Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,173rd day of the pandemic as well as Memorial Day. a holiday that honors Americans who died while in military service. This Monday also marks the fourth time that the holiday has taken place during the coronavirus pandemic.
OP-ED ON MONDAY
What Happens at the End of a Pandemic, If There Even is an End?
No one wants a return to a semblance of the pre-pandemic life we all enjoyed before early 2020 more than me. However, just as I don’t engage in reckless driving, smoke, or drink to excess, I also don’t engage in other reckless behaviors such as ignoring a stealthy and deadly virus that’s lurking out there somewhere over the horizon.
It’s true that, at the moment, we have greater immunity, milder infections, and more effective treatments. Fewer and fewer people – at the present time – are contracting Covid every day in many countries,, albeit with the exception of China, where a second major wave is slowly getting underway.
China, of course, threw the baby away with the bath water and abruptly ended its draconian “zero-Covid” policies that kept the populace in fear of a single infection, and the threat of 65 million new infections a week isn’t creating that much apparent fear except on the part of immunologists and physicians in the country.
But I digress.
In the United States and Europe, diners are flocking to restaurants in numbers not seen in over three years, gyms are starting to be “in” again, fewer people are masking in Broadway theaters, and cinemas are filling up once again, much to the joy of Hollywood producers.
No one would want to say “the pandemic is over” more than I, but alas the continued development of new subvariants combined with the waning immunity of many countries’ populations won’t allow me – or any other Covid researcher – to do.
Common sense now causes us to use seat belts to such an extent that we no longer separately refer to the shoulder belt as a separate entity and, while tragedies do occur, far fewer people drink and drive due to excellent public-education campaigns and the severe legal penalties for doing so.
On Memorial Day we think of the nation’s war dead from the American Revolution to the present but let’s also take a moment to solemnly acknowledge the almost 7 million deaths worldwide from SARS-CoV-2, including many thousands who died literally fighting the virus. They took went off to war and some didn’t come back.
It’s interesting to note that the psychological effects of the Black Death were reflected north of the Alps but not in Italy by a preoccupation with death and the afterlife evinced in poetry, sculpture, and painting. It’s not yet clear if we’ll see the same here in the modern world. People turned to mysticism and turned away from the Roman Catholic church, and anti-Semitism rose, with many people irrationally blaming the Jews for the plague.
In other news we cover today, it’s entirely possible that catastrophic pandemics may become our new norm and a number of physicians groups in France are seeking to punish a renegade physician for using hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid.
In Houston, Dr. Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine Houston and a vaccine researcher, warned in an op-ed piece in the Houston Chronicle newspaper that “[C]atastrophic pandemics could become our new normal,” adding that “we should expect a steady stream of new Covid cases. And because many individuals have declined Covid-19 vaccinations or boosters, we will continue to see serious cases and hospitalizations.”
In France, a number of physicians’ bodies writing in Le Monde on Sunday called on public health authorities to punish researcher Didier Raoult for what it terms “the largest ‘unauthorised’ clinical trial ever seen” into the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat SARS-CoV-2.
Raoult, a tropical disease specialist, is the former head of the IHU Mediterranee research hospital. He and his subordinates engaged in “systematic prescription of medications as varied as hydroxychloroquine, zinc, ivermectin and azithromycin to patients suffering from Covid-19… without a solid pharmacological basis and lacking any proof of their effectiveness,” a group of 16 research bodies wrote in the op-ed piece.
OTHER HEALTHCARE NEWS
This spring (and in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s still meteorological spring for another few days), cases of human metapneumovirus, or HMPV spiked, according to figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via their respiratory virus surveillance systems.
Patients with HMPV filled hospital intensive care units with young children and senior citizens – those two groups are the most vulnerable to HMPV infections.
At its peak eight weeks ago, nearly 11% of tested specimens were positive for HMPV, a figure that’s 36% higher than the average, pre-pandemic seasonal peak of 7% test positivity.
HMPV causes patients as much misery as influenza and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, but there is no vaccine and no miracle cure. Physicians can only treat HMPV patients symptomatically. The symptoms, incidentally, are similar to the flu and RSV, namely a lower lung infection, hacking cough, runny nose, sore throat, and fever.
In addition, far fewer people get tested for HMPV unless they present at a hospital or emergency room (A&E for our British readers).
Now here are the daily statistics for Monday, May 29.
As of Monday morning, the world has recorded 689.43 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of less than 0.1 million from the previous day, and 6.88 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 661.9 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 Monday at press time is 20,660,809, a decrease of 33,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,622,703, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 38,106, 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 test positivity rate is 5.2%, up 5% over the 14 days preceding May 11.
The death toll from Covid is down 1.3% in week ending May 20, 2023, and the trend in Covid-19 deaths is down 13.3% over the same period.
Finally, the number of hospital admissions from over the past week Covid was 8,256 as of May 23, a figure that is down 11% over the preceding 7-day period.
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 Monday, recorded 107.1 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of over 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 531,866.
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 just under 25.9 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 Monday, 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 87,222 doses are now administered each day.
Meanwhile, only 30% 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.
Paul Riegler contributed reporting to this story.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)