Coronavirus Morning News Brief – March 25: We Change Our Pandemic Data Reporting Practices, Who Is At Risk for Long Covid

Britain’s Chief Scientist Clashed With His Predecessor Over Covid Policy

By Jonathan Spira on 25 March 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 1,109th day of the pandemic.

Over three years ago – some time in January, 2020, to be a bit more accurate – we began to report daily case figures and death tolls for the novel coronavirus.  The information sources back then were far from accurate at the beginning but it soon became possible to place some degree of reliance on governmental data from countries across the globe. 

Now we’ve moved in the opposite direction.  State and local data have become less reliable and are updated less frequently.  The comprehensive daily reporting we have prioritized over the past 36 months is simply no longer possible.

As a result, we are changing that practice, in great part because so many cases go unreported thanks to the proliferation of reliable home test kits.  Going forward, we will report data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control on a weekly basis.  The data will continue to appear in the Morning News Brief but it will be updated on Thursdays, which is one day after the CDC publishes new weekly data.

In other news we cover today, Britain’s chief scientist disclosed a clash with the government’s former chief scientist over Covid policy, in the United States, passports are taking longer than a two-month holiday abroad to be renewed, and new research sheds light on who is at the greatest risk for contracting Long Covid.

LONG COVID

A new study prepared by a team of researchers in the United Kingdom shows which SARS-CoV-2 patients are at the greatest risk for developing Long Covid.

The report, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, examined 41 studies published in the period from the start of the pandemic through December 5, 2022.   It found that patients who are over the age of 40, those with pre-existing health conditions, and those who experienced a severe SARS-CoV-2 infection were at greater risk of developing Long Covid.  Fully vaccinated individuals had a lower chance of contracting Long Covid, affirming current thinking on the matter.

The underlying studies, all of which had been peer reviewed, looked at a total of 860, 783 patients.

UNITED STATES

The State of California hit a major milestone in its battle against the pandemic.  The entire state is now listed as having “low” community transmission levels for the first time since last fall.  This puts the state’s 58 counties in the same bucket as approximately 93% of counties across the country that are currently in the same category.

GLOBAL

In Britain, Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientist, said he warned Sir David King, a chemist and current head of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group, not to confuse the general public during the early days of the pandemic by naming an independent expert panel on the pandemic after the group convened to advise ministers on the crisis.  That group, SAGE, Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, was chaired by Vallance since the start of the pandemic, while King, who a decade earlier had been the government’s chief scientist, formed Independent SAGE, a separate panel of experts that held its meetings in public and served as a kind of shadow panel.

Vallance made the clash public during an interview with the Institute for Government on Friday. He said that King told him of his intention to set up the parallel group because of concerns over Sage’s lack of transparency.  “I did ask him not to call it Sage, because I think that was very confusing,” Vallance said. “I think it’s a pity that that happened.”  At the time Independent SAGE was formed, several other senior scientists criticized King for the move as well, saying it would undermine the country’s pandemic response and muddy the waters around crucial public health messaging.

TRAVEL

In the United States, the State Department reported an unprecedented 500,000 passport renewal applications each week on the heels of a surge in travel as more countries reopen, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told Congress on Thursday during a hearing.  The current processing time is 10 to 13 weeks for the routine service, and seven to nine weeks for expedited service

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Saturday, March 25.

As of Saturday morning, the world has recorded 683.2 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.1 million from the previous day, and 6.83 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 656.1 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.1 million from the previous day.

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 Saturday at press time is 20,270,331,  an increase of 9,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,230,224, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 40,107, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past five months.

The United States reported 135,520 new cases in the period March 16 through March 23, a figure that is down 29% over the same period one week earlier, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The death toll for the same period is 2,060, a figure that is down 2%.  The average number of hospital admissions from Covid was 5,020 on March 24, a figure that is down 10% over the preceding 14 days.

Starting on March 25, 2023, the Morning News Brief began to update case data as well as death tolls on a weekly basis and publish the updated information in the Thursday edition.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Saturday, recorded 106.1 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.15 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 44.7 million, and a reported death toll of 530,824.

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 39.7 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 38.3 million total cases.

Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 699,917, has recorded 37.2 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 33.4 million cases, South Korea, with 30.8 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with just under 25.7 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.4 million, and Russia, with just under 22.6 million.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Thursday, 269.8 million people in the United States – or 81.3% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.4%, or 230.3 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 673.5 million. Breaking this down further, 92.2% of the population over the age of 18 – or 238 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 79% of the same group – or 204.1 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 19.9% of the same population, or 51.1 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent booster dose of vaccine, while 22.9 million people over the age of 65, or 41.8% of that population have also received the bivalent booster.

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 69.8% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Saturday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 13.34 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 655,106 doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 28.4% 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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