Coronavirus Morning News Brief – April 12: World’s First Death From H3N8 Avian Flu, Google Drops Vaccine Mandate

The Study Anti-Vaxxers Love to Cite Has Been Retracted

By Jonathan Spira on 12 April 2023
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A nurse at a N.Y.C. vaccine center waits for a patient

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,127th day of the pandemic and Cosmonautics Day as well as International Day for Human Space Flight, both celebrating the first manned space flight on this day in 1961 with Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on board.

Anti-vaxxers are one of the few minority groups it’s still ok to poke fun at and today is no exception.  In honor of the science that took man into space on this day in 1961, I am taking the opportunity to point out that a study of coronavirus vaccine deaths that anti-vaxxers loved to cite has been retracted.

The study, “The Role of Social Circle Covid-19 Illness and Vaccination Experiences in Covid-19 Vaccination Decisions: An Online Survey of the United States Population,” was originally published in on January 24 of this year.

It purported to find 278,000 deaths as a direct result of coronavirus vaccinations. To say it thrilled the anti-vax crowd would be a gross understatement.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had at that time only reported 19,476 verified cases where someone died immediately following inoculation.

The failings of the report that led to its ultimate retraction inform greatly about bogus science.

For starters, the study had been authored by an economist, Mark Skidmore of Michigan State University.  As many of you know, I’m an historian by virtue of my undergraduate and graduate degrees but I’ve been researching and reporting on the pandemic since before it was even officially a pandemic and I would not seek to undertake to publish such a report.

It had been published in BMC Infectious Diseases, a peer-reviewed medical journal associated with the Nature publishing group.  This gave it a burnish that glowed like the Habsburg Kaiserliche Schatzkammer in the Hofburg and it was the most-viewed paper in the journal’s history.

Now please fasten your seatbelt. Here comes the bumpy ride.

The journal retracted Skidmore’s study on Tuesday, specifically citing doubts about “the validity of the conclusions” related to death statistics because of flaws in the study’s methodology.  Skidmore, incidentally, disagrees with the retraction but has no say in the matter.

The retraction followed months of dickering between the two parties over the nature and wording of the retraction notice.   I am citing the retraction notice in its entirety due to the importance of cleansing the scientific record of research that could have an adverse impact on public health, but what concerns me is how it got published in the first place as its flaws were – at least to me, your humble historian who authored a dissertation entitled “Religious Freedom in the Habsburg Hereditary Lands During the Enlightenment” – self-evident.

“The editors have retracted this article as concerns were raised regarding the validity of the conclusions drawn after publication. Post-publication peer review concluded that the methodology was inappropriate as it does not prove causal inference of mortality, and limitations of the study were not adequately described. Furthermore, there was no attempt to validate reported fatalities, and there are critical issues in the representativeness of the study population and the accuracy of data collection. Lastly, contrary to the statement in the article, the documentation provided by the author confirms that the study was exempt from ethics approval and therefore was not approved by the IRB of the Michigan State University Human Research Protection Program.”

In other news we cover today, Google ended its vaccine mandate for people to enter its buildings, the WHO reported the first ever death of a human from H3N8 bird flu, and Seattle may not have recovered from the pandemic, according to a leading chef.


A star chef left Seattle citing the city’s inability to recover from the pandemic. Megan Vaughan, the incoming executive chef of Encore Boston Harbor’s Rare Steakhouse who last worked as executive chef for Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak Seattle, expressed concern about the city’s recovery in an interview with the Boston Globe newspaper.

“I don’t want to say anything too harsh, but honestly, I was disappointed,” Vaughan told the paper.  “The seafood was amazing. There was definitely fresh seafood. But as far as creativity and different restaurants, I think they really could not recover from the pandemic. It really showed in the downtown area. That’s actually one of the reasons why I left, because of how unsafe downtown was. A lot of things would close around 8 or 9 because you couldn’t really stay open late down there.”

Meanwhile, A congressional committee plans to investigate Covid-19 relief funds meant to help struggling hospitals. The move comes on the heels of a report in the Wall Street Journal that much of the aid went to for-profit facilities.

House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer and Congressman. Nick Langworthy sent the Department of Health and Human Services a letter requesting documents regarding the money, also known as the Provider Relief Fund, including communications about how the agency distributed payouts.


Google became one of the first tech companies in the Bay Area to end the mandate that employees and visitors entering its buildings must be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“The world is now in a different place,” said Chris Rackow, Google’s vice president of global security, adding that most people having some level of immunity against the disease and case rates and hospitalizations have remained stable for the past few months.


China recorded the world’s first human death from H3N8 bird flu, the World Health Organization said.  A Chinese woman was the first person to die from H3N8, whose occurrence is rare in humans.  Fortunately, the strain does not appear to spread between people.

A high school in Colorado closed after a teacher there died due to suspected bacterial meningitis, an extremely rare condition. The Arapahoe County Public Health Department said teacher Maddie Schmidt, had symptoms consistent with bacterial meningitis.


Now here are the daily statistics for Wednesday, April 12.

As of Wednesday morning, the world has recorded 685.2 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.1 million from the previous day, and 6.84 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, just under 658 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of less than 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 Wednesday at press time is 20,360,323, an increase of 32,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,320,710 are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 39,613, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past five months.

The United States reported 120,530 new cases in the period March 30 through April 5, a figure that is down 23% 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 1,773, a figure that is down 22%.  The average number of hospital admissions from Covid was 5,396 on April 3, a figure that is down 8% over the preceding 14 days.  Finally, the test positivity rate is 6.4%, down 6% over the 14 days preceding April 7.

Starting on March 25, 2023, the Morning News Brief began to update case data as well as death tolls on a weekly basis.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Wednesday, recorded just under 106.4 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of just over 1.15 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 44.7 million, and a reported death toll of 531,016.

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 over 39.8 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 38.4 million total cases.

Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 700,811, has recorded over 37.3 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 33.5 million cases, South Korea, with 30.9 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 25.7 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.4 million, and Russia, with 22.7 million.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, over 270 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 230.4 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 674.4 million. Breaking this down further, 92.2% of the population over the age of 18 – or 238.2 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 79.1% of the same group – or 204.2 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 20.1 of the same population, or 52 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent booster dose of vaccine, while 23.3 million people over the age of 65, or 42.4% 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 69.9% 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, 13.37 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 141,501 doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 29.2% 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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