Coronavirus Morning News Brief – June 4: Dogs Beat PCR Tests in Detecting Covid, Mask Mandates Return in a Big Way

Italy Ends Remaining Covid Restrictions for Tourists, Florida Threatens Special Olympics Over Vaccine Mandate

By Jonathan Spira on 4 June 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 786th day of the pandemic.

Covid testing is going to the dogs.  Quite literally.

A study published over the past week in the journal Plos One showed that dogs can be trained to detect the novel coronavirus.  The dogs in a new research study correctly identified 97% of positive cases after sniffing human sweat samples.

The finding indicates that the dog testers are more accurate than some rapid antigen tests and far more accurate in identifying asymptomatic positive cases than PCR tests.   When it came to detecting asymptomatic tests, the canines proved had a sensitivity of almost 100%.

The human samples were collected at community centers in Paris from a mix of health individuals as well as symptomatic and asymptomatic cases.

This is not the first study to trumpet the Beethovens, Kaisers, Franzes, and other good boys of the world. A 2021 study by researchers in Florida found that dogs could predict positive Covid tests with 73% to 93% accuracy following a single month of training.  A U.K. study found that dogs reported 82% to 94% of positive cases in humans.

In other news we cover today, mask mandates are returning in a big way, Florida officials threatened to fine the Special Olympics over a vaccine mandate, and Italy ended all remaining Covid restrictions for tourists.

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

UNITED STATES

With rising case numbers, California officials are reinstating mask mandates.

Officials in Alameda County in California’s Bay Area reinstated the indoor mask mandate.  Citing rising Covid cases and hospitalizations, the requirement went back into effect on Friday after announcing that daily reported cases have exceeded the peak of last summer’s delta wave and are “now approaching levels seen during the winter 2020-21 wave, at comparable lab-reported testing levels.”

“Rising Covid cases in Alameda County are now leading to more people being hospitalized, and today’s action reflects the seriousness of the moment,” the county health officer, Dr. Nicholas Moss, said in a statement.

While the greatest concerns are in Northern California, Los Angeles County officials said that face mask mandates are possible by the end of June if conditions there continue to deteriorate.

Meanwhile, Florida state health officials threatened to fine the Special Olympics $27.5 million over its vaccine mandate.    The letter stated that the requirement violated Florida law, which prohibits businesses and charitable organizations from requiring proof of vaccination.  The state’s governor, speaking at a news conference, said that the mandate had “no connection” to the competition and unfairly targeted a marginalized group.

GLOBAL

Officials in Maharashtra announced the return of a face mask mandate after cases in the second-most populous state in India surged.

“People should be advised to wear masks in closed public spaces like trains, buses, cinemas, auditoriums, offices, hospitals, colleges and schools,” the state’s additional chief secretary for health, Pradeep Vyas, said in a letter to collectors, municipal corporations, and CEOs of companies in the region.

Maharashtra, which is also the second-most populous country subdivision globally, has a population of over 112 million.

Italy ended its remaining coronavirus restrictions for visitors earlier on the week.  Last month it ended its vaccine passport requirement needed to enter restaurants, cafés, fitness centers, and museums.  The government now no longer requires a Certificazione verde to enter the country.

“As of June 1, 2022, a Green Pass or equivalent certificate is no longer needed to enter Italy,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

In China, as Shanghai slowly reawakens from its two-month lockdown, Starbucks locations throughout the Chinese financial capital are reopening as well.

The coffeehouse chain said that 600 of its 940 locations were now open again.

Finally, one of the two Russian men accused of assassinating the former spy and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, in London, Dmitry Kovtun, died of Covid in a Moscow hospital on Saturday.

Litvinenko died after drinking tea that had been laced with the radioactive isotope polonium 210 at a London hotel, where he had met Kovtun and, Andrei Lugovoi, the second suspect in the case.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Saturday, June 4.

As of Saturday morning, the world has recorded 534.8 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.4 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and 6.33 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 505.6 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.4 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Saturday is 22,887,618, an increase of 103,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 22,850,971, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 36,647, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is unchanged over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 146,062 new coronavirus infections on Saturday for the previous day, compared to 111,323  on Friday, 219,367 on Thursday, and 182,386 on Wednesday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate continues to remain over 100,000 and is now 101,486.  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.  Monday was a bank holiday in the United States.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 101,941, a 6% decrease, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 264, a decrease of 12% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 24,022, a 1% decrease.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Wednesday, recorded 86.5 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 43.2 million, and a reported death toll of 524,651.

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, 667,019, and has 31.1 million cases.

France continues to occupy the number four position in total cases with 29.6 million cases, and Germany is in the number five slot with 26.5 million.  The United Kingdom, with 22.3 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, 258.7 million people in the United States – or 77.9% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 66.7%, or 221.4 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 588.5 million. Breaking this down further, 89.3% of the population over the age of 18 – or 230.7million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 76.6% of the same group – or 197.9 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 50.3% of that population, or 99.5 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Over 65.9% 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, 11.86 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 5.98 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 16.2% 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.

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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