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Europe is struggling to contain the third wave of the epidemic.

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The coronavirus is still spreading across the US, infection levels remain high and new variants are putting the progress made so far at risk. “When you see a plateau at a level as high as 60,000 cases a day, that is a very vulnerable time to have a surge, to go back up. That’s what exactly happened in Europe,” Fauci told CNN yesterday.

Europe is struggling to contain the third wave of the epidemic, which appears to have been caused by the new, more infectious and deadlier variant of the virus first identified in the UK. At the same time, the continent has been lagging behind the UK and the US in vaccination rates.

The worsening situation has left some European governments no other option than to tighten the restrictions once again. Half of Italy’s 20 regions, including the cities of Rome, Milan and Venice, have gone into a new lockdown today, with people now banned from leaving their houses except for work or health reasons.

In Germany, officials warned yesterday there is a “very high” risk of a further increase in infections. In France, hospitalizations are again on the rise, with Paris beginning to evacuate around 100 Covid-19 patients from the region over the weekend.

The Czech Republic has been in a strict lockdown for two weeks now, many of its hospitals overwhelmed with the number of cases caused by the new variant.

Fauci has warned that the variants threatening Europe right now are present in the US. He said there are ways to prevent the country from finding itself in a similar place in a few weeks’ time.

“The best way that we can avoid any threat from variants is do two things. Get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can and to continue with the public health measures until we get this broad umbrella of protection over society,” he said.

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.

Q: Can I hug my vaccinated grandma?

A: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has released new Covid-19 guidance for nursing homes last week. Vaccinated or not, nursing home residents are still a fragile patient population, so infection control is important. That means CMS still wants people to wear a well-fitted face mask, wash hands and try to keep physically distant. Outdoor visits are still safest, especially for the unvaccinated.

But the new CMS guidelines offer many other new freedoms. Visitors don’t need a negative? Covid-19 test result, nor do they need to show proof of vaccination. The guidelines strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated though.

“There is no substitute for physical contact, such as the warm embrace between a resident and their loved one. Therefore, if the resident is fully vaccinated, they can choose to have close contact (including touch) with their visitor while wearing a well-fitting facemask,” CMS says on its website.

Visits should be restricted, if the Covid-19 county positivity rate is more than 10% and if less than 70% of the residents in the facility are fully vaccinated.

Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.

WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY

More European countries halt AstraZeneca vaccinations

Ireland and the Netherlands became the latest countries to temporarily suspend the use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine yesterday following a report from Norway of patients developing blood clots post-inoculation.

At least six European countries have temporarily halted the use of the shot, while seven others suspended vaccination for certain groups or with certain batches of the vaccine. The European Medicines Agency said there was “no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine.” The agency said “the vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh its risks” and the vaccine can continue to be administered while investigation of cases of thromboembolic events is ongoing.

The chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, Andrew Pollard, told the BBC this morning there was “very rich, reassuring evidence that there is no increase in a blood clot phenomenon here in the UK, where most of the doses [of the AstraZenecavaccine] in Europe have been given so far.”

Patients’ cough poses serious risk to medical workers

Since the start of the pandemic, the most terrifying task in health care has been thought to bethe insertion of breathing tube down the trachea of a critically ill Covid patient. But a new wave of research now shows that a basic cough produces about 20 times more particles than intubation.

New studies show that patients with Covid-19 simply talking or breathing, even in a well-ventilated room, could make workers sick — even if the workers are wearing CDC-sanctioned surgical masks.

The studies suggest that the highest overall risk of infection was among the front-line workers — many of them workers of color — who spent the most time with patients earlier in their illness and in sub-par protective gear, not those working in the Covid ICU.

The defining photos of the pandemic — and the stories behind them

As the pandemic stretches into a second year, we look back at some of the most memorable photos taken around the world. In these images, we see sorrow, pain and desperation. But we also see love, sacrifice and resilience. See the full gallery here.
Olivia Grant hugs her grandmother Mary Grace Sileo through a plastic cloth in Wantagh, New York.

ON OUR RADAR

  • Covid-19 vaccines have the potential to end the worst pandemic in a century — and bring hundreds of billions of dollars in sales for the pharmaceutical companies that make them.
  • London police have been criticized for being heavy-handed after officers broke up a vigil for a murdered woman citing breaches of Covid-19 restrictions on protests.
  • Childhood vaccinations are seeing “substantial” and “historic” declines amid the pandemic, the CDC director said, urging parents to make sure their children are up to date on their vaccines.
  • Those getting their Covid-19 vaccine at Berkshire Community College in Pittsville, Massachusetts, on Saturday were serenaded by famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
  • Facebook is rolling out a handful of new tools on its platforms to help people get vaccinated against Covid-19.
  • Duke University officials issued a stay-in-place order for all undergraduate students as it tries to combat a rapidly escalating epidemic.
  • Tanzania’s Prime Minister has dispelled rumors about President John Magufuli’s health after days of wide speculation that he was ill with Covid-19.
  • A Stanford scientist’s quest to cure his son could help unravel the mystery of Covid-19 long-haulers.

TOP TIPS

Covid-19 has spawned another global health crisis that some have dubbed “coronasomnia” — an inability to fall asleep or get good quality slumber during the pandemic.

Unfortunately, experts say, people may turn to activities during the pandemic that seem to help, but actually hinder, their ability to fall and stay asleep. Find out how to avoid these traps here.

TODAY’S PODCAST

“We are not going to open doors until we honestly believe we’re ready. And so that’s what happened: we believed that we were ready, and we opened the doors.” — Lisa Herring, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks to Lisa Herring about how she’s been reopening schools and balancing safety precautions with students’ educational needs. Listen now.

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