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Morning Rounds Elizabeth Cooney

Biden set to give his biggest Covid-19 speech yet

President Biden will unveil the "next phase" of the U.S. response to Covid-19 during a prime-time address tonight, which the White House has cast as both an update on the administration's current response and a preview of what's ahead. The speech comes as the country’s vaccination gains steam, though new daily case counts have hovered above 50,000. Public health officials also continue to warn about potentially more transmissible variants of the virus circulating throughout the world and the U.S., stressing that it’s not yet time to relax pandemic safety measures.

Biden is also sure to tout the sweeping economic relief and pandemic response bill he’s set to sign tomorrow. The House yesterday finalized the long-awaited $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package, which includes $7.5 billion for vaccine distribution, another $1 billion for a PR campaign focused on vaccine uptake, $47.8 billion for testing and contact tracing, and even a hefty $8.5 billion for rural hospitals.

CEPI is already preparing for the next pandemic

In pandemic preparedness, the work never stops. And before the Covid-19 pandemic is brought under control, minds are already turning to how to better respond to disease threats to come. Yesterday, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations — CEPI — launched its next five-year plan, with the goal of ensuring the world is better-equipped to respond to future pandemics. A key feature of the plan, for which CEPI is seeking $3.5 billion in investments, is to work to crunch how long it takes to develop a pandemic vaccine from the just over 300 days for Covid vaccines to a mere 100 days. “The more we pool our resources, the more likely we are to win the battle against Covid-19 and all kinds of infections,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the launch.

How Covid disparities among children add up

Racial and ethnic disparities have defined who in the U.S. is disproportionately affected by Covid-19, but what about children? A new analysis finds that Covid-19 incidence in people under 25 showed substantial gaps from January through April that lessened later in the year, driven by a greater increase in incidence among white people. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders represented the widest chasm for the full year, with more than twice as many cases per 100,000 people under age 25 compared with all people that age, followed by American Indian or Alaska Native and Hispanic people. The researchers say theirs is the first to separate Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders from the more general Asian category.

Inside STAT: People who are homeless are the uncounted victims of Covid-19

Homeless people make shelters in downtown Los Angeles.  (APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)

They are the invisible victims of Covid-19, marginalized not just in life, but also in death. Despite the extraordinarily detailed statistics that parse the ages, races, and comorbidities of the nation’s more than 500,000 Covid deaths, no one seems to have any idea how many homeless people have died. One attempt to track all U.S. Covid-19 homeless deaths through official records turned up just 373. “It’s absolutely a vast undercount,” Katherine Cavanaugh, a consumer advocate with the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, tells STAT’s Usha Lee McFarling. “Housing status is not on any major Covid dashboard.” Homeless deaths rose sharply in March 2020, just as the pandemic arrived. Yet few of these excess deaths were officially attributed to Covid-19. Read more.

Antibiotic prescribing during the pandemic raises concern about drug resistance

Amid rising worries over antibiotic resistance, a new study suggests the drugs were overprescribed to patients early in the pandemic. In 96% of the cases, antibiotics were given before a bacterial infection was confirmed, according to the analysis. Although antibiotics can’t treat viral infections, physicians may have worried about secondary bacterial infections or been uncertain what caused their patient’s pneumonia. Half of patients received at least one antibiotic and a third got multiple antibiotics, although only 1 in 5 had bacterial pneumonia confirmed later and about 1 in 10 had a urinary tract infection. “Overprescribing on this scale could negatively impact the progress we’ve made in the fight against antibiotic resistance,” study author Rachel Zetts tells STAT’s Ed Silverman.

Multiple early symptoms may predict long Covid

Just as clusters of early Covid-19 symptoms can predict worse illness, more than five “long Covid” symptoms — including fatigue, headache, shortness of breath, fever, cough, hoarse voice, and muscle pain — in the first week of illness were more likely in people whose problems persisted. A new study analyzed responses from nearly 5,000 people who tracked their symptoms on a mobile app. About 13% were still troubled after one month, 5% after two months, and 2% after three months. They were more likely to be older, female, and to have required hospital assessment compared to people who didn't report prolonged symptoms. The researchers say their findings could help identify patients at risk for long Covid in order to study prevention, treatment, education, and rehabilitation.

Covid-19 cases in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 58,611
Deaths yesterday: 1,564

In this week's episode of STAT’s “First Opinion Podcast,” First Opinion editor Pat Skerrett talks with  journalist, historian, and author Walter Isaacson about CRISPR, patents, Covid-19, New Orleans, and more. Listen here.

What to read around the web today

  • Virus drove record U.S. death rate in 2020, CDC finds. Politico
  • Nursing home residents can get hugs again, feds say. Associated Press
  • EU regulator says no signs AstraZeneca vaccine led to Austria illnesses. Reuters
  • Bluebird says its gene therapy was ‘very unlikely’ to be cause of patient’s cancer. STAT+
  • Opinion: Meghan Markle gave voice to the despair I once felt during pregnancy. STAT

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

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