Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,264th day of the pandemic
OP-ED ON SUNDAY
How Dangerous is the New BA.2.86 Subvariant
There’s a new variant in town and everyone – including the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – has eyes on it.
BA.2.86 is raising alarm among some experts. Here’s what we know so far.
The omicron sublineage contains over three dozen new mutations when compared with the dominant strain in the United States, XBB.1.5, based on based on nine viral genomes that researchers have analyzed so far
It’s becoming clear that BA.2.86 does in fact represent an evolutionary jump from existing sublineages and this could make it a threat to public health.
As of press time, there are only two confirmed SARS-CoV-2 cases from BA.2.86 in the United States and there have been small numbers of cases in other countries including Denmark, South Africa, Israel, and the United Kingdom.
“Based on what CDC knows now,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement,“existing tests used to detect and medications used to treat Covid-19 appear to be effective with this variant. BA.2.86 may be more capable of causing infection in people who have previously had Covid-19 or who have received Covid-19 vaccines.”
The concern, however, relates to the newly updated “fall” version of the coronavirus vaccine that will be available within weeks and the CDC is studying how well the new vaccine will perform when confronted with the new subvariant. The good news is that it should reduce severe disease and hospitalizations.
“Scientists are evaluating the effectiveness of the forthcoming, updated Covid-19 vaccine,” it said in the statement. “[The] CDC’s current assessment is that this updated vaccine will be effective at reducing severe disease and hospitalization. At this point, there is no evidence that this variant is causing more severe illness. That assessment may change as additional scientific data are developed. [The} CDC will share more as we know more.”
In other news we cover today, masks are back on at a major healthcare network, a 13-year-old boy did not die from the Covid vaccine, tests revealed, and a supposed social-media influencer who stole millions of dollars in pandemic assistance faces 20 years in prison and will be required to make restitution by returning numerous luxury goods from brands including Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Rolex, and Rimowa.
NEW COVID VARIANTS AND SUBVARIANTS
A new variant, BA.2.86, is highly mutated form of the virus that scientists believe to be the most adept yet at evading the body’s immune defenses. As a result, it is capturing the attention of virologists and health officials.
Only about a dozen cases of the new variant have been reported worldwide, including three in the United States, but experts say that this variant will require intense monitoring and vigilance that many of its predecessors did not receive.
Emergency-room visits from adolescents have nearly doubled in the past week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reaching levels not seen in over a year.
The figures for ER visits for 12-to-15 year olds, which were published late Thursday, show weekly Covid-19 averages have climbed to 2.43% through August 21, from 1.33% in the prior week. This rate is higher than for all other age groups except the very young and the very old.
Jason Clynick, the 13-year-old Michigan boy who two months ago died in his sleep just three days after getting a second dose of a coronavirus vaccine, did not die due to the inoculation he received. An investigation by the CDC revealed the he had a systemic bacterial infection that caused his death.. Jacob had gone to sleep the night before presenting with flu-like symptoms and a stomachache but never woke up from his slumber.
A major Massachusetts health network instituted a mask mandate. Umass Memorial Health reinstated the mandate for all staff including physicians citing a “dramatic increase” in Covid cases in recent weeks.
The network said in a statement that the return to masking was a “protective measure for our staff and patients.”
Finally, Danielle Miller, a so-called social-media influencer, who stole more than $1 million in pandemic aid to fund her lavish online lifestyle, will be sentenced on September 7.
In addition to cash restitution in the amount of $500,000, Miller will forfeit her Louis Vuitton bag, Rimowa luggage, Dior shoes, a Dior blouse, and a Rolex watch among other items, and faces prison time of up to 20 years.
The Miami resident used the identities of over ten people and several fake business names to obtain economic disaster loans as well as pandemic unemployment payments. She pled guilty in March to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in U.S. District Court.
Miller, who had a mere 34,000 followers, booked private jet charter flights, stayed at a luxury hotel using the name of one of her victims, and used the identity of another victim to rent a luxury flat in Florida. She admitted in court to a long history of lying, starting as a child, and stole thousands from her parents, at one point putting her parents in the embarrassing position of having to return her brand new Mercedes SLK350 to the dealership, a vehicle valued at at least $50,000.
The abrupt end of China’s draconian “zero-Covid” coronavirus pandemic restrictions unleased the virus onto many of its 1.4 billion residents and apparently led to nearly 2 million excess deaths in the following two months, a new U.S. study shows.
The study, prepared by the federally funded Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, used samples of mortality data published by some universities in China and internet searches.
The researchers found an estimated 1.87 million excess deaths from all causes occurred among people over 30 years of age between December 2022 and January 2023, and were observed in all provinces in mainland China except Tibet.
Now here are the daily statistics for Sunday, August 27.
As of Sunday morning, the world has recorded 694.2 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.01 million from the previous day, and 6.91 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 666.14 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.08 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 Sunday at press time is 21,150,409, a decrease of 71,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 21,112,875, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 37,534, 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 August 12 was 21.6%, up from 17.76% 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 1.09%, down from 1.24% and, for RSV, that figure was 0.81%, up from 0.78%.
The percentage of deaths due to Covid was 1.7% in the week ending August 19, 2023, a figure that is up 21.4% over the week.
Finally, the number of hospital admissions from Covid for seven days ending August 19 was 12,613, a figure that is up 21.6% over the preceding week.
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 Sunday, recorded 107.95 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 531,928.
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, 705,170, has recorded 37.76 million cases, placing it in the number five slot.
The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are South Korea, with 34.18 million cases, as number six; Japan, with 33.8 million cases placing it in the number seven slot; and Italy, with 25.94 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.67 million, and Russia, with 22.99 million, as nine and ten respectively.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of August 5, the total number of updated bivalent doses given in the United States was 152.5 million, an increase of 8 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 Sunday, 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 48,165 doses are now administered each day.
Meanwhile, only 32.6% 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 in any significant number.
Paul Riegler contributed reporting to this story.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)