The head of the World Health Organization is calling on people across the globe to rethink their holiday and end-of-year plans.
“An event canceled is better than a life canceled,” said the organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
In an address to the nation, U.S. President Joseph Biden told the unvaccinated that they risked serious illness or death, while telling those with two or three doses of vaccine to go one about their lives.
“This is not March 2020,” Biden said. “Two hundred million people are fully vaccinated. We’re prepared. We know more.”
The president outlined plans to expand coronavirus testing sites across the country, distribute 500 million free at-home tests, and deploy more federal health resources to aid strained hospitals as the omicron variant drives a fresh wave of cases.
Biden also praised the previous administration for its successful efforts in leading the development of the coronavirus vaccines currently available in the country, and praised former President Donald Trump for getting a booster shot and telling the world about it.
Israel became the first country to offer a fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine when it authorized the additional jab for individuals 60 and over as well as healthcare workers. The country was one of the first to operate a successful campaign to get virtually all of its citizens vaccinated with a first dose starting late last year.
In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would offer $100 to anyone receiving a booster shot between Wednesday and New Year’s Eve. Hizzoner called it “by far the biggest booster incentive program in the United States of America.”
The move was prompted by surging cases amidst the non-vaccinated as well as the high number of breakthrough infections. New infections jumped to 15,000 on Monday, the highest level since the start of 2021 and roughly four times the number of new cases one week earlier.
The Big Apple’s incoming mayor, Eric Adams, cancelled his formal inauguration ceremony, originally scheduled for New Year’s Day. He will still be sworn into office in a private ceremony shortly after midnight on the first.
Authorities in New Zealand said that they had linked the death of a 26-year-old man to Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine after he was afflicted with myocarditis, a rare inflammation of the heart muscle, following his receiving a first dose. Such cases are rare and almost all patients who suffer this side effect recover after receiving treatment.
The New Zealand man, however, did not seek medical assistance after he began to suffer symptoms of myocarditis.
Finally, as shows along the Great White Way continue to be cancelled due to Covid outbreaks amongst cast members and audiences become leery of attending live theater, Broadway box office receipts fell 26% over the previous week to $22.5 million for the week ending December 19, 2021. The list of shows that have cancelled performances through at least Christmas continues to grow and includes “Hadestown,” “Hamilton,” “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” “The Lion King,” and “Six,” while other shows have so far cancelled for several days at a time.
The producers of “Romeo and Bernadette: A Musical Tale of Brooklyn and Verona” announced the indefinite postponement of the show’s debut at Theater 555. The show, which had been slated to begin an off-Broadway run in March 2020, was now slated to begin previews on February 1, 2022 with an official opening on February 14.
Now here are the daily statistics for Wednesday, December 22.
As of Wednesday morning, the world has recorded 276.8 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.9 million new cases, and almost 5.4 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 248.3 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.6 million.
The current number of infections as of Wednesday is 26,211,993. Out of that figure, close to 100%, or 26,122,554, are considered mild, and 89,439 are listed as critical.
The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 154,555, a 27% increase. The average daily death toll over the same period is 1,351, an increase of 4% over the same period.
In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Wednesday, recorded 52.3 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 830,990. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, almost 34.8 million, and a reported death toll of 478,325. Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 617,991, and has over 22.2 million cases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Wednesday, 241.1 million people in the United States – or 72.6% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 61.6%, or 204.6 million people, are now fully vaccinated, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 497.4 million. Breaking this down further, 84.8% of the population over the age of 18 – or 219 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 72.6% of the same group – or 187.5 million people – is fully vaccinated. In addition, 33.1% of that population, or 62 million people, has already received a booster shot.
The CDC adjusted data for initial shots on Wednesday, which resulted in slightly lower figures than published on Tuesday. The change did not impact data for the number of fully vaccinated individuals or those who had received a third, or booster, shot.
The CDC also reported that the omicron variant comprised 73.2% of recent Covid cases in the United States as of Wednesday. In many parts of the country, the new variant makes up 90% of all cases, it said. Meanwhile, New York state reported on Monday – the latest date for which information is available – a record number of Covid-19 infections for the fourth consecutive day.
Some 57% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, an increase that is largely unchanged from the prior day, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information. So far, 8.81 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.
Meanwhile, only 8.1% 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 65% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine. In countries such as Ethiopia, Haiti, Syria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, for example, vaccination rates remain in the single digits, if not lower.
Figures from the World Health Organization show that well-off countries are vaccinating people at the rate of one person per second, while the majority of poor countries have yet to give a single dose to its citizens.
It is critical that the world do a better job of sharing vaccines with poorer nations.
Sharing vaccines is not merely a form of charity. Rather, the equitable distribution of vaccines is in every country’s health and economic interest and no country will be able to move past the pandemic until other countries have recovered as well.
Anna Breuer and Paul Riegler contributed to this story.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)