Coronavirus weekly need-to-know: cannabis, KN95 masks, ‘deltacron,’ Joe Rogan & more

Coronavirus omicron variant continues to spread. What to know about masks, “deltacron,” at-home COVID tests, hospitalizations, omicron’s surge, blood crisis.
Coronavirus omicron variant continues to spread. What to know about masks, “deltacron,” at-home COVID tests, hospitalizations, omicron’s surge, blood crisis. AP

In the United States, more than 65 million people have tested positive for coronavirus as of Saturday, Jan. 15, according to Johns Hopkins University, as the omicron variant continues to dominate infections. About 849,000 Americans have died.

Across the globe, there have been more than 324 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. Additionally more than 5.5 million worldwide have died from the virus.

More than 208 million U.S. citizens are fully vaccinated to date – 62.8% of the population – and 78.1 million of those people have gotten a booster shot as of Jan. 14, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Here’s what happened between Jan. 9 and Jan. 14:

Overwhelmed by COVID surge, California city asks residents to limit 911 calls

Officials in San Francisco are asking residents to limit 911 calls and hospital emergency room visits as the city grapples with a surge in COVID-19 cases.

“Calls to 911 dispatchers are averaging 400 a day, a 30% spike over the normal daily average of 300 to 330 calls,” Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson told KRON.

“Please don’t call 911 to ask for a COVID-19 test, or because you have a cold or minor flu symptoms,” Nicholson told KNTV. “We really want to keep our ambulances available for people having a heart attack or strokes.”

Read on to learn more about the strain San Francisco health officials are facing:

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How often can you reuse KN95 or N95 masks — and how do you safely do it? What to know

Health experts have recommended switching to N95 or KN95 face masks as the omicron coronavirus variant — which transmits and evades COVID-19 vaccines more easily than past variants — spreads throughout the United States.

But can these higher-quality masks be used more than once? Some experts say yes — with limitations — as long as it’s done safely.

Read more for what you need to know:

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How COVID hospitalizations are reported is changing in one state. Will others follow?

How many COVID-19 patients are in the hospital because of the virus — and how many just tested positive while they are there for unrelated issues?

Although the numbers aren’t readily available nationwide as of Jan. 10, Massachusetts is changing how it reports those hospitalizations as the omicron coronavirus variant — believed to be milder than past variants — continues to spread.

Beginning Jan. 10, Massachusetts hospitals are setting apart records of how many patients are hospitalized for COVID-19 and how many patients test positive after being admitted to the hospital for a separate health issue, according to CBS Boston.

To learn more about this change, keep reading:

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Should you get COVID tested without symptoms — and when’s the best time? What to know

Americans have been forced to wait in lines for hours to get a PCR test and then wait even longer for those tests to be processed, leaving many to wonder if their test results are even relevant by the time they receive them. Rapid antigen tests, which can be administered at home, have been in short supply in stores all over the country for weeks.

If you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, don’t run to get tested right away — the earliest you can test positive for COVID is between 24 and 48 hours after exposure, according to Verywell Health.

Continue reading for what you should know:

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Measles vaccinations plunged across the world during COVID. What it could mean for US

After the coronavirus pandemic caused dozens of countries to put off measles prevention campaigns and 22 million babies went without their vaccinations, experts are now saying measles may be the next vaccine crisis that affects the world, including the United States.

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization found 22 million babies around the world missed their primary vaccinations in 2020, the largest increase in unvaccinated children in 20 years. That figure is lower than what CDC officials warned about in April 2020, when they estimated as many as 117 million children were at risk of missing their vaccinations — but it still has world health officials sounding the alarm about potential outbreaks.

Here’s more about the drop in measles vaccinations:

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Does your surgical mask protect you as omicron spreads? Here’s what to know

Experts have made it clear: Cloth masks are no longer good enough as the omicron coronavirus variant spreads.

Instead, they recommend upgrading to a KN95 or N95 mask as they offer better protection against the variant, which is more transmittable and evades vaccines more easily than past coronavirus strains.

But what about surgical masks?

Here’s what some experts are saying:

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Is ‘deltacron’ real? Why experts say reported coronavirus combo is likely a ‘scariant’

Did coronavirus variants delta and omicron form a “super variant” called “deltacron”?

It’s likely you’ve heard the name by now, but experts are saying the reported COVID-19 variant combination is likely a “scariant.”

“#Omicron and #Delta did NOT form a super variant,” wrote Krutika Kuppali, who’s a part of the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 technical team, on Twitter on Jan. 9.

Here’s why some experts are doubting “deltacron” as a new variant:

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Red Cross declares ‘first-ever’ national blood crisis, pleads for donations amid pandemic

The Red Cross has declared its first-ever national blood crisis, with the organization saying it’s experiencing its worst blood crisis in over a decade.

The shortage poses a risk to patient care and forces doctors to make difficult decisions about who receives transfusions and who has to wait, according to the Red Cross’ website.

According to the Red Cross, the shortage has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused a significant decline in donor turnout — the organization said on its website that the pandemic led to a 62% drop in college and high school blood drives, and that drives continue to be canceled because of bad weather, illness and staffing issues.

To learn more about the national blood crisis, keep reading:

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Don’t use this at-home COVID test, FDA warns. It could give you a false positive

As the coronavirus omicron wave sweeps across the country, testing centers can become busy and you might be looking for an at-home test as an alternative.

But with variety of testing kits on the market, the Food and Drug Administration is now warning of a brand that could give inaccurate results.

“Stop using the LuSys Laboratories COVID-19 Antigen Test (Nasal/Saliva) and the LuSys Laboratories COVID-19 IgG/IgM Antibody Test,” the agency urged on Jan. 11 in a news release.

Read more about the FDA’s warning:

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Is omicron the reason your grocery store shelves are emptier? Here’s what we know

During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, stores across the country were plagued with shortages of toilet paper, cleaning supplies and some food products, among other things. Now, some grocery stores are again grappling with empty shelves as the omicron coronavirus variant rapidly spreads.

But omicron is just part of the reason for the shortages. Also at play are existing supply chain and pandemic-related issues, demand and recent winter weather events, experts and industry insiders have said.

Here’s what you should know about seeing empty store shelves:

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Joe Rogan under fire as doctors urge Spotify to stop ‘dangerous’ COVID misinformation

Hundreds of medical experts have signed a letter urging Spotify to address COVID-19 misinformation on its platform, singling out Joe Rogan’s popular podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience.”

The letter highlights an episode of the podcast that aired Dec. 31 and featured Dr. Robert Malone, who Twitter says it suspended from the social media platform over COVID-19 misinformation. The letter said that Malone used the episode to “further promote numerous baseless claims” about the coronavirus, including the COVID-19 vaccines.

Continue reading about the letter to Spotify signed by medical experts:

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CDC won’t overhaul mask guidelines amid omicron. What are the current recommendations?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will not overhaul its current mask guidelines.

The decision comes as many health experts have urged the public to switch to higher-quality masks, like N95s or KN95s, as the omicron coronavirus variant — which transmits and evades COVID-19 vaccines more easily — rapidly spreads throughout the United States.

Here’s the CDC’s current mask recommendations:

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After omicron’s surge, will variant cases slow down? Experts are cautiously hopeful

While cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant are surging across the U.S., experts studying recent trends are hopeful the virus is reaching a peak, with a steep drop-off to follow.

In New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and other large cities, total infections are high — but in recent days are falling fast.

Here’s what experts are saying:

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Trying to catch omicron to get over COVID is ‘like playing with dynamite,’ doctor warns

While one health director felt compelled to warn others that hosting “omicron parties” to catch coronavirus is a bad idea, other medical experts have expressed similar warnings as people question if they can just get COVID-19 over with already.

“I’m getting people sending me messages to Facebook and other places saying that people are having omicron parties to get exposed,” Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Bruce Dart told KTUL. “Well, don’t do that. Absolutely do not do that.”

But it’s not just in the Midwest where the idea of intentionally catching the omicron variant has began to spread.

Here’s what doctors are saying:

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How can you tell if your N95 or KN95 mask is fake? Pay attention to these signs

Highly protective face masks such as N95s and KN95s are being encouraged by health experts as the omicron variant of the coronavirus runs rampant, but many are actually fakes.

For instance, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 60% of the the Chinese made KN95 masks are counterfeit and do not meet requirements from the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH).

There are many tell-tale signs N95s and KN95s are fake, thus making them not recommended to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

Here’s what you should know:

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Can cannabis prevent COVID? Maybe – but not by smoking it, experts say. What to know

A study that suggests components of cannabis can prevent coronavirus infections has sparked quite a buzz on social media.

And in case you’re wondering, smoking weed won’t protect against the virus, experts say.

Two cannabis sativa plant compounds — CBGA and CBDA — were found to prevent coronavirus and its “emerging variants” from infecting human kidney cells in a laboratory, peer-reviewed study by researchers at Oregon State University.

Here’s what to know about the new hemp study:

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Divorced parents are divided on COVID vaccines for kids. What are their options?

The coronavirus pandemic has drawn a new line of division for co-parenting divorced couples who must decide whether to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19.

Divorce lawyers and family attorneys said they’ve seen a drastic uptick in cases as the intricacies of custody agreements leave some parents stuck between a rock and a hard place, unable to reach an amicable decision and asking a judge to intervene instead.

“Children are obviously precious to their parents,” divorce attorney Donald C. Schiller told the legal news outlet Best Lawyers. “And some parents have a sense that they owe it to their children to fight for their beliefs. So, these things sometimes do get taken to issue.”

Keep reading to learn more:

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Reporters Don Sweeney, Bailey Aldridge, Vandana Ravikumar, Mariah Rush, Mitchell Willetts, Kaitlyn Alanis, Mike Stunson and Hayley Fowler contributed to this report.

This story was originally published January 14, 2022 6:26 AM.

Julia Marnin is a McClatchy National Real-Time reporter covering the southeast and northeast while based in New York. She’s an alumna of The College of New Jersey and joined McClatchy in 2021. Previously, she’s written for Newsweek, Modern Luxury, Gannett and more.
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