mutants of SARS-CoV-2, we will not know the lethality of each variant. It may take months to measure objective differences in the death rates of new circulating variants. We recommend that all of our patients and family members continue to wear N95 masks in all enclosed spaces.

In patients treated with Paxlovid for five days who have persistent symptoms and continued positivity, we feel that clinicians should consider giving a second course of Paxlovid for five days. Boucau et al have demonstrated that in a study of seven patients with recurrent symptoms, “High viral loads (median 6.1 log10 copies/mL) were detected after rebound for a median of 17 days after initial diagnosis. Three had culturable virus for up to 16 days after initial diagnosis.” This was not due to resistance-associated mutations of the virus, suggesting that the course of therapy may be inadequate in this group of persistently infected patients. 

NY Times

According to the UK Health Security Agency, “BA.4 shares all mutations/deletions with the BA.2 lineage except the following: S: 69/70 deletion, R408 (WT, wild type)*, L452R, F486V, Q493 (WT); ORF 7b: L11F; N: P151S; synonymous SNP G12160A” and “BA.5 shares all mutations/deletions with the BA.2 lineage except the following: S: 69/70 deletion, R408 (WT), L452R, F486V, Q493 (WT); ORF6: D61 (WT); M: D3N; synonymous SNPs: G12160A, A27038G, and C27889T.” On May 12, the European CDC designated both BA.4 and BA.5 as variants of concern. 

The Omicron variant has continued to mutate just like Delta. There are now 199 Omicron sub-variants (an increase of 42 in the last two weeks) that have been assigned Pango lineages, including 104 sub-lineages of BA.2 (an increase of 12 in two weeks), one sub-lineage of BA.3, nine sub-lineages of BA.4 (an increase of 6 in two weeks), and 15 sub-lineages of BA.5 (an increase of 10 in two weeks). The BF lineage (new two weeks ago), with BF.1 first detected in England, Denmark, Spain and Scotland now has 6 sublineages. The BE lineage (also new two weeks ago), with BE.1 first detected in South Africa, Austria and England, now has 3 new sublineages. There are also new lineages: BC.1 (Japan), BC.2 (Peru),BD.1 (UK), BG.1 (Peru), BG.2 (US, Denmark, Canada), BG.3 (Peru), BG.4 (Israel). 

An additional problem may be the development of recombinant SARS-CoV-2 isolates. A recombinant isolate occurs when two isolates infect the same cell and, in the process of viral reproduction, exchange nucleic acids, creating a new isolate that is a recombination of parts from the genomes of both isolates. A recombinant isolate of Delta AY.4.2.2 and Omicron BA.1.1 was recently reported in the UK. As of 3/25/22 four different recombinant variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been reported by the UK Health Security Agency. 

According to the UK Health Security Agency’s Technical Briefing from 3/25/22: “There are currently 3 recombinant lineages being monitored as part of horizon scanning: XD, XE, and XF (Figure 6). XD and XF are Delta and BA.1 recombinants. XE is a BA.1 and BA.2 recombinant and has 3 mutations that are not present in all BA.1 or BA.2 sequences: NSP3 C3241T and V1069I, and NSP12 C14599T. XF and XE are associated with UK sequenced samples. XD is predominantly associated with France. XD contains the unique mutation NSP2:E172D.” As of 5/17/22 the UK Health Security Agency reports 2,049 sequences of the XE recombinant in the UK data. 

Unless people continue to wear masks and get vaccinated, including their third dose of the vaccine, we will see further spread of the Omicron variants and increase in deaths in people who are not vaccinated, have waning immunity, the immunocompromised population and others with risk factors particularly those older over the age of 64. SARS-CoV-2 is now in the top ten most common causes of death for children. Anyone over the age of 5 years can now get vaccinated in the United States at no cost. This should get done immediately.In Monterey County, as of 7/3/22, only 0.6% of 0-4 year-olds and 43.2% of 5-11 year-olds have received the first two doses of vaccine, while 78.7% of 12-17 year-olds have received two doses. On June 17, The FDA authorized both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for use in children ages 6 months to four years. We believe children under 5 should be vaccinated as soon as possible. 

Monterey County Health Department

On 7/1/22, the United States had 102,788 documented new infections. There were also 283 deaths. Twenty-one states did not report their infections, and 27 states didn’t report their deaths. In the United States the number of hospitalized patients had been increasing in many areas. Now there are 3,400 patients who are seriously or critically ill; that number was 3,006 two weeks ago. The number of critically ill patients has increased by 394 in the last 14 days, while at least 5,106 new deaths occurred (an increase of 8 deaths per day from the previous 14 days). The number of critically ill patients has increased for the fifth time in twenty-two 14-day periods. Patients are still dying each day (average 358/day). Omicron BA.2, BA.2.12.1, BA.4, and BA.5 variants causing infections should continue to increase and critically ill patients may continue to increase. Deaths, which usually lag two to four weeks behind exponential increase in infections, are increasing now. Past infections with a BA.1 or BA.2 variant will not prevent infections with BA.2.12.1, BA.4, or BA.5. 

As of 7/1/22, we have had 1,043,281 deaths and 89,507,083 SARS-CoV-2 infections in the United States. We have had 1,538,264 new infections in the last 14 days. We are adding an average of 769,312 infections every seven days. For the pandemic in the United States we are averaging one death for every 86.2 infections or over 11,656 deaths for each one million infections. As of 7/1/22, thirty-eight states have had greater than 500,000 total infections, and 36 states have had greater than 5,000 total deaths. Seventeen states (Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, New York, Arizona and California) have had greater than 20,000 deaths. Four states (Florida, Texas, New York, and California) have had greater than 70,000 deaths. California and Texas have each had greater than 89,000 deaths with California having 92,621 deaths (20th most deaths in the world). 

As of 7/1/22, in the United States, 26.72% of the population has had a documented SARS-CoV-2 infection. In the last 18 months, 23.97% of our country became infected with SARS-CoV-2. On 11/20/20, there were 260,331 (cumulative) deaths in the US from SARS-CoV-2. In the last 18 months, there were 783,150 new deaths from SARS-CoV-2. For fifteen of those months, vaccines have been available to all adults. During these fifteen months, 472,184 people have died of SARS-CoV-2 infections. Most of the hospitalizations and deaths could have been prevented by vaccination, proper masking, and social distancing. 

As of 7/1/22, California was ranked 35th in the USA in infection percentage at 25.69%. In California, 21.72% of people were infected in the last 18 months. As of 7/1/22, 36 states have had greater than 25% of their population infected. 

Worldwide, average deaths per day are 1,470 for the last 14 days. The United States has 24.35% (358 per day) of all deaths per day in the world over the last two weeks. Worldwide infections per day were 712,693. The United States accounts for 15.42% of those infections (or 109,902 infections per day). 

FDA-Approved Oral Drug Treatments for SARS-CoV-2

Pfizer has developed PAXLOVID™, an oral reversible inhibitor of C3-like protease of SARS-CoV-2. The drug inhibits this key enzyme that is crucial for virus production. The compound, also called Compound 6 (PF-07321332), is part of the drug combination PAXLOVID™ (PF-07321332; ritonavir), which just successfully completed a Phase 2-3 trial in humans in multiple countries. The preliminary results were announced on 11/5/21 by Pfizer. The results show that 89% of the hospitalizations and deaths were prevented in the drug treatment arm. The drug was administered twice a day for five days. No deaths occurred in the treatment group, and ten deaths occurred in the placebo group. The study was stopped by an independent data safety monitoring board, and the FDA concurred with this decision. Pfizer applied for an Emergency Use Authorization for this drug on 11/15/21. This drug was approved on 12/23/21. We have only been able to obtain PAXLOVID™ for two patients who we successfully treated with this drug obtained from CVS in Salinas (East Alisal Street; phone number 831-424-0026). They were expecting another shipment on 1/28/22. In my opinion, this agent, if more widely available, could markedly alter the course of every coronavirus infection throughout the world. 

Merck has developed the oral drug Molnupiravir, which induces RNA mutagenesis by viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses. According to Kabinger et al, “Viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase uses the active form of Molnupiravir, β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine triphosphate, as a substrate instead of cytidine triphosphate or uridine triphosphate. When the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase uses the resulting RNA as a template, β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine triphosphate directs incorporation of either guanine or adenine, leading to mutated (viral) RNA products. Analysis of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase–RNA complexes that contain mutagenesis products has demonstrated that β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine (the active form of Molnupiravir) can form stable base pairs with either guanine or adenine in RNA-dependent RNA polymerase explaining how the polymerase escapes proofreading and synthesizes mutated RNA” (quotation modified for clarity). The results of the phase 3 trial of Molnupiravir were published in the NEJM article “Molnupiravir for Oral Treatment of Covid-19 in Nonhospitalized Patients” by Angélica Jayk Bernal, M.D. et al. (December 16, 2021 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2116044). In this phase 3 study in the Molnupiravir group, 28 patients were hospitalized and one death occurred. In the placebo group, 53 patients were hospitalized and 9 died. Overall, 47% of hospitalizations and deaths were prevented by Molnupiravir. If you do a post hoc analysis and just look at deaths, Molnupiravir would prevent 89% of deaths. An Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA for Molnupiravir was approved on 12/24/21.The dose of Molnupiravir approved is four 200 mg capsules orally twice a day for five days. Diarrhea is reportedly a side effect in two percent of patients. I treated my first patient with Molnupiravir on 1/28/22. Currently more Molnupiravir is available weekly in the United States than PAXLOVID™ (see chart below; data from PHE.gov). Locally Molnupiravir is still available at CVS in Monterey (Fremont Blvd.; phone number: 831-375-5135) and CVS in Salinas (East Alisal Street; phone number 831-424-0026). 

FDA Approved Intramuscular Prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2 Immunocompromised Patients

Evusheld (from AstraZeneca) contains two human monoclonal antibodies, Tixagevimab (150 mg in 1.5 mL) and Cilgavimab (150 mg in 1.5 mL), in separate vials. According to the manufacturer, “Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab are two recombinant human IgG1κ monoclonal antibodies with amino acid substitutions to extend antibody half-life (YTE), reduce antibody effector function, and minimize the potential risk of antibody-dependent enhancement of disease (TM). Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab can simultaneously bind to non-overlapping regions of the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Tixagevimab, Cilgavimab, and their combination bind to spike protein with equilibrium dissociation constants of KD = 2.76 pM, 13.0 pM and 13.7 pM, respectively, blocking its interaction with human ACE2, the SARS-CoV-2 receptor, which is required for virus attachment. Tixagevimab, Cilgavimab, and their combination blocked RBD binding to human ACE2 with IC50 values of 0.32 nM (48 ng/mL), 0.53 nM (80 ng/mL), and 0.43 nM (65 ng/mL), respectively.” Each monoclonal antibody is administered intramuscularly to immunocompromised patients in two separate injections every six months. Evusheld availability in California is limited and has been rationed/distributed by our local Public Health Department only to hospitals. Physicians in Monterey County who want to receive a distribution (or redistribution) of Evusheld need to be added to the list of eligible facilities by the State Therapeutics group. The first step is for the Monterey County EMS Agency (phone: 831-755-5713) to make a request to the State Therapeutics group to have the facility added to the system for further verification.  Due to extremely limited availability, evidently the State Therapeutics group is currently only considering additions on a case by case basis.  Physicians who wish to submit their facility for consideration will need to provide the following information to the Monterey County EMS Agency:

  1. Facility/Provider Name for Registration
  2. Provider Type (Hospital, Pharmacy, Etc)
  3. Shipping Address
  4. Contact Name(s)
  5. Contact Email(s)
  6. Contact Phone Number(s)

As for my immunocompromised patients: We provided this information by email to the Monterey County EMS Agency on 1/26/22 and will update you when or if we become an eligible provider and receive our first doses of Evusheld. 

On 2/24/22, the FDA revised its dosing guidance for Evusheld, doubling the dosage of its two components, Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab, from 150 mg each to 300 mg each. They explain, “Based on the most recent information and data available, Evusheld may be less active against certain Omicron subvariants. The dosing regimen was revised because available data indicate that a higher dose of Evusheld may be more likely to prevent infection by the COVID-19 Omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.1.1 than the originally authorized Evusheld dose.” Patients who have already received their first administration of Evusheld intramuscularly will need to contact their healthcare provider to get a second 150 mg injection of Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab. If you have not received Evusheld yet, the correct dose is 3 mL/300 mg of each monoclonal antibody injected intramuscularly. This large volume necessitates administration of the antibodies in the gluteus, with two separate injections. 

Watching World Data

Over the next few months, we’ll be paying close attention to correlations between the SARS-CoV-2 data, the number of isolates identified in various countries and states, and the non-pharmaceutical interventions (like mask mandates and lockdowns) put in place by state and national governments. Data on infections, deaths, and percent of population infected was compiled from Worldometers. Data for this table for SARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in Location was compiled from GISAID and the CDC. It’s worth noting that GISAID provided more data than the CDC.

LocationTotal Infections as of 7/1/22New Infections on 7/1/22Total DeathsNew Deaths on 7/1/22% of Pop.InfectedSARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in LocationNational/ State Mask MandateCurrently in Lockdown
World553,598,056(9,977,707 new infections in 14 days).825,0086,359,972(20,585 new deaths in last 14 days)1,5037.10%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)A lineage isolateV01.V2 (Tanzania)APTK India VOC 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa 2% of isolates in July 2021)R1 (Japan)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 + BA.3 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)Four new recombinants 12/31 to 3/22)BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
USA89,507,083(ranked #1) 1,538,264 new infections in the last 14 days.
102,788(ranked #2)
21 states failed to report infections.
1,043,281(ranked #1) 5,016 new deaths in the last 14 days. 283
27 states failed to report deaths.
26.72%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)R1(Japan)         Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Recombinant Delta AY.119.2- Omicron BA.1.1 (Tennessee, USA 12/31/21)\BA.2BA.2.12.1 (United States)BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)BA.2.75 (India)NoNo
Brazil32,434,063(ranked #3) 760,688 new infections in the last 14 days. 75,612 (ranked #5)671,700(ranked #2; 2,732 new deaths in 14 days)23415.04%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
India 43,488,519(ranked #2); 204,726 new infections in 2 weeks.17,237525,168(ranked #3)293.09%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)APTK India VOI 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)BA.2.75 (India)NoNo
United Kingdom22,741,065(ranked #6) 268,562 new infections in 2 weeks.20,720180,417 (ranked #7) 880 new deaths in 2 weeks8733.15%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)XD (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantXF (Delta/BA.1) recombinantXE (BA.1/BA.2) recombinantBA.2BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)BA.2.75 (India)NoNo
California, USA10,154,345(ranked #12 in the world;  262,248 new infections in the last 14 days).23,52492,620 (ranked #20 in world)
439 new deaths in the last 14 days
6025.69%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)BA.2BA.2.12.1 (United States)BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
Mexico6,034,602(ranked #20) 182,006 new infections in 14 days).24,537(ranked #9)325,716(ranked #5)474.58%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
South Africa3,994,223(ranked #31; 9,577 new infections in 14 days).380101,804 (ranked #18)166.56%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)       C.1.2 (South Africa, July 2021)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)BA.2BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
Canada3,946,087(ranked #32) 35,876 new infections in 14 days).42,010(ranked #25)10.27% .B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Poland6,015,634 (ranked #21; 4,715 new infections in 14 days). 643116,429 (ranked #15)515.92%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + (South Africa November 2021),Omicron/B.1.1.529 +BA.3 NoNo
Turkey15,123,331(ranked #10, 37,582 new infections in 14 days).————99,032 (ranked #19)———17.51% B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Russia18,433,394(ranked #8), 41,597 new infections in 14 days).3,155381,165(ranked #4 in world)5312.62%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)R1 (Japan) B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Argentina9,367,172(ranked #14; 53,619 new infections in 14 days).———–129,070 (ranked #14)——–20.35%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gama/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Colombia6,175,181(ranked #18, 43,424 new infections in 14 days).140,070 (ranked #14)11.88%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Peru3,629,796(ranked #38, 33,432 new infections in 14 days). 4,706235,526(ranked #6)2910.71%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Iran7,238,589(ranked 17th; 4,066 new infections in last 14 days)463141,390(ranked #11)18.40%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)


NoNo
Spain12,818,184(ranked 11th;   254,785 new infections in 14 days).28,048(ranked #8)108,111 (ranked #17)8927.39%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
France31,208,925 (ranked #4; 1,129,467 new infections in the last 14 days).125,066 (ranked #1)149,585 (ranked #10)5247.60%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Germany28,392,629(ranked #5; 1,268,170 new infections in 14 days.).98,669 (ranked #3)141,292 (ranked #12)10333.67%
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
South Korea18,368,857 (ranked #9 105,214 new infections in 14 days).9,516(ranked #17)24,555 (ranked #39) 835.76%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Vietnam10,747,397 (ranked #12; 10,989 new infections in 14 days).92743,087 (ranked #24)10.84%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Netherlands8,190,255 (ranked #15; 67,997 new infections in 14 days).6,08322,380 (ranked #41)247.58%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Denmark3,016,049 (ranked #39) 19,336  new infections in 14 days1,4556,471 (ranked #81)251.70%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo




North Korea (DPRK)4,744,430 (ranked #24; 163,010 new infections in 14 days)4,570 7318.24%Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Taiwan3,803,029(ranked #38)
612,283 new infections in 14 days
35,780 (ranked #6)6,772 (ranked #79)121 15.91%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Japan9,329,520(ranked #14)
221,197 new infections in the last 14 days
23,523(ranked #10)31,281(ranked #31)157.42%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo

What Our Team Is Reading This Week

COVID-19

SARS-CoV-2 Update

It’s time for our next 14-day moving average determinations for SARS-CoV-2 for the United States and my thoughts on vaccines, SARS-CoV-2 therapeutic agents and mutant viruses. We use the WORLDOMETERS aggregators data set to make any projections since it includes data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Military, federal prisons and the Navajo Nation.

SARS-CoV-2 infections per day have been increasing in the United States for 8 consecutive weeks despite underreporting by states and the failure to capture positive home tests and a decreased screening program in most states. Deaths per day had been decelerating at a rapid rate in the United States but are now increased by 19 more deaths per day. The number of infections have increased as the Omicron BA.2.12.1, BA.2, BA.4, and BA.5 variants of SARS CoV-2 have spread across the nation. The CDC estimates that BA.2.12.1 accounted for 64.2% of isolates, BA.2 accounted for 14.2%, BA.5 accounted for 13.3%, BA.4 accounted for 8.3%, and B.1.1.529 accounted for 0% in the week ending June 11.

We frequently hear messaging from health officials and politicians that Omicron is “mild,” especially compared to the Delta variant, and as a result, many of our patients believe that they no longer need to wear their masks. This is a dangerous misconception. SARS-CoV-2 still remains a highly transmissible, airborne virus. The following graph, based on CDC data from April 2, 2022, shows that Omicron deaths in people over 65 are much higher than Delta deaths in the same age group. In fact, the peak of Omicron deaths in people over 65 years of age is 163% higher than the Delta peak. The death rate from Omicron is only lower than Delta in the populations between 12 and 64 years of age. Until we have more data on these newer mutants of SARS-CoV-2, we will not know the lethality of each variant. It may take months to measure objective differences in the death rates of new circulating variants. We recommend that all of our patients and family members continue to wear N95 masks in all enclosed spaces. 

NY Times

According to the UK Health Security Agency, “BA.4 shares all mutations/deletions with the BA.2 lineage except the following: S: 69/70 deletion, R408 (WT, wild type)*, L452R, F486V, Q493 (WT); ORF 7b: L11F; N: P151S; synonymous SNP G12160A” and “BA.5 shares all mutations/deletions with the BA.2 lineage except the following: S: 69/70 deletion, R408 (WT), L452R, F486V, Q493 (WT); ORF6: D61 (WT); M: D3N; synonymous SNPs: G12160A, A27038G, and C27889T.” On May 12, the European CDC designated both BA.4 and BA.5 as variants of concern. 

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

The Omicron variant will continue to mutate just like Delta. There are now 157 Omicron sub-variants (an increase of 57 in the last two weeks) that have been assigned Pango lineages, including 92 sub-lineages of BA.2 (an increase of 42 in two weeks), one sub-lineage of BA.3, three sub-lineages of BA.4, and five sub-lineages of BA.5. There are also two new lineages: BF.1, detected in England, Denmark, Spain and Scotland, and BE.1, detected in South Africa, Austria and England. Curiously, the UK Health Security Agency, which usually releases updates every two weeks, has not released a new Technical Briefing on SARS-CoV-2 variants since May 20. 

An additional problem may be the development of recombinant SARS-CoV-2 isolates. A recombinant isolate occurs when two isolates infect the same cell and, in the process of viral reproduction, exchange nucleic acids, creating a new isolate that is a recombination of parts from the genomes of both isolates. A recombinant isolate of Delta AY.4.2.2 and Omicron BA.1.1 was recently reported in the UK. As of 3/25/22 four different recombinant variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been reported by the UK Health Security Agency. 

According to the UK Health Security Agency’s Technical Briefing from 3/25/22: “There are currently 3 recombinant lineages being monitored as part of horizon scanning: XD, XE, and XF (Figure 6). XD and XF are Delta and BA.1 recombinants. XE is a BA.1 and BA.2 recombinant and has 3 mutations that are not present in all BA.1 or BA.2 sequences: NSP3 C3241T and V1069I, and NSP12 C14599T. XF and XE are associated with UK sequenced samples. XD is predominantly associated with France. XD contains the unique mutation NSP2:E172D.” As of 5/17/22 the UK Health Security Agency reports 2,049 sequences of the XE recombinant in the UK data. 

Omicron variants have mutations which decrease the effectiveness of current vaccines and monoclonal antibodies. The effectiveness of the new Pfizer drug, PAXLOVIDTM, should not be compromised by any of the current mutations in Omicron or Delta variants. Pfizer completed their filing with the FDA on 11/15/21. The FDA approved PAXLOVIDTM on December 22 , 2021.The FDA approved Merck’s drug Molnupiravir on December 23, 2021. On 12/23/21 CVS announced by fax it was selected by the Government to distribute oral PAXLOVIDTM and Molnupiravir. On 12/27/21, another fax from CVS listed which CVS pharmacies in California would have these drugs. Monterey County covers 3,771 square miles with a population of 434,061. Three CVS pharmacies in Monterey, Salinas, and Soledad are the only listed pharmacies in our county. I have now been able to obtain PAXLOVIDTM for infected patients from the CVS in Salinas (phone 831-424-0026), the CVS on Fremont Street in Monterey (phone 831-375-5135) and the CVS in Soledad in south Monterey County (phone 831-678-5110). All require electronic prescriptions written as Paxlovid three tablets twice daily orally for five days (thirty total tablets).  Physicians or their staff probably should call to check on drug availability that day.

In the absence of obtaining intravenous Sotrovimab or Bebtelovimab, only oral PAXLOVIDTM and Molnupiravir are available to treat SARS-CoV-2 as an outpatient. Our first Paxlovid failure in an immunocompromised patient was treated the week of 4/5/22 at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (Montage) ER as an outpatient with a single one-minute intravenous injection of Bebtelovimab. 

Unless people continue to wear masks and get vaccinated, including their third dose of the vaccine, we will see further spread of the Omicron variants and increase in deaths in people who are not vaccinated, have waning immunity, the immunocompromised population and others with risk factors particularly those older over the age of 64. SARS-CoV-2 is now in the top ten most common causes of death for children. Anyone over the age of 5 years can now get vaccinated in the United States at no cost. This should get done immediately.In Monterey County, as of 6/19/22, only 38.9% of 5-11 year-olds have received the first two doses of vaccine, while 80.8% of 12-17 year-olds have received two doses. On June 17, The FDA authorized both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for use in children ages 6 months to four years. We believe children under 5 should be vaccinated as soon as possible. 

Monterey County Health Department

On 6/17/22, the United States had 81,733 documented new infections. There were also 200 deaths. Twenty-one states did not report their infections, and 32 states didn’t report their deaths. In the United States the number of hospitalized patients had been increasing in many areas. Now there are 3.006 patients who are seriously or critically ill; that number was 2,683 two weeks ago. The number of critically ill patients has increased by 323 in the last 14 days, while at least 4,896 new deaths occurred (an increase of 19 deaths per day from the previous 14 days). The number of critically ill patients has increased for the fourth time in twenty-one 14-day periods. Patients are still dying each day (average 350/day). Omicron BA.2, BA.4, BA.5 variants causing infections should continue to increase and critically ill patients may continue to increase. Deaths, which usually lag two to four weeks behind exponential increase in infections, are increasing now. Past infections with a BA.1 or BA.2 variant will not prevent infections with BA.2.12.1, BA.4, or BA.5. 

As of 6/17/22, we have had 1,038,265 deaths and 87,968,819 SARS-CoV-2 infections in the United States. We have had 1,518,216 new infections in the last 14 days. We were adding an average of 759,108 infections every seven days. For the pandemic in the United States we are averaging one death for every 84.72 infections or over 11,803 deaths for each one million infections. As of 6/17/22, thirty-seven states have had greater than 500,000 total infections, and 36 states have had greater than 5,000 total deaths. Seventeen states (Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, New York, Arizona and California) have had greater than 20,000 deaths. Four states (Florida, Texas, New York, and California) have had greater than 69,000 deaths. California and Texas have each had greater than 88,000 deaths with California having 92,181 deaths (20th most deaths in the world). 

As of 6/17/22, in the United States, 26.27% of the population has had a documented SARS-CoV-2 infection. In the last 18 months, 23.52% of our country became infected with SARS-CoV-2. On 11/20/20, there were 260,331 (cumulative) deaths in the US from SARS-CoV-2. In the last 18 months, there were 778,134 new deaths from SARS-CoV-2. For fifteen of those months, vaccines have been available to all adults. During these fifteen months, 467,168 people have died of SARS-CoV-2 infections. Most of the hospitalizations and deaths could have been prevented by vaccination, proper masking, and social distancing. 

As of 6/17/22, California was ranked 35th in the USA in infection percentage at 25.03%. In California, 21.06% of people were infected in the last 18 months. As of 6/17/22, 35 states have had greater than 25% of their population infected. 

FDA-Approved Oral Drug Treatments for SARS-CoV-2

Pfizer has developed PAXLOVID™, an oral reversible inhibitor of C3-like protease of SARS-CoV-2. The drug inhibits this key enzyme that is crucial for virus production. The compound, also called Compound 6 (PF-07321332), is part of the drug combination PAXLOVID™ (PF-07321332; ritonavir), which just successfully completed a Phase 2-3 trial in humans in multiple countries. The preliminary results were announced on 11/5/21 by Pfizer. The results show that 89% of the hospitalizations and deaths were prevented in the drug treatment arm. The drug was administered twice a day for five days. No deaths occurred in the treatment group, and ten deaths occurred in the placebo group. The study was stopped by an independent data safety monitoring board, and the FDA concurred with this decision. Pfizer applied for an Emergency Use Authorization for this drug on 11/15/21. This drug was approved on 12/23/21. We have only been able to obtain PAXLOVID™ for two patients who we successfully treated with this drug obtained from CVS in Salinas (East Alisal Street; phone number 831-424-0026). They were expecting another shipment on 1/28/22. In my opinion, this agent, if more widely available, could markedly alter the course of every coronavirus infection throughout the world. 

Merck has developed the oral drug Molnupiravir, which induces RNA mutagenesis by viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses. According to Kabinger et al, “Viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase uses the active form of Molnupiravir, β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine triphosphate, as a substrate instead of cytidine triphosphate or uridine triphosphate. When the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase uses the resulting RNA as a template, β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine triphosphate directs incorporation of either guanine or adenine, leading to mutated (viral) RNA products. Analysis of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase–RNA complexes that contain mutagenesis products has demonstrated that β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine (the active form of Molnupiravir) can form stable base pairs with either guanine or adenine in RNA-dependent RNA polymerase explaining how the polymerase escapes proofreading and synthesizes mutated RNA” (quotation modified for clarity). The results of the phase 3 trial of Molnupiravir were published in the NEJM article “Molnupiravir for Oral Treatment of Covid-19 in Nonhospitalized Patients” by Angélica Jayk Bernal, M.D. et al. (December 16, 2021 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2116044). In this phase 3 study in the Molnupiravir group, 28 patients were hospitalized and one death occurred. In the placebo group, 53 patients were hospitalized and 9 died. Overall, 47% of hospitalizations and deaths were prevented by Molnupiravir. If you do a post hoc analysis and just look at deaths, Molnupiravir would prevent 89% of deaths. An Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA for Molnupiravir was approved on 12/24/21.The dose of Molnupiravir approved is four 200 mg capsules orally twice a day for five days. Diarrhea is reportedly a side effect in two percent of patients. I treated my first patient with Molnupiravir on 1/28/22. Currently more Molnupiravir is available weekly in the United States than PAXLOVID™ (see chart below; data from PHE.gov). Locally Molnupiravir is still available at CVS in Monterey (Fremont Blvd.; phone number: 831-375-5135) and CVS in Salinas (East Alisal Street; phone number 831-424-0026). 

FDA Approved Intramuscular Prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2 Immunocompromised Patients

Evusheld (from AstraZeneca) contains two human monoclonal antibodies, Tixagevimab (150 mg in 1.5 mL) and Cilgavimab (150 mg in 1.5 mL), in separate vials. According to the manufacturer, “Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab are two recombinant human IgG1κ monoclonal antibodies with amino acid substitutions to extend antibody half-life (YTE), reduce antibody effector function, and minimize the potential risk of antibody-dependent enhancement of disease (TM). Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab can simultaneously bind to non-overlapping regions of the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Tixagevimab, Cilgavimab, and their combination bind to spike protein with equilibrium dissociation constants of KD = 2.76 pM, 13.0 pM and 13.7 pM, respectively, blocking its interaction with human ACE2, the SARS-CoV-2 receptor, which is required for virus attachment. Tixagevimab, Cilgavimab, and their combination blocked RBD binding to human ACE2 with IC50 values of 0.32 nM (48 ng/mL), 0.53 nM (80 ng/mL), and 0.43 nM (65 ng/mL), respectively.” Each monoclonal antibody is administered intramuscularly to immunocompromised patients in two separate injections every six months. Evusheld availability in California is limited and has been rationed/distributed by our local Public Health Department only to hospitals. Physicians in Monterey County who want to receive a distribution (or redistribution) of Evusheld need to be added to the list of eligible facilities by the State Therapeutics group. The first step is for the Monterey County EMS Agency (phone: 831-755-5713) to make a request to the State Therapeutics group to have the facility added to the system for further verification.  Due to extremely limited availability, evidently the State Therapeutics group is currently only considering additions on a case by case basis.  Physicians who wish to submit their facility for consideration will need to provide the following information to the Monterey County EMS Agency:

  1. Facility/Provider Name for Registration
  2. Provider Type (Hospital, Pharmacy, Etc)
  3. Shipping Address
  4. Contact Name(s)
  5. Contact Email(s)
  6. Contact Phone Number(s)

As for my immunocompromised patients: We provided this information by email to the Monterey County EMS Agency on 1/26/22 and will update you when or if we become an eligible provider and receive our first doses of Evusheld. 

On 2/24/22, the FDA revised its dosing guidance for Evusheld, doubling the dosage of its two components, Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab, from 150 mg each to 300 mg each. They explain, “Based on the most recent information and data available, Evusheld may be less active against certain Omicron subvariants. The dosing regimen was revised because available data indicate that a higher dose of Evusheld may be more likely to prevent infection by the COVID-19 Omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.1.1 than the originally authorized Evusheld dose.” Patients who have already received their first administration of Evusheld intramuscularly will need to contact their healthcare provider to get a second 150 mg injection of Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab. If you have not received Evusheld yet, the correct dose is 3 mL/300 mg of each monoclonal antibody injected intramuscularly. This large volume necessitates administration of the antibodies in the gluteus, with two separate injections. 

Watching World Data

Over the next few months, we’ll be paying close attention to correlations between the SARS-CoV-2 data, the number of isolates identified in various countries and states, and the non-pharmaceutical interventions (like mask mandates and lockdowns) put in place by state and national governments. Data on infections, deaths, and percent of population infected was compiled from Worldometers. Data for this table for SARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in Location was compiled from GISAID and the CDC. It’s worth noting that GISAID provided more data than the CDC.

LocationTotal Infections as of 6/17/22New Infections on 6/17/22Total DeathsNew Deaths on 6/17/22% of Pop.InfectedSARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in LocationNational/ State Mask MandateCurrently in Lockdown
World543,620,349(8,989,675 new infections in 14 days).497,2656,339,387(20,374 new deaths in last 14 days)1,0916.97%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)A lineage isolateV01.V2 (Tanzania)APTK India VOC 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa 2% of isolates in July 2021)R1 (Japan)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 + BA.3 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)Four new recombinants 12/31 to 3/22)BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
USA87,968,819(ranked #1) 1,518,216 new infections in the last 14 days.
81,733(ranked #1)
21 states failed to report infections.
1,038,265(ranked #1) 4,896 new deaths in the last 14 days. 200
32 states failed to report deaths.
26.27%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)R1(Japan)         Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Recombinant Delta AY.119.2- Omicron BA.1.1 (Tennessee, USA 12/31/21)\BA.2BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
Brazil31,673,375(ranked #3) 535,896 new infections in the last 14 days. 28,672 (ranked #6)668,968(ranked #2; 1,949 new deaths in 14 days)7614.69%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
India43,283,793(ranked #2); 101,921 new infections in 2 weeks.13,216524,840(ranked #3)3.07%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)APTK India VOI 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
United Kingdom22,472,503(ranked #6) 166,610 new infections in 2 weeks.12,054179,537 (ranked #7)6532.76%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)XD (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantXF (Delta/BA.1) recombinantXE (BA.1/BA.2) recombinantBA.2BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
California, USA9,892,097(ranked #13 in the world;  233,150 new infections in the last 14 days).14,60392,181 (ranked #20 in world)4525.03%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)BA.2BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
Mexico5,852,596(ranked #21) 70,191 new infections in 14 days).9,406325,340(ranked #5)694.48%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
South Africa3,984,646(ranked #30; 19,224 new infections in 14 days).971105,589 (ranked #18)56.55%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)       C.1.2 (South Africa, July 2021)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)BA.2BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
Canada3,910,211(ranked #32) 30,111 new infections in 14 days).78241,723(ranked #25)610.18% .B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Poland6,010,919 (ranked #20; 2,724 new infections in 14 days). 48116,390 (ranked #15)15.91%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + (South Africa November 2021),Omicron/B.1.1.529 +BA.3 NoNo
Turkey15,085,742(ranked #10, 12,995 new infections in 14 days).————98,996 (ranked #19)———17.51% B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Russia18,391,797(ranked #7), 47,833 new infections in 14 days).3,373380,333(ranked #4 in world)6312.59%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)R1 (Japan) B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Argentina9,313,453(ranked #13; 82,880 new infections in 14 days).———–128,984 (ranked #14)——–20.24%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gama/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Colombia6,131,657(ranked #18, 26,642 new infections in 14 days).139,908 (ranked #13)11.80%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Peru3,596,374(ranked #35, 12,974 new infections in 14 days). 1,400213,374(ranked #6)1310.61%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Iran7,234,523(ranked 17th; 1,909 new infections in last 14 days)156141,361(ranked #11)18.40%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)


NoNo
Spain12,563,399(ranked 11th;   160,154 new infections in 14 days).16,090107,482 (ranked #17)8126.85%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
France30,079,458 (ranked #4; 483,566 new infections in the last 14 days).50,605 (ranked #3)149,039 (ranked #10)4345.88%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Germany27,124,459(ranked #5; 613,531 new infections in 14 days.).28,471 (ranked #7)140,292 (ranked #12)32.17%
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
South Korea18,263,643 (ranked #8 121,808 new infections in 14 days).7,186(ranked #17)21,416 (ranked #39) 935.56%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Vietnam10,736,408 (ranked #12; 12,735 new infections in 14 days).72343,083 (ranked #24)10.83%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Netherlands8,122,258 (ranked #15; 32,021 new infections in 14 days).3,85522,343 (ranked #41)147.19%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Denmark2,996,713 (ranked #39) 10,405 new infections in 14 days9956,421 (ranked #81)51.38%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo




North Korea (DPRK)4,581,420 (ranked #24; 663,840 new infections in 14 days)23,160 (ranked #8)7317.62%Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Taiwan3,190,746(ranked #38)55,220 (ranked #2)4,868 (ranked #89)154 (ranked #2)13.34%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Japan9,108,323(ranked #14)15,802(ranked #10)30,980(ranked #31)177.24%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo

What Our Team Is Reading This Week

COVID-19

SARS-CoV-2 Update

It’s time for our next 14-day moving average determinations for SARS-CoV-2 for the United States and my thoughts on vaccines, SARS-CoV-2 therapeutic agents and mutant viruses. We use the WORLDOMETERS aggregators data set to make any projections since it includes data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Military, federal prisons and the Navajo Nation.

SARS-CoV-2 infections per day have been increasing in the United States for 8 consecutive weeks despite underreporting by states and the failure to capture positive home tests and a decreased screening program in most states. The number of infections per day in the United States has increased by 8.14% in the last 2 weeks and 57.42% from 4 weeks ago and 144.54% from 6 weeks ago. Deaths per day had been decelerating at a rapid rate in the United States but are now increased by 20 more deaths per day. The number of infections have increased as the Omicron BA.2.12.1, BA.2, BA.4, and BA.5 variants of SARS CoV-2 have spread across the nation. The CDC estimates that BA.2.12.1 accounted for 59.1% of isolates, BA.2 accounted for 34.7%, and B.1.1.529 (which includes cases of BA.4 and BA.5) accounted for 6.1% in the week ending May 28.

We frequently hear messaging from health officials and politicians that Omicron is “mild,” especially compared to the Delta variant, and as a result, many of our patients believe that they no longer need to wear their masks. This is a dangerous misconception. SARS-CoV-2 still remains a highly transmissible, airborne virus. The following graph, based on CDC data from April 2, 2022, shows that Omicron deaths in people over 65 are much higher than Delta deaths in the same age group. In fact, the peak of Omicron deaths in people over 65 years of age is 163% higher than the Delta peak. The death rate from Omicron is only lower than Delta in the populations between 12 and 64 years of age. Until we have more data on these newer mutants of SARS-CoV-2, we will not know the lethality of each variant. It may take months to measure objective differences in the death rates of new circulating variants. We recommend that all of our patients and family members continue to wear N95 masks in all enclosed spaces. 

NY Times

Something to look out for is the rise of infections in South Africa to 94,255 infections in the 14 day period ending 5/20/22, and 43,789 cases in the 14 days ending 6/3/22. This is secondary to new Omicron mutants BA.4 and BA.5, which, according to NICD, became the dominant variants in South Africa in April, comprising 58% of isolates and now make up 92% of isolates. According to the UK Health Security Agency, “BA.4 shares all mutations/deletions with the BA.2 lineage except the following: S: 69/70 deletion, R408 (WT, wild type)*, L452R, F486V, Q493 (WT); ORF 7b: L11F; N: P151S; synonymous SNP G12160A” and “BA.5 shares all mutations/deletions with the BA.2 lineage except the following: S: 69/70 deletion, R408 (WT), L452R, F486V, Q493 (WT); ORF6: D61 (WT); M: D3N; synonymous SNPs: G12160A, A27038G, and C27889T.” As of 5/20/22, 0.77% of cases sequenced in the United States are BA.4 and 0.78% are BA.5. On May 12, the European CDC designated both BA.4 and BA.5 as variants of concern. 

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

The Omicron variant will continue to mutate just like Delta. There are now 100 Omicron sub-variants that have been assigned Pango lineages, including 50 sub-lineages of BA.2.

An additional problem may be the development of recombinant SARS-CoV-2 isolates. A recombinant isolate occurs when two isolates infect the same cell and, in the process of viral reproduction, exchange nucleic acids, creating a new isolate that is a recombination of parts from the genomes of both isolates. A recombinant isolate of Delta AY.4.2.2 and Omicron BA.1.1 was recently reported in the UK. As of 3/25/22 four different recombinant variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been reported by the UK Health Security Agency. 

According to the UK Health Security Agency’s Technical Briefing from 3/25/22: “There are currently 3 recombinant lineages being monitored as part of horizon scanning: XD, XE, and XF (Figure 6). XD and XF are Delta and BA.1 recombinants. XE is a BA.1 and BA.2 recombinant and has 3 mutations that are not present in all BA.1 or BA.2 sequences: NSP3 C3241T and V1069I, and NSP12 C14599T. XF and XE are associated with UK sequenced samples. XD is predominantly associated with France. XD contains the unique mutation NSP2:E172D.” As of 5/17/22 the UK Health Security Agency reports 2,049 sequences of the XE recombinant in the UK data. 

We do not know yet whether any recombinant isolates will rapidly spread or have enhanced morbidity and mortality. 

We expect to see additional Omicron variants, recombinant variants and probably new pandemic SARS- CoV-2 lineages as uncontrolled infection continues in multiple continents and countries. 

Omicron variants have mutations which decrease the effectiveness of current vaccines and monoclonal antibodies. The effectiveness of the new Pfizer drug, PAXLOVIDTM, should not be compromised by any of the current mutations in Omicron or Delta variants. Pfizer completed their filing with the FDA on 11/15/21. The FDA approved PAXLOVIDTM on December 22 , 2021.The FDA approved Merck’s drug Molnupiravir on December 23, 2021. On 12/23/21 CVS announced by fax it was selected by the Government to distribute oral PAXLOVIDTM and Molnupiravir. On 12/27/21, another fax from CVS listed which CVS pharmacies in California would have these drugs. Monterey County covers 3,771 square miles with a population of 434,061. Three CVS pharmacies in Monterey, Salinas, and Soledad are the only listed pharmacies in our county. I have now been able to obtain PAXLOVIDTM for infected patients from the CVS in Salinas (phone 831-424-0026), the CVS on Fremont Street in Monterey (phone 831-375-5135) and the CVS in Soledad in south Monterey County (phone 831-678-5110). All require electronic prescriptions written as Paxlovid three tablets twice daily orally for five days (thirty total tablets).  Physicians or their staff probably should call to check on drug availability that day.

In the absence of obtaining intravenous Sotrovimab or Bebtelovimab, only oral PAXLOVIDTM and Molnupiravir are available to treat SARS-CoV-2 as an outpatient. Our first Paxlovid failure in an immunocompromised patient was treated the week of 4/5/22 at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (Montage) ER as an outpatient with a single one-minute intravenous injection of Bebtelovimab. Vaccination will not prevent you from getting an Omicron variant infection. For now only masking (N95 rated masks, please!) and social distancing will have any effect on acquisition of infection with these variants. Furthermore, we do not believe that a 5-day quarantine or isolation period is sufficient for any COVID-19 infection.

Unless people continue to wear masks and get vaccinated, including their third dose of the vaccine, we will see further spread of the Omicron variants and increase in deaths in people who are not vaccinated, have waning immunity, the immunocompromised population and others with risk factors particularly those older over the age of 64. SARS-CoV-2 is now in the top ten most common causes of death for children. Anyone over the age of 5 years can now get vaccinated in the United States at no cost. This should get done immediately.In Monterey County, as of 5/24/22, only 38.5% of 5-11 year-olds have received the first two doses of vaccine, while 80.5% of 12-17 year-olds have received two doses.

Monterey County Health Department

On 6/3/22, the United States had 103,221 documented new infections. There were also 316 deaths. In the United States the number of hospitalized patients had been increasing in many areas. Now there are 2,683 patients who are seriously or critically ill; that number was 2,289 two weeks ago. The number of critically ill patients has increased by 394 in the last 14 days, while at least 4,628 new deaths occurred (an increase of 20 deaths per day from the previous 14 days). The number of critically ill patients has increased for the third time in twenty 14-day periods. Patients are still dying each day (average 331/day). Omicron BA.2, BA.4, BA.5 variants causing infections should continue to increase and critically ill patients may continue to increase. Deaths, which usually lag two to four weeks behind exponential increase in infections, are increasing now. Past infections with a BA.1 or BA.2 variant will not prevent infections with BA.2.12.1, BA.4, or BA.5. 

As of 6/3/22, we have had 1,033,369 deaths and 86,450,603 SARS-CoV-2 infections in the United States. We have had 1,515,341 new infections in the last 14 days. We were adding an average of 757,671 infections every seven days. For the pandemic in the United States we are averaging one death for every 83.66 infections or over 11,953 deaths for each one million infections. As of 6/3/22, thirty-seven states have had greater than 500,000 total infections, and 36 states have had greater than 5,000 total deaths. Seventeen states (Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, New York, Arizona and California) have had greater than 20,000 deaths. Four states (Florida, Texas, New York, and California) have had greater than 69,000 deaths. California and Texas have each had greater than 88,000 deaths with California having 91,750 deaths (20th most deaths in the world). 

On 11/20/20 in the United States, 3.70% of the population had a documented SARS-CoV-2 infection. California was ranked 41st in infection percentage at 2.77%. On 11/20/21 in North Dakota, 9.18% of the population was infected (ranked #1), and in South Dakota, 8.03% of the population was infected (ranked #2). As of 6/3/22, in the United States, 25.82% of the population has had a documented SARS-CoV-2 infection. In the last 17 months, 23.07% of our country became infected with SARS-CoV-2. On 11/20/20, there were 260,331 (cumulative) deaths in the US from SARS-CoV-2. In the last 17 months, there were 773,238 new deaths from SARS-CoV-2. For fourteen of those months, vaccines have been available to all adults. During these fourteen months, 462,272 people have died of SARS-CoV-2 infections. Most of the hospitalizations and deaths could have been prevented by vaccination, proper masking, and social distancing. 

As of 6/3/22, California was ranked 39th in the USA in infection percentage at 24.45%. In California 20.61% of Californians were infected in the last 17 months. As of 6/3/22 forty-six states have had greater than 20% of their population infected

FDA-Approved Oral Drug Treatments for SARS-CoV-2

Pfizer has developed PAXLOVID™, an oral reversible inhibitor of C3-like protease of SARS-CoV-2. The drug inhibits this key enzyme that is crucial for virus production. The compound, also called Compound 6 (PF-07321332), is part of the drug combination PAXLOVID™ (PF-07321332; ritonavir), which just successfully completed a Phase 2-3 trial in humans in multiple countries. The preliminary results were announced on 11/5/21 by Pfizer. The results show that 89% of the hospitalizations and deaths were prevented in the drug treatment arm. The drug was administered twice a day for five days. No deaths occurred in the treatment group, and ten deaths occurred in the placebo group. The study was stopped by an independent data safety monitoring board, and the FDA concurred with this decision. Pfizer applied for an Emergency Use Authorization for this drug on 11/15/21. This drug was approved on 12/23/21. We have only been able to obtain PAXLOVID™ for two patients who we successfully treated with this drug obtained from CVS in Salinas (East Alisal Street; phone number 831-424-0026). They were expecting another shipment on 1/28/22. In my opinion, this agent, if more widely available, could markedly alter the course of every coronavirus infection throughout the world. 
Merck has developed the oral drug Molnupiravir, which induces RNA mutagenesis by viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses. According to Kabinger et al, “Viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase uses the active form of Molnupiravir, β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine triphosphate, as a substrate instead of cytidine triphosphate or uridine triphosphate. When the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase uses the resulting RNA as a template, β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine triphosphate directs incorporation of either guanine or adenine, leading to mutated (viral) RNA products. Analysis of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase–RNA complexes that contain mutagenesis products has demonstrated that β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine (the active form of Molnupiravir) can form stable base pairs with either guanine or adenine in RNA-dependent RNA polymerase explaining how the polymerase escapes proofreading and synthesizes mutated RNA” (quotation modified for clarity). The results of the phase 3 trial of Molnupiravir were published in the NEJM article “Molnupiravir for Oral Treatment of Covid-19 in Nonhospitalized Patients” by Angélica Jayk Bernal, M.D. et al. (December 16, 2021 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2116044). In this phase 3 study in the Molnupiravir group, 28 patients were hospitalized and one death occurred. In the placebo group, 53 patients were hospitalized and 9 died. Overall, 47% of hospitalizations and deaths were prevented by Molnupiravir. If you do a post hoc analysis and just look at deaths, Molnupiravir would prevent 89% of deaths. An Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA for Molnupiravir was approved on 12/24/21.The dose of Molnupiravir approved is four 200 mg capsules orally twice a day for five days. Diarrhea is reportedly a side effect in two percent of patients. I treated my first patient with Molnupiravir on 1/28/22. Currently more Molnupiravir is available weekly in the United States than PAXLOVID™ (see chart below; data from PHE.gov). Locally Molnupiravir is still available at CVS in Monterey (Fremont Blvd.; phone number: 831-375-5135) and CVS in Salinas (East Alisal Street; phone number 831-424-0026).

FDA Approved Intramuscular Prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2 Immunocompromised Patients

Evusheld (from AstraZeneca) contains two human monoclonal antibodies, Tixagevimab (150 mg in 1.5 mL) and Cilgavimab (150 mg in 1.5 mL), in separate vials. According to the manufacturer, “Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab are two recombinant human IgG1κ monoclonal antibodies with amino acid substitutions to extend antibody half-life (YTE), reduce antibody effector function, and minimize the potential risk of antibody-dependent enhancement of disease (TM). Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab can simultaneously bind to non-overlapping regions of the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Tixagevimab, Cilgavimab, and their combination bind to spike protein with equilibrium dissociation constants of KD = 2.76 pM, 13.0 pM and 13.7 pM, respectively, blocking its interaction with human ACE2, the SARS-CoV-2 receptor, which is required for virus attachment. Tixagevimab, Cilgavimab, and their combination blocked RBD binding to human ACE2 with IC50 values of 0.32 nM (48 ng/mL), 0.53 nM (80 ng/mL), and 0.43 nM (65 ng/mL), respectively.” Each monoclonal antibody is administered intramuscularly to immunocompromised patients in two separate injections every six months. Evusheld availability in California is limited and has been rationed/distributed by our local Public Health Department only to hospitals. Physicians in Monterey County who want to receive a distribution (or redistribution) of Evusheld need to be added to the list of eligible facilities by the State Therapeutics group. The first step is for the Monterey County EMS Agency (phone: 831-755-5713) to make a request to the State Therapeutics group to have the facility added to the system for further verification.  Due to extremely limited availability, evidently the State Therapeutics group is currently only considering additions on a case by case basis.  Physicians who wish to submit their facility for consideration will need to provide the following information to the Monterey County EMS Agency:

  1. Facility/Provider Name for Registration
  2. Provider Type (Hospital, Pharmacy, Etc)
  3. Shipping Address
  4. Contact Name(s)
  5. Contact Email(s)
  6. Contact Phone Number(s)

As for my immunocompromised patients: We provided this information by email to the Monterey County EMS Agency on 1/26/22 and will update you when or if we become an eligible provider and receive our first doses of Evusheld. 

On 2/24/22, the FDA revised its dosing guidance for Evusheld, doubling the dosage of its two components, Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab, from 150 mg each to 300 mg each. They explain, “Based on the most recent information and data available, Evusheld may be less active against certain Omicron subvariants. The dosing regimen was revised because available data indicate that a higher dose of Evusheld may be more likely to prevent infection by the COVID-19 Omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.1.1 than the originally authorized Evusheld dose.” Patients who have already received their first administration of Evusheld intramuscularly will need to contact their healthcare provider to get a second 150 mg injection of Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab. If you have not received Evusheld yet, the correct dose is 3 mL/300 mg of each monoclonal antibody injected intramuscularly. This large volume necessitates administration of the antibodies in the gluteus, with two separate injections. 

Watching World Data

Over the next few months, we’ll be paying close attention to correlations between the SARS-CoV-2 data, the number of isolates identified in various countries and states, and the non-pharmaceutical interventions (like mask mandates and lockdowns) put in place by state and national governments. Data on infections, deaths, and percent of population infected was compiled from Worldometers. Data for this table for SARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in Location was compiled from GISAID and the CDC. It’s worth noting that GISAID provided more data than the CDC.

LocationTotal Infections as of 6/3/22New Infections on 6/3/22Total DeathsNew Deaths on 6/3/22% of Pop.InfectedSARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in LocationNational/ State Mask MandateCurrently in Lockdown
World534,630,674(8,249,085 new infections in 14 days).520,9676,318,913(20,175 new deaths in last 14 days)1,1626.85%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)A lineage isolateV01.V2 (Tanzania)APTK India VOC 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa 2% of isolates in July 2021)R1 (Japan)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 + BA.3 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)Four new recombinants 12/31 to 3/22)BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
USA86,450,603(ranked #1) 1,515,341 new infections in the last 14 days.103,221(ranked #1)1,033,369(ranked #1) 4,628 new deaths in the last 14 days. 31625.82%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)R1(Japan)         Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Recombinant Delta AY.119.2- Omicron BA.1.1 (Tennessee, USA 12/31/21)\BA.2BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
Brazil31,137,479(ranked #3) 375,066 new infections in the last 14 days. 36,189 (ranked #5)667,019(ranked #2)4114.45%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
India43,171,872(ranked #2); 37,542 new infections in 2 weeks.2,273524,651(ranked #3)3.07%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)APTK India VOI 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
United Kingdom22,305,893(ranked #6) 67,187 new infections in 2 weeks.178,749 ranked #7 in world)32.53%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)XD (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantXF (Delta/BA.1) recombinantXE (BA.1/BA.2) recombinantBA.2BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
California, USA9,658,947(ranked #13 in the world;  211,825 new infections in the last 14 days).15,59291,750 (ranked #20 in world)2924.45%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)BA.2BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
Mexico5,782,405(ranked #20) 29,964 new infections in 14 days).3,778324,966(ranked #5)154.39%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
South Africa3,965,422(ranked #29; 43,789 new infections in 14 days).2,028101,285 (ranked #18)356.52%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)       C.1.2 (South Africa, July 2021)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)BA.2BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
Canada3,880,100(ranked #32) 92,722 new infections in 14 days).1,43641,235(ranked #25)1010.11% .B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Poland6,008,295 (ranked #20; 3,194 new infections in 14 days). 236116,336 (ranked #15)415.90%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + (South Africa November 2021),Omicron/B.1.1.529 +BA.3 NoNo
Turkey15,072,747(ranked #10, 12,635 new infections in 14 days).————98,965 (ranked #19)———17.51% B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Russia18,343,964(ranked #7), 60,259 new infections in 14 days).4,188379,363(ranked #4 in world)7812.55%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)R1 (Japan) B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Argentina9,230,573(ranked #13; 95,365 new infections in 14 days).———–128,889f (ranked #14 in world)——–20.07%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gama/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Colombia6,109,015(ranked #18, 9,984 new infections in 14 days).304139,697 (ranked #12 in the world)111.76%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Peru3,583,403(ranked #35, 8,527 new infections in 14 days). 799213,228(ranked #6)110.58%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Iran7,232,614(ranked 16th; 4,032 new infections in last 14 days)171141,321(ranked #11)38.40%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)


NoNo
Spain12,403,245(ranked 11th;   165,172 new infections in 14 days).4,329106,797 (ranked #17)10226.50%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
France29,595,892 (ranked #4; 280,414 new infections in the last 14 days).25,130 (ranked #7)148,464 (ranked #10)3645.14%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Germany26,510,828(ranked #5; 456,894 new infections in 14 days.).41,297 (ranked #4)139,697 (ranked #13)8131.44%
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Romania2,910,081(ranked #39; 4,542 new infections in 14 days).40465,689 (ranked #20)315.32%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
South Korea18,141,835 (ranked #8 226,878 new infections in 14 days).12,522(ranked #10)24,229 (ranked #39) 1735.32%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Ukraine5,011,433(ranked #22; 2,132 new infections in 14 days),——–108,538 (ranked #16)——–11.59%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Vietnam10,723,673(ranked #12; 17,562 new infections in 14 days).1,03943,080 (ranked #24)10.83%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Netherlands8,090,237 (ranked #15; 15,043 new infections in 14 days).1,46122,325 (ranked #41)47.01%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Denmark2,986,308 (ranked #38) 7,080 new infections in 14 days4936,376 (ranked #81)451.09%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo




North Korea (DPRK)3,917,580 (ranked #41; 1,675,961 new infections in 14 days)82,160 (ranked #2)15.07%

What Our Team Is Reading This Week

COVID-19

SARS-CoV-2 Update

It’s time for our next 14-day moving average determinations for SARS-CoV-2 for the United States and my thoughts on vaccines, SARS-CoV-2 therapeutic agents and mutant viruses. We use the WORLDOMETERS aggregators data set to make any projections since it includes data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Military, federal prisons and the Navajo Nation.

SARS-CoV-2 infections per day have been increasing in the United States for 6 consecutive weeks despite underreporting by states and the failure to capture positive home tests and a decreased screening program in most states. The number of infections per day in the United States has increased by 49.28% in the last 2 weeks and 136.4% from 4 weeks ago. Deaths per day had been decelerating at a rapid rate in the United States but are now flattening out. The rate of decline has lessened as the increased infection rate and infectivity of the Omicron BA.1, BA.2 and particularly BA.2.12.1 variant of SARS CoV-2 have spread across the nation. The CDC estimates that BA.2.12.1 accounted for 57.9% of isolates in the week ending May 21.

Something to look out for is the rise of infections in South Africa to 94,255 infections in the last 14 days ending 5/20/22, a 31% increase from the previous two weeks. This is secondary to new Omicron mutants BA.4 and BA.5, which, according to NICD, became the dominant variants in South Africa in April, comprising 58% of isolates and now make up 92% of isolates. According to the UK Health Security Agency, “BA.4 shares all mutations/deletions with the BA.2 lineage except the following: S: 69/70 deletion, R408 (WT, wild type)*, L452R, F486V, Q493 (WT); ORF 7b: L11F; N: P151S; synonymous SNP G12160A” and “BA.5 shares all mutations/deletions with the BA.2 lineage except the following: S: 69/70 deletion, R408 (WT), L452R, F486V, Q493 (WT); ORF6: D61 (WT); M: D3N; synonymous SNPs: G12160A, A27038G, and C27889T.” As of 5/20/22, 0.77% of cases sequenced in the United States are BA.4 and 0.78% are BA.5. On May 12, the European CDC designated both BA.4 and BA.5 as variants of concern. 

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

The Omicron variant will continue to mutate just like Delta. There are now 100 Omicron sub-variants that have been assigned Pango lineages, including 50 sub-lineages of BA.2.

An additional problem may be the development of recombinant SARS-CoV-2 isolates. A recombinant isolate occurs when two isolates infect the same cell and, in the process of viral reproduction, exchange nucleic acids, creating a new isolate that is a recombination of parts from the genomes of both isolates. A recombinant isolate of Delta AY.4.2.2 and Omicron BA.1.1 was recently reported in the UK. As of 3/25/22 four different recombinant variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been reported by the UK Health Security Agency. 

According to the UK Health Security Agency’s Technical Briefing from 3/25/22: “There are currently 3 recombinant lineages being monitored as part of horizon scanning: XD, XE, and XF (Figure 6). XD and XF are Delta and BA.1 recombinants. XE is a BA.1 and BA.2 recombinant and has 3 mutations that are not present in all BA.1 or BA.2 sequences: NSP3 C3241T and V1069I, and NSP12 C14599T. XF and XE are associated with UK sequenced samples. XD is predominantly associated with France. XD contains the unique mutation NSP2:E172D.” As of 5/17/22 the UK Health Security Agency reports 2,049 sequences of the XE recombinant in the UK data. 

Omicron variants have mutations which decrease the effectiveness of current vaccines and monoclonal antibodies. The effectiveness of the new Pfizer drug, PAXLOVIDTM, should not be compromised by any of the current mutations in Omicron or Delta variants. Pfizer completed their filing with the FDA on 11/15/21. The FDA approved PAXLOVIDTM on December 22 , 2021.The FDA approved Merck’s drug Molnupiravir on December 23, 2021. On 12/23/21 CVS announced by fax it was selected by the Government to distribute oral PAXLOVIDTM and Molnupiravir. On 12/27/21, another fax from CVS listed which CVS pharmacies in California would have these drugs. Monterey County covers 3,771 square miles with a population of 434,061. Three CVS pharmacies in Monterey, Salinas, and Soledad are the only listed pharmacies in our county. I have now been able to obtain PAXLOVIDTM for infected patients from the CVS in Salinas (phone 831-424-0026), the CVS on Fremont Street in Monterey (phone 831-375-5135) and the CVS in Soledad in south Monterey County (phone 831-678-5110). All require electronic prescriptions written as Paxlovid three tablets twice daily orally for five days (thirty total tablets).  Physicians or their staff probably should call to check on drug availability that day.

In the absence of obtaining intravenous Sotrovimab or Bebtelovimab, only oral PAXLOVIDTM and Molnupiravir are available to treat SARS-CoV-2 as an outpatient. Our first Paxlovid failure in an immunocompromised patient was treated the week of 4/5/22 at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (Montage) ER as an outpatient with a single one-minute intravenous injection of Bebtelovimab. 

Vaccination will not prevent you from getting an Omicron variant infection. For now only masking (N95 rated masks, please!) and social distancing will have any effect on acquisition of infection with these variants. Furthermore, we do not believe that a 5-day quarantine or isolation period is sufficient for any COVID-19 infection.

In the last 14 days in the United States, the number of infections has increased by 32,374 infections per day compared to the preceding 14-day period. Our infections per day have increased for the third time in the last 14 weeks. Unless people get vaccinated, including their third dose of the vaccine, we will see further spread of the Omicron variants and increase in deaths in people who are not vaccinated, have waning immunity, the immunocompromised population and others with risk factors particularly those older over the age of 64. SARS-CoV-2 is now in the top ten most common causes of death for children. Anyone over the age of 5 years can now get vaccinated in the United States at no cost. This should get done immediately.In Monterey County, as of 5/24/22, only 38.3% of 5-11 year-olds have received the first two doses of vaccine, while 80.3% of 12-17 year-olds have received two doses.

Monterey County Health Department

On 5/20/22, the United States had 98,665 documented new infections. There were also 244 deaths. In the United States the number of hospitalized patients had been increasing in many areas. Now there are 2,289  patients who are seriously or critically ill; that number was 1,724 two weeks ago. The number of critically ill patients has increased by 565 in the last 14 days, while at least 4,355 new deaths occurred (a decrease of 33 deaths per day from the previous 14 days). The number of critically ill patients has increased for the second time in nineteen 14-day periods. Patients are still dying each day (average 311/day). Omicron BA.2  variants causing infections should continue to increase and critically ill patients may continue to increase. Deaths usually lag two to four weeks behind exponential increase in infections so we will have to see how lethal BA.2.12.1 infections are in a month. Infections with a BA.1, and BA.2 will not prevent infections with BA.2.12.1. There have already been reports out of Israel of patients infected with BA.1 being later reinfected with BA.2. 

As of 5/20/22, we have had 1,028,741 deaths and 84,935,202 SARS-CoV-2 infections in the United States. We have had 1,401,202 new infections in the last 14 days. We were adding an average of 700,601 infections every seven days. For the pandemic in the United States we are averaging one death for every 82.56 infections reported for each death or over 12,112 deaths for each one million infections. As of 5/20/22, thirty-seven states have had greater than 500,000 total infections, and 36 states have had greater than 5,000 total deaths. Seventeen states (Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, New York, Arizona and California) have had greater than 20,000 deaths. Four states (Florida, Texas, New York, and California) have had greater than 69,000 deaths. California and Texas have each had greater than 88,000 deaths with California having 91,322 deaths (20th most deaths in the world). 

On 11/20/20 in the United States, 3.70% of the population had a documented SARS-CoV-2 infection. California was ranked 41st in infection percentage at 2.77%. On 11/20/21 in North Dakota, 9.18% of the population was infected (ranked #1), and in South Dakota, 8.03% of the population was infected (ranked #2). As of 5/20/22, in the United States, 25.38% of the population has had a documented SARS-CoV-2 infection. In the last 17 months, 22.73% of our country became infected with SARS-CoV-2. On 11/20/20, there were 260,331 (cumulative) deaths in the US from SARS-CoV-2. In the last 17 months, there were 768,610 new deaths from SARS-CoV-2. For fourteen of those months, vaccines have been available to all adults. During these fourteen months, 457,644 people have died of SARS-CoV-2 infections. Most of the hospitalizations and deaths could have been prevented by vaccination, proper masking, and social distancing. 

As of 5/20/22, California was ranked 37th in the USA in infection percentage at 23.90%. In California 20.06% of Californians were infected in the last 17 months. As of 5/20/22 forty-six states have had greater than 20% of their population infected. Rhode Island was at 36.53% (ranked #1), Alaska was at 34.10% (ranked #2), North Dakota was at 31.91% (ranked #3), Kentucky was at 30.09% (ranked #4), Tennessee was at 29.98% (ranked #5), Utah was at 29.42% (ranked #6), South Carolina was at 28.89% (ranked #7), Wisconsin jumped to 28.42% (ranked #8),West Virginia was at 28.41% (ranked #9), Florida jumped to 28.41% (ranked #10), Arizona was at 28.00% (ranked #12), Arkansas was at 28.73% (ranked #14) and Texas was at 23.75% (ranked #37) of their population infected.

The table below shows that if we rank the US states with the highest death rates per million population within the world rankings, we see that Mississippi, Arizona and Alabama have the eighth highest death rates, New Jersey, and Arkansas have the ninth highest COVID-19 deaths per million in the world. Louisiana had the tenth, New York was at eleventh, and Florida and Rhode Island were tied at twelth. The United States as a whole ranks 16th in the world for deaths per million population (3,108 deaths per million). California ranks 39th in the USA (and 36th in the world). If we look at the death rates per million in South Korea (465), Iceland (443), Japan (240), and Israel (1,161), they suggest that treatment outcomes are somehow different in these four countries. The same phenomenon can be seen in Scandinavia, where the death rate in Sweden is 1,851 per million, compared to 556 per million in Norway and 793 per million in Finland. The United States should have taken a closer look at how countries with low death rates (like South Korea, Iceland, Japan, Finland, and Norway) were preventing COVID-19 infections and treating COVID-19 patients. 

State or Country COVID-19 Deaths per million populationRank in USARanked within World
Mississippi4,1881st8th tied
New Jersey  3,7837th9th tied
Louisiana3,7248th10th 
New York 3,56013th11th 
Alabama4,0073rd8th tied
Arizona4,1572nd8th tied
Rhode Island  3,362 20th12th
Arkansas3,7886th9th tied
Florida3,46119th12th 
California2,31139th36th
USA3,10816th
Peru6,2981st
Bosnia-Herzegovina  4,8683rd
Hungary4,8314th
Montenegro4,3286th
Bulgaria5,4142nd
Czechia3,7479th
Brazil3,09016th
Georgia4,2297th
Sweden1,85156th
Israel1,16185th
Canada1,06092nd
Finland793109th
Norway556126th
Japan240149th
Iceland443132nd
South Korea465130th

FDA-Approved Oral Drug Treatments for SARS-CoV-2

Pfizer has developed PAXLOVID™, an oral reversible inhibitor of C3-like protease of SARS-CoV-2. The drug inhibits this key enzyme that is crucial for virus production. The compound, also called Compound 6 (PF-07321332), is part of the drug combination PAXLOVID™ (PF-07321332; ritonavir), which just successfully completed a Phase 2-3 trial in humans in multiple countries. The preliminary results were announced on 11/5/21 by Pfizer. The results show that 89% of the hospitalizations and deaths were prevented in the drug treatment arm. The drug was administered twice a day for five days. No deaths occurred in the treatment group, and ten deaths occurred in the placebo group. The study was stopped by an independent data safety monitoring board, and the FDA concurred with this decision. Pfizer applied for an Emergency Use Authorization for this drug on 11/15/21. This drug was approved on 12/23/21. We have only been able to obtain PAXLOVID™ for two patients who we successfully treated with this drug obtained from CVS in Salinas (East Alisal Street; phone number 831-424-0026). They were expecting another shipment on 1/28/22. In my opinion, this agent, if more widely available, could markedly alter the course of every coronavirus infection throughout the world. 

Merck has developed the oral drug Molnupiravir, which induces RNA mutagenesis by viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses. According to Kabinger et al, “Viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase uses the active form of Molnupiravir, β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine triphosphate, as a substrate instead of cytidine triphosphate or uridine triphosphate. When the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase uses the resulting RNA as a template, β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine triphosphate directs incorporation of either guanine or adenine, leading to mutated (viral) RNA products. Analysis of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase–RNA complexes that contain mutagenesis products has demonstrated that β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine (the active form of Molnupiravir) can form stable base pairs with either guanine or adenine in RNA-dependent RNA polymerase explaining how the polymerase escapes proofreading and synthesizes mutated RNA” (quotation modified for clarity). The results of the phase 3 trial of Molnupiravir were published in the NEJM article “Molnupiravir for Oral Treatment of Covid-19 in Nonhospitalized Patients” by Angélica Jayk Bernal, M.D. et al. (December 16, 2021 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2116044). In this phase 3 study in the Molnupiravir group, 28 patients were hospitalized and one death occurred. In the placebo group, 53 patients were hospitalized and 9 died. Overall, 47% of hospitalizations and deaths were prevented by Molnupiravir. If you do a post hoc analysis and just look at deaths, Molnupiravir would prevent 89% of deaths. An Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA for Molnupiravir was approved on 12/24/21.The dose of Molnupiravir approved is four 200 mg capsules orally twice a day for five days. Diarrhea is reportedly a side effect in two percent of patients. I treated my first patient with Molnupiravir on 1/28/22. Currently more Molnupiravir is available weekly in the United States than PAXLOVID™ (see chart below; data from PHE.gov). Locally Molnupiravir is still available at CVS in Monterey (Fremont Blvd.; phone number: 831-375-5135) and CVS in Salinas (East Alisal Street; phone number 831-424-0026). 

FDA Approved Intramuscular Prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2 Immunocompromised Patients

Evusheld (from AstraZeneca) contains two human monoclonal antibodies, Tixagevimab (150 mg in 1.5 mL) and Cilgavimab (150 mg in 1.5 mL), in separate vials. According to the manufacturer, “Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab are two recombinant human IgG1κ monoclonal antibodies with amino acid substitutions to extend antibody half-life (YTE), reduce antibody effector function, and minimize the potential risk of antibody-dependent enhancement of disease (TM). Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab can simultaneously bind to non-overlapping regions of the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Tixagevimab, Cilgavimab, and their combination bind to spike protein with equilibrium dissociation constants of KD = 2.76 pM, 13.0 pM and 13.7 pM, respectively, blocking its interaction with human ACE2, the SARS-CoV-2 receptor, which is required for virus attachment. Tixagevimab, Cilgavimab, and their combination blocked RBD binding to human ACE2 with IC50 values of 0.32 nM (48 ng/mL), 0.53 nM (80 ng/mL), and 0.43 nM (65 ng/mL), respectively.” Each monoclonal antibody is administered intramuscularly to immunocompromised patients in two separate injections every six months. Evusheld availability in California is limited and has been rationed/distributed by our local Public Health Department only to hospitals. Physicians in Monterey County who want to receive a distribution (or redistribution) of Evusheld need to be added to the list of eligible facilities by the State Therapeutics group. The first step is for the Monterey County EMS Agency (phone: 831-755-5713) to make a request to the State Therapeutics group to have the facility added to the system for further verification.  Due to extremely limited availability, evidently the State Therapeutics group is currently only considering additions on a case by case basis.  Physicians who wish to submit their facility for consideration will need to provide the following information to the Monterey County EMS Agency:

  1. Facility/Provider Name for Registration
  2. Provider Type (Hospital, Pharmacy, Etc)
  3. Shipping Address
  4. Contact Name(s)
  5. Contact Email(s)
  6. Contact Phone Number(s)

As for my immunocompromised patients: We provided this information by email to the Monterey County EMS Agency on 1/26/22 and will update you when or if we become an eligible provider and receive our first doses of Evusheld. 

On 2/24/22, the FDA revised its dosing guidance for Evusheld, doubling the dosage of its two components, Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab, from 150 mg each to 300 mg each. They explain, “Based on the most recent information and data available, Evusheld may be less active against certain Omicron subvariants. The dosing regimen was revised because available data indicate that a higher dose of Evusheld may be more likely to prevent infection by the COVID-19 Omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.1.1 than the originally authorized Evusheld dose.” Patients who have already received their first administration of Evusheld intramuscularly will need to contact their healthcare provider to get a second 150 mg injection of Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab. If you have not received Evusheld yet, the correct dose is 3 mL/300 mg of each monoclonal antibody injected intramuscularly. This large volume necessitates administration of the antibodies in the gluteus, with two separate injections. 

Watching World Data

Over the next few months, we’ll be paying close attention to correlations between the SARS-CoV-2 data, the number of isolates identified in various countries and states, and the non-pharmaceutical interventions (like mask mandates and lockdowns) put in place by state and national governments. Data on infections, deaths, and percent of population infected was compiled from Worldometers. Data for this table for SARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in Location was compiled from GISAID and the CDC. It’s worth noting that GISAID provided more data than the CDC.

LocationTotal Infections as of 5/20/22New Infections on 5/20/22Total DeathsNew Deaths on 5/20/22% of Pop.InfectedSARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in LocationNational/ State Mask MandateCurrently in Lockdown
World526,381,589(9,885,575 new infections in 14 days).760,7546,298,738(24,190  new deaths in last 14 days)1,3956.75%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)A lineage isolateV01.V2 (Tanzania)APTK India VOC 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa 2% of isolates in July 2021)R1 (Japan)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 + BA.3 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)Four new recombinants 12/31 to 3/22)BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
USA84,935,262(ranked #1) 1,401,202 new infections in the last 14 days.98,665(ranked #2)1,028,741(ranked #1)4,355 new deaths in the last 14 days. 24425.38%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)R1(Japan)         Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Recombinant Delta AY.119.2- Omicron BA.1.1 (Tennessee, USA 12/31/21)\BA.2BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
Brazil30,762,413(ranked #3) 218,405 new infections in the last 14 days. 10,187 (ranked #11)665,595(ranked #2)10414.28%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
India43,134,332(ranked #2); 106,300 new infections in 2 weeks.2,510524,348(ranked #3)253.06%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)APTK India VOI 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
United Kingdom22,238,706(ranked #6; was #6 thirty-four weeks ago; 124,672 new infections in 2 weeks.6,338(ranked 16th in the world).177,977 ranked #7 in world)8732.43%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)XD (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantXF (Delta/BA.1) recombinantXE (BA.1/BA.2) recombinantBA.2BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
California, USA9,446,122(ranked #13 in the world;  157,349 new infections in the last 14 days).16,04491,322 (ranked #20 in world)4723.90%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)BA.2BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
Mexico5,752,441(ranked #20) 12,361 new infections in 14 days).———324,617(ranked #5)——–4.37%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
South Africa3,921,633(ranked #29; 94,255 new infections in 14 days).6,375100,916 (ranked #18)186.45%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)       C.1.2 (South Africa, July 2021)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)BA.2BA.2.12.1BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)NoNo
Canada3,787,378(ranked #31, was 26th eighteen weeks ago; 57,347 new infections in 14 days).2,29240,664(ranked #25)3710.02% .B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Poland6,005,101 (ranked #20; 5,558 new infections in 14 days). 315116,255 (ranked #15)1315.89%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + (South Africa November 2021),Omicron/B.1.1.529 +BA.3 NoNo
Turkey15,060,112(ranked #10, 19,874 new infections in 14 days).————98,918 (ranked #19)———17.50% B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Russia18,283,706(ranked #7), 51,635 new infections in 14 days).5,089378,168(ranked #4 in world)9612.51%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)R1 (Japan) B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Argentina9,135,308(ranked #13; 51,635 new infections in 14 days).———–128,776 (ranked #14 in world)——–19.87%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gama/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Colombia6,099,111(ranked #18, 5,466 new infections in 14 days).———–139,833 (ranked #12 in the world)———11.75%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Peru3,574,876(ranked #35, 8,850 new infections in 14 days). 694213,086(ranked #6)910.56%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Indonesia6,097,986(ranked #18; —– new infections in 14 days)250156,513 (ranked #9)32.16%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)
NoNo
Iran7,229,582 5,151 new infections in last 14 days(ranked 16th; was 12th  thirty-four weeks ago)228141,262 (ranked #11)98.40%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)


NoNo
Spain12,238,073(ranked 11th;   229,014  new infections in 14 days).19,631105,947 (ranked #17)10126.15%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
France29,315,478 (ranked #4; 425,339 new infections in the last 14 days).24,332 (ranked #9)147,780 (ranked #10)6544.72%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Germany26,053,934(ranked #5; 764,344 new infections in 14 days.).40,651 (ranked #5)138,633 (ranked #13)14530.91%
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Hungary1,914,697 (ranked #44; 11,497 new infections in 14 days).
———46,446 (ranked #23)——–19.91%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Romania2,905,539(ranked #38; 7,281 new infections in 14 days).48465,644 (ranked#20)415.29%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
South Korea17,914,957 (ranked 8th) ; 450,175 new infections in 14 days).25,108(ranked#8)23,885 (ranked #39); 4334.88%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Ukraine5,009,301(ranked #22; 6,431new infections in 14 days),——–108,497 (ranked #16)——–11.58%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Vietnam10,706,111(ranked #12; 35,541new infections in 14 days).1,58743,075 (ranked #24)210.81%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Netherlands8,075,194 (ranked #15; 17,494 new infections in 14 days).1,04822,306 (ranked #41)546.93%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Denmark2,979,238 (ranked #37) 8,429  new infections in 14 days———6,312 (ranked #81)———51.09%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo




North Korea (DPRK)First listing)2,241,618 (ranked#41)263,380 (ranked#1)8528.62%

What Our Team Is Reading This Week

COVID-19

SARS-CoV-2 Update

It’s time for our next 14-day moving average determinations for SARS-CoV-2 for the United States and my thoughts on vaccines, SARS-CoV-2 therapeutic agents and mutant viruses. We use the WORLDOMETERS aggregators data set to make any projections since it includes data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Military, federal prisons and the Navajo Nation.

SARS-CoV-2 infections per day have been increasing in the United States for 4 consecutive weeks despite underreporting by states and the failure to capture positive home tests and a decreased screening program in most states. The number of infections per day in the United States has increased by 59.7% in the last 2 weeks and 118.5% from 4 weeks ago. Deaths per day had been decelerating at a rapid rate in the United States but are now flattening out. The rate of decline has lessened as the increased infection rate and infectivity of the Omicron BA.1, BA.2 and particularly BA.2.12.1 variant of SARS CoV-2 have spread across the nation. The CDC estimates that BA.2.12.1 accounted for 36.5% of isolates in the week ending April 30.

Something to look out for is the rise of infections in South Africa from 25,393 infections in the 2 weeks ending on 4/22/22 to 71,869 infections in the last 14 days ending 5/6/22, a 283% increase. This is probably secondary to new Omicron mutants BA.4 and BA.5, which, according to NICD, became the dominant variants in South Africa in April, comprising 58% of isolates. According to the UK Health Security Agency, “BA.4 shares all mutations/deletions with the BA.2 lineage except the following: S: 69/70 deletion, R408 (WT, wild type)*, L452R, F486V, Q493 (WT); ORF 7b: L11F; N: P151S; synonymous SNP G12160A” and “BA.5 shares all mutations/deletions with the BA.2 lineage except the following: S: 69/70 deletion, R408 (WT), L452R, F486V, Q493 (WT); ORF6: D61 (WT); M: D3N; synonymous SNPs: G12160A, A27038G, and C27889T.” As of 5/8/22, the United States has sequenced 20 cases of BA.4 and 6 cases of BA.5. 

The Omicron variant will continue to mutate just like Delta. There are now 92 Omicron sub-variants that have been assigned Pango lineages, including 43 sub-lineages of BA.2.

An additional problem may be the development of recombinant SARS-CoV-2 isolates. A recombinant isolate occurs when two isolates infect the same cell and, in the process of viral reproduction, exchange nucleic acids, creating a new isolate that is a recombination of parts from the genomes of both isolates. A recombinant isolate of Delta AY.4.2.2 and Omicron BA.1.1 was recently reported in the UK. As of 3/25/22 four different recombinant variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been reported by the UK Health Security Agency. 

According to the UK Health Security Agency’s Technical Briefing from 3/25/22: “There are currently 3 recombinant lineages being monitored as part of horizon scanning: XD, XE, and XF (Figure 6). XD and XF are Delta and BA.1 recombinants. XE is a BA.1 and BA.2 recombinant and has 3 mutations that are not present in all BA.1 or BA.2 sequences: NSP3 C3241T and V1069I, and NSP12 C14599T. XF and XE are associated with UK sequenced samples. XD is predominantly associated with France. XD contains the unique mutation NSP2:E172D.”

As of 5/8/22 the UK Health Security Agency reports 1,880 sequences of the XE recombinant in the UK data. The figure below shows a breakdown of XE data by gender and age group. We can see there were more XE infections in children and young adults than there were in the 70+ age groups. 

Omicron variants have mutations which decrease the effectiveness of current vaccines and monoclonal antibodies. The effectiveness of the new Pfizer drug, PAXLOVIDTM, should not be compromised by any of the current mutations in Omicron or Delta variants. Pfizer completed their filing with the FDA on 11/15/21. The FDA approved PAXLOVIDTM on December 22 , 2021.The FDA approved Merck’s drug Molnupiravir on December 23, 2021. On 12/23/21 CVS announced by fax it was selected by the Government to distribute oral PAXLOVIDTM and Molnupiravir. On 12/27/21, another fax from CVS listed which CVS pharmacies in California would have these drugs. Monterey County covers 3,771 square miles with a population of 434,061. Three CVS pharmacies in Monterey, Salinas, and Soledad are the only listed pharmacies in our county. I have now been able to obtain PAXLOVIDTM for infected patients from the CVS in Salinas (phone 831-424-0026), the CVS on Fremont Street in Monterey (phone 831-375-5135) and the CVS in Soledad in south Monterey County (phone 831-678-5110). All require electronic prescriptions written as Paxlovid three tablets twice daily orally for five days (thirty total tablets).  Physicians or their staff probably should call to check on drug availability that day.

In the absence of obtaining intravenous Sotrovimab or Bebtelovimab, only oral PAXLOVIDTM and Molnupiravir are available to treat SARS-CoV-2 as an outpatient. Our first Paxlovid failure in an immunocompromised patient was treated the week of 4/5/22 at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (Montage) ER as an outpatient with a single one-minute intravenous injection of Bebtelovimab. Vaccination will not prevent you from getting an Omicron variant infection. For now only masking (N95 rated masks, please!) and social distancing will have any effect on acquisition of infection with these variants. Furthermore, we do not believe that a 5-day quarantine or isolation period is sufficient for any COVID-19 infection.

On 5/06/22, the United States had 77,116 documented new infections. There were also 291 deaths. In the United States the number of hospitalized patients had been decreasing in many areas. Now there are 1,724  patients who are seriously or critically ill; that number was 1,512 two weeks ago. The number of critically ill patients has increased by 212 in the last 14 days, while at least 6,232 new deaths occurred (a decrease of 19 deaths per day from the previous 14 days). The number of critically ill patients has increased for the first time in nineteen 14-day periods. Patients are still dying each day (average 445/day). Omicron BA.2  variants causing infections should continue to increase and critically ill patients may continue to increase. Deaths usually lag two to four weeks behind exponential increase in infections so we will have to see how lethal BA.2.12.1 infections are in a month. Infections with a BA.1, and BA.2 will not prevent infections with BA.2.12.1. There have already been reports out of Israel of patients infected with BA.1 being later reinfected with BA.2. 

As of 5/06/22, we have had 1,024,386 deaths and 83,534,060 SARS-CoV-2 infections in the United States. We have had 905,971 new infections in the last 14 days. We were adding an average of 452,985 infections every seven days. For the pandemic in the United States we are averaging one death for every 81.5 infections reported for each death or over 12,263 deaths for each one million infections. As of 5/06/22, thirty-seven states have had greater than 500,000 total infections, and 36 states have had greater than 5,000 total deaths. Seventeen states (Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, New York, Arizona and California) have had greater than 20,000 deaths. Four states (Florida, Texas, New York, and California) have had greater than 68,000 deaths. California and Texas have each had greater than 85,000 deaths with California having 90,804 deaths (20th most deaths in the world). 

On 11/20/20 in the United States, 3.70% of the population had a documented SARS-CoV-2 infection. California was ranked 41st in infection percentage at 2.77%. On 11/20/21 in North Dakota, 9.18% of the population was infected (ranked #1), and in South Dakota, 8.03% of the population was infected (ranked #2). As of 5/06/22, in the United States, 24.96% of the population has had a documented SARS-CoV-2 infection. In the last 17 months, 22.27% of our country became infected with SARS-CoV-2. On 11/20/20, there were 260,331 (cumulative) deaths in the US from SARS-CoV-2. In the last 17 months, there were 764,255 new deaths from SARS-CoV-2. For fourteen of those months, vaccines have been available to all adults. During these fourteen months, 453,289 people have died of SARS-CoV-2 infections. Most of the hospitalizations and deaths could have been prevented by vaccination, proper masking, and social distancing. 

As of 5/06/22, California was ranked 37th in infection percentage at 23.50%. In California 19.66% of Californians were infected in the last 17 months. As of 5/06/22 forty-five states have had greater than 20% of their population infected. Rhode Island was at 35,48% (ranked #1), Alaska was at 33.67% (ranked #2), North Dakota was at 31.72% (ranked #3), Kentucky was at 29.81% (ranked #4), Tennessee was at 29.78% (ranked #5), Utah was at 29.17% (ranked #6), South Carolina was at 28.69% (ranked #7), West Virginia was at 28.06% (ranked #8), Florida jumped to 27.97% (ranked #9). Wisconsin jumped to 27.87% (ranked #10), Arizona was at 27.82% (ranked #11), Arkansas was at 27.73% (ranked #12) and Texas was at 23.59% (ranked #36) of their population infected.

The table below shows that if we rank the US states with the highest death rates per million population within the world rankings, we see that Mississippi, Arizona and Alabama have the eighth highest death rates, New Jersey, Arkansas, West Virginia and Tennessee have the ninth highest COVID-19 deaths per million in the world. Louisiana had the tenth, New York was at eleventh,  Florida and Rhode Island were tied at twelth. The United States as a whole ranks 16th in the world for deaths per million population (3,095 deaths per million). California ranks 40th in the USA (and 36th in the world). If we look at the death rates per million in South Korea (452), Iceland (345), Japan (286), and Israel (1,152), they suggest that treatment outcomes are somehow different in these four countries. The same phenomenon can be seen in Scandinavia, where the death rate in Sweden is 1,839 per million, compared to 47 per million in Norway and 747 per million in Finland. The United States should have taken a closer look at how countries with low death rates (like South Korea, Iceland, Japan, Finland, and Norway) were preventing COVID-19 infections and treating COVID-19 patients. 

State or Country COVID-19 Deaths per million populationRank in USARanked within World
Mississippi4,1851st8th tied
New Jersey  3,7707th9th tied
Louisiana3,7168th10th 
New York 3,54413th11th 
Alabama3,9983rd8th tied
Arizona4,1482nd8th tied
Rhode Island  3,559  20th12th
Arkansas3,7806th9th tied
Florida3,44919th12th 
California2,29840th36th
USA3,09516th
Peru6,2961st
Bosnia-Herzegovina  4,8623rd
Hungary4,8124th
Montenegro4,3256th
Bulgaria5,3952nd
Czechia3,7429th
Brazil3,08416th
Georgia4,2297th
Sweden1,83957th
Israel1,15284th
Canada1,03691st
Finland747111th
Norway547125th
Japan286149th
Iceland345142nd
South Korea452129th

FDA-Approved Oral Drug Treatments for SARS-CoV-2

Pfizer has developed PAXLOVID™, an oral reversible inhibitor of C3-like protease of SARS-CoV-2. The drug inhibits this key enzyme that is crucial for virus production. The compound, also called Compound 6 (PF-07321332), is part of the drug combination PAXLOVID™ (PF-07321332; ritonavir), which just successfully completed a Phase 2-3 trial in humans in multiple countries. The preliminary results were announced on 11/5/21 by Pfizer. The results show that 89% of the hospitalizations and deaths were prevented in the drug treatment arm. The drug was administered twice a day for five days. No deaths occurred in the treatment group, and ten deaths occurred in the placebo group. The study was stopped by an independent data safety monitoring board, and the FDA concurred with this decision. Pfizer applied for an Emergency Use Authorization for this drug on 11/15/21. This drug was approved on 12/23/21. We have only been able to obtain PAXLOVID™ for two patients who we successfully treated with this drug obtained from CVS in Salinas (East Alisal Street; phone number 831-424-0026). They were expecting another shipment on 1/28/22. In my opinion, this agent, if more widely available, could markedly alter the course of every coronavirus infection throughout the world. 

Merck has developed the oral drug Molnupiravir, which induces RNA mutagenesis by viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses. According to Kabinger et al, “Viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase uses the active form of Molnupiravir, β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine triphosphate, as a substrate instead of cytidine triphosphate or uridine triphosphate. When the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase uses the resulting RNA as a template, β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine triphosphate directs incorporation of either guanine or adenine, leading to mutated (viral) RNA products. Analysis of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase–RNA complexes that contain mutagenesis products has demonstrated that β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine (the active form of Molnupiravir) can form stable base pairs with either guanine or adenine in RNA-dependent RNA polymerase explaining how the polymerase escapes proofreading and synthesizes mutated RNA” (quotation modified for clarity). The results of the phase 3 trial of Molnupiravir were published in the NEJM article “Molnupiravir for Oral Treatment of Covid-19 in Nonhospitalized Patients” by Angélica Jayk Bernal, M.D. et al. (December 16, 2021 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2116044). In this phase 3 study in the Molnupiravir group, 28 patients were hospitalized and one death occurred. In the placebo group, 53 patients were hospitalized and 9 died. Overall, 47% of hospitalizations and deaths were prevented by Molnupiravir. If you do a post hoc analysis and just look at deaths, Molnupiravir would prevent 89% of deaths. An Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA for Molnupiravir was approved on 12/24/21.The dose of Molnupiravir approved is four 200 mg capsules orally twice a day for five days. Diarrhea is reportedly a side effect in two percent of patients. I treated my first patient with Molnupiravir on 1/28/22. Currently more Molnupiravir is available weekly in the United States than PAXLOVID™ (see chart below; data from PHE.gov). Locally Molnupiravir is still available at CVS in Monterey (Fremont Blvd.; phone number: 831-375-5135) and CVS in Salinas (East Alisal Street; phone number 831-424-0026). 

FDA Approved Intramuscular Prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2 Immunocompromised Patients

Evusheld (from AstraZeneca) contains two human monoclonal antibodies, Tixagevimab (150 mg in 1.5 mL) and Cilgavimab (150 mg in 1.5 mL), in separate vials. According to the manufacturer, “Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab are two recombinant human IgG1κ monoclonal antibodies with amino acid substitutions to extend antibody half-life (YTE), reduce antibody effector function, and minimize the potential risk of antibody-dependent enhancement of disease (TM). Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab can simultaneously bind to non-overlapping regions of the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Tixagevimab, Cilgavimab, and their combination bind to spike protein with equilibrium dissociation constants of KD = 2.76 pM, 13.0 pM and 13.7 pM, respectively, blocking its interaction with human ACE2, the SARS-CoV-2 receptor, which is required for virus attachment. Tixagevimab, Cilgavimab, and their combination blocked RBD binding to human ACE2 with IC50 values of 0.32 nM (48 ng/mL), 0.53 nM (80 ng/mL), and 0.43 nM (65 ng/mL), respectively.” Each monoclonal antibody is administered intramuscularly to immunocompromised patients in two separate injections every six months. Evusheld availability in California is limited and has been rationed/distributed by our local Public Health Department only to hospitals. Physicians in Monterey County who want to receive a distribution (or redistribution) of Evusheld need to be added to the list of eligible facilities by the State Therapeutics group. The first step is for the Monterey County EMS Agency (phone: 831-755-5713) to make a request to the State Therapeutics group to have the facility added to the system for further verification.  Due to extremely limited availability, evidently the State Therapeutics group is currently only considering additions on a case by case basis.  Physicians who wish to submit their facility for consideration will need to provide the following information to the Monterey County EMS Agency:

  1. Facility/Provider Name for Registration
  2. Provider Type (Hospital, Pharmacy, Etc)
  3. Shipping Address
  4. Contact Name(s)
  5. Contact Email(s)
  6. Contact Phone Number(s)

As for my immunocompromised patients: We provided this information by email to the Monterey County EMS Agency on 1/26/22 and will update you when or if we become an eligible provider and receive our first doses of Evusheld. On 2/24/22, the FDA revised its dosing guidance for Evusheld, doubling the dosage of its two components, Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab, from 150 mg each to 300 mg each. They explain, “Based on the most recent information and data available, Evusheld may be less active against certain Omicron subvariants. The dosing regimen was revised because available data indicate that a higher dose of Evusheld may be more likely to prevent infection by the COVID-19 Omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.1.1 than the originally authorized Evusheld dose.” Patients who have already received their first administration of Evusheld intramuscularly will need to contact their healthcare provider to get a second 150 mg injection of Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab. If you have not received Evusheld yet, the correct dose is 3 mL/300 mg of each monoclonal antibody injected intramuscularly. This large volume necessitates administration of the antibodies in the gluteus, with two separate injections.

A New Possible Indication for an Older FDA-Approved Antiviral Drug 

Remdesivir was the first FDA-approved Emergency Use Authorization drug for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infected patients. In their January 2021 paper in Nature Communications, Kokic et al explained the mechanism of Remdesivir’s action on SARS-CoV-2: “The active form of remdesivir acts as a nucleoside analog and inhibits the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) of coronaviruses including SARS-CoV-2. Remdesivir is incorporated by the RdRp into the growing RNA product and allows for addition of three more nucleotides before RNA synthesis stalls. Addition of the fourth nucleotide following Remdesivir incorporation into the RNA product is impaired by a barrier to further RNA translocation. This translocation barrier causes retention of the RNA 3ʹ-nucleotide in the substrate-binding site of the RdRp and interferes with entry of the next nucleoside triphosphate, thereby stalling RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. In the structure of the Remdesivir-stalled state, the 3ʹ-nucleotide of the RNA product is matched and located with the template base in the active center, and this may impair proofreading by the viral 3ʹ-exonuclease.” 

A recent study by Gottlieb et al of intravenous Remdesivir to prevent disease progression, whose design was similar to the study designs used for PAXLOVID™ and Molnupiravir, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on 1/27/22. The study resulted in an 87% lower risk of hospitalization or death than in the placebo group with a similar adverse events occurrence (42.3% and 46.3% respectively). The FDA may allow approval of outpatient intravenous Remdesivir over three days (200 mg IV on day one followed by 100 mg IV daily on days two and three) in high risk non-hospitalized SARS-CoV-2 infected patients.

With the exception of Evusheld, all of the therapies listed above, with the exception of sotrovimab, can be used in Omicron-infected patients. Other previously approved monoclonal antibodies will not work for Omicron.

The Threat of SARS-CoV-2 Variants

In response to the need for “easy-to-pronounce and non-stigmatising labels,” at the end of May, the World Health Organization assigned a letter from the Greek alphabet to each SARS-CoV-2 variant. GISAID, Nextstrain, and Pango will continue to use the previously established nomenclature. For our purposes, we’ll be referring to each variant by both its Greek alphabet letter and the Pango nomenclature. 

The WHO has sorted variants into two categories: Variants of Concern (VOC) and Variants of Interest (VOI). The criteria for Variants of Concern are as follows:

  • Increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology; or 
  • Increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; or 
  • Decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.  

The WHO categorizes the following five variants as Variants of Concern (VOC):

Source: World Health Organization

The criteria for Variants of Interest (VOI) are as follows:

  • has been identified to cause community transmission/multiple COVID-19 cases/clusters, or has been detected in multiple countries; OR  
  • is otherwise assessed to be a VOI by WHO in consultation with the WHO SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution Working Group. 

The WHO categorizes the following six variants as Variants of Interest (VOI):

According to the UK Health Security Agency Technical Briefing from 2/25/22, “A putative Delta and Omicron recombinant has been identified in the UK, with likely parental lineages AY.4.2.2 and BA.1.1 and a breakpoint in non-structural protein 3 (nsp3). The presence of 34 genomes sampled between 7 January 2022 and 14 February 2022 suggest that this recombinant is able to transmit.” GISAID has also begun publishing data about a recombinant of Delta AY.4 and Omicron BA.1, first identified in France. According to GISAID data, this variant has also been detected in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States. Forbes 

We will need to monitor for this Delta-Omicron recombinant variant in the United States as well. 

Omicron cases sequenced as of 5/8/22:

GISAID

GISAID

Map of Omicron sequenced transmissions:

GISAID

Delta cases sequenced as of 5/8/22: 

GISAID

Map of Delta sequenced transmissions:

GISAID

GKA (AY.4/BA.1) cases sequenced as of 5/8/22:

GISAID

B.1.640 cases sequenced as of 5/8/22:

GISAID

Watching World Data

Over the next few months, we’ll be paying close attention to correlations between the SARS-CoV-2 data, the number of isolates identified in various countries and states, and the non-pharmaceutical interventions (like mask mandates and lockdowns) put in place by state and national governments. Data on infections, deaths, and percent of population infected was compiled from Worldometers. Data for this table for SARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in Location was compiled from GISAID and the CDC. It’s worth noting that GISAID provided more data than the CDC.

LocationTotal Infections as of 5/06/22New Infections on 5/06/22Total DeathsNew Deaths on 5/06/22% of Pop.InfectedSARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in LocationNational/ State Mask MandateCurrently in Lockdown
World516,495,714(7,985,986 new infections in 14 days).514,7036,274,548(34,384 new deaths in last 14 days)2,0066.62%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)A lineage isolateV01.V2 (Tanzania)APTK India VOC 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa 2% of isolates in July 2021)R1 (Japan)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 + BA.3 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)Four new recombinants 12/31 to 3/22)NoNo
USA83,534,060(ranked #1) 905,971 new infections in the last 14 days.77,116(ranked #2)1,024,386(ranked #1)6,232 new deaths in the last 14 days. 29124.96%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)R1(Japan)         Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Recombinant Delta AY.119.2- Omicron BA.1.1 (Tennessee, USA 12/31/21)NoNo
Brazil30,543,908(ranked #3) 497,143 new infections in the last 14 days. 19,725 (ranked #9)664,143(ranked #2)17814.18%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
India43,018,032(ranked #2); 44,151 new infections in 2 weeks.4,195524,024(ranked #3)223.06%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)APTK India VOI 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
United Kingdom22,114,034(ranked #6; was #6 thirty-two weeks ago; 180,828 new infections in 2 weeks.6,551(ranked 15th in the world).176,212(ranked #7 in world)22832.26%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)XD (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantXF (Delta/BA.1) recombinantXE (BA.1/BA.2) recombinantNoNo
California, USA9,288,773(ranked #13 in the world;  44,240 new infections in the last 14 days).39,51490.804 (ranked #20 in world)5523.50%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Mexico5,740,080(ranked #20) 8,445 new infections in 14 days).———324,350(ranked #5)——–4.36%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
South Africa3,827,378(ranked #30; 71,869 new infections in 14 days).9,253100,505 (ranked #18)346.30%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)       C.1.2 (South Africa, July 2021)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Canada3,787,378(ranked #27, was 26th sixteen weeks ago; 95,613 new infections in 14 days).8,55737,977(ranked #26)429.29% .B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Poland5,999,513(ranked #19; 43,262 new infections in 14 days). 607116,124 (ranked #15)2615.88%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + (South Africa November 2021),Omicron/B.1.1.529 +BA.3 NoNo
Turkey15,040,238(ranked #10, 26,622 new infections in 14 days).1,74398,826 (ranked #19)717.48% B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Russia18,216,719(ranked #7), 96,857 new infections in 14 days).5,541376,696(ranked #4 in world)13612.47%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)R1 (Japan) B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Argentina9,083,673(ranked #13; 22,650 new infections in 14 days).———–128,194 (ranked #14 in world)——–19.76%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gama/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Colombia6,093,645(ranked #18, 2,842 new infections in 14 days).———–139,809 (ranked #12 in the world)———11.74%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Peru3,569,026(ranked #35, 9,683 new infections in 14 days). 334212,913(ranked #6)710.55%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Indonesia6,097,986(ranked #18; 54,720 new infections in 14 days)245156,357 (ranked #9)172.16%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)
NoNo
Iran7,224,431 9,527 new infections in last 14 days(ranked 16th; was 12th  thirty-two weeks ago)375141,157 (ranked #11)128.40%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)


NoNo
Spain12,009,059(ranked 11th;   381,572  new infections in 14 days).18,526104,869 (ranked #17)6725.66%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
France28,890,139 (ranked #4; 725,733 new infections in the last 14 days).40,224 (ranked #4)146,608 (ranked #10)11044.08%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Germany25,289,590(ranked #5; 1,279,822 new infections in 14 days.).86,026 (ranked #1)136,812 (ranked #13)33630.00%
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Hungary1,903,200 (ranked #43; 12,237new infections in 14 days).
———46,266 (ranked #23)——–19.79%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Romania2,898,258(ranked #38; 11,000 new infections in 14 days).73065,554 (ranked#20)915.25%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
South Korea17,464,782 (ranked 8th) ; 709,727 new infections in 14 days).26,714(ranked#7)23,206 (ranked #39); 4834.01%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Ukraine5,002,870(ranked #22; 20,621 new infections in 14 days),——–108,411 (ranked #16)——–11.56%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Vietnam10,670,570(ranked #12; 126,246 new infections in 14 days).3,81943,051 (ranked #24)610.78%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Netherlands8,057,700 (ranked #14; 22,097 new infections in 14 days).1,30322,270 (ranked #41)146.83%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Denmark2,970,809, (ranked #37) 12,283  new infections in 14 days8076,266 (ranked #81)850.95%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo




What Our Team Is Reading This Week

COVID-19

SARS-CoV-2 Update

It’s time for our next 14-day moving average determinations for SARS-CoV-2 for the United States and my thoughts on vaccines, SARS-CoV-2 therapeutic agents and mutant viruses. We use the WORLDOMETERS aggregators data set to make any projections since it includes data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Military, federal prisons and the Navajo Nation.

SARS-CoV-2 infections and deaths per day had been decelerating at a rapid rate in the United States. The rate of decline has lessened as the increased infection rate and infectivity of the Omicron BA.1 variant of SARS CoV-2. The outbreak is still caused by variants of concern Omicron BA.1.1, BA.1, BA.2 and to a lesser degree BA.3 (particularly in Poland). Omicron variants are at least four times as infectious as the already highly infectious Delta variants. UK scientists have found that the household secondary attack rate for Omicron is 21.6%, compared to 10.7% with Delta, meaning people infected with Omicron are twice as likely to infect household members as they would be if infected with Delta. They also estimate a “three- to eight-fold increased risk of reinfection with the Omicron variant.”

I would expect the Omicron variant to continue to mutate just like Delta. There are now already 63 Omicron sub-variants that have been assigned Pango lineages, including 18 sub-lineages of BA.2, which is rapidly spreading in the United States and makes up greater than 85.9% of isolates as of 4/9/22, according to the CDC

An additional problem may be the development of recombinant SARS-CoV-2 isolates. A recombinant isolate occurs when two isolates infect the same cell and, in the process of viral reproduction, exchange nucleic acids, creating a new isolate that is a recombination of parts from the genomes of both isolates. A recombinant isolate of Delta AY.4.2.2 and Omicron BA.1.1 was recently reported in the UK. As of 3/25/22 four different recombinant variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been reported by the UK Health Security Agency. 

According to the UK Health Security Agency’s Technical Briefing from 3/25/22: “There are currently 3 recombinant lineages being monitored as part of horizon scanning: XD, XE, and XF (Figure 6). XD and XF are Delta and BA.1 recombinants. XE is a BA.1 and BA.2 recombinant and has 3 mutations that are not present in all BA.1 or BA.2 sequences: NSP3 C3241T and V1069I, and NSP12 C14599T. XF and XE are associated with UK sequenced samples. XD is predominantly associated with France. XD contains the unique mutation NSP2:E172D.”

As of 4/5/22 the UK Health Security Agency reports 1,179 sequences of the XE recombinant in the UK data. The figure below shows a breakdown of XE data by gender and age group. We can see there were more XE infections in children and young adults than there were in the 70+ age groups. 

UK Health Security Agency
UK Health Security Agency

The US recombinant isolate, Delta AY.119.2-Omicron BA.1.1, has a Omicron spike sequence from amino acid 158 through amino acid 339 and was recently found in four states (Tennessee [original isolate 12/31/21], Pennsylvania [3 isolates], New Jersey [4 isolates] and Massachusetts [one isolate]; see table below.) 

Lacek et al.

We do not know yet whether any recombinant isolates will rapidly spread or have enhanced morbidity and mortality. 

We expect to see additional Omicron variants, recombinant variants and probably new pandemic SARS- CoV-2 lineages as uncontrolled infection continues in multiple continents and countries. 

As of 3/27/21 the Omicron variants, which were first seen in South Africa on 11/08/21, are now in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. As of 4/10/22 Omicron has been identified on all seven continents and in at least 179 countries.

Omicron variants have mutations which decrease the effectiveness of current vaccines and monoclonal antibodies. The effectiveness of the new Pfizer drug, PAXLOVIDTM, should not be compromised by any of the current mutations in Omicron or Delta variants. Pfizer completed their filing with the FDA on 11/15/21. The FDA approved PAXLOVIDTM on December 22 , 2021.The FDA approved Merck’s drug Molnupiravir on December 23, 2021. On 12/23/21 CVS announced by fax it was selected by the Government to distribute oral PAXLOVIDTM and Molnupiravir. On 12/27/21, another fax from CVS listed which CVS pharmacies in California would have these drugs. Monterey County covers 3,771 square miles with a population of 434,061. Three CVS pharmacies in Monterey, Salinas, and Soledad are the only listed pharmacies in our county. I have now been able to obtain PAXLOVIDTM for infected patients from the CVS in Salinas (phone 831-424-0026), the CVS on Fremont Street in Monterey (phone 831-375-5135) and the CVS in Soledad in south Monterey County (phone 831-678-5110). All require electronic prescriptions written as Paxlovid three tablets twice daily orally for five days (thirty total tablets).  Physicians or their staff probably should call to check on drug availability that day.

In the absence of obtaining intravenous Sotrovimab or Bebtelovimab, only oral PAXLOVIDTM and Molnupiravir are available to treat SARS-CoV-2 as an outpatient. Our first Paxlovid failure in an immunocompromised patient was treated the week of 4/5/22 at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (Montage) ER as an outpatient with a single one-minute intravenous injection of Bebtelovimab. 

Vaccination will not prevent you from getting an Omicron variant infection. For now only masking (N95 rated masks, please!) and social distancing will have any effect on acquisition of infection with these variants. Furthermore, we do not believe that a 5-day quarantine or isolation period is sufficient for any COVID-19 infection. The Taiwanese CDC agrees with both our recommendations on quarantine period and masking. In fact, the Taiwanese CDC has recommended N95 masking since the beginning of the pandemic (and made these masks universally available to their population). Taiwan has one of the lowest death rates per million during the course of the pandemic (see graph below). 

According to a KFF analysis of CDC data, in January 2022, SARS-CoV-2 was in the top four causes of death in the United States for all age groups, including children. It was the number one cause of death in people aged 45-84.

In the last 14 days, the number of infections has decreased by 873 infections per day compared to the preceding 14-day period. Our infections per day have decreased for the fourth time in the last 14 weeks. Unless people get vaccinated, including their third dose of the vaccine, we will see further spread of the Omicron variants and increase in deaths in people who are not vaccinated, have waning immunity, the immunocompromised population and others with risk factors particularly those older than over the age of 64. Anyone over the age of 5 years can now get vaccinated in the United States at no cost. This should get done immediately. In Monterey County, as of 4/10/22, only 35.9% of 5-11 year-olds have received the first two doses of vaccine, while 78.9% of 12-17 year-olds have received two doses.

Omicron Subvariant BA.2 Is Here and Dominant

Per CDC data ending in 4/9/22, the Delta variant accounted for 0.0% of new infections in the United States, while Omicron BA1.1 accounted for 13.1%, Omicron B.1.1.529 accounts for 1.0%, and Omicron subvariant BA.2 accounted for 85.9%. It’s worth noting that in the last 30 days, according to GISAID, the United States has only sequenced 3.67% of cases. 

and differences between the three Omicron family viruses. ACCESS HEALTH INTERNATIONAL

Nextstrain

On 4/8/22, the United States had 35,285 new infections. There were also 404 deaths. In the United States the number of hospitalized patients has been decreasing in many areas, and now only 1,716 patients are seriously or critically ill; that number was 2,548 two weeks ago. The number of critically ill patients has decreased by 832 in the last 14 days, while at least 8,467 new deaths occurred (a decrease of 1,587 deaths from the previous 14 days). The number of critically ill patients has decreased for the sixth time in eighteen 14-day periods. Patients are still dying each day (average 605/day). Omicron BA.2 infections should continue to increase but critically ill patients, and deaths may continue to decrease in the next two weeks if Omicron BA.2 continues to cause less severe disease and does not infect large numbers of previously BA.1 infected patients. There have already been reports out of Israel of patients infected with BA.1 being later reinfected with BA.2. 

As of 4/08/22, we have had 1,011,665 deaths and 82,034,738 SARS-CoV-2 infections in the United States. We have had 433,848 new infections in the last 14 days. We were adding an average of 266,924 infections every seven days. For the pandemic in the United States we are averaging one death for every 81.0 infections reported for each death or over 12,332 deaths for each one million infections. As of 4/8/22, thirty-six states have had greater than 500,000 total infections, and 36 states have had greater than 5,000 total deaths. Sixteen states (Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, New York, Arizona and California) have had greater than 20,000 deaths. Four states (Florida, Texas, New York, and California) have had greater than 68,000 deaths. California and Texas have each had greater than 85,000 deaths. 

On 11/20/20 in the United States, 3.70% of the population had a documented SARS-CoV-2 infection. California was ranked 41st in infection percentage at 2.77%. On 11/20/21 in North Dakota, 9.18% of the population was infected (ranked #1), and in South Dakota, 8.03% of the population was infected (ranked #2). As of 4/8/22, in the United States, 24.52% of the population has had a documented SARS-CoV-2 infection. In the last 16 months, 21.83% of our country became infected with SARS-CoV-2. On 11/20/20, there were 260,331 (cumulative) deaths in the US from SARS-CoV-2. In the last 16 months, there were 751,534 new deaths from SARS-CoV-2. For thirteen of those months, vaccines have been available to all adults. During these thirteen months, 440,568 people have died of SARS-CoV-2 infections. Most of the hospitalizations and deaths could have been prevented by vaccination, proper masking, and social distancing. 

As of 4/8/22, California was ranked 38th in infection percentage at 23.10%. In California 19.42% of Californians were infected in the last 16 months. As of 3/11/22 forty-three states have had greater than 20% of their population infected. Rhode Island was at 34.30% (ranked #1), Alaska was at 32.89% (ranked #2), North Dakota was at 31.50% (ranked #3), Tennessee was at 29.61% (ranked #4), Kentucky was at 29.52% (ranked #5), Utah was at 28.96% (ranked #6), South Carolina was at 28.54% (ranked #7), West Virginia was at 27.81% (ranked #8), Arizona was at 27.67% (ranked #9), Arkansas was at 27.61% (ranked #10) and Florida was at 27.51% (ranked #11) of their population infected. Forty-three states now have greater than 20% of their population infected. 

The table below shows that if we rank the US states with the highest death rates per million population within the world rankings, we see that Mississippi, Arizona and Alabama had the eighth highest death rate, New Jersey and Arkansas have the ninth highest COVID-19 deaths per million in the world. Louisiana had the tenth, New York was at eleventh,  Florida was at 12th and Rhode Island was at thirteenth. The United States as a whole ranks 18th in the world for deaths per million population (3,056 deaths per million). California ranks 39th in the USA (and 37th in the world). If we look at the death rates per million in South Korea (365), Iceland (296), Japan (227), and Israel (1,132), they suggest that treatment outcomes are somehow different in these four countries. The same phenomenon can be seen in Scandinavia, where the death rate in Sweden is 1,809 per million, compared to 485 per million in Norway and 600 per million in Finland. The United States should have taken a closer look at how countries with low death rates (like South Korea, Iceland, Japan, Finland, and Norway) were preventing COVID-19 infections and treating COVID-19 patients. 

State or Country COVID-19 Deaths per million populationRank in USARanked within World
Mississippi4,171 1st8th tied
New Jersey  3,7486th9th tied
Louisiana3,6958th10th 
New York 3,52411th11th tied 
Alabama3,9523rd8th tied
Arizona4,0782nd8th tied
Rhode Island  3,327  19th13th
Arkansas3,7457th9th tied
Florida3,42417th12th 
California2,26439th37th
USA3,05618th
Peru6,2881st
Bosnia-Herzegovina  4,8483rd
Hungary4,7544th
Montenegro4,3086th
Bulgaria5,3512nd
Czechia3,7089th
Brazil3,07215th
Georgia4,2177th
Sweden1,80957th
Israel1,13285th
Canada99192nd
Finland600120th
Norway485127th
Japan227151st
Iceland296145th
South Korea365138th

FDA-Approved Oral Drug Treatments for SARS-CoV-2

Pfizer has developed PAXLOVID™, an oral reversible inhibitor of C3-like protease of SARS-CoV-2. The drug inhibits this key enzyme that is crucial for virus production. The compound, also called Compound 6 (PF-07321332), is part of the drug combination PAXLOVID™ (PF-07321332; ritonavir), which just successfully completed a Phase 2-3 trial in humans in multiple countries. The preliminary results were announced on 11/5/21 by Pfizer. The results show that 89% of the hospitalizations and deaths were prevented in the drug treatment arm. The drug was administered twice a day for five days. No deaths occurred in the treatment group, and ten deaths occurred in the placebo group. The study was stopped by an independent data safety monitoring board, and the FDA concurred with this decision. Pfizer applied for an Emergency Use Authorization for this drug on 11/15/21. This drug was approved on 12/23/21. We have only been able to obtain PAXLOVID™ for two patients who we successfully treated with this drug obtained from CVS in Salinas (East Alisal Street; phone number 831-424-0026). They were expecting another shipment on 1/28/22. In my opinion, this agent, if more widely available, could markedly alter the course of every coronavirus infection throughout the world. 

Merck has developed the oral drug Molnupiravir, which induces RNA mutagenesis by viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses. According to Kabinger et al, “Viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase uses the active form of Molnupiravir, β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine triphosphate, as a substrate instead of cytidine triphosphate or uridine triphosphate. When the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase uses the resulting RNA as a template, β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine triphosphate directs incorporation of either guanine or adenine, leading to mutated (viral) RNA products. Analysis of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase–RNA complexes that contain mutagenesis products has demonstrated that β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine (the active form of Molnupiravir) can form stable base pairs with either guanine or adenine in RNA-dependent RNA polymerase explaining how the polymerase escapes proofreading and synthesizes mutated RNA” (quotation modified for clarity). The results of the phase 3 trial of Molnupiravir were published in the NEJM article “Molnupiravir for Oral Treatment of Covid-19 in Nonhospitalized Patients” by Angélica Jayk Bernal, M.D. et al. (December 16, 2021 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2116044). In this phase 3 study in the Molnupiravir group, 28 patients were hospitalized and one death occurred. In the placebo group, 53 patients were hospitalized and 9 died. Overall, 47% of hospitalizations and deaths were prevented by Molnupiravir. If you do a post hoc analysis and just look at deaths, Molnupiravir would prevent 89% of deaths. An Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA for Molnupiravir was approved on 12/24/21.The dose of Molnupiravir approved is four 200 mg capsules orally twice a day for five days. Diarrhea is reportedly a side effect in two percent of patients. I treated my first patient with Molnupiravir on 1/28/22. Currently more Molnupiravir is available weekly in the United States than PAXLOVID™ (see chart below; data from PHE.gov). Locally Molnupiravir is still available at CVS in Monterey (Fremont Blvd.; phone number: 831-375-5135) and CVS in Salinas (East Alisal Street; phone number 831-424-0026). 

FDA-Approved Intravenous Monoclonal Antibody Treatment for Non-Hospitalized SARS-CoV-2 Patients 

Sotrovimab is a human monoclonal antibody made by Vir Technology and Glaxo-SmithKline which received a FDA EUA approval on May 26,1921 for intravenous drug treatment for non-hospitalized SARS-CoV-2 infected patients. According to the FDA, “The data supporting this EUA for sotrovimab are based on an interim analysis from a phase 1/2/3 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial in 583 non-hospitalized adults with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 symptoms and a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result. Of these patients, 291 received sotrovimab and 292 received a placebo within five days of onset of COVID-19 symptoms. The primary endpoint was progression of COVID-19 (defined as hospitalization for greater than 24 hours for acute management of any illness or death from any cause) through day 29. Hospitalization or death occurred in 21 (7%) patients who received placebo compared to 3 (1%) patients treated with sotrovimab, an 85% reduction.” Sotrovimab is given intravenously in a single 500 mg dose. Supplies of this drug are also very limited and currently are only available at hospitals. In order to get this drug, we will probably have to go through the same process outlined below for Evusheld. Sotrovimab is not effective against the BA.2 Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2. On 3/25/22, the FDA revoked emergency use authorization for sotrovimab to treat COVID-19 infections in 8 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. They justified this decision with the reasoning that, according to the CDC, BA.2 accounts for more than 50% of cases in HH2 regions 1 and 2. We decided to look at data from Walgreens’ COVID-19 Index, which is updated every few days. 

Omicron Subvariant Trends by State (from Walgreens COVID-19 Index) for 3/24/22 and 4/08/22

Bebtelovimab is a new monoclonal antibody treatment for mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients (12 years of age and older weighing at least 40 kg) with positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 viral testing, and who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death, and for whom alternative COVID-19 treatment options approved or authorized by FDA are not accessible or clinically appropriate. The authorized dose of bebtelovimab is 175 mg, given as an intravenous injection over at least 30 seconds. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for this drug on 2/11/22. Bebtelovimab is a human antibody that demonstrates neutralization against the Omicron variants and is available in every state and many hospitals and some clinics. If you are planning on using a monoclonal antibody to treat a SARS-CoV-2 infection currently we think that bebtelovimab rather than sotrovimab should be used for SARS-CoV-2 in all states based on the above Walgreen data sets from 3/24/22 and 4/08/22.

FDA Approved Intramuscular Prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2 Immunocompromised Patients

Evusheld (from AstraZeneca) contains two human monoclonal antibodies, Tixagevimab (150 mg in 1.5 mL) and Cilgavimab (150 mg in 1.5 mL), in separate vials. According to the manufacturer, “Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab are two recombinant human IgG1κ monoclonal antibodies with amino acid substitutions to extend antibody half-life (YTE), reduce antibody effector function, and minimize the potential risk of antibody-dependent enhancement of disease (TM). Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab can simultaneously bind to non-overlapping regions of the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Tixagevimab, Cilgavimab, and their combination bind to spike protein with equilibrium dissociation constants of KD = 2.76 pM, 13.0 pM and 13.7 pM, respectively, blocking its interaction with human ACE2, the SARS-CoV-2 receptor, which is required for virus attachment. Tixagevimab, Cilgavimab, and their combination blocked RBD binding to human ACE2 with IC50 values of 0.32 nM (48 ng/mL), 0.53 nM (80 ng/mL), and 0.43 nM (65 ng/mL), respectively.” Each monoclonal antibody is administered intramuscularly to immunocompromised patients in two separate injections every six months. Evusheld availability in California is limited and has been rationed/distributed by our local Public Health Department only to hospitals. Physicians in Monterey County who want to receive a distribution (or redistribution) of Evusheld need to be added to the list of eligible facilities by the State Therapeutics group. The first step is for the Monterey County EMS Agency (phone: 831-755-5713) to make a request to the State Therapeutics group to have the facility added to the system for further verification.  Due to extremely limited availability, evidently the State Therapeutics group is currently only considering additions on a case by case basis.  Physicians who wish to submit their facility for consideration will need to provide the following information to the Monterey County EMS Agency:

  1. Facility/Provider Name for Registration
  2. Provider Type (Hospital, Pharmacy, Etc)
  3. Shipping Address
  4. Contact Name(s)
  5. Contact Email(s)
  6. Contact Phone Number(s)

As for my immunocompromised patients: We provided this information by email to the Monterey County EMS Agency on 1/26/22 and will update you when or if we become an eligible provider and receive our first doses of Evusheld. 

On 2/24/22, the FDA revised its dosing guidance for Evusheld, doubling the dosage of its two components, Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab, from 150 mg each to 300 mg each. They explain, “Based on the most recent information and data available, Evusheld may be less active against certain Omicron subvariants. The dosing regimen was revised because available data indicate that a higher dose of Evusheld may be more likely to prevent infection by the COVID-19 Omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.1.1 than the originally authorized Evusheld dose.” Patients who have already received their first administration of Evusheld intramuscularly will need to contact their healthcare provider to get a second 150 mg injection of Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab. If you have not received Evusheld yet, the correct dose is 3 mL/300 mg of each monoclonal antibody injected intramuscularly. This large volume necessitates administration of the antibodies in the gluteus, with two separate injections. 

The Threat of SARS-CoV-2 Variants

In response to the need for “easy-to-pronounce and non-stigmatising labels,” at the end of May, the World Health Organization assigned a letter from the Greek alphabet to each SARS-CoV-2 variant. GISAID, Nextstrain, and Pango will continue to use the previously established nomenclature. For our purposes, we’ll be referring to each variant by both its Greek alphabet letter and the Pango nomenclature. 

The WHO has sorted variants into two categories: Variants of Concern (VOC) and Variants of Interest (VOI). The criteria for Variants of Concern are as follows:

  • Increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology; or 
  • Increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; or 
  • Decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.  

The WHO categorizes the following five variants as Variants of Concern (VOC):

Source: World Health Organization

The criteria for Variants of Interest (VOI) are as follows:

  • has been identified to cause community transmission/multiple COVID-19 cases/clusters, or has been detected in multiple countries; OR  
  • is otherwise assessed to be a VOI by WHO in consultation with the WHO SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution Working Group. 

The WHO categorizes the following six variants as Variants of Interest (VOI):

According to the UK Health Security Agency Technical Briefing from 2/25/22, “A putative Delta and Omicron recombinant has been identified in the UK, with likely parental lineages AY.4.2.2 and BA.1.1 and a breakpoint in non-structural protein 3 (nsp3). The presence of 34 genomes sampled between 7 January 2022 and 14 February 2022 suggest that this recombinant is able to transmit.” GISAID has also begun publishing data about a recombinant of Delta AY.4 and Omicron BA.1, first identified in France. According to GISAID data, this variant has also been detected in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States. Forbes 

We will need to monitor for this Delta-Omicron recombinant variant in the United States as well. 

Omicron cases sequenced as of 4/10/22:

GISAID

GISAID

Map of Omicron sequenced transmissions:

GISAID

Delta cases sequenced as of 4/10/22: 

GISAID

Map of Delta sequenced transmissions:

GISAID

GKA (AY.4/BA.1) cases sequenced as of 4/10/22:

GISAID

B.1.640 cases sequenced as of 4/10/22:

GISAID

Watching World Data

Over the next few months, we’ll be paying close attention to correlations between the SARS-CoV-2 data, the number of isolates identified in various countries and states, and the non-pharmaceutical interventions (like mask mandates and lockdowns) put in place by state and national governments. Data on infections, deaths, and percent of population infected was compiled from Worldometers. Data for this table for SARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in Location was compiled from GISAID and the CDC. It’s worth noting that GISAID provided more data than the CDC.

LocationTotal Infections as of 4/8/22New Infections on 4/8/22Total DeathsNew Deaths on 4/8/22% of Pop.InfectedSARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in LocationNational/ State Mask MandateCurrently in Lockdown
World497,520,253(17,964,695 new infections in 14 days).1,087,7306,198,662(56,243 new deaths in last 14 days)3,6346.38%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)A lineage isolateV01.V2 (Tanzania)APTK India VOC 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa 2% of isolates in July 2021)R1 (Japan)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 + BA.3 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)Four new recombinants 12/31 to 3/22)NoNo
USA82,034,738(ranked #1) 433,848 new infections in the last 14 days.35,285(ranked #8)1,011,665(ranked #1)8,467 new deaths in the last 14 days. 40424.52%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)R1(Japan)         Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Recombinant Delta AY.119.2- Omicron BA.1.1 (Tennessee, USA 12/31/21)NoNo
Brazil30,123,963(ranked #3) 497,143 new infections in the last 14 days. 34,576 (ranked #11)658,626(ranked #2)25913.85%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
India43,018,032(ranked #2); 321,706 new infections in 2 weeks.1,150521,686(ranked #3)823.06%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)APTK India VOI 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
United Kingdom21,549,830(ranked #6; was #6 thirty weeks ago; 858,707 new infections in 2 weeks.25,305(ranked 11th in the world).169,759 (ranked #7 in world)34731.45%(1.25% increase in the last 14 days).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)XD (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantXF (Delta/BA.1) recombinantXE (BA.1/BA.2) recombinantNoNo
California, USA9,130,644(ranked #13 in the world;  44,240 new infections in the last 14 days).3,78989,461 (ranked #20 in world)5423.10%(0.14% increase in 14 days).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Mexico5,643,963(ranked #20) 71,541 new infections in 14 days).32,216 (ranked #9)323,508(ranked #5)1054.79%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
South Africa3,730,066(ranked #29; 19,300 new infections in 14 days).1,377100,084 (ranked #18)96.15%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)       C.1.2 (South Africa, July 2021)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Canada3,560,840(ranked #32, was 26th fourteen weeks ago; 285,094 new infections in 14 days).8,55737,977(ranked #26)429.29% .B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Poland5,976,364(ranked #19; 43,262 new infections in 14 days). 1,330115,594 (ranked #15)5815.82%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + (South Africa November 2021),Omicron/B.1.1.529 +BA.3 NoNo
Turkey14,946,379(ranked #10, 170,745 new infections in 14 days).7,12098,342 (ranked #19)3117.39% (0.20% of the country was infected in the last 14 days.)B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Russia17,969,431(ranked #7), 254,031 new infections in 14 days).14,311371,169(ranked #4 in world)28012.30%; 0.17% of the country was infected in the last 14 days.B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)R1 (Japan) B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Argentina9,051,243(ranked #13; 27,431 new infections in 14 days).1,993128,194 (ranked #14 in world)3619.70% (0.05 % increase in two weeks).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gama/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Colombia6,087,443(ranked #17, 4,500 new infections in 14 days).320139,703 (ranked #12 in the world)1011.79%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Peru3,550,791(ranked #33, 6,453 new infections in 14 days). 551212,438(ranked #6)1810.51%, a 0.02% increase in 14 days).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Indonesia6,030,168(ranked #18; 38,481 new infections in 14 days)1,755155,556 (ranked #9)472.77%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)
NoNo
Iran7,186,992 39,585 new infections in last 14 days(ranked 15th; was 12th  thirty weeks ago)3,184140,528 (ranked #11)368.36%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)


NoNo
Spain11,627,487(ranked 11th;   175,811 new infections in 14 days).16,278103,104 (ranked #17)11924.85%, a 0.38% increase in 14 days. B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
France26,698,031 (ranked #4; 1,918,149 new infections in the last 14 days).148,768 (ranked #3)143,141 (ranked #10)13940.74%, a 2.93% increase in the last 14 days, a new pandemic record for 14 days).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Germany22,534,061(ranked #5; 2,515,596 new infections in 14 days.).169,454 (ranked #2)132,141 (ranked #13)33626.74%, a 2.98% increase in the last 14 days).
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Hungary1,868,007 (ranked #43; 27,649 new infections in 14 days).
2,40045,721 (ranked #23)3719.42%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Romania2,870,486(ranked #38; 34,737 new infections in 14 days).1,70965,179 (ranked#20)915.00%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
South Korea14,983,694 (ranked 9th) ; 3,821,462 new infections in 14 days).205,289(ranked#1)18,754 (ranked #44); 4,460 new deaths in 14 days, a new pandemic record for 14 days in South Korea).37329.18%; a 7.45% increase in 14 days).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Ukraine4,982,249(ranked #21; 29,336 new infections in 14 days),2,025108,818 (ranked #16)2011.51%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Vietnam10,135,789(ranked #12; 1,319,338 new infections in 14 days).39,334(ranked #7)42,768 (ranked #24)3510.25%, (a 1.34% increase in 14 days).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Netherlands7,971,855 (ranked #14; 271,140 new infections in 14 days).10,903 (ranked #10)22,080 (ranked #39)1446.34%, (a 1.57% increase in 14 days).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Denmark2,932,847, (ranked #37) 43,559 new infections in 14 days2,5035,861 (ranked #84)2450.32%, (a 0.74% increase in 14 days)B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo

What Our Team Is Reading This Week

COVID-19

SARS-CoV-2 Update

It’s time for our next 14-day moving average determinations for SARS-CoV-2 for the United States and my thoughts on vaccines, SARS-CoV-2 therapeutic agents and mutant viruses. We use the WORLDOMETERS aggregators data set to make any projections since it includes data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Military, federal prisons and the Navajo Nation.

SARS-CoV-2 infections and deaths per day have been decelerating at a rapid rate in the United States.Infections are and many other countries but are increasing rapidly in a handful of countries in Europe and Asia . The outbreak is still caused by variants of concern Omicron BA.1.1, BA.1, BA.2 and to a lesser degree BA.3 (particularly in Poland). Omicron variants are at least four times as infectious as the already highly infectious Delta variants. UK scientists have found that the household secondary attack rate for Omicron is 21.6%, compared to 10.7% with Delta, meaning people infected with Omicron are twice as likely to infect household members as they would be if infected with Delta. They also estimate a “three- to eight-fold increased risk of reinfection with the Omicron variant.”

I would expect the Omicron variant to continue to mutate just like Delta. There are now already four Omicron variants, BA.1, BA.1.1, BA.2 and BA.3. BA.2 is rapidly spreading in the United States and makes up 55.11% of isolates as of 3/23/22.

An additional problem may be the development of recombinant SARS-CoV-2 isolates from patients in Europe and the United States. A recombinant isolate occurs when two isolates infect the same cell and, in the process of viral reproduction, exchange nucleic acids, creating a new isolate that is a recombination of parts from the genomes of both isolates. A recombinant isolate of Delta AY.4.2.2 and Omicron BA.1.1 was recently reported in the UK. As of 3/25/22 four different recombinant variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been reported: three in the UK, one in France, and one in the United States.

According to the UK Health Security Agency’s Technical Briefing from 3/25/22: “There are currently 3 recombinant lineages being monitored as part of horizon scanning: XD, XE, and XF (Figure 6). XD and XF are Delta and BA.1 recombinants. XE is a BA.1 and BA.2 recombinant and has 3 mutations that are not present in all BA.1 or BA.2 sequences: NSP3 C3241T and V1069I, and NSP12 C14599T. XF and XE are associated with UK sequenced samples. XD is predominantly associated with France. XD contains the unique mutation NSP2:E172D.”

UK Health Security Agency

The US recombinant isolate, Delta AY.119.2-Omicron BA.1.1, has a Omicron spike The US recombinant isolate, Delta AY.119.2-Omicron BA.1.1, has a Omicron spike sequence from amino acid 158 through amino acid 339 and was recently found in four states (Tennessee [original isolate 12/31/21], Pennsylvania [3 isolates], New Jersey [4 isolates] and Massachusetts [one isolate]; see table below.) 

Lacek et al. https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.03.19.484981

We do not know yet whether any recombinant isolates will rapidly spread or have enhanced morbidity and mortality. 

We expect to see additional Omicron variants, recombinant variants and probably new pandemic SARS- CoV-2 lineages as uncontrolled infection continues in multiple continents and countries. 

As of 3/27/21 the Omicron variants, which were first seen in South Africa on 11/08/21, are now in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. As of 3/27/22 Omicron has been identified on all seven continents and in at least 176 countries.

Omicron variants have mutations which decrease the effectiveness of current vaccines and monoclonal antibodies. The effectiveness of the new Pfizer drug, PAXLOVIDTM, should not be compromised by any of the current mutations in Omicron or Delta variants. Pfizer completed their filing with the FDA on 11/15/21. The FDA approved PAXLOVIDTM on December 22 , 2021.The FDA approved Merck’s drug Molnupiravir on December 23, 2021. On 12/23/21 CVS announced by fax it was selected by the Government to distribute oral PAXLOVIDTM and Molnupiravir. On 12/27/21, another fax from CVS listed which CVS pharmacies in California would have these drugs. Monterey County covers 3,771 square miles with a population of 434,061. Three CVS pharmacies in Monterey, Salinas, and Soledad are the only listed pharmacies in our county. I have now been able to obtain PAXLOVIDTM from the CVS in Salinas and on Fremont Boulevard in north Monterey. Fresno County covers 6,011 square miles with a population of 999,101. Four CVS pharmacies in Fresno County are the only listed pharmacies. We obtained PAXLOVIDTM from the Salinas CVS pharmacy and the north Monterey pharmacy and successfully treated ten patients in the last six weeks. We have also treated two patients with Molnupiravir due to our inability at that time to obtain PAXLOVIDTM. Molnupiravir does not appear to be in short supply in the United States. You can just send your electronic prescription to a participating CVS pharmacy. You probably should call in advance to check on drug availability and their participation.

In the absence of obtaining intravenous Sotrovimab or Bebtelovimab, only oral PAXLOVIDTM and Molnupiravir are available to treat SARS-CoV-2 as an outpatient. Vaccination will not prevent you from getting an Omicron variant infection. For now only masking (N95 rated masks, please!) and social distancing will have any effect on these variants. Furthermore, we do not believe that a 5-day quarantine or isolation period is sufficient for any COVID-19 infection. The Taiwanese CDC agrees with both our recommendations on quarantine period and masking. In fact, the Taiwanese CDC has recommended N95 masking since the beginning of the pandemic (and made these masks universally available to their population). Taiwan has one of the lowest death rates per million during the course of the pandemic (see graph below). 

In the United States as of 2/25/22, SARS-CoV-2 deaths have decreased for the first time in twelve 14-day periods. There were 2,568 fewer deaths per day than in the last 14-day period. In November 2021, SARS-CoV-2 was the third most common cause of death in the United States. 

In the last 14 days, the number of infections has decreased by 12,614 infections per day compared to the preceding 14-day period. Our infections per day have decreased for the third time in the last 12 weeks. Unless people get vaccinated, including their third dose of the vaccine, we will see further spread of the Omicron variants and increase in deaths in people who are not vaccinated, have waning immunity, the immunocompromised population and others with risk factors particularly those older than over the age of 64. SARS-CoV-2 is now in the top ten most common causes of death for children. Anyone over the age of 5 years can now get vaccinated in the United States at no cost. This should get done immediately. In Monterey County, only 35% of 5-11 year olds have received the first dose of vaccine.

The variant, B.1.1.529 (Omicron), was first seen in South Africa on 11/8/21 with multiple new mutations, deletions and an insertion that caused a doubling of new infections every 1.3 days in Gauteng, South Africa. In just 67 days, as of 1/14/22, Omicron has been found on seven continents, in 165 countries and all 50 states in the United States. Unlike Delta variants in South Africa, Omicron was infecting and hospitalizing patients in all age groups but particularly children under five years of age and adults greater than 60 years of age. Increased vaccinations, vaccines against new mutants, drugs against 3C-like protease like PAXLOVIDTM, increased mask usage and social distancing, which are part of the Biden SARS-CoV-2 plan, are all necessary to continue to stop further spread of mutants and reduce infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. 

Omicron Subvariant BA.2 Is Here and Dominant

Two cases of BA.2 have been reported in Monterey county in the last two weeks. Walgeens data on 3/23/22 showed that 55.1% of infections in the USA were BA.2. Per CDC data ending in 3/26/22, the Delta variant accounts for 0.0% of new infections in the United States, while Omicron BA1.1 accounts for 40.4%, Omicron B.1.1.529 accounts for 4.7%, and Omicron subvariant BA.2 accounts for 54.9%. It’s worth noting that in the last 30 days, according to GISAID, the United States has only sequenced 2.596% of cases. 

Omicron subvariant BA.2 has been detected in every region of the United States, and the proportion of BA.2 continues to increase. BA.2 also contains 17 mutations that set it apart from BA.1 (ten of which are also different from those in BA. 3. 

FIGURE 3: Venn diagram showing the similarities and differences between the three Omicron family viruses. ACCESS HEALTH INTERNATIONAL

Nextstrain

On 3/25/22, the United States had 31,927 new infections. There were also 692 deaths. In the United States the number of hospitalized patients has been decreasing in many areas, and now 2,548 patients are seriously or critically ill; that number was 4,604 two weeks ago. The number of critically ill patients has decreased by 2,056 in the last 14 days, while at least 10,154 new deaths occurred (a decrease of 10,690 deaths from the previous 14 days). The number of critically ill patients has decreased for the fifth time in seventeen 14-day periods. Patients are still dying each day (average 725/day). Infections, critically ill patients, and deaths should markedly decrease in the next two weeks if Omicron BA.2 causes less severe disease and does not infect large numbers of previously BA.1 infected patients. However, there have already been reports out of Israel of patients infected with BA.1 being later reinfected with BA.2. 

As of 3/11/22, we have had 1,003,198 deaths and 81,600,890 SARS-CoV-2 infections in the United States. We have had 445,930 new infections in the last 14 days. We were adding an average of 222,965 infections every seven days. For the pandemic in the United States we are averaging one death for every 81.4 infections reported or over 12,294 deaths for each one million infections. As of 3/11/22, thirty-six states have had greater than 500,000 total infections, and 36 states have had greater than 5,000 total deaths. Fifteen states (North Carolina, Indiana, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, New York, Arizona and California) have had greater than 20,000 deaths. Four states (Florida, Texas, New York, and California) have had greater than 68,000 deaths. California and Texas have each had greater than 85,000 deaths. 

On 11/20/20 in the United States, 3.70% of the population had a documented SARS-CoV-2 infection. California was ranked 41st in infection percentage at 2.77%. On 11/20/21 in North Dakota, 9.18% of the population was infected (ranked #1), and in South Dakota, 8.03% of the population was infected (ranked #2). As of 3/25/22, in the United States, 24.57% of the population has had a documented SARS-CoV-2 infection. In the last 16 months, 21.85% of our country became infected with SARS-CoV-2. In the last 2 weeks 0.3% of the country became infected. On 11/20/20, there were 260,331 (cumulative) deaths in the US from SARS-CoV-2. In the last 16 months, there were 743,067 new deaths from SARS-CoV-2. For thirteen of those months, vaccines have been available to all adults. During these thirteen months, 432,101 people have died of SARS-CoV-2 infections. Most of the hospitalizations and deaths could have been prevented by vaccination, proper masking, and social distancing. 

As of 3/25/22, California was ranked 38th in infection percentage at 22.98%. In California 19.28% of Californians were infected in the last 16 months. As of 3/11/22 forty-three states have had greater than 20% of their population infected. Rhode Island was at 33.99% (ranked #1), Alaska was at 32.59% (ranked #2),North Dakota was at 31.45% (ranked #3), Tennessee was at 29.57% (ranked #4), Kentucky was at 29.35% (ranked #5), Utah was at 28.92% (ranked #6), South Carolina was at 28.49% (ranked #7), West Virginia was at 27.74% (ranked #8), Arkansas was at 27.58% (ranked #9), Arizona was at 27.43% (ranked #10) and Florida was at 27.40% (ranked #11) of their population infected. 43 states now have greater than 20% of their population infected. 

The table below shows that if we rank the US states with the highest death rates per million population within the world rankings, we see that Mississippi, Arizona and Alabama had the eighth highest death rate, New Jersey and Arkansas have the ninth highest COVID-19 deaths per million in the world. Louisiana had the tenth, New York was at eleventh,  Florida was at 16th and Rhode Island was at fourteenth. The United States as a whole ranks 18th in the world for deaths per million population (2,971 deaths per million). California ranks 38th in the USA (and 37th in the world). If we look at the death rates per million in South Korea (278), Iceland (281), Japan (218), and Israel (1,122), they suggest that treatment outcomes are somehow different in these four countries. The same phenomenon can be seen in Scandinavia, where the death rate in Sweden is 1,778 per million, compared to 426 per million in Norway and 537 per million in Finland. The United States should have taken a closer look at how countries with low death rates (like South Korea, Iceland, Japan, Finland, and Norway) were preventing COVID-19 infections and treating COVID-19 patients. 

State or Country COVID-19 Deaths per million populationRank in USARanked within World
Mississippi4,158 1st8th tied
New Jersey  3,7395th9th tied
Louisiana3,6738th10th tied 
New York 3,51810th11th 
Alabama3,9233rd8th tied
Arizona3,9682nd8th tied
Rhode Island  3,245  21st14th
Arkansas3,7147th9th tied
Florida3,40016th12th tied
California2,24538th37th
USA3,00018th
Peru6,2801st
Bosnia-Herzegovina  4,8383rd
Hungary4,7064th
Montenegro4,2956th
Bulgaria5,3112nd
Czechia3,6789th
Brazil3,06115th
Georgia4,2007th
Sweden1,77857th
Israel1,12284th
Canada97690th
Finland537124th
Norway426130th
Japan218151st
Iceland281145th
South Korea278144th

FDA-Approved Oral Drug Treatments for SARS-CoV-2

Pfizer has developed PAXLOVID™, an oral reversible inhibitor of C3-like protease of SARS-CoV-2. The drug inhibits this key enzyme that is crucial for virus production. The compound, also called Compound 6 (PF-07321332), is part of the drug combination PAXLOVID™ (PF-07321332; ritonavir), which just successfully completed a Phase 2-3 trial in humans in multiple countries. The preliminary results were announced on 11/5/21 by Pfizer. The results show that 89% of the hospitalizations and deaths were prevented in the drug treatment arm. The drug was administered twice a day for five days. No deaths occurred in the treatment group, and ten deaths occurred in the placebo group. The study was stopped by an independent data safety monitoring board, and the FDA concurred with this decision. Pfizer applied for an Emergency Use Authorization for this drug on 11/15/21. This drug was approved on 12/23/21. We have only been able to obtain PAXLOVID™ for two patients who we successfully treated with this drug obtained from CVS in Salinas (East Alisal Street; phone number 831-424-0026). They were expecting another shipment on 1/28/22. In my opinion, this agent, if more widely available, could markedly alter the course of every coronavirus infection throughout the world. 

Merck has developed the oral drug Molnupiravir, which induces RNA mutagenesis by viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses. According to Kabinger et al, “Viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase uses the active form of Molnupiravir, β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine triphosphate, as a substrate instead of cytidine triphosphate or uridine triphosphate. When the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase uses the resulting RNA as a template, β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine triphosphate directs incorporation of either guanine or adenine, leading to mutated (viral) RNA products. Analysis of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase–RNA complexes that contain mutagenesis products has demonstrated that β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine (the active form of Molnupiravir) can form stable base pairs with either guanine or adenine in RNA-dependent RNA polymerase explaining how the polymerase escapes proofreading and synthesizes mutated RNA” (quotation modified for clarity). The results of the phase 3 trial of Molnupiravir were published in the NEJM article “Molnupiravir for Oral Treatment of Covid-19 in Nonhospitalized Patients” by Angélica Jayk Bernal, M.D. et al. (December 16, 2021 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2116044). In this phase 3 study in the Molnupiravir group, 28 patients were hospitalized and one death occurred. In the placebo group, 53 patients were hospitalized and 9 died. Overall, 47% of hospitalizations and deaths were prevented by Molnupiravir. If you do a post hoc analysis and just look at deaths, Molnupiravir would prevent 89% of deaths. An Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA for Molnupiravir was approved on 12/24/21.The dose of Molnupiravir approved is four 200 mg capsules orally twice a day for five days. Diarrhea is reportedly a side effect in two percent of patients. I treated my first patient with Molnupiravir on 1/28/22. Currently more Molnupiravir is available weekly in the United States than PAXLOVID™ (see chart below; data from PHE.gov). Locally Molnupiravir is still available at CVS in Monterey (Fremont Blvd.; phone number: 831-375-5135) and CVS in Salinas (East Alisal Street; phone number 831-424-0026). 

FDA-Approved Intravenous Monoclonal Antibody Treatment for Non-Hospitalized SARS-CoV-2 Patients 

Sotrovimab is a human monoclonal antibody made by Vir Technology and Glaxo-SmithKline which received a FDA EUA approval on May 26,1921 for intravenous drug treatment for non-hospitalized SARS-CoV-2 infected patients. According to the FDA, “The data supporting this EUA for sotrovimab are based on an interim analysis from a phase 1/2/3 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial in 583 non-hospitalized adults with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 symptoms and a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result. Of these patients, 291 received sotrovimab and 292 received a placebo within five days of onset of COVID-19 symptoms. The primary endpoint was progression of COVID-19 (defined as hospitalization for greater than 24 hours for acute management of any illness or death from any cause) through day 29. Hospitalization or death occurred in 21 (7%) patients who received placebo compared to 3 (1%) patients treated with sotrovimab, an 85% reduction.” Sotrovimab is given intravenously in a single 500 mg dose. Supplies of this drug are also very limited and currently are only available at hospitals. In order to get this drug, we will probably have to go through the same process outlined below for Evusheld. Sotrovimab is not effective against the BA.2 Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2. On 3/25/22, the FDA revoked emergency use authorization for sotrovimab to treat COVID-19 infections in 8 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. They justified this decision with the reasoning that, according to the CDC, BA.2 accounts for more than 50% of cases in HH2 regions 1 and 2. We decided to look at data from Walgreens’ COVID-19 Index, which is updated every few days. 

Walgreens COVID-19 Index

Omicron Subvariant Trends by State (from Walgreens COVID-19 Index) as of 3/24/22

StateBA.1 / BA1.1BA.2
California**40%60%
Texas**17.2%82.8%
Florida**29.73%70.27%
New York*21.30%78.7%
Pennsylvania**23.53%76.47%
New Jersey*20.39%79.61%
Massachusetts*20.73%79.63%
Maine*55.88%44.12%
New Hampshire*66.67%33.33%
Rhode Island*18.18%81.82%
Vermont*50%50%
Connecticut*36.36%63.64%
Michigan**40%60%
Wisconsin**40.28%59.72%
Minnesota**23.33%76.67%
Illinois**38.83%61.17%
Ohio**30.33%66.67%
Colorado**45.16%54.84%
Utah**33.33%66.67%
Nevada**33.72%66.28%
Arizona**47.06%52.94%
New Mexico71.43%28.57%
Washington**0%100%
Oregon**28.57%71.43%
Idaho**0%100%
Alaska**0%100%
Hawaii**0%100%

*FDA announced on 3/25/22 that sotrovimab is no longer authorized for use in these states.

**Other States in bold that have more than 50% BA.2 (Walgreens data set). 

Bebtelovimab is a new monoclonal antibody treatment for mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients (12 years of age and older weighing at least 40 kg) with positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 viral testing, and who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death, and for whom alternative COVID-19 treatment options approved or authorized by FDA are not accessible or clinically appropriate. The authorized dose of bebtelovimab is 175 mg, given as an intravenous injection over at least 30 seconds. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for this drug on 2/11/22. Bebtelovimab is a human antibody that demonstrates neutralization against the Omicron variants. If you are planning on using a monoclonal antibody to treat a SARS-CoV-2 infection concurrently we think that bebtelovimab rather than sotrovimab should be used for SARS-CoV-2 in most states based on the above Walgreens data set.

FDA Approved Intramuscular Prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2 Immunocompromised Patients

Evusheld (from AstraZeneca) contains two human monoclonal antibodies, Tixagevimab (150 mg in 1.5 mL) and Cilgavimab (150 mg in 1.5 mL), in separate vials. According to the manufacturer, “Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab are two recombinant human IgG1κ monoclonal antibodies with amino acid substitutions to extend antibody half-life (YTE), reduce antibody effector function, and minimize the potential risk of antibody-dependent enhancement of disease (TM). Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab can simultaneously bind to non-overlapping regions of the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Tixagevimab, Cilgavimab, and their combination bind to spike protein with equilibrium dissociation constants of KD = 2.76 pM, 13.0 pM and 13.7 pM, respectively, blocking its interaction with human ACE2, the SARS-CoV-2 receptor, which is required for virus attachment. Tixagevimab, Cilgavimab, and their combination blocked RBD binding to human ACE2 with IC50 values of 0.32 nM (48 ng/mL), 0.53 nM (80 ng/mL), and 0.43 nM (65 ng/mL), respectively.” Each monoclonal antibody is administered intramuscularly to immunocompromised patients in two separate injections every six months. Evusheld availability in California is limited and has been rationed/distributed by our local Public Health Department only to hospitals. Physicians in Monterey County who want to receive a distribution (or redistribution) of Evusheld need to be added to the list of eligible facilities by the State Therapeutics group. The first step is for the Monterey County EMS Agency (phone: 831-755-5713) to make a request to the State Therapeutics group to have the facility added to the system for further verification.  Due to extremely limited availability, evidently the State Therapeutics group is currently only considering additions on a case by case basis.  Physicians who wish to submit their facility for consideration will need to provide the following information to the Monterey County EMS Agency:

  1. Facility/Provider Name for Registration
  2. Provider Type (Hospital, Pharmacy, Etc)
  3. Shipping Address
  4. Contact Name(s)
  5. Contact Email(s)
  6. Contact Phone Number(s)

As for my immunocompromised patients: We provided this information by email to the Monterey County EMS Agency on 1/26/22 and will update you when or if we become an eligible provider and receive our first doses of Evusheld. 

On 2/24/22, the FDA revised its dosing guidance for Evusheld, doubling the dosage of its two components, Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab, from 150 mg each to 300 mg each. They explain, “Based on the most recent information and data available, Evusheld may be less active against certain Omicron subvariants. The dosing regimen was revised because available data indicate that a higher dose of Evusheld may be more likely to prevent infection by the COVID-19 Omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.1.1 than the originally authorized Evusheld dose.” Patients who have already received their first administration of Evusheld intramuscularly will need to contact their healthcare provider to get a second 150 mg injection of Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab. If you have not received Evusheld yet, the correct dose is 3 mL/300 mg of each monoclonal antibody injected intramuscularly. This large volume necessitates administration of the antibodies in the gluteus, with two separate injections. 

A New Possible Indication for an Older FDA-Approved Antiviral Drug 

Remdesivir was the first FDA-approved Emergency Use Authorization drug for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infected patients. In their January 2021 paper in Nature Communications, Kokic et al explained the mechanism of Remdesivir’s action on SARS-CoV-2: “The active form of remdesivir acts as a nucleoside analog and inhibits the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) of coronaviruses including SARS-CoV-2. Remdesivir is incorporated by the RdRp into the growing RNA product and allows for addition of three more nucleotides before RNA synthesis stalls. Addition of the fourth nucleotide following Remdesivir incorporation into the RNA product is impaired by a barrier to further RNA translocation. This translocation barrier causes retention of the RNA 3ʹ-nucleotide in the substrate-binding site of the RdRp and interferes with entry of the next nucleoside triphosphate, thereby stalling RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. In the structure of the Remdesivir-stalled state, the 3ʹ-nucleotide of the RNA product is matched and located with the template base in the active center, and this may impair proofreading by the viral 3ʹ-exonuclease.” 

A recent study by Gottlieb et al of intravenous Remdesivir to prevent disease progression, whose design was similar to the study designs used for PAXLOVID™ and Molnupiravir, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on 1/27/22. The study resulted in an 87% lower risk of hospitalization or death than in the placebo group with a similar adverse events occurrence (42.3% and 46.3% respectively). The FDA may allow approval of outpatient intravenous Remdesivir over three days (200 mg IV on day one followed by 100 mg IV daily on days two and three) in high risk non-hospitalized SARS-CoV-2 infected patients.

With the exception of Evusheld, all of the therapies listed above, with the exception of sotrovimab, can be used in Omicron-infected patients. Other previously approved monoclonal antibodies will not work for Omicron.

The Threat of SARS-CoV-2 Variants

In response to the need for “easy-to-pronounce and non-stigmatising labels,” at the end of May, the World Health Organization assigned a letter from the Greek alphabet to each SARS-CoV-2 variant. GISAID, Nextstrain, and Pango will continue to use the previously established nomenclature. For our purposes, we’ll be referring to each variant by both its Greek alphabet letter and the Pango nomenclature. 

The WHO has sorted variants into two categories: Variants of Concern (VOC) and Variants of Interest (VOI). The criteria for Variants of Concern are as follows:

  • Increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology; or 
  • Increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; or 
  • Decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.  

The WHO categorizes the following five variants as Variants of Concern (VOC):

WHO

The criteria for Variants of Interest (VOI) are as follows:

  • has been identified to cause community transmission/multiple COVID-19 cases/clusters, or has been detected in multiple countries; OR  
  • is otherwise assessed to be a VOI by WHO in consultation with the WHO SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution Working Group. 

The WHO categorizes the following six variants as Variants of Interest (VOI):

WHO

Omicron cases sequenced as of 3/31/22:

GISAID
GISAID

Map of Omicron sequenced transmissions:

GISAID

Delta cases sequenced as of 3/31/22: 

GISAID

Map of Delta sequenced transmissions:

GISAID

GKA (AY.4/BA.1) cases sequenced as of 3/31/22:

GISAID

B.1.640 cases sequenced as of 3/31/22:

GISAID

Watching World Data

Over the next few months, we’ll be paying close attention to correlations between the SARS-CoV-2 data, the number of isolates identified in various countries and states, and the non-pharmaceutical interventions (like mask mandates and lockdowns) put in place by state and national governments. Data on infections, deaths, and percent of population infected was compiled from Worldometers. Data for this table for SARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in Location was compiled from GISAID and the CDC. It’s worth noting that GISAID provided more data than the CDC.

LocationTotal Infections as of 3/25/22New Infections on 3/25/22Total DeathsNew Deaths on 3/25/22% of Pop.InfectedSARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in LocationNational/ State Mask Mandate?Currently in Lockdown?
World479,555.558(24,498,608 new infections in 14 days; an increase of 2,743,044 infections from the preceding 14 days).1,558,4706,142,419(85,092 new deaths in last 14 days)4,6156.15%%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)A lineage isolateV01.V2 (Tanzania)APTK India VOC 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa 2% of isolates in July 2021)R1 (Japan)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 + BA.3 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)Four new recombinants 12/31 to 3/22)NoNo
USA81,600,890
(ranked #1) 445,930 new infections in the last 14 days.
31,927
(ranked#12)
1,003,198
(ranked #1)10,154 new deaths in the last 14 days. 
69224.57%
(0.30% increase in 14 days). 
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)R1(Japan)         Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Recombinant Delta AY.119.2- Omicron BA.1.1 (Tennessee, USA 12/31/21)NoNo
Brazil29,802,257(ranked #3) 497,143 new infections in the last 14 days. 34,576 (ranked #11)658,626(ranked #2)25913.85%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
India43,018,032(ranked #2); increased by 30,158 infections in 2 weeks.1,1605200,885(ranked #3)953.06%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)APTK India VOI 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
United Kingdom20,691,123(ranked #5; was #6 twenty-eight weeks ago; increased by 1,160,638 infections in 2 weeks.39,925(ranked 8th in the world).164,454 (ranked #7 in world)17230.20%(1.69% increase in the last 14 days).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)XD (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantXF (Delta/BA.1) recombinantXE (BA.1/BA.2) recombinantNoNo
California, USA9,086,404(ranked #12 in the world;  52,561 new infections in the last 14 days).3,65588,700 (ranked #20 in world)9922.99%(0.13% increase in 14 days).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Mexico5,643,963(ranked #20) 52,092 new infections in 14 days).3,658320,432(ranked #5)1554.29%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
South Africa3,710,766(ranked #27; 18,804 new infections in 14 days).1,55799,939 (ranked #18)76.12%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)       C.1.2 (South Africa, July 2021)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Canada3,275,746(ranked #33, was 26th twelve weeks ago; 160,773 new infections in 14 days).6,67637,411(ranked #26)458.96% .B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Poland5,933,102(ranked #19; 133,106 new infections in 14 days). 8,236114,736 (ranked #15)11015.70%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + (South Africa November 2021),Omicron/B.1.1.529 +BA.3 NoNo
Turkey14,775,634(ranked #8, 261,860 new infections in 14 days).15,30397,666 (ranked #19)6817.19% (1.29% of the country was infected in the last 14 days.)B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Russia17,715,390(ranked #7), 473,347 new infections in 14 days).25,382366,618(ranked #4 in world)39812.13%; 0.33% of the country was infected in the last 14 days.B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)R1 (Japan) B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Argentina9,023,812(ranked #12; 135,839 new infections in 14 days).2,572127,846 (ranked #14 in world)6619.65% (0.12 % increase in two weeks).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gama/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Colombia6,082,943(ranked #17, 7,287 new infections in 14 days).366139,544 (ranked #12 in the world)1311.73%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Peru3,544,338(ranked #30, 9,651 new infections in 14 days). 548212,050(ranked #6)2810.49%, a 0.02% increase in 14 days).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Indonesia5,991,687(ranked #18; 103.677 new infections in 14 days)4,857154,463 (ranked #9)1202.15%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)
NoNo
Iran7,147,407 29,863 new infections in last 14 days(ranked 15th; was 12th  twenty-eight weeks ago)1,530139,917 (ranked #11)528.32%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)


NoNo
Spain11,451,676(ranked 10th;   227,702 new infections in 14 days).24,298102,392 (ranked #17)11324.47%, a 0.48% increase in 14 days. B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
France24,779,882 (ranked #4; 1,398,603 new infections in the last 14 days).143,571 (ranked #3)141,564 (ranked #10)12137.81%, a 2.13% increase in the last 14 days, a new pandemic record for 14 days)..B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Germany20,018,465(ranked #6; 3,136,520 new infections in 14 days, a new pandemic record for 14 days).276,746 (ranked#2)128,757 (ranked #13).30023.76%, a 3.72% increase in the last 14 days, a new pandemic record for 14 days)..B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Hungary1,839,358 (ranked #43; 14,996 new infections in 14 days).
2,43945,258 (ranked #22)3819.12%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Romania2,835,749(ranked #37; 48,124 new infections in 14 days).3,72564,873 (ranked#20)3314.91%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
South Korea11,162,232 (ranked 11th; 5,239,608 new infections in 14 days, a new pandemic world record for 14 days in one country).339,396(ranked#1)14,294 (ranked#54; 4,439 new deaths in 14 days, a new pandemic record for 14 days in South Korea).39221.73%; a 10.43% increase in 14 days, a new pandemic world record for one country in a 14 day period).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Ukraine4,952,913(ranked #21; 58,582 new infections in 14 days),3,630107,811 (ranked #16)3211.44%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Vietnam8,816,431(ranked #13; 3,082,003 new infections in 14 days, a new pandemic record for Vietnam).109,666(ranked#4)42,196 (ranked #24)518.91%, (a 4.11% increase in 14 days, a new pandemic record for Vietnam in a 14 day period).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Netherlands7,700,715 (ranked #14; 644,901 new infections in 14 days).34,989 (ranked #10)21,871 (ranked #39)2044.77%, (a 3.75% increase in 14 days).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Denmark2,889,288 (ranked #37, 92,868 new infections in 14 days).5,3515,542 (ranked #84)2449.58%, (a 1.59% increase in 14 days).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo

What Our Team Is Reading This Week

COVID-19

SARS-CoV-2 Update

It’s time for our next 14-day moving average determinations for SARS-CoV-2 for the United States and my thoughts on vaccines, SARS-CoV-2 therapeutic agents and mutant viruses. We use the WORLDOMETERS aggregators data set to make any projections since it includes data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Military, federal prisons and the Navajo Nation.

SARS-CoV-2 infections have been decelerating at a rapid rate in the United States and many other countries but are increasing rapidly in a handful of countries in Europe and Asia. The outbreak is still caused by variants of concern Omicron BA.1.1, BA.1, BA.2 and to a lesser degree BA.3 (particularly in Poland). Omicron variants are at least four times as infectious as the already highly infectious Delta variants. UK scientists have found that the household secondary attack rate for Omicron is 21.6%, compared to 10.7% with Delta, meaning people infected with Omicron are twice as likely to infect household members as they would be if infected with Delta. They also estimate a “three- to eight-fold increased risk of reinfection with the Omicron variant.”

I would expect the Omicron variant to continue to mutate just like Delta. There are now already four Omicron variants, BA.1, BA.1.1, BA.2 and BA.3. A recombinant isolate of Delta AY.4.2.2 and Omicron BA.1.1 has recently been reported in the UK. We expect to see additional Omicron variants as these isolates spread rapidly around the USA and the World. As of 3/11/21 the Omicron variant, which was first seen in South Africa on 11/08/21, is now in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. As of 3/11/22 Omicron has been identified on all seven continents and in at least 165 countries

Omicron has mutations which decrease the effectiveness of current vaccines and monoclonal antibodies. The effectiveness of the new Pfizer drug, PAXLOVIDTM, should not be compromised by any of the current mutations in Omicron or Delta variants. Pfizer completed their filing with the FDA on 11/15/21. The FDA approved PAXLOVIDTM on December 22 , 2021.The FDA approved Merck’s drug Molnupiravir on December 23, 2021. On 12/23/21 CVS announced by fax it was selected by the Government to distribute oral PAXLOVIDTM and Molnupiravir. On 12/27/21 another fax from CVS listed which CVS pharmacies in California would have these drugs. Monterey County covers 3,771 square miles with a population of 434,061. Three CVS pharmacies in Monterey, Salinas, and Soledad are the only listed pharmacies in our county. I have now been able to obtain PAXLOVIDTM from the CVS in Salinas and on Fremont Boulevard in north Monterey. Fresno County covers 6,011 square miles with a population of 999,101. Four CVS pharmacies in Fresno County are the only listed pharmacies. We obtained PAXLOVIDTM from the Salinas CVS pharmacy and the north Monterey pharmacy and successfully treated four patients in the last four weeks. We have also treated a fifth patient from Turlock with PAXLOVIDTM . We  have also treated two patients with Molnupiravir due to our inability at that time to obtain PAXLOVIDTM . Molnupiravir does not appear to be in short supply in the United States. You can just send your electronic prescription to a participating CVS pharmacy. You probably should call in advance to check on drug availability and their participation.

In the absence of obtaining intravenous Sotrovimab or Bebtelovimab, only oral PAXLOVIDTM and Molnupiravir are available to treat SARS-CoV-2 as an outpatient. Vaccination will not prevent you from getting an Omicron variant infection. For now only masking (N95 rated masks, please!) and social distancing will have any effect on these variants. Furthermore, we do not believe that a 5-day quarantine or isolation period is sufficient for any COVID-19 infection. The Taiwanese CDC agrees with both our recommendations on quarantine period and masking. In fact, the Taiwanese CDC has recommended N95 masking since the beginning of the pandemic (and made these masks universally available to their population). Taiwan has one of the lowest death rates per million during the course of the pandemic (see graph below). 

In the United States as of 2/25/22, SARS-CoV-2 deaths have decreased for the first time in twelve 14-day periods. There were 2,568 fewer deaths per day than in the last 14-day period. In November 2021, SARS-CoV-2 was the third most common cause of death in the United States. 

In the last 14 days, the number of infections has decreased by 44,468 infections per day compared to the preceding 14-day period. Our infections per day have decreased for the second time over the last 8 weeks. Unless people get vaccinated, including their third dose of the vaccine, we will see further spread of the Omicron variants and increase in deaths in people who are not vaccinated, have waning immunity, the immunocompromised population and others with risk factors particularly those older than over the age of 64. SARS-CoV-2 is now in the top ten most common causes of death for children. Anyone over the age of 5 years can now get vaccinated in the United States at no cost. This should get done immediately.In Monterey County, only 35% of 5-11 year olds have received the first dose of vaccine.

The new variant, B.1.1.529 (Omicron), was first seen in South Africa on 11/8/21 with multiple new mutations, deletions and an insertion that caused a doubling of new infections every 1.3 days in Gauteng, South Africa. In just 67 days, as of 1/14/22, Omicron has been found on seven continents, in 165 countries and all 50 states in the United States. Unlike Delta variants in South Africa, Omicron was infecting and hospitalizing patients in all age groups but particularly children under five years of age and adults greater than 60 years of age. Increased vaccinations, vaccines against new mutants, drugs against 3C-like protease like PAXLOVIDTM, increased mask usage and social distancing, which are part of the Biden SARS-CoV-2 plan, are all necessary to continue to stop further spread of mutants and reduce infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. 

Omicron Subvariant BA.2 Is Coming

Per CDC data ending in 3/5/22, the Delta variant accounts for 0.0% of new infections in the United States, while Omicron BA1.1 accounts for 73.7%, Omicron B.1.1.529 accounts for 14.7%, and Omicron subvariant BA.2 accounts for 11.6%. It’s worth noting that in the last 30 days, according to GISAID, the United States has only sequenced 3.042% of cases. 

Omicron subvariant BA.2 has been detected in every region of the United States, and the proportion of BA.2 continues to increase. BA.2 also contains 17 mutations that set it apart from BA.1 (ten of which are also different from those in BA. 3. 

FIGURE 3: Venn diagram showing the similarities and differences between the three Omicron family viruses. ACCESS HEALTH INTERNATIONAL

Nextstrain

On 3/11/22, the United States had 39,254 new infections. There were also 1,022 deaths. Florida continues to consistently under-report daily infections and deaths. In the United States the number of hospitalized patients has been decreasing in many areas, and now 4,604 patients are seriously or critically ill; that number was 8,981 two weeks ago. The number of critically ill patients has decreased by 4,357 in the last 14 days, while at least 20,844 new deaths occurred (a decrease of 11,267 deaths from the previous 14 days). The number of critically ill patients has decreased for the fourth time in sixteen 14-day periods but a large number of patients are still dying each day (average 1,489/day). Infections, critically ill patients, and deaths should markedly decrease in the next two weeks if Omicron BA.2 causes less severe disease and does not infect large numbers of previously BA.1 infected patients. However, there are reports out of Israel of patients infected with BA.1 being later reinfected with BA.2. 

As of 3/11/22, we have had 993,044 deaths and 81,154,960 SARS-CoV-2 infections in the United States. We have had 622,653 new infections in the last 14 days. We were adding an average of 311,277 infections every seven days. For the pandemic in the United States we are averaging one death for every 81.7 infections reported or over 12,236 deaths for each one million infections. As of 3/11/22, thirty-six states have had greater than 500,000 total infections, and 36 states have had greater than 5,000 total deaths. Fifteen states (North Carolina, Indiana, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, New York, Arizona and California) have had greater than 20,000 deaths. Four states (Florida, Texas, New York, and California) have had greater than 68,000 deaths. California and Texas have each had greater than 85,000 deaths. 

On 11/20/20 in the United States, 3.70% of the population had a documented SARS-CoV-2 infection. California was ranked 41st in infection percentage at 2.77%. On 11/20/21 in North Dakota, 9.18% of the population was infected (ranked #1), and in South Dakota, 8.03% of the population was infected (ranked #2). As of 3/11/22, in the United States, 24.09% of the population has had a documented SARS-CoV-2 infection. In the last 16 months, 21.55% of our country became infected with SARS-CoV-2. In the last 2 weeks 0.18% of the country became infected. On 11/20/20, there were 260,331 (cumulative) deaths in the US from SARS-CoV-2. In the last 16 months, there were 732,913 new deaths from SARS-CoV-2. For twelve of those months, vaccines have been available to all adults. During these twelve months, 421,947 people have died of SARS-CoV-2 infections. Most of the hospitalizations and deaths could have been prevented by vaccination, proper masking, and social distancing. 

As of 3/11/22, California was ranked 37th in infection percentage at 22.86%. In California 19.16% of Californians were infected in the last 16 months. As of 3/11/22 forty-three states have had greater than 20% of their population infected. Rhode Island was at 33.77% (ranked #1), Alaska was at 32.19% (ranked #2),North Dakota was at 31.38% (ranked #3), Tennessee was at 29.51% (ranked #4), Kentucky was at 29.02% (ranked #5), Utah was at 28.86% (ranked #6) and Florida was at 27.32% (ranked #10) of their population infected. All 50 states and the District of Columbia now have greater than 16% of their population infected. The table below shows that if we rank the US states with the highest death rates per million population within the world rankings, we see that Mississippi had the sixth highest death rate, Arizona, Alabama and New Jersey have the eighth highest COVID-19 deaths per million in the world. Louisiana, Arkansas and New York tied at tenth, Massachusetts is at 11th, Florida is at 12th and Rhode Island is at fourteenth. The United States as a whole ranks 18th in the world for deaths per million population (2,971 deaths per million). California ranks 38th in the USA (and 37th in the world). If we look at the death rates per million in South Korea (192), Iceland (229), Japan (204), and Israel (1,111), they suggest that treatment outcomes are somehow different in these four countries. The same phenomenon can be seen in Scandinavia, where the death rate in Sweden is 1,741 per million, compared to 319 per million in Norway and 478 per million in Finland. The United States should have taken a closer look at how countries with low death rates (like South Korea, Iceland, Japan, Finland, and Norway) are preventing COVID-19 infections and treating COVID-19 patients. 

State or Country COVID-19 Deaths per million populationRank in USARanked within World
Mississippi4,118  1st6th
New Jersey  3,7254th8th tied
Louisiana3,6337th10th tied 
New York 3,50410th10th tied
Alabama3,8413rd8th tied
Arizona3,8592nd8th tied
Massachusetts3,44611th11th
Rhode Island  3,229  19th14th
Arkansas3,6008th10th tied
Florida3,34518th12th tied
California2,21538th37th
USA2,97118th
Peru6,2651st
Bosnia-Herzegovina  4,8103rd
North Macedonia  4,7395th
Hungary4,6424th
Montenegro4,2856th
Bulgaria5,2582nd
Gibraltar2,99917th
Czechia3,6429th
Brazil3,04315th
San Marino3,28912th
Georgia4,1517th
Sweden1,74157th
Israel1,11184th
Canada96290th
Finland478125th
Norway319141st
Japan204151st
Iceland229147th
South Korea192154th

FDA-Approved Oral Drug Treatments for SARS-CoV-2

Pfizer has developed PAXLOVID™, an oral reversible inhibitor of C3-like protease of SARS-CoV-2. The drug inhibits this key enzyme that is crucial for virus production. The compound, also called Compound 6 (PF-07321332), is part of the drug combination PAXLOVID™ (PF-07321332; ritonavir), which just successfully completed a Phase 2-3 trial in humans in multiple countries. The preliminary results were announced on 11/5/21 by Pfizer. The results show that 89% of the hospitalizations and deaths were prevented in the drug treatment arm. The drug was administered twice a day for five days. No deaths occurred in the treatment group, and ten deaths occurred in the placebo group. The study was stopped by an independent data safety monitoring board, and the FDA concurred with this decision. Pfizer applied for an Emergency Use Authorization for this drug on 11/15/21. This drug was approved on 12/23/21. We have only been able to obtain PAXLOVID™ for two patients who we successfully treated with this drug obtained from CVS in Salinas (East Alisal Street; phone number 831-424-0026). They were expecting another shipment on 1/28/22. In my opinion, this agent, if more widely available, could markedly alter the course of every coronavirus infection throughout the world. 

Merck has developed the oral drug Molnupiravir, which induces RNA mutagenesis by viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses. According to Kabinger et al, “Viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase uses the active form of Molnupiravir, β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine triphosphate, as a substrate instead of cytidine triphosphate or uridine triphosphate. When the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase uses the resulting RNA as a template, β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine triphosphate directs incorporation of either guanine or adenine, leading to mutated (viral) RNA products. Analysis of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase–RNA complexes that contain mutagenesis products has demonstrated that β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine (the active form of Molnupiravir) can form stable base pairs with either guanine or adenine in RNA-dependent RNA polymerase explaining how the polymerase escapes proofreading and synthesizes mutated RNA” (quotation modified for clarity). The results of the phase 3 trial of Molnupiravir were published in the NEJM article “Molnupiravir for Oral Treatment of Covid-19 in Nonhospitalized Patients” by Angélica Jayk Bernal, M.D. et al. (December 16, 2021 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2116044). In this phase 3 study in the Molnupiravir group, 28 patients were hospitalized and one death occurred. In the placebo group, 53 patients were hospitalized and 9 died. Overall, 47% of hospitalizations and deaths were prevented by Molnupiravir. If you do a post hoc analysis and just look at deaths, Molnupiravir would prevent 89% of deaths. An Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA for Molnupiravir was approved on 12/24/21.The dose of Molnupiravir approved is four 200 mg capsules orally twice a day for five days. Diarrhea is reportedly a side effect in two percent of patients. I treated my first patient with Molnupiravir on 1/28/22. Currently more Molnupiravir is available weekly in the United States than PAXLOVID™ (see chart below; data from PHE.gov). Locally Molnupiravir is still available at CVS in Monterey (Fremont Blvd.; phone number: 831-375-5135) and CVS in Salinas (East Alisal Street; phone number 831-424-0026). 

Total Doses of All Four COVID-19 Drugs Provided to the United States, by Week

DatePaxlovidMolnupiravirSotrovimabBebtelovimabEvusheld
1/24/22-1/30/2299,980399,98052,26074,976
1/31/22-2/6/220052,10474,960
2/7/22-2/13/2299,940399,84052,24848,74549,264
2/14/22-2/20/220052,24948,79549,992
2/21/22-2/27/22148,980349,77652,19449,00049,922
2/28/22-3/6/220046,98651,99049,992
3/7/22-3/13/22175,000174,96052,24249,000199,992

FDA-Approved Intravenous Monoclonal Antibody Treatment for Non-Hospitalized SARS-CoV-2 Patients 

Sotrovimab is a human monoclonal antibody made by Vir Technology and  Glaxo-SmithKline which received a FDA EUA approval on May 26,1921 for intravenous drug treatment for non-hospitalized SARS-CoV-2 infected patients. According to the FDA, “The data supporting this EUA for sotrovimab are based on an interim analysis from a phase 1/2/3 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial in 583 non-hospitalized adults with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 symptoms and a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result. Of these patients, 291 received sotrovimab and 292 received a placebo within five days of onset of COVID-19 symptoms. The primary endpoint was progression of COVID-19 (defined as hospitalization for greater than 24 hours for acute management of any illness or death from any cause) through day 29. Hospitalization or death occurred in 21 (7%) patients who received placebo compared to 3 (1%) patients treated with sotrovimab, an 85% reduction.” Sotrovimab is given intravenously in a single 500 mg dose. Supplies of this drug are also very limited and currently are only available at hospitals. In order to get this drug, we will probably have to go through the same process outlined below for Evusheld.

Bebtelovimab is a new monoclonal antibody treatment for mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients (12 years of age and older weighing at least 40 kg) with positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 viral testing, and who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death, and for whom alternative COVID-19 treatment options approved or authorized by FDA are not accessible or clinically appropriate. The authorized dose of bebtelovimab is 175 mg, given as an intravenous injection over at least 30 seconds. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for this drug on 2/11/22.

FDA Approved Intramuscular Prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2 Immunocompromised Patients

Evusheld (from AstraZeneca) contains two human monoclonal antibodies, Tixagevimab (150 mg in 1.5 mL) and Cilgavimab (150 mg in 1.5 mL), in separate vials. According to the manufacturer, “Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab are two recombinant human IgG1κ monoclonal antibodies with amino acid substitutions to extend antibody half-life (YTE), reduce antibody effector function, and minimize the potential risk of antibody-dependent enhancement of disease (TM). Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab can simultaneously bind to non-overlapping regions of the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Tixagevimab, Cilgavimab, and their combination bind to spike protein with equilibrium dissociation constants of KD = 2.76 pM, 13.0 pM and 13.7 pM, respectively, blocking its interaction with human ACE2, the SARS-CoV-2 receptor, which is required for virus attachment. Tixagevimab, Cilgavimab, and their combination blocked RBD binding to human ACE2 with IC50 values of 0.32 nM (48 ng/mL), 0.53 nM (80 ng/mL), and 0.43 nM (65 ng/mL), respectively.” Each monoclonal antibody is administered intramuscularly to immunocompromised patients in two separate injections every six months. Evusheld availability in California is limited and has been rationed/distributed by our local Public Health Department only to hospitals. Physicians in Monterey County who want to receive a distribution (or redistribution) of Evusheld need to be added to the list of eligible facilities by the State Therapeutics group. The first step is for the Monterey County EMS Agency (phone: 831-755-5713) to make a request to the State Therapeutics group to have the facility added to the system for further verification.  Due to extremely limited availability, evidently the State Therapeutics group is currently only considering additions on a case by case basis.  Physicians who wish to submit their facility for consideration will need to provide the following information to the Monterey County EMS Agency:

  1. Facility/Provider Name for Registration
  2. Provider Type (Hospital, Pharmacy, Etc)
  3. Shipping Address
  4. Contact Name(s)
  5. Contact Email(s)
  6. Contact Phone Number(s)

As for my immunocompromised patients: We provided this information by email to the Monterey County EMS Agency on 1/26/22 and will update you when or if we become an eligible provider and receive our first doses of Evusheld. 

On 2/24/22, the FDA revised its dosing guidance for Evusheld, doubling the dosage of its two components, Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab, from 150 mg each to 300 mg each. They explain, “Based on the most recent information and data available, Evusheld may be less active against certain Omicron subvariants. The dosing regimen was revised because available data indicate that a higher dose of Evusheld may be more likely to prevent infection by the COVID-19 Omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.1.1 than the originally authorized Evusheld dose.” Patients who have already received their first administration of Evusheld intramuscularly will need to contact their healthcare provider to get a second 150 mg injection of Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab. If you have not received Evusheld yet, the correct dose is 3 mL/300 mg of each monoclonal antibody injected intramuscularly. This large volume necessitates administration of the antibodies in the gluteus, with two separate injections. 

A New Possible Indication for an Older FDA-Approved Antiviral Drug 

Remdesivir was the first FDA-approved Emergency Use Authorization drug for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infected patients. In their January 2021 paper in Nature Communications, Kokic et al explained the mechanism of Remdesivir’s action on SARS-CoV-2: “The active form of remdesivir acts as a nucleoside analog and inhibits the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) of coronaviruses including SARS-CoV-2. Remdesivir is incorporated by the RdRp into the growing RNA product and allows for addition of three more nucleotides before RNA synthesis stalls. Addition of the fourth nucleotide following Remdesivir incorporation into the RNA product is impaired by a barrier to further RNA translocation. This translocation barrier causes retention of the RNA 3ʹ-nucleotide in the substrate-binding site of the RdRp and interferes with entry of the next nucleoside triphosphate, thereby stalling RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. In the structure of the Remdesivir-stalled state, the 3ʹ-nucleotide of the RNA product is matched and located with the template base in the active center, and this may impair proofreading by the viral 3ʹ-exonuclease.” 

A recent study by Gottlieb et al of intravenous Remdesivir to prevent disease progression, whose design was similar to the study designs used for PAXLOVID™ and Molnupiravir, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on 1/27/22. The study resulted in an 87% lower risk of hospitalization or death than in the placebo group with a similar adverse events occurrence (42.3% and 46.3% respectively). The FDA may allow approval of outpatient intravenous Remdesivir over three days (200 mg IV on day one followed by 100 mg IV daily on days two and three) in high risk non-hospitalized SARS-CoV-2 infected patients.

With the exception of Evusheld, all of the therapies listed above can be used in Omicron-infected patients. Other previously approved monoclonal antibodies will not work for Omicron.

The Threat of SARS-CoV-2 Variants

In response to the need for “easy-to-pronounce and non-stigmatising labels,” at the end of May, the World Health Organization assigned a letter from the Greek alphabet to each SARS-CoV-2 variant. GISAID, Nextstrain, and Pango will continue to use the previously established nomenclature. For our purposes, we’ll be referring to each variant by both its Greek alphabet letter and the Pango nomenclature. 

The WHO has sorted variants into two categories: Variants of Concern (VOC) and Variants of Interest (VOI). The criteria for Variants of Concern are as follows:

  • Increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology; or 
  • Increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; or 
  • Decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.  

The WHO categorizes the following five variants as Variants of Concern (VOC):

World Health Organization

The criteria for Variants of Interest (VOI) are as follows:

  • has been identified to cause community transmission/multiple COVID-19 cases/clusters, or has been detected in multiple countries; OR  
  • is otherwise assessed to be a VOI by WHO in consultation with the WHO SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution Working Group. 

The WHO categorizes the following six variants as Variants of Interest (VOI):

World Health Organization

According to the UK Health Security Agency Technical Briefing from 2/25/22, “A putative Delta and Omicron recombinant has been identified in the UK, with likely parental lineages AY.4.2.2 and BA.1.1 and a breakpoint in non-structural protein 3 (nsp3). The presence of 34 genomes sampled between 7 January 2022 and 14 February 2022 suggest that this recombinant is able to transmit.” GISAID has also begun publishing data about a recombinant of Delta AY.4 and Omicron BA.1, first identified in France. According to GISAID data, this variant has also been detected in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States.

GISAID

Map of Omicron sequenced transmissions:

GISAID

Delta cases sequenced as of 3/13/22: 

GISAID

Map of Delta sequenced transmissions:

GISAID

Source: GISAID

New recombinant GKA (AY.4/BA.1) cases sequenced as of 3/13/22:

GISAID

B.1.640 cases sequenced as of 3/13/22:

GISAID

Watching World Data

Over the next few months, we’ll be paying close attention to correlations between the SARS-CoV-2 data, the number of isolates identified in various countries and states, and the non-pharmaceutical interventions (like mask mandates and lockdowns) put in place by state and national governments. Data on infections, deaths, and percent of population infected was compiled from Worldometers. Data for this table for SARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in Location was compiled from GISAID and the CDC. It’s worth noting that GISAID provided more data than the CDC.

LocationTotal Infections as of 3/11/22New Infections on 3/11/22Total DeathsNew Deaths on 3/11/22% of Pop.InfectedSARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in LocationNational/ State Mask Mandate?Currently in Lockdown?
World455,056,951(21,755,564 new infections in 14 days; an increase of 7,152,177 infections from the preceding 14 days).1,694,1006,057,327(100,832 new deaths in last 14 days)6,0205.83%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)A lineage isolateV01.V2 (Tanzania)APTK India VOC 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa 2% of isolates in July 2021)R1 (Japan)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 + BA.3 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)NoNo
USA81,154,960
(ranked #1) 622,653 new infections in the last 14 days.
39,254
(ranked #12)
993,044
(ranked #1)20,844 new deaths in the last 14 days. 
1,02224.27%
(0.18% increase in 14 days). 
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)R1(Japan)         Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Brazil29,305,114(ranked #3)  725,872 new infections in the last 14 days. 55,211 (ranked #8)654,612(ranked #2)46513.62%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
India42,987,875(ranked #2); increased by 83,131 infections in 2 weeks.3,615515,833(ranked #3)883.06%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)APTK India VOI 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
United Kingdom19,530,485(ranked #5; was #6 twenty-six weeks ago; increased by 725,720 infections in 2 weeks.72,828(ranked 4th in the world).161,738 (ranked #7 in world)11428.51%(1.05% increase in the last 14 days).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
California, USA9,033,843(ranked #10 in the world;  76,635 new infections in the last 14 days).5,15387,397 (ranked #20 in world)14322.86%(0.23% increase in 14 days).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Mexico5,591,871(ranked #19) 118,390 new infections in 14 days).8,098320,607(ranked #5)1974.26%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
South Africa3,691,962(ranked #24; 32,291 new infections in 14 days).1,67199,709 (ranked #18)286.09%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)       C.1.2 (South Africa, July 2021)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Canada3,275,746(ranked #31, was 26th ten weeks ago; 81,263 new infections in 14 days).6,17536,855(ranked #26)488.76% .B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Poland5,799,996(ranked #17; 162,350 new infections in 14 days). 11,637113,307 (ranked #15)12115.35%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + (South Africa November 2021),Omicron/B.1.1.529 +BA.3 NoNo
Turkey14,513,774(ranked #8, 600,149 new infections in 14 days).25,40196,217 (ranked #19)12316.90% (0.69% of the country was infected in the last 14 days.)B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
Russia17,242,043(ranked #6), 1,190,015 new infections in 14 days).50,743359,585(ranked #4 in world)67411.80%; 0.81% of the country was infected in the last 14 days.B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)R1 (Japan) B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Argentina8,887,973(ranked #11; 1,——— new infections in 14 days).5,615127,051 (ranked #13 in world)4219.53% (0.16 % increase in two weeks).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gama/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Colombia6,075,656(ranked #14, 16,941 new infections in 14 days).782139,255 (ranked #11 in the world)3511.72%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Peru3,534,687(ranked #29, 109,793 new infections in 14 days). 72,828211,423(ranked #6)5910.47%, a 0.32% increase in 14 days).B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Indonesia5,5864,010(ranked #15; 359,592 new infections in 14 days)16,110151,703 (ranked #9)2902.10%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)
NoNo
Iran7,117,544 93,640 new infections in last 14 days(ranked 12th; was 12th  twenty-six weeks ago)3,953138,711 (ranked #12)1398.29%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)


NoNo
Spain11,223,974(ranked 10th;   246,450 new infections in 14 days).19,849101,135 (ranked #17)5823.99%, a 0.53% increase in 14 days;  B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
France23,381,279 (ranked #4; 788,170 new infections).72,399140,029 (ranked #10)14935.68%, a 1.20% increase in the last 14 days.Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)NoNo
Germany16,881,945(ranked #7)245,342 (ranked #2)125,911 (ranked #14)24220.04%NoNo
Hungary1,814,362 (ranked #43)2,06844,653 (ranked #22)5018.86%NoNo
Romania2,787,625(ranked #37)2,97464,292 (ranked#20)4914.65%NoNo
South Korea5,822,626 (ranked 16th)282,976(ranked #1)9,85522911.34%NoNo
Ukraine4,894,331(ranked #21)5,858106,985 (ranked #16)8611.30%NoNo
Vietnam5,734,428(ranked #18)177,976(ranked #3)41,228 (ranked #24)715.80%NoNo
Netherlands7,055,814 (ranked #13)69,165 (ranked #6)21,688 (ranked #39)1341.02%NoNo
Denmark2,796,420 (ranked #13)13,0365,076 (ranked #85)2747.99%NoNo

What Our Team Is Reading This Week