Read AMA Morning Rounds®’ most popular stories in medicine and public health from the week of Feb. 8, 2021 – Feb. 12, 2021.

The Washington Post (2/5, Stanley-Becker) reported the Biden Administration “announced several initiatives Friday aimed at accelerating mass inoculations against the coronavirus and expanding production of rapid coronavirus tests and surgical gloves, among other tools necessary to control the pathogen.” The Post adds the Administration “said it was using [the Defense Production Act] to ensure that Pfizer has access to equipment needed to scale up production of the vaccine it developed with German company BioNTech,” and also “boost domestic manufacturing of at-home coronavirus tests.”

According to Politico (2/5, Roubein), “Biden’s team plans to sign DPA contracts with six diagnostic companies in the coming weeks to boost the availability of tests Americans can use at home,” but it “will take a few more weeks to finalize [the contracts], said Tim Manning, the president’s coronavirus supply chain coordinator, who declined to name the companies that will produce the tests.”

The AP (2/8, Marchione) reports researchers continue to investigate whether people can be reinfected with SARS-CoV-2, either with an old variant of the virus or a new one. The AP adds that there is growing evidence that being previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 “may not protect against getting infected again with some of the new variants,” and there is also evidence that people can be reinfected with older versions of the virus “if they mounted a weak defense the first time.” Dr. Howard Bauchner, editor-in-chief of JAMA, said the journal would soon report on what he called “the Los Angeles variant.”

Reuters (2/9, O'Donnell, Mishra) reports the federal government will start shipping SARS-CoV-2 “vaccines directly to community health centers next week in an effort to speed vaccinations and ensure doses are reaching vulnerable people.” Bypassing state government, the federal government will ship “doses to 250 centers nationwide selected based on their proximity to vulnerable groups, such as homeless people and those with limited proficiency in English.”

The Hill (2/9, Weixel) reports Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said, “Equity is core to our strategy to put this pandemic behind us, and equity means that we are reaching everyone, particularly those in underserved and rural communities, and those who have been hit hardest by this pandemic.” Officials also said the program will expand over time as the supply of vaccines increases.

The Washington Post (2/10, A1, Sun, Nirappil) reports the CDC issued new guidance on masking aimed at helping Americans protect themselves from more infectious variants of SARS-CoV-2. According to a CDC report, Americans can better protect themselves by, in the words of the Washington Post, “wearing a cloth mask over a disposable surgical mask” or “improving the fit of a single surgical mask by knotting the ear loops and tucking in the sides close to the face to prevent air from leaking out around the edges and to form a closer fit.” John T. Brooks, medical officer for the CDC’s COVID-19 response, said, “We know that universal masking works. And now these variants are circulating … whatever we can do to improve the fit of a mask to make it work better, the faster we can end this pandemic.”

The New York Times (2/10, A1, Rabin) reports CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, “With cases, hospitalizations and deaths still very high, now is not the time to roll back mask requirements. The bottom line is this: Masks work, and they work when they have a good fit and are worn correctly.”

The AP (2/10, Stobbe) reports the CDC researchers conducted “a lab experiment that spaced two artificial heads 6 feet from each other and checked to see how many coronavirus-sized particles spewed by one were inhaled by the other.” The researchers found that “wearing one mask – surgical or cloth – blocked around 40% of the particles coming toward the head that was breathing in,” while wearing a cloth mask on top of a surgical mask blocked about 80% of the particles. In addition, “when both the exhaling and inhaling heads were double-masked, more than 95% of the particles were blocked.”

The Washington Post (2/11, Stanley-Becker, Sun, McGinley) reports on Thursday, President Biden said “his administration had finalized deals for another 200 million doses of the two coronavirus vaccines authorized in the United States, giving the country enough vaccine by the end of July to cover every American adult.” During comments “capping an afternoon tour of the National Institutes of Health, Biden said the federal government had purchased 100 million more doses from Pfizer and German company BioNTech, as well as 100 million more from Moderna, using options built into existing contracts with those companies.” He stated, “We remain in the teeth of this pandemic.”

Bloomberg (2/11, Langreth, Wingrove, Fabian) reports if the additional vaccine doses are delivered in the timeframe Biden outlined, that “would give the U.S. enough doses for 300 million people by the end of July – a number that could increase if other vaccine candidates, such as one from Johnson & Johnson, are approved.” But the process of giving people shots “could stretch into late summer and early fall.”

AMA Morning Rounds news coverage is developed in affiliation with Bulletin Healthcare LLC. Subscribe to Morning Rounds Daily.

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