Americans drank more, smoked more, exercised less and spent more time in front of a computer or television compared to pre-pandemic levels, a study led by UCLA researchers found.
Across those surveyed, research found that alcohol consumption increased by 23% and cigarette smoking by 9%, respectively. Smoking, especially, could have adverse effects on those who contract COVID-19 — according to the research study, current and former smokers are 2.4 times more likely to need intensive care unit support or die from the disease, compared with non-smokers.
Researchers found that exercise decreased almost by a third, while screen time rose 60%. Other countries like Canada, Italy, Brazil, and Poland have observed similar behaviors during the pandemic.
The study found that nearly 80% of people viewed screens for more than four hours per day during the pandemic.
Dr. Liwei Chen, lead author of the study and UCLA epidemiology professor, said restrictions on non-essential activities and stay-at-home orders have negatively impacted some behaviors in American adults — especially in minorities.
“As bad as these changes have been for all Americans, they disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S., who already bear a higher disease burden from COVID-19,” she said.
In the news also:
►More than 100 performing arts centers, cruise lines and other businesses, along with some public officials throughout the state of Florida are being investigated by the Department of Health for possible violation of a state law prohibiting the use of a COVID-19 vaccine passport or other mandates.
►New Hampshire’s Executive Council on Wednesday rejected $27 million in federal funds for vaccination outreach. It would have been possible for the state’s public health department to hire one public health officer and 12 workers to support the COVID-19 vaccination and to address concerns.
►The Archbishop for the Military Services said Catholic U.S. service members who object to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine based on their conscience should not be punished.
► About 800 San Francisco city workers have asked for medical or religious exemptions to avoid a looming deadline for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus or lose their jobs. The city has so far not accepted any requests.
►Montana has set a new high for the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19. This number of 510 was reported Wednesday and surpasses the 506 hospitalsizations that were recorded in Nov. 20, 2020 before coronavirus vaccines became available.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 44 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 719,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global numbers: Over 239 million COVID-19 cases, and more than 4.8 millions deaths. More than 187 million Americans — 56% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Parents have already been weathering a shortage of child care providers — the workforce is down about 10% from pre-pandemic levels. Vaccine mandates could make it that much harder for day cares to hire otherwise qualified staff.
This page is updated regularly so you don’t miss any new information. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.
Study finds Pfizer or Moderna boosters may be best for J&J COVID vaccine
The best booster for the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine may be either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, according to a National Institutes of Health study posted Wednesday.
“The Mix and Match was a big study people were waiting for, it gave a lot of new data, and there hadn’t been any about Johnson & Johnson with an mRNA booster before,” said Dr. Eric Topol, vice president for research at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, and a national expert on the use of data in medical research.
The study, which included nearly 500 people, found that the J&J shot followed by one of the mRNA vaccines as a booster produced a stronger immune response than two doses of J&J.
A booster dose of either Moderna or Pfizer mRNA vaccination was available for people who received either one of the two-dose Pfizer series.
The new study came just a day before a crucial Food and Drug Administration advisory committee begins to meet to discuss possible booster doses of the Moderna and J&J vaccines. Pfizer boosters were approved on Sept. 24.
— Elizabeth Weise
World Health Organization: Global cases decline 7% in last week
According to the World Health Organization, the global number of coronavirus infections has fallen in the past week. This continues a trend which began in August.
The U.N.’s latest weekly pandemic assessment was published Wednesday. It stated that there had been approximately 2.8 million cases of pandemic and 466,000 deaths. This is a decrease of 7% and 10%, respectively. Europe experienced a 7.7% increase in reported cases. All other countries reported decreasing numbers.
WHO reports that Europe saw the largest increase in death rates in the week before, and 11% more COVID-19-related deaths. WHO states that Russia, Turkey, and Britain were the three countries with highest reported new cases of disease in Europe.
Africa and the Western Pacific saw dramatic drops in case numbers, with respective 32% and 27% respectively. In both areas, deaths fell more than one-third.
— The Associated Press
US declares that it will remove travel ban for US border residents
Families and businesses that were separated by COVID-19 restrictions cheered Wednesday as the United States announced it would open its land borders for nonessential travel in March, ending a 19 month-old ban.
Workers whose job is essential have been restricted from crossing land border to Canada or Mexico. Beginning in November, fully-vaccinated foreign citizens will be able to enter the U.S. without restriction.
Big box stores and shopping malls in U.S. border cities like San Diego (Calif.), Nogales (Ariz.) and Del Rio (Texas) were filled with Mexican-licensed cars. They were hard hit by the travel restrictions.
Blanca Larson is the executive director for the Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau in Del Rio. She said Mexican visitors make up about 65% to retail sales in Texas.
— The Associated Press