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5 things to know about COVID-19 this week

The WHO estimates that 10% of the world has been infected, the CDC updates its guidance on airborne transmission, and the FDA clarifies the vaccine safety data threshold that must be met for emergency use authorization.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, new information is coming out constantly. Here are five important developments from the past week.

1. The WHO estimates 10% of the global population may have been infected with COVID-19, the AP reported on Monday. That figure, about 760 million, would be about 20 times larger than the currently confirmed number of cases. Though that number is high, Dr. Michael Ryan, in addressing a special session of the WHO executive board, said it means the majority of the world is still at risk of infection. Dr. Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman for the WHO, said Dr. Ryan’s estimate is based on average results from global studies on antibodies.

2. The CDC updated its guidance on the airborne transmission of COVID-19 on its website on Monday, NPR reports. The guidance now states that “the coronavirus can be spread through airborne particles that can linger in the air ‘for minutes or even hours’ — even among people who are more than 6 feet apart.” In some circumstances, the CDC now says, smaller particles have lingered in the air in poorly ventilated, enclosed spaces and infected people. This means a person with COVID-19 who leaves a room could still infect someone who walks in shortly afterwards. The CDC maintains that the primary source of viral spread comes from people in close contact with each other.

3. The FDA said on Tuesday that it wants more than two months of safety data to be collected before considering the approval of a COVID-19 vaccine. CNN reports that the agency has posted new guidance for manufacturers that specifies its thresholds for requests for emergency use authorization of a promising vaccine candidate. The guidance says that data from Phase 3 studies (a phase that four American vaccine candidates have reached) should include detailed information about adverse events and cases of COVID-19 that occurred following vaccination.

4. Eight percent of teenagers report COVID-19 cases in their household, higher than the national average of 6%, according to a survey from Piper Sandler. These findings may corroborate statements from public health officials who have attributed local outbreaks to young people that don’t follow social distancing guidelines, CNBC reported. Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents reported having eaten at a restaurant since the pandemic began (indoor or outdoor was not specified), and 77% plan to eat in one in the next six months.

5. A BBC News report details a condition becoming known as “long COVID,” in which some people experience debilitating symptoms for months. The story says nobody has been able to figure out what distinguishes patients who recover from COVID-19 quickly from those who struggle with fatigue, shortness of breath and persistent pain for months. Further confounding the data, doctors have found no connection with the severity of infection and how long COVID-related fatigue lasts. Dr. David Strain of the University of Exeter told the BBC the theory he’s considering is “a premature aging of the small blood vessels that deliver oxygen and nutrients to the tissues.” But without a proven cause for “long COVID,” figuring out the best way to treat it is a challenge.

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