Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Feb. 23: ‘Der Krieg ist zu Ende,’ Florida Surgeon General Investigated for Falsifying Data

By Jonathan Spira on 23 February 2023
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Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,049th day of the pandemic.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” the great philosopher George Santayana said and nowhere is his statement more applicable than what politicians have said about the pandemic.

In one of the best hoaxes that Colonel Robert Hogan in the hit television comedy series “Hogan’s Heroes” ever orchestrated, the prisoners convinced the camp Kommandant, Colonel Wilhelm Klink, the sergeant of the guard, Hans Schultz, and the local Gestapo officer, Major Wolfgang Hochstetter, that the war was over.

“Der Krieg ist zu Ende” was the headline in a newspaper that Sergeant Schultz holds up early in the episode.

Now coronavirus advisor Liang Wannian is proclaiming that the pandemic is over.  He hailed the country’s political system, its people, and its public health system in the “decisive victory” and “miracle” of a successful exit form Covid.

The statement echoes one made by U.S. President Joseph Biden in the summer of 2021, a premature declaration if there ever was one as the worst of the pandemic was yet to come with the deadly omicron wave.

Just days ago, there was talk of another wave sweeping across Hangzhou with clusters of infections in two schools, and China also reported the first cases of the highly transmissible XBB 1.5 sublineage of the omicron variant.

Has the fat lady sung?  From my vantage point, it doesn’t appear she’s left the dressing room yet.

In other news we cover today, the Florida surgeon general was investigated for falsifying Covid data, Hong Kong will keep its mask mandate in place, and minority groups are no longer at a higher risk of dying from Covid.

UNITED STATES

Joe Ladapo, the Florida surgeon general who has attracted attention for spreading controversial views on SARS-CoV-2 and promoting vaccine hesitancy, was investigated by the Florida Department of Health for reportedly falsifying pandemic-related information.  Ladapo committed “scientific fraud” and “manipulated data” in a report that he later used to claim that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines could increase the risk of cardiac death among young men, according to the complaint.  There is no evidence that the vaccines do in fact increase the risk of cardiac death in any group.  The probe was closed, however, after the complainant refused to provide additional information.

The California Supreme Court ruled that school districts cannot mandate coronavirus vaccines on their own.   The court rejected a challenge Wednesday to a ruling that said school districts in California cannot require their students to be vaccinated against the coronavirus because only the state government can issue such a mandate.

GLOBAL

Hong Kong officials announced the extension of its mask mandate through at least March 8. The move came after respiratory medicine expert Leung Chi-chiu said that the rule should remain for a while because the population is vulnerable to influenza. Health authorities on Wednesday announced the extension, which applies to public transport and public spaces.  The city is one of the few places in the world to retain a mask mandate.

Meanwhile, the U.K. Office for National Statistics reported that minorities in the country are no longer at much higher risk of dying from SARS-CoV-2.  The rate of death is now much lower for all ethnic groups, when compared with figures from earlier in the pandemic.

OTHER HEALTHCARE NEWS

Moderna and Merck both received breakthrough status from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for their personalized cancer vaccine mRNA-4157/V940, in combination with Keytruda, for the adjuvant treatment of patients with high-risk melanoma after complete resection.

In a study, the combination helped cut the risk of recurrence or death by 44%, versus Keytruda alone, in patients with melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Thursday, February 23.

As of Thursday morning, the world has recorded 679.2 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.2 million cases, and 6.8 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 652 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 Thursday at press time is 20,395,136, a decrease of 51,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,354,681, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 40,455, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past three months.

The United States reported 127,499 new coronavirus infections on Thursday for the previous day, compared to 29,117 on Wednesday, 8,447 on Tuesday, 2,807 on Monday, and 4,071 on Sunday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 7-day incidence rate is now 41,221.  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 35,671, a figure down 11% 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 341, a decrease of 26% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 27,969, a decrease of 6%. In addition, the number of patients in ICUs was 3,604, a decrease of 6% 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 Thursday, recorded 105.1 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 530,763.

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 just under 38.1 million total cases.

Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 698,381, 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 under 33.2 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 Thursday, 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 Thursdays 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 Thursday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 13.31 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 863,857 doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 27.6% 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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