Coronavirus Morning News Brief – May 23: New York City’s Fifth Wave, Mask Mandates Return to Philadelphia, and Today’s Statistics

North Korea Reports ‘Positive Trend,’ Shanghai Nears End of Lockdown

By Jonathan Spira on 23 May 2022
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Time to “dig up those old mask required signs”?

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 774th day of the pandemic.

Covid cases are on the rise as the Memorial Day holiday in the United States approaches.

If you’re planning to travel for the Memorial Day holiday – or indeed for any other reason – one pre-departure item should be taking a coronavirus test before leaving.

Indeed, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests such a test, taken “as close to the time of departure as possible,” so that a traveler would know if he has a “current” coronavirus infection and therefore plan accordingly.

Pre-departure testing is mandatory for passengers arriving from outside the United States but, given the dramatic increase in new infections over the past month, it makes eminent sense to test before any trip, regardless of mode of transportation, given that the 7-day incidence has more than doubled over the past 30 days, rising from 46,000 to over 110,000.

In other news we cover today, New York City’s fifth Covid wave continues to surge, mask mandates are returning to Philadelphia, and Shanghai nears the end of a two-month lockdown.

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

UNITED STATES

New York City’s fifth wave of coronavirus continues unabated.  The wave, which started in mid-March fueled by the BA.2 omicron subvariant, is now largely comprised of the BA2.12.1 subvariant of that subvariant.

BA.2.12.1 is even more transmissible than omicron and now comprises 73% of cases in the Big Apple.

The rising number of cases and significantly higher hospitalization rate triggered the move for the Big Apple into the high-risk category for community transmission.

The city’s health department reports approximately 4,000 new cases each day but those continue to be a dramatic undercount given the prevalence of at-home testing kits.

More alarming is the increase in the substantially higher number of individuals with fevers across the city, which can portend coming coronavirus trends. Data from Internet-connected thermometers across the city currently shows levels of fevers last week at the worst points of the pandemic in the Big Apple, according to data from the company Kinsa, which manufactures such devices and tracks such data. The current rate is just over 4%, while in non-Covid times the rate would be below 1.5%.

Meanwhile, officials in Philadelphia reinstated amidst significantly rising case numbers a school mask mandate.  All students and teachers, starting Monday, must once again don face masks.

“All school district students and staff will be required to wear their masks during the school and work day and while riding on school buses and vans” until further notice,” said William Hite Jr., the superintendent of the Philadelphia School District, in announcing the move on Friday.

Hite emphasized that the city and the school district must be flexible in responding to changes in the pandemic.

“As we’ve learned since the pandemic began, the coronavirus continues to evolve and so too will our response to it,” he said in a statement.

In other news, drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech said on Monday that a total of three doses of vaccine produced a strong immune response in the youngest of children.  The response is sufficient to meet the criteria for regulatory authorization and follows the conclusion of a trial that included 1,678 children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years.  The three-dose regimen was 80% in preventing symptomatic infection, the two said.

GLOBAL

Officials in Shanghai reopened a small part of what is the world’s longest subway system on Sunday after some lines had been closed for almost two months as part of the lockdown in an attempt to stamp out any cases of Covid.  The move comes as the city prepares for a more complete lifting of its arduous lockdown next week.

Meanwhile, officials in North Korea are reporting “a positive trend,” according to state-run media. The Korean Central News Agency reported 167,650 new suspected coronavirus cases and one death on Monday, a lower figureafter the government had been reporting daily cases of over 200,000 for more than a week.

The hermit kingdom lacks any mass coronavirus testing capabilities and the figures the government is citing is based on febrile cases, which are not a reliable indicator.

TRAVEL

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

All of the flights are to or from its main hub at London Heathrow Airport.

The list of destinations affected by the cancellations includes Glasgow and Amsterdam and includes 94 international flights.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Monday, May 23.

As of Monday morning, the world has recorded 527.8 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.4 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and 6.3 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 498.1 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.8 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Monday is 23,445,198 a decrease of 298,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 23,407,146, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 38,052, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is unchanged over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 21,982 new coronavirus infections on Monday for the previous day, compared to 37,307 on Sunday, 139,427 on Saturday, 112,599 on Friday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate continues to climb and is now 110,387.  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 108,065, a 53% 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 309, a decrease of 16% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 24,728, a 30% increase.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Monday, recorded 85 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 524,459.

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, 665,660, and has seen 30.8 million cases.

France continues to occupy the number four position in total cases with 29.4 million cases, and Germany is in the number five slot with 26.1 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 Monday, 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 220.9 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 584.3 million. Breaking this down further, 89.2% of the population over the age of 18 – or 230.2 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 76.5% of the same group – or 197.5 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 50.1% of that population, or 98.9 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 Monday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 11.77 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 6 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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