Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,143rd day of the pandemic and Undiagnosed Children’s Awareness Day. Observed every last Friday in April, it is aimed at raising awareness of undiagnosed genetic diseases present in children.
For the moment, there is some good news on the pandemic front.
In the United States, hospitalizations from SARS-CoV-2 and the Covid death toll are both hovering near over lows.
This is a clear sign that, as the virus continues to remain with us, it has apparently mutated into a form that is less damaging to a population with strengthened immune defenses against it.
Covid remains risky for the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Even asymptomatic infections of SARS-CoV-2 can lead to Long Covid, which may become a much greater issue in healthcare than the coronavirus itself.
The weekly death toll figures are now coming in steadily at figures below a prior low of approximately 1,700, the figure that was reached one week in the summer of 2021. The latest figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show 1,052 deaths for the week ending April 26, 2023.
In other news we cover today, the top Massachusetts court revived charges against two veterans’ home officials there in the deaths of 88 people, the U.S. Capitol will end on-site Covid testing, and a massive outbreak of West Nile Fever killed 101 people in Arizona.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention amended its order concerning vaccination requirements for foreign visitors. Starting in August, some travelers will be allowed to board flights to the United States with only a single dose of vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna, provided it was given on or after August 16, 2022.
The move will loosen the requirements as a potential end for the rule is in sight.
“Because some traveler vaccine records might not specify whether recent Moderna or Pfizer doses received were bivalent, CDC will consider anybody with record of a single dose of Moderna or Pfizer vaccine issued on or after August 16, 2022, to meet the requirements,” the agency said in a statement on its website added on Thursday.
The August date was chosen because it is the “earliest that travelers could have received a bivalent vaccine.”
The rule was first put into place in August 2021. The Transportation Security Administration last renewed the rule through May 11, which is the same day that the U.S. public health emergency is slated to end.
Meanwhile, many other countries across the globe have either relaxed or ended similar requirements for foreign visitors.
In Washington, D.C., the Capitol’s Office of the Attending Physician announced it would shutter its coronavirus testing centers at the end of May, according to a memorandum sent to congressional offices and viewed by the Morning News Brief.
The office will, however, offer “limited” rapid and PCR testing to lawmakers, but not to staff, primarily for events and travel.
“Individuals or offices desiring to continue a surveillance testing program may seek out home testing kit options widely available in the community,” the memorandum said.
Finally, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, in a 5-2 ruling, overturned a lower court’s decision to throw out the charges of criminal neglect against former Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh and former Medical Director David Clinton over an outbreak of SARS-CoV-2.
Eighty-four people died in the outbreak in 2020.
“Of course, sometimes bad things happen for no discernable reason, and no one is to blame,“ Justice Dalila Argaez Wendlandt wrote in the majority opinion. “At any subsequent trial, prosecutors will need to prove their case. We conclude only that they will have the opportunity to do so.”
OTHER HEALTHCARE NEWS
In Arizona, a massive outbreak of West Nile Virus shattered death toll records for the virus, killing 101. A study published this week in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly showed that Maricopa County In 2021, Maricopa County experienced its fifth, and largest, WNV outbreak: 1,487 cases, 1,014 (68%) hospitalizations, and 101 (7%) deaths. The outbreak Arizona health officials said in the report, “stressed [the county’s] healthcare system during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The cause of the unusually large outbreak is unclear but climate change and the pandemic both likely played significant roles.
Meanwhile, a series of mysterious brain infections kids in Nevada is puzzling doctors there and across the country. The CDC has dispatched disease detectives to investigate a cluster of rare and serious brain abscesses in children in and around the Las Vegas, Nevada, area. Doctors from other parts of the country are reporting that they too are seeing a rise in cases.
While the overall numbers are small, healthcare experts are expressing concern.
In 2022, the number of brain abscesses in children in Nevada trebled, rising from an average of four to five per year to 18.
Finally, for the first time since a case of monkeypox was reported in the United States last year, there were no new has cases of mpox, as it’s also known, for more than a week, according to figures published this week by the CDC.
Now here are the daily statistics for Friday, April 28.
As of Friday morning, the world has recorded 686.9 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.2 million from the previous day, and 6.86 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 659.4 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.2 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 Friday at press time is 20,645,948, an increase of 73,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,606,625, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 39,323, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past five months.
The United States reported 94,140 new cases in the period April 13 through April 19, a figure that is down 23% 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 1,160, a figure that is down 34%. The average number of hospital admissions from Covid was 4,569 on April 24, a figure that is down 13% over the preceding 14 days. Finally, the test positivity rate is 5.4%, down 12% over the 14 days preceding April 21.
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 Friday, recorded 106.6 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.16 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 44.9 million, and a reported death toll of 531,424.
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 39.9 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, 701,494, 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 33.7 million cases, South Korea, with 31.1 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with over 25.7 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with over 24.5 million, and Russia, with 22.8 million.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, just over 270 million people in the United States – or 81.3% – 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 675.4 million. Breaking this down further, 92.2% of the population over the age of 18 – or 238.1 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 79.1% of the same group – or 204.3 million people – is fully vaccinated. In addition, 20.3% of the same population, or 52.3 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 Friday, 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 209,759 doses are now administered each day.
Meanwhile, only 29.5% 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)