Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 953rd day of the pandemic.
Just one day after I cleaned and turned on my home humidifiers, I read a study by researchers at MIT that suggests that indoor relative humidity may have an effect on the transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
The research, which was led by C.A. Verheyen at the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science and published earlier this week in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, showed that, when the indoor relative humidity for countries in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres dropped below 40% in their colder months, Covid cases and deaths also spiked in these regions. It also found that, in more tropical regions, when the relative indoor humidity went above 60%, there was also an increase in infections and deaths.
A “sweet spot” of 40% to 60% relative humidity, as the two researchers called it, is somewhat outside what most people find comfortable, which is a range of 30% to 50% relative humidity.
Still, I was pleased to note that, when I woke up, the relative humidity levels at home were at 40%.
In other news we cover today, Los Angeles is telling people to mask up, the new Pfizer-BioNTech Covid booster produces a strong immune response against the emerging BQ.1 variant, and Australians are seeing a dramatic increase in new Covid infections.
Pfizer-BioNTech said that its new bivalent vaccine that targets the omicron sublineages BA.4 and BA.5, produced higher virus-neutralizing antibodies in older adults against the emerging subvariant BQ.1.1 than the partners’ original vaccine had.
As Covid cases and hospitalizations across the country continue to rise, the Los Angeles County Health Department said that masking is once again “strongly recommended” in indoor public spaces.
In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott outlawed vaccine mandates at state public schools.
In Australia, health officials are saying “here we go again” after seeing an 80% uptick in Covid cases in some states over the prior week. They have urged the public to wear face masks indoors and on public transport.
Health authorities in Manitoba, Canada’s fifth-most populous province, said that the Covid threat level was at “severe” for the third week in a row. The rating is based on combined hospitalization and wastewater estimates and analysis that forms the Hazard Index in Canada.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Transit Commission said it would rehire some of the 367 workers it fired for having failed to comply with vaccine mandates earlier in the pandemic as it prepares to lift that policy on November 27. However, the agency said it will also change its employment contracts in an attempt to prevent any conflicts from arising again, should the need develop to apply a vaccine mandate or other public-health requirement for workers.
Chaoyang, Beijing’s largest district, urged residents to stay home during the weekend as Covid outbreaks grew in numerous Chinese.
OTHER HEALTHCARE NEWS
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said infections from some antibiotic-resistant pathogens known as superbugs have more than doubled in health care facilities in Europe since the start of the pandemic. The news shows the wider impact of the pandemic on healthcare beyond cases of SARS-CoV-2.
Now here are the daily statistics for Friday, November 18.
As of Friday morning, the world has recorded 642.1 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.4 million cases, and 6.62 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 621.5 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.3 million.
Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Friday at press time is 14,016,482, an increase of 106,000. Out of that figure, 99.7%, or 13,980,526, are considered mild, and 0.3%, or 35,956, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past 24 hours.
The United States reported 71,311 new coronavirus infections on Friday for the previous day, compared to 85,283 on Thursday, 55,368 on Wednesday, 50,025 on Tuesday, and 1,954 on Monday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 7-day incidence rate is now 36,505. Figures for the weekend (reported the following day) are typically 30% to 60% of those posted on weekdays due to a lower number of tests being conducted.
The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 39,538, a decrease of 1% averaged over the past 14 days, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources. The average daily death toll over the same period is 325, a decrease of 4% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 27,993, an increase of 3%.
In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Friday, recorded 100.1 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.1 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, almost 44.7 million, and a reported death toll of 530,553.
The newest data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed that, at the end of July, the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 823,623, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, behind the United States. Rosstat reported that 3,284 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in July, down from 5,023 in June, 7,008 in May and 11,583 in April.
Meanwhile, France is the country with the third highest number of cases, with over 37.2 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 36.2 million total cases.
Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 688,886, has recorded 35 million cases, placing it in the number five slot.
The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are South Korea, with over 26.5 million cases, the United Kingdom, with 23.9 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 23.8 million, as number eight, as well as Japan, with 23.6 million, and Russia, with 21.5 million.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Thursday, 267.5 million people in the United States – or 80.6% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 68.7%, or 228.1 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 650.8 million. Breaking this down further, 91.6% of the population over the age of 18 – or 236.4 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 78.5% of the same group – or 202.7 million people – is fully vaccinated. In addition, 13.1% of the U.S. population of the same population, or 33.8 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent booster dose of vaccine.
Starting on June 13, 2022, the CDC began to update vaccine data on a weekly basis and publish the updated information on Thursday by 8 p.m. EDT, a statement on the agency’s website said.
Some 68.2% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Friday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information. So far, 12.94 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 1.02 million doses are now administered each day.
Meanwhile, only 23.6% of people in low-income countries have received one dose, while in countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, at least 75% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine.
Only a handful of the world’s poorest countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia and Nepal – have reached the 70% mark in vaccinations. Many countries, however, are under 20% and, in countries such as Haiti, Senegal, and Tanzania, for example, vaccination rates remain at or below 10%.
In addition, with the start of vaccinations in North Korea in late September, Eritrea remains the only country in the world that has not administered vaccines.
Anna Breuer contributed reporting to this story.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)