Global Coronavirus Deaths Pass 3 Million as Variants Surge
More than three million people have died from Covid-19 since the first cases surfaced more than 14 months ago and upended life for people across the globe.
Global deaths reached that toll on Saturday, according to a New York Times database, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases surged past 140 million.
The pace of deaths has been accelerating as countries race to provide enough vaccines to slow the relentless pace of infections. The world did not record one million deaths until Sept. 28, 2020, but there were two million by Jan. 15, some four months later. And the third million took just three months.
The United States, Brazil and Mexico lead the world in Covid-19 deaths.
In the United States, more than 565,700 virus-related deaths have been confirmed, about one in 567 people — the most of any other country.
In Latin America, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Argentina and others have been hit hard by the virus.
Mexico has recorded more than 211,600 deaths. By comparison, Japan, which has a similar sized population, has had around 9,500 deaths.
In Brazil, where the spread of the virus has been fueled by a highly contagious variant, political infighting and distrust of science, more than 368,700 people have died. The virus is still pummeling the country, which is averaging over 2,860 deaths per day.
The leaders of both countries, which are the region’s two largest nations, have largely dismissed the dangers and have resisted calls for a lockdown.
India, the country with the fourth-highest number of total coronavirus deaths, has recorded more than 175,600 deaths. The virus is surging there once again, prompting more shutdowns and another mass migration away from big cities.
In the United Kingdom — where Britain recently ended one of the longest and most stringent lockdowns in the world — more than 127,200 deaths have been recorded. And in Italy, once the nightmarish epicenter of the virus, there have been more than 116,300 confirmed deaths.
Sweden, where officials have taken a more lax approach to combating the coronavirus crisis, has experienced an increase in new cases and deaths recently, with more than 13,700 deaths.
As dangerous virus variants spread, many developed countries are racing to vaccinate their populations as fast as possible. More than 870 million vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, though some countries have yet to report a single dose, according to a New York Times database that tracks the worldwide rollout of shots.
A year ago, the United States government made a big bet on plasma.
The Trump administration, buoyed by proponents at elite medical institutions, seized on it as a good-news story at a time when there weren’t many others. It awarded more than $800 million to entities involved in its collection and administration, and put Dr. Anthony S. Fauci’s face on billboards promoting the treatment. Companies and nonprofit groups, with celebrity help, urged people who had recovered from Covid-19 to donate, and volunteers, some dressed in superhero capes, showed up to blood banks in droves.
No one knew if the treatment would work, but it seemed biologically plausible and safe, and there wasn’t much else to try.
But by the end of the year, good evidence for convalescent plasma had not materialized, prompting many prestigious medical centers to quietly abandon it. By February, with cases and hospitalizations dropping, demand dipped below what blood banks had stockpiled.
All told, more than 722,000 units of plasma were distributed to hospitals thanks to the federal program, which ends this month.
Because the government gave plasma to so many patients outside of a controlled clinical trial, it took a long time to measure its effectiveness. Eventually, studies did emerge to suggest that under the right conditions, plasma might help. But enough evidence has now accumulated to show that the country’s broad, costly plasma campaign had little effect, especially in people whose disease was advanced enough to land them in the hospital.
The government’s bet did not result in a blockbuster treatment for Covid-19, or even a decent one. But it did give the country a real-time education in the pitfalls of testing a medical treatment in the middle of an emergency. Medical science is messy and slow. And when a treatment fails, which is often, it can be difficult for its strongest proponents to let it go.
The federal government’s call for a pause on using Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine could last at least another week, further complicating efforts by federal and state health officials to reschedule appointments, and reassure jittery Americans that the vaccine is safe and effective.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s independent vaccine advisory panel, known as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, has been scheduled to meet for a second time since shots were halted, next Friday, to discuss safety data related to a small number of blood-clotting cases in Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients. It is unclear whether the vaccine was responsible for the clots.
The public, six-hour meeting could conclude with a vote, for example, to recommend to continue the pause, to modify the F.D.A.’s authorization of the single-dose vaccine or to rescind the pause altogether. The federal government could then act quickly to follow the guidance.
“We recognize the critical importance of moving quickly. That’s why we will have two unscheduled ACIP meetings in a 10-day period,” Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the C.D.C. director, said at a White House news conference Friday.
She said that the C.D.C. had contacted over 10,000 providers “to ensure that they know what kinds of cases to look for.”
The panel’s decision was a key part of the federal government’s still mostly undefined plan for resolving the pause, which Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting commissioner of the F.D.A., told reporters on Tuesday might last only “a matter of days.” But the panel of expert advisers, whose recommendations carry significant weight with state health departments and physicians, decided Wednesday to wait on a vote while they take more time to assess a possible link to the rare but serious blood-clotting disorder.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, told lawmakers at a hearing on Thursday that “hopefully we’ll get a decision quite soon as to whether or not we can get back on track with this very effective vaccine.” State health departments have rescheduled appointments and substituted two-dose vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — a plan that White House officials have referenced as a quick way to make up for the gap.
While Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has accounted for a fraction of U.S. vaccinations, it has been a key tool in the Biden administration’s strategy. The shot can be kept at normal refrigeration temperatures for three months, and at one dose, allowed for people to dispense with vaccination in a single go. Some public health officials worry the pause may deepen hesitancy. And there are concerns about the risks posed to the global vaccination drive in countries that can ill afford to be particular about shots.
In the United States, the pause has had immediate consequences for local officials, who have worked to vaccinate vulnerable populations with the shot: homeless people in Baltimore, homebound residents in the District of Columbia, the poor and uninsured in Massachusetts and rural residents in a number of states.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday on WNYC that the city’s overall vaccination campaign had not been derailed by the pause, but the greatest disruption had been to the city’s program for homebound people, which relied on the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and has ground to a halt for now.
The city estimated that there are 23,000 homebound candidates for the program, and said that its vaccination teams have so far made 3,600 visits. The effort has been ramping up, and has been recently vaccinating 1,200 people per week. On each visit, the program allows for the homebound senior to get the shot, along with anyone else in the household who is eligible. Mr. de Blasio said that he hoped the city would again be able to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for that population, but if not, the program would continue with the other authorized vaccines.
About 7.8 million Americans have received the Johnson & Johnson shot, with about 10 million doses unused.
Setbacks with the vaccine, including a mix-up in a Baltimore plant that recently contaminated up to 15 million doses of it, have caused the White House to revise its math in projecting when the nation will have enough doses to cover every American adult, which President Biden had predicted would happen by the end of May.
The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said on Thursday that there would be enough doses to cover 80 percent of the adult population by that point, or likely enough for every adult who wants one. She added that there would be enough for 90 percent of the population by the end of July.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Daniel E. Slotnik and Sharon Otterman contributed reporting.
Queen Elizabeth II, wearing a black face mask and seated alone, said goodbye to her husband of more than 73 years, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at his funeral on Saturday at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.
The ceremony for Prince Philip, who died last week at age 99, was highly unusual — in part because coronavirus restrictions meant that it had to be scaled back, but also because it followed a very public airing of a family rift.
Only 30 guests attended the church service. The queen and select family members in attendance all wore masks and were seated six feet apart in the chapel.
The subdued service still reflected Philip’s own wishes for the ceremony, Buckingham Palace said. The prince was deeply involved in the organization of the event, which was years in the planning.
The Grenadier Guards, a centuries-old regiment of the British Army, which the Duke of Edinburgh served as a colonel for more than four decades, placed his coffin on a hearse that the prince helped design. The vehicle, a modified Land Rover Defender, then led a small procession toward St. George’s Chapel, also on the grounds of Windsor Castle.
There was much speculation about how the family dynamic would play out, as the funeral is the first time that Prince Harry has returned to Britain since stepping down as a senior royal. The service also came just weeks after he and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, gave a bombshell interview to Oprah Winfrey in which they laid bare their problems with the royal family.
The funeral service lasted less than an hour. A choir of four sang music chosen by Prince Philip, but were some distance from the seated guests, in line with public health guidelines.
Five months before the regular season starts, the N.F.L. and its players are facing their first clash over playing in the pandemic, with players for nearly half of the teams vowing to skip voluntary off-season workouts.
Players on 14 of the league’s 32 teams, including the Giants, the Jets and the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said in statements released by the N.F.L. Players Association that they would not participate in the workouts scheduled to begin Monday because of concerns it would be unsafe to gather.
Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady was among players who spoke out to the news media and on social media.
“We feel very strongly about the game, the short- and long-term health of the players, and there is no game without strong, healthy players,” Brady said in a conference call with The New York Times and the union’s leadership. “People within the league may think, ‘Oh, let’s just get back to business, let’s go back to what we’ve usually done.’ But I think it’s really smart for people and players to think, ‘Is this the best possible way to do things?’ Not, ‘Is this tolerable, but is it the best way to deal with the situation?’”
The N.F.L. declined to comment.
The union has called for a virtual off-season — essentially players working out on their own away from team complexes — similar to what took place in 2020. Although a nationwide vaccine campaign is underway, the union argues that the danger is still high.
Last season, the N.F.L. shifted its off-season program to a virtual format, with the only in-person work happening at training camps in August. This spring, the union asked the league to use a similar format, while allowing for a mandatory minicamp in June. The league declined, citing protocols that it said would allow the workouts to occur safely.
— Emmanuel Morgan
All through last year, as Europe and then the United States suffered high coronavirus infections and deaths, Pacific Rim countries staved off disaster through an array of methods. South Korea tested widely. Australia and New Zealand locked down. In Japan, people donned masks and heeded calls to isolate.
Now, the roles have been reversed.
These countries that largely subdued the virus are among the slowest in the developed world to vaccinate their residents, while countries like Britain and the United States are leapfrogging ahead with inoculations.
The United States has fully vaccinated close to a quarter of its population, and Britain has given first shots to nearly half of its residents. By contrast, Australia and South Korea have vaccinated less than 3 percent of their populations, and in Japan and New Zealand, not even 1 percent of the population has received a shot.
To some extent, the laggards are taking advantage of the luxury of time that their comparatively low infection and death counts afford. And they all rely on vaccines developed — and, for now, manufactured — elsewhere.
But the delays risk unwinding their relative public health successes and postponing economic recoveries, as contagious virus variants emerge and bottlenecks slow shipments of vaccines around the world.
By Ernesto Londoño
China’s CoronaVac vaccine provides robust protection against Covid-19, Chilean health authorities said Friday, citing the results of a study that monitored the health outcomes of millions of people who received the inoculant.
The two-dose vaccine, produced by the Beijing-based pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech, was 67 percent effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 cases and 80 percent effective at preventing death, according to Chile’s health ministry. The study also found the shot was 85 percent effective at preventing cases that required hospitalization.
The study in Chile, which has carried out one of the fastest Covid-19 vaccination campaigns in the world, provides a more positive assessment of the vaccine’s effectiveness than a clinical trial in Brazil that relied on medical professionals.
In January, scientists in Brazil said CoronaVac had an efficacy of just over 50 percent at preventing symptomatic cases, an underwhelming level compared to other Covid-19 vaccines. The study in Chile analyzed the health outcomes of more than 10 million people, including four million who received CoronaVac.
Officials in Chile called the results very promising for the country and the global effort to end the pandemic. CoronaVac is the most widely used vaccine in Latin America, where several countries, including Chile, have grappled with a rise of Covid-19 cases in recent months.
“This study is not only very important for Chile, but also for the world and the scientific community,” Chile’s deputy health secretary, Paula Daza, said in a statement. “It shows this vaccine is safe and that we must continue with the vaccination process.”
CoronaVac is being widely used in Brazil, where deaths have soared, and several other countries in the developing world. It is cheaper and easier to handle than the vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna.
“The effectiveness of the Sinovac vaccine reported by the Chilean Ministry of Health is encouraging news for low-income countries without access to Western vaccines,” said Denise Garrett, an epidemiologist at the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington, D.C.