Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Aug. 16: What Apple’s Return-to-Office Policy Might Signify, Jill Biden Tests Positive

Germany Next Nation to Consider Bivalent Covid Vaccine

By Jonathan Spira on 16 August 2022
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The Feldherrnhalle on the Odeonsplatz, commissioned in 1841 by King Ludwig I of Bavaria to honor the Bavarian Army.

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 859th day of the pandemic.

In a move bound to be met by groans, Apple told employees they will be required to return to the office to work three times per week in September.

Employees will work in the office on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and a third day that will vary by team.

However, since the start of the pandemic, Apple had announced such plans that have never fully gone into effect.

Apple last announced a return-to-office policy in the spring that was set to go into effect on May 23, 2022.  It then delayed the move five days before it was to go into effect, citing an increase in Covid cases.

In December 2021, Apple informed corporate staff that it would delay a planned return to U.S. offices in February until an undetermined date.  It also gave employees $1,000 to better equip their home offices.

The Cupertino-based company first told corporate employees to work from home in March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic.

Astute readers may notice a pattern here, namely that each time Apple called for a return to the office, coronavirus cases increased and Apple retreated.  If so, does this portend a pandemic upsurge come September, which would be earlier than what most epidemiologists are anticipating.   Many expect the uptick to start in October when the weather gets colder and Germany has already put an indoor mask mandate in place that kicks in at that time.

In other news we cover today, Jill Biden, the wife of President Joseph Biden, tested positive for Covid and New Jersey is ending some testing requirements for non-vaccinated state employees.

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

UNITED STATES

First Lady Jill Biden, who is 71 years old, tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday.  A spokesman said she had tested negative on a rapid antigen test but took a PCR test after developing cold-like symptoms in the evening. That test came back positive.  Biden is fully vaccinated and has received two booster doses of vaccine.  She was prescribed a course of the antiviral Paxlovid and is reportedly experiencing “mild symptoms.”

Officials in New Jersey ended a requirement for teachers, school employees, workers at child-care facilities, state government employees, and state contractors who aren’t vaccinated against the coronavirus to undergo regular testing for the virus.  The move was announced Monday by Governor Phil Murphy.

GLOBAL

In Germany, Gesundheitsminister Karl Lauterbach said that the European Union is considering the authorization of a bivalent coronavirus vaccine that would be effective both against the original virus as well as the highly-contagious omicron variant.   Lauterbach, who is an epidemiologist by training, said that the European Medicines Agency would meet on September 1 to consider such a vaccine.  The United Kingdom gave this type of vaccine the green light last week and the United States is also planning to distribute a bivalent vaccine this fall.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Tuesday, August 16.

As of Tuesday morning, the world has recorded 596.3 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.9 million cases, and almost 6.46 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 570.4 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 1.5 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Tuesday is 19,444,988, a decrease of 674,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 19,400,644, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 44,344, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is unchanged over the pat 24 hours.

The United States reported 129,460 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday for the previous day, compared to 10,704 on Monday, 6,854 on Sunday, 121,768 on Saturday, 137,589 on Friday, and 175,162 on Thursday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate continues to be over 100,000 and is now 101,455.  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 99,832, an 18% 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 489, an increase of 10% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 41,849, a 5% decrease.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Tuesday, recorded 94.8 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of over 1.06 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, close to 44.3 million, and a reported death toll of 527,098.

New data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed at the end of May that the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 812,890, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, after the United States.  Rosstat reported that 11,583 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in April, down from 35,584 in March and from 43,543 in February.

Meanwhile, France is the country with the third highest number of cases, 34.23 million, although Brazil has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 681,705, and has recorded 34.18 million cases, placing it in the number four slot.

Germany is in the number five slot with 31.6 million cases.

The other three countries with total case figures over the 20,000 mark are the United Kingdom, with over 23.4 million cases, in sixth position, Italy, with 21.5 million, in the number seven slot, and South Korea, with 21.4 million cases, as number eight.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Tuesday, over 261.9 million people in the United States – or 78.9% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 67.3%, or 223.5 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 606.2 million. Breaking this down further, 90% of the population over the age of 18 – or 232.2 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 77.2% of the same group – or 199.3 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 51.4% of that population, or 102.5 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Starting on June 13, 2022, the CDC began to update vaccine data on a weekly basis and publish the updated information on Tuesdays by 8 p.m. EDT, a statement on the agency’s website said.

Some 67.4% 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, 12.46 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 5.89 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 20.7% 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 reporting to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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