Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Jan. 18: ‘The Covid Clouds Are Parting’ and Will Omicron End the Pandemic?

Fourth Dose Boosts Antibodies But Might Not Be Sufficient to Stop Omicron

By Jonathan Spira on 18 January 2022
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The London Eye, also known as the Millennium Wheel

Slowly but surely, the world has made progress in vaccinating its citizens.  As of Tuesday morning, some 60% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, according to Our World in Data, which uses the most recent official numbers from governments and health ministries worldwide.

The picture is also brighter in the northeastern United States, where states are seeing a rapid drop in Covid cases.

“The Covid clouds are parting,” said New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Monday, who added that, while keeping the meteorological “the forecast is much brighter than it had been before.”

Other states in the region appear to be following the pattern set by New York, including New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

UNITED STATES

While cases are leveling off in the Northeast, they remain high in the remainder of the country.   Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical advisor, was asked at the virtual World Economic Forum on Monday if 2022 might be the year in which Covid becomes endemic.  Fauci emphasized that “we do not know,” but said it is contingent on whether “we don’t get another variant that eludes the immune response.

Meanwhile, hospitals in Oklahoma City are overwhelmed by a surge in Covid patients, with no ICU beds or inpatient beds available.

“Our emergency departments are overflowing,” chief medical officers of four healthcare systems there said in an open letter published on Monday. “Our caregivers are still strong, but they are exhausted. Even these heroes can’t keep up much longer.”

In the nation’s capital, the Smithsonian Institution said that it would reduce hours of operation for its museums and the National Zoo until further notice, amidst staffing shortages due to the omicron-fueled Covid surge.   It also said it would accommodate “the needs of the public” by opening more museums on weekends.

The assets of a slot-car racing joint that had been in business in Brooklyn for over five decades were sold off over the weekend by the son of the two original owners following the death of his parents, Buzz and Dolores Perri, from Covid mid last year.  Both Buzz and Dolores remained the picture of health well into their 80s but Dolores, according to an article in the Daily Beast, fell under the spell of “natural living” guru and self-described alternative medicine expert Gary Nell, who espoused views saying that the vaccines toxic and a fraud.

GLOBAL

Researchers in Israel said that early data suggests that a fourth dose of an mRNA vaccine such as that from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna can increase the number of antibodies to more than what’s been seen after a third dose, but it might not be enough to protect against a breakthrough infection fueled by the omicron variant, even though it was “a pretty nice increase.”

Dr. Gili Regev-Yochay, director of the Infection Prevention and Control Unit at Sheba Medical Center, told reporters there that the results are “very preliminary” and have yet to be published

Health Canada, the agency responsible for authorizing drugs in that country, gave the green light to the nation’s first antiviral pill for Covid, Paxlovid, which is manufactured by Pfizer.  The country has already received over 30,000 treatment courses and expects an additional 12,000 to arrive in the next two to three months, according to Jean-Yves Duclos, minister of health.

Two now former Cathay Pacific flight attendants were charged by police in Hong Kong for violating the “Prevention and Control of Disease Regulation” in the special administration region, according to a government news release.  The two reportedly arrived in Hong Kong from the United States on two separate days, December 24 and December 25, 2021.  The two “conducted unnecessary activities” in the days after arriving while they should have instead been in isolation, the news release said.

Both subsequently tested positive for the omicron variant of the coronavirus.  They were treated at a hospital and discharged, authorities said.

Amidst the brewing garden party scandal in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that no one told him that the outdoor party held in May 2020 at No. 10 Downing Street was a potential breach of coronavirus restrictions.

“Nobody warned me that it was against the rules … because I would remember that,” the prime minister said, adding that “[I]f I had my time again, I would not have allowed things to develop in that way.”

SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT

The Australian Open won’t be the only major tennis match that a non-vaccinated Novak Djokovic will be barred from: On Monday, the French Sports Ministry said that there would be no exemptions from the new vaccine passport law that was approved in the Assemblée nationale on Sunday.  The measure requires anyone entering restaurants and cafés as well as sports venues such as where the French Open will take place to present a vaccine passport indicating fully vaccinated status 

“This will apply to everyone who is a spectator or a professional sportsperson. And this until further notice,” the ministry said in a statement.

The tennis player won’t be able to enter Spain in April for the Spanish Open either without getting inoculated.  El presidente del Gobierno Pedro Sanchez publicly lauded the decision of the Australian government to revoke Djokovic’s visa.

“The rules are there to comply with and no one is above the rules,” he said Monday.   “And if those are the rules that the Australian government has approved, then they have to be allowed.”

Finally, French apparel maker Lacoste, which was founded in 1933 by another tennis player, René Lacoste, said it plans to “review” with Djokovic, whom it sponsors, the events that transpired in Australia “as soon as possible.”

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Tuesday, January 18.

As of Tuesday morning, the world has recorded 332 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 2.8 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and almost 5.6 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 269.3 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 1.4 million.

Worldwide, the number of active cases as of Tuesday is 57,173,574.  Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 55,077,037, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 96,537, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical was largely unchanged over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 712,051 on Tuesday for the previous day, compared with 337,984 on Monday and 818,418 on Sunday, 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 790,553, a 62% 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 1,961, an increase of 54% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Tuesday, recorded 67.6 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 874,321. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, almost 37.6 million, and a reported death toll of 486,784.  Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 621,261, and has seen 23.1 million cases.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Tuesday, 248.7 million people in the United States – or 74.9% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 62.9%, or 208.9 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 526.9 million. Breaking this down further, 86.9% of the population over the age of 18 – or 224.3million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 73.5% of the same group – or 189.9 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 41.3% of that population, or 78.4 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Due to the Monday bank holiday, the agency has not updated its vaccination figures since Saturday evening.

Over 60% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Tuesday, a figure that is up 0.2  percentage point in the past 24 hours, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 9.71 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 9.6% 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. 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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