Flying? WHO Says Don a Mask, Bivalent Omicron Jab Keeps Seniors out of HospitalFrequent Business Traveler

January 10, 2023
January 10, 2023

Inside the forward section of a TWA Lockheed Constellation

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,005th day of the pandemic.

If you’re flying, you may soon find that you are being asked to don a face mask in order to board the aircraft.

That advice comes from top officials at the World Health Organization.

The WHO said at a news conference on Tuesday that countries should strongly consider recommending that passengers wear face masks on long-haul flights. The move is intended to counter the spread of the latest omicron sublineages including XBB 1.5, given their ability to spread rapidly.

XBB 1.5 currently accounts for over 40% of new cases in the United States alone and is on the rise elsewhere.

Air passengers should be advised to don masks in high-risk settings such as long-haul flights, said the WHO’s senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood.

Smallwood said that “this should be a recommendation issued to passengers arriving from anywhere where there is widespread Covid-19 transmission.”

In other news we cover today, the new bivalent coronavirus booster shot is keeping most seniors who contract Covid out of the hospital, the Biden administration will renew the yearslong emergency health declaration for pandemic at least one more time, and the New York City nurses’ strike is continuing with no end in sight.


A new study found that the new bivalent booster designed for omicron sublineages BA.4 and BA.5 has kept senior citizens out of hospitals.  Those who received the jab were 81% less likely to be hospitalized with the coronavirus than those who were not. The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, was posted by the British medical journal The Lancet to the SSRN pre-print website.

The Biden administration reportedly wants to lift the yearslong public health emergency declaration for the pandemic later in the year. Given the current omicron subvariant threat, however, it will need to continue to manage the crisis and extend the emergency declaration at least one more time.


China said it would suspend visas for visitors from South Korea,  thereby barring them from entering the country.  The move is in response to that country’s new coronavirus rules that require a negative Covid test in order to enter the country.


The nurses’ strike at three New York City hospitals continued into Day 2.  Nurses at three New York City hospitals, namely Mount Sinai Hospital, Mount Sinai Morningside and West, and Montefiore Bronx, walked off the job at 6 a.m. Monday after negotiations with management broke down overnight.  The nurses are pushing for increased pay and staffing, saying they face conditions that drive employee burnout.  Talks resumed Monday afternoon, but no agreement had been reached as of press time Tuesday morning.


Now here are the daily statistics for Tuesday, January 10.

As of Tuesday morning, the world has recorded 669.2 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.3 million cases, and 6.72 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 640.4 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.4 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Tuesday at press time is 22,016,868 22,053,062, a decrease of 36,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 21,968,342, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 48,526, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 43,918 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday for the previous day, compared to 6,100 on Monday, 3,607 on Sunday, 115,075 on Saturday, and 115,834 on Friday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 7-day incidence rate is now 81,231.  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 67,012, an increase of 2% 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 467, an increase of 10% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 47,191, an increase of 17%. In addition, the number of patients in ICUs was 5,267, an increase of 15% and the test positivity rate is now 15%, a 14% increase.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Tuesday, recorded over 103.1 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 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 530,722.

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

Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 694,949, has recorded 36.5 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 over 30.6 million cases, South Korea, with 29.6 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 25.3 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.2 million, and Russia, with just over 21.8 million.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, 268.5 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 229.3 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 665.1 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 203.4 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 17.7% of the same population, or over 45.7 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 69.1% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Tuesday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 13.19 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 2.2 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)

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