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Coronavirus Update: Moderna expects COVID to become endemic in 2023, and Los Angeles County is latest to unveil plan to end face-mask mandates indoors

Moderna said Thursday it expects COVID-19 to become endemic in 2023, meaning it will be another seasonal disease that can be managed with vaccines and treatments.

The biotech made the comment as it reported earnings, showing it chalked up nearly $7 billion in sales of its COVID-19 vaccine in the fourth quarter, boosting profit to a consensus-beating $4.8 billion, or $11.29 a share, after a loss in the year-earlier period.

Moderna
MRNA,
+6.89%

posted total revenue of $7.2 billion, compared with $571 million in the fourth quarter of 2020, when its vaccine was first authorized for use in the U.S.

On a call with analysts, Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Paul Burton said the company “firmly” believes that a fourth dose, or second booster dose, will be necessary, likely by fall of 2022.

“While we are hopeful that we are about to enter a period of relative stability in the Northern Hemisphere, we believe firmly that a vaccine booster dose will be required for the fall of 2022 to provide ongoing protection against this virus,” Burton told analysts.

Data from UK health officials shows that vaccine protection against severe disease and hospitalization from the highly contagious omicron variant wanes over time, he said. Moderna is aiming to create a booster that will combine the original vaccine with an omicron-targeted booster.

The news comes as the surge of U.S. cases caused by omicron continues to decline from its January peak. The U.S. is averaging  76,667 cases of COVID a day, down 66% from two weeks ago ,according to a New York Times tracker.

It’s averaging 60,155 hospitalizations a day, down 44% from two weeks ago. And deaths are finally starting to fall, down 24% to an average of 1,908 a day.

Sadly, the U.S. death toll topped the 940,000 threshold overnight and last stood at 941,962.

MarketWatch’s deep dive into ivermectin: ‘You will not believe what I’ve just found.’ Inside the ivermectin saga: a hacked password, mysterious websites and faulty data.

Los Angeles County, home to 10 million people, has become the latest to unveil a plan to drop its face-mask mandate for indoor settings for vaccinated people starting Friday, according to local officials and media reports.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Wednesday he is looking forward to ending vaccine mandates and passports for indoor spaces.

“I take my hat off to New Yorkers through masks, vaccines, through social distancing. We were hit with the uncertainty, the fear of COVID. I’m really proud of how we responded as New Yorkers. Every morning I meet with my health professionals because I always say I’m going to follow the science. I’m not going to get ahead of the science because I’m ready to get ahead of all of this and get back to a level of normalcy. But they’re giving us clear instructions. They gave us benchmarks, we’re going to follow those benchmarks,” Adams told a press briefing.

In case you missed it: WHO says omicron subvariant is not stopping global cases from falling, and U.S. nearing 940,000 COVID deaths

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• Hong Kong has invoked emergency powers to allow in medics from the Chinese mainland at it struggles with a surge of COVID cases, AFP reported. The densely populated metropolis is in the throes of its worst-ever COVID wave, registering thousands of cases every day, overwhelming hospitals and government efforts to isolate all infected people in dedicated units. Chinese mainland medics are not currently allowed to operate in Hong Kong without passing local exams and licensing regulations.

As countries loosen Covid-19 restrictions, Hong Kong is sticking to a ‘dynamic zero-Covid’ approach – with help from Beijing. A surge in cases has overwhelmed hospitals and threatens business confidence in the global financial hub. Photo: Bertha Wang/Bloomberg

• In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has revoked the  emergency powers he used to deal with protests against COVID restrictions, the Wall Street Journal reported. The move comes amid mounting criticism from civil-liberties groups and some Canadian politicians that the use of those measures was an abuse of state power. Trudeau told a briefing the police has succeeded in shutting down the protest in the capital Ottawa led by a convoy of truckers.

• In Southern California, a similar convoy of trucks has started a cross-country drive to Washington, D.C. to protest COVID restrictions, Reuters reported. More than two dozen 18-wheeler trucks, along with some 50 pickups and recreational vehicles, left Adelanto, California, about 80 miles (130 km) northeast of Los Angeles. The self-styled ‘People’s Convoy’ is beginning an 11-day trek to the Beltway, a major highway encircling the U.S. capital, to demand an end to COVID vaccine and mask requirements.

• England ended its COVID isolation rules on Thursday, and Iceland will scrap all of its remaining ones on Friday, the Guardian reported. Poland will lift all of its restrictions on March 1, according to the New York Times.

New studies offer clues about who may be more susceptible to long Covid, a term for lingering Covid-19 symptoms. WSJ breaks down the science of long Covid and the state of treatment. Illustration: Jacob Reynolds for the Wall Street Journal

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose above 430.2 million on Thursday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, while the death toll climbed above 5.92 million.

The U.S. leads the world with 78.7 million cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 215.1 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 64.8% of the population. But just 93.4 million are boosted, equal to 43.4% of the vaccinated population. 

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