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Coronavirus

COVID claims 1 million U.S. lives

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Joanna Martinez, a funeral home worker, looks into a refrigeration cooler with decedents who passed on due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) marked with red tags inside a refrigeration cooler with other bodies not affected at the Farmingto

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By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The United States has now recorded more than 1 million COVID-19 deaths, according to a Reuters tally, crossing a once-unthinkable milestone about two years after the first cases upended everyday life and quickly transformed it.

The 1 million mark is a stark reminder of the staggering grief and loss caused by the pandemic even as the threat posed by the virus wanes in the minds of many people. It represents about one death for every 327 Americans, or more than the entire population of San Francisco or Seattle.

By the time the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, the virus had claimed 36 lives in the United States. In the months that followed, the deadly virus spread like wildfire, finding fertile ground in densely populated urban areas such as New York City and then reaching every corner of the country. https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/health-coronavirus-usa-casualties

By June 2020 https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/USA-CASUALTIES-CHRONOLOGY/xklpyomnrpg, the U.S. death toll had surpassed the total of the country’s military deaths in World War One and it would exceed the American military losses of War World Two by January 2021 when more than 405,000 deaths were recorded.

The disease has left few places on Earth untouched, with 6.7 million confirmed deaths globally. The true toll, including those who died of COVID-19 as well as those who perished as an indirect result of the outbreak, was likely closer to 15 million, the WHO said.

Some of the images associated with COVID death are forever burned in the collective mind of Americans: refrigerated trucks stationed outside hospitals overflowing with the dead; intubated patients in sealed-off intensive care units; exhausted doctors and nurses who battled through every wave of the virus.

Millions of Americans eagerly rolled up their sleeves to receive COVID vaccines after distribution began in late 2020. By early 2021, the virus had already claimed a staggering 500,000 lives.

At one point in January of that year, more people died from COVID-19 every day on average than were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

COVID-19 preyed on the elderly and those with compromised health, but it did not spare healthy youth either, killing more than 1,000 children. Researchers estimate 213,000 U.S. children https://imperialcollegelondon.github.io/orphanhood_calculator/#/country/United%20States%20of%20America lost at least one parent or primary caregiver during the pandemic, taking an immeasurable emotional toll.

While nestling in big cities, coronavirus has also ravaged rural communities with limited access to medical care.

The pandemic had a disproportionate impact on native communities and communities of color. It hit harder where people lived in congregate settings, such as prisons, and decimated entire families. It exposed inequalities deeply entrenched in U.S. society and set off a wave of change affecting most aspects of life in the United States.

With the COVID-19 threat subsiding after the Omicron wave last winter, many Americans have shed masks and returned to offices in recent weeks. Restaurants and bars are once again teeming with patrons, and the public’s attention has shifted to inflation and economic concerns.

But researchers are already working on yet another booster shot as the virus continues to mutate.

“By no means is it over,” said top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci at a recent event. “We still are experiencing a global pandemic.”

TRACKING THE PANDEMIC

Trackng the COVID-19 pandemic is not an exact science. Reuters and the other organizations who make tallies are reaching 1 million U.S. deaths at different times. The variation is due to how each organization counts COVID deaths. For example, Reuters includes both confirmed and probable deaths where that data is available.

     The precise toll of the pandemic may never be truly known. Some people who died while infected were never tested and do not appear in the data. Others, while having COVID-19, may have died for another reason, such as a cancer, but were still counted.

The CDC estimates that 1.1 million excess deaths have taken place since Feb. 1, 2020, mainly from COVID. Excess mortality is the increase in total number of deaths, from any cause, compared with previous years.

    You can read more about the Reuters methodology for tracking COVID cases and deaths here: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/en/methodology/

    You can find more information on CDC excess deaths here: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid19/excess_deaths.htm

Coronavirus

Shanghai reopens some public transport, still on high COVID alert

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3/3

© Reuters. A staff member in a protective suit stands on a platform of a subway station, on the first day of parts of city’s subway services resumed, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, China May 22, 2022. REUTERS/Brenda Goh

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By Brenda Goh and Martin Quin Pollard

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – Shanghai reopened a small part of the world’s longest subway system on Sunday after some lines had been closed for almost two months, as the city paves the way for a more complete lifting of its painful COVID-19 lockdown next week.

With most residents not allowed to leave their homes and restrictions tightening in parts of China’s most populous city, commuters early on Sunday needed strong reasons to travel.

Shanghai’s lockdown and curbs in other cities have battered consumption, industrial output and other sectors of the Chinese economy in recent months, prompting pledges of support from policymakers.

Many who ventured out in the commercial hub wore blue protective gowns and face shields. Inside the carriages, passengers were seen keeping some empty seats between themselves. Crowds were small.

Xu Jihua, a migrant construction worker, arrived at a subway stop before it opened at 7 a.m., hoping to get to a rail station, then home to the eastern province of Anhui.

“Work stopped on March 16,” said Xu, adding he had not been able to earn his monthly 7,000-8,000 yuan ($1,000-$1,100) salary since then and would only return to Shanghai once he was sure he could find work.

“Is the lockdown really lifting or not? It’s not very clear.”

A woman who asked only to be identified by her surname Li said she needed to visit her father in a hospital 8 km (5 miles) from her final stop.

“I’m going to the heart hospital, but I don’t know whether there will be any cars or transport once I get to the railway station,” Li said. “I might have to walk there.”

Four of the 20 lines reopened, and 273 bus routes. Some had closed in late March, others later, although sporadic service continued with a limited number of stops.

The city of 25 million expects to lift its city-wide lockdown and return to more normal life from June 1. Most restrictions on movement will remain in place this month.

Shanghai’s 800-km metro system averaged 7.7 million rides a day in 2020, according to the latest data, with an annual passenger throughput of 2.8 billion.

Trains will run 20 minutes apart for limited hours. Commuters must scan their body temperature at the entrance and show negative results of PCR tests taken within 48 hours.

UNEXPLAINED CURBS

Shanghai has gradually reopened convenience stores and wholesale markets and allowed more people to walk out of their homes, with community transmissions largely eliminated.

Still, parts of the city have recently tightened curbs, underlying the difficulty of resuming normal life under China’s zero-COVID policy, which is increasingly at odds with the rest of the world.

Jingan, a key commercial district, said on Saturday it will require all shops to shut and residents to stay home until at least Tuesday, as it carries out mass testing.

The use of exit permits, previously given to residents that allowed them to leave their homes for short walks will be suspended, authorities said without giving a reason.

Similar actions were announced on Friday in the Hongkou district as well as on Saturday by Qingpu district’s Zhaoxiang town, which said they wanted to “consolidate” the results of their epidemic prevention efforts so far.

Shanghai reported fewer than 700 daily cases on Sunday. Significantly, none was outside quarantined areas, as they have been the case for much of the past week. The capital Beijing reported 61 cases, down from 70.

Beijing has been gradually tightening restrictions since April 22, with many shops closed, public transport curtailed and residents asked to work from home. But it still struggles to eliminate an outbreak of dozens of new infections a day.

Tianjin, a key northeastern port, found 36 new cases on Saturday, CCTV reported.

Regulators said on Friday they will streamline the process of equity and bond issuance by companies hit by the pandemic, and urged brokerages and fund managers to channel more money into virus-hit sectors.

($1 = 6.6921 Chinese yuan renminbi)

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Coronavirus

WHO expects more cases of monkeypox to emerge globally

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A section of skin tissue, harvested from a lesion on the skin of a monkey, that had been infected with monkeypox virus, is seen at 50X magnification on day four of rash development in 1968. CDC/Handout via REUTERS

By Jennifer Rigby

LONDON (Reuters) -The World Health Organization said it expects to identify more cases of monkeypox as it expands surveillance in countries where the disease is not typically found.

As of Saturday, 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported from 12 member states that are not endemic for the virus, the U.N. agency said, adding it will provide further guidance and recommendations in coming days for countries on how to mitigate the spread of monkeypox.

“Available information suggests that human-to-human transmission is occurring among people in close physical contact with cases who are symptomatic”, the agency added.

Monkeypox is an infectious disease that is usually mild, and is endemic in parts of west and central Africa. It is spread by close contact, so it can be relatively easily contained through such measures as self-isolation and hygiene. See EXPLAINER:

“What seems to be happening now is that it has got into the population as a sexual form, as a genital form, and is being spread as are sexually transmitted infections, which has amplified its transmission around the world,” WHO official David Heymann, an infectious disease specialist, told Reuters.

Heymann said an international committee of experts met via video conference to look at what needed to be studied about the outbreak and communicated to the public, including whether there is any asymptomatic spread, who are at most risk, and the various routes of transmission.

He said the meeting was convened “because of the urgency of the situation”. The committee is not the group that would suggest declaring a public health emergency of international concern, WHO’s highest form of alert, which applies to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said close contact was the key transmission route, as lesions typical of the disease are very infectious. For example, parents caring for sick children are at risk, as are health workers, which is why some countries have started inoculating teams treating monkeypox patients using vaccines for smallpox, a related virus.

Many of the current cases have been identified at sexual health clinics.

Early genomic sequencing of a handful of the cases in Europe has suggested a similarity with that spread in a limited fashion in Britain, Israel and Singapore in 2018.

Heymann said it was “biologically plausible” the virus had been circulating outside of the countries where it is endemic, but had not led to major outbreaks as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, social distancing and travel restrictions.

He stressed that the monkeypox outbreak did not resemble the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic because it does not transmit as easily. Those who suspect they may have been exposed or who show symptoms including bumpy rash and fever, should avoid close contact with others, he said.

“There are vaccines available, but the most important message is, you can protect yourself,” he added.

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Coronavirus

WHO working on more monkeypox guidance as cases rise – senior adviser

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A section of skin tissue, harvested from a lesion on the skin of a monkey, that had been infected with monkeypox virus, is seen at 50X magnification on day four of rash development in 1968. CDC/Handout via REUTERS

By Jennifer Rigby

LONDON (Reuters) – The World Health Organization is working on further guidance for countries on how to mitigate the spread of monkeypox, amid concerns cases could spike further in the summer months, a senior adviser for the U.N. agency told Reuters.

The WHO’s working theory based on the cases identified so far is that the outbreak is being driven by sexual contact, said David Heymann, chair of the WHO’s Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards with Pandemic and Epidemic Potential. He led a meeting on the outbreak on Friday.

Monkeypox is an infectious disease that is usually mild, and is endemic in parts of west and central Africa. It is spread by close contact, which means it can be relatively easily contained through such measures as self-isolation and hygiene once a new case is identified. See EXPLAINER:

The outbreak in 11 countries where it is not endemic is highly unusual, according to scientists. More than 100 confirmed or suspected cases have been reported, most of them in Europe.

Heymann, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said experts were likely to give more guidance to countries in the coming days. Health officials in several countries have warned that cases could rise further at major summer gatherings and festivals.

“What seems to be happening now is that it has got into the population as a sexual form, as a genital form, and is being spread as are sexually transmitted infections, which has amplified its transmission around the world,” Heymann said.

He said the WHO’s meeting was convened “because of the urgency of the situation”. The committee is not the group that would suggest declaring a public health emergency of international concern, WHO’s highest form of alert, which currently applies to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead Heymann said the international committee of experts, which met via video conference, looked at what needed to be studied about the outbreak and communicated to the public, including whether there is any asymptomatic spread, who are at most risk, and what the various routes of transmission are.

He said close contact was the key transmission route for the virus as the lesions that are typical of the disease are very infectious. For example, parents caring for sick children are at risk, as well as health workers, which is why some countries have started inoculating the teams treating monkeypox patients using vaccines for smallpox, a related virus.

Many of the current cases have been identified at sexual health clinics.

Early genomic sequencing of a handful of the cases in Europe has suggested a similarity with that spread in a limited fashion in Britain, Israel and Singapore in 2018.

Heymann said it was “biologically plausible” that the virus had since been circulating outside of the countries where it is endemic, but had not led to major outbreaks as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, social distancing and travel restrictions.

He stressed that the monkeypox outbreak did not resemble the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic because it does not transmit as easily. Those who suspect they may have been exposed or who are showing symptoms, including the typical bumpy rash and fever, should avoid close contact with others, he said.

“There are vaccines available, but the most important message is, you can protect yourself,” he added.

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