Zero N.J. Deaths, WHO Warns of Delta’s Surge: Virus Update

A health worker prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca Plc Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Melbourne, Australia. (Photographer: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg)

Zero N.J. Deaths, WHO Warns of Delta’s Surge: Virus Update

New Jersey had zero in-hospital coronavirus deaths Thursday for the first time since July, Governor Phil Murphy said on Twitter. Meanwhile, New York City will finish the school year with the lowest infection rate since the pandemic began.

U.S. health officials paused distribution of Eli Lilly & Co.’s combination antibody therapy because of fears it won’t combat two increasingly common coronavirus variants. The head of the World Health Organization warned that the delta variant first detected in India is “the most transmissible of the variants identified so far” and has spread in at least 85 countries, the Associated Press reported.

In Brazil, a pick up in vaccine deliveries should allow the country to immunize all adults in the next three months, according to a member of a group of executives making a push to boost inoculations in one of the world’s worst-hit countries. A U.K. pilot of live events including the FA Cup final recorded “no substantial outbreaks,” increasing pressure to fully reopen the entertainment and hospitality sectors as soon as possible.

Key Developments:

Zero N.J. Deaths, WHO Warns of Delta’s Surge: Virus Update

U.S. Halts Shipments of Lilly Antibody Combo (1:55 p.m. NY)

U.S. health officials paused distribution of Eli Lilly & Co.’s combination antibody therapy because of fears it won’t combat two increasingly common coronavirus variants.

Resistance to the antibody treatment was detected among the gamma and beta variants of the virus, according to a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services. Medical providers should use other antibody treatments from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and GlaxoSmithKline Plc instead, they said.

Lilly had developed the treatment consisting of two antibodies, called bamlanivimab and etesevimab, to safeguard against variants, and the government halt highlights growing concern about how mutated forms of the virus could undermine medical tools. The gamma and beta variants together make up more than 11% of sequenced U.S. cases, according to the statement.

WHO Calls Delta ‘Most Transmissible’ Among Variants (1:30 p.m. NY)

The head of the World Health Organization warned that the delta variant is “the most transmissible of the variants identified so far” and has spread in at least 85 countries, the Associated Press reported.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference Friday that the lack of vaccines in poor countries has worsened the pace of transmission with the delta variant first seen in India, according to AP.

President Joe Biden on Thursday called delta the “new dangerous variant” and said it’s currently the most common variant in the U.S., and encouraged unvaccinated people to get their shots.

Most of New Wyoming Patients Weren’t Fully Vaccinated (12:55 p.m. NY)

The Wyoming Department of Health reported 95% of the state’s 2,400 confirmed or suspected Covid-19 patients tested between May 1 and June 15 weren’t fully vaccinated.

Additionally, 93% of patients hospitalized over the same period didn’t report to be fully vaccinated, the department said. State officials are monitoring the presence of the Delta variant in southeastern Wyoming.

Chile in Talks with Moderna, Sputnik (12:35 p.m. NY)

Chile is in talks with Moderna and Sputnik for a potential third dose of vaccines, Rodrigo Yanez, trade vice minister, told Radio Pauta.

Sinovac, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Cansino are the vaccines that are currently being used in Chile. The country has contracts to receive as many as 40 million vaccine doses by the end of the year and that number could increase with a third dose, Yanez said.

Unions Seek Court Review of Covid Standard (12:25 p.m. NY)

The AFL-CIO labor federation and two individual unions are asking federal appeals courts to review OSHA’s new Covid-19 emergency temporary standard for the health-care industry.

The AFL-CIO and United Food and Commercial Workers filed a joint petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Thursday, complaining the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s measure was drawn too narrowly.

U.K.’s Large Events Test Shows No Outbreaks (12:20 p.m. NY)

No substantial Covid-19 outbreaks were reported among any of the nine pilot events -- including the Brit Awards and the FA Cup soccer final -- included in the first phase of a government study into whether large crowds can safely gather again.

The Events Research Programme included a total of 58,000 participants at events held in April and May at various venues across the country, with only 28 virus cases reported, according to a statement published Friday by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. It noted, however, that evidence of direct transmission at the events was “challenging to determine” because of a low uptake of PCR testing before and after.

Face coverings, ventilation and testing were all found to control and reduce transmission of coronavirus at large events, according to the study. The British government has reportedly faced criticism for deciding to allow more than 60,000 people inside Wembley Stadium next month for the last stages of soccer’s European Championship.

Brazil Can Vaccinate All Adults by September (12:15 p.m. NY)

A pick up in vaccine deliveries should allow Brazil to immunize all adults in the next three months, said Walter Schalka, who’s part of a group of executives making a push to boost vaccinations in one of the world’s worst-hit countries.

The group, known as “United for Vaccines,” estimates 160 million shots will arrive between July and September. That should be enough to cover all Brazilians over 18 with one dose.

“Our role is to encourage people to take the vaccine and also help local governments with infrastructure and material to make this happen,” Schalka, the chief executive officer at pulp giant Suzano SA, said in an interview.

South African Party Demands Vaccines With Crowded March (11 a.m. NY)

South Africa’s populist opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, protested against the government’s slow vaccine rollout by holding a march with little social distancing in the midst of a third wave of infections.

More than 1,000 people clad in the red regalia of the EFF, which describes itself as a radical and militant economic emancipation movement, marched on the offices of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority in Pretoria on Friday. They demanded the immediate approval for use of Chinese and Russian vaccines.

“Lockdown is not a solution, the solution is to vaccinate the majority of South Africans,” Julius Malema, the leader of the EFF, told the crowd. “Allow gatherings to come together, allow people to start making more money. We are here to protect the lives of our people and if that means we must die for our people to live, so be it.”

Seychelles Extends Curbs Indefinitely (10:58 a.m. NY)

Seychelles extended curbs imposed on movement and gatherings indefinitely as the world’s most-vaccinated nation fights a persistently high number of infections.

The palm-fringed Indian Ocean archipelago has seen cases increase since early May even though 70% of its 98,000 people are fully vaccinated with either Sinopharm or AstraZeneca vaccines. It had rushed to conduct an inoculation campaign and reopen to tourism, the lifeblood of its economy.

Tanzania Admits to Third Wave, Gives No Data (10:44 a.m. NY)

Tanzanian President Samia Hassan publicly admitted for the first time of the presence of the coronavirus pandemic in the East African country, in a departure from a denial of her predecessor.

Discussing or disclosing information on the disease was taboo under her predecessor, John Magufuli, who died in March. “This problem still exists. We should not ignore it,” she told clerics in the commercial hub of Dar es Salaam, without disclosing numbers.

Projects to Tackle Future Pandemics Win Funding (10:30 a.m. NY)

A project in Thailand that allows farmers to identify and report diseases that could potentially pass from animals to humans and spark the next pandemic was awarded about $1.8 million in a global competition.

The Trinity Challenge aims to find new ways of using data and analytics to protect the world from future health threats. Participatory One Health Disease Detection’s mobile-app platform can serve as an early-warning system.

The coalition is investing a total of about $8 million in different groups, including Sentinel Forecasting System, which will help predict the emergence of diseases in West Africa, and Blood Counts, a project that seeks to take billions of blood tests and turn them into a surveillance network.

New Jersey Reports Zero Hospital Deaths (10:28 a.m. NY)

No Covid deaths were reported in New Jersey hospitals yesterday for the first time since July 30, Governor Phil Murphy said on Twitter.

NYC Schools Close With Lowest Covid Level Yet (10:20 a.m. NY)

New York City schools end their regular school year today with the lowest level of positive test results since the pandemic began in March 2020, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

About 1.5 million tests have been conducted on students and staff in the schools, with a positivity rate reported Friday of 0.03%, de Blasio said. The mayor attributed the low infection rate to the city’s increasing numbers of vaccinated residents. Students will still be required to wear masks in summer school sessions, he said during an interview on WNYC radio.

“Right now the working assumption is abundance of caution,” de Blasio said. “You have vaccinated and unvaccinated children in the same place, it’s the safe thing to do. If the trajectory continues downward with Covid, I wouldn’t be surprised if some time later this summer, before school starts, the mask mandate comes off.”

India Evaluating Delta-Plus Variant (9:30 a.m. NY)

India has found 48 cases of the delta-plus variant across 11 states, but authorities say it is too early to tell whether it poses a significant threat like the strain that drove the nation’s devastating second wave, swamping the health system and overwhelming crematoriums.

A mutation of the delta variant that’s seen as 50% more transmissible than other strains, delta-plus has been found mostly in the state of Maharashtra, home to the financial capital Mumbai, as well as Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh. The cases were found by sequencing 45,000 samples.

J&J Covid Vaccine Manufacturing Expanded in EU (9 a.m. NY)

Europe’s drugs regulator approved a new manufacturing site for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that may go some way to helping the company with its supply woes.

The drug manufacturer Catalent Inc. will use its site in Anagni, Italy, to do “finished product manufacturing,” according to a statement from the European Medicines Agency Friday. The plant has also been involved in the production of the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine.

The decision doesn’t require approval from the European Commission and will be operational immediately, the EMA said.

Russian Business Lobby Wants Mandatory Vaccination (8 a.m. NY)

Russia’s biggest business lobby issued a joint statement with the country’s biggest union calling on the government to make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for all healthy adults.

The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia said Friday the measure was needed to restore the economy to its pre-pandemic level.

Russia’s top public-health official, Anna Popova, said earlier Friday 18 regions have made vaccines mandatory for some classes of workers.

Denmark Upholds Decision to Suspend Astra, J&J Vaccine (7:20 a.m. NY)

Denmark won’t reinstate vaccines from Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca in its national inoculation program after reviewing an initial decision to suspend the two, the Danish Health Authority says in a statement. Denmark suspended the vaccines from its general program over blood clot concerns

Iran’s Supreme Leader Gets First Vaccine (5:39 p.m. HK)

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei received his first dose of the COVIran Barakat vaccine on Friday, according to a statement published on his official website.

Iranian authorities had earlier granted emergency authorization for use of the vaccine, which is domestically produced and underwent clinical trials in March.

So far, over 1.1 million Iranians have been fully vaccinated out of a population of around 85 million, according to the Health Ministry. The country has recorded over 3.1 million coronavirus cases and 83,000 deaths since the onset of the pandemic.

Germany Urges Summer of Caution Due to Delta Variant (4:05 p.m. HK)

German Health Minister Jens Spahn urged residents to remain cautious and get fully vaccinated even as they enjoy a summer of travel and relative freedom, in order to avoid another wave of the pandemic in the fall due to the delta variant.

“A too-carefree summer can’t be allowed to become an autumn full of worries,” Spahn said at a press conference on Friday, urging people to wear masks on vacation and get tested multiple times upon their return. The country must reckon with rising case rates as the delta variant spreads, said Lothar Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute.

Well over half the population could be fully vaccinated with four to six weeks, Spahn said. Young people age 12 to 18 years old who want a vaccine will be able to get their first shot by the end of August, he said.

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