The head of the World Health Organization offered one of his more upbeat assessments of the state of the pandemic on Wednesday, telling reporters that the world has never been in a better position to end it.
“We are not there yet. But the end is in sight,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a virtual press conference.
But Tedros urged world leaders to keep up all efforts to rein in the virus, warning that to do otherwise creates the risk of more variants, more deaths, more disruption and more uncertainty.
“A marathon runner does not stop when the finish line comes into view,” he said. “She runs harder, with all the energy she has left. So must we. We can see the finish line. We’re in a winning position. But now is the worst time to stop running,” he said.
In another positive, the agency said deaths in the latest week fell to their lowest level since March of 2020.
The WHO has been cautioning, however, that numbers are being distorted by a reduction in surveillance, as some countries have stopped monitoring the virus as rigorously as in the past. Test numbers, for example, are being affected by the greater use of at-home tests, where data are not being collected.
That same pullback in monitoring is leading Johns Hopkins University to scale back its dashboard, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Researchers will only update global case, death and vaccine data once a day starting Sept. 21, instead of every hour, said the report.
It will stop reporting testing numbers entirely as the numbers are no longer reliable, and will also start pulling data from other sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, instead of directly from local health groups.
“We have seen a dramatic shift in the way that state and local governments not only collect this data but share it publicly,” Beth Blauer, associate vice provost for public sector innovation at Johns Hopkins and data lead for the school’s Coronavirus Resource Center, told the newspaper.
“That deeply constrains the way that we can actually report.”
The university started the dashboard in January of 2020 and it quickly became a key resource for the media, government officials, researchers and the general public. The dashboard has garnered more than 800 million page views and averaged six million page views a month this year.
The move comes as U.S. known cases of COVID are continuing to ease and now stand at their lowest level since early May, according to a New York Times tracker.
The daily average for new cases stood at 64,598 on Tuesday, down 29% from two weeks ago. The tracker shows cases rising in just four states, Connecticut, Maryland, Idaho and New Hampshire. They are falling everywhere else, for now.
The daily average for hospitalizations was down 10% at 34,076 while the daily average for deaths is down 8% to 437.
Other Covid-19 news you should know about:
• Some 500,000 workers have permanently disappeared from the U.S. workforce because of long COVID, according to a new report from the National Bureau of Economic Research. The report found that most patients who have suffered the lingering effects of the virus for months after infection moved straight from illness to retirement, based on federal and state level data on cases and deaths. “Many who fall ill but survive COVID-19 suffer from enduring health problems,” the authors wrote. About 500,000 adults “are neither working nor actively looking for work due to the persistent effects of Covid-19 illnesses.” A recent report from the Brookings Institution found that as many as 4 million are not working as they struggle with COVID symptoms.
• At least 17 million people living in the European Union suffered from long COVID between 2020 and 2021, and millions may suffer symptoms for years to come, the WHO said Tuesday. That was based on new modeling by he Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine. The modeling found women were twice as likely as men to experience long COVID. “Furthermore, the risk increases dramatically among severe COVID-19 cases needing hospitalization, with one in three females and one in five males likely to develop long COVID,” said the agency.
• Residents of a city in China’s far west Xinjiang region say they are experiencing hunger, forced quarantines and dwindling supplies of medicine and daily necessities after more than 40 days in a virus lockdown, the Associated Press reported. Hundreds of posts from Ghulja riveted users of Chinese social media last week, with residents sharing videos of empty fridges, feverish children, and people screaming from their windows. The dire conditions and food shortages are reminiscent of a harsh lockdown in Shanghai this spring, when thousands of residents posted online, complaining they were delivered rotting vegetables or denied critical medical care.
• President Joe Biden has the same authority to impose a COVID vaccine requirement on federal workers that private employers have for their employees, an administration lawyer told a federal appeals court Tuesday, the AP reported separately. A lawyer for opponents of the vaccine requirement, which has been blocked nationwide by a federal judge in Texas, said the requirement imposes an “unconstitutionally intolerable choice” for executive branch workers — taking a vaccine they don’t want or losing their jobs.
Here’s what the numbers say
The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 609. 9 million on Wednesday, while the death toll rose above 6.51 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. leads the world with 95.4 million cases and 1,051,323 fatalities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 224.4 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 67.6% of the total population. But just 108.9 million have had a booster, equal to 48.6% of the vaccinated population, and just 22.2 million of the people 50 and over who are eligible for a second booster have had one, equal to 34.3% of those who had a first booster.