Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Sept. 18: Companies Order Workers Back Thinking the Pandemic Is Over, China Quarantine Bus Crash

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Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 82nd day of the pandemic.


Companies in the United States including major banks and tech companies are ordering workers back left and right this fall, with a subtext of saying that the pandemic is, at least for them, over.  While managers are rosily prognosticating the future of the pandemic for fall and winter, their efforts aren’t based in science in the least.  They simply want workers back in their seats where they can see them because that is how they – in their minds at least – measure productivity.  Meanwhile, many studies conducted during the pandemic show that remote workers are typically at least as productive when telecommuting if not more so.


Unfortunately, at least for the prognosticators, I have some bad news.  The coronavirus pandemic is far from over and each time we underestimate its hold over us, it returns with a vengeance.


Almost 500 Americans die each day from the virus and some 35,000 to 40,000 are hospitalized.  In addition, although case figures are legitimately in decline, we have little data about at-home tests and anecdotal evidence suggests that actual daily new case numbers are ten times the official count.  While that would put us at 60,000 or so for Sunday, it would also place us at 1.2 million on Thursday.


Just like the only truly accurate weather prediction is made by looking out the window, predictions about the future course of the pandemic have been all been incorrect, even when you have some of the best scientists looking at the data.  (Witness President Joseph Biden’s 2021 proclamation of “pandemic independence” in time for the Fourth of July, Independence Day in the United States, an announcement that was followed by multiple highly deadly waves of Covid.)


In other news we cover today, researchers believe combining two antivirals may provide better outcomes in Covid cases and the rate of decline in new cases in the United Kingdom is at the lowest level in months.


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


UNITED STATES


The New York City Department of Education fired an additional 850 teachers and classroom aides for failing to comply with the current coronavirus vaccine. The action brings the total number of teachers and aides fired for lack of compliance to over 2,000.


GLOBAL


A bus transporting people to a coronavirus quarantine location in Southern China crashed Sunday.  At least 27 people were reported dead and seven injured when the bus from the Guizhou capital of Guiyang crashed en route to Libo on the Sanil highway.


In Australia, former deputy prime minister Michael McCormack is one of the last two Coalition members of parliament to continue to don a face mask in when parliament is in session.   Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has told all Labor politicians to wear masks but Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has left the decision up to individual MPs.


TRAVEL


Spain, which has lifted coronavirus entry requirements for EU nationals, said it will continue to maintain such requirements for travelers from the United Kingdom until at least November 15 of the current year.  Spain is the most popular holiday destination for British tourists.


TODAY’S STATISTICS


Now here are the daily statistics for Sunday, September 18.


As of Sunday morning, the world has recorded 617.1 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.3 million cases, and over 6.5 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 596.6 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.5 million.


Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Sunday is 13,954,71, a decrease of 321,000. Out of that figure, 99.7%, or 13,914,494, are considered mild, and 0.3%, or 40,218, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past 24 hours.


The United States reported 6,723 new coronavirus infections on Sunday for the previous day, compared to 58,549  on Saturday, 94,168  on Friday, and 115,402  on Thursday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate is now 62,292.  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 62,037, a 29% decrease, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 465, a decrease of 6% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 32,168, an 12% decrease.


In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Sunday, recorded 97.5 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.08 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 44.5 million, and a reported death toll of 528,337.


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 reported that 3,284 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in July, 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, just under 34.9 million, although Brazil has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 685,410, and has recorded over 34.6 million cases, placing it in the number four slot.


Germany is in the number five slot with 32.7 million cases.


The other four countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are South Korea, with 24.4 million cases, the United Kingdom, with 23.6 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 22.1 million, as number eight, as well as Japan, with 20.6 million, and Russia, with 20.4 million.


VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, over 263.4 million people in the United States – or 79.3% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 67.6%, or 224.6 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now just under 613 million. Breaking this down further, 90.3% of the population over the age of 18 – or 233.1 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 77.4% of the same group – or 199.9 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 51.7% of that population, or 103.4 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.


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 67.9% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Sunday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 12.68 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 4.12 million doses are now administered each day.


Meanwhile, only 22.5% 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.


Paul Riegler contributed reporting to this story.


 


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