Coronavirus Morning News Brief – April 16: Pandemic Progress Stalls, WHO’s Updated Death Toll Could Total 15 Million

Broadway Mask Mandate to Continue Through At Least May

By Jonathan Spira on 16 April 2022
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A Mets game at Citi Field

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 767th day of the pandemic.

The progress the United States was seeing in a reduced number of cases since a pandemic high on January 18, 2022 of 1.2 million new daily infections has been stalled for several weeks and case numbers are actually rising, albeit not to the levels seen during the height of the omicron surge.

The omicron subvariant BA.2 and its own two subvariants are fueling the latest surge, coming just as more in-person activities are taking place, official test centers are closing, free tests are ending for many, and perhaps as much of a third of Americans think of the pandemic in the past, despite the fact that reminders including face mask mandates for every form of public transit continue.

But we are working with an incomplete picture here.  The increase in non-reported at-home testing obscures testing data and suggests that new cases are far higher than currently reported.

New treatments, including antiviral pills, work only if taken early in an infection, lending a greater urgency for testing on that basis alone.

Testing has fallen by some 80% according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  In January, at the height of the omicron surge, there were over 2.5 million tests taking place on a daily basis.  Now that figure is closer to 540,000.

Given all this, health officials are doing what they can to apply the brakes.   As reported earlier in the week, the federal mask mandate for planes and trains was extended at least into May, the White House renewed the Covid public health emergency for an additional three months, and, perhaps most notably, the City of Philadelphia reinstated its indoor mask mandate, a move predicated on public, published measures that were acted upon when cases rose sharply.  Finally, multiple universities including American University in Washington, D.C.; Barnard College and Columbia University in New York City; Georgetown University, also in D.C.; John Hopkins University in Baltimore; and Rice University in Houston reinstated indoor mask mandates.

Columbia took the additional step of specifying that students were to were non-cloth masks and Johns Hopkins also reinstated twice-weekly mandatory testing of the student body.

In other news we cover today, India is taking exception to the WHO’s updated death tolls, frontline workers in Britain are angry over ‘Partygate,’ theatergoers will continue to mask up, and baseball players are being sidelined by Covid.

Here’s a look at what has taken place over the past 24 hours.

UNITED STATES

The governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, said Friday that he had tested positive for Covid.  DeWine, who is 75 years old, reported mild symptoms including such as a headache, body aches, and a sore throat.

In keeping with CDC protocols, the governor is in quarantine.

DeWine tested positive once before, but it was a false positive test that kept him from welcoming and meeting with then-President Donald Trump on a visit to Ohio in August 2020.  Hours later, a PCR test provided a negative result. The governor had reportedly wanted to discuss the challenges of coronavirus testing with Trump.

GLOBAL

Indian officials are taking exceptions to the World Health Organization’s calculation of its death toll from Covid, multiple reports in the Indian press indicate.

The agency calculated that, since the start of the pandemic, 15 million people have died as a result of the pandemicacross the globe, far more than earlier estimates.  But the agency has yet to release these numbers due to the dispute over the figures coming out of India.

Currently, the official death toll in that country stands at just over 521,000 thousand, while the WHOs figures would show the total as closer to four million, according to multiple reports.

The overwhelming majority of the WHO’s death count is for individuals who died as a result of contracting the virus but it also includes those who might have been unable to access proper care for other ailments because of the pandemic.

In Britain, front-line workers and families of those who died from the coronavirus expressed outrage over the conduct of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his wife, and top ministers who were fined for breaching coronavirus restrictions.

Johnson, his wife Carrie, and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the Exchequer, were fined for their violations.  The prime minister was fined for attending a party on June 19, 2020 that his wife had organized as a birthday party.  The Metropolitan Police are continuing investigations into other possible violations.

Meanwhile, a snap poll conducted by YouGov just hours after the fines were announced showed that 57% of Britons believe that both  Johnson and Sunak should resign.  Some 75% said that they believe Johnson knowingly lied about breaching the rules.

SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT

Broadway theaters will continue to require that all theatergoers are masked in order to gain entry, owners and operators of the 41 Broadway houses said Friday, but some theaters may not require proof of vaccination after the end of April.

The Broadway League, the group that represents theater owners, said that the policy would remain in force until at least May 31, 2022.

Meanwhile, the New York Mets baseball team won its home opener Friday, even without the help of some of its opening lineup.  The team reported at least four coronavirus cases among players and staff including starting outfielders Brandon Nimmo and Mark Canha, in addition to a coach and team staff member.

The Mets defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 10-3 at Citi Field in New York City.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Saturday, April 16.

As of Saturday morning, the world has recorded 503.9 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.6 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and over 6.2 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 454.5 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.9 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Saturday is 43,244,031, a decrease of 66,000 from the prior day. Out of that figure, 99.9%, or 43,201,381 are considered mild, and 0.1%, or 42,650 are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is largely unchanged over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 46,708 new coronavirus infections on Saturday for the previous day, compared to 57,563 on Friday, 53,911 on Thursday, and 23,034 on Wednesday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Figures for the weekend (reported the following day) are typically 30% to 60% of those posted on weekdays due to a lower number of tests being conducted.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 37,320, a 35% 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 531, a decrease of 19% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Saturday, recorded almost 82.3 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of over 1 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, just over 43 million, and a reported death toll of 521,776. Meanwhile, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 661,960, and has over 30.2 million cases.  France continues to occupy the number four position with 27.6 million cases, and Germany is in the number five slot with 23.4 million.  The United Kingdom, with over 21.7 million cases, is now number six and is the only other country in the world with a total number of cases over the 20 million mark.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Saturday, over 256.8 million people in the United States – or 77.3% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 65.9%, or 218.7 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 569.3 million. Breaking this down further, 88.7% of the population over the age of 18 – or 229 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 75.8% of the same group – or 195.7 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 48.9% of that population, or 95.7  million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Over 65 % of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Saturday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 11.45 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 11.79 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 15.2% 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.

Paul Riegler contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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