U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has tested positive for COVID-19, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday (May 4).
President Joe Biden is not considered a close contact of Blinken, according to White House spokesperson Jen Psaki.
A speech Blinken was due to deliver on Thursday (May 5) outlining U.S. policy towards China will be rescheduled. Earlier in the day Blinken met with Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde.
CDC admits to making major mistakes in COVID-19 pandemic
America’s leading health agency announced Wednesday that it is planning a complete overhaul of its structure and operations due to major mistakes in handling the COVID-19 pandemic response, Anadolu News Agency reported.
“To be frank, we are responsible for some pretty dramatic, pretty public mistakes — from testing, to data, to communications,” said Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a statement.
“For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for COVID-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” she said of the agency’s 11,000-plus staff members. “I want us all to do better, and it starts with CDC leading the way.”
The death toll from the pandemic in the US stands at more than one million people since March 2020.
The CDC first faced scrutiny over its COVID-19 response in the early days of the pandemic for its poor response to testing and monitoring the rapid spread of the virus, Anadolu reported.
During the later stages of the pandemic, the agency faced criticism for shifting or confusing guidance when it came to mask-wearing, social distancing and designating isolation periods for people who tested positive.
Walensky said the overhaul was not directed by the White House, insisting it was a CDC initiative.
“I feel like it’s my responsibility to lead this agency to a better place after a really challenging three years,” she continued. “It’s not lost on me that we fell short in many ways. We had some pretty public mistakes, and so much of this effort was to hold up the mirror…to understand where and how we could do better.”
The CDC reboot will revamp the entire organization from top to bottom, everything from operational procedures to the culture of the agency itself.
Walensky said the organization will move away from its previous focus on academic studies and shift towards prioritizing responding to emerging diseases like COVID-19 and monkeypox so the agency can meet its fullest potential.
The CDC will also create a new executive council to implement the widespread changes, Anadolu reported.
UK first to approve Omicron COVID shot with Moderna nod
Britain, the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine in late 2020, has now also given the first green light to a variant-adapted shot that targets both the original and Omicron version of the virus, Reuters reported.
The UK medicines regulator (MHRA) gave the so-called bivalent vaccine made by U.S. drug company Moderna (MRNA.O) conditional approval as a booster for adults on Monday.
Later on Monday, the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) backed the use of the variant-adapted shot in the country’s booster campaign starting September.
No serious safety concerns were identified with the new Moderna formulation, the MHRA added on Monday.
India reports nearly 16,000 new COVID cases, 68 deaths
India reported nearly 16,000 new COVID cases and 68 fatalities, according to the Union Health Ministry data on Saturday.
The data also showed active cases came down by 4,271 in a span of 24 hours to stand at 119,264, constituting 0.27 percent of the total infections.
The new 15,815 coronavirus infections and 68 deaths pushed the overall figures to 44,239,372 cases and 526,996 deaths, according to the data.
The national COVID-19 recovery rate was recorded at 98.54 percent, the health ministry said.
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