Newest CDC guidance follows suit of localities dropping mask mandates, but free COVID tests still go unclaimed

Here’s some of your COVID-19 news for Feb. 27.

Many Americans, including parents of school children, have been clamoring for an end to masking while others remain wary that the pandemic could throw a new curveball. Now, states, cities and school districts are assessing Friday’s guidance to determine whether it’s safe to stop mask-wearing — long after others threw out such mandates and many Americans ignored them.

Under the new guidance, the CDC says people can stop wearing masks if they live in counties where the coronavirus poses a low or medium threat to hospitals — accounting for more than 70% of the U.S. population.

Two preprint studies posted Saturday offer further evidence that the coronavirus originated in animals and spread to humans in late 2019 at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, China.

One of the studies — neither of which has been peer-reviewed or published in a professional journal — used spatial analysis to show that the earliest known Covid-19 cases, diagnosed in December 2019, were centered on the market. The researchers also report that environmental samples that tested positive for the virus, SARS-CoV-2, were strongly associated with live-animal vendors.

Nearly half of the 500 million free COVID-19 tests the Biden administration recently made available to the public still have not been claimed as virus cases plummet and people feel less urgency to test.

Wild demand swings have been a subplot in the pandemic, from vaccines to hand sanitizer, along with tests. On the first day of the White House test giveaway in January, COVIDtests.gov received over 45 million orders. Now officials say fewer than 100,000 orders a day are coming in for the packages of four free rapid tests per household, delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.

The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday revised the emergency use authorization for Evusheld, a monoclonal antibody against Covid-19 for immunocompromised people and those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, to double the initial dose. People who’ve already received the drug should go back for an additional dose as soon as possible, the agency said.

“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,” the FDA said in a news release.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced Sunday that a dramatic drop in coronavirus infections could lead to the lifting of vaccine mandates on restaurants, bars and theaters as soon as March 7.

His announcement came shortly after Gov. Kathy Hochul announced her own plans Sunday to lift the state’s mask mandate on schools, effective Wednesday.

Adams said the city would also lift the mask mandate on about 1 million of the city’s schoolchildren in the country’s largest school system.