Quarterly Scientific COVID-19 Updates: February 2024

The close of 2023 witnessed a surge in COVID-19 cases. The uptake in reported cases is attributed to colder weather and the holiday season. Now, as winter still forces many to stay indoors, the instances of COVID-19 remain higher than in previous months.

branches in the snow

The Latest Variant JN.1

JN.1, an Omicron variant, is the number one variant of COVID-19’s new cases in the United States (U.S.). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports JN.1 comprised over 90% of U.S. cases this winter1. As of February 3, 2024, the Omicron variants HV.1 and JG.3 are ranked at number 2 and 3 respectively. Globally, the U.S. (15.0%) cases of JN.1 are second to France (35.0%)2. The CDC is waiting to learn more about JN.1 impact this winter when more data is available.

The U.S. broke from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) classification of JN.1 as a variant of interest. U.S. officials have not moved JN.1 to a standalone variant of interest. Instead, the U.S. continues to place JN.1 with the BA.2.86 Omicron variant3.

Current data suggests that JN.1’s symptoms are equal to its predecessors. However, researchers warn that individuals’ responses to JN.1 will vary. Those with pre-existing conditions or who are part of a vulnerable population should take precautions to protect themselves from transmission.


Key trends of JN.1 show that its transmission is slowing after peak reported cases earlier this winter. Most of the U.S. is witnessing a decline in reported cases in the emergency room. The exception is the South, where the reported cases have remained the same. Furthermore, the South had an increased amount of the COVID-19 virus in wastewater. Current data suggests that JN.1’s symptoms are equal to its predecessors.

Changes in Paxlovid Distribution

The antiviral drug Paxlovid, manufactured by Pfizer, is used to help slow the progression of COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Paxlovid Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) status in December 2021. FDA approval came in May 2023.

The FDA has continued using the EUA-labeled Paxlovid until its expiration date, March 8, 2024. Once that date passes, the unused Paxlovid will be returned to Pfizer. Medical professionals with these doses can dispose of the unused medication according to federal, state, and local rules. Those who receive prescriptions after March 8th for Paxlovid will receive FDA-approved doses.

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Treatment Offered

The January 25th issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report stated, "Many patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 infection at high risk for progression are not offered antiviral medication treatment.”5 Researchers gathered information from 110 Veterans Health Administration (VA) patients who had mild-to-moderate symptoms of COVID-19. Because of underlying causes, the patients were at high risk of their symptoms progressing into severe symptoms. All the patients received COVID-19 vaccines. Of those, 22 were offered treatment – they declined, and 88 patients weren’t offered treatment. Providers stated that they didn’t offer treatment to the 88 patients because:

  • Symptom duration of >5 days (22.7%)
  • Potential drug interaction (5.7%)
  • Absence of symptoms (22.7%)

However, nearly half (43) of patients weren’t offered treatment because providers stated they had mild symptoms.5

The findings propose that “education of patients, providers, and medical personnel tasked with follow-up calls, combined with advanced planning in the event of a positive result, might improve the rate of recommended antiviral medication use to prevent severe COVID-19 associated illness, including death.”5


Researchers continue to study and track COVID-19 variants and symptoms. Furthermore, scientists and medical professionals report on the effectiveness of vaccines and treatments. The updated reports of cases, vaccines, and other COVID-19 findings can be found on the CDC and FDA’s websites.


  1. (2020, March 28). COVID Data Tracker. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
  2. Cov-Lineages. (n.d.-b). 
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). SARS-COV-2 Variant Classifications and Definitions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
  4. Wastewater COVID-19 National and Regional Trends. (2023, November 3). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2024, January 25). Underuse of Antiviral Drugs to Prevent Progression to Severe COVID-19 - Veterans Health Administration, March–September 2022. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Christina Sisti, DPS, MPH, MS, is a bioethicist and health care policy advocate. She works to create awareness and improve healthcare policy for those with long-term health issues.

About the Author - Reeve Staff

This blog was written by the Reeve Foundation for educational purposes. For more information please reach out to information@christopherreeve.org

Reeve Staff

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

This publication was supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as part of a financial assistance award totaling $160,000 with 100% funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS or the U.S. government.