Stop ‘Misleading’ People; New York City’s Rats Are Catching CovidFrequent Business Traveler

March 13, 2023

A dose of the original Moderna vaccine

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,065th day of the pandemic and the third anniversary of the start of the coronavirus pandemic.  Since the start of the pandemic, the world has seen over 681.5 million cases and 6.81 million deaths.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic.  The novel coronavirus was sweeping the world and the world had lost its ability to contain it, if it ever had had such a capability.

Senior leaders in many countries reacted with  denial, an air of incredulity, and of course fear.

Here’s how we got to that point.

While there were cases of Covid (which had not yet been named) in 2019, the World Health Organization on January 8, 2020 issued a statement discussing a “pneumonia of unknown cause” that its office in China had been notified of on December 31, 2019. As of January 3, 2020, a total of 44 patients with pneumonia of unknown etiology had been reported to the agency by the national authorities in China.

One day later, the WHO said that “Chinese authorities have made a preliminary determination of a novel (or new) coronavirus, identified in a hospitalized person with pneumonia in Wuhan,” perhaps the first time the phrase “novel coronavirus” was bandied about in the run-up to the global pandemic.

Public health officials understandably didn’t grasp the severity of the situation.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the acting head of WHO’s emerging diseases unit, told Reuters at the time, that “[F]rom the information that we have, it is possible that there is limited human-to-human transmission, potentially among families, but it is very clear right now that we have no sustained human-to-human transmission.”

Politicians buried their heads in the sand.

Then President Donald Trump, when asked by a CNBC reporter on January 22 about any concern he might have of an impending pandemic, pooh-poohed it. “No. Not at all … We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.“

Wuhan, meanwhile, was shutting down and the WHO began to indicate the possibility of a global public health emergency.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said in a statement on January 23 that the novel coronavirus outbreak was not yet a public health emergency of international concern, but added this ominous warning: “Make no mistake. This is an emergency in China, but it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one.“

That only took a week.

On January 29, the head of the WHO’s Health emergency Programme issued a dire warning: “The whole world needs to be on alert now. The whole world needs to take action and be ready for any cases that come from the epicenter or other epicenter that becomes established.”

One of the saddest moments was the death of Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist in Wuhan, on February 7 2020 from Covid.   Li had sounded the alarm over the virus almost a month earlier and was forced to retract his statement by Chinese authorities.  In an interview with the New York Times prior to his death, he said that he felt he “was being wronged” but “had to accept it.”  “If the officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier, I think it would have been a lot better. There should be more openness and transparency,” the brave doctor said.

The WHO named the virus COVID-19 on February 11, with its director, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, telling the world “a virus is more powerful in creating political, economic and social upheaval than any terrorist attack.“

“If the world doesn’t want to wake up and consider this enemy virus as public enemy number one, I don’t think we will learn our lessons.”

In other news we cover today, New York City’s rats are contracting Covid, the White House rebuked Florida’s vaccine-skeptic surgeon general, and the Cochrane Review’s editor apologized for publishing a misleading study about the efficacy of masks.


The Biden administration admonished Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo to stop “misleading” people after Ladapo wrote to the White House last month contending that the coronavirus vaccines in the country are not safe.  The response was to the point: “Misleading people by overstating the risks, or emphasizing the risks without acknowledging the overwhelming benefits, unnecessarily causes vaccine hesitation and puts people at risk of death or serious illness that could have been prevented by timely vaccination,” the heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration wrote in a letter to Ladapo.

The Cochrane Review apologized for an evidence review that led many to conclude, wrongly, that masks don’t work to prevent Covid.  It would be “inaccurate” to make that conclusion, the editor said in a statement Friday.

A new study documented that New York City’s rats can actually contract the coronavirus virus. “Our findings highlight the need for further monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 in rat populations for potential secondary zoonotic transmission to humans,” the lead author of the study Dr. Henry Wan said.

Drugmaker Moderna said it will open technology office in Seattle, where it plans to hire up to 220 employees.

Finally, the White House aide who has been heading up pandemic messaging efforts, Kevin Munoz, is leaving the administration.


Health officials in Colorado and Minnesota documented an unusual spike in deadly, invasive infections from Streptococcus bacteria late last year, a study published by the CDC that was published over the past week said. The uptick in deadly strep infections was linked to a wave of influenza and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, in children.


Now here are the daily statistics for Saturday, March 11.

As of Saturday morning, the world has recorded 681.5 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.2 million cases, and 6.81 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 654.3 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.1 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 Saturday at press time is 20,303,420, an increase of 5,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,263,105, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 40,315, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past three months.

The number of new coronavirus infections for Saturday was not available at press time.  The United States reported55,447 new coronavirus infections on Friday for the previous day, compared to 63,372 reported on Thursday, 23,808 on Wednesday, and 14,774 on Tuesday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 7-day incidence rate is now 29,558.  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 29,498, a figure down 15% 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 393, an increase of 20% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 24,887, a decrease of 11%. In addition, the number of patients in ICUs was 3,228, a decrease of 11% and the test positivity rate is now 7.9%, a figure that is down by 15% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Saturday, recorded 105.6 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.15 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 44.7 million, and a reported death toll of 530,780.

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 last reported that 3,284 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in July 2022, 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 39.6 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with just under 38.3 million total cases.

Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 699,310, has recorded 37.1 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 33.3 million cases, South Korea, with 30.6 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with just over 25.6 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.4 million, and Russia, with 22.4 million.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Thursday, 269.6 million people in the United States – or 81.2% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.3%, or 230.1 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 672.1 million. Breaking this down further, 92.1% of the population over the age of 18 – or 237.8 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 79% of the same group – or just under 204 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 19.6% of the same population, or 50.5 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent booster dose of vaccine, while 22.7 million people over the age of 65, or 41.4% of that population have also received the bivalent booster.

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 69.7% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Saturday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 13.32 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 441,435 doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 28% 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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