Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Sept. 24: The World ‘Could Have Blood on Its Hands’ Says WHO, New Variants Emerge

A United Airlines Airbus A320 en route from New York to Chicago


Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 898th day of the pandemic.


Just as a new sublineage of the omicron variant is starting to make its presence known, an official of the World Health Organization said that the world will have “blood on your hands” if it stops tackling the coronavirus pandemic.  Rich nations that declare the pandemic to be “over” should help lower-income countries reach that point too, Bruce Aylward, who serves as team leader of the joint mission between the WHO and China on the pandemic, told Reuters in an interview.


The continued signaling of an “end” to the pandemic comes as three new sublineages of the omicron variant, namely BF.7, BA2.75, and BA.4.6, now make up almost 20% of new infections in the United States.


Scientists fully expect a resurgence in the coronavirus nationwide driven by one or more of the new variants, in line with the prior two winter seasons as deadly waves swept the country.


“With the combination of the evolution of variants, as well as the seasonal aspects, that as we get into this coming late fall and winter, it is likely that we will see another variant emerge,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, this week at a conference organized  by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


BA.2.75 is found in almost 3% of cases in New York and New Jersey at the present time, while BF.7 has been linked to over 4% of cases in New England.


Both BA.4.6 and BF.7 are of concern because scientists believe they might evade the protection offered by Evusheld, a key antibody drug used to shield immunocompromised individuals who aren’t able to get immunity from standard vaccinations.


In other news we cover today, the EPA fined a pesticide company for marketing its product as a covid disinfectant, a court ruled that New York City’s vaccine mandate for police can’t be enforced, and Japan will allow individual travelers to visit starting in October.


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


UNITED STATES


If you flew United Airlines during the pandemic, your tray table might have been “sanitized” using a pesticide.  The Environmental Protection Agency fined two related companies that claimed Zoono Microbe Shield was a coronavirus disinfectant that would stop the spread of the virus.  Zoono USA and Zoono Holdings  gave “false and misleading claims about its effectiveness and suitability for use” as a coronavirus disinfectant,“ the EPA said in levying a fine totaling $325,000.  The companies sold the product to the airline and other large corporations including Amazon as a disinfectant.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated mask guidance for hospitals and nursing homes, saying that some, namely those in 25% of counties in the country, may not need to mandate universal masking.  The CDC is mandating masking only in communities seeing “high” transmission of the virus.


In the House of Representatives Friday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi extended proxy voting until at least November 10. Proxy voting allows members to vote remotely under a pandemic-initiated shift.


Meanwhile, in New York City, State Supreme Court Justice Lyle Frank ruled that the city’s police department can’t fire police officers for refusing to get vaccinated under what is now a long-standing mandate from the de Blasio administration.  The city immediately said it would appear the ruling, saying it was “at odds with every other court decision upholding the mandate as a condition of employment.  In the Empire State, the Supreme Court is the trial-level court of general jurisdiction, not an appellate court, despite its name.


TRAVEL


In Japan, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that the country will ease pandemic-related travels restrictions next month.  The move will make it easier for tourists to enter the country.  Starting October 11, individual travelers will be permitted to enter Japan and visa waivers for dozens of countries including the United States will be reinstated.


Meanwhile, Hong Kong officials said they will end mandatory hotel quarantine stays for visitors starting on September 26.  Until now, the former British colony has maintained strict restrictions for international visitors in line with China’s so-called “zero-Covid” policy.


TODAY’S STATISTICS


Now here are the daily statistics for Saturday, September 24.


As of Saturday morning, the world has recorded 619.8 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.4 million cases, and over 6.5 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 599.6 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.4 million.


Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Saturday is 13,612,353, an increase of 4,000. Out of that figure, 99.7%, or 13,572,308, are considered mild, and 0.3%, or 40,045, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past 24 hours.


The United States reported 44,458 new coronavirus infections on Saturday for the previous day, compared to 92,729  on Friday, 107,066 on Thursday, and  51,523 on Wednesday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate is now 53,737.  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 54,088, an 18% 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 430, an increase of 12% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 30,273, a 14% decrease.


In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Saturday, recorded 97.9 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, 44.6 million, and a reported death toll of 528,487.


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, with 35.1 million, although Brazil has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 685,816, and has recorded just under 34.7 million cases, placing it in the number four slot.


Germany is in the number five slot with over 32.9 million cases.


The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are South Korea, with 24.6 million cases, the United Kingdom, with 23.6 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 22.3 million, as number eight, as well as Japan, with over 20.9 million, and Russia, with 20.7 million.


VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, over 263.8 million people in the United States – or 79.5% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 67.8%, or 224.9 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 616.2 million. Breaking this down further, 90.4% of the population over the age of 18 – or 233.4 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 77.5% of the same group – or 200.1 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 51.8% of that population, or 103.7 million people, has already received a first 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 Saturday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 12.7 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 4.25 million doses are now administered each day.


Meanwhile, only 22.3% 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.


(Photo: Accura Media Group)