Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,037th day of the pandemic.
The World Health Organization issued a rather ominous sounding warning about bird flu last week. In a Wednesday press briefing, the international agency’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the disease’s current trajectory leaves humans worryingly exposed.
This is not mere speculation.
Over the past 12 months, the world has seen outbreak after outbreak on all continents except Antarctica, and it’s a particularly dangerous strain of H5N1 bird flu that is appearing in both wild and domestic birds. More recently, some mammals are contracting the virus and scientists are worried it might eventually infect penguins on Antarctica.
“H5N1 has spread widely in wild birds and poultry for 25 years, but the recent spillover to mammals needs to be monitored closely,” Ghebreyesus said at the press briefing. “Since H5N1 first emerged in 1996, we have only seen rare and non-sustained transmission of H5N1 to and between humans. But we cannot assume that will remain the case, and we must prepare for any change in the status quo,” he noted.
Mammalian infection has occurred among minks on a Spanish farm and scientists have seen mammals contract the disease through direct contact with wild, infected birds.
Last year, scientists concluded that the number of infected minks and the way the bird flu spread “indicate that an onward transmission of the virus to other minks may have taken place.” The researchers also found that the viral strain found among in the minks carried mutations, some of which could potentially make the disease more transmissible between a wider array of species, but more research on this subject is needed, especially to determine the possibility of zoonotic spillover.
In other news we cover today, India and South Korea changed their pandemic-related visitor policies and most health practices in New York State will continue to require masks for visitors and staff even after the mask mandate there ends.
In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams said he would let non-vaccinated workers who were fired while the city’s vaccine mandate for municipal employees was in effect reapply for their jobs. Hizzoner also said there would be no guarantees of re-employment and no back pay.
The mandate ended on Friday.
Meanwhile, after the New York State Department of Health ended its mask mandate for healthcare facilities, numerous hospitals and practices in the state including St. Peter’s Health Partners, Ellis Hospital, and Albany Medical Center in the Capital Region, the ophthalmology practice of Dr. Stuart Levine and the general practice of Dr. Peter Rosenberg in New York City said they intend to continue to require patients, visitors, and staff to don face masks.
Officials in Seoul said that South Korea would end visa curbs on Chinese travelers and will resume issuing them short-term visas starting Saturday, given the improvement in China’s coronavirus situation.
Beijing said it is considering a similar move.
The Indian government said it will end its pre-departure coronavirus test requirement for travelers coming from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand as the number of new global infections declines.
Now here are the daily statistics for Friday, February 11.
As of Saturdaymorning, the world has recorded 677.4 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.2 million cases, and 6.78 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 649.9 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.2 million.
The reader should note that infrequent reporting from some sources may appear as spikes in new case figures or death tolls.
Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Saturdayat press time is 20,682,282 20,711,115, adecrease of 29,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,641,002, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 41,280, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past three months.
The United States reported 68,999 new coronavirus infections on Friday for the previous day, compared to 112,192 on Thursday, 31,892 on Wednesday, and 24,780 on Tuesday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 7-day incidence rate is now 43,979. 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.
Data for Saturday was not available at press time.
The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 39,712, a figure down 14% 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 449, a decrease of 14% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 29,234, a decrease of 14%. In addition, the number of patients in ICUs was 3,608, a decrease of 17% and the test positivity rate is now 11%, an increase of 2% over the same period.
In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Friday, recorded just under 104.8 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.14 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 44.7 million, and a reported death toll of 530,750.
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 last reported that 3,284 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in July 2022, 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 39.5 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 37.9 million total cases.
Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 697,662, has recorded 36.9 million cases, placing it in the number five slot.
The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are Japan, with 32.9 million cases, South Korea, with 30.3 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 25.5 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.3 million, and Russia, with just over 22 million.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Thursday, 269.2 million people in the United States – or 81.1% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.2%, or 229.8 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 668.8 million. Breaking this down further, 92% of the population over the age of 18 – or 237.6 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 78.9% of the same group – or 203.8 million people – is fully vaccinated. In addition, 19.2% of the same population, or over 49.5 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 69.4% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Saturday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information. So far, 13.27 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 1.04 million doses are now administered each day.
Meanwhile, only 26.4% 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.
Paul Riegler contributed reporting to this story.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)