Coronavirus News Update – April 15: Empty Middle Seats Reduce Virus Risk on Planes, Says Study

In Japan, Summer Olympic Games Once Again in Doubt

By Jesse Sokolow on 15 April 2021
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday that new research shows that keeping middle seats vacant during flights could greatly decrease passengers’ exposure to airborne coronavirus particles. The findings, which were published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly, indicate that, regardless of masks, avoiding seating passengers in middle seats could reduce possible exposure by between 23% and 57%.  The researchers said that their laboratory model found that “a vacant middle seat reduces risk for exposure to SARS-CoV-2 from nearby passengers.“

As of Thursday morning, the world has recorded over 139 million Covid-19 cases and has seen over 2.98 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information.  In addition, over 114.6 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus.

Since the start of vaccinations at the end of last year, the world has administered more than 841 million doses, the equivalent of 11 doses for every 100 people as of Thursday morning.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that as of Thursday, over 123.9 million people in the United States have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.  Approximately 47.6% of the population over the age of 18 – some 122.9 million people – has received at least a first inoculation, including over 76.4 million people, or 29.6% of the same population, more than a quarter of all adults in the country, who have received both doses. Overall, 23.1% of the population has been fully vaccinated against the virus, a 1.8 percentage point increase over Wednesday.

The state of New Mexico is leading the way in coronavirus vaccinations in the United States. The so-called Land of Enchantment is the first state in the country to have provided at least one dose to over half of its adults population, and 38% of all adults in the state have been fully vaccinated, the highest percentage in the country.

Despite these promising numbers, there are still those in the world who deny the very existence of the pandemic. Hans Gaarder, a 60-year-old Norwegian man who frequently posted controversial conspiracy theory remarks online, died on April 6 as a result of the virus. His death came just days after he hosted two illegal gathering outside of Oslo after which 12 attendees tested positive. Gaarder’s posts on social media even as recently as late March expressed skepticism about how the virus was transmitted, saying that coronavirus measures were to  “camouflage that coronavirus is not transmitted from person to person.”

A Michigan GOP leader is angry after he attended a maskless Republican meeting. Jason Watts, the treasurer of the 6th district Republican Committee in Michigan, told the Chicago Tribune that, on March 25, he was “forced” to attend a local event for his district in Portage, Michigan, and that of the approximately 70 people present in a restaurant where it was being held remained maskless. Watts, along multiple other attendees of the March 25 event, later tested positive for Covid, and Watts has been in a hospital for the past six days.

Across the pond, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he would not attend the funeral of Prince Philip on April 17 out of respect for coronavirus restrictions and social distancing guidelines. As per Covid protocol, only 30 people will be allowed in attendance at the funeral, and Johnson has said that he will refrain from going in order to give as many family members of the prince the opportunity to attend.

A Viennese winemaker’s tongue-in-cheek attempt at humor resulted in the confiscation of a large quantity of its wine.  An entire supply that the Viennese organic winery Lenikus dubbed “Schluckimpfung” or oral vaccination wine was confiscated this week. While clearly a PR move meant as tongue-in-cheek, the Bundeskellereiinspektion or federal wine inspection ministry said that the use of the term was a “health-related claim.”  The winery was, however, allowed to keep its supply of what it called Wiener Jaukerl, which means “Viennese injection.”

In Japan, the Summer Olympics are once again in doubt. In a TV interview that has not yet been aired, Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic party, reportedly voiced his skepticism. “If it seems impossible to do it any more, then we have to stop, decisively,” Nikai said. International spectators have already been banned from the Games if they are to take place, and health officials in the country said that Japan recently had entered a fourth wave of the pandemic.

Anna Breuer contributed reporting to this story

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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