COVID-19 By The Numbers
Friday, May 13
The new White House COVID-19 coordinator is issuing a dire warning.
Dr. Ashish Jha said in an Associated Press interview that the U.S. will be increasingly vulnerable to the coronavirus this fall and winter if Congress doesn’t swiftly approve new funding for more vaccines and treatments.
Jha said in the interview that America’s immune protection from the virus is waning, and with the virus adapting to be more contagious, booster doses will be necessary for most people.
He predicted that the next generation of vaccines, which are likely to be targeted at the currently prevailing omicron strain, “are going to provide a much, much higher degree of protection against the virus that we will encounter in the fall and winter.”
But he warned that the U.S. is at risk of losing its place in the global vaccination line to other countries if Congress doesn’t act in the next several weeks.
North Korea’s recent admission of its first domestic COVID-19 cases has surprised many outsiders and prompted speculation about how back the outbreak is and whether it could handle a major humanitarian crisis in a country where public medical infrastructure is terrible.
As reported by the Associated Press, some experts say North Korea may face one of the world’s worst per-capita fatality and infection rates if it doesn’t get outside aid shipments soon.
Others argue that North Korea may just want to use the outbreak to tighten public vigilance against the virus and boost its control of its people.
North Korea says six people have died and 350,000 have been treated for a fever that has spread explosively across the country.
According to the Associated Press, the announcement came a day after it acknowledged its first COVID-19 cases of the pandemic.
The hermitic country likely doesn’t have enough testing supplies and said the cause of the fevers was unclear. Experts have warned a COVID0-19 outbreak could be devastating in a country with a broken health care system and an unvaccinated, malnourished population.
Leader Kim Jong Un was shown on state TV at a pandemic response meeting, where he took off his face mask and smoked a cigarette while talking with officials.
Thursday, May 12
President Joe Biden has appealed to world leaders for a renewed international commitment to attacking COVID-19 as he leads the U.S. in marketing the “tragic milestone” of 1 million deaths in America.
Biden told the second global coronavirus summit Thursday: “This pandemic isn’t over,” as reported by the Associated Press.
The virtual meeting comes as a lack of resolve at home reflects the global response. Biden ordered the U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff to honor the dead in America.
He used last year’s first summit to pledge to donate 1.2 billion vaccine doses worldwide.
There are a few official death totals floating around. According to figures complied by Johns Hopkins University, the coronavirus has killed more than 999,000 people in the U.S.
Other counts, including the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association, have the toll at 1 million.
U.S. coronavirus cases are up, leading a smattering of school districts, especially in the Northeast, to bring back mask recommendations and requirements.
As reported by the Associated Press, their return comes for the first time since the omicron winter surge ebbed and the United States approaches 1 million deaths from the virus.
Districts in Maine, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have brought masks back in schools, with a few in Massachusetts also recommending them.
The uptick in cases is a vast undercount because testing has dropped considerably and most tests are being taken at home and are not reported to health departments.
North Korea has imposed a nationwide lockdown to control its first acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak of the pandemic, according to the Associated Press.
It had held for more than two years to a widely doubted claim of a perfect record keeping out the virus that has spread to nearly every place in the world.
The outbreak forced leader Kim Jong Un to wear a mask in public, likely for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
The size of the outbreak isn’t immediately known, but it could have serious consequences because the country has a poor health care system and its 26 million people are believed to be mostly unvaccinated.
Some experts say the North, by its rare admission of an outbreak, may be seeking outside aid such as vaccines and COVID-19 treatment pills.
Wednesday, May 11
A COVID-19 vaccination mandate for students 12 and older in the Los Angeles Unified School District has been postponed from this fall to next year, as reported by the Associated Press.
The Board of Education voted Tuesday to delay the mandate to no sooner than July 1, 2023, aligning the district with the state.
Last year, California announced that it would require all schoolchildren to receive the coronavirus vaccine, and Gov. Gavin Newsom estimated it would take effect for the 2022-23 school year.
However, last month the Newsom administration put off the requirements to at least summer 2023 because school administrators worried they would not have enough time to implement the mandate.
Testing for COVID-19 has plummeted globally, making it tougher for scientists to track the course of the pandemic and spot worrisome viral mutants as they emerge and spread.
Experts say testing has dropped by 70-90% worldwide from the first to the second quarter of this year, as reported by the Associated Press.
Rates are particularly low in low-income countries, however, that’s the opposite of what experts say should be happening with new omicron variants on the rise in places such as the U.S. and South Africa.
In the U.S., a shift toward home testing has also obscured efforts to track the virus.
9:43 a.m.: China defends their ‘zero-COVID’ approach
China on Wednesday defended sticking to its strict “zero-COVID” approach, calling critical remarks from the World Health Organization “irresponsible.”
According to the Associated Press, the response from the Foreign Ministry came after WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he had been discussing with Chinese experts the need for a different approach in light of new knowledge about the virus.
Tedros said the policy characterized by strict lockdowns, mass testing and compulsory quarantining for anyone who tests positive or has contact with someone infected was not sustainable and urged China to change strategies.
Earlier Wednesday, a Shanghai health official said that while China’s largest city has seen progress, any relaxation in anti-virus measures could allow the outbreak to rebound.
Tuesday, May 10
A small number of COVID-19 patients are relapsing after taking Pfizer’s antiviral pill, raising questions about the drug at the center of the U.S.' response effort.
Paxlovid has become the go-to option against COVID-19 because of its at-home convenience and impressive results in heading off severe disease.
According to the Associated Press, the U.S. government has presented more than $10 billion to purchase enough pills for 20 million people.
However, doctors have begun reporting cases of patients who see their symptoms return several days after treatment — making it one of the several questions about how the drug is holding up against a changing virus.
Pfizer mainly studied the drug in unvaccinated patients during the delta variant wave, but most Americans now have had at least one shot as omicron variants dominate the outbreak.
8:56 a.m.: Here’s how COVID-19 pills work
COVID-19 patients have two treatment options that can be taken at home, but that convenience comes with a catch — the pills have to be taken as soon as possible once symptoms appear.
The challenge for patients is getting tested, getting a prescription and then starting the pills within five days of the start of symptoms, according to the Associated Press.
U.S. regulators authorized the pills from Pfizer and Merck late last year. Both were shown to reduce the chances of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 in high-risk patients.
The pills are intended for those with mild or moderate COVID-19 who are more likely to become seriously ill.
Norwegian health authorities say the country has a surplus of COVID-19 vaccines and has already discarded more than 137,000 doses because there is declining demand in low-income countries.
According to the Associated Press, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said that it plans a further disposal of doses if global demand does not change.
In Norway, there’s high vaccine coverage, while globally a demand for donations has fallen.
Earlier this month, health officials in neighboring Denmark said that 1.1 million excess COVID-19 vaccines would be discarded because their expiration date is near, and efforts to donate them to developing countries have failed.
Monday, May 9
America’s employers added 428,000 jobs in April, extending a streak of solid hiring that has defied punishing inflation, chronic supply shortages, the Russian war against Ukraine and much higher borrowing costs.
According to the Associated Press, last month’s hiring kept the unemployment rate at 3.6%, just above the lowest level in a half-century.
Employers have added at least 400,000 jobs for 12 straight months. Still, the job growth, along with steady wage gains, will help fuel consumer spending and likely keep the Federal Reserve on track to raise borrowing rates sharply to fight inflation.
That would lead to increasingly heavy borrowing costs for consumers and businesses. Higher loan rates could also weigh down corporate profits.
As New York City forges ahead with its recovery, the pandemic is leaving lasting imprints, especially on city roadways — less room and for cars and more space for people, as reported by the Associated Press.
As the COVID-19 outbreak ravaged New York City two years ago, the bustling metropolis found itself transformed into grids of mostly deserted streets and sidewalks as businesses shuttered and virus-wary denizens shut themselves in.
Now the city is drafting new rules that would allow eateries to make outdoor dining permanent, although the policy is being challenged in court. The city is also announcing plans to close off even more streets to vehicles on Sundays, so pedestrians have more room to roam in warmer months.
For travelers going to southern Europe, summer vacations just got a lot easier.
According to the Associated Press, Italy and Greece have relaxed some COVID-19 restrictions before Europe’s peak summer tourist season as life increasingly returns to normal after the pandemic.
Greece’s civil aviation authority announced Sunday it was lifting all COVID-19 rules for international and domestic flights except for wearing face masks during flights and at airports.
Air travelers were previously required to show proof of vaccination, a negative test, or a recent recovery. Italy did away with the health pass that had been required to enter restaurants, cinemas, gyms and other venues.
Visitors to Italy also no longer have to fill out the EU passenger locator form, a complicated ordeal.
Sunday, May 8
U.S. regulators strictly limit who can receive Johnson & Johnson’s OVID-19 vaccine due to a rare but serious risk of blood clots.
According to the Associated Press, the Food and Drug Administration said Thursday the shot should only be given to adults who cannot receive a different vaccine or specifically request J&J’s vaccine.
The decision is the latest restriction to hit the company’s vaccine, which has long been overshadowed in the U.S. by the more effective shots from Pfizer and Moderna.
In December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended using the Moderna and Pfizer shots over J&J’s because of its safety issues.
Saturday, May 7
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak says that in two weeks, he’ll lift the state of emergency he declared during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic more than two years ago, according to the Associated Press.
In a statement on Friday, the Democrat who is running for a second term credited the declaration with giving the state flexibility to respond to challenges as they arose.
He put a May 20 end date to the statewide emergency he declared on March 12, 2020. Most measures, including business restrictions and mask mandates, have already been lifted.
As of the end of this week, state health officials have reported just over 665,000 known cases of COVID-10 and almost 10,800 deaths.
Friday, May 6
A California measure that would allow children age 12 and up to be vaccinated without their parents’ consent, including against the coronavirus, has cleared its first legislative committee.
According to the Associated Press, if the proposal that advanced Thursday becomes law, California would allow the young people of any state to be vaccinated without parental permission.
Minors aged 12 to 17 in California currently cannot be vaccinated without permission from their parents or guardians unless the vaccine is to prevent a sexually transmitted disease.
Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener’s proposal is perhaps the most continuous measure remaining from lawmakers’ once-ambitious agenda after several other proposals lost momentum as the winter pandemic wave eased.
The count of U.S. deaths from COVID-19 is nearly 1 million, and there’s a wealth of data that clarifies which groups have been hit the hardest.
According to the Associated Press, more than 700,000 people 65 and older died. Men died at higher rates than women, and white people made up most of the deaths overall.
Despite this, an unequal burden fell on Black, Hispanic and Native American people considering the younger average age of minority communities.
Racial gaps narrowed between surges and then widened again with each new wave. Most deaths happened in urban counties, but rural areas also paid a high price.
The Asian Games in China are being postponed because of concerns about the spreading omicron variant of COVID-19, as reported by the Associated Press.
The decision comes less than three months after the country hosted the Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
The World University Games have also been postponed. The Asian Games were to take place from Sept. 10-25 in the eastern city of Hangzhou and would involve more than 11,000 athletes — that’s more than the Summer Olympics.
The World University Games had been scheduled for June 26 - July 7 in the western city of Chengdu.
Thursday, May 5
The World Health Organization is estimating that nearly 15 million people were killed either by the coronavirus or by its impact on overwhelmed health systems in the first two years of the pandemic.
According to the Associated Press, that’s more than double the current official death toll.
In a report released on Thursday, the U.N. health agency said that most of the fatalities were in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
Accurately counting COVID-19 deaths have been problematic as reports of confirmed cases represent only a fraction of the devastation wrought by the virus. This could be attributed to limited testing and global differences in how countries count COVID-19 deaths.
Pfizer now hopes to tell U.S. regulators how well its COVID-19 vaccine works in children under 5 by early June, according to the Associated Press.
Currently, only children ages 5 or older can be vaccinated in the U.S. using Pfizer's vaccine.
Rival Moderna hopes to be the first to offer vaccinations to the youngest children and began filling its own data with the Food and Drug Administration last week.
The FDA has set tentative meetings in June to review data from one or both companies.
For the first time, the U.S. came close to providing health care for alll for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic, but just for one condition — COVID-19.
Now, things are reverting to how they were as federal money for the uninsured dries up, as reported by the Associated Press.
Lack of an insurance card could become a barrier to timely care for COVID. A $20 billion government program that paid the pandemic bills of uninsured people has been shut down.
Special Medicaid COVID coverage likely faces its last months, even though the virus is not yet contained. To exacerbate matters, safety-net hospitals and clinics are seeing sharply higher operating costs. They fear they won’t be prepared if there’s another surge.
Wednesday, May 4
The Shasta County Board of Supervisors voted to terminate county Health Officer Dr. Karen Ramstrom by a 3-2 vote during its closed session on Tuesday, and the announcement was made public soon after.
In a letter addressed to the community and published in A News Cafe on Friday, Ramstrom wrote that she believed the board would consider her termination during this week’s meeting but that she had been given no notice that her performance was unsatisfactory.
“My performance review did not mention anything suggesting that my job was in jeopardy, and I have no specific information from the Board that my job performance was unsatisfactory in any way,” she wrote.
Ramstrom has frequently come under fire by some members of the community during board meetings for upholding COVID-19 safety measures and mandates. In her letter, she wrote that she and her colleagues had been no more restrictive than the state required.
Despite a court ruling last month that struck down a national mask mandate on public transportation, U.S. health officials are restarting their recommendation that Americans wear masks on planes, trains, and buses.
As reported by the Associated Press, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday issued a statement saying people age 2 and older should wear a well-fitting mask when traveling in public spaces, like buses.
Last month, a federal judge in Florida struck down a government requirement for masking in public transportation. The Justice Department is appealing the decision.
As mask mandates and vaccination rules kept falling across the U.S., infections from the latest COVID variants have quietly taken hold in some places, sparking concern among public health officials.
According to the Associated Press, more cities are now in a new high-risk category that is supposed to trigger indoor mask-wearing, but there’s been little appetite to do so.
Nationally, hospitalizations are up slightly but still as low as at any point in the pandemic. Deaths have steadily decreased to nearly the lowest numbers in the last three months.
The muted response reflects the country's exhaustion after two years of restrictions and the new challenges that health leaders are facing at this phase of the pandemic.
An abundance of at-home virus test kits has led to a steep undercount of COVID-19 cases, which is an important benchmark.
Tuesday, May 3
Vice President Kamala Harris tested negative on Monday for COVID-19, six days after she tested positive for the virus, according to the Associated Press.
She has been cleared to return to the White House on Tuesday. Harris press secretary Kirsten Allen said Harris, who was prescribed the antiviral treatment Paxlovid last week, was negative on a rapid antigen test.
Allen said Harris would continue to wear a “well-fitting mask while around others” in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines until her tenth day after her positive test.
Officials have announced that California’s population shrank in 2021 for the second year in a row, according to a new estimate from the California Department of Finance.
As reported by the Associated Press, state officials say California lost 117,552 people in 2021, giving it a population of just over 39 million residents.
California is still far ahead of Texas, which is No. 2 for population size in the U.S.
State officials blame the loss on a declining birth rate and more deaths because of the pandemic. Also, fewer people are moving from other states to California.
Restaurants in Beijing have been ordered to close dine-in services over the May holidays as the Chinese capital grapples with a COVID-19 outbreak, according to the Associated Press.
Authorities said at a recent news conference that dining in restaurants has become an infection risk, cting virus transmissions between diners and staff.
Restaurants have been ordered to only provide takeout services from Sunday to Wednesday, during China’s Labor Day holidays.
Beijing began mass testing millions of residents earlier this week. Parks and entertainment venue are allowed to operate only at half capacity.
The stakes are high as the ruling Communist Party prepares for a major congress this fall at which President XI Jinping is seeking a third five-year term as the country’s leader.
Monday, May 2
Most people in the U.S., including most children, have now been infected with COVID-19 during the omicron surge, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
NPR reports that at a briefing for reporters last Tuesday, the CDC’s Dr. Kristie Clarke said so many people caught omicron over the winter that almost 60% of everyone in the country now has antibodies to the virus in their blood.
That number is even higher for children — almost 75% of kids 11 and younger have antibodies to the virus.
Clarke said the finding means many people have at least some immunity to the virus but stresses that people should still get vaccinated since it still provides the strongest, broadest protection against getting seriously ill.
Immunity provided solely by a previous infection may or may not be as protective against severe disease.
COVID-19 rules for travelers will vary depending on the destination, but testing positive for the virus could result in an unexpected change in plans, such as being required to stay isolated in a hotel.
As reported by the Associated Press, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that travelers going overseas should make contingency plans since they may have to stay longer than planned if they test positive.
Travel companies suggest getting insurance that covers the cost of recovery or isolation.
Those who do end up needing medical treatment are advised to check with their embassy for suggested health care providers.
8:55 a.m.: COVID-19 pandemic has changed office fashion
After working remotely in sweats and yoga pants for two years, many Americans are rethinking their wardrobes to balance comfort and professionalism as some offices reopen.
According to the Associated Press, they’re dropping structured suits, zip-front pants and pencil skirts worn before the pandemic and are experimenting with new looks.
Retailers and brands are rushing to meet workers’ fashion needs for the future of work with blazers in knit fabrics, pants with drawstrings or elastic bands, and casual twists on the button-down dress shirt.
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