Coronavirus Morning News Brief – March 28: Lax Covid Precautions at the Oscars, White House Emphasizes Indoor Air Quality

By Jonathan Spira on 28 March 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 748th day of the pandemic.

Sunday’s Oscars looked far more normal than last year, when the event was held at Union Station, There was no red carpet, few if any parties, and the audience was limited to 170.

It was a time when vaccines were still rolling out and mask mandates were in place in most of the country.

Last night, of course, organizers of the Academy Awards and its attendees had no exemption from the pandemic, just as the British Academy Film Awards had none.  That event served as a superspreader and led to dozens of infections, including among some of this year’s Oscar nominees, including “Belfast” director Kenneth Branagh and that film’s Ciarán Hinds, a nominee for best supporting actor.

BAFTA attendees were only required to present a single negative test result and masks were largely optional.  Oscar attendees, meanwhile, had to submit two negative PCR tests as well as proof of vaccination.  Surprisingly presenters and performers – those who have the most close contact with others – were not required to be vaccinated and only needed to present a single recent negative test result.

Despite some of the precautions taken, it was still wishful thinking on the part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to allow anyone in who was not vaccinated and sends a mixed message to the rest of the world.

In other news we cover today, cases are rising in Canada, South Korea’s omicron surge is believed to have peaked, and Shanghai is putting 26 million people in staggered lockdowns

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

UNITED STATES

The White House principal press secretary who joined President Joseph Biden on his trip to Europe after Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, tested positive for Covid, tested positive as well for the coronavirus after returning from the Continent.

Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement that she had met with the president in a socially-distanced meeting on Saturday but added that he was not considered a close contact per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, amidst reductions in Covid precautions, the Biden administration has begun to emphasize the importance of mitigating the risk of indoor aerosol transmission of the virus.  Such transmission is the primary driver of coronavirus infections and of the pandemic.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently issued guidance to business owners and building managers that “basic principles and general actions [are] recommended to improving indoor air quality” to reduce the risk of airborne spread of viruses such as Covid.  A key component is having systems that increase the volume of clean, outdoor air, especially at times of elevated risk for Covid-19.

GLOBAL

Cases in Canada are on the rise again, based on recent wastewater testing in Ontario, health officials reported.  The news comes weeks after the province ended pandemic restrictions and scaled back testing.  In Ontario, officials there are reporting an increase fueled by the highly transmissible BA.2 subvariant of omicron.

Officials in Shanghai introduced a staggered, by district, lockdown in a move to test the entire population of the city, which numbers 26 million.

The restrictions and testing will start on Monday in areas east of the Huangpu River, and continue through April 1. Restrictions and testing in districts west of the river will begin on April 1 and continue through April 5.

All citizens except for those providing essential services will not be permitted to leave their own neighborhoods. Non-essential businesses and public transit will be closed.

The shutdown will affect multiple companies that operate factories in Shanghai, including Tesla, which makes electric automobiles there.

Meanwhile, in Israel, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tested positive for the coronavirus, his spokeswoman announced.  The prime minister will work from home during a period of isolation, his office said, and will not attend the landmark summit in the Negev Desert where top envoys from Israel, the United States, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and Bahrain are meeting to discuss security concerns relating to Iran and the consequences of the war in Ukraine.

Finally, the omicron-fueled surge in South Korea appears to be coming to an end.  Authorities there said they believe that the peak has passed as the number of new infections fell to half of what it was a week ago.

The country reported 187,213 new infections Monday, some 100,000 fewer than the prior day.  The death toll on Monday was 287, down significantly from the pandemic high last Thursday of 470.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Monday, March 28.

As of Monday morning, the world has recorded 482.4 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.9 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and over 6.1 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 416.9 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 1.1 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Monday is 59,295,033, a decrease of 211,000 from the prior day. Out of that figure, 99.9%, or 59,236,438 are considered mild, and 0.1%, or 58,595 are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is largely unchanged over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 7,498 new coronavirus infections on Monday for the previous day, compared to 12,023 on Sunday, 33,477 on Saturday, and 37,477 on Friday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.   Weekend figures (reported on Sundays and Mondays) 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 30,120, a 12% 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 793, a decrease of 39% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Monday, recorded over 81.6 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, just over 43 million, and a reported death toll of 521,066. Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 658,926, and has seen over 29.8 million cases.  France continues to occupy the number four position, 25 million cases, and the United Kingdom is in the number five slot with 20.7 million.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Monday, over 255.3 million people in the United States – or 76.9% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 65.5%, or 217.4 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 559.9 million. Breaking this down further, 88.3% of the population over the age of 18 – or 228 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 75.4% of the same group – or 194.7 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 48.2% of that population, or 93.8 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Over 64.3% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Monday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 11.19 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 14.5% 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. In countries such as Ethiopia, Haiti, Syria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, for example, vaccination rates remain in the single digits, if not lower.

Anna Breuer contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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