Items of recent pandemic news: Moderna applies to the FDA for full licensure; Minnesota and the Twin Cities end mask mandates; and cautious optimism that the pandemic is ending in the US. Plus news briefs and a brace of fripperies.
Is it over?
In the US, the pandemic has arguably been defeated, and it was vaccines that beat it. Across the US, new case counts are lower than at any time since the country went into lockdown in March 2020. Here is a tracker from Axios, which every week for 56 weeks now has updated a US map showing which states were gaining on the virus, in terms of new cases per week, and which were falling behind.
As of this week, 43 states showed week-on-week improvement in the number of new cases and 7 states held steady. Most states showed improvement in the range of 10%-50% better than the week before — Minnesota’s number was -48.3%. The Axios reporters write: “Those case counts are now so low, the virus is so well contained, that this will be our final weekly map.”
From study of the NY Times tracker, it looks to me like the number of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are about at the level of April 1, 2020.
Over the last year 10% of the population of the US was infected with (i.e., tested positive for) SARS-CoV-2, and 1.8% of those people died from it. Almost all deaths from Covid-19 now are people who have not been vaccinated.
Meanwhile in much of the rest of the world — the pandemic rages largely unchecked, and experts predict that 2021’s death toll from Covid-19 will surpass 2020’s. India, Nepal, Brazil, Argentina, and Malaysia are all staggering under the onslaught.
The countries that did the best in the virus’s first year — including Taiwan, Singapore, and Vietnam — are struggling now. Since few in their population caught the virus the first time around, and few have been vaccinated, there is little immunity to slow Covid’s progress.
More contagious variants are exacerbating the problems everywhere but in the US, where the aggressive vaccination push has seemingly won the race.
World leaders are calling for a crash program to ramp up vaccinations, and vaccine manufacture, in poor and middle-income countries. The heads of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, and the World Health Organization outlined a $50 billion plan for collective action to meet these goals. Their call was well timed, coming a week before the wealthy nations’ Group of Seven meeting in England next week.
Minnesota, Twin Cities end mask mandates
For the record, on May 28 the governor of Minnesota lifted the executive order calling for masks to be worn in public indoor spaces. The Twin Cities left their mandates in place, but Minneapolis rescinded theirs on June 1 and St. Paul followed suit the next day.
Private businesses are still free to require masks. When we had dinner on Tuesday June 1st at Italian Eatery in Minneapolis, the restaurant still had its masks-required signs up for those dining inside. (We ate on the patio — not quite ready for indoor dining yet.)
Moderna applies to FDA for biologics license
Approval for either vaccine could take months. Once either is approved, private entities that want to require vaccination, such as colleges, will have an easier time of it.
- Canada mixes up its shots — Following the lead of the UK and some EU countries, Canada has relaxed the requirement that its citizens get both of their vaccine shots from the same manufacturer. The country’s health authority judges that there is sufficient evidence that a heterologous prime-boost regime is both safe and effective.
- Moderna taps Thermo Fisher for manufacturing — Production is set to begin in the third quarter in Thermo Fisher’s North Carolina facility; the agreement will “support the production of hundreds of millions of doses.” See this updated graphic of the companies helping the vaccine makers with manufacturing tasks.
Ready for vertigo? Both fripperies today aim to induce it. (Click on either photo to open a larger version in a new window.)
Second, consider these Inception-inspired images (right) from an advertising campaign for United Airlines, developed by the Australian digital art agency Cream Electric Art. You won’t have vertigo: just a few miles.