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Post: Coronavirus Update: CDC scraps travel health notices as countries slow testing and study confirms Republican-leaning counties suffered more COVID deaths than Democrat-leaning ones

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has dropped its country-by-country COVID-19 travel health notices that it began issuing early in the pandemic, the Associated Press reported. 

The reason: Fewer countries are testing for the virus or reporting the number of COVID cases. That limits the CDC’s ability to calculate travelers’ risk, according to the agency.

CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said the agency will only post a travel health notice for an individual country if a situation such as a troubling new variant of the virus changes CDC travel recommendations for that country.

The CDC still recommends that travelers remain up-to-date on vaccines and follow recommendations found on its international travel page.

From the CDC: Stay Up to Date with COVID-19 Vaccines Including Boosters

A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research has confirmed that political affiliations played a key role as a risk factor for dying of COVID, finding evidence that Republican-leaning counties suffered higher death rates than Democratic-leaning ones.

“We estimate substantially higher excess death rates for registered
Republicans when compared to registered Democrats, with almost all of the difference concentrated in the period after vaccines were widely available in our study states,” the authors, Jacob Wallace and Jason L. Schwartz of the Yale School of Public Health, and Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham of the Yale School of Management wrote.

“Overall, the excess death rate for Republicans was 5.4 percentage points (pp), or 76%, higher than the excess death rate for Democrats.”

The researchers used data from Ohio and Florida and matched 2017 voter registration data with mortality data from 2018 to 2021. They also found a link between political affiliation and views on vaccines, with Republican-leaning counties showing far lower vaccination rates.

Source: NBER paper

In the U.S., known cases of COVID are continuing to ease and now stand at their lowest level since late April, although the true tally is likely higher given how many people are testing at home, where the data are not being collected.

The daily average for new cases stood at 45,495 on Monday, according to a New York Times tracker, down 24% from two weeks ago. Cases are rising in 11 states plus Washington, D.C. They are up by double-digit percentages in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Vermont.

The daily average for hospitalizations was down 11% at 27,854, while the daily average for deaths is down 12% to 386. 

Coronavirus Update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.

is removing all COVID testing, vaccination and masking requirements from its health and safety protocols. The company said the new protocols, which follows “significant, positive progress” in the public health environment, will be effective Oct. 4. “Health and safety are always our first priority; in fact, we were the health and safety leaders from the very start of the pandemic,” said Chief Executive Harry Sommer. “Many travelers have been patiently waiting to take their long-awaited vacation at sea and we cannot wait to celebrate their return.” 

See also: Would you take a cruise without such COVID-19 testing, vaccination and masks? MarketWatch asked health experts to weigh in.

• Ringo Starr has test positive for COVID, forcing the former Beatle to cancel scheduled concerts in Canada with his All Starr Band, the AP reported. Five concert dates from Tuesday to Sunday — in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Lethbridge, Alberta; and the British Columbia cities of Abbotsford and Penticton — will be rescheduled. “Ringo hopes to resume as soon as possible and is recovering at home. As always, he and the All Starrs send peace and love to their fans and hope to see them back out on the road soon,” said a statement from the band.

The new bivalent vaccine might be the first step in developing annual Covid shots, which could follow a similar process to the one used to update flu vaccines every year. Here’s what that process looks like, and why applying it to Covid could be challenging. Illustration: Ryan Trefes

• A federal appeals court in New Orleans on Monday became the latest to hear arguments on whether President Joe Biden overstepped his authority with an order that federal contractors require that their employees be vaccinated against COVID, the AP reported separately. The contractor mandate has a complicated legal history. It is being challenged in more than a dozen federal court districts, and the mandate has been blocked or partially blocked in 25 states. 

• The Chinese resort city of Sanya has ordered all tourists to take PCR tests, and those who fail to do so by noon on Tuesday will be slapped with a yellow code restricting their mobility, according to local officials, the South China Morning Post reported. The city in the southern province of Hainan logged two asymptomatic Covid-19 cases on Monday. It carried out a round of mass testing and locked down several areas in Haitang district, including a scenic island that received around 2,000 tourists on Monday.

Here’s what the numbers say:

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 618.7 million on Tuesday, while the death toll rose above 6.54 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 96.4 million cases and 1,059,888 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 225.3 million people living in the U.S., equal to 67.9% of the total population, are fully vaccinated, meaning they have had their primary shots. Just 109.9 million have had a booster, equal to 48.8% of the vaccinated population, and 23.9 million of those who are eligible for a second booster have had one, equal to 36.6% of those who received a first booster.

Some 7.6 million people have had a shot of the new bivalent booster that targets the new omicron subvariants that have become dominant around the world.


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