Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,239th day of the pandemic.
In news we cover today, the updated boosters that target a new omicron sublineage could be out by the end of August, the heat wave in Iran is triggering Covid-like lockdowns, and a new set of NIH clinical trials could help researchers develop new treatments for Long Covid patients.
[Editor’s Note: Because of the importance of this story, that first appeared on Tuesday in the Morning News Brief, it is being repeated in this issue.] The U.S. National Institutes of Health announced on Tuesday multiple clinical trials to evaluate at least four potential treatments for Long Covid and these will lead to additional trials in the coming months that will test at least seven more therapies, including medical devices, biologics, and medication.
The NIH is currently asking Long Covid patients to participate in these trials.
“Collectively, this integrated set of trials could inform clinical care in a broad range of Long Covid patients,” said acting NIH Director Lawrence A. Tabak during a press briefing Tuesday. “Our hope is that these treatments will work however we may learn that some interventions do not provide measurable relief and this will also inform patient care,” he added.
The new clinical trials are part of the agency’s Researching Covid to Enhance Recovery, or Recover, initiative that began in 2021. It is the world’s largest program designed to understand, treat, and prevent Long Covid.
The Food and Drug Administration could authorize Pfizer’s updated Covid boosters by the end of August, the drugmaker’s CEO Albert Bourla said during an investor and analyst conference call on Tuesday. The new formulation of the vaccine is specifically targeted at the XBB.1.5 sublineage of the omicron variant.
Meanwhile, Pfizer also said that its coronavirus vaccine business is down as the demand for the new bivalent booster shots continues to lag. The company said it is eyeing cost-cutting measures but it is not yet ready to announce any such changes.
OTHER HEALTHCARE NEWS
The deadly heat in Iran is triggering a Covid-like lockdown. A two-day nationwide closure in the country is emblematic of a new era of heat waves that is forcing authorities around the globe to shutter schools, close tourist sites, and shorten the workday while changing its hours to avoid the hottest part of the day.
For the first time since its inception, the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplant Network may be opened up to organizations other than the nonprofit United Network for Organ Sharing. Until now, the system has been managed by UNOS, an organization that has been the target of harsh criticism for long waitlists for transplants, its handling of organs, and the high number of deaths among people on waitlists for organ transplants.
Last week, Congress approved legislation that would open the network to other groups through competitive bidding. The bill is currently awaiting President Biden’s signature. He is expected to sign the bill into law.
Meanwhile, a new study found that exercises that engage muscles without movement – such as wall squats and planks – may be best for lowering a person’s blood pressure. The study – “Exercise Training and Resting Blood Pressure: A Large-Scale Pairwise and Network Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials” – was published Tuesday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Such exercises, known as isometric or static exercises, can be performed with weights or without, just relying on the body’s own weight.
Now here are the daily statistics for Tuesday, August 2.
As of Tuesday morning, the world has recorded 692.55 million Covid-19 cases, a figure up 0.02 million from the previous day, and 6.9 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 664.65 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, also a figure that is 0.05 million from the prior 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 21,000,653, a decrease of 23,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,963,512, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 37,141, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past eight months.
The test positivity rate for Covid for the week ending July 22 was 13.89%, up from 9.71% 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 1.41, down from 2.26%, and, for RSV, that figure was 0.66%, up from 0.25%.
The percentage of deaths due to Covid was 0.9% in the week ending July 22, 2023, a figure that is down 0.1% over the week.
Finally, the number of hospital admissions from Covid for seven days ending July 22 was 7,109, a figure that is up 10.3% over the preceding 30-day period.
As of March 25, 2023, the Morning News Brief began to update case data as well as death tolls on a weekly basis. In addition, as of 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. Where appropriate, the Morning News Brief has reintroduced data sets are they have become available.
Since the start of the pandemic, the United States has, as of Tuesday, recorded just over 107.52 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.17 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 45 million, and a reported death toll of 531,917.
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 40.14 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 38.43 million total cases.
Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 704,794, has recorded 37.7 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 33.2 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 25.9 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.6 million, and Russia, with 22.97 million.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of July 12, the total number of updated bivalent doses given in the United States was 144.2 million, an increase of 4 million doses over the past month.
Older – and no longer updated – data from the CDC shows that over 270.2 million people in the United States – or 81.4% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of May 11, 2023. 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.
Some 70.5% 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, 13.5 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 39,473 doses are now administered each day.
Meanwhile, only 32.5% 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 beginning 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)