Coronavirus Morning News Brief – May 20: North Korea’s ‘Explosive’ Outbreak Due to Military Parade Superspreader, Worrisome Trend in Wastewater

New York City Hospitalizations Have Tripled in 3 Months

By Jonathan Spira on 20 May 2022
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Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 771st day of the pandemic.

In March of this year, New York City, in a move approved by Mayor Eric Adams, approved a Covid alert system that now calls for the institution of a mask mandate for public indoor settings based on the current transmission risk level.

There’s only one problem: Mayor Eric Adams is ignoring his own advice.

Instead of sounding the alarm, given that infection rates are at a level similar to the Delta surge, Adams instead emphasizes how his own Covid case in April was mild, in great part because he took the antiviral Paxlovid.

“I think that the reason we are here and we are not seeing drastic actions is because we’ve done an amazing job of telling people –  vaccines, boosters,” Hizzoner said at a recent news conference. “When I was hit with Covid, it was just a tickle in my throat. I was still able to exercise, didn’t have any breathing issues, no pain.”

It’s all well and good that Adams’ experience with the virus was mild and that he appears to not have any lingering or new symptoms, what infectious disease specialists now term “Long Covid.”  But other coronavirus patients – one-third according to multiple studies –  including those who are also fully vaxxed and boosted who have equally mild or even asymptomatic cases of Covid end up with Long Covid,

Also known as Post Acute Sequela, or PASC, Long Covid covers a range of symptoms including severe fatigue, brain fog, headaches, dizziness, and shortness of breath and these symptoms can last for months if not years.

Donning a well-fitted face mask such an N94, KN94, or FFP2, along with being fully vaccinated and boosted, is the best way of preventing Covid transmission.  It boggles the mind that officials in multiple major cities would not take such a basic precaution, despite the public’s fatigue from such measures.

In other news we cover today, a new report says the world remains as vulnerable as ever to new pandemics. Japan will reopen its borders to a test group of 50 tourists. and cases in North Korea may have already reached two million.

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

UNITED STATES

Hospitalizations in New York City, one of the first epicenters of the pandemic in the country, are almost at 3,000 as of Friday, a three- month high. The figure on Friday stands at 2,705, the highest since February 18, when that number was 2,745.

In Los Angeles, the coronavirus case rate is now high enough to place the county in the Level 2, the CDC’s “medium” community transmission risk

Meanwhile, one-third of the country should be considering mask mandates, federal officials said Thursday.  White House coronavirus coordinator Dr. Ashish Jah said last week that Americans’ protection against the virus appears to be waning and that the virus was adapting itself to become more transmissible.

“We urge local leaders to encourage use of prevention strategies like masks in public indoor settings and increasing access to testing and treatment,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday.

Meanwhile, the CDC signed off on boosters of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for children ages 5 through 11.  Kids are eligible five months after their second dose.

Finally, health officials in several major cities in the United States are reporting an increased prevalence of the coronavirus in wastewater surveillance data.  Such data from wastewater often serves as an early warning, a canary in the coalmine if you will.  Cities with significantly worrisome levels of virus in their wastewater include Houston and New Orleans as well as the state of Maine.

GLOBAL

The reason behind the mystery of North Korea’s “explosive” outbreak appears to be at hand.

The country held a massive military parade on April 25, marking the hermit kingdom’s army’s 90th anniversary. The parade had over 20,000 soldiers and a large weapons display and included many who had been stationed in the city of Sinuiju, which borders China.  Several guards stationed there began to show Covid symptoms earlier this month and a number of soldiers who participated in the parade tested positive for the virus, Radio Free Asia reported.

Despite having very limited testing capabilities and seeing the start of shipments of coronavirus vaccine from China, North Korea said Friday  that it was achieving “good results” in its fight against its first confirmed Covid outbreak. Meanwhile, the number of suspected cases there surpassed two million.

ENTERTAINMENT

Broadway theaters will continue to require masks for theatergoers at all 41 Broadway houses

The Broadway League, the group that represents theater owners, said that the policy would remain in force until at least June 30, 2022.

TRAVEL

British Airways cancelled over 120 short- and mid-haul flights Friday, blaming the action on Covid-related staff shortages.

The list of destinations affected by the cancellations includes Marrakech and Reykjavik as well as four Paris round-trips.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Friday, May 20.

As of Friday morning, the world has recorded 526 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.8 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, 495.8 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.8 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Friday is 23,916,062, an increase of 3,600. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 23,877,801, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 38,261, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is unchanged over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 112,599 new coronavirus infections on Friday for the previous day, compared to 171,191 on Thursday, 134,102 on Wednesday, 147,834 on Tuesday, and 14,107 on Monday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate continues to climb and is now 103,467.  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 103,537, a 52% 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 303, a decrease of 17% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 23,860, a 31% increase.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Friday, recorded 84.8 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 524,323.

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, 665,491, and has seen close to 30.8 million cases.

France continues to occupy the number four position in total cases with 29.3 million cases, and Germany is in the number five slot with 26 million.  The United Kingdom, with 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 Friday, 258.1 million people in the United States – or 77.7% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 66.5%, or 220.8 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 583.2 million. Breaking this down further, 89.1% of the population over the age of 18 – or 230.2million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 76.4% of the same group – or 197.4 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 50% of that population, or 98.7 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Over 65.7% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Friday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 11.75 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 7.09 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.

Anna Breuer contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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