US setting up $1.7B national network to track virus variants; Louisiana’s creative vaccine outreach

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is setting up a $1.7 billion national network to identify and track worrisome coronavirus mutations whose spread could trigger another pandemic wave, the Biden administration announced Friday.

White House officials unveiled a strategy that features three components: a major funding boost for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments to ramp up gene-mapping of coronavirus samples; the creation of six “centers of excellence” partnerships with universities to conduct research and develop technologies for gene-based surveillance of pathogens; and building a data system to better share and analyze information on emerging disease threats, so the knowledge can be turned into action.

The new effort, which relies on money approved by Congress as part of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief package, aims to break what experts say is a feast-or-famine cycle in U.S. preparedness for biological threats, of which the coronavirus is only one example. Others have included Ebola and Zika, and respiratory viruses like SARS in 2002 and MERS in 2012, which did not become major problems in the United States.

Typically, the government scrambles to counter a potential threat, but funding dries up when it recedes. The new genomic surveillance initiative aims to create a permanent infrastructure. Read more: 

Here’s an update on all developments. Scroll or swipe further for in-depth coverage.

  • At least 21 states have recorded at least a 10% rise in daily average positive cases of Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University data Thursday, demonstrating that the fight against the pandemic is far from over.
  • The head of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday was again forced to assure the world that the postponed games will open in just over three months and not be canceled despite surging COVID-19 cases in Japan.
  • Ten liberal senators are urging President Joe Biden to back India and South Africa’s appeal to the World Trade Organization to temporarily relax intellectual property rules so coronavirus vaccines can be manufactured by nations that are struggling to inoculate their populations.
  • Australia reported its first death linked to the AstraZeneca shot on Friday. The 48-year-old woman was injected with the vaccine on April 8. She was admitted with blood clots to a Newcastle hospital in New South Wales state four days later and died on Thursday, the statement said.
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom says nearly half of Californians eligible for vaccination have received at least one shot against the coronavirus.

For more summaries and full reports, please select from the articles below. Scroll further for the latest virus numbers.