Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,171st day of the pandemic as well as National Road Trip Day in the United States.
National Road Trip Day is always observed on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. According to the Automobile Association of America, over 42.3 million Americans will take to the road and travel more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) from their home. Many even left Thursday evening, as I found out driving home in some of the heaviest traffic I’ve seen in the Big Apple to date.
OP-ED ON FRIDAY
New Study Defines 12 Common Symptoms of Long Covid
A new study that tries to better explain the causes of Long Covid and further refine our understanding of Long Covid-related symptoms was published on Thursday in JAMA.
The study, Development of a Definition of Postacute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 Infection, was coordinated by the National Institute of Health’s Researcher Covid to Enhance Recovery, or RECOVER, initiative, an ongoing nation-wide effort to attempt to understand why some people develop symptoms of Long Covid and, eventually to determine how to detect, treat, and even prevent Long Covid.
Other studies have also identified what their authors considered to be the definitive Long Covid array of symptoms and this study adds to that body of research.
What sets Long Covid patients apart from the pack are the following symptoms, although not all Long Covid patients exhibit all of these symptoms and patients with other conditions may develop several of these symptoms as well. The list read:
- Post-exertional malaise
- Brain fog
- Gastrointestinal symptoms
- Heart palpitations
- Issues with sexual desire or capacity
- Loss of smell or taste
- Chronic cough
- Chest pain
- Abnormal movements
“This study is an important step toward defining long COVID beyond any one individual symptom,” said one of the lead authors of the study, Dr. Leora Horwitz.
The Center for Long Covid Research – where I serve as director of research – is about to launch its own survey concerning symptoms that will, one dares hope, be a useful addition to the body of research on the topic once it has been completed.
The study – similar to other, earlier research – found that Long Covid was somewhat more common in people who had had Covid prior to the omicron wave.
Meanwhile, I check off most of what have generally been considered the typical neurological Long Covid symptoms – organ damage, severe chronic fatigue, brain fog, loss of concentration, lightheadedness/dizziness, and skeleto-muscular pain, as well as several others, but fortunately I don’t have chest pain, a loss of smell or taste, or issues with sexual desire.
Just as with the pandemic itself, this is, unfortunately, a learn-as-you-go affair. One can only hope that we’ll figure it out soon enough.
In other news we cover today, government pandemic funds continue to attract fraudsters, the number of telecommuters in Connecticut has doubled as a consequence of the pandemic,
The Employee Retention Credit continues to spawn a cottage industry of scammers who contact companies offering to help them obtain thousands of dollars per employee. The program offers funds to companies that are willing to attest that the pandemic hurt their bottom line and commit to retaining their workers. The scammers then market themselves as pseudo-accountants or tax specialists who help companies that wouldn’t qualify get the funds anyway, while the scammer takes a cut or charge large upfront fees.
Last week, the Internal Revenue Service issued a warning to businesses, telling them to keep their eyes open for potential “scams” related to the tax credit. The agency said that the scams were fueling a flood of “invalid” applications. Companies that aren’t entitled to the credit but receive the funds anyway with the help of scammers could be on the hook and find the money clawed back.
Meanwhile, new U.S. Census Bureau data show that the number of workers in the state of Connecticut who telecommute has doubled since 2019. The coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020.
The figures show that the number of telecommuters increased from just under 94,000 to over 186,000 in 2021, the most recent year for which annual data is available. Much of the increase can be attributed to the work-from-home environment created by the pandemic.
Even before the official start of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the Transportation Security Administration in the United States reported that Thursday saw the highest number of travelers – 2,658,057 – traverse the nation’s airports’ security checkpoints since 2019, before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The number of people flying overall is expected to increase by 22% from last year to 3.4 million over the holiday weekend.
OTHER HEALTHCARE NEWS
Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States have already lost their Medicaid government-provided health coverage since pandemic protections began to expire in recent months. Many have lost their coverage for procedural reasons because they did not respond to requests for information to confirm eligibility.
Meanwhile, two U.S. citizens who had surgery in Mexico have died and several hundred others have been sickened by fungal meningitis linked to two clinics in that country that performed surgeries with anesthesia.
A list of 224 patients provided by the Mexican government indicates 206 may have been exposed and there are nine suspect cases and nine probable cases in addition to the two deaths.
Now here are the daily statistics for Friday, May 26.
As of Friday morning, the world has recorded 689.3 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of under 0.1 million from the previous day, and 6.88 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, over 661.6 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of less than 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 Friday at press time is 20,739,435, a decrease of 6,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,701,256, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 38,179, 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 number of hospital admissions from over the past week Covid was 9,186 as of May 16, a figure that is down 4.9% over the preceding 7-day period. 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 Friday, recorded 107.1 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 531,856.
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, 702,664, has recorded 37.6 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 31.6 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 May 11, 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. Starting on May 11, 2023, the CDC pressed pause on reporting new vaccine data, a hiatus it said would end on June 15 of this year.
Some 70% 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, 13.39 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 65,080 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)