Coronavirus Update


China and Japan are planning to ease some travel restrictions, while sticking with others

Boosters that specifically target omicron variants may be available after Labor Day.

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Americans age 12 and older could begin getting omicron-specific COVID-19 boosters soon after Labor Day, according to a new report.

The New York Times reported  Tuesday night that the Biden administration is eager to see regulatory approval of the new boosters as soon as possible.

On Tuesday, Moderna Inc.  MRNA, +3.71% said it had submitted an emergency-use application to the Food and Drug Administration for its experimental bivalent COVID-19 booster for those 18 and older.

On Monday, Pfizer Inc. PFE, +0.81% and partner BioNTech SE  BNTX, +3.99%  had said they had completed the application process for their bivalent booster for those 12 and older.

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The new shots target not only the original strain of COVID but also the BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the omicron variant. BA.5 is currently the dominant subvariant in the U.S. Studies of both boosters indicate they provide better and longer-lasting protection against COVID-19 than current boosters.

The news comes as U.S. known cases of COVID are continuing to ease, although the true tally is likely higher than reported given how many people are testing at home, where the data are not being collected.

Cases are currently rising in Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi and Maine. They are falling everywhere else.

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The daily average for new cases stood at 91,663 on Tuesday, according to  a New York Times tracker , down 16% from two weeks ago to the lowest level seen since mid-May. The daily average for hospitalizations was down 8% at 39,680, while the daily average for deaths is down 5% to 465. 

First lady Jill Biden has tested positive for COVID-19 in a “rebound” case, her deputy communications director said Wednesday.

“After testing negative on Tuesday, just now, the First Lady has tested positive for COVID-19 by antigen testing. This represents a ‘rebound’ positivity,” said Biden’s deputy communications director Kelsey Donohue in a statement.

Biden, who left isolation on Sunday after earlier testing positive, has experienced no reemergence of symptoms and will remain in Delaware, Donohue said. President Joe Biden tested negative Wednesday morning but will mask for 10 days indoors and in close proximity to others, since he is a close contact of the first lady, a White House official said.

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Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• China is easing its tight restrictions on visas after it largely suspended issuing them to foreign students and others more than two years ago at the start of the COVID pandemic, the Associated Press reported. The website of the Chinese Embassy in India said the updated procedures would take effect from Wednesday, without mentioning specific requirements for vaccines or proof of a negative virus test. China still requires those arriving from abroad be quarantined at a hotel or private home and proof of a negative test is required for entry to many public and commercial spaces.

• Japan said Wednesday it would end a requirement for vaccinated travelers to have a coronavirus test to enter the country, but authorities are still sticking with other restrictions that have negatively impacted tourism, the Washington Post reported. After enacting some of the strictest border measures during the pandemic, Japan has been gradually allowing nonresidents to visit. But tourists are still not allowed in unless they are a part of an authorized tour group, their every move watched by a licensed guide.

• Nevada-based discount airline Aha! has stopped flying after its parent, ExpressJet Airlines, filed for bankruptcy protection and said it would sell its assets, the AP reported. ExpressJet said it faced lower-than-expected revenue because demand for travel weakened with new COVID-19 variants. It also said it was burdened with high costs, particularly for jet fuel. Aha! flew to about a dozen cities on the West Coast from its base in Reno, Nevada. A message Tuesday on its website said the airline was unable to help stranded travelers make other travel arrangements, and that customers booked on future flights should contact their credit card company for refunds.

• Twice as many deaths involving COVID took place in the U.K. this summer compared with last summer, according to analysis of new data — though rates have fallen in recent weeks as the latest wave decreases in severity, the Guardian reported. More than 5,700 COVID deaths have been recorded since June 8, as the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants became dominant. That’s up 95% from the same period in 2021, when just 2,936 COVID deaths were counted.

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 598.2 million on Tuesday, while the death toll rose above 6.46 million,  according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University .

The U.S. leads the world with 93.8 million cases and 1,041,761 fatalities.

The  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker  shows that 223.7 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 67.4% of the total population. But just 108.2 million have had a first booster, equal to 48.4% of the vaccinated population.

Just 21.4 million of the people 50 years old and over who are eligible for a second booster have had one, equal to 33.2% of those who had a first booster.