Coronavirus Morning News Brief – May 19: The World Remains as Vulnerable as Ever to New Pandemics Says Report, Cases in U.S. Skyrocket

Cases in North Korea May Have Reached 2 Million in Just Weeks

By Jonathan Spira on 19 May 2022
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Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, in Kyoto

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 770th day of the pandemic.

For the first time since early February, the number of new cases came close to the 200,000 mark in the United States and the 7-day incidence was over 100,000.

As cases continue to dramatically rise, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said Wednesday that local officials and individuals should at a minimum consider returning to donning masks in indoor public settings and she recommended that people test more frequently for Covid, given the high prevalence of asymptomatic infections.

The pandemic, of course, now has to compete for attention with the war in Ukraine, inflation, the economy, and mid-term elections, after having had the news cycle virtually to itself for 24 plus months.

Last summer, President Joe Biden prematurely declared “independence” from the coronavirus ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, Independence Day, only to see two devastating waves – delta and omicron – take hold.

The country and much of the world are, however, better prepared for the next wave, and there will be another wave.  A decent percentage of the populace is vaccinated, half of those in the United States who are vaccinated are boosted, and there are new antiviral treatments that ward off severe disease.

In other news we cover today, the world remains as vulnerable as ever to new pandemics, a report says; Japan will reopen its borders to a test group of 50 tourists; and cases in North Korea may have already reached two million.

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

UNITED STATES

Seventy New York City judges attended an annual three-day retreat in Montauk, Long Island, and at least 20 have now tested positive for Covid.  A court spokesman said that none of the judges were seriously ill, adding that those who were symptomatic had not reported to work.

All of the judges were fully vaccinated, as required by the city.

Meanwhile, the New York Times put its return-to-office plans on hold as Covid cases in the Big Apple continue to skyrocket.   The Gray Lady had originally planned to have workers return to the office a few days a week starting in June.

“Based on the city’s guidance and the advice of our health experts, we are pausing the start of our Expected Phase of return to office until conditions improve,” wrote Jacqueline Welch, the Times’ chief human resources officer, in a memorandum to employees, a copy of which was viewed by the Morning News Brief.

GLOBAL

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response said that countries and governments across the globe are no better prepared today to address a new global disease threat than they were just immediately prior tothe coronavirus outbreak, which began in late 2019,

“One year on, and political focus to prepare for more waves is flagging,” the report, authored by Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand; and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former president of Liberia. “Work has begun to prevent the next pandemic, but at the current pace, the transformative change required will take years to complete.”

The situation in North Korea continues to appear grim.  The number of suspected coronavirus cases (the country has extremely limited testing capabilities) is said to be approaching two million, although the actual figures could be far worse.

North Korea sent three cargo planes to China on Monday, according to a South Korean government official with knowledge of the matter, CNN reported.  It’s unknown what the aircraft were transporting but China last week pledged to help the hermit nation with its response to the outbreak.

In Shanghai, the number of new daily infections declined to their lowest since March 20.  New cases fell 15.8% in the previous 24 hours to 719 and symptomatic cases were down 14.6% to 82.  One death was reported.

Officials in the Paris of the East are preparing  to reopen  273 bus routes and four of the city’s 19 subway lines on Sunday.  Covid test data will be integrated with transit passes to ease any potential bottlenecks.

TRAVEL

Japan said it would reopen its borders to tourists.  Sort of.  The Land of the Rising Sun will allow the grand total of 50 visitors from a pool of travelers from four countries, namely Australia, Singapore, Thailand, and the United States, to visit.

The lucky 50 will be under constant surveillance by minders, however, monitoring their actions and emphasizing basic Covid-19 prevention measures, the Japan Tourism Agency’s International Tourism Department said Wednesday.

On Thursday, China announced that it had removed some Covid-19 test requirements for people flying in from countries such as the United States while also shortening the pre-departure quarantine for some inbound travelers.

Meanwhile, officials in Greece said Wednesday that the country would end the mandatory wearing of face masks in airplanes and indoor public venues starting June 1, just ahead of the peak tourism season there.

Finally, Israel will eliminate pre-arrival testing for all visitors this weekend, the Israel Ministry of Tourism said Wednesday. The change goes into effect on May 21, and will eliminate the requirement to take a PCR test upon arrival.  Masks will continue to be mandated, however, on international flights.

ENTERTAINMENT

The off-Broadway show “Suffs,” which shines a light on the forgotten women who fought for women’s suffrage in the United States, continues to suffer from coronavirus-related cancellations.

The latest cancellations started May 14 and performances have been cancelled through May 22.  The show is expected to then run through May 29, the previously announced third extension.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Thursday, May 19.

As of Thursday morning, the world has recorded 525.2 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.9 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, 495 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.8 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Thursday is 23,912,413

, an increase of 145,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 23,874,078, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 38,335, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is unchanged over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 171,191 new coronavirus infections on Thursday for the previous day, compared to 134,102  on Wednesday, 147,834 on Tuesday, 14,107 on Monday and 25,065 on Sunday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate continues to climb and is now 104,186.  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 103,231, a 61% 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 304, a decrease of 17% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 23,229, a 29% increase.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Thursday, recorded 84.7 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 524,303.

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, 665,376, and has seen 30.7 million cases.

France continues to occupy the number four position in total cases with 29.3 million cases, and Germany is in the number five slot with 25.9 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 Thursday, 258 million people in the United States – or 77.7% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 66.5%, or 220.7 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 582.7 million. Breaking this down further, 89.1% of the population over the age of 18 – or 230.1 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 76.4% of the same group – or 197.4 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 50% of that population, or 98.6 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Over 65.7% 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, 11.74 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 7.24 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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