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Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Nov. 24: Criminals Stole $400 Million in New York Pandemic Aid, Much of China Goes Into Lockdown


Table set with Meito hand-painted ivory china, George Jensen silverware, and Riedel glassware

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 959th day of the pandemic and the celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.

As Americans sit down to a turkey dinner – turkey is the traditional entrée served for the holiday – sublineages of the omicron variant are also taking their place at the table.

The third pandemic Thanksgiving comes at a precarious time.  The new subvariants are supplanting ones that have dominated new cases for the past few months such as BA.5,  the return of colder weather is bringing people back indoors.

On Thanksgiving, this manifests itself in large indoor family gatherings where the virus can easily spread. Holiday travel increased dramatically this year and  people are taking far fewer precautions. It’s not coincidental that the holiday last year coincided with the arrival of an early version of the omicron variant that brought with it record new case figures and the second-deadliest coronavirus wave since the start of the pandemic.

The prior wave was, of course, before the start of mass vaccinations, and resulted in an even higher death rate.

While experts expect a rise in new cases from the holiday, built-up immunity from vaccines and prior infections may help prevent a surge reminiscent of the past two winters.  It’s noteworthy that Wednesday saw a two-month record number in new infections – the first time that figure was over 100,000 since September 15 of this year – but the proof of the pudding will truly be in what the numbers tell us several days after the holiday weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving.

In other news we cover today, China reported a near record number of new Covid infections, police beat protesting workers at the world’s largest iPhone factory in Guangzhou, and thieves stole at least $400 million in pandemic aid from New York State.

UNITED STATES

A combination of thieves, fraudsters, and career criminals stole $400 million in pandemic aid from New York State, a USA Today investigation found.  Instead of the funds going to struggling families, the monies went to subsidize luxuries that included a Bentley GTC, which has an MSRP of over $220,000, the newspaper said.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Wednesday rejected an appeal by a former psychiatry professor at the University of California, Irvine, who  was fired last year after refusing to be vaccinated against the coronavirus following the introduction of a vaccine mandate at the school. Dr. Aaron Kheriaty had contended that he was “naturally immune” from the virus because he had contracted Covid in July 2020 and recovered from it, but research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that past infections do not lead to full immunity.

GLOBAL

Cases in China hit a recent high Tuesday, with over 28,000 new infections, and the country looked to be on a trajectory to soon surpass the past high of 29,000. Unlike previous peaks, when more than 90% of new cases were in Shanghai, the high on Tuesday was spread throughout the country’s provinces and regions.

Much of the country is going into partial or full lockdown as a result of the increase, dashing hopes for a relaxation in China’s “zero-Covid” policies.

Two renowned experts in traditional Chinese medicine from a Guangdong hospital will begin to treat patients in Hong Kong as part of an effort to integrate the practices with Western treatments.

TECH

Police in Zhengzhou, China, beat protesting iPhone factory workers at the Foxconn plant there.  The workers were protesting pay and working conditions at the world’s biggest iPhone factory.

Videos posted online showed thousands of factory employees in masks facing rows of police in white protective suits with plastic riot shields.  Video purportedly at the factory site showed  police kicking and hitting a protester with clubs after he grabbed a metal pole that had been used to strike him. Another video showed protesters spraying fire extinguishers in the direction of police officers.

ENTERTAINMENT

Shanghai Disneyland Park will reopen on Friday after a 25-day closure due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the region. The move comes even as China’s financial hub tightens coronavirus controls amidst a rising number of new infections.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Thursday, November 24.

As of Thursday morning, the world has recorded 644.6 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.5 million cases, and 6.63 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 623.4 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.4 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Thursday at press time is 14,549,449, an increase of 89,000. Out of that figure, 99.7%, or 14,513,151, are considered mild, and 0.3%, or 36,298, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 103,540 new coronavirus infections on Thursday for the previous day, compared to 37,077 on Wednesday, 42,983 on Tuesday, 3,329 on Monday, and 3,497 on Sunday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate is now 48,473.  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 43,115, an increase of 7% averaged over the past 14 days, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 328, an increase of 4% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 28,231, an increase of 1%. In addition, the number of patients in ICUs was 3,449, an increase of 8%.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Thursday, recorded 100.4 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.1 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, almost 44.7 million, and a reported death toll of 530,601.

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 37.5 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 36.3 million total cases.

Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 689,325, has recorded 35.1 million cases, placing it in the number five slot.

The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are South Korea, with 26.8 million cases, Japan, with 24.1 million, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with over 24 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 23.9 million, and Russia, with over 21.5 million.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of last Thursday, 267.5 million people in the United States – or 80.6% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 68.7%, or 228.1 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 650.8 million. Breaking this down further, 91.6% of the population over the age of 18 – or 236.4 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 78.5% of the same group – or 202.7 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 13.1% of the same population, or 33.8 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent 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 Thursday by 8 p.m. EDT, a statement on the agency’s website said.

Some 68.4% 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, 12.98 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 1.7 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 24.5% 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 at or below 10%.

In addition, with the start of vaccinations in North Korea in late September, Eritrea remains the only country in the world that has not administered vaccines.

Paul Riegler cosntributed reporting to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)



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