Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Feb. 26: Lab Leak Possible Origin of Pandemic, Anti-Vaxxer Woody Harrelson Spreads Conspiracy Theories on SNL

World Trade Center Bombing Was 30 Years Ago Today

By Jonathan Spira on 26 February 2023
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The new World Trade Center that replaced the original Twin Towers

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,052nd day of the pandemic.

It was just 30 years ago today that terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City.

They left a half-ton bomb in a rented van parked beneath the center’s north tower, a workplace for tens of thousands. The explosives reportedly ignited 12 minutes after they were triggered, giving the terrorists ample time to amble out of the garage.

The blast, which took place during the lunch hour, left a crater several stories deep.  It sent a plume of acrid smoke up the center’s north tower and, most significantly, killed six people and injuring over 1,000 others.

Eight years later, the Twin Towers were attacked again, this time on September 11, 2001.  The events of that day – which included an attack on the Pentagon and an attempted attack on another major building in the nation’s capital, perhaps the White House or the Capitol, although that remains one of 9/11’s most enduring mysteries – upended world politics, but the bombing of February 26, 1993, continues to stand as an ominous prelude.

In other news we cover today, one U.S. cabinet level department said that the pandemic had its origins in a lab leak in China and a woman who has steadfastly refused treatment for tuberculosis will be arrested as soon as March 3 if she does not comply with earlier court orders to report to a hospital.


While a new report from the Department of Energy says that the coronavirus likely resulted from a leak at a Chinese laboratory, news first reported by the Wall Street Journal, the finding is not quite definitive.  While the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s report says essentially the same thing, four other top-level government agencies along with a national intelligence panel, believe it was the result of a natural transmission, and two other agencies remain undecided.  The news from the Department of Energy was provided in a classified intelligence report provided to the White House and certain members of Congress and is a revised assessment that the agency said was based on new intelligence it had obtained.


Authorities in Macau, considered to be the world’s largest gambling hub, said on Sunday that they would end pandemic-related mask mandates for most locations.  The mandates will, however, remain in place for public transit, hospitals, and a small number of businesses and venues.


Actor Woody Harrelson, best known for his role as the bartender Woody Boyd on the NBC sitcom “Cheers,” which ran from 1985 through 1993, was the guest host on last night’s Saturday Night Live.

Harrelson supports a conspiracy theory that disputes the general consensus of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, namely that a group of Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four jetliners and crashed them into the Pentagon and the original World Trade Center Twin Towers, which subsequently collapsed.

In the course of his rambling monologue after the show’s cold opening, and apparently under the influence Harrelson told a meandering story about smoking weed he turned to the coronavirus pandemic.

The known anti-vaxxer and self-proclaimed “anarchist” joked about a supposed movie script he read while sitting under a palm tree (sic) in Central Park.  The non-existent script was clearly a metaphor for the coronavirus pandemic, which he said was along the lines of, “The biggest drug cartels in the world get together and buy up all the media and all the politicians and force all the people in the world to stay locked in their homes, and people can only come out if they take the cartel’s drugs — and keep taking them – over and over.”

“I threw the script away,” he continued. “I mean, who is gonna believe that crazy idea! Being forced to do drugs? I do them voluntarily all day long.”


A tuberculosis patient in Pierce County, Washington, who has steadfastly refused treatment and who has been in engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with the city’s health department has thus far refused to isolate or to take the necessary medications, Nigel Turner, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department official responsible for communicable disease control said earlier in the month

Now an arrest warrant has been issued for the woman and she could be jailed as soon as March 3.  Once in custody, she will serve a sentence for a period “not to exceed forty-five days to undergo testing and treatment for active tuberculosis and to continue such treatment until medical tests conclusively establish that she no longer presents a threat to the public health, safety, and welfare, whereupon respondent shall immediately be released from detention,” Superior Court Judge Philip Sorensen wrote in his order.


Now here are the daily statistics for Sunday, February 26.

As of Sunday morning, the world has recorded 679.6 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.1 million cases, and 6.8 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 652.5 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 Sunday at press time is 20,347,102  , a decrease of 55,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,306,565, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 40,537, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past three months.

The United States reported 1,527 new coronavirus infections on Sunday for the previous day, compared to 11,171  on Saturday, 64,478  on Friday, 127,499 on Thursday, and 29,117 on Wednesday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 7-day incidence rate is now 35,007.  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 34,128, a figure down 14% 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 328, a decrease of 27% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 27,851, a decrease of 5%. In addition, the number of patients in ICUs was 3,614, 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 Sunday, recorded 105.2 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 530,769.

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 38.1 million total cases.

Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 698,933, has recorded 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 25.6 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with over 24.3 million, and Russia, with 22.2 million.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, 269.5 million people in the United States – or 81.2% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.3%, or just under 230 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 671.6 million. Breaking this down further, 92.1% of the population over the age of 18 – or 237.8 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 79% of the same group – or 203.9 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 19.5% of the same population, or 50.3 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 69.7% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Sunday, 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 1.06 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 27.7% 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 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.

Paul Riegler contributed reporting to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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