Coronavirus News Briefing – Dec. 7: U.S. Hits 50 Million Mark in Covid Cases

Initial Reports from South Africa Indicate Omicron is Fast Moving But Possibly Less Severe

By Anna Breuer on 7 December 2021
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Times Square on a rainy day

The United States passed the 50 million mark in coronavirus cases Monday, just ten months after hitting the 25 million threshold in January of this year.

The tally works out to about one in every seven people in the country, or 14% of the population.

Starting with the first reported case in the United States in January 2020, it took the country over nine months to reach the ten million mark, a threshold reached on November 8 of that year.  By the end of 2020, the total had reached 20 million.

South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, said Monday that the coronavirus is spreading faster than ever in his country, driven by the omicron variant.

This news comes as researchers are seeing early indications that omicron may cause less serious illness than earlier forms of the virus.  Hospitals in Pretoria have reported that patients with the virus are much less sick than those treated during earlier surges.  Researchers at a hospital in Pretoria said that most coronavirus patients were admitted for other causes and have no Covid symptoms at all.

However, given how new the variant is, it is too early for scientists to make any determinations about the omicron variant until more research has been completed.

Meanwhile, hundreds of British citizens find themselves stranded abroad in red list countries due to a shortage of rooms at quarantine hotels in the United Kingdom.  The government there, which had initially intended to scrap the red list of countries for which quarantine was required upon arrival, has added 11 countries in Africa over the past week, catching tourists in those countries by surprise.

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told cabinet members that early indications suggest the omicron variant is more transmissible than the delta variant. “The prime minister said it was too early to draw conclusions on the characteristics of omicron but that early indications were that it was more transmissible than delta,” a spoksman for the prime minister told reporters Tuesday.

Finally, in Austria, the new Bundeskanzler, Karl Nehammer, said that non-vaccinated people will remain in lockdown once the Alpine nation lifts its wider general lockdown next week.

As of Tuesday morning, the world has recorded 266.9 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.6 million new cases, and almost 5.3 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 240.5 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.6 million.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 119,751, a 28% increase.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 1,266, an increase of 13% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Tuesday, recorded 50.1 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 810,254. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 34.6 million, and a reported death toll of 473,757.  Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 615,789, and has over 22.1 million cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Tuesday, 236 million people in the United States – or 71.1% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 60%, or 199.3 million people, are now fully vaccinated, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 471.7 million. Breaking this down further, 83.5% of the population over the age of 18 – or 215.5 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 71.5% of the same group – or 184.7 million people – is fully vaccinated.

Some 55.2% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, a figure that is unchanged since the prior day, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 8.24 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 6.3% 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.

Jonathan Spira contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)


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