Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Dec. 28: CDC Cuts Quarantine Time in Half, Vaccine Mandate for U.S. Air Travel?

Massive Outbreak of Avian Flu Could Lead to Next Pandemic, Scientists Say

By Jonathan Spira on 28 December 2021
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A flight attendant with face mask and eye shield

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Monday it cut in half the isolation period for people who test positive for the coronavirus but remain asymptomatic, with the proviso that they continue to wear face masks for at least an additional five days.

The CDC also loosened guidance for quarantining after a Covid-19 exposure for unvaccinated Americans or those vaccinated Americans who have not yet received a third or booster shot.  The agency now recommends a five-day quarantine period that is followed by five days of strict adherence to mask-wearing.  It also said that if quarantine “is not feasible,” it can be skipped as long as the individual in question religiously wears a mask in the ten days following exposure.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, came out in favor of vaccine mandates for air travel.  Speaking on an MSNBC news program, Fauci noted that the federal government currently mandates that non-citizens flying to the United States by air be fully vaccinated.

“You’ve got to ask yourself why it is you’re making that requirement,” he said, adding that requiring vaccinations to fly was “reasonable to consider.”

Fauci later partially walked back his comments saying, “I don’t think people should expect” a vaccine mandate for domestic flights based on the current situation.

The surge in cases has resulted in a downturn in subway riders in New York City and the New York City Transit Authority said that, as a result, the trains will run less frequently from Monday to Thursday for the time being.  The agency, saying it had been “affected by the Covid surge,” did not elaborate further on the changes.

The Big Apple opened up two new pop-up Covid testing sites and unveiled three mobile testing units on Monday.  Subway riders will be offered walk-in PCR tests at the Times Square subway station from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at Grand Central Terminal from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.  The pop-up stations will not be open on New Year’s Day.

In France, the government said it would limit the size of large gatherings indoors and out to 2,000 and 5,000 respectively.  The new rules will be in place for at least the next three weeks.  The government is making telecommuting mandatory for at least three days per week for such professions where remote work is feasible. This rule goes into effect at the start of January and will also remain in effect for at least three weeks.

“A new wave is unfolding across our continent,” said French Premierminister Jean Castex, in announcing the changes.

France reported over 100,000 new cases on Friday, a pandemic high.

“Our healthcare workers are exhausted,” Castex said in justifying the tighter restrictions.

Meanwhile, despite statements by organizers that the Consumer Electronics Show, one of the largest conventions in the tech industry, would take place as planned in January, more major companies announced they were pulling out.

Right before Christmas, Lenovo announced it would “suspend all on-site activity in Las Vegas,” and Amazon, AT&T, General Motors, Google, Meta, T-Mobile are among the companies that have already sent regrets.

Finally, scientists are warning that a massive avian flu outbreak in the Galilee could be a pandemic of its own.  Over 500,000 birds migrate through the region as they head for warmer winters before returning north for the spring.  The virus can be deadly if it infects people, the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration at Latrun said.

Now here are the daily statistics for Tuesday, December 28.

As of Tuesday morning, the world has recorded 282 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 1.6  million new cases, and 5.43 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 251.5 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 1 million.

The current number of infections as of Tuesday is 25,155,196.  Out of that figure, 99.6%, or 25,067,144, are considered mild, and 0.4%, or 88,182, are listed as critical.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 243,099, a 105% increase.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 1,205, an increase of 5% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Tuesday, recorded 53.8 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 839,605. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, almost 34.8 million, and a reported death toll of 480,290.  Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 618,575, and has over 22.2 million cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Tuesday, 242.4 million people in the United States – or 73% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 61.8%, or 205.2 million people, are now fully vaccinated, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 503.5 million. Breaking this down further, 85.2% of the population over the age of 18 – or 219.9 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 72.7% of the same group – or 187.7 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 35.2% of that population, or 66 million people, has already received a booster shot.

The CDC also reported that the omicron variant is now the dominant strain in many parts of the United States, comprising at least 73% of recent Covid cases as of Tuesday.  In many parts of the country, the new variant makes up 90% of all cases, it said.

Over 57.4% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, an increase that is largely unchanged from the prior day, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 9.02 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 8.3% 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 65% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine. In countries such as Ethiopia, Haiti, Syria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, for example, vaccination rates remain in the single digits, if not lower.

Figures from the World Health Organization show that well-off countries are vaccinating people at the rate of one person per second, while the majority of poor countries have yet to give a single dose to its citizens.

It is critical that the world do a better job of sharing vaccines with poorer nations.

Sharing vaccines is not merely a form of charity.  Rather, the equitable distribution of vaccines is in every country’s health and economic interest and no country will be able to move past the pandemic until other countries have recovered as well.

Anna Breuer contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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