Coronavirus Morning News Brief – May 24: U.S. Pandemic Death Rate Higher Than in Some Developing Nations, Austria Pauses Mask Mandate

Boris Johnson Seen in Photo at Party During Lockdown Making a Toast

By Jonathan Spira on 24 May 2022
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The Secession Building in Vienna, the seat of the Wiener Secession art movement

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 775th day of the pandemic.

It will come as no shock to readers of this space that the United States had more deaths above normal levels during the pandemic than other wealthy nations.  The findings come from data released by the World Health Organization this month.

The number of deaths in the United States was 15% above normal deaths in both 2020 and 2021, a figure that was higher than any other country in the “high income” class except for Chile, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Romania.

The same figure was 12% for the United Kingdom, 11% for Germany, 4% for Canada, and -1% for Japan.  Australia’s figure was –4%.

Granted, many third-world nations fared far worse including Egypt (21%) and Ukraine (17%), and those in the middle classification of “upper-middle income” had even more devastating figures, such as 97% in Peru and 41% in Mexico.

But the United States had the lion’s share of resources with which to fight the pandemic, despite some hiccups with initial rollouts.

Why are its figures worse than countries that had far fewer resources such as Argentina and the Philippines (both 12%)?

To put the figure in perspective, across the globe, there were 13% more – or 15 million – deaths, the WHO estimated.

In other news we cover today, a U.S. senator and a candidate for governor tested positive, more “partygate” photos of Boris Johnson surface, and Google Maps workers are resisting a return to the office.

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

UNITED STATES

The presumptive Republican nominee for governor in Connecticut, Bob Stefanowski, announced, just one day after attending an anti-mask group’s “Freedom Family Cookout,” that he had tested positive for Covid.  The 60-year-old candidate lost in 2018 to the current governor, Ned Lamont.

Meanwhile, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon announced on Monday that he had tested positive for Covid.

Merkley said he had been a close contact of someone who tested positive earlier, adding that he is experiencing “mild” symptoms.   The senator said he is both vaccinated and boosted.

“This is yet another reminder that Covid-19 is still among us,” Merkley said in a statement. “As Americans make plans before the holiday weekend, I encourage everyone to take steps to make sure the virus is not an uninvited guest.”

Finally, CNN anchor Jake Tapper reportedly filmed an episode of his prime time show at the network studio earlier this month after testing positive for the coronavirus.  The incident took place on May 9 and Tapper received his diagnosis just before his 4 p.m. show.

CNN said in a statement that Tapper, after being notified of the positive test result, “asked CNN execs what to do and then followed it to the letter – he double-masked and isolated, did the show solo in a flash studio (single-person enclosed room) and went home immediately after.”

GLOBAL

Austria announced a three-month pause to its mask mandate.  The change goes into effect on June 1, Gesundheitsminister Johannes Rauch announced on Wednesday.  Masks remain mandatory in hospitals, nursing homes, and retirement homes, and recommended in “vulnerable” places.

Rauch cited the decline in new cases in recent weeks as justification for making the change.

New daily infection figures have substantially declined in Austria since mid-March, when the 7-day incidence was over 48,000.  Currently, the 7-day incidence stands at 2,878.

Meanwhile, officials in Beijing increased their quarantine efforts in an attempt to end a month-old Covid outbreak, residents in Shanghai voiced frustration over continued curbs in the city of 25 million as it prepares to lift a prolonged lockdown in just over a week.

In the United Kingdom, new photos of Boris Johnson making a toast at a party for his director of communications, Lee Cain, were leaked.  The party took place at a time when Covid rules banned such gatherings with people outside of one’s immediate household.

The Metropolitan Police are investigating Cain’s leaving party.  Johnson received a fixed penalty notice, or fine, for attending a surprise birthday party thrown for him in November 2020.

AUTO AND TECH

EV maker Tesla is reportedly locking up its workers in old factories and a military camp as it tries to cultivate a Covid-free second shift of workers for its Gigafactory plant south of Shanghai.  That plant was shut down for multiple weeks starting in late March amidst the city’s lockdown.

Google contract workers who are part of the Google Maps team in Rothell, Washington, are resisting efforts to return, in June, to the office five days a week.

Some 200 employees of Google contractor Cognizant Technology Solutions signed a petition saying that they cannot afford their commutes with the current high fuel prices and also cited health and child-care concerns.

“Gas is around $5 per gallon currently, and many of us in the office are not able to afford to live close to the office due to our low salaries and the high cost of housing in Bothell,” the petition read.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Tuesday, May 24.

As of Tuesday morning, the world has recorded 528.5 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.7 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, 498.8 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.7 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Tuesday is 23,320,951, a decrease of 124,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 23,282,977, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 37,974, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is unchanged over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 133,346 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday for the previous day, compared to 21,982 on Monday, 37,307 on Sunday, 139,427 on Saturday, and 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 108,034.  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 107,316, a 46% 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 312, a decrease of 15% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 24,747, a 28% increase.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Tuesday, recorded 85.1 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 524,490.

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, 665,727, and has seen over 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 26.2 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 Tuesday, 258.2 million people in the United States – or 77.8% – 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 584.5 million. Breaking this down further, 89.2% of the population over the age of 18 – or 230.3million 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 Tuesday, 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 5.85 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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