Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Dec. 2: Nurse Gets Prison Time for Vaccine Card Forgery, Long Covid May Cost Economy $3.7 Trillion

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Clorox Wipes containers in the early days of the pandemic

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 967th day of the pandemic.

Protests against draconian lockdown measures may not be the only problem China’s cities are facing.  Now local governments, which are charged with conducting mass testing and enforcing quarantine and lockdown measures, are running out of money to pay their Covid-related expenses.

This could result in cutbacks in both Covid measures as well as in a reduction in other government services.

Local governments spent 11.8 trillion yuan ($1.68 trillion) more than they raised in tax revenue in the period January through October, and had to borrow heavily to pay for Covid measures, according to data from China’s Ministry of Finance.

Officials on a local level must be feeling a huge sense of relief with the announcement that some pandemic measures will be relaxed but the devil, as one is wont to say, is in the details.

In other news we cover today, a nurse was sentenced to prison after forging Covid vaccine cards, fintech firms played a major role in helping fraudulent pandemic aid applications in the United States, and a study shows that Long Covid comes at a great economic cost.

LONG COVID

A new study suggests that Long Covid comes at a great cost to the economy.  It can cost patients as much as $9,000 per year in health-care expenses in addition to lost wages due to an inability to work.  The study, The Costs of Long Covid, was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Forum on Thursday.  It projects a $3.7 trillion economic cost of Long Covid to the economy.

Long Covid diagnosis and treatment can be a big annual expense for households, especially if they don’t have health insurance.

UNITED STATES

Financial technology firms played a role in billions in fraudulent coronavirus pandemic aid loans, a new congressional report said.  The report blames the companies for a disproportionately high volume of fraud in the Paycheck Protection Program.

Two of the firms cited in the report, Womply and Blueacorn, were responsible for facilitating roughly one in every three loans from the program in 2021. The companies failed to set up systems able to detect or prevent fraud or ineligible applications, the report says.

GLOBAL

If you were one of the people who wiped off your groceries with bleach in the early days of the pandemic, there may have been more behind it than we thought.  A new study at the University of Southampton finds that the coronavirus can stay on some grocery items for days.  The study was conducted by the U.K.’s Food Standards Agency and found that, after smearing the virus on packaging and food products, including fruit, pastries, and bottled drinks, the virus remained active for up to several days.

However, the researchers also found that the risk of such exposure to consumers of the food in question would have been extremely low.

A nurse in Hong Kong who forged Covid vaccination records to help six people circumvent government restrictions about entering certain venues was sentenced to six months in prison.  Kwun Tong Court on Friday handed down the sentence to Carmen Ho Ka-man, 34. Three co-conspirators received somewhat lesser sentences.

Health authorities in Lanzhou, China, said that a coronavirus testing company reported some positive test results as negative. The news came as a now-deleted story in a publication under the umbrella of the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party organ, detailed instances of forged coronavirus tests across the country, including in Shanghai and Beijing. The article warned that false positives and negatives from nucleic acid test results could allow the virus to spread further, thereby leading to more rounds of testing and lockdowns.

SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT

Organizers of Formula One, highest class of international racing for open-wheel single-seater formula race cars sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, announced the cancellation of next year’s Chinese Grand Prix, citing difficulties due to the pandemic situation there, according to a statement released on Friday.

China punished former Knicks basketball star Jeremy Lin after he made “inappropriate remarks about quarantine hotel-related facilities” on social media, the China Basketball Association said Friday, as the government tries to stop protests against pandemic-related controls. Lin, who plays for the Loong Lions Basketball Club, stayed at such a hotel Wednesday ahead of a game.

“Can you believe this is a weight room?” the Shanghai news outlet the Paper reported that Lin had said in a video complaining about hotel workout facilities at a property in Zhuji.  “What kind of garbage is this,” he is said to have written in the now deleted post.

OTHER HEALTHCARE NEWS

Data released by Britain’s National Health Service the number of patients hospitalized for influenza jumped by 40% in just one weak.  The NHS said that 539 people were in hospital beds with the flu on November 27.  At the peak of the 2021-22 flu season, just 138 beds were so occupied.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Friday, December 2.

As of Friday morning, the world has recorded 648.8 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.6 million cases, and 6.64 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 626.3 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.3 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Friday at press time is 15,795,184, an increase of 310,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 15,758,244, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 36,940, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 98,558 new coronavirus infections on Friday for the previous day, compared to 111,515 on Thursday, 47,939 on Wednesday, 57,397 on Tuesday, 6,304 on Monday, and 1,190 on Sunday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 7-day incidence rate is now 50,001.  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 49,070, an increase of 22% 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 274, a decrease of 3% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 33,880, an increase of 17%. In addition, the number of patients in ICUs was 3,794, an increase of 16%.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Friday, recorded 100.7 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of just over 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 530,624.

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 37.9 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with over 36.5 million total cases.

Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 689,998, has recorded over 35.3 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 27.2 million cases, Japan, with 25 million, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 24.3 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24 million, and Russia, with 21.6 million.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Thursday, 267.3 million people in the United States – or 80.5% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 68.8%, or 228.4 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 653.3 million. Breaking this down further, 91.2% of the population over the age of 18 – or 236.2 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 78.5% of the same group – or 202.8 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 14.7% of the same population, or 37.9 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 Thursdays by 8 p.m. EDT, a statement on the agency’s website said.

Some 68.5% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Friday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 13.01 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 2.37 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 24.6% 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 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.

Anna Breuer contributed reporting to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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