Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Dec. 24: New Year’s Eve Festivities in Times Square Scaled Back Due to Variant

Airlines Cancel Flights Amidst Covid Outbreaks Amongst Crew

By Jonathan Spira on 24 December 2021
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New York City will scale back its Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration, an event viewed across the globe.  Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the number of attendees would be reduced from 58,000 to 15,000 to allow for greater social distancing. Only individuals who are fully vaccinated and wear a mask will be allowed into the designated spectator area.

Meanwhile, several major U.S. airlines, including United and Delta, cancelled hundreds of flights on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day due to omicron variant-related staffing shortages.

United Airlines, the world’s fourth largest carrier, cancelled at least 173 flights as of 10 a.m. EST on Friday, along with at least 68 scheduled for Christmas Day, while Delta Air Lines, the second largest carrier, had cancelled 143 for Friday and 104 for Saturday, according to data from FlightAware, which tracks such information.

Officials in Puerto Rico tightened entry restrictions, adding the requirement to present a negative coronavirus test taken within 48 hours of departure. The move, announced by Governor Pedro Pierluisi, goes into effect on December 27.  Previously, only non-vaccinated individuals were required to present test results.

In Germany, new restrictions that go into effect on Boxing Day prohibit New Year’s Eve gatherings. No more than ten people are permitted to gather in groups, regardless of whether vaccinated or recovered. Private meetings, taking place indoors or out, with non-vaccinated individuals are limited to two additional people per household.

Italian officials brought back multiple restrictions from earlier in the pandemic, including a mask mandate.  Nightclubs will be closed from December 30, 2021 through January 31, 2022 and eating in public squares will be banned.   In addition, the requirement to have a certificazione verde, the country’s vaccine passport, is extended to at least February 1.

Homes in the Netherlands are now limited to having two guests who are not part of the household, with the exception of Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, when four will be permitted.

Spain reinstated its outdoor mask requirement starting Friday, with exceptions for playing sports and being in large outdoor areas.  Some regions are tightening restrictions further.  Officials in Murcia banned non-essential activities from December 24, 2021 through January 14, 2022.  In Catalonia, officials put into place a curfew from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m., closed venues that are typically open at night, and are limiting the number of people in social gatherings to ten.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shortened the recommended isolation time for health care workers who test positive for the coronavirus from 10 days to seven days.  Workers who tested positive and remain asymptomatic may return to work with a negative test result in that timeframe.

The CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said the agency’s goal was to “prevent undue burden on our healthcare facilities.”

Finally, the U.S. Secret Service, which has over the past two years recovered more than $2.3 billion in pandemic relief funds obtained by fraudulent means, said it would step up its efforts, naming a senior official to work with law enforcement agencies across the country to continue the task.  The agency said it currently has 900 active cases.

Now here are the daily statistics for Friday, December 24.

As of Friday morning, the world has recorded 278.7 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 1 million new cases, and just over 5.4 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 249.5 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.6 million.

The current number of infections as of Friday is 23,818,488.  Out of that figure, 99.6%, or 23,729,689, are considered mild, and 0.4%, or 88,789, are listed as critical.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 186,845, a 55% increase.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 1,369, an increase of 7% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Friday, recorded 52.8 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 834,455. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, almost 34.8 million, and a reported death toll of 479,133.  Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 618,228, and has over 22.2 million cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Friday, 241.6 million people in the United States – or 72.8% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 61.7%, or 204.8 million people, are now fully vaccinated, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 499 million. Breaking this down further, 85% of the population over the age of 18 – or 219.4 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 72.7% of the same group – or 187.7 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 33.5% of that population, or 62.9 million people, has already received a booster shot.

The CDC also reported that the omicron variant comprised over 73% of recent Covid cases in the United States as of Friday.  In many parts of the country, the new variant makes up 90% of all cases, it said.

Over 57% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, an increase that is largely unchanged from the prior day, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 8.85 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 8.1% 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 65% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine. In countries such as Ethiopia, Haiti, Syria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, for example, vaccination rates remain in the single digits, if not lower.

Figures from the World Health Organization show that well-off countries are vaccinating people at the rate of one person per second, while the majority of poor countries have yet to give a single dose to its citizens.

It is critical that the world do a better job of sharing vaccines with poorer nations.

Sharing vaccines is not merely a form of charity.  Rather, the equitable distribution of vaccines is in every country’s health and economic interest and no country will be able to move past the pandemic until other countries have recovered as well.

Anna Breuer and Paul Riegler contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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