Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,179th day of the pandemic.
OP-ED ON SATURDAY
Tour de France Announces Strict 2020-Style Covid Protocols for This Year’s Bicycle Race
The Tour de France, perhaps the cycling world’s best known and most prestigious event, is an annual men’s multiple-stage bicycle race primarily held in France, although it typically cycles through nearby countries as well.
The multi-day stage bicycle rate has been held every year since it was founded in 1903 with the exception of a pause during the First and Second World Wars.
Slated to begin on June 29 in Bilboa, the event is setting far more stringent pandemic protocols than it did even last year.
Newly-introduced protocols ban riders and staff from signing autographs and eating outside of their hotels, Reuters reported on Saturday.
Lat year, both riders and staff members were permitted to venture outside of their hotels and access to the paddock at the start of the stages was open to the press until midway through the race, when organizers banned press from entering the paddock as part of the “fight against the propagation of Covid-19.”
Access to the paddock will be allowed when the Tour starts in Bilbao, Spain, with mandatory masking for all.
A chart laid out the pandemic protocols for the Tour de France 2023: “For all the team members: Respect a confinement – Limit the interactions outside the race bubble. No eating out. Respect social distancing at the hotel.”
“Do not get too close to the spectators – Social distancing, no selfies, no autograph.”
The message was clear but clearly the organizers know something that most others don’t know, namely that SARS-CoV-2 is still with us and, while cases are milder, it’s more insidious than ever.
In other news we cover today, New York State will soon begin a purge of its Medicaid rolls, the pandemic-induced freeze on student loan payments in the United States will soon come to an end, and the planet Earth is apparently failed its physical.
New York State’s post public-health emergency Medicaid purge begins this month and millions may lose coverage as a result. Over nine million New Yorkers currently receiving government-subsidized health plans must renew their eligibility for Medicaid or risk losing coverage.
State health officials say that they are counting on the Empire State’s unique Essential Plan along with an aggressive outreach campaign to help people remain insured.
Medicaid is the largest source of funding for medical and health-related services for people with low income in the United States. The program was established in 1965 under the Johnson administration and was significantly expanded by President Obama’s Affordable Care Act in 2010. In most states, anyone with income up to 138% of the federal poverty line – currently $12,880 – is eligible. In New York State, anyone with up to $19,382 in annual income is eligible.
Meanwhile, a three-year pandemic-induced freeze on student loan payments will end on August 30 of this year. Borrowers will have to resume making monthly payments once again at that time. The pause, which benefitted millions of former students, began in March 2020 as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Finally, WellNow Urgent Care, formerly known as Five Star Urgent Care, which operates walk-in clinics in Central New York state, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, said it is closing multiple walk-in clinics as coronavirus pandemic funding dries up. The company benefitted from millions of dollars of pandemic-related subsidies including government payments for coronavirus testing.
OTHER HEALTHCARE NEWS
If you’ve received a letter from biotech company Grail recently with bad news, it may be in error. More than 400 patients who signed up to take a pioneering oncology detection test developed conducted by the company received erroneous letters last month suggesting they may have developed cancer.
More specifically, according to an internal company document seen by the Financial Times, 408 patients were incorrectly told they had a signal in their blood suggesting they could have cancer. Grail said the letters were sent “in error” by its telemedicine provider PWNHealth, adding that that its own staff had moved quickly to contact these patients to inform they of the mistake.
Meanwhile, scientists and researchers ran a health check on the planet Earth and found it wanting. They assessed the planet’s health against eight key thresholds that are needed to protect life on Earth. They found that activities by man have led to the breach of seven of the eight of the boundaries. The team looked at not only the stability of Earth’s ecosystems, but also assessed mankind’s well-being and equity.
Now here are the daily statistics for Saturday, June 3.
As of Saturday morning, the world has recorded over 689.8 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of less than 0.1 million from the previous day, and over 6.88 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, just under 662.2 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of over 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 Saturday at press time is 20,759,430, a decrease of 19,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,721,477, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 37,953, 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 for the week ending May 27 was 6.79%, down from 7.96% in the prior week, according to data from the CDC Respiratory Virus Laboratory Emergency Department Network Surveillance, or RESP-LENS. By comparison, the test positive rate for influenza was 1.77% and, for RSV, that figure was 0.48%.
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 Covid for the week ending May 23 was 8,256, 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 Saturday, recorded over 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 531,878.
The newest data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed that, at the end of July 2022, 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 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, 702,907, 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 over 31.7 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 Saturday, 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 199,819 doses are now administered each day.
Meanwhile, only 30.1% 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)