Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Jan. 8: CDC Foresees ‘Precipitous Decline’ in Omicron, New York Mandates Third Vaccine Dose for Healthcare Workers

Citigroup to Vaccine Holdouts: No Jab, No Job

By Jonathan Spira on 8 January 2022
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Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the eighth day of 2022.

The first week of a new year is typically one in which workers return to work after winter holidays.  This year is markedly different in that employees are calling in sick with Covid thanks to the fast moving omicron variant or because they were exposed to it by a family member or co-worker. On top of that, school closures due to Covid are causing other workers to remain home if they have no other options for childcare.

In the final days of 2021, New York City officials reported that over 20% of the police force and one-third of workers in the Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services unit were out.   This year, the Big Apple has been forced to shut down three subway lines and some bus and subway routes are being operated at reduced frequency.

UNITED STATES

On Friday, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, said that the country could likely see a “precipitous decline” in omicron cases in a manner similar to what South Africa recently experienced.

Speaking to reporters at a news briefing on Friday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that there is a good chance that the United States will follow the “ice pick”-shaped curve that South Africa’s omicron surge’s followed. She cautioned that the downward slope would occur at different times in different parts of the country, similar to how previous waves have behaved.

“I do think in places that we are seeing this really steep incline, that we may well see also a precipitous decline, but we’re also a much bigger country than South Africa,” she said.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced Friday that all healthcare workers in the state would be required to get a third, or booster, dose of the coronavirus vaccine.  The requirement is the first of its kind in the country.  Healthcare workers will be required to get the third dose within two weeks of eligibility.

The Biden administration said it had signed its first two contracts for free rapid Covid-19 tests. The move is part of President Joseph Biden’s efforts to eventually be able to distribute half a billion free rapid tests throughout the country.

Citigroup, which owns Citibank, the nation’s fourth largest consumer bank, told employees that it will follow through on previous warnings and terminate those who have not complied with the company’s vaccine mandate as of January 14.

GLOBAL

A French vaccine-skeptic and member of the National Assembly, José Évrard, died after contracting the coronavirus, the president of the parliament, Gérard Lardner, announced Friday.  Évrard’s far-right party continues to oppose government measures to stem the spread of the pandemic.

TRAVEL

Royal Caribbean announced it will temporarily suspend operations of multiple ships for the next few months. The list includes sailings on Vision of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, and Symphony of the Seas.

Alaska Airlines, the fifth largest in the United States, said it has reduced operations by 10% for the remainder of the month due to staffing shortages fueled by the omicron variant surge, saying it would give the airline time to “reset” as well as “time and space to find our path forward together.”

Amazon said it is reducing the isolation time required for employees after testing positive, but its change didn’t mirror that of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which had shortened the time period to five days.  Amazon changed the isolation period to seven days and said workers should don a facemask for the following five days.

ENTERTAINMENT

Three late-night television hosts in the United States said they had tested positive for Covid despite being fully vaccinated. The list included Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, and James Corden.

FAKE CURES

Colloidal silver is one of the oldest faux cures and it’s making a comeback in the coronavirus pandemic age.

The Department of Justice announced that a federal court earlier in the week enjoined the Natural Solutions Foundation from selling a so-called “nano silver” product that it advertised as a Covid cure as well as something that would prevent someone from being infected by the virus.

“Marketing unproven products as treatments for COVID-19 endangers public health and violates the law,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The department will work closely with the FDA to stop anyone attempting to take advantage of the pandemic by selling unapproved, misbranded drugs.”

In late December, Candace Owens, a conservative talk show host, said she takes a teaspoon a day of the magical elixir, which is best known for argyria, a side-effect that can turn one’s skin a permanent shade of blue-grey.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Saturday, January 8.

As of Saturday morning, the world has recorded 304 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 2.8 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and 5.49 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 258.5 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 1.8 million.

Worldwide, the number of active cases as of Saturday is 40,122,211.  Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 40,828,058, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 93,353, are listed as critical.  The number of cases considered critical is unchanged over the past 24 hours.

The United States had recorded 894,490 as of Saturday morning, compared with 759,218 on Friday, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 648,211, a 228% increase, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 1,499, an increase of 11% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Saturday, recorded 60.4 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 858,346. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, almost 35.4 million, and a reported death toll of 483,463.  Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 619,878, and has over 22.4 million cases.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Saturday, 246.1 million people in the United States – or 74.1% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 62.4%, or 207.2 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 516.6 million. Breaking this down further, 86.2% of the population over the age of 18 – or 222.5 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 73.1% of the same group – or 188.9 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 38.7% of that population, or 73.1 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Over 59.1% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Saturday, a figure that is up 1 percentage point in the past 24 hours, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 9.4 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 8.9% 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.

Paul Riegler contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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