Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Oct. 1: New Variant BA.2.75.2 a ‘Major Concern,’ Taiwan Loosens Visitor Restrictions

California Will Extend Pandemic Sick Leave for Workers Through End of Year

By Jonathan Spira on 1 October 2022
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Niagara Falls

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 905th day of the pandemic.

It’s October.  We can tell this not merely by turning the calendar page but because hurricanes have already pummeled a good swath of the United States including Puerto Rico, Florida, and South Carolina, not to mention that it left the entire island of Cuba in the dark.

Those of us in public health care are busy trying to assess how severe a fall-and-winter coronavirus wave may be, and the honest answer is that we really don’t yet know.

The wildcard here is the growth of several new subvariants that are now emerging.

Most prominent is the new variant BA.2.75.2 or another super-spreading subvariant. A new, highly transmissible variant that could evade vaccines and natural immunity, which scientists believe is the case with BA.2.75.2, when combined with the tendency for people to spend far more time indoors as the weather gets cold, could be a major challenge.

In other news we cover today, 370 government employees in Hong Kong are suspected of using forged Covid vaccine exemptions, a survey indicates that only one-third of adults in the U.S. will get the new bivalent booster in the coming weeks, and Taiwan is loosening coronavirus restrictions for visitors, but the travel industry the current changes are not sufficient.

UNITED STATES

A survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy non-profit organization, found that two-thirds of adults in the country do not plan to get the new bivalent coronavirus booster shots soon.

Almost 18% of adults surveyed said that they would wait and see whether to get the new booster shot, while 10% said they would only get it if it was required. In addition, 12% of respondents said they would definitely not get the shot, while 27% said they were not eligible because they were not fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, in California, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law legislation that extends paid supplement coronavirus sick leave through the end of 2022.  The bill requires companies in the state with 26 or more employees to continue provide up to 80 hours of additional paid sick leave to workers who are unable to work because of a Covid infection. It also covers sick leave for employees who must take time off to care for family members who contract the virus.

GLOBAL

Starting in mid-October, Taiwan will implement a seven-day testing regimen for arriving travelers that carries with it strict isolation guidelines for people who test positive for Covid.  Travelers will be allowed outside during the seven-day period if their Covid tests come back negative every two days.  The travel industry in Taiwan, however, is saying that such testing remains a “deterrent to travel” as the country tries to regain its footing with visitors.

Hong Kong’s Civil Service Bureau said 370 government employees are suspected of having used fake coronavirus exemption certificates from doctors who have already been arrested for issuing such documents.  The bureau warned that those involved in misconduct will be held accountable. “The government attaches great importance to the conduct of [its] employees,” it said.   It warned that “black sheep” could destroy the public’s respect and trust for the sector.

ENTERTAINMENT

The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival was held in person for the first time in three years on Friday in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. In addition to tightened security following mass shootings at such events in various parts of the country, another noticeable change is a coronavirus vaccination and testing tent next to the Bandwagon Stage.

TRAVEL

The removal of coronavirus entry restrictions to Canada will simplify visits to Niagara Falls on the Canadian side.   The Tunnel at the Niagara Parks Power Station has added a new viewing point. Visitors travel 180’ (55 m) below ground in a glass-walled elevator to the Tailrace Tunnel only to emerge beside the base of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls and a new viewing platform at the river’s edge.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Saturday, October 1.

As of Saturday morning, the world has recorded 623.1 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.5 million cases, and over 6.5 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 602.8 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 13,697,002, an increase of 49,000. Out of that figure, 99.7%, or 13,657,336, are considered mild, and 0.3%, or 39,666, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 40,184 new coronavirus infections on Saturday for the previous day, compared to 84,801  on Friday, 100,524 on Thursday, and 41,906 on Wednesday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate is now 48,617.  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 47,020, a 24% 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 406, a decrease of 12% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 28,424, an 12% decrease.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Saturday, recorded over 98.2 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 528,655.

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 35.4 million, although Brazil has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 686,097, and has recorded 34.7 million cases, placing it in the number four slot.

Germany is in the number five slot with just under 33.4 million cases.

The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are South Korea, with over 24.8 million cases, the United Kingdom, with 23.7 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 22.5 million, as number eight, as well as Japan, with 21.3 million, and Russia, with 21 million.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, over 264.1 million people in the United States – or 79.5% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 67.9%, or 225.3 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 619.8 million. Breaking this down further, 90.5% of the population over the age of 18 – or 233.6 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 77.6% of the same group – or 200.8 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 51.9% of that population, or 104 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 68% 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, 12.74 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 3.78 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 22.7% 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, with the start of vaccinations in North Korea, Eritrea remains the only country in the world that has not administered vaccines.

Paul Riegler contributed reporting to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

 

 

Accura News

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