Coronavirus weekly need-to-know: updated COVID boosters, cases, CDC, omicron & more

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Ted S. Warren/AP

In the United States, more than 93 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic as of, Friday, Aug. 19, according to Johns Hopkins University. Additionally, more than 1 million people in the U.S. have died.

Worldwide, there have been more than 589 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, including about 5 million in the past week, and over 6.4 million people have died.

Roughly 223 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated as of Aug. 19 — 67% of the population — and over 108 million of those have gotten their first booster shot, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Most people in the country, about 75%, live in a location where COVID-19 community levels are considered medium and high, the agency says as of Aug. 19. Masks are advised in high-level regions.

Nearly 25% of Americans reside where COVID-19 levels are considered low, according to the CDC.

The omicron BA.5 subvariant dominated U.S. cases for the week ending Aug. 20 and made up 88% of COVID-19 cases, agency data estimates show.

Here’s what happened between Aug. 14 and 19:

White House: Updated boosters for adults, teens expected in a few weeks

White House coronavirus response coordinator Ashish Jha said Wednesday evening that updated COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be available in “a few short weeks” for everyone over the age of 12.

“The vaccines that are coming in a few short weeks are specifically designed for the virus that’s out there, and I believe it’s going to be available and every American over the age of 12 will be eligible,” Jha said on “NBC Nightly News.”

Earlier in the week, speaking at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation event, Jha said the updated vaccines could be available in “early to mid-September.”

The new vaccines specifically target subvariants of omicron that are currently circulating, known as BA.4 and BA.5, in addition to the original virus, which is expected to make them more effective.

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White House: Updated boosters for adults, teens expected in a few weeks

CDC director announces shake-up, citing COVID mistakes

The head of the nation’s top public health agency on Wednesday announced a shake-up of the organization, saying it fell short responding to COVID-19 and needs to become more nimble.

The planned changes at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — CDC leaders call it a “reset”— come amid criticism of the agency’s response to COVID-19, monkeypox and other public health threats. The changes include internal staffing moves and steps to speed up data releases.

The CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, told the agency’s staff about the changes on Wednesday. It’s a CDC-based initiative and was not directed by the White House or other administration officials, she said.

“I feel like it’s my my responsibility to lead this agency to a better place after a really challenging three years,” Walensky told The Associated Press.

Keep reading here:

CDC director announces shake-up, citing COVID mistakes

COVID outbreak shuts down summer camp after campers and staff test positive in Vermont

A COVID-19 outbreak among campers and staff shut down a summer camp early in Vermont, resulting in attendees being sent home before its scheduled end.

YMCA Camp Abnaki, a day and overnight camp for boys in North Hero along Lake Champlain, told parents camp was closing a week early on Friday, Aug. 12, before the final date of Aug. 19, according to Greater Burlington YMCA Director Doug Bishop.

At least 31 campers and staff members have tested positive, Bishop told McClatchy News in a statement. All campers took an at-home COVID-19 test prior to arriving.

Those sent home had only spent a week at the camp before their two-week session was cut short, according to Bishop, who added the origin of the camp’s outbreak had not been identified as of Aug. 16.

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COVID outbreak shuts down summer camp after campers and staff test positive in Vermont

First lady Jill Biden tests positive for COVID-19

First lady Jill Biden has tested positive for COVID-19 while on vacation with President Joe Biden and other family members in South Carolina, the White House announced Tuesday,

“After testing negative for COVID-19 on Monday during her regular testing cadence, the First Lady began to develop cold-like symptoms late in the evening. She tested negative again on a rapid antigen test, but a PCR test came back positive,” Elizabeth Alexander, the first lady’s communications director, said in a statement.

The first lady is fully vaccinated and has received two booster shots. She has mild symptoms, the White House said, and will start taking Paxlovid, an antiviral drug that has proven effective at preventing serious cases of COVID-19.

For more, keep reading:

Jill Biden tests positive for COVID, exhibiting ‘mild symptoms,’ White House says

Man scammed $4 million in COVID funds — and paid off his Porsche, feds say

A man scammed banks into giving him more than $4 million in undeserved COVID-19 relief money — and paid off a loan he used to buy a Porsche among other personal expenses he’d splurged on, federal prosecutors say.

Moustapha Diakhate, 46, of Stamford, Connecticut, also bought himself a Mercedes and a BMW with the money meant to support small, struggling businesses during the pandemic, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut.

“Instead, through what the defense acknowledges was simple greed, he made repeated efforts to steal and literally did steal from banks far more than he would have been able to get through conventional bank robbery,” a sentencing court document states.

A judge sentenced Diakhate to 42 months in federal prison, on Tuesday, Aug. 16 after he swindled millions in relief money authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act with his fraudulent loan applications, according to a news release from the attorney’s office.

Keep reading below:

Man scammed $4 million in COVID funds — and paid off his Porsche, feds say

Reporters Peter Sullivan, Mike Stobbe and Alex Roarty also contributed to this report.