Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Aug. 19: U.S. Plans for Insurers and Patients to Pay for Covid Shots, Willie Nelson’s Severe Bout

One Broadway Theater to Mandate Face Masks on Fridays

By Jonathan Spira on 19 August 2022
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Until recently, “Mask Up” signs were commonplace in Broadway theaters.

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 862nd day of the pandemic.

One hallmark of the coronavirus pandemic has been that the U.S. government has paid for all coronavirus inoculations and treatments.  Now it plans to shift that burden to the healthcare industry – and patients.

The move could generate new sources of revenue and higher costs for consumers in the years to come.

Little is known about how this will move forward but the Department of Health and Human Services will hold a planning session with representatives from large pharmacies, drugmakers, and state health departments at the end of August.

This move was contemplated both by the Trump and now the Biden administrations. However, the impetus behind the move, the lack of sufficient government funding to continue current programs, is giving the White House a new sense of urgency.

The government has made testing vaccines available at no charge to the 30 million citizens without healthcare insurance since the earliest days of the pandemic.

The challenge now is how to continue to make jabs and treatments, including the new antivirals from Pfizer and Merck, available when the U.S. government is no longer the purchaser.

In other news we cover today, multiple school districts are keeping mask mandates as the school year approaches, one Broadway show is requiring masks on certain days of the week, and singer Willie Nelson had a severe bout of Covid.

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


While most school districts in the country are loosening or totally abandoning mask requirements, at least two school districts, one in Pennsylvania and one in Maryland, have chosen to double down on masking as infection rates from the highly contagious BA.5 omicron variant continue to rise.   The two are the Prince George County school district in Maryland, the state’s second largest, and the city of Philadelphia, the 18th largest school district in the country.


A robot that can perform Covid-19 oral swab tests in 35 seconds became the star attraction at the World Robot Conference 2022 in Beijing.  Out of the 36 featured robots on display, one quarter of them were built for a pandemic-specific purpose such as this.

In a bizarre twist of Covid testing possibly gone mad, medical workers were seen testing live seafood in Chinese coastal cities such as Xiamen.  The testing is apparently part of China’s so-called “zero Covid” policy.

Finally, police investigators in Brazil are calling for the country’s supreme court to charge President Jair Bolsonaro for having spread false information relating to the pandemic in an October 2021 social-media broadcast.


Royal Caribbean announced plans to set sail from Hong Kong after pausing operations there during the pandemic. The cruise line plans a cruise to nowhere from the special administrative region and has asked for government approval to operate the cruise.


While virtually all mask mandates at Broadway theaters ended at the end of June, one show is bringing them back on a weekly basis.  “The Kite Runner,” which is playing at the Helen Hays Theater in the Theater District,  will mandate the use of face masks starting Friday, August 19, and every Friday thereafter during its run.  The move was taken, the show’s producers said, to allow theatergoers who are immunocompromised or who are otherwise uncomfortable in a darkened theater with over 500 people unless everyone is masked.

Eighty-nine-year-old singer Willie Nelson told the New York Times that he had a serious case of the coronavirus in early May.   While his band had cancelled concerts due to Covid within the group, it was not specified at the time who had contracted the virus.  Nelson apparently was sleeping in his tour bus and woke up in the middle of the night unable to breathe.  “There were a couple of times when I wasn’t sure he was going to make it,” his wife Annie told the paper.

Finally, a theater chain is the most recent casualty of the pandemic.  Cineworld Group, the owner of Regal Cinemas, is reportedly to file a chapter 11 petition in the United States and is considering filing an insolvency proceeding in the United Kingdom.  The company said that, while there has been a gradual recovery in attendance since theaters reopened last year, its theaters have struggled to restore numbers from pandemic lows.


Now here are the daily statistics for Friday, August 19.

As of Friday morning, the world has recorded 599.2 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.9 million cases, and over 6.46 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 573.2 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 1 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Friday is 19,549,788, an increase of 20,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 19,505,661, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 44,127, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is unchanged over the pat 24 hours.

The United States reported 126,323 new coronavirus infections on Friday for the previous day, compared to 160,103  on Thursday, 119,903 on Wednesday, 129,460 on Tuesday, and 10,704 on Monday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate is now 96,539.  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 96,275, a 19% 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 475, a decrease of 3% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 41,256, a 6% decrease.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Friday, recorded 95.2 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, 44.3 million, and a reported death toll of 527,253.

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 820,307, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, behind the United States.  Rosstat reported that 4,991 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in June, down from 7,008 in May and from 11,583 in April.

Meanwhile, France is the country with the third highest number of cases, 34.29 million, although Brazil has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 682,276, and has recorded 34.25 million cases, placing it in the number four slot.

Germany is in the number five slot with over 31.7 million cases.

The other three countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are the United Kingdom, with almost 23.5 million cases, in sixth position, South Korea, with 22  million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with over 21.6 million, as number eight.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Friday, over 262.3 million people in the United States – or 79% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 67.4%, or 223.7 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 607.5 million. Breaking this down further, 90% of the population over the age of 18 – or 232.5 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 77.2% of the same group – or 199.4 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 51.5% of that population, or 102.7 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 Fridays by 8 p.m. EDT, a statement on the agency’s website said.

Some 67.5% 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, 12.49 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 5.72 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)

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