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Coronavirus Update: Official U.S. tally of new cases may be declining, but at-home testing obscures data; Novavax opens trial of vaccine for very young children

The daily average of new U.S. cases may have started to decline based on official numbers, but it’s unclear at this time if the trend is real, as so many people are testing at home and the data are not being captured.

The average stood at 118,380 on Thursday, according to a New York Times tracker, down 8% from two weeks ago. The daily average remains close to 120,000 after hovering closer to 130,000 a day for the past week. That’s more than the average for most of the spring and summer, but the lower number may reflect a real decline in infections.

The daily average for hospitalizations rose to 43,424 up 2% in two weeks. The daily average for deaths is up 12% to 491. While that’s far below the peaks seen earlier in the pandemic, it still means that more than 3,000 people are dying every week.

The World Health Organization’s weekly update showed U.S. cases were up 2% in the week through July 21, bucking a more positive trend in global cases, which were down 9% in the same week.

The WHO said the most transmissible virus variant, the BA.5 omicron subvariant, is continuing to cement its dominance, accounting for 69.6% of cases uploaded to a central sequencing database, up from 63.8% a week ago.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID again on Friday, marking the seventh straight day of positive tests.

The President “continues to feel very well,” said White House physician Dr. Kevin O’Connor in a statement. “His cough has almost completely resolved.”

Biden’s temperature, pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation remain normal and his lungs are clear. He will continue to remain in isolation, said O’Connor.

Read also: Campus COVID-19 vaccine mandates had the biggest impact on colleges with low-income students. Here’s why they were so effective.

In vaccine news, Novavax

has initiated a Phase 2b/3 Hummingbird global clinical trial of its COVID vaccine in children 6 months through 11 years old.

U.S. regulators authorized the use of Novavax’s more traditional protein-based vaccine for adults aged 18 and older in July, offering the vaccine-hesitant a shot that works differently than the mRNA-based vaccines developed by Moderna

and Pfizer

and German partner BioNTech

and the viral vector Janssen vaccine from Johnson & Johnson

The new Novavax trial will evaluate the safety, effectiveness and efficacy of two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, NVX-CoV2373, in younger children, followed by a booster at six months, the company said.

The company is aiming to enroll 3,600 participants in the U.S., Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Spain, the U.K., South Africa, Philippines and Brazil. The company said it expects initial results in the first quarter of 2023.

Coronavirus Update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• Germany’s health minister, an epidemiologist by training who has led the country’s fight against COVID-19 since December, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the Associated Press reported. Karl Lauterbach’s ministry said early Friday that the 59-year-old has only light symptoms and is working from home. It said that Lauterbach has had four vaccine shots and his infection “shows that, with the highly contagious omicron variant, an infection can’t be entirely ruled out even with utmost caution.”

• In happier news from Germany — especially for beer enthusiasts — the annual Oktoberfest festival will be held this year after a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic, the AP reported separately. “The Wiesn will take place,” festival head Clemens Baumgaertner told reporters in Munich using the locals’ Bavarian colloquialism for the Oktoberfest, which refers to the big lawn, or Wiese, where the boozy celebrations take place.

• A West Virginia man was sentenced Thursday to three years in federal prison after he sent emails threatening Dr. Anthony Fauci and another federal health official for talking about the coronavirus and efforts to prevent its spread, USA Today and other media outlets reported. Using an anonymous email account based in Switzerland, Thomas Patrick Connally Jr. threatened to kill Fauci or members of his family, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release. One of his messages said they would be “dragged into the street, beaten to death, and set on fire.”

• A day after the U.S. declared monkeypox to be a public health emergency, officials in New York state are warning that samples from a confirmed case of polio in Rockland County are linked to samples found in other locations, raising concerns about the potential spread of the disease in the state, NBC News reported. The state health department, which launched wastewater surveillance earlier this month after officials announced the first confirmed U.S. polio case in nearly a decade in an unvaccinated patient in Rockland County on July 21, says the CDC confirmed the presence of the polio virus in samples taken from June and July in two geographically different locations of Orange County. “These environmental findings — which further indicate potential community spread — in addition to the paralytic polio case identified among a Rockland County resident, underscore the urgency of every New York adult and child getting immunized against polio, especially those in the greater New York metropolitan area,” the health department said in a statement.

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 582.1 million on Friday, while the death toll rose above 6.41 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 91.9 million cases and 1,031,826 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 223.2 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 67.2% of the total population. But just 107.9 million have had a booster, equal to 48.3% of the vaccinated population, and just 19.9 million of the people 50 years old and over who are eligible for a second booster have had one, equal to 30.9% of those who had a first booster.

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