Newly reported U.S. coronavirus cases rose slightly, as vaccinations continued to make progress and the Biden administration sought to bolster the nation’s supply of Covid-19 shots.
The U.S. reported 58,611 new cases for Wednesday, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Wednesday’s tally edged up from Tuesday’s revised total of 57,417, but was sharply lower than the peak levels reached in January, when daily totals often topped 200,000.
The country reported 1,564 fatalities for Wednesday, pushing the total death toll to more than 529,200.
Nearly 10% of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and an average of 2.2 million doses have been administered daily in the past week, according to a Wall Street Journal Analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
President Biden has directed his administration to secure an additional 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the year and said he planned to share any excess vaccine supply with other nations. If an agreement with J&J is completed, the additional supply would double the company’s previous commitment to provide 100 million doses to the U.S. Taking into account commitments by Pfizer and Moderna to provide 600 million doses of their two-shot vaccines, the U.S. is expected to have more than enough supply by the end of May to vaccinate the eligible U.S. population, Mr. Biden said.
A continuing worry is the spread of new variants. An estimated half of current Covid-19 cases in New York City have been linked to variants first identified in New York City and the U.K., health officials said Wednesday. Viruses constantly mutate and new variants are expected of all virus strains, including the coronavirus. But three strains first detected in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil have raised concerns after emerging data suggested they spread more easily than earlier forms of the coronavirus, leading to more infections.
On Wednesday, Moderna said that it has begun human testing on modified Covid-19 vaccines designed to better target a more contagious variant that was first identified in South Africa. The company plans to enroll 60 people to test the new shot. The subjects had previously received the standard two doses of Moderna’s original shot. In the new portion of the study, these adult volunteers will receive a booster shot containing Moderna’s modified vaccine.
Meanwhile, Vir Biotechnology and GlaxoSmithKline said a monoclonal-antibody drug they have developed reduced hospitalizations or death from Covid-19 by 85% compared with a placebo in a clinical trial. Based on the positive results, the companies said Wednesday they will immediately ask health regulators in the U.S. and other countries to authorize the therapy. If authorized, the medicine would be the fourth antibody drug available in the U.S. after ones made by Eli Lilly and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.