Coronavirus Morning News Brief – April 21: Wear Masks Even Without Mandates Says WHO, Hong Kong Eases Restrictions

Majority of Americans Favor Mask Mandates for Public Transit Including Airline Flights

By Jonathan Spira on 21 April 2022
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Live music at Kavárna Obecní dům in Prague before the start of the pandemic

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 772nd day of the pandemic.

As mask mandates fall, officials from the World Health Organization encouraged people to continue to don face masks in public to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

“The use of masks is still recommended,” said Dr. Ciro Ugarte, director of health emergencies at the Pan American Health Organization, the regional arm of the WHO for the Western Hemisphere.

“It’s a measure that still continues to be very relevant and complementary with other measures,” along with social distancing, hand-washing, and having sufficient indoor ventilation, he said. “Our general advice is that the general public should wear a nonmedical mask indoors, or in outdoor settings where physical distancing of at least one meter cannot be maintained.”

While most people in the United States suffer pandemic and mask fatigue, there is still some common-sense support for mask mandates in certain situations.

A poll conducted in the days prior to the unexpected and abrupt end of the federal mask mandate earlier this week found that the majority of Americans support the use of face masks on public transit.

The poll, which was conducted by the Association Press and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, found that 56% of Americans favor mask mandates for public transit, which would include airplanes, trains, as well as buses and subways, and 24% were opposed.  The poll was conducted in all 50 states.

In other news we cover today, the governor of New York said officials there “don’t know” if there will be a repeat of the January surge, Hong Kong significantly eased restrictions, and the lockdown in Shanghai is starting to take a bizarre turn.

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


New York State is continuing to see a surge in new Covid cases as a result of the circulation of the two new omicron subvariants, BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1. As of last week, the two accounted for the vast majority of cases statewide.

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul said Wednesday that she didn’t know whether there would be a massive increase in cases similar to what transpired in January.

“We’re not expecting that to happen here. But on the other hand, we don’t know,” she said to reporters.

The state reported 6,899 new cases on Thursday, after reporting 10,365 – an almost three-month high – two days ago.  Cases started to increase dramatically in early March.


Officials in Hong Kong significantly eased coronavirus restrictions Thursday as the number of new daily cases fell below 700.  The move allowed Hongkongers to dine out in restaurants, which opened for nighttime dining for the first time in three months.  Shopping centers, movie theaters, and amusement parks were reportedly packed.

The lockdown in Shanghai took a new turn as officials began to relocate entire communities in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus. An official notice from the local Communist Party confirms plans to move residents who test negative in Pingwang, an area in the north of the city, to quarantine facilities in Zhajang, which is more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) away, presumably in an attempt to keep them from contracting the virus.

On Monday, Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, the most senior official in charge of the country’s Covid response, announced that the government would  send anyone who tests positive for Covid and along with their close contacts to quarantine sites, “without exception, deduction and delay.”

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic ended its requirement for travelers arriving in the country to submit proof of vaccination or a previous Covid infection.


Now here are the daily statistics for Thursday, April 21.

As of Thursday morning, the world has recorded 507.1 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.9 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and over 6.2 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 459.6 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 1.2 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Thursday is 41,325,680, a decrease of 217,000 from the prior day. Out of that figure, 99.9%, or 41,283,736, are considered mild, and 0.1%, or 41,944, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is largely unchanged over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 62,898 new coronavirus infections on Thursday for the previous day, compared to 50,453 on Wednesday, 60,075 on Tuesday, and 10,662 on Monday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate is 42,826.  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 43,357, a 49% increase, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 386, a decrease of 35% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Thursday, recorded over 82.5 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of over 1 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, just over 43 million, and a reported death toll of 522,062. Meanwhile, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 662,470, and has 30.3 million cases.  France continues to occupy the number four position with over 27.9 million cases, and Germany is in the number five slot with 23.8 million.  The United Kingdom, with 21.9 million cases, is now number six and is the only other country in the world with a total number of cases over the 20 million mark.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Thursday, over 256.9 million people in the United States – or 77.4% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 66%, or 219 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 570.9 million. Breaking this down further, 88.8% of the population over the age of 18 – or 229.3 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 75.9% of the same group – or 195.9 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 49% of that population, or 96 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Over 65 % of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Thursday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 11.49 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 10.66 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 15.2% 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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