Coronavirus Morning News Brief – April 29: New Drug Could Guard Against All Known Variants; As Covid Evolves, Deaths Could Double, Says Birx

Today is Eeyore’s Birthday

By Jonathan Spira on 29 April 2023
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The final performance of “Winnie the Pooh” at the Hundred Acre Wood Theatre, with Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,144thday of the pandemic and Eeyore’s Birthday.

Eeyore’s Birthday began to be celebrated on this date in Austin in 1963 when a group of university students named a spring party “Eeyore’s Birthday Party” in honor of the chronically depressed donkey in A.A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” stories.  In one story, Eeyore believes his friends have forgotten his birthday, only to find out they have planned a surprise party for him.   A large festival continues to be held in Pease District Park in Austin on the last Sunday of April each year in honor of Eeyore’s birthday.

As Eeyore so often is quoted as having said, “Thanks for noticin’ me.”

A replacement for tixagevimab/cilgavimab, which was sold as Evusheld, a key antibody drug that had until recently been used to protect immunocompromised Americans from SARS-CoV-2, could be on the market in a matter of months, executives at Astra Zeneca said Thursday.

The drugmaker said that early results show that the new drug, AZ3152, may work against “all known variants of concern” to date including XBB1.16, the latest variant to be causing great concern in India and elsewhere.   It would be prescribed prophylactically with the hope of preventing symptomatic infection in people with weakened immune systems.

Evusheld is a combination of two human monoclonal antibodies, tixagevimab and cilgavimab, that are targeted against the surface spike protein of SARS-CoV-2.  Its emergency-use authorization was withdrawn in January when tests showed that it would not be effective against the omicron subvariants that had become prevalent in the preceding six months.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca says that AZD3152 is based on a different antibody, one  derived from donated B cells of people who have recovered from infections, and that it is “designed to have broader variant coverage” than Evusheld for a period of six months.

The company said it expects to have results from a trial it is calling “Supernova” to determine how AZD3152 prevents symptomatic infection in individuals with weakened immune systems by September.

In other news we cover today, cases of Covid and the flu are rising in Hong Kong, former White House pandemic coordinator is concerned that the country is not prepared for a time when Paxlovid will not be effective against then current variants, and ABC News edited out false vaccine claims from an interview with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.


Former White House pandemic coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said that Covid1 will evolve and eventually evade the popular antiviral treatment Paxlovid, a critical line of defense for the non-vaccinated and those at risk of severe disease and death from the virus.

“If we lose Paxlovid, we could easily double the number of deaths,” Birx said in an interview with Fortune magazine.  The current death toll is currently just under 1,200 per week.

Connecticut’s Department of Health said that the Nutmeg State had recorded its first two cases of the latest “variant of interest,” XBB1.16.  XBB1.16 is a recombinant variant, which means that it was formed by two earlier variants.

Finally, ABC News said on Friday that it edited an interview with presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to exclude false claims he made about coronavirus vaccines.

“We should note that, during our conversation, Kennedy made false claims about the Covid-19 vaccines,” ABC News Live anchor Linsey Davis said during a report on Kennedy Jr.’s recent presidential bid announcement. “We’ve used our editorial judgment in not including portions of that exchange in our interview.”


Hong Kong’s health minister said that the city does not currently need to bring back mask mandates and social distancing even though cases of both SARS-CoV-2 and influenza are on the rise. Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau warned that the flu season, which typically lasts for 12 to 16 weeks, had not yet peaked but said that reintroducing masks would have a negative impact on society.


Now here are the daily statistics for Saturday, April 29.

As of Saturday morning, the world has recorded 687.1 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.2 million from the previous day, and 6.86 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 659.6 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.2 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 20,619,722, a decrease of 26,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,580,360, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 39,362, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past five months.

The United States reported 94,140 new cases in the period April 13 through April 19, 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 1,160, a figure that is down 34%.  The average number of hospital admissions from Covid was 4,569 on April 24, a figure that is down 13% over the preceding 14 days.  Finally, the test positivity rate is 5.4%, down 12% over the 14 days preceding April 21.

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 Saturday, recorded 106.6 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.16 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 44.9 million, and a reported death toll of 531,508.

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 just under 40 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, 701,494, has recorded 37.4 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 33.7 million cases, South Korea, with just under 31.2 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with just under  25.8 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with over 24.5 million, and Russia, with 22.8 million.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, just 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 230.5 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 675.4 million. Breaking this down further, 92.2% of the population over the age of 18 – or 238.1 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 79.1% of the same group – or 204.3 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 20.3% of the same population, or 52.3 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent booster dose of vaccine, while 23.3 million people over the age of 65, or 42.6% 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 70% 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, 13.38 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 259,282 doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 29.5% 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)

Accura News