Coronavirus Morning News Brief – June 23: N.Y.C. Won’t Enforce Vaccine Mandate for Businesses, Dr. Birx Describes White House Efforts to Downplay Threats

A Japan Airlines aircraft in Tokyo


Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 805th day of the pandemic.


Slowly but surely, vaccinations for children in the age group six months to five years are starting, but there are some obstacles to overcome.


Perhaps the greatest obstacle is a persistent belief among many that the pandemic is over, which is not at all the case given the rising number of daily cases in many parts of the world, including the United States. Second is a mistaken belief that children are not at risk from Covid, which is countered by the fact that over 2,5 million kids younger than 5 have contracted the virus since 2020 and 202 have died.


Parental hesitation also plays a role.


A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey that found most parents are planning to bide their time in going to the family pediatrician for a jab: 18% of parents said they would vaccinate their kids immediately, 27% said they never will, and 38% said they plan to wait an unspecified amount of time before doing so.


In addition, an additional 11% said they would only inoculate their children against Covid if mandated, either by government regulation or for school requirements.


Some 19 million children just became eligible, marking the final frontier in vaccinations in the United States, leaving only infants, a group that carries relatively low risk because they do not typically go out and about very much.


Just as in other waves of vaccinations, every arm counts so if you speak to any toddlers in the coming weeks, please encourage them to get jabbed.


In other news we cover today, New York City won’t enforce its own vaccine mandates for private business, Chinese officials were punished for using vaccine and test passports to punish victims of a financial scandal, and tourism is starting in Japan, albeit at a glacial pace,


Here’s a look at what has taken place over the past 24 hours.


UNITED STATES


San Francisco Mayor London Breed tested positive for the coronavirus, her office said in a statement Wednesday. The mayor is fully vaccinated and boosted and feeling well, the statement said. Breed will be conducting meetings from home and will not attend any public events while isolating in accordance with CDC guidelines.


Meanwhile, New York Mayor Eric Adams said that the city won’t attempt to enforce its vaccine mandate for private businesses, although the mandate will remain in place.


The story was first reported by Newsday, a Long Island newspaper.


Over 91% of New Yorkers have had at least one dose of vaccine and 78% are fully vaccinated, according to city and CDC figures.


Finally, Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator in the Trump administration, said that White House officials at the time asked her to change or delete parts of her group’s weekly guidance sent to state and local officials in what she described as an ongoing effort to stifle information in the midst of a major surge in cases in the second half of 2020.


GLOBAL


Chinese officials who abused their access to people’s vaccine and Covid test passports in order to prevent victims of a financial scandal from protesting are being punished.


Almost 1,400 people discovered that their health codes had been changed to red, incorrectly identifying them as a health risk under the country’s zero-Covid policies.


In a statement on Wednesday, the Zhengzhou Commission for Discipline Inspection said the guilty officials had worked with a member of the local political and legal committee in charge of social stability as well as data-processing and healthcare workers to make the changes.


TRAVEL


The first tour group of Hong Kong travelers headed to Japan after more than two years of border closures.  Ten people are taking part in the seven-day trip to the Land of the Rising Sun, which is only permitting tour groups under careful supervision to enter the country.


False positive coronavirus test results left 136 travelers stranded at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge overnight on Tuesday, unable to proceed.  Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection communicable disease branch, said environmental contamination was the likely cause of the faulty test results.


Only three people were confirmed as actually being positive and the remainder tested negative.


TODAY’S STATISTICS


Now here are the daily statistics for Thursday, June 23.


As of Thursday morning, the world has recorded 546.8 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.9 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and 6.35 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 522.4 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.6 million.


Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Thursday is 18,027,956, an increase of 330,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 17,991,611, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 36,345, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is unchanged over the past 24 hours.


The United States reported 169,329 new coronavirus infections on Thursday for the previous day, compared to 209,738 on Wednesday, 54,156 on Tuesday, 14,607 on Monday, 14,212 on Sunday, and 116,485 on Saturday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate is now 97,608.  Figures for the weekend (reported the following day) are typically 30% to 60% of those posted on weekdays due to a lower number of tests being conducted.


The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 97,069, a decrease of 13%, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 296, a decrease of 13% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 30,316, a 3% increase.


In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Thursday, recorded 88.4 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.04 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 43.3 million, and a reported death toll of 524,021.


New data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed at the end of May that the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 812,890, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, after the United States.  Rosstat reported that 11,583 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in April, down from 35,584 in March and from 43,543 in February.


Meanwhile, Brazil now has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 669,612, and has recorded 31.9 million cases.


France continues to occupy the number four position in total cases with 30.4 million cases, and Germany is in the number five slot with 27.5 million.  The United Kingdom, with 22.6 million cases, is now number six and is the only other country in the world with a total number of cases over the 20 million mark.


VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Thursday, over 259.2 million people in the United States – or 78.1% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 66.8%, or 221.9 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 592.3 million. Breaking this down further, 89.5% of the population over the age of 18 – or 231 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 76.8% of the same group – or 198.2 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 50.6% of that population, or 100.2 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.


Over 66.3% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Thursday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 12.01 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 5.63 million doses are now administered each day.


Meanwhile, only 17.8% 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 in the single digits, if not lower.


In addition, North Korea and Eritrea are now the only two countries in the world that have not administered vaccines.


Anna Breuer contributed to this story.


(Photo: Accura Media Group)