COVID news: N95 masks, CBD, COVID at-home tests, vaccines


Coronavirus omicron variant continues to spread. What to know about free N95 masks, at-home COVID tests, cannabis compound CBD, new variant, lost vaccine cards.


In the United States, more than 73.4 million people have tested positive for coronavirus as of Friday, Jan. 28, according to Johns Hopkins University, as the omicron variant continues to dominate cases.

About 878,000 Americans have died. Globally, there have been more than 366 million confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Additionally more than 5.6 million worldwide have died from the virus. More than 211 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated to date – 63.6% of the population – and 86.4 million of those people have gotten a booster shot as of Jan. 28, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

The omicron variant made up 99.9% of all sequenced cases the week ending Jan. 22, according to the CDC.

Here’s what happened between Jan. 23 and Jan. 28:

Can cannabis compound CBD block COVID? Maybe, but not what’s in stores, study finds

One active ingredient in the cannabis plant – cannabidiol (CBD) – could potentially block COVID-19 infection, a new study suggests.

If you’re wondering if this means you’ll be protected from the virus by smoking weed or vaping CBD, the answer is no.

You might’ve seen products with the non-psychoactive marijuana compound legally sold in stores and advertised with potential calming capabilities. However, the commercially available CBD that can be infused in food or drinks isn’t of the same quality as the CBD used in the study, authors point out in the peer-reviewed research published Jan. 20 in Science Advances.

Keep reading to learn about the study’s findings:

Free N95 masks are being sent to stores, pharmacies. Here’s where you can find them

The White House is distributing 400 million N95 masks for protection against the coronavirus and the omicron variant, and national chains are among the sites where you can pick one up for free.

The release of the masks comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said N95 masks offer the highest level of protection against COVID-19. As the omicron variant rapidly spread through the United States in December and January, experts have suggested Americans ditch cloth masks in favor of N95s.

Keep reading for a list of stores and pharmacies where you can get the masks:

Ordering free COVID tests from the government? Beware of scam websites, watchdog warns

Millions of Americans can now order free rapid, at-home COVID-19 test kits online, and fraudsters are finding ways to take advantage, a national watchdog group warns.

The Better Business Bureau is urging consumers to be careful about where and how they request coronavirus test kits provided by the federal government in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the omicron variant.

Lookalike websites may ask for payment or personal information, the BBB said. But don’t fall for it.

Here’s what you should look out for so you don’t get scammed:

Why is the FDA restricting 2 monoclonal antibody drugs to treat COVID? What to know

Two monoclonal antibody therapies used to treat COVID-19 are now restricted for use throughout the U.S. and its territories by the Food and Drug Administration after the agency revised its authorizations for the two drugs.

The reason is the infectious omicron variant, which makes up an estimated 99.5% of positive coronavirus cases across the county as of Jan. 15, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monoclonal antibodies, which are made in a laboratory and act similar to a person’s natural antibodies, make it difficult for the coronavirus to replicate.

Continue reading about why the two monoclonal antibody drugs are being limited:

Don’t let at-home COVID tests sit in the mailbox too long, experts warn. Here’s why

If you’re expecting at-home COVID-19 antigen tests in the mail, try to make sure you’re around when they arrive — or there could be problems.

With hundreds of millions of free at-home COVID tests available to order through a recently launched White House initiative, the U.S. Postal Service is delivering the FDA-approved kits to mailboxes across the country, McClatchy News reported.

But in the dead of winter, it’s important not to let those tests sit outside in the mailbox for too long, experts say.

Keep reading for what experts learned about the at-home tests:

Is there a ‘stealth omicron’ coronavirus variant? Yes, and here’s what experts say

A mutation of the omicron coronavirus variant has prompted calls for more research by the World Health Organization.

But the BA.2 sub-variant is not now considered a variant of concern, and it’s unclear whether the mutations alter the transmission or severity of the virus, experts say.

“The BA.2 descendant lineage, which differs from BA.1 in some of the mutations, including in the spike protein, is increasing in many countries,” a WHO statement reads. “Investigations into the characteristics of BA.2, including immune escape properties and virulence, should be prioritized independently (and comparatively) to BA.1.”

Here’s what else experts are saying about the new omicron sub-variant:

Couple facing felony for using fake COVID vaccine cards at Buffalo Bills game, DA says

A couple got into a Buffalo Bills football game using fake COVID-19 vaccine cards and sat through the first half until they were escorted out by law enforcement during the third quarter, according to a district attorney in upstate New York.

The unvaccinated pair had been on the Buffalo Bill’s radar before the team squared off against the New England Patriots on Jan. 15, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said at a news conference, and now they face a felony charge.

Continue reading about the case being prosecuted under the state’s recently passed “Truth in Vaccination” legislation:

Rand Paul celebrates Spotify removing Neil Young after Joe Rogan ultimatum. ‘Seeya’

Hours after Spotify began removing Neil Young songs from its streaming service, Sen. Rand Paul took to social media to celebrate.

Young’s removal from Spotify came two days after he demanded the popular service choose between himself or Joe Rogan, a controversial podcaster who has spread misinformation regarding COVID-19 and vaccines.

In a since-deleted letter obtained by Rolling Stone, Young told his management team and record label he wanted his music off the platform because Spotify “is spreading fake information about vaccines.”

For more about the situation involving Spotify, Young, Rogan and the senator’s reaction, keep reading:

How can you keep COVID vaccine card safe – and what if you lose it? Here are some tips

If you’re vaccinated against COVID-19, the last thing you’d want is for your paper vaccine card to become damaged, ripped or even lost entirely – especially as some cities and states require proof of vaccination to partake in certain activities.

But mistakes can happen and as time goes on, your vaccine card could become more flimsy or you might misplace it.

In the U.S., 63.5% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, and that means more than half of Americans have been given vaccine cards to keep track of.

Read on for some tips on keeping your card save and what to do if it’s misplaced:

Unvaccinated shoppers ‘must be accompanied at all times’ in big stores in Quebec

There are now strict shopping rules for unvaccinated people and those lacking a vaccine passport in Canada’s largest province of Quebec.

For large retail stores such as Walmart or IKEA, shoppers without a vaccine passport “must be accompanied at all times by a store employee,” according to Quebec’s health ministry. This applies to everyone 13 and older and all commercial businesses that are 1,500 square meters (16,146 square feet) or larger.

Unvaccinated customers can only access pharmacy services in the larger stores and aren’t allowed to buy any other products when accompanied by an employee, the ministry says.

Continue reading to learn more about Quebec’s new vaccine passport requirements.

Why did everyone I live with get COVID but not me? Experts have answers

If someone in your home catches COVID-19, there’s basically no escaping it, right?

Actually, that turns out not to be the case, even with the more easily transmissible omicron coronavirus variant sweeping the United States, experts say.

“Some people manage to escape even though they’re in close quarters with others,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor in the division of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, told SFGate.

For potential reasons as to why one might dodge COVID-19 when surrounded by others infected, read on:

Reporters Mike Stunson, Tanasia Kenney, Mitchell Willetts and Don Sweeney also contributed to this report.

Julia Marnin is a McClatchy National Real-Time reporter covering the southeast and northeast while based in New York. She’s an alumna of The College of New Jersey and joined McClatchy in 2021. Previously, she’s written for Newsweek, Modern Luxury, Gannett and more.

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