Coronavirus Morning News Brief – May 16: Companies Bring Back Mask Mandates as Cases in U.S. Surge, North Korea Mobilizes Military

Students in Beijing Protest Lockdowns

By Jonathan Spira on 16 May 2022
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Visitors enjoying a ride in a Ford Model T at Greenfield Village, an outdoor museum complex in Dearborn and part of the Henry Ford complex.

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 767th day of the pandemic.

The number of new coronavirus cases is proliferating across the United States, with the average number of new daily infections hovering around the 90,000 mark over the past week, a 60% increase from just two weeks ago.

The number of new cases being recorded is believed to be a vast undercount given the extensive use of at-home Covid tests by people.  Not surprising, the hospitalization rate is up 23% over the past two weeks.

In many parts of the Northeast and Midwest, daily new-case figures are exceeding the peak of last summer’s Delta surge.

Over 150 counties in the United States have moved to Level 3, the CDC’s highest community transmission classification, and a similar number have moved from Level 1 to Level 2, which is medium risk for transmission.

Companies are reacting by reinstating mask mandates on site.  In Michigan, major automakers, including Ford and Stellantis, the parent of Chrysler, said they had brought back mask mandates at a number of their plants and facilities in areas classified by the CDC as Level 3.

Elected officials are wary of reinstating indoor mask mandates given the general populace’s mask fatigue, although Philadelphia did exactly that when it hit Level 3 several weeks ago.  The mandate was discontinued fairly quickly after the classification went down to medium.

In other news we cover today, a Covid testing lab in Nevada got 96% of its test results wrong, and North Korea mobilized the military to distribute medicine amidst its current surge in cases.

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

UNITED STATES

State public health officials in Nevada found that PCR tests conducted by Northshore Clinical Labs missed 96% of the positive cases from tests conducted at the University of Nevada’s Reno campus as well as in the Washoe County Health District, the state’s second largest, a report by the Nevada Independent and ProPublica revealed.

The testing laboratory was run by individuals with local political connections and no experience in the field, the two said in a published report.

GLOBAL

Korean leader Kim Jong-un has mobilized the country’s military to respond to the first officially acknowledged coronavirus outbreak in the country.  On Saturday, he called the pandemic “the big[gest] upheaval since the nation’s founding”.

Despite lockdowns in all cities that started Thursday, health officials there reported an additional 393,920 new cases over the weekend, bringing the total there to 1.2 million in this country of almost 26 million.   Over 648,000 are listed are recovered and the official death toll there is 50.

Kim said that state-provided medication wasn’t being distributed properly to those who contracted the virus and criticized government officials for “not properly recognizing the present crisis but only talking about the spirit of devotedly serving the people.”    He ordered the military’s medical arm to work on “immediately stabilizing the supply of medicines in Pyongyang City,” state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.

Medical officials there are telling Covid patients to take either acetaminophen or ibuprofen as well as some traditional Korean medicine.  The country does not have access to any antiviral medications that were developed for the novel coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic has affected China’s economy harder than expected.  China reported large drops in retail sales and factory production, showing the extensive damage the lockdowns have had on the economy.  Retail sales fell 11.1% in April compared to the same period in 2021, the National Bureau of Statistics there said Monday.

In addition, industrial production fell 2.9% last month compared to April 2021, reversing a 5% gain in March.

Finally, students at one of the country’s leading universities, Peking University in Beijing, protested lockdown measures that left them in isolation while professors and their families were free to leave campus.  Videos of the protest, fueled in part by the fact that students had been unable to even order food while in isolation, were viewable on social media for several hours before being taken down by Chinese authorities.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Monday, May 16.

As of Monday morning, the world has recorded 521.4 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.3 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and almost 6.3 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 491.9 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Monday is 23,128,772. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 23,089,581, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 39,191, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is up 1 percentage point over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 14,107 new coronavirus infections on Monday for the previous day, compared to 25,065 on Sunday, 107,010 on Saturday, and 115,357 on Friday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate continues to climb and is now 90,433.  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 90,423, a 60% 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 311, a decrease of 3% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 21,547, a 24% increase.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Monday, recorded 84.2 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, over 43.1 million, and a reported death toll of 524,241.

New data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed at the end of April that the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now over 803,000, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, after the United States.  Rosstat reported that 35,584 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in the month of March, compared to 43,543 in February.

Meanwhile, Brazil now has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 664,967, and has seen close to 30.7 million cases.

France continues to occupy the number four position in total cases with 29.2 million cases, and Germany is in the number five slot with 25.8 million.  The United Kingdom, with 22.2 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.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Monday, 257.8 million people in the United States – or 77.7% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 66.4%, or 220.6 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 581.7 million. Breaking this down further, 89.1% of the population over the age of 18 – or 230 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 76.4% of the same group – or 197.3 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 49.9% of that population, or 98.4 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Over 65.6% 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, 11.7 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 5.52 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 15.9% 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, North Korea and Eritrea are now the only two countries in the world that have not administered vaccines.

Anna Breuer contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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