MorningRX: August 10, 2023

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WHO upgrades EG.5 to "variant of interest," Amazon-owned One Medical expands across US, and health officials urge vaccination before the coming fall season.

WHO Upgrades EG.5 COVID-19 Variant to ‘Variant of Interest’

The World Health Organization has moved the EG.5 COVID-19 variant from a “variant under monitoring” to a “variant of interest” in a new risk assessment, US News reported. The health agency warned that the new variant could lead to an increase in infections and become the dominant strain across the world. However, WHO also noted that EG.5 has not been associated with an increased risk of severe disease and currently remains a low risk at the global level.

EG.5, a variant of Omicron, also now accounts for the largest proportion of new COVID-19 infections in the United States. According to data from the CDC, over 17% of cases in the country were caused by the variant—a 7.5% increase from the first week of July.

One Medical Expands With New Locations Across US

Primary care provider One Medical has announced the opening of several new locations across the United States, according to ABC News. The health care company recently opened 2 locations in Connecticut, and soon plans on opening 1 in San Francisco and 1 in Milwaukee. Additionally, 3 other locations in Connecticut are set to be unveiled sometime in 2024. One Medical, which was acquired by Amazon in February for $3.9 billion, has an annual membership of $199 instead of the typical copay and additional fees.

“One Medical has been on a mission to help transform health care through its human-centered and technology-powered model to delight people with better health, better care, and better value, within a better team environment,” Amir Dan Rubin, CEO of One Medical, said in a statement at the time the acquisition. “We now set our sights on delivering even further positive impacts for consumers, employers, care teams, and health networks, as we join Amazon with its long-term orientation, history of invention, and passion for reimagining a better future.”

Health Officials Urge Vaccination Before the Fall Season

Health officials at the state and local levels are urging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, RSV, and the flu before the fall season begins, CNN reported. Officials are expecting a rise in respiratory illnesses and are encouraging anyone who is eligible to get an updated COVID-19 booster, along with a flu shot and the new RSV vaccine. Local health departments are working with state and federal agencies to prepare for a potential surge in infections, Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, told CNN.

“The focus for the fall will be clear and integrated messaging, especially for people who are most at risk, because we’re talking about a unique new normal of coexisting respiratory viruses,” she added. “There’s conscientious thought being given to how to communicate this. It’s really about public health and keeping everybody safe during a season when respiratory diseases happen.”

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