Covid-19

CORONAVIRUS GLOBAL UPDATE

Centers for Disease Control limits boosters; South Africa registers 14,271 new cases

Citizens receive the Covid-19 vaccine at Meadowlands Vaccination Site on 10 August 2021 in Soweto, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)
By Bloomberg
12 Aug 2021 0

South Africa registered 14,271 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 2,568,511. A further 473 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total official deaths to 76,247. A total of 9,185,756 people have been vaccinated.

Booster shots that are expected to be approved for people with compromised immune systems aren’t appropriate for other people at this time, the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

US hospitals are desperately hunting for medical staff as the Covid-19 wave that’s pushing some systems to their breaking point in the South spills into the rest of the country. San Francisco will require proof of full vaccination for indoor patrons of restaurants, bars and gyms, becoming the first major US city to impose such a stringent mandate

Facebook is delaying its return to office plans due to a resurgence in Covid-19 cases, telling US employees on Thursday that they don’t need to return to work in person until January 2022.

Key developments

New York City gave 50,000 people $100 incentive 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said 50,000 New Yorkers had received the $100 gift card the city began offering last month as an incentive to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

“This is clearly a smart, effective way to drive up vaccination rates,” said De Blasio in a statement on Thursday.

De Blasio has so far failed to reach his June goal of vaccinating five million New Yorkers. 

Facebook delays office return

Facebook is delaying its return to office plans due to a resurgence in Covid-19 cases, telling US employees on Thursday that they don’t need to return to work in person until January 2022.

“Given the recent health data showing rising Covid cases based on the Delta variant, our teams in the US will not be required to go back to the office until January 2022,” said Tracy Clayton, a Facebook spokesperson, in a statement. 

Facebook had originally said it expected about 50% office capacity in the US by September, with a full return by October.

Mississippi extends State of Emergency

Governor Tate Reeves extended Mississippi’s State of Emergency for 30 days, after health officials reported a record high daily case count of 4,412. The Republican governor has faced criticism for not acting aggressively enough in the face of a new Delta-variant surge that has strained Mississippi’s hospital system.

On Wednesday the state said it would open a 50-bed hospital and that the federal government will send in medical help. Reeves tweeted on Thursday, however, “There will be no lockdowns and there will be no statewide mandates.”

Mississippi has the nation’s lowest rate of vaccination, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. Just above 42% of all people have received at least one shot, compared with a US average of 59.1%.

WHO sets next phase of Covid origin probe

The World Health Organization (WHO) called on governments to “provide all data and access” to help advance investigations into the origin of the virus that causes Covid-19.

The United Nations agency said in a statement it’s creating a scientific adviser group to support recommended further studies outlined in March after a joint report by WHO and China. Afterwards, WHO said it couldn’t rule out any hypothesis, including a lab leak.

Secure labs in the two countries that keep stocks of the eradicated smallpox virus, Russia and the US, submit every two years to inspections by the WHO, which publishes the inspection reports, according to the statement.

US hospitals pushed to brink

US hospitals are desperately hunting for medical staff as the Covid-19 wave that’s pushing some systems to their breaking point in the South spills into the rest of the country.

More than a dozen states face severe shortages of personnel, US Department of Health and Human Services data show. In Texas and Hawaii, hospitals are building tents for extra space. In Florida, the federal government has deployed hundreds of ventilators to Florida in a rare tapping of the Strategic National Stockpile for that equipment.

The scramble comes as hospitals in hard-hit states say they’re reaching surge capacity, cancelling elective procedures again and turning away transfer patients, a jolting warning for parts of the country where cases are just beginning to rise again.

Boston to require shots or tests for workers

All of Boston’s 18,000 employees will need to show proof of vaccination or take weekly Covid-19 tests as of mid-October, Acting Mayor Kim Janey said on Thursday.

“Our purpose is to protect our employees and the public,” Janey said.

The mandate will be phased in beginning later this month; as of October 18, all city workers will be required to comply, she said. Janey said she worked with labour leaders on the decision, and that getting more residents vaccinated remains a priority.

CDC says boosters for immune-compromised

Booster shots that are expected to be approved for people with compromised immune systems aren’t appropriate for other people at this time, the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

As soon as Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to recommend a third Covid-19 vaccine dose for immunocompromised people. But no one else should seek to get another shot on their own, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a briefing.

“At this time, only certain immune-compromised individuals may need an additional dose,” Walensky said.

San Francisco issues stringent vaccine order

San Francisco will require proof of full vaccination for indoor patrons of restaurants, bars and gyms, becoming the first major US city to impose such a stringent mandate.

The rule also will apply to major indoor spaces such as theatres and entertainment venues, Mayor London Breed’s office said in a statement on Thursday.

The move comes as the San Francisco area, which suffered one of the country’s first coronavirus outbreaks last year, is seeing case counts rise again due to the fast-spreading Delta variant. New York City imposed a similar order last week, but only required that indoor diners and gym patrons have one vaccine dose.

Lollapalooza not a superspreader 

Chicago health officials said the city’s Lollapalooza concert shows no sign of being a superspreader event for Covid-19 earlier this month even with 203 cases being reported by attendees.

Those infected may have been exposed elsewhere, according to Dr Allison Arwady, Chicago’s health department commissioner. Anyone diagnosed with Covid on or after attending the concert is included, and may or may not have been infected at the concert, she said. Of those, 58 people were Chicago residents, 138 were other parts of Illinois and seven were from out of state, she said. 

Lollapalooza, which took place from July 29 to August 1, drew an estimated 385,000 people, and approximately 90% or more were vaccinated based on measures taken at the site, Arwady said.

Colorado weighs paying kids for tests

In an effort to encourage Covid-19 surveillance, Colorado is considering paying school children to get tested, perhaps five or more dollars, Governor Jared Polis said at a news conference in Denver on Thursday. Plans are still being reviewed, Polis said. 

Of the 501 Covid-19 patients hospitalised in Colorado, seven are aged 10 and under, he said. The Delta variant has “crowded out” all others, accounting for almost 100% of new cases in Colorado, Polis said, and he is recommending schools use face masks to prevent the spread. There are no plans for a mask mandate, the governor said.

US positive-test rate eases, CDC says

The nationwide positive-test rate in the US declined during the week that ended Monday, breaking an upward trend fuelled by the Delta variant, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data released on Thursday.

The rolling seven-day average of viral lab test positivity fell 0.3% in the report, which didn’t explain the decline. The so-called positivity rate fell nationwide to 9.5%, compared with 10.2% in a similar CDC report issued Wednesday.

Hospital admissions for Covid-19 rose 31.3% on a rolling weekly basis, a slightly increased pace compared to 31.1% for the week that ended on Sunday, according to CDC data.

Educators group supports vaccine mandate

National Education Association President Becky Pringle announced support for requirements that all educators receive a Covid-19 vaccination or submit to regular testing, according to a statement on Thursday.

“As we enter a new school year amidst a rapidly spreading Delta variant and lagging public vaccination rates, it is clear that the vaccination of those eligible is one of the most effective ways to keep schools safe,” Pringle said.

The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organisation, representing more than three million teachers, administrators, retirees and students.

Blade to require passenger vaccinations

Blade Urban Air Mobility will be among the first US flight-providers to require passengers be fully vaccinated for Covid-19.

Starting on September 7, those booking a seat on one of its flights will have to submit a self-certification and may be required to show proof before boarding, Chief Executive Officer Rob Wiesenthal said. Passengers under the age of 12 and those with a medical exemption will be excluded.

Incoming New York governor wants masks in schools 

Incoming New York Governor Kathy Hochul says she is meeting with the state health commissioner to discuss again requiring masks in schools as Covid-19 cases from the contagious Delta variant continue to tick up.

“I believe that there will end up being mask mandates. I just don’t have the authority to do so at this point,” she said on Thursday during an interview with the Today Show.

MedAvail cites Covid for guidance cut

Shares in MedAvail slumped 33% in premarket on Thursday after the healthcare company cut its revenue guidance for the full year.

“Primarily due to lingering Covid-19 uncertainties, we have encountered unanticipated headwinds with the timing of Boards of Pharmacy regulatory approvals and we are cautious that clinics will return to pre-Covid volume levels in the second half of 2021.”

JetBlue sees short-term demand hit

JetBlue Airways said more customers are holding off on booking trips and others are seeking refunds for planned travel because of increased cases of coronavirus.

The carrier expects illnesses linked to the Delta variant to peak in about six to eight weeks, as it has in other countries, CEO Robin Hayes said in a Bloomberg Television interview.

Separately, in a note on Southwest Airlines, Morgan Stanley said its long-term story remained intact and the impact from the Delta variant was manageable.

Israel to expand booster drive

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett instructed health services providers to prepare to expand the coronavirus booster drive to a younger age group next week.

Bennett said he expected to get the final go-ahead from an advisory team later on Thursday. Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash said earlier this week that officials are considering lowering the minimum age to 40 or 50.

Israel began offering a third dose of vaccine to people aged 60 and older on August 1, becoming the first country to widely provide such access to boosters.

UK economy benefits from reopening

The UK economy grew more than expected in June, as lighter coronavirus restrictions led to renewed strength in the nation’s dominant services.

Gross domestic product rose 1%, more than the 0.8% predicted by economists, the Office for National Statistics said on Thursday. That made growth for the second quarter at 4.8%, close to the 5% pace the Bank of England predicted last week.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak promised the UK won’t see a return to the austerity policies of last decade and that he is “united” with Prime Minister Boris Johnson over plans to rebuild the economy after the pandemic. DM

–With assistance from Nic Querolo, Vincent Del Giudice and Anne Mostue.

Gallery

"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"