Coronavirus Morning News Brief – April 7: China’s Covid Genetic Study is Wonky Because Pandas Were Not in the Wuhan Market, Covid May Spread on Surfaces

Study Suggests That, Without Other Pandemic Precautions, Hospital Mask Rules Didn't Stop Spread of SARS-CoV-2

By Jonathan Spira on 7 April 2023
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A panda at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,121st day of the pandemic and Good Friday, a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary.

Chinese scientists published on Wednesday their long-awaited genetic analysis of the samples and swabs collected in early 2020 from the Huanan Seafood Market. The market was the initial epicenter of the current pandemic.

The study, published in the journal Nature, shows that wildlife susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection – including raccoon dogs, which were a hot topic of discussion in mid-March when the initial data was brought to light.

The researchers’ analysis as released is clearly flawed, however, by having indicated that numerous animals that were almost certainly not to be found at the market were present. The list includes giant pandas, chimpanzees, and Atlantic grey seals.

Further, the authors downplayed the potential that a virus spillover from wildlife to humans in the wet market was the match that ignited the pandemic. Instead, they repeat the party line – and I use that term in its most literally meaning – favored by Chinese officials which holds that the then novel coronavirus was brought into the market via humans or perhaps frozen foods (?), causing the busy market to become the first-ever Covid superspreader event

In other news we cover today, Good Friday marchers in Hong Kong were told not to don face masks due to Beijing-imposed security rules and a study suggests that masks without other precautions in healthcare settings may not keep Covid at bay, although an individual who chooses to don a mask is still offered more protection than someone who opts not to.

UNITED STATES

A new study published in a letter in the journal JAMA Thursday shows that SARS-CoV-2 is still deadlier than influenza.  Covid-19 isn’t “just a flu,” the researchers at the Clinical Epidemiology Center of the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System in Missouri found.  While greater immunity against Covid, better treatments, and different virus subvariants lowered Covid’s mortality risk to approximately 6% of adults hospitalized last winter, down from 17% to 21% in 2020, the figures are far higher than the flu’s death rate of 3.7%.

GLOBAL

A new study found that mask mandates in U.K. hospitals at the start of the omicron wave didn’t prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 when there were no other pandemic precautions in place.  The findings of the study, “Unmasking the Mask: A Time-Series Analysis of Nosocomial Covid-19 Rates Before and After Removal,” were presented Thursday at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.  They suggest that hospitals and other healthcare settings could adopt “mask optional” policies without putting patients at increased risk.  It is important to note that this does not in any way imply that individual masking will not offer some protection to the wearer.

Also in the United Kingdom, a new study by researchers at Imperial College and published in the Lancet shows that surfaces may be a significant spreader of Covid.  The scientists found that healthy individuals were 70% more likely to contract SARS-CoV-2 when the virus was present on surfaces or hands.

In households where Covid-19 was found on surfaces, such as kettle handles, and refrigerator doors, more than five in ten people contracted the virus compared with just three in ten in more sanitary homes.

In Hong Kong, hundreds of worshippers joined several religious marches on Good Friday that were authorized by city authorities.  Most members were told not to wear masks but to keep their faces visible to be in compliance with Beijing-imposed national security law.

At one procession that remained on church grounds, some participants wore masks, with one participant telling the South China Morning Post that the rules impinge on right to practice religion.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Friday, April 7.

As of Friday morning, the world has recorded 684.6 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.1 million from the previous day, and just under 6.84 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, just over 657.5 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 Friday at press time is 20,276,356, an increase of 12,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,236,625 are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 39,731, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past five months.

The United States reported 138,481 new cases in the period March 23 through March 29, a figure that is down 16% 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 1,596, a figure that is down 12%.  The average number of hospital admissions from Covid was 5,673 on April 3, a figure that is down 6% over the preceding 14 days.  Finally, the test positivity rate is 6.8%, up 2% over the 14 days preceding March 31

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 Friday, recorded just under 106.4 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 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 530,943.

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 39.8 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, 700,556, has recorded 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.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Friday, 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 Fridays 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 Friday, 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 911,423 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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