Hospitals in Japan’s second largest city of Osaka are buckling under a huge wave of new coronavirus infections, running out of beds and ventilators as exhausted doctors warn of a “system collapse”, and advise against holding the Olympics this summer.
The IOC vice president in charge of the postponed Tokyo Olympics said Friday the games would open in just over two months even if the city and other parts of Japan were under a state of emergency because of rising COVID-19 cases.
The normally rare infection, called mucormycosis, has a mortality rate of 50%, with some only saved by removing an eye. But in recent months, India saw thousands of cases affecting recovered and recovering Covid-19 patients.
Across the country, rates of new COVID-19 cases are dropping to numbers not seen since last June.
Three researchers working at a Wuhan virology lab went to the hospital with Covid-like symptoms weeks before the first Covid-19 case was confirmed in China on December 8, according to newly disclosed U.S. intelligence obtained and reported by the Wall Street Journal on Sunday—corroborating previous State Department findings and casting further doubts on the longstanding assertion that Covid-19 did not escape from a lab. (Related: Intelligence on Sick Staff at Wuhan Lab Fuels Debate on Covid-19 Origin – WSJ)
Brazil’s Healthy Ministry on Monday registered 790 new COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours and 37,498 new cases of coronavirus.
As of Friday, the coronavirus-related death toll in Latin America and the Caribbean surpassed 1 million people, according to the U.N. Pan American Health Organization. Almost 90 percent of these deaths took place in five major countries in the region — Brazil (around 44 percent), Mexico (22 percent), Colombia (8 percent), Argentina (7 percent) and Peru (nearly 7 percent). In some of these countries, the official number of coronavirus deaths may be only a fraction of the real total. But the overall trend lines for Latin America have been grim, with its economies ravaged and a paltry number of vaccinations administered.
Despite an extensive network of primary care availability, Brazil has suffered profoundly during the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic. Using daily data from state health offices, Castro et al. analyzed the pattern of spread of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the country from February to October 2020. Clusters of deaths before cases became apparent indicated unmitigated spread. SARS-CoV-2 circulated undetected in Brazil for more than a month as it spread north from Sã o Paulo. In Manaus, transmission reached unprecedented levels after a momentary respite in mid-2020. Faria et al. tracked the evolution of a new, more aggressive lineage called P.1, which has 17 mutations, including three (K417T, E484K, and N501Y) in the spike protein. After a period of accelerated evolution, this variant emerged in Brazil during November 2020. Coupled with the emergence of P.1, disease spread was accelerated by stark local inequalities and political upheaval, which compromised a prompt federal response.
Infections are soaring. So are deaths. Whole cities are under lockdown. And the government seems powerless to help. India is in the grip of a coronavirus crisis. Experts agree that the spread is probably even worse than the official statistics suggest. In many parts of the country, hospital beds, supplemental oxygen and other vital supplies are running short.
Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Odyssey of the Seas, disembarked several crew members who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Spain as the ship makes its way to the United States after canceling cruises in Israel amid unrest earlier this month. The ship is carrying 1,400 crew members, Lyan Sierra-Caro, spokesperson for the cruise line, told USA TODAY. There are no passengers on board.
In the race to build the world’s first round of coronavirus vaccines, the spike protein—the thorny knobs that adorn each of the pathogen’s particles—was our MVP. Spike is a key ingredient in virtually every one of our current pandemic-fighting shots; it has been repeatedly billed as essential for tickling out any immune response worth its salt. “People put all their eggs in the spike basket,” Juliet Morrison, a virologist at UC Riverside, told me. And it undoubtedly paid off.
Both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines showed effectiveness against symptomatic disease from B.1.617.2, the so-called Indian variant, British researchers found. Two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine showed 87.9% efficacy (95% CI 78.2%-93.2%) against the variant, while two doses of AstraZeneca’s showed 59.8% efficacy (95% CI 28.9%-77.3%), reported Jamie Lopez Bernal, PhD, of Public Health England in London, and colleagues in a preprint manuscript online. Vaccine effectiveness after one dose against B.1.617.2 was similarly low for both vaccines, at 33%.
Vaccine safety experts are studying a small number of cases of heart muscle inflammation that have been reported in multiple countries among young people who had recently received their second dose of one of the coronavirus vaccines. (related: C.D.C. Is Investigating a Heart Problem in a Few Young Vaccine Recipients – NYT)
Italians who had COVID-19 during the early waves last year were at substantial risk of showing continued gastrointestinal symptoms long after recovering from the infection — especially those who experienced diarrhea during the acute phase, a researcher reported.
A blood oxygen level below 92% and fast, shallow breathing were associated with significantly elevated death rates in a study of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, suggesting that people who test positive for the virus should watch for these signs at home, according to a study led by University of Washington at Seattle researchers.
Official Reporting for May 21, 2021
World Health Organization
Confirmed Cases: 27 698 828
Deaths: 696 959
Confirmed Cases: 167,345,338
Total cases: 32,947,548 (+13,186 New Cases)
Total deaths: 587,342 (+220 New Deaths)
Science and Tech
Queensland scientists have developed two new drugs that could prevent COVID-19 infection and stop further spread of the virus in patients who have already contracted it.
Two studies this month point to pooches’ quick detection of SARS-CoV-2 on material that touched the skin of infected participants, although the pups’ accuracy does not match that of RT-PCR.
Sociological & Psychological Impact
Dubbed “COVID-somnia,” over half of Americans have experienced increases in sleep disturbances since the start of the pandemic. What can we do to get more restful sleep?
On a Sunday afternoon in early May, Robert Johnson backed out of his garage, preparing to visit his company’s office — a place he hasn’t driven to regularly since before the coronavirus pandemic. His wife screamed. Johnson slammed on the brakes. There, just behind the vehicle, was his dog.
This time last year, the United States seemed stuck on a COVID-19 plateau. Although 1,300 Americans were dying from the disease every day, states had begun to reopen in a patchwork fashion, and an anxious nation was looking ahead to an uncertain summer. Twelve months later, the situation is very different. Cases are falling quickly. About half as many people are dying every day. Several vaccines were developed faster than experts had dared to predict, and proved to be more effective than they had dared to hope. Despite a shaky start, the vaccination campaign has been successful, and almost half of the country has received at least one shot, including 85 percent of people older than 65. As the pandemic rages on elsewhere in the world, the U.S. is eyeing a summer of reconnection and rejuvenation.
You’ve been vaccinated. You’ve joyfully ripped off your mask when outdoors. Now it’s time to pop your quarantine bubble, right? But finding a good moment to break up the pandemic pod can be tricky. Do you call a meeting? Send a group text to the “quaranteam”? Ceremoniously rip up a contract? Is it possible to ghost someone when they’re practically living in your house?
Novel Canine Coronavirus Isolated from a Hospitalized Pneumonia Patient, East Malaysia – Clinical Infectious Diseases
Covid-19 vaccination hesitancy – BMJ
COVID-19 and excess mortality in the United States: A county-level analysis – PLoS
Proportion of SARS-CoV-2 Infections That Are Asymptomatic – American College of Cardiology
Misinformation, Disinformation, and Conspiracy Theories
Videos of people sticking magnets to where they claim they’ve had the Covid vaccine have racked up millions of views… could the vaccine be magnetic?
Coping in 2020 (and probably most of 2021)
Many states relaxed restrictions on the sale of mixed drinks in order to help struggling businesses. Some of those changes are now being made permanent.