Coronavirus Morning News Brief – May 12: Today is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Day, Florida’s So-Called ‘Medical Freedom’ Laws

Grant Given to Understand the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Spillover Emergence

By Jonathan Spira on 12 May 2023
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A patient in the waiting room of at a doctor’s office in New York City

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,157th day of the pandemic.

OP-ED ON FRIDAY

Today is International Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Awareness Day.

It is a day not only to recognize the condition but to support and recognize those individuals afflicted by ME/CFS and other chronic immunological and neurological diseases by raising awareness of them. The holiday, if one can call it that, was created by Thomas Hennessy Jr., who lived with ME/CFS and advocated on behalf of patients with the condition.  Hennessy died in 2013.

May 12 was chosen as ME/CFS Awareness Day because it is the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the pioneering social reformer and founder of modern nursing.  During her lifetime, Nightingale experienced symptoms of what many believe to be either ME/CFS or fibromyalgia. She died in 1910.

ME/CES is not just fatigue but a serious, long-term condition symptomatically similar in some respects to Long Covid that leaves those with the condition unable to perform their usual activities and suffer from profound fatigue that is not relieved by rest, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other symptoms may include post-exertional malaise, or PEM, which is the worsening of symptoms after physical or mental activity, unrefreshing sleep, dizziness, problems thinking and concentrating, and memory issues.

Many of these symptoms also overlap with what many Long Covid sufferers are subject to and, while some patients with Long Covid undergo bouts of PEM, there are significant differences in PEM experienced by people with Long Covid compared to patients with ME/CFS, the National Institutes of Health concluded in a study.

I count myself fortunate in that my Long Covid symptoms do not include PEM although that’s somewhat akin to saying I was only hit on the head with an 8 ton anvil in a cartoon, not a 10 ton truck.

In other news we cover today, we look at Florida’s new “medical freedom” laws, revisit the vaccine data altered by Florida’s apparently unqualified surgeon general, and look at a new grant to understand the risk of bat coronavirus spillover emergence.

UNITED STATES

Earlier in the week, on Monday, the federal government announced a four-year, $2.5-million grant, to examine and understand the risk of bat coronavirus spillover emergence, to the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance, an obscure scientific research organization. In April 2020, the Trump administration ordered the National Institutes of Health to terminate a $3.4-million grant to that organization based on claims that EcoHealth was funding so-called gain-of-function research in China.  Gain-of-function research could, when conducted have allowed Covid-19 to escape from a laboratory but this didn’t happen with EcoHealth.

“It was unprecedented for [the NIH] to act in response to political pressure and cancel a grant,” said Sir Richard Roberts, a Nobel laureate known for his work in biochemistry and molecular biology. “If there were good scientific grounds for it, then that would be one thing, but there were zero.”

While it is “impossible to say what would have been accomplished if the hiatus in funding did not occur,” former NIH director Harold Varmus told the Los Angeles Times by email, restoring the grant “cannot restore the three years in which [EcoHealth] was deprived of support for such critical work at a critical time.”

Meanwhile, in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed into a law a set of “medical freedom” measures which ban masks and vaccine mandates, and include new “conscience protections” for healthcare providers.

The governor’s action comes one week after it was revealed that Florida’s controversial and apparently unqualified surgeon general, Joseph Lapado, altered an analysis that had been released by the Florida Department of Health in order to suggest that mRNA coronavirus vaccines posed a significant health risk to men ages 18 to 39.

The news was reported by Politico, which said it had obtained a document as part of a public records request that clearly shows Ladapo’s changes to an eight-page analysis, indicating deleted comments that said a link with slightly increased risk of cardiac-related deaths after inoculation was “no longer significant” for multidose vaccines and another comment that “there is little suggestion of any effect immediately following vaccination.”

The document has a sentence added to it by Ladapo that says that mRNA vaccines may be driving an increased risk of cardiac-related death in males, especially those ages 18-39.

In October 2022, Ladapo released a statement with the altered findings:

“This analysis found that there is an 84% increase in the relative incidence of cardiac-related death among males 18-39 years old within 28 days following mRNA vaccination. With a high level of global immunity to COVID-19, the benefit of vaccination is likely outweighed by this abnormally high risk of cardiac-related death among men in this age group. Non-mRNA vaccines were not found to have these increased risk,” Ladapo said in the statement.

GLOBAL

Japanese officials are trying to draw the country’s citizens out of post-Covid seclusion.  The ranks of the so-called hikikomori, people who shun social life and stay at home, have swollen to almost 1.5 million of working age.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Friday, May 12.

As of Friday morning, the world has recorded over 688.2 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.1 million from the previous day, and 6.87 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 660.6  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 20,729,269, an increase of 719.. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,690,239  are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 39,030, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past five months.

The United States reported 77,212630 new cases in the period April 27 through May  3, a figure that is down 22% 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 1,109, a figure that is down 11%.  The average daily number of hospital admissions from Covid was 4,287 on May 10, a figure that is down 2% over the preceding 14 days.  Finally, the test positivity rate is 5.3%, up 3% over the 14 days preceding May 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 Friday, recorded 106.8 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, just under 45 million, and a reported death toll of 531,753.

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 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, 702,116, has recorded 37.5 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 33.8 million cases, South Korea, with just under 31.4 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 25.8 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with over 24.5 million, and Russia, with 22.9 million.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Thursday, 270.1 million people in the United States – or 81.4% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.5%, or 230.6 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 676.7 million. Breaking this down further, 92.23% 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 204.3 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 20.5% of the same population, or just under 53 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent booster dose of vaccine, while 23.9 million people over the age of 65, or 43.3% 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 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 210,101 doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 29.9% 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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