Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Aug. 24: U.S. to Offer Bivalent Vaccines Within Weeks, Germany Moves Ahead with Mask Mandates

Life Expectancy in U.S. Dropped Precipitously During the First Year of the Pandemic

By Jonathan Spira on 24 August 2022
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Passengers entering an S-Bahn car at Marienplatz

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 867th day of the pandemic.

We’re getting closer to our next jab.

Now that both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have submitted applications to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorization of their new bivalent vaccines (see a related dispatch filed under United States in today’s issue), the next step is that the FDA will evaluate the data from both drugmakers and determine whether to authorize the shots.

Despite this, the Biden administration has said that the jabs could be available in early-to-mid September, making it clear that it is ready to move once the new formulation of the vaccines gets the green light.

In other news we cover today, life expectancy in the United States fell dramatically in the first year of the pandemic and Germany’s cabinet signed off on a return to significant pandemic restrictions in the fall and winter.

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

UNITED STATES

The next generation of coronavirus booster shots will begin to become available shortly after the Labor Day bank holiday.

In an interview on Tuesday, Dr, Peter Marks, the head of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research within the Food and Drug Administration, a position that puts him in charge of vaccine regulation, said that his team was close to authorizing the next generation of Covid vaccine that would target variants of two omicron sublineages that comprise the overwhelming majority of cases in the country.  Marx said that the FDA has “extremely good” data, albeit not from human testing, that the shots are safe and effective, adding he is “extremely confident” about the efficacy.

A new study shows that life expectancy in the country has fallen by approximately two years since the start of the pandemic.  The report, issued by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and published Tuesday, found that life expectancy had declined in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  The report found that the novel coronavirus and “unintentional injuries,” which might include drug overdoses, were the prime drivers.

New York suffered a bigger decline in life expectancy than any other state:  Residents of the Empire State were expected to live for three years less in 2020 than they had been expected to live in 2019.  The District of Columbia and Louisiana lost 2.7 and 2.6 years respectively, placing them as the second- and third-most impacted.

Meanwhile, Moderna submitted its application to the FDA for emergency use authorization of its updated Covid-19 vaccine booster for use in people age 18 and older, the company said in a news release late Tuesday.   The move came one day after Pfizer and its vaccine partner BioNTech submitted their own application, albeit for people age 12 and older.

Finally, the FDA said that it’s safe to use at-home rapid coronavirus tests after the expiration date.  The Washington State Department of Health said in a tweet that it’s perfectly fine to add six months to the expiration date based on the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization covering this issue.

GLOBAL

Germany’s cabinet signed off on new coronavirus-related rules for the fall and winter seasons. Gesundheitsminister, or health minister, Karl Lauterbach, who is a physician, said that the country wants to be prepared for what experts believe will be a significant surge of cases in the coming months.  The individual Bundesländer, or federal states, will be able to opt in to some measures while others will be mandatory across the country.  This includes a requirement for FFP2 face masks for long-distance travel on all plane trips and non-commuter rail service,

Visitors to hospitals and care homes will be required to don FFP2 masks as well while staff and children aged 6 through 14 will be permitted to wear medical masks.

The restrictions will be in place from October 1, 2022, through April 7, 2023.  Restrictions that will be decided upon by each Bundesland include mask requirements for shops, short-distance public transit, and other public indoor spaces, and can include a requirement for proof of vaccination or proof of a recent negative coronavirus test.

Japan, which has had some of the strictest border measures and restrictions since the dawn of the pandemic, said Wednesday that it would end a requirement for fully vaccinated travelers to provide a negative coronavirus test in order to enter the country.  While the move is a step in the march to return to normalcy, the country left in place numerous restrictions that deter visitors including not allowing them in unless they are part of an authorized group tour, with their movements monitored by a licensed tour guide.

ENTERTAINMENT

The play “The Kite Runner,” which began to mandate face masks for its Friday evening performances at the Helen Hays Theater in New York City’s Theater District, will require the use of face masks at a second weekly performance, the Wednesday matinée, beginning September 7.  Masks will be required for all theatergoers at Wednesday matinée and Friday evening performances for the remainder of its run.

The move was taken, the show’s producers told the Morning News Brief, to allow theatergoers who are immunocompromised or who are otherwise uncomfortable in a darkened theater with over 500 people unless everyone is masked.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Wednesday, August 24.

As of Wednesday morning, the world has recorded 602.7 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.8 million cases, and 6.48 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 577.5 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.9 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Wednesday is 18,736,152, a decrease of 144,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 18,692,261, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 43,891, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is unchanged over the pat 24 hours.

The United States reported 105,203 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday for the previous day, compared to 120,643  on Tuesday, 8,552 on Monday, 7,927 on Sunday, 108,491 on Saturday, and 126,323 on Friday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate is now 91,306.  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 91,663, a 16% 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 465, a decrease of 5% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 39,680, an 8% decrease.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Wednesday, recorded over 95.5 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of close to 1.07 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, almost 44.4 million, and a reported death toll of 527,452.

New data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed at the end of May that the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 820,307, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, behind the United States.  Rosstat reported that 4,991 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in June, down from 7,008 in May and from 11,583 in April.

Meanwhile, France is the country with the third highest number of cases, 34.39 million, although Brazil has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 682,941, and has recorded 34.31 million cases, placing it in the number four slot.

Germany is in the number five slot with over 31.9 million cases.

The other three countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are the United Kingdom, with almost 23.5 million cases, in sixth position, South Korea, with 22.6  million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with nearly  21.9 million, as number eight.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Wednesday, over 262.3 million people in the United States – or 79% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 67.4%, or 223.7 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 607.5 million. Breaking this down further, 90% of the population over the age of 18 – or 232.5 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 77.2% of the same group – or 199.4 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 51.5% of that population, or 102.7 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Starting on June 13, 2022, the CDC began to update vaccine data on a weekly basis and publish the updated information on Wednesdays by 8 p.m. EDT, a statement on the agency’s website said.

Some 67.5% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Wednesday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 12.51 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 4.51 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 20.7% 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 reporting to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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