Updated: Dec 13, 2021
According to the New York Times, the U.S. surpasses 40 million known coronavirus cases. Cases in the U.S. make up nearly 20% of the known global total, of which there were approximately 221 million cases as of September 7, 2021. This is likely an under-count according to Johns Hopkins University; stating that insufficient testing and reporting are likely factors contributing to the low figures. Vaccines are effective in preventing severe diseases and deaths, but about 47 percent of Americans are not fully vaccinated, allowing the Delta variant, which is far more virulent, to inflict unnecessary morbidity and mortality on its victims. Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and West Virginia are among the worst hit thus far. That said, as of September 6, 2021, the number of new cases is down -12% while the number of deaths is up 31% nationwide.
The Delta variant has come as a surprise to many who had made plans to return to normal activities including work earlier this year. Fits and starts hallmark returning to work in the U.S. as the nation’s companies cope with mask mandates versus no mandate, vaccinations versus mandatory testing, and so on. According to the New York Times, Uber, Google, Amazon, Apple, and Starbucks have said they will postpone their return dates to next year.
The rise of the Delta variant and the concomitant response by Americans to another surge in deaths and illnesses from the coronavirus, demonstrates the complexity of sending children back to school. Indeed, children under 12 cannot yet receive the vaccine, and pediatric hospitalizations for Covid-19 have increased over the last few months according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are still a number of schools that will not reopen in the U.S. although the outlook is improving for more children to return to class. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, more than 1,000 U.S. colleges and universities have adopted vaccination requirements for at least some students and staff. The dividing line between making masks and vaccinations mandatory versus optional, appears to be divided in the U.S. along political lines as those states, which are primarily Republican, are not enforcing Federal guidelines.
While cases rose between June and mid-August 2021, new cases worldwide are down 14% since September 6, 2021, while deaths are up approximately 9%. Western European Union (EU) nations have recently fared well in vaccinating its people. More than 70 percent of the European Union’s adult population has been fully vaccinated. However, vaccination in Eastern and Central Europe in countries like Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Romania lag far behind. This lack of vaccination exposes the EU to new waves of infections which could impede recovery efforts.
According to the New York Times, while 80 percent of the adult populations in countries like Belgium, Denmark and Portugal have been fully vaccinated, European data shows that the figure plunges to approximately 32 percent in Romania and 20 percent in Bulgaria, where deaths have been surging. Stella Kyriakides, the European Union’s health commissioner, said “We cannot afford to have parts of Europe less protected; this makes us all more vulnerable”.
On the bright side, and similar to actions being taken in the U.S., France and Germany are soon to vaccinate millions with booster shots. Spain is focusing on inoculating 90 percent of its total population, while Italy is considering making vaccinations mandatory.
While scarcity of doses that plagued vaccination campaigns in the EU are no longer an issue, the intangible factors such as misinformation, distrust of the authorities, and ignorance about the benefits of inoculation seem to thwart increased vaccinations in Central and Eastern Europe. The World Health Organization (WHO) warned last month that 230,000 people in Europe could die of the coronavirus by December, citing slowing vaccination rates and the lack of restrictive measures to combat the spread.
A recent summary of the current cases (new and deaths) worldwide from the CDC is shown below:
Cases have been reported from:
Africa: 7 746 207 cases; the five countries reporting most cases are South Africa (2 764 931), Morocco (853 373), Tunisia (662 752), Libya (307 471) and Ethiopia (306 117).
Asia: 62 084 175 cases; the five countries reporting most cases are India (32 737 939), Iran (4 926 964), Indonesia (4 073 831), Philippines (1 954 023) and Iraq (1 874 435).
America: 83 971 866 cases; the five countries reporting most cases are United States (39 057 665), Brazil (20 752 281), Argentina (5 178 889), Colombia (4 907 264) and Mexico (3 341 264).
Europe: 63 316 753 cases; the five countries reporting most cases are Russia (6 882 827), France (6 742 488), United Kingdom (6 731 423), Turkey (6 346 881) and Spain (4 847 298).
Oceania: 169 779 cases; the five countries reporting most cases are Australia (51 256), Fiji (46 027), French Polynesia (40 178), Papua New Guinea (17 999) and Guam (10 353).
Other: 705 cases have been reported from an international conveyance in Japan.
Deaths have been reported from:
Africa: 194 840 deaths; the five countries reporting most deaths are South Africa (81 595), Tunisia (23 430), Egypt (16 721), Morocco (12 437) and Algeria (5 209).
Asia: 957 479 deaths; the five countries reporting most deaths are India (438 210), Indonesia (131 923), Iran (106 482), Philippines (33 109) and Bangladesh (26 015).
America: 2 106 383 deaths; the five countries reporting most deaths are United States (638 715), Brazil (579 574), Mexico (258 491), Peru (198 263) and Colombia (124 883).
Europe: 1 246 444 deaths; the five countries reporting most deaths are Russia (181 637), United Kingdom (132 437), Italy (129 093), France (114 210) and Germany (92 140).
Oceania: 2 236 deaths; the five countries reporting most deaths are Australia (999), Fiji (479), French Polynesia (385), Papua New Guinea (192) and Guam (145).
Other: 6 deaths have been reported from an international conveyance in Japan.
Regarding variants, as of July 2021, there are four major variants of SARS-CoV-2 spreading among global populations: the Alpha Variant (formerly called the UK Variant and officially referred to as B.1.1.7), first found in London and Kent, the Beta Variant (formerly called the South Africa Variant and officially referred to as B.1.351), the Gamma Variant (formerly called the Brazil Variant and officially referred to as P.1), and the Delta Variant (formerly called the India Variant and officially referred to as B.1.617.2). In addition, WHO designated the Mu corona-virus strain to be a variant of interest. The Mu strain, also called B.1.621, has been listed as a 'variant of interest' as of 30 August 2021.
Written by: Lawrence D. Jones, Ph.D.