Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Dec. 29: Pandemic Case Records Shattered in Europe and U.S., ‘Omicron and Delta Are Coming to Your Party’

CDC Revises Estimate of Omicron Cases, Airlines Continue to Cancel Hundreds of Flights

By Jonathan Spira on 29 December 2021
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The Gefionspringvandet, or Gefion Fountain, in Copenhagen


Great Britain, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, and the United States all set records for new daily Covid cases this week.  Health officials believe that the new omicron variant is driving the surge in infections.

The United States recorded 512,553 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, surpassing the previous pandemic high of 294,015, which was reached on January 8, 2021.

The results were likely skewed due to pent-up demand for testing due to the holiday weekend, delays in posting results from test centers that were open, and the many test centers that were closed over the weekend itself.

Nonetheless, as the data below shows, the world saw a dramatic increase reported on Wednesday and the seven-day average number of new cases in the country was 282,117.

Meanwhile, Greece will introduce new restrictions on Wednesday that were originally slated to go into effect on January 3, 2022.  The move came after the country recorded 21,657 new cases, a pandemic high.

In France, omicron cases are doubling every two to three days, Ministre des Solidarités et de la Santé Olivier Veran told a parliamentary health commission in the French capital.

Scientists in South Africa are reporting that a laboratory study there found that people who are recovering from a coronavirus infection due to the omicron variant might be able to fend off subsequent infections from the delta variant.

In short, the findings indicate the possibility that omicron might be able to effectively push the delta variant out, leaving the world with the omicron variant, one that appears to cause milder symptoms, fewer hospitalizations, and fewer deaths than delta.

The study was posted on the website of the Africa Health Research Institute, which is located in Durban.

The U.S. Centers for Disease  Control and Prevention revised downward its estimate of the percentage of Covid-19 cases that are due to the omicron variant, saying that the figure for December 19, 2021 was 22%, not 73.  Its estimate for December 25 is 58.9%.

The CDC cited the availability of additional data and the rapid spread of the variant for the discrepancy.

“We had more data come in from that timeframe and there was a reduced proportion of Omicron,” a spokesman for the agency said, adding that “it’s important to note that we’re still seeing a steady increase in the proportion of Omicron.

As a result of the increase, major cities are scaling back their New Year’s Eve festivities and celebrations and urging residents to do the same.

“Omicron and delta are coming to your party,” Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker told reporters at a news conference earlier in the week.

Meanwhile, airlines cancelled almost 1,300 flights within, into, or out of the United States, and 3,129 worldwide, according to data from FlightAware, which tracks such information.  The cancellations were largely due to crew members being sidelined due to Covid.  On Wednesday as of 11 a.m. EDT, the figure for the United States was 809 for the day and 2,442 globally.

Finally, two lawmakers in Congress continue to rack up fines while violating the House of Representatives’ mask mandate.  Representatives Marjorie Taylor Green and Andrew Clyde, Republicans from the state of Georgia, have accrued over $100,000 combined in fines, the New York Times reported.  The fines are deducted directly from their paychecks.

The House approved in January a resolution that calls for a $500 fine the first time a member fails to wear a mask, and $2,500 fines each time thereafter.

Now here are the daily statistics for Wednesday, December 29.

As of Wednesday morning, the world has recorded 283.4 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 1.4  million new cases, and 5.43 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 252.1million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.6 million.

The current number of infections as of Wednesday is 25,891,506.  Out of that figure, 99.7%, or 25,802,248, are considered mild, and 0.3%, or 89,258, are listed as critical.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 257,305, a 126% increase.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 1,243, an decrease of 3% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Wednesday, recorded 541 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 842,161. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 34.8 million, and a reported death toll of 480,692.  Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 618,723, and has 22.3 million cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Wednesday, 242.8 million people in the United States – or 73.1% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 61.9%, or 205.4 million people, are now fully vaccinated, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 505 million. Breaking this down further, 85.3% of the population over the age of 18 – or 220.2 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 72.7% of the same group – or 187.9 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 35.6% of that population, or 66.9 million people, has already received a booster shot.

Over 57.6% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, an increase of 0.2 percentage points from the prior day, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 9.07 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 8.4% 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 contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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