Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Feb. 22: Covid Found to be Infectious in People After Death, Virus Poses Great Risk to Pregnant Women

New York City Sold Surplus Pandemic Supplies at Prices Too Good to be True

By Jonathan Spira on 22 February 2023
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A Japanese cherry tree in bloom

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,048th day of the pandemic and the actual birthday of George Washington, who was born 291 years ago today, given the calendar adjustment from Julian to Gregorian that took place after his birth.

If you want something besides a raging pandemic and talk of a possible civil war in the United States, a new study coming out of Japan found that SARS-CoV-2is still infectious in some people after death.

The country’s health ministry reported that postmortem examinations of 11 patients in Japan who died due from Covid. found that in half of the individuals, infectious viral loads of the coronavirus remained in their nasal cavity and lungs.  This was the case in one patient 13 days after his demise.

The study included an analysis of forensic and pathological autopsies conducted between August 2021 and March 2022, when the delta variant of the virus was dominant.  PCR tests detected the virus in six bodies, with a higher probability of viral persistence in those who were placed in cold storage.

The health ministry eased restrictions on handling coronavirus-infected bodies last month, saying they no longer needed to be handled differently.  Now the research indicates that may not be the case.

In other news we cover today, Covid was found to pose a great risk to pregnant women and New York City was criticized for selling off some surplus pandemic supplies at bargain-basement prices

UNITED STATES

In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams called for a review of the rules governing auctions of surplus government goods after an investigation by the City, a non-profit news organization, found that the medical supplies purchased by the Big Apple during the early days of the pandemic are getting sold for one-fifth of a penny for every dollar spent.

“I think that that needs to be re-examined, and I’m going to communicate with the team and figure out what options do we have, because taxpayers’ dollars should be spent better,” Hizzoner said during a City Hall press conference on an unrelated topic.

Meanwhile, a new meta-analysis published in the journal BMJ found that SARS-CoV-2 poses significant risks during pregnancy, especially in non-vaccinated women.

Women who have the virus have a significantly higher risk of complications, including pneumonia, intensive care unit admission, mechanical ventilation, and death, compared with uninfected pregnant women. Moreover, babies born to infected women were more likely to be admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit, to be born preterm, or to have a low birth weight.

Finally, drugmaker Merck said Tuesday that its Covid antiviral “did not demonstrate a statistically significant reduction” in cutting the risk of infections among people living with someone who had tested positive.  Merck said its research showed that people treated with its Lagevrio pill were 23.6% less likely to develop Covid than those given a placebo through day 14, failing to meet the goal of the trial. Merck was given emergency use authorization for Lagevrio in Dec. 2021 for patients with mild-to-moderate SARS-CoV-2 who were at risk of progressing to severe disease.  The company said it would continue with its research and development in this area.

GLOBAL

Individuals with mild cases of anxiety and or depression months after a mild case of SARS-CoV-2 may have experienced changes to their brain structure, a new study from researchers at the University of Campinas in São Paulo found.  The scientists scanned the brains of 254 people who had had mild coronavirus infections three months earlier, with 102 of that population reporting symptoms of both anxiety and depression and 152 reporting none.  They compared the results with a group of 140 people who had not had the virus.

Among the group who tested positive for the virus and reported experiencing anxiety and depression, there were signs of shrinkage in the limbic area of the brain, which is involved in memory and emotional processing. The individuals who were not reporting such symptoms showed no signs of brain shrinkage, the researchers wrote in their study.

TRAVEL

Officials in South Korea said they will end a requirement for travelers from China to take a coronavirus test upon arrival starting next month.   The requirement for a pre-departure test will remain in place, however.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Wednesday, February 22.

As of Wednesday morning, the world has recorded 679 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.1 million cases, and6.8 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 651.8 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.2 million.

The reader should note that infrequent reporting from some sources may appear as spikes in new case figures or death tolls.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Wednesday at press time is 20,446,228, a decrease of 14,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,405,538, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 40,690, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past three months.

The United States reported 29,117 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday for the previous day, compared to 8,447  on Tuesday, 2,807  on Monday, 4,071  on Sunday, 46,091  on Saturday, 70, 512  on Friday, and 102,914  on Thursday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 7-day incidence rate is now 37,708.  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 35,919, a figure down 9% over the past 14 days, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 365, a decrease of 19% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 28,122, a decrease of 6%. In addition, the number of patients in ICUs was 3,704, a decrease of 5% and the test positivity rate is now 10%, a figure that is down by 1% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Wednesday, recorded 105 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.14 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 44.7 million, and a reported death toll of 530,762.

The newest data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed that, at the end of July, the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 823,623, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, behind the United States.  Rosstat last reported that 3,284 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in July 2022, down from 5,023 in June, 7,008 in May and 11,583 in April.

Meanwhile, France is the country with the third highest number of cases, with 39.6 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 38 million total cases.

Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 698,047, has recorded just under 37 million cases, placing it in the number five slot.

The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are Japan, with just over 33.1 million cases, South Korea, with 30.5 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with over 25.5 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with over 24.3 million, and Russia, with 22.2 million.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Wednesday, 269.3 million people in the United States – or 81.1% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.2%, or 229.9million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 670.9 million. Breaking this down further, 92% of the population over the age of 18 – or 237.7million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 79% of the same group – or 203.9 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 19.3% of the same population, or over 49.9 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent 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 69.5% 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, 13.3 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 726,956 doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 26.9% 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 at or below 10%.

In addition, with the start of vaccinations in North Korea in late September, Eritrea remains the only country in the world that has not administered vaccines.

Anna Breuer contributed reporting to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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