Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,050th day of the pandemic.
Why is it that the topic of mask mandates attracts so much controversy? After all, the masks aren’t even injecting something into the body, they can be fashion accessories, and putting one on becomes part of one’s routine and muscle memory quite easily. Yet people carry on that mask mandates impinge on personal liberties and some Covid deniers have even attacked retail shop staff for trying to enforce mask rules.
A new study – technically a meta study – is being touted by mask critics as evidence that mask mandates don’t work. The study, a compilation of physical interventions on the spread of respiratory viruses, looks at studies of different types of masks as well as hand-washing.
Published by the usually trustworthy Cochrane Library, an organization I personally hold in high regard, the study says the opposite of what mask skeptics are claiming, were they only to read the entire piece.
In particular, most seem to have missed a key admonition, namely, “[T]he high risk of bias in the trials, variation in outcome measurement, and relatively low adherence with the interventions during the studies hampers drawing firm conclusions.”
More significantly, at least to me, is that one of the two studies having to do with masking and the pandemic – this one from Bangladesh– measured the effect and effectiveness of mask mandates during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and demonstrated that mask mandates reduced the number of infections and the spread of the virus. The other 77 studies compiled in the Cochrane paper did not, although the second study covering masking and the pandemic attempts to do so, albeit with a tin sample group. Moreover, the two didn’t actually examine mask-wearing, but only addressed the question of whether mask mandates were in place.
Let’s run through the actual data in the two studies. In the first, a study of more than 340,000 Bangladeshis found that mask programs that promoted but didn’t actually mandate face masks “increased mask usage and reduced symptomatic SARS-CoV-2infections, demonstrating that promoting community mask-wearing can improve public health,” and that the use of masks trebled within the test group.
The second, and far smaller, study, which looked at 6,000 Danes, found a modest difference between those who donned face masks and those who did not.
My stint as chief analyst at the think tank Basex studying the impact of Information Overload on people’s comprehension levels explains why so many people missed the key points here, which were of course hidden in plain sight. But the findings are indisputably the opposite of a conclusion that masking and mask mandates did absolutely nothing, which is what so many people now claim.
Meanwhile, outside of the compiled studies, a study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined a coronavirus outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, an environment where sailors live and work in close quarters. Masking reduced the risk of infection by 70%, the researchers found.
But let’s look back for a moment to the 1970s, a time when consumers fought to make their automobiles less safe. Today, if you drive off without fastening your seatbelt, people will look at you as if you just chugged Clorox bleach to ward off the coronavirus. Given a desire to prevent people from being thrown through the windscreen in the event of a high-impact collision, Congress in 1973 mandated the seatbelt interlock. The law mandated that the seatbelt be fastened before one could actually start the engine.
Studies found that drivers of the interlock-equipped 1974s were 41% more likely to use lap and shoulder safety belts, up from 7% in the 1973 cars to 48% in 1974.
While protests from constituents resulted in Congress removing the requirement by the end of 1974, the seatbelt use became widespread
Today, when nearly everyone wears a seat belt, it’s hard to imagine how affronted some people were at the idea of having to use safety equipment. Instead, and this has been echoed by some prospective winners of the 2022 and 2023 Darwin Awards, they would cite folk wisdom such as “you want to be thrown from the wreck.”
In other news we cover today, yet another study found Ivermectin is worthless when it comes to SARS-CoV-2, aircraft wastewater is finding high levels of Covid on international flights arriving at JFK, and large landlords are defaulting on loans as workers fail to return to their former offices.
A new study confirms that ivermectin provides no benefit in shortening the recovery time of SARS-CoV-2 patients.
No, folks, the pandemic is far from over. A study conducted by the CDC found that 81% of international flights into New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport had SARS-CoV-2 in their waste water. The study was intended to demonstrate the feasibility of such tests as overall Covid surveillance continues to nosedive.
California reported on Thursday a stabilization in case numbers and hospitalizations after a month of increases.
The U.S. government will phase out pandemic-era financial assistance for groceries ahead of the end of the federal state of emergency in May, it said.
TECH AND REAL ESTATE
As office workers continue to resist returning to the office, major landlords in larger cities are defaulting on loans tied to properties. Columbia Property Trust defaulted on $1.7 billion in loans tied to seven office buildings, including two in San Francisco. The downtown San Francisco buildings are 201 California St. as well as 650 California St., where Columbia sued Twitter in December for alleged nonpayment of rent.
Meanwhile, Brookfield Properties recently defaulted on $784 million in loans for two office towers in Los Angeles, and Vornado Realty Trust’s Fifth Avenue and Times Square joint venture defaulted on a $450 million loan tied to a Manhattan building where tenants include the luxury labels Harry Winston and Blancpain.
OTHER HEALTHCARE NEWS
Since February of last year, the avian influenza has led to the death of tens of millions of farm-raised birds in the United States, the deadliest such outbreak on record.
The CDC said that the avian flu has a nearly 100% mortality rate in chickens. It is so contagious that even a chance gust of wind can carry wild-bird droppings toward a barn vent and spread the virus inside to a population of chickens who won’t be going to market.
Now here are the daily statistics for Friday, February 24.
As of Friday morning, the world has recorded 679.4 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.2 million cases, and 6.8 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 652.2 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 Friday at press time is 20,434,119, an increase of 39,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,393,692, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 40,427, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past three months.
The United States reported 64,478 new coronavirus infections on Friday for the previous day, compared to 127,499 on Thursday, 29,117 on Wednesday, and 8,447 on Tuesday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 7-day incidence rate is now 40,359. 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 34,679, a figure down 13% 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 330, a decrease of 28% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 27,966, a decrease of 5%. In addition, the number of patients in ICUs was 3,610, a decrease of 6% and the test positivity rate is now 10%, a figure that is down by 1% over the same period.
In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Friday, recorded just under 105.2 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 530,764.
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 39.6 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 38.1 million total cases.
Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 698,834, has recorded 37 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 just under 33.2 million cases, South Korea, with 30.5 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with over 25.5 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with over 24.3 million, and Russia, with 22.2 million.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, 269.5 million people in the United States – or 81.2% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.3%, or just under 230 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 671.6 million. Breaking this down further, 92.1% of the population over the age of 18 – or 237.8 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 79% of the same group – or 203.9 million people – is fully vaccinated. In addition, 19.5% of the same population, or 50.3 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 69.7% 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, 13.31 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 954,258 doses are now administered each day.
Meanwhile, only 27.6% 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)