Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,135th day of the pandemic.
The World Health Organization warned that the coronavirus pandemic remains volatile and said that there could be further speedbumps before the virus settles into a more predictable pattern.
While numbers are currently trending downward, “that’s still a lot of people dying and that’s still a lot of people getting sick,” WHO health emergencies program director Michael Ryan said at a press conference Tuesday.
In the preceding 28 days, over three million new cases have been reported to the WHO along with over 23,000 deaths from Covid. The actual number of new cases is believed to be significantly higher, given the fact that far more testing is done at home, without reporting, than in laboratories.
Ryan said that respiratory viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 do not pass from a pandemic to an endemic phase, but instead move to low levels of activity with potentially seasonal epidemic peaks.
“We don’t turn off a pandemic switch,” Ryan said.
“It’s much more likely that we’re going to see… a bumpy road to a more predictable pattern.”
In other news we cover today, post-hospitalization sleep issues may be Long Covid, Facebook quietly dropped Covid content labels, and a cruise line is telling passengers to consider donning face masks.
A new study published this month in The Lancet found that sleep disturbances were common among those individuals who had been admitted to hospital due to SARS-CoV-2.
The findings, “Effects of Sleep Disturbance on Dyspnoea and Impaired Lung Function Following Hospital Admission Due to Covid-19 in the UK: A Prospective Multicentre Cohort Study,” indicate that 62% of people who didn’t have sleep issues prior to hospital admission now suffer from them.
The study was the first to highlight the association between sleep disruption, a common Long Covid symptom, and breathlessness, another Long Covid symptom. Anxiety and reduced muscle function also appear to play a role in post-Covid sleep issues, and both have been linked to Long Covid, the researchers said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that people receiving Covid-19 mRNA vaccines for the first time should receive one dose of the new bivalent vaccines that target both the omicron variant as well as the original strain of the virus.
The agency also said that people at high risk of a severe case of SARS-CoV-2, such as those who are immunocompromised, could receive a second booster of the bivalent shot if desired.
The CDC’s signoff is the last regulatory step required in order for the new regimen to become widely available.
Meanwhile, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Wednesday that President Biden had the power to mandate that employees of federal contractors to receive coronavirus vaccinations. The ruling throws out a lower court’s ruling that had blocked the mandate in Arizona.
Princess Cruises is asking – but not mandating – that passengers on board the Coral Princess don face masks indoors in public areas, citing “positive Covid-19 cases.”
“I wish to advise you of an update to our onboard mask wearing policy,” a letter delivered to passenger cabins onboard the ship, read. “While masks are no longer required, we do recommend guests wear masks indoors when not in your own stateroom or when not eating or drinking.”
Meta phased out certain content labels on its platforms, which include Facebook and Instagram, that for much of the pandemic had directed users to its central coronavirus information page. The move came after internal research concluded the labels may be ineffective at changing attitudes or stopping the spread of misinformation, according to a report issued Thursday by Meta’s external oversight board.
Now here are the daily statistics for Thursday, April 20.
As of Thursday morning, the world has recorded just under 686.1 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of almost 0.2 million from the previous day, and over 6.84 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 658.7 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.1 million from the previous day.
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 Thursday at press time is 20,527,277, an increase of 71,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,487,719, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 39,558, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past five months.
The United States reported 101,445 new cases in the period March 30 through April 12, a figure that is down 26% over the same period one week earlier, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The death toll for the same period is 1,773, a figure that is down 22%. The average number of hospital admissions from Covid was 5,144 on April 17, a figure that is down 8% over the preceding 14 days. Finally, the test positivity rate is 6.2%, down 6% over the 14 days preceding April 14.
Starting on March 25, 2023, the Morning News Brief began to update case data as well as death tolls on a weekly basis.
In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Thursday, recorded 106.5 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of just under 1.16 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, over 44.8 million, and a reported death toll of 531,230.
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 39.9 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 38.4 million total cases.
Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 701,215, has recorded 37.4 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 33.6 million cases, South Korea, with just under 31 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 25.7 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.4 million, and Russia, with just under 22.8 million.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, 270.1 million people in the United States – or 81.4% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.4%, or 230.5 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 674.7 million. Breaking this down further, 92.3% of the population over the age of 18 – or 238.2 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 79.1% of the same group – or 204.2 million people – is fully vaccinated. In addition, 20.2% of the same population, or 52.2 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent booster dose of vaccine, while 23.3 million people over the age of 65, or 42.6% of that population have also received the bivalent booster.
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 69.9% 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, 13.37 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 72,865 doses are now administered each day.
Meanwhile, only 29.3% 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)