What We’re Reading: Rare Heart Problem Investigated; Reduced Air Pollution Deaths; Low US COVID-19 Cases

The CDC is looking into rare reports of myocarditis in teens who received a COVID-19 vaccine; reduced air pollution during lockdowns prevented premature deaths; new COVID-19 cases in the United States fall to a 1-year low.

Heart Problems Reported in Teens

The CDC is investigating several dozen cases of possible myocarditis reported in teenagers and young adults after they received a COVID-19 vaccination, The New York Times reports. However, it is currently unknown if the vaccine causes the condition; it's possible they may be unrelated to vaccination. The CDC’s statement only noted “relatively few” cases have been reported. Myocarditis is defined as inflammation of the heart muscle and can occur after certain infections. Guidance on the agency’s website urges providers to be alert for unusual heart symptoms among patients in this age range who received a vaccine.

Reduced Emissions Prevented Premature Deaths

Throughout 2020, the sharp decrease in human-made emissions resulting from numerous COVID-19 lockdowns prevented approximately 32,000 premature mortalities, according to new research published in Science Advances. Researchers used global satellite observations and ground measurements across 36 countries in Europe, North America, and East Asia to reach the estimate. Of the 32,000 deaths prevented, roughly 21,000 were recorded in China alone. The investigation focused on rates of nitrogen dioxide but did not find corresponding reductions of particulate matter 2.5 and ozone globally.

COVID-19 Cases Fall to Year-Over-Year Lows

Levels of US COVID-19 cases hit their lowest point since June of 2020 according to data from Johns Hopkins University, CNBC reports. Currently, around 49% of the US population has received at least 1 dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, 39% are fully vaccinated, and among adults 18 years and older, 61% are partially vaccinated. As of May 23, 2021, the 7-day average of new infections was reported at 26,000. The news comes after the CDC issued revised mask guidance earlier in May, stating fully vaccinated individuals can shed their masks in most indoor and all outdoor settings.