Coronavirus lab leak theory ‘plausible,’ report says; new COVID-19 cases in states continue to fall: Live COVID-19 updates

The hypothesis claiming the coronavirus leaked from a Wuhan lab is “plausible” and deserves further investigation, a report on the origins of COVID-19 from a U.S. government laboratory said.

The study, prepared in May 2020, was received in October 2020 by the State Department, when the department investigated the pandemic’s origins, reported the Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the classified document.  

The report comes as questions grow about whether the virus was the result of an accident in a Chinese laboratory or spread through other means. President Joe Biden has ordered the intelligence community to report on the origins in a matter of months. 

Meanwhile, new COVID-19 cases in many states continue to plummet, even as vaccinations slow. 

South Dakota’s Department of Health reported a dozen new positive coronavirus test results Monday. The new cases brought the statewide total to 124,273, making the new total among the lowest daily reports since the pandemic started.

And California on Monday reported a seven-day case rate per 100,000 people of 11, the third-lowest tied with Nebraska.

But experts told The New York Times that a summer surge could be on the horizon for many summer states, which lag in vaccinations and are already lifting most restrictions.

“We’re just we’re not even close to that in the Southern states,” Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert at Baylor College of Medicine, told the Times. He said he foresees a new wave in the South because “we’re so underachieving in terms of vaccination.”

Also in the news:

►Two-thirds of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams have been able to relax coronavirus protocols after four additional clubs qualified and raised the total to 20 franchises reaching 85% vaccinations for players and other on-field personnel.

►Moderna said Monday it has requested authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents with Health Canada — and will file for emergency use authorization with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “for this important, younger-age population.” 

►Nearly 200,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses will expire June 23 in Ohio, Gov. Mike Dewine said Monday. “For Ohioans who have been waiting to get their vaccine, I urge you to take action now,” DeWine said in a news release.

►Carnival Cruise Line said it will require passengers to have completed their COVID vaccinations two weeks before boarding for the company’s first U.S. trips after reopening, departing from Texas in July.

►As part of its strategy to vaccinate more of its population, Washington state will allow adults to get a free marijuana joint when they receive a shot. 

►Hawaii Gov. David Ige on Monday extended an eviction moratorium he implemented during the coronavirus pandemic for another two months, but he doesn’t expect to keep it longer than that.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 597,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: Over 173.5 million cases and over 3.7 million deaths. More than 139.78 million Americans have been fully vaccinated — 42.1% of the population, according to the CDC. 

📘 What we’re reading: The COVID-19 pandemic barely registered as a blip as humanity continued to spew carbon dioxide into Earth’s atmosphere. Read the full story.

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Novavax will soon apply for emergency authorization in US

A large trial for the vaccine Novavax is about to end in the U.S., and research president Dr. Gregory Glenn told an audience at a recent webinar that “we anticipate filing for authorization in the U.K., U.S. and Europe in the third quarter,” reported NPR, meaning in July to September.

Novavax is one of five companies that received large sums of money from the federal government for developing and/or manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines. 

In the U.K., the company reported that its vaccine had protected against all severe disease and was better than 96% effective against any disease from the original form of COVID-19, and 86% efficacy against the B.1.1.7 variant first seen in the U.K. The vaccine was 55% effective in a smaller trial among HIV-negative participants in South Africa, where another variant, called B.1.351, was prevalent.

Jails emptied in the pandemic. Should they stay that way? 

By the middle of last year, the number of people in jails nationwide was at its lowest point in more than two decades, according to a new report published Monday by the Vera Institute of Justice, whose researchers collected population numbers from about half of the nation’s 3,300 jails to make national estimates.

According to the report, shared with The Marshall Project and The Associated Press, the number of people incarcerated in county jails across the country declined by roughly one-quarter, or 185,000, as counties aggressively worked to release people held on low-level charges, dramatically reduced arrest rates and suspended court operations.

But in most places, the decrease didn’t last long: From mid-2020 to March 2021, the number of people in jails awaiting trial or serving short sentences for minor offenses climbed back up again by more than 70,000, reaching nearly 650,000.

“Reducing the incarcerated population across the country is possible,” said Jacob Kang-Brown, a senior research associate at the Vera Institute of Justice and author of the new report. “We saw decreases in big cities, small cities, rural counties and the suburbs, but the increase we see is troubling.”

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