A succinct summation of the good, the bad, and the ugly in the global pandemic news this week. This brief pandemic update is featured every week at the End of History. Click on the links for deeper dives into the stories that tell what happened this week in the historic global pandemic of our generation.
The world has a cumulative total of more than 220 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 4.5 million deaths.
Variants of Concern
The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed the Mu variant as a new variant of interest. The Mu variant was first identified in Colombia in January and now accounts for 39% of the recorded cases in that country. The Mu variant appears to have the ability to evade immunity provided by vaccines. The Mu variant has been found in 40 countries to date.
The US returned to more than 100,000 average daily hospitalizations this week for the first time since the winter surge when hospitalizations reached 140,000 a day. US vaccinations increased in August. Fourteen million first shots were administered to Americans in August compared to 10 million in July.
Pennsylvania announced mandatory masks for the state’s public schools. The Florida Department of Education has withheld funding from two small school districts that made facemasks mandatory in the classroom this fall. Meanwhile, the US Department of Education is investigating possible civil rights violations among five states that imposed anti-mask mandates on the schools. Authorities say the anti-mask mandates could violate the right to a quality education for students with high-risk immune deficiency conditions.
Hawaii is experiencing a shortage of oxygen tanks to treat covid patients. Authorities are asking patients to delay elective surgeries.
Health insurance rates for Americans are set to rise along with some healthcare expenses related to the coronavirus. Since vaccines have been available for some time, health insurance companies warn that long-term coronavirus hospitalizations among the unvaccinated along with coronavirus tests will be charged to unvaccinated customers through higher health insurance premiums. These adaptations to the coronavirus reality will begin to roll out incrementally across the country.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) said it would soon release new studies that demonstrate hospitalizations and emergency room visits for children are far lower in communities that have higher vaccinations rates.
Almost 92% of older Americans have received at least one vaccination shot, and 80% are fully vaccinated. Americans over age 65 faced a much higher mortality rate from the coronavirus and were a primary target for America’s vaccine rollout.
Seventy percent of adults in the European Union have been fully vaccinated. In the last month, vaccines across the EU’s 27 countries grew faster than anywhere else in the world.
The Pan American Health Organization said 540 million vaccines doses are still needed to reach the goal of vaccinating 60% of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The White House said it would invest $2.7 billion into ramping up the production of vaccine components for wider global distribution. President Biden said he wants the US to be the “arsenal of vaccines for the world.”
A study of almost 2,500 medical workers at a hospital in Belgium found the Moderna vaccine created twice as many antibodies as the Pfizer vaccine. New Zealand reported its first vaccine-related death. More nations announced they would begin administering booster shots to at-risk populations. Cyprus said people over age 65, at-risk individuals of all ages, would now receive vaccine boosters.
Pandemic Headlines from Around the World This Week
- The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that high transmission rates across Europe could result in another 236,000 more COVID deaths by December.
- A British study found that people infected with the Delta variant were twice as likely to need hospitalization than those infected with the Alpha variant.
- Britain reported more than 30,000 new cases per day. Studies suggest the long-term effectiveness of the vaccine is beginning to wane.
- India has vaccinated more than half its adult population. The nation reported its highest number of new cases in two months. Kerala state was host to 70% of those new cases.
- Ireland’s cabinet announced plans to end most pandemic restrictions by late October.
- Australia recorded its 1,000th coronavirus death.
- Authors of a randomized study conducted in Bangladesh found that masks significantly reduce coronavirus risks.
- Kosovo, Albania, and Serbia delayed return to school dates for the fall semester due to the virus.
- North Korea refused 3 million vaccine doses saying the vaccines should be sent to countries with worse outbreaks.
- New Zealand reported a drop in new cases on Thursday as evidence that the national lockdown is working to combat the coronavirus.
- Indonesia is using drones to drop groceries and medications to people in lockdown.