IHA Daily Briefing: Feb. 18

Thursday, February 18, 2021
CDPH Update on COVID-19 Vaccine Shipment Delays
Biden Administration Moves to Boost COVID-19 Testing
New CDC Reports on COVID-19 Variants
State, National, Global COVID-19 Updates
Hospital Admissions Declined Last Fall

CDPH Update on COVID-19 Vaccine Shipment Delays
The Chicago Dept. of Public Health (CDPH) today issued an update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about COVID-19 vaccine shipment delays due to ongoing winter storm conditions.

Moderna vaccines were not shipped on Monday or Tuesday and would most likely not ship Wednesday, due to adverse weather conditions. Despite working with McKesson and shipping partners to resume operations, CDC anticipates a significant backlog of orders for distribution once operations resume and every effort will be made to catch up as soon as possible while safely delivering the vaccines.

Pfizer vaccines were not shipped out on Monday, due to weather conditions. A limited number of Pfizer vaccine shipments were processed Tuesday and a similar plan was in effect for Wednesday. CDC stated that “there is an expectation that delays related to this historic weather event will continue through this week.”

CDPH thanks providers for “their continued patience and fortitude in using doses-on-hand from canceled appointments, rescheduling anxious patients, and converting appointments to waiting list placements.”

Meanwhile, the Illinois Dept. of Public Health said today that it is in contact with CDC and other federal agencies to understand the logistical challenges and if there is anything Illinois can do to expedite getting vaccines.

Biden Administration Moves to Boost COVID-19 Testing
On Wednesday, President Biden announced steps his administration is taking to expand COVID-19 testing, improve the availability of tests and better prepare for the threat of variants. Those steps include:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will invest nearly $200 million to identify, track and mitigate emerging strains of SARS-CoV-2 through genome sequencing. This will increase CDC’s sequencing from about 7,000 samples per week to approximately 25,000   
  • The Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Defense (DOD) will invest $815 million to increase domestic manufacturing of testing supplies and raw materials that have created shortage issues, including filter pipette tips, nitrocellulose used in antigen point-of-care tests, and specific injected molded plastics needed to house testing reagents.   
  • HHS, in partnership with DOD, will make a $650 million investment to expand testing opportunities for K-8 schools and underserved congregate settings, such as homeless shelters. HHS will establish regional coordinating centers to organize the distribution of COVID-19 testing supplies and partner with laboratories across the country, including universities and commercial labs, to collect specimens, perform tests, and report results to the relevant public health agencies.

The Biden administration is also pushing for Congressional approval of COVID-19 legislation that includes $50 billion to expand and support testing, including in priority settings like schools and shelters, and invest in U.S. testing capacity.

New CDC Reports on COVID-19 Variants
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued two new Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports on COVID-19 variants B.1.1.7 and B.1.351.

In one report, researchers from the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health detailed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant – first identified in the United Kingdom – among eight Minnesota residents, whose samples were collected from mid-December through mid-January. Five reported COVID-19-like symptoms and three were asymptomatic. Three had a history of international travel in the two weeks before they became ill, including two who traveled to West Africa, and one who traveled to the Dominican Republic, and three others had traveled to California. One person was exposed to the virus at home, and another in the community. None had a history of travel to the UK.

The CDC says “identification of this variant in Minnesota, a variant that epidemiologic and genomic evidence suggests has increased transmissibility, highlights the importance of mitigation measures such as mask use, physical distancing, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces, isolation of persons with diagnosed COVID-19, quarantine of close contacts of persons with COVID-19, and adherence to CDC travel guidance to slow transmission. As SARS-CoV-2 continues to evolve, timely genomic surveillance and disease mitigation strategies will be critical for monitoring variant emergence and protecting public health.”

In the other report, researchers in Zambia described how the detection of the B.1.351 variant in South Africa coincided with a rapid rise of COVID-19 cases in Zambia. Researchers say because the B.1.351 variant has been detected in Zambia, it might be circulating elsewhere in southern Africa, where many countries reported rapid increases in numbers of COVID-19 cases during December 2020–January 2021.

State, National, Global COVID-19 Updates
The Illinois Dept. of Public Health (IDPH) announced today 1,966 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 72 deaths.

The total number of cases in the state is 1,168,683 with a total of 20,129 deaths. IDPH says that in the past 24 hours, 67,542 test specimens have been processed, with a positivity rate of 2.9%. The preliminary 7-day statewide positivity rate for cases as a percent of total tests from Feb. 11-17 is 2.7%, and the seven-day test positivity rate is 3.3%.

Statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations in the past 24 hours decreased from 1,719 patients to 1,655 patients. Of that figure, 386 patients were in the ICU, with 184 patients on ventilators.

A total of doses of 2,106,800 vaccine have been delivered to providers in Illinois, including Chicago. In addition, approximately 445,200 doses total have been allocated to the federal government’s Pharmacy Partnership Program for long-term care facilities. This brings the total Illinois doses to 2,552,000. A total of 1,977,033 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of last midnight, including 266,037 for long-term care facilities. The 7-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 61,132 doses. Yesterday, 73,091 doses were administered.

Today’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures showed more than 27.6 million confirmed and presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. (a daily increase of more than 69,000 cases), with 489,067 deaths (a daily increase of 2,601).

Today’s WHO Coronavirus Disease Dashboard showed more than 109.5 million COVID-19 cases globally (a daily increase of more than 363,000 cases), with more than 2.42 million deaths. The Region of the Americas (includes the U.S.) continues to lead the world with more than 48.7 million cases and more than 1.15 million deaths.

Hospital Admissions Declined Last Fall
Admissions to hospitals for reasons other than COVID-19 fell markedly again in November as cases of infections with the novel coronavirus began to surge again, suggesting that more people were delaying care due to the worsening pandemic, according to an updated analysis by Epic Health Research Network (EHRN) and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).

The recent decline follows a big drop in overall admissions nationally last spring after the onset of the pandemic, which was followed by a rebound in admissions in the summer. The latest drop-off has been steepest in the Midwest and West, the analysis finds. In both regions, non-COVID-19 admissions were at roughly 76% of predicted levels at the end of November, as COVID-19 cases rose in many parts of those regions. EHRN and KFF say that the levels of non-COVID-19 admissions seen in the fall of 2020 suggest that people may be delaying care in ways that could be harmful to their long-term health.