Birx Says Too Many Died in U.S. as Cases Tick Up: Virus Update
COVID-19, coronavirus in India. Image used for representational purposes. 

Birx Says Too Many Died in U.S. as Cases Tick Up: Virus Update

The U.S. added almost 79,000 Covid-19 cases in a day amid evidence in some states that infections are shifting to under-30s. The shift, as U.S. cases accelerate again, will test the nationwide strategy of vaccinating the elderly and most vulnerable first.

Deborah Birx, the former White House coronavirus response coordinator, said that U.S. deaths from the virus could have been sharply reduced if mitigation efforts to slow the spread had come more quickly last spring.

With cases pointing up again since mid-February, many parts of the world are back to dealing with the economic fallout and public fatigue of restrictions while scaling up vaccinations. The Czech Republic extended a lockdown by two weeks, Poland is considering curfews and Kenya suspended domestic flights.

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Birx Says Too Many Died in U.S. as Cases Tick Up: Virus Update

Birx Says Too Many Died (4:45 p.m. NY)

Deborah Birx, the former White House coronavirus response coordinator, said that U.S. deaths from the virus could have been sharply reduced if mitigation efforts to slow the spread had come more quickly last spring.

“The first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge,” Birx told CNN. “All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.”

She’s one of several former Trump administration health officials -- and one who continues in the Biden administration, Anthony Fauci -- who’ll speak on a CNN special on Sunday night.

The US passed 500,000 Covid-19 deaths in February and has now lost an estimated 548,000 lives to the virus.

Minnesota Cases Jump (4:15 p.m. NY)

Minnesota added more than 1,700 new cases for a third consecutive day, the most since mid-January. The state is among 28 in the U.S. where cases are accelerating again, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Minnesota is administering shots at a higher rate than the national average, according the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker, and on Tuesday will open vaccinations to those 16 years and older. Almost a third of the population has received at least one dose.

California Adds 215 Deaths (2:59 p.m. NY)

California reported 215 more deaths, a slight increase from the previous day, for a total of 57,551, the health department’s website said. The state’s seven-day positive test rate hovered at 1.9%, in line with the previous period. California has administered more than 16.7 million vaccines.

Ontario Cases Spike (2:30 p.m. NY)

Ontario, Canada’s largest province, reported 2,453 new Covid-19 cases, the highest single-day total in more than two months, and 16 more deaths from the virus. Over a third of the infections came from Toronto, the country’s most populated city, and comes as the provincial government imposed stricter measures on two regions and loosened restrictions on five others.

Toronto is trying to accelerate the rate of vaccinations. On Friday, municipal authorities expanded eligibility to residents 70 and above, urging people to get the vaccine if they could at city-run clinics. Covid variants are surging in Canada -- as of Saturday, nearly 40% of new cases concerned variants of the virus.

U.S. Vaccine Strategy Faces Test (1:03 p.m. NY)

The coming weeks will test in the U.S. whether the strategy of vaccinating the most at risk first is working.

Spikes in case numbers have typically translated weeks later to increasing hospitalizations and fatalities, a dynamic that should abate after the most vulnerable are immunized. While there are early signs that’s happening in places like nursing homes, whether it will hold true with other at-risk groups and younger people remains to be seen.

Mexico Excess Deaths Top 400,000 (12:40 p.m. NY)

Excess deaths in Mexico for 2020 and early 2021 exceeded 417,000, more than double the current official number of fatalities from the coronavirus, the federal government reported.

On Thursday Mexico became the third country with more than 200,000 confirmed Covid-19 deaths, trailing only U.S. and Brazil, countries with much larger populations.

Vermont Record Hits Younger People (12:10 p.m. NY)

Vermont reported a record 251 new infections on Friday, only four of which in people aged 65 and over. Health Commissioner Mark Levine said at a briefing that half the cases were people under age 30, the Burlington Free Press reported. He attributed the shift in the disease to younger people to vaccinations, which have gone to the elderly and most vulnerable, though they will open up to all adults starting April 19.

Levine urged residents not to let their guard down against the disease. “This is especially important among younger Vermonters who will be the last age groups eligible” for vaccines, he said, according to a statement.

Poland Weighs Curfews (11:40 a.m. NY)

Poland expects new cases to peak in a week after a record surge, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said in an interview with RMF FM. If infections continue to multiply, the cabinet will consider curfews among new measures to suppress the virus. The nation recorded 31,757 new infections, 20% more than a week ago.

The nation is working on relocating patents from Silesia, the hardest-hit region, to other hospitals in Poland that still have some capacity, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said at press conference. Over 75% of hospital beds prepared for Covid-19 patients are occupied.

China Looks to UAE for Production (10:52 a.m. NY)

China wants to expedite joint production of Covid-19 vaccines with the United Arab Emirates, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the emirates’ state-run WAM news agency.

The two countries will also work on an international mechanism to exchange vaccine certificates, Yi said, without giving further details. The UAE was the first country to approve China’s Sinopharm vaccine, in December 2020.

Ireland Vaccines Diverted (10:28 a.m. NY)

Ireland suspended vaccinations at one of its biggest private hospitals, after doses intended for patients there were given to teachers at a school instead. The move by the Beacon Hospital was “entirely inappropriate and completely unacceptable,” health minister Stephen Donnelly said. The issue has touched a nerve in Ireland amid a perceived slow vaccination rollout and fraying support for a lockdown which has been in place since Christmas.

Kenya Suspends Domestic Flights (9:07 a.m. NY)

Kenya Airways suspended all domestic flights from midday March 29, while international operations continue. The measure comes after President Uhuru Kenyatta announced new restrictions Friday for movement into and out of the capital, Nairobi to contain a surge of cases.

U.S. Infections Tick Up (8:01 a.m. NY)

The U.S. recorded 78,560 cases Friday, as new infections continue to move back up, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. Average daily cases over the last week are now almost 61,000, more than an 11% increase over the previous week.

That is a fraction of the peak over the holiday surge, in which daily cases rose above 300,000, but what health officials say is a worrying trend as states reopen and virus variants increase around the nation.

Another 1,560 deaths were reported, the most in over a week, but the longer-term trend continues downward.

U.K. Plans Third Doses (6:32 a.m. NY)

People aged over 70 in the U.K. will start to get a third dose of Covid-19 vaccine from September to protect against variants, the Telegraph reported. As many as eight vaccines are expected to be available by the autumn with a number made in the U.K., including one that could protect from three different Covid variants in a single jab, Nadhim Zahawi, the top official for vaccine deploymnet, told the newspaper.

The U.K. government also wants its people to start going out and spending cash when restrictions are eased on April 12. Shops will stay open until 10 p.m. to encourage the economic recovery, according to the Times.

Airlines Get Ready for Travel (6:17 a.m. NY)

The $800 billion airline industry is gearing up to return mass travel this summer, the FT reports. British Airways Plc and Easyjet Plc pilots have been training in flight simulators to ensure they have worked the minimum number of hours to maintain licenses. American Airlines Group Inc adjusted its pilot training schedule and has now recalled 2,000 furloughed pilots, the FT reported.

“Scaling up to suddenly handle a million plus more passengers a month this summer is a major operation that will take many weeks,” Stewart Wingate, chief executive officer of London’s Gatwick Airport told the newspaper.

French Minister Urges End to Vaccine Nationalism (5:10 p.m. HK)

French Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher urged countries with large vaccination capacities to join the EU in shipping vaccines to the rest of the world to limit the spread of new variants. France is aiming to inoculate 30 million citizens by the end of June.

Czech Lockdown Extended (5:04 p.m. HK)

The Czech Republic announced Friday a two-week extension to restrictions that include shutting shops and curbs on internal travel. The nation has the world’s highest number of coronavirus-related deaths per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University data, but daily numbers of new infections have been gradually declining since the government tightened announced curbs four weeks ago.

Tests showed 7,654 new cases on Friday, about 20% fewer than one week ago, and Prime Minister Andrej Babis said he’ll give details about lifting restrictions after Easter.

German Infections Ebb (4:17 p.m. HK)

Germany’s new cases fell to 9,411, the fewest in four days, though the seven-day trend of infections rose to the highest since Jan. 19, or almost 10 weeks.

In what is effectively a small-scale precursor to planned vaccine passports, the city of Tuebingen is offering free rapid tests and whoever is negative can browse boutiques, attend a theater performance or go to a cafe.

Facebook Freezes Venezuela President (1:08 p.m. HK)

Facebook has frozen Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s page for violating policies on misinformation over a remedy he claims will cure coronavirus, Reuters reported, citing a spokesman from the social media company.

A video in which Maduro promotes a medication called Carvativir, an oral solution derived from thyme, was taken down by Facebook. Due to repeated violations, Facebook also decided to freeze Maduro’s page for 30 days during which it will be read-only, the company spokesman told the news agency.

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