Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,168th day of the pandemic.
OP-ED ON TUESDAY
The U.S. surgeon general warned Tuesday that social media may be unsafe for children amidst what he termed the worst mental health crisis for youth in recent memory.
“There isn’t enough evidence that it is safe for our kids,” U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told reporters.
The report comes on the heels of a recent health advisory from the American Psychological Association, which underscored the increased risk of anxiety and depression among adolescents who are exposed to bullying and discrimination in online media.
The APA report notes that the use of “social media is not inherently beneficial or harmful to young people,” adding that “[A]dolescents’ lives online both reflect and impact their offline lives. In most cases, the effects of social media are dependent on adolescents’ own personal and psychological characteristics and social circumstances – intersecting with the specific content, features, or functions that are afforded within many social media platforms.”
The surgeon general’s report calls on the tech industry as well as policymakers to minimize the risks of social media for children. The report asks lawmakers and government agencies to develop age restrictions and safety standards for social media.
It’s important to note that Murthy also sees benefits in social media, when used safely. It can be a source of information, connection, and support, and this can be of particular importance to younger members of the LGBTQ community or the disabled.
If you’re reading this via a social-media feed, then I apologize profusely for the apparent contradiction.
In other news we cover today, an antivax doctor’s death is giving rise to conspiracy theories new and old, the Democrats are rethinking the idea of a clawback on unspent pandemic funds, and British doctors are going on strike.
An antivax doctor died several days ago and his death has given rise to numerous conspiracy theories. Rashid Buttar, an osteopathic physician who spent years promulgating conspiracy theories about vaccines and SARS-CoV-2 and who was a well-known figure in the suspicion-tinged world of “medical freedom,” died of undisclosed causes on May 18, 2023.
Buttar’s death is being used to stoke the seemingly never-ending claim that “holistic” doctors who oppose mainstream medicine are being killed by mysterious forces. Buttar recently claimed that the had been poisoned after doing an interview with CNN in 2021 and reported suffering a stroke in early 2023, something he appeared to blame on vaccine “shedding,” something that could only occur with attenuated vaccines, which the coronavirus vaccines are not.
The late physician’s work earned him a place on the so-called Disinformation Dozen, a list of 12 influencers responsible for nearly two-thirds of anti-vax content on social media.
Meanwhile, in Congress, Democrats are having second thoughts about using unspent coronavirus pandemic funds as part of a debt limit deal. They are expressing concern that doing so could end up having serious consequences for future public-health initiatives.
OTHER HEALTHCARE NEWS
Junior doctors in Britain announced three more days of strikes. The British Medical Association said its members would continue monthly strikes unless the U.K. government changed its position. The BMA has reportedly asked for a 40% pay increase while the National Health Service had offered a 5% increase, which they say is in line with what other healthcare workers are getting.
The walkout will start on June 14 and will affect A&E, or Accident and Emergency (ER in the U.S.), departments, cancer services, and intensive care, similar to what took place during the last strike by junior doctors.
Now here are the daily statistics for Tuesday, May 23.
As of Tuesday morning, the world has recorded over 689.1 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.1 million from the previous day, and just under 6.88 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 661.5 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 Tuesday at press time is 20,717,751, a decrease of 13,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,679,443 (, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 38,308, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past eight months.
The United States reported 72,136 new cases in the period May 4 through May 10, 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 840, a figure that is down 20%. The average daily number of hospital admissions from Covid was 4,073 on May 15, a figure that is down 5% over the preceding 14 days. Finally, the test positivity rate is 5.2%, up 5% over the 14 days preceding May 11.
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, starting on May 15, 2023, the Morning News Brief has pressed pause on certain data sets as we assess the update of changes in reporting by U.S. health authorities at the CDC.
Since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Tuesday, recorded 107 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, just under 45 million, and a reported death toll of 531,843.
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 just under 40.1 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, 702,421, has recorded over 37.5 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 33.8 million cases, South Korea, with over 31.5 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 25.8 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.6 million, and Russia, with 22.9 million.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, over 270.2 million people in the United States – or 81.4% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.5%, or 230.6 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now over 676.7 million. Breaking this down further, 92.23% 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 204.3 million people – is fully vaccinated. In addition, 20.5% of the same population, or 53 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent booster dose of vaccine, while 23.7 million people over the age of 65, or 43.3% 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 70% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Tuesday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information. So far, 13.38 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 87,593 doses are now administered each day.
Meanwhile, only 29.9% 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)