Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Jan. 7: World Crosses 300 Million Mark in Cases, Biden Advisors Call for New Pandemic Strategy

Dozens of Hong Kong Officials Sent to Quarantine Camp After Birthday Party Superspreader

By Jonathan Spira on 7 January 2022
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The Supreme Court of the United States

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

The global surge in new Covid cases appears to continue unabated although there was some good news.  Over the course of Thursday, the world crossed the 300 million mark, but the United States posted its third decline in new cases in three consecutive days.

UNITED STATES

Six of President Joseph Biden’s healthcare advisors during his transition to the presidency called for the president to adopt an entirely new domestic pandemic strategy, namely one geared to the “new normal” of living with the virus indefinitely, not wiping it out.  Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the six – which includes Dr. Luciana Borio, who previously served as acting chief scientist at the Food and Drug Administration, and Dr. David Michaels, a former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – wrote three opinion pieces for the White House to consider.  Dr Borio called for a plan for the country “in which the combined risk of all viral respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, does not exceed the risk during prepandemic years.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments on Friday concerning the legality of vaccine mandates for employees of companies with more than 100 employees as well as those who work for hospitals and other healthcare facilities that participate in either Medicare or Medicaid programs. The justices are hearing the case in person except for Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is participating remotely from her chambers. The court is closed to the public but is providing a live audio feed of the hearing to the public.

The governor of West Virginia, Jim Justice, said he would ask the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for authorization to offer fourth doses of coronavirus vaccine to residents in his state.  The governor wants to offer the shots to residents 50 years of age and older as well as to essential workers of any age.

Meanwhile, the Mayo Clinic, one of the country’s leading medical centers and research institutions, said it was firing 1% of its staff after they failed to comply with the Monday deadline to be fully vaccinated. Mayo employs over 70,000 workers.  The number of individuals losing their positions is approximately 700.

GLOBAL

A birthday party that took place in Hong Kong despite the city state’s regulations against indoor dining after 6 p.m. is now officially a superspreader event.  The party, which resulted in the quarantine of at least 30 well known Hong Kong citizens, was to celebrate the birthday of Witman Hong, a well-known politician.

The party had taken place before Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, banned indoor dining and closed fitness centers and bars amidst the outbreak of omicron there.

Party attendees who are now at Penny’s Bar quarantine camp include Caspar Tsui, the home affairs secretary, and Au Ka-wang, the city-state’s director of immigration.

Lam strongly criticized the party-goers.

“As top government officials, there is all the more reason for us to set a good example and avoid attending private gatherings that may pose a major hazard,” she said.

TRAVEL

Officials in India said that at least ten passengers escaped from Amritsar Airport in northern India after testing positive for the coronavirus. Ruhee Dugg, a senior district official, told reporters there that the passengers had arrived on board a chartered flight from Italy on Thursday with 125 people testing positive on arrival.

Royal Caribbean International said Thursday that it was transferring crew members who test positive for the coronavirus to two of its currently out-of-service ships, Vision of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas, for quarantine. The transfers were from multiple ships sailing in the Caribbean and have been taking place for several weeks, the cruise line confirmed to the newspaper USA Today.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Friday, January 7.

As of Friday morning, the world has recorded 301.2 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 2.6 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and 5.48 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 257.8 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 1.8 million.

Worldwide, the current number of infections as of Thursday is 37,944,605.  Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 37,852,508, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 92,097, are listed as critical.  The number of cases considered critical declined by 0.1 percentage point over the past 24 hours.

The United States recorded 727, 864 new cases on Thursday, compared with 784,369 on Wednesday and 885,541 on Tuesday, 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 610,989, a 227% 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 1,404, an increase of 2% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Friday, recorded 59.6 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 855,843. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 35.2 million, and a reported death toll of 483,178.  Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 619,730, and has just under 22.4 million cases.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Friday, 245.7 million people in the United States – or 74% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 62.4%, or 207 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 515.2 million. Breaking this down further, 86% of the population over the age of 18 – or 222.2 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 73.1% of the same group – or 188.7 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 38.3% of that population, or 72.3 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Over 59% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Thursday, a figure that is largely unchanged from the prior day, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 9.37 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.

Anna Breuer contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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