Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Sept. 23: Los Angeles Ends Mask Mandate, Pandemic Unemployment Fraud May Have Topped $45 Billion

By Jonathan Spira on 23 September 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 897th day of the pandemic.

In news we cover today, Los Angeles officials ended a mask mandate on public transit and at airports, pandemic unemployment fraud may have topped $45 billion, and manufacturing issues are causing a shortage of Moderna’s new bivalent booster.

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

UNITED STATES

Los Angeles County officials announced an end to the mask mandate on public transit and in airports that goes into effect on Friday.  Health officials cited a declining number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.  The county has been the only county in California to have a widespread mask order in place since the spring.

The Department of Labor Inspector General said that $45.6 billion in pandemic unemployment benefits may have been fraudulently obtained by criminals in the period March 2020 through April 2022.   This is a large increase over previous figures cited: In June 2021 the Inspector General’s office reported that $16 billion had been fraudulently paid to criminals.   The report showed increases in payments linked to Social Security numbers of people who filed in multiple states, who were deceased, who used suspicious e-mail addresses in their claims, and payments associated with the social security numbers of prisoners in federal penitentiaries.

Quality-control issues in the manufacture of the new Moderna bivalent vaccine booster has led to a shortage that has led some pharmacies to limit their booster offerings to the Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent jab.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 4.4 million people have thus far received a dose of one of the new bivalent coronavirus booster shots from either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.  The bivalent jab targets both the original virus as well as the BA.5 sublineage of the omicron variant.

GLOBAL

The U.N. General Assembly returned to New York with a fully in-person format after a completely virtual one in 2020 and a hybrid format in 2021.  This year, however, the war in Ukraine overshadowed discussion of the pandemic and New Yorkers were chagrined to see that the traditional gridlock of midtown streets was back to pre-pandemic levels.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Friday, September 23.

As of Friday morning, the world has recorded 619.4 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.6 million cases, and over 6.5 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 599.2 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.5 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Friday is 13,608,531, an increase of 49,000. Out of that figure, 99.7%, or 13,568,339, are considered mild, and 0.3%, or 40,192, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 92,729 new coronavirus infections on Friday for the previous day, compared to 107,066 on Thursday, 51,523 on Wednesday, 67,366 on Tuesday, and 5,259 on Monday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate is now 55,632.  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 55,591, 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 412, an increase of 8% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 30,451, a 14% decrease.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Friday, recorded 97.8 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.08 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 44.6 million, and a reported death toll of 528,449.

The newest data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed that, at the end of July, the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 823,623, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, behind the United States.  Rosstat reported that 3,284 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in July, down from 5,023 in June, 7,008 in May and 11,583 in April.

Meanwhile, France is the country with the third highest number of cases, with 35.1 million, although Brazil has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 685,725, and has recorded just under 34.7 million cases, placing it in the number four slot.

Germany is in the number five slot with over 32.9 million cases.

The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are South Korea, with 24.6 million cases, the United Kingdom, with 23.6 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 22.2 million, as number eight, as well as Japan, with 20.9 million, and Russia, with 20.7 million.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, over 263.8 million people in the United States – or 79.5% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 67.8%, or 224.9 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 616.2 million. Breaking this down further, 90.4% of the population over the age of 18 – or 233.4 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 77.5% of the same group – or 200.1 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 51.8% of that population, or 103.7 million people, has already received a first 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 Thursdays by 8 p.m. EDT, a statement on the agency’s website said.

Some 67.9% 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, 12.7 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 4.18 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 22.3% 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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