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This Week in COVID-19: As New Omicron Variant Circulates, States Lift Mask Mandates

COVID-19 updates and news to know as of February 21, 2022.

As of February 19, there have been 78,269,789 COVID-19 cases in the United States. In the last 7 days, there have been 724,237 new cases identified. (CDC

Across the country—and around the world—governments have begun making plans to lift COVID-19 mask mandates and as of February 21, Hawaii is the sole US state with an indoor mask mandate. (USA Today)

But as these mandates relax, a more contagious version of Omicron—BA.2—has begun to spread in the United States. Infectious disease experts are watching this variant with a wary eye, noting that BA.2 may spread 30% more easily than the original version of the Omicron variant. (NPR)

A deep dive published this past weekend takes a look at the ways in which Long COVID—a chronic illness stemming from previous COVID-19 infection—“exhausts the body,” from the brain to the circulatory system and beyond. (New York Times)

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New York state has walked back its previous guidance that would see all health care workers required to receive a COVID-19 booster shot. According to the state, “too many” health care workers were refusing the booster, and requirements would push an already strained system past its limits. (New York Times)

Research published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report further highlights the benefit of completing a 2-dose mRNA COVID-19 vaccine series while pregnant: when pregnant persons are vaccinated, there is a roughly 60% reduced risk of COVID-19 hospitalization in babies younger than 6 months. (MMWR)

Check back next Monday for the latest updates and COVID-19 news you need to know.


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