Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 987th day of the pandemic.
The United States just hit a five-month record in SARS-CoV-2 cases and it’s quite clear that the novel coronavirus is back in force. Still, mask mandates aren’t coming back in great numbers.
There were 187,000 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, the highest number since July 27, when health authorities reported over 226,000.
Despite the onslaught, there’s little talk of mask mandates although some health officials and politicians are making lukewarm to strong recommendations in that area. Universal masking in early 2020 could have ended or at least significantly reduced the toll of patients the pandemic before it started.
Mask mandates are fraught with peril thanks to years of political controversy associated with them. They are unfortunately divisive.
The situation has reduced officials to making strong pleas and recommendations, which is not enough. New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who, as reported in this space on Wednesday, has resisted a return to mask mandates, donned a face mask for his Tuesday news conference in which he urged others to do the same.
Masks work. What a shame it is that not enough of us will wear them.
In other news we cover today, mobile test sites in New York are offering free Tamiflu and Paxlovid prescriptions and Hong Kong is preparing to cautiously reopen its border with mainland China.
New York City officials are adding new options for individuals who are not feeling well in the Big Apple. The city’s mobile clinics now offer testing for influenza, Covid, and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, and those who test positive can receive a prescription for medicines such as Tamiflu at the clinic.
In Hong Kong, authorities will allow concert halls and other performance venues to run at full capacity starting on Thursday. The changes also cover banquet halls.
Health officials are warning that Hong Kong and Beijing must reopen the city’s border with mainland China on a gradual basis in order to prevent a fresh wave of SARS-CoV-2 infections. The warnings come ahead of Hong Kong leader John Lee’s talks with Chinese officials about the reopening.
SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Wu Guanying, the Chinese illustrator and lead designer of the 2008 Beijing Olympics mascot, reportedly died from Covid in the Chinese capital. Wu, who had been a professor at the Tsinghua University’s Academy of Arts and Design, was 67.
OTHER HEALTHCARE NEWS
Researchers are making important progress towards the development of a universal flu vaccine.
Researchers said that they have been able to immunize animals against all 20 known influenza A and B virus strains. The news marks an important step toward the goal of a single vaccine against all types of the flu.
Now here are the daily statistics for Thursday, December 21.
As of Thursday morning, the world has recorded 659.9 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.7 million cases, and 6.68 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 632.8 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.4 million.
Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Thursday at press time is 20,441,334, an increase of 397,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,402,953, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 38,381, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past 24 hours.
The United States reported 186,957 new coronavirus infections on Thursday for the previous day, compared to 47,846 on Wednesday, 57,625 on Tuesday, 5,920 on Monday, 4,928 on Sunday, and 74,158 on Saturday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 7-day incidence rate is now 73,304. 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 67,491, an increase of 13% 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 413, an increase of 21% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 40,906, an increase of 10%. In addition, the number of patients in ICUs was 4,847, an increase of 14%.
In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Thursday, recorded over 102 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of just over 1.1 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, just under 44.7 million, and a reported death toll of 530,681.
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 39 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with over 37.1 million total cases.
Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 692,407, has recorded 36 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 28.5 million cases, Japan, with over 27.7 million, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 24.9 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.1 million, and Russia, with 21.7 million.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, 267.9 million people in the United States – or 80.7% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 68.9%, or 228.8 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 660.4 million. Breaking this down further, 91.6% of the population over the age of 18 – or 236.6million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 78.7% of the same group – or 203.1 million people – is fully vaccinated. In addition, 16.3% of the same population, or over 41.9 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 Thursdays by 8 p.m. EDT, a statement on the agency’s website said.
Some 68.7% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Thursday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information. So far, 13.08 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 2.43 million doses are now administered each day.
Meanwhile, only 25.1% 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)