Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Jan. 22: ‘We Have Weathered the Omicron Story,’ Judge Blocks Vaccine Mandate for Federal Workers

Major Financial Services Firms Plan to Bring Workers Back to the Office in February

By Jonathan Spira on 22 January 2022
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Contae an Chláir), or County Clare, Ireland,

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 22nd day of 2022.

A federal judge in Texas somewhat belatedly blocked a vaccine mandate for federal workers, although most such workers had been fully inoculated months ago.  In addition, Ireland has ended most Covid restrictions, and a study found that vaccinated individuals are “less likely” to suffer from long Covid that the unvaccinated.

UNITED STATES

A federal judge in Texas issued a preliminary injunction that blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a vaccine mandate for federal workers that went into effect on November 22, 2021.  At the present time, 98% of all federal workers are either fully vaccinated or have requested medical or religious exemptions, the White House said on Friday.

The Justice Department said it would appeal the ruling.

Citigroup, which owns Citibank and has 65,000 employees in the country, told employees in the New York metro area to return to work for at least two days per week starting on February 7, 2022.

Financial services firms have delayed return-to-office plans multiple times over the past few months amidst the outbreak of the omicron variant-fueled surge.  Both Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase plan to bring workers back on February 1.

GLOBAL

Officials in Ireland announced that most Covid restrictions would end on Saturday as the number of Covid cases continued to fall.  The 7-day average, which peaked on January 9 of this year with 23,752, is currently at 8,052.

“We have weathered the Omicron story,” Taoiseach Micheál Martin said in a speech on Friday.

“Spring is coming, and I don’t know if I have ever looked forward to one as much as this one,” Martin said.  “Humans are social beings, and we Irish are more social than most. As we look forward to this spring, we need to see each other again; we need to see each other smile; we need to sing again.”

The Emerald Isle plans its biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebration since the start of the pandemic.

Polish statesman and Nobel Prize laureate Lech Walesa reported on Facebook that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.  In his post, he indicated that he was surprised because he had already had three doses of vaccine.  “”I just can’t believe it,” he wrote.

The former president of Poland also said he was suffering from headaches and having trouble maintaining body warmth.

Walesa, who has been seen in social media posts without a mask in meetings with lawyers and others, said that, “[A]fter this lesson, I will not part with a mask.”

A study in Israel found that fully vaccinated individuals were less likely to suffer from post-acute sequelae of SARS-Cov-2, or PASC, known commonly as “long Covid,” than those who remained unvaccinated.

“Our results suggest that, in addition to reducing the risk of acute illness, Covid-19 vaccination may have a protective effect against long Covid,” the team of researchers, led by Paul Kuodi at Bar-Ilan University, said.

The findings were revealed in a study – not yet peer reviewed – that was released via the pre-print repository medRXiv.

TRAVEL

A passenger on a Delta Air Lines flight from Dublin to New York now faces 20 years in prison after refusing to wear a mask.  According to the indictment in Brooklyn federal court, during the flight on January 7, 2022, former pro footballer Shane McInerney also went to the business-class cabin and mooned a flight attendant, put his hat on the captain’s head, and threw a soda can at another passenger.  McInerney is currently out on $20,000 bond.

COMMERCE

Exercise equipment company Peleton, which had become a symbol of the pandemic as people began to work – and work out – at home, has stopped manufacturing all of its products amidst waning demand, at least for the time being.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Saturday, January 22.

As of Saturday morning, the world has recorded 347.6 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 3.7 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and 5.6 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 276.9 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 1.8 million.

Worldwide, the number of active cases as of Saturday is 65,000,640.  Out of that figure, 99.9%, or 64,905,105, are considered mild, and 0.1%, or 96,025, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical fell by 0.1 percentage point  over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 825,052 new cases on Saturday for the previous day, compared with 748,484 reported on Friday, 851,781 on Thursday, and 1,178,403 on Wednesday, 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 721,658, a 11% 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 2,162, an increase of 44% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Saturday, recorded 71.4 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 887,643. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, almost 38.9 million, and a reported death toll of 488,911.  Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 622,627, and has seen 23.8 million cases.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Saturday, 250.3 million people in the United States – or 75.4% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 63.3%, or 210 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 531.9 million. Breaking this down further, 87.3% of the population over the age of 18 – or 225.4million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 73.8% of the same group – or 190.5 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 42.6% of that population, or 81.2 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Over 60.4% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Saturday, a figure that is up 0.1 percentage point in the past 24 hours, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 9.84 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 9.4% 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 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.

Paul Riegler  contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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