Coronavirus Morning News Brief – May 14: In North Korea, a ‘Malignant Epidemic,’ Surge Puts New York State on High Alert

Shanghai May Be Close to End of Lockdown

By Jonathan Spira on 14 May 2022
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Mirror Lake in the Appalachians

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 765th day of the pandemic.

Health experts across the globe have long feared what would happen when the first major outbreak of the coronavirus would occur in North Korea and our worst fears are being realized: On Saturday, state media reported that there had been over 500,000 cases of unexplained fever in the country in recent weeks.

Officials there confirmed North Korea’s first Covid case on Thursday, although experts believe that the virus has been circulating there for some time.

The hermit nation’s  rapidly spreading Covid-19 outbreak is a “great disaster” for the country, its leader Kim Jong-un said, according to state media.

Kim reportedly called for an all-out battle to tackle the spread of the virus during an emergency meeting on Saturday.

“The spread of the malignant epidemic is [the greatest] turmoil to fall on our country since the founding,” state KCNA news agency quoted Mr Kim as having said.

The reported death toll, ostensibly from Covid, now stands at 27 and is expected to increase in the coming days.

In other news we cover today, Covid is surging in New York State and there may be an end date for the pandemic lockdowns underway in Shanghai for over six weeks.

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

UNITED STATES

Only one county in New York State is at low Covid risk, according to data from the CDC.  In the United States, almost 150 – including almost 40 in the state – are considered by the CDC to be at Level 3, which is the agency’s highest level of risk for community transmission.  This is a three-fold increase in just under two weeks and a 79% increase since Monday.

Only the Bronx – one of the Big Apple’s five boroughs – is at Level 1, although based on trending data, the distinction may not last for long.

The Bronx is the tenth worst U.S. county for Covid deaths and the 20th worst for cases since the start of the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins.  The county also has the lowest rate of booster shots, some 29%, out of the five boroughs.

Despite this, the Bronx has the lowest rolling infection rate in the city and the Empire State by a wide margin.

State officials refrained from imposing an indoor mask mandate, but nonetheless did urge residents living in counties that have been placed on “medium” or “high” alert to don masks in indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status.

“These public health measures, as well as ensuring proper air ventilation when gathering, will help reduce Covid-19 transmission in communities and lower the risk of serious illness and hospitalization for individuals,” said the state health commissioner, Dr. Mary T. Bassett, in a statement.

Meanwhile, a congressional investigation found that executives at meat packing companies were aware of the transmission risk in their plants but nonetheless allowed tens of thousands of industry workers to become infected, causing hundreds to die, while lying about an impending shortage of meat in the country.

The companies successfully lobbied the Trump administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to circumvent coronavirus prevention measures and regulations, according to the committee’s latest findings, which were released this past week.

“The Select Subcommittee’s investigation has revealed that former President Trump’s political appointees at USDA collaborated with large meatpacking companies to lead an Administration-wide effort to force workers to remain on the job during the coronavirus crisis despite dangerous conditions, and even to prevent the imposition of commonsense mitigation measures,” said the committee’s chairman, Congressman James Clyburn, in a statement Thursday.

The inquiry centered around five companies, namely Tyson, Smithfield, JBS USA, Cargill, and National Beef

GLOBAL

After six weeks of home confinement, food shortages, and the fear of being forcibly quarantined far from home, the lockdowns in Shanghai now have what is being called an end date.

Officials in China’s financial and shipping hub – Shanghai is home to the world’s largest port – said on Friday that they are hoping to stop community spread of the virus by May 20.   While this is a sign that the restrictions that have been felt across the globe in manufacturing and shipping disruptions may end, it does not mean that the country’s war on Covid is close to ending.

In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Saturday that she tested positive for Covid.  The prime minister’s partner, Clarke Gayford, had tested positive for the coronavirus last Sunday.

Ardern has led the island nation throughout the pandemic and a two-year closure of its borders, which reopened on May 11.

The prime minister is experiencing moderate symptoms, her office said Friday.  She has been in isolation since her partner tested positive and will continue to isolate until the morning of May 21.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Saturday, May 14.

As of Saturday morning, the world has recorded 520.5 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.6 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and almost 6.3 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 475.1 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.5million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Saturday is 39,115,069, an increase of 93,000 from the prior day. Out of that figure, 99.9%, or 39,075,941, are considered mild, and 0.1%, or 39,128, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is largely unchanged over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 107,010 new coronavirus infections on Saturday for the previous day, compared to 115,357 on Friday, 161,535 on Thursday, and 93,413 on Wednesday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate continues to climb and is now 90,303.  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 88,965, a 56% 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 331, a decrease of 5% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 20,525, a 21% increase.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Saturday, recorded 84.2 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, over 43.1 million, and a reported death toll of 524,201.

New data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed at the end of April that the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now over 803,000, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, after the United States.  Rosstat reported that 35,584 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in the month of March, compared to 43,543 in February.

Meanwhile, Brazil now has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 664,830, and has seen close to 30.7 million cases.

France continues to occupy the number four position in total cases with 29.1 million cases, and Germany is in the number five slot with 25.7 million.  The United Kingdom, with close to 22.2 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, 257.7 million people in the United States – or 77.6% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 66.4%, or 220.5 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 580.9 million. Breaking this down further, 89% of the population over the age of 18 – or 229.9 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 76.3% of the same group – or 197.2 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 49.9% of that population, or 98.3 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

The CDC adjusted downward on Thursday the figures for first doses and reclassified a small quantity as either second doses or third shots.  This resulted in a one-time decrease of 0.5 percentage point for the first dose and an average increase of 0.1 percentage points for second and 0.2 percentage points for the third doses.

Over 65.6% 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, 11.7 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 8.75 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 15.9% 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 75% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine.

Only a handful of the world’s poorest countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia and Nepal – have reached the 70% mark in vaccinations. Many countries, however, are under 20% and, in countries such as Haiti, Senegal, and Tanzania, for example, vaccination rates remain in the single digits, if not lower.

In addition, North Korea and Eritrea are now the only two countries in the world that have not administered vaccines.

Paul Riegler contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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

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