‘Our society is really totally nuts,’ Fauci wrote in emails now made public; New Mexico offers $5M vaccination prize: Latest COVID updates

Emails sent by Dr. Anthony Fauci in the early days of the pandemic reflect the thoughts of a patient but weary man who is flabbergasted by his overnight celebrity.  

Hundreds of emails were obtained by The Washington Post and other media organizations through Freedom of Information Act requests. Fauci responds to hundreds of interrogators, many he doesn’t know, often with in-depth answers. Fauci also corresponded on multiple occasions with George Gao, a top infectious disease official in China. Gao sent an encouraging note when Fauci was being blasted by Trump supporters who blamed him for supporting social distancing rules that closed schools, tanked the economy and threatened Trump’s reelection prospects.

“Thank you for your kind note,” Fauci replied three days later. “All is well despite some crazy people in this world.”

Fauci marveled at an April 2020 story titled “‘Cuomo Crush’ and ‘Fauci Fever’ — Sexualization of These Men Is a Real Thing on the Internet.” Fauci forwarded the email to someone whose identity was redacted, urging the person to click on the link

“It will blow your mind,” Fauci wrote. “Our society is really totally nuts.”

Also in the news:

►At least 540 people are in quarantine after a coronavirus outbreak in the Norwegian capital of Oslo tied to traditional celebrations for high school seniors who drive around in buses and drink.

►Most of Ohio’s COVID-related health orders, such as mask requirements, capacity limits and social-distancing guidelines, are ending today.  Gov. Mike DeWine announced the move May 12, citing the effectiveness of vaccines.

►President Joe Biden will share updates on the nation’s COVID-19 response and vaccination program progress Wednesday afternoon. The address comes as states continue to ramp up vaccinations ahead of the administration’s goal of inoculating 70% of U.S. adults with at least one COVID-19 shot.

►The U.S. saw the lowest number of COVID-19 cases in children last week since early October with 34,500 cases, said the American Academy of Pediatrics.

►National Doughnut Day is Friday, and Krispy Kreme is doubling their freebee, celebratory doughnut with proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Since March, Krispy Kreme has rewarded more than 1.5 million glazed donuts to vaccinated customers.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 595,200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: Over 171 million cases and 3.55 million deaths. More than 135.8 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – 40.9% of the population, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: The World Health Organization has renamed COVID-19 variants with Greek letter names – and here’s why. Read the full story.

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Vaccinations alone may not end pandemic, study suggests 

Steady vaccination rates have come with a reduction in infections, hospitalizations and deaths, but a new study suggests that they may not be enough to end the coronavirus pandemic. Masks and social distancing coupled with widespread vaccinations had the biggest impact on limiting infections and deaths, but infections will continue to rise if quarantine protections were lifted, a team of researchers from the University of North Carolina found in a new study.

“Our study suggests that, for a population of 10.5 million, approximately 1.8 million infections and 8,000 deaths could be prevented during 11 months with more efficacious COVID-19 vaccines, higher vaccination coverage, and maintaining NPIs (non-pharmaceutical interventions), such as distancing and use of face masks,” they wrote.

Last month, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention released controversial new guidance that said fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to wear a mask, even indoors, except in crowded settings like airplanes, buses and health care facilities.

EU launches vaccine passport program

The European Union launched the EU Digital COVID Certificate throughout the region. The “digital pass” will create a single hub for all EU citizens to hold their vaccination and COVID-19 status as they cross borders and travel. The digital pass uses unique QR codes for everyone, with paper ones accessible to those without a device. So far, Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland have passed technical tests and started issuing the EU certificates.

New Mexico institutes vaccine lottery with $5 million grand prize

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 disease “is the right thing to do — for yourself, for your family and for your state,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement Tuesday. And there might also be some money in it. 

The governor announced that the state health department and the New Mexico Lottery were jointly launching a “Vax 2 the Max” sweepstakes, with $10 million in cash and other prizes available for residents who accept vaccinations against the contagious illness caused by the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. New Mexico’s grand prize, funded by federal pandemic relief money, tops vaccine lottery prizes offered in California and Ohio. California offered a $1.5 million grand prize. New Mexico is one of the poorest states in the country, ranking 48th in per capita income of around $45,800, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

– Algernon D’Ammassa, Las Cruces Sun-News

Some states vaccinate more people inside prisons than outside 

Some states, including in California, have vaccinated a higher rate of individuals inside of prisons than outside, while others struggle to vaccinate their prison populations.  

“Education is really key,” Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine who leads the COVID Prison Project, told the New York Times.  “Especially in a prison context, where there tends to be a lot of distrust of both health care staff and correctional staff, that education piece becomes even more important,” she said.

More than 73% of inmates in California and Kansas prisons have received at least one Covid vaccine dose, according to data from the project. By contrast, 56% of all Californians have received their first dose, according to the Times. Prisons populations have been some of the hardest hit. Incarcerated people are infected at a rate more than five times higher than the nation’s overall rate, reported the Equal Justice Intiative. 

Experts suggest Taiwan follow stricter social distancing

After almost a year of very few reported COVID-19 cases in Taiwan, a recent outbreak shows that the containment strategy alone will not be sustainable for a long-term solution on coronavirus transmission. Benjamin Cowling, professor and head of the epidemiology and biostatistics division at The University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, told CNBC that new variants were to blame.

“Probably less than 1% of their population have had natural infection and therefore natural immunity, and … less than 1% have been vaccinated — so they’re almost completely susceptible,” Cowling said.

As of Monday, Taiwan has reported over 8,500 confirmed COVID cases and 124 deaths. Considering the nation’s slow vaccination progress, Cowling suggested that Taiwan authorities follow stricter social distancing to combat the outbreak. 

Contributing: The Associated Press

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