If you thought that the airplane mask mandate was far in the rear-view mirror, you’d be mistaken. The United States on Tuesday asked an appeals court panel to reverse an April 2021 ruling that declared unlawful a government order requiring masks on public transportation including airplanes, buses, trains, ridesharing services and at airports and other transportation hubs.
The mask mandate was put into place shortly after the inauguration of President Joseph Biden.
A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on the government’s appeal of a ruling by a U.S. district court judge in Florida. That judge found the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had lacked the legal authority to issue a nationwide travel mask mandate to combat the coronavirus.
Justice Department lawyer Brian Springer told the panel that the CDC could impose face mask mandates without giving the public a period of time to comment given the pandemic emergency. Springer argued that it was necessary in order “to prevent the possible infections and deaths that could result if people didn’t do the simple thing of just putting on a mask while they were traveling.”
While it is unlikely that the CDC would seek to reinstate the mandate, I believe that the appeal is necessary in order to preserve its authority to take future such actions.
On a side note, the world’s oldest person, Sister Andrée, born as Lucile Randon, died on Tuesday at the age of 118. She was born in southern France on February 11, 1904, a time when the first world war was still a decade away. She lived through the period of the Spanish Flu global influenza pandemic that struck in 1918 and lasted through 1920 and, in 2021, survived SARS-CoV-2, which had swept through the nursing home she lived in.
In other news we cover today, a study found that 70% of medications advertised on television are of “low therapeutic value,” a Utah doctor issued 2,000 fake vaccine cards for $50 per jab, and Australia is considering a fifth Covid shot for citizens.
A plastic surgeon in Utah, Dr. Michael K. Moore, is facing criminal charges for allegedly giving 2,000 fake coronavirus vaccine shots, each for a $50 “donation.” The doctor’s certificates helped anti-vaxxers skirt public health rules and laws and dumped the vaccine down the drain instead of administering it.
Moore, along with two employees, is charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, as well as two conspiracy counts for improper conversion of disposal of U.S. property.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said that he would like to have factories making his company’s messenger RNA technology vaccines on every continent. The U.S. will soon embark on a plan to build four new manufacturing facilities in the coming year.
The Australian government is reportedly considering a fifth Covid booster for citizens in preparation for the winter. Case numbers have dropped by half over the past month, which is the first month of summer and one of the hottest on the calendar.
China’s border reopening is off to a sluggish start. Residents of mainland China made up only 14% of all arrivals into Hong Kong, or some 64,000 visitors, since the city’s land border with China reopened nine days ago.
A new study that will no doubt please physicians whose patients come into their practices touting medications seen on television found that 70% of drugs advertised on TV are of “low therapeutic value.” The study, entitled “Therapeutic Value of Drugs Frequently Marketed Using Direct-to-Consumer Television Advertising, 2015 to 2021” and conducted by researchers at Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth, was published on the JAMA Open Network.
“One explanation [for the findings] might be that drugs with substantial therapeutic value are likely to be recognized and prescribed without advertising, so manufacturers have greater incentive to promote drugs of lesser value,” said the authors.
Moderna’s experimental vaccine for RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is 83% effective in older adults, the company said in announcing the results of a large clinical trial. If regulators approve the vaccine, it could become available by early next year.
Now here are the daily statistics for Wednesday, January 18.
As of Wednesday morning, the world has recorded 672.1 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.3 million cases, and 6.73 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 643.4 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.3 million.
The reader should note that infrequent reporting from some sources may appear as spikes in new case figures or death tolls.
Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Wednesday at press time is 21,858,885, a decrease of 37,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 21,850,831, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 45,049, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past 24 hours.
The United States reported 58,311 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday for the previous day, compared to 8,408 on Tuesday, 3,735 on Monday, 3,904 on Sunday, 30,115 on Saturday, and 97,230 on Friday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 7-day incidence rate is now 51,293. 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 59,342, a figure that is flat 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 537, an increase of 73% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 40,072, a decrease of 14%. In addition, the number of patients in ICUs was 5,038, a decrease of 9% and the test positivity rate is now 13%, an 18% decrease.
In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Wednesday, recorded just over 103.6 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of over 1.12 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, just under 44.7 million, and a reported death toll of 530,728.
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 39.5 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with just over 37.6 million total cases.
Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 695,591, has recorded just under 36.7 million cases, placing it in the number five slot.
The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are Japan, with 31.7 million cases, South Korea, with 29.9 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 25.4 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.2 million, and Russia, with 21.9 million.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, 268.6 million people in the United States – or 80.9% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.1%, or 229.4 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 666.5 million. Breaking this down further, 91.8% of the population over the age of 18 – or 237.1 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 78.8% of the same group – or 203.5 million people – is fully vaccinated. In addition, 18.2% of the same population, or over 46.9 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 69.2% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Wednesday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information. So far, 13.21 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 2.01 million doses are now administered each day.
Meanwhile, only 25.9% 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)