Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Sept. 28: North Korea Starts Mass Vaccination Campaign, Japanese Covid Pill Shows Promise

Adirondack chairs in the Andironacks in Upstate New York


Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 902nd day of the pandemic.


President Biden’s premature statement that the pandemic was over and the White House’s awkward pivot has fueled a discussion of how we will know when the pandemic is over.  Apparently, the fat lady has not yet sung.


I’m an historian by training and degree and, just as when looking for when a paradigm shift took place, the end of the pandemic can only be determined in the rear-view mirror.


There won’t be a single moment similar to the armistice on November 11, 1918 at 11 a.m. when the First World War came to an end.  We’ll look for milestones including the interruption of virus transmission, the suppression of hospitalizations and deaths, and a broad relaxation in self-isolation.


At this point, we’ve barely achieved the third point.


We’ve made great progress but the coronavirus has always been able to be one step ahead and it’s once science can be one step ahead of the virus that we will truly be able to say that the pandemic is over.


In news we cover today, Disney Cruises ended vaccination mandates for most cruises, North Korea has embarked upon a mass vaccination campaign, and a Japanese drugmaker has a promising medication with which to treat Covid.


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


UNITED STATES


New York State has figured out what to do with the 168 tractor-trailer loads of expired hand sanitizer it still has on hand from the earliest days of the pandemic.   Prisoners in state facilities produced hundreds of thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer and much of it remains in storage at the New York State Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany, and has expired.  The state engaged Eastman Kodak to dispose of and recycle the expired hand sanitizer and Kodak will distill it to extract isopropyl alcohol for reuse in manufacturing. The project will reportedly take 44 weeks to complete.


GLOBAL


North Korea has embarked upon a mass coronavirus vaccination campaign, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, its primary intelligence agency, said.  The spy agency didn’t indicate specifically which border areas have started the vaccinations nor the supplier of the vaccine, although the doses likely come from China.  North Korea was one of two countries in the world that hadn’t started mass vaccination campaigns.  The other is Eritrea, in east Africa, whose neighbors include Ethiopia and Sudan.


In Japan, pharmaceutical company Shionogi reported that its oral treatment for Covid demonstrated significant reduction in symptoms when compared with a placebo in a Phase III trial in Asia.


TRAVEL


Disney Cruise Line will no longer require proof of vaccination for passage on most of its cruises, making it the last major cruise line in the United States to eliminate the requirement. For voyages on the Disney Wish, Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy, and Disney Wonder starting October 14, full vaccination is “highly recommended,” but not mandatory, the cruise line said on its website.  Proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within two days of travel is required for non-vaccinated passengers five years of age and older.


TODAY’S STATISTICS


Now here are the daily statistics for Wednesday, September 28.


As of Wednesday morning, the world has recorded 621.6 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.5 million cases, and over 6.5 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 601.6 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.4 million.


Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Wednesday is 13,256,190, an increase of 89,000. Out of that figure, 99.7%, or 13,216,539, are considered mild, and 0.3%, or 39,651, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past 24 hours.


The United States reported 41,906 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday for the previous day, compared to 58,520 on Tuesday, 5,275 on Monday, 8,091 on Sunday, 44,458 on Saturday, and 92,729 on Friday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate is now 51,249.  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 51,259, a 21% 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 415, a decrease of 4% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 28,974, a 15% decrease.


In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Wednesday, recorded just under 98 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 528,584.


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 35.2 million, although Brazil has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 685,930, and has recorded 34.7 million cases, placing it in the number four slot.


Germany is in the number five slot with 33.1 million cases.


The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are South Korea, with just under 24.7 million cases, the United Kingdom, with 23.6 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 22.4 million, as number eight, as well as Japan, with 21.1 million, and Russia, with 20.9 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 68% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Wednesday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 12.72 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 3.22 million doses are now administered each day.


Meanwhile, only 22.6% 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, with the start of vaccinations in North Korea, Eritrea remains the only country in the world that has not administered vaccines.


Anna Breuer contributed reporting to this story.


(Photo: Accura Media Group)