COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Taiwan Reports a Daily Record of 180 Cases
Taiwan, which has had remarkable success in containing the coronavirus, raised restrictions for its main city to their highest level since the start of the pandemic on Saturday, after reporting a daily record of 180 new locally transmitted infections.

Taiwan’s current outbreak — its worst yet by far — began in late April with a cluster in airline workers. Saturday’s caseload represented more than half of the 344 locally transmitted cases that the self-governing island has recorded during the entire pandemic.

The Taiwanese premier, Su Tseng-chang, and other officials told reporters on Saturday that masks and other medical supplies to fight the outbreak were plentiful. Mr. Su urged Taiwanese to be “obedient, helpful and protect yourselves, your families, all of society and our country.”

The government raised the restrictions in the city of Taipei to Level 3 out of 4, still short of a full lockdown. Even so, the announcements sent a shiver of anxiety through Taipei, and some residents filed into supermarkets to stock up on food, toilet paper and other essentials.

... The restrictions in Taipei and adjoining New Taipei include a ban on indoor gatherings of more than five people and require the use of protective masks outdoors. Many public venues across the island will be closed, except for essential facilities like hospitals and police stations.


Taiwan has for decades been at loggerheads with China, which considers the island democracy to be a breakaway region that must accept eventual reunification. The Taiwanese government took swift measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus from China early last year, even before the Chinese authorities confirmed that it was highly infectious.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/15/world/taiwan-covid-outbreak.html

723 Epidemiologists on When and How the U.S. Can Fully Return to Normal
Covid-19 cases are decreasing in the United States, and masks are no longer required everywhere, but the pandemic is not over — and won’t be until younger children can also be vaccinated, epidemiologists said in a new survey by The New York Times.

The true end of the pandemic — when it becomes safer to return to most activities without precautions — will arrive once at least 70 percent of Americans of all ages are vaccinated, they said. Adolescents just began receiving vaccines this week, and those for children younger than 12 are not yet approved.

“Children are key to ending the pandemic,” said David Celentano, the chair of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University and one of the 723 epidemiologists who participated in the survey this month.

They are optimistic this will happen, even if not as quickly as many Americans hope. In five years, they expect Covid-19 will be more like the flu, circulating at a lower rate and with some deaths every year — but no longer a public health crisis necessitating lockdowns.


“It feels like there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Gretchen Bandoli, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego. “We have the tools we need to get there, and it feels within reach.”

Yet it’s still unclear if the United States can reach that level of vaccination. And even as cases decline domestically, the global toll of Covid-19 is rising in parts of the world that have not had the same access to vaccines.

Already, Americans are beginning to be able to do things they had been advised to avoid for the last 14 months. The Biden administration said Thursday that fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks in most places. (The survey was conducted over the last two weeks, before the mask announcement.)

... Still, the campaign to vaccinate more Americans cannot let up until children are protected, they said. Half of respondents said at least 80 percent of Americans, including children, would need to be vaccinated before it would be safe to do most activities without precautions. Though children are less likely than adults to develop severe cases of Covid-19, the scientists said their immunity was important because they could be hosts for the virus and a way for it to continue to circulate or develop new variants.

“Children cannot be left out of the equation as we reopen,” said Corinne McDaniels-Davidson, the director of the San Diego State University Institute for Public Health. “The ideas that they cannot transmit Covid or are immune from disease are pervasive among the lay public. We need education here.”

In assessing when the acute phase of the Covid pandemic could be considered over, they said vaccinations were more relevant than other metrics like new cases, hospitalizations or deaths (because an effective vaccination campaign would lower those rates, they said).
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/15/upshot/epidemiologists-covid-return-normal.html

Several Everest Climbers Test Positive for Covid
A prominent mountaineering company abandoned its expedition to Mount Everest, dismantling its tents at base camp on Saturday after members of its team tested positive for the coronavirus.

An American climber and three Sherpa guides from a 51-person expedition were evacuated from base camp and hospitalized in Kathmandu, according to Ang Tendi Sherpa, managing director of the local agency that obtained the permit for the expedition.

“Rest of the climbers felt insecure,” Mr. Sherpa said. “That’s why the expedition was canceled.”

A second wave of the coronavirus is ravaging Nepal, overwhelming its feeble health care system. On Saturday, the authorities reported 8,167 new cases and 187 deaths.

On the peaks, the spread of the virus is unclear, but signs of trouble are growing.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/15/world/covid-test-positive-everest-climbers.html

Fans are back, but Preakness attendance is capped at 10,000.
The pandemic wreaked havoc on the Triple Crown schedule in 2020. The Belmont Stakes, normally the final leg of the Triple Crown, was held in New York in June, the Derby in September, and the Preakness, usually the second of the three races, came in October. None of them admitted spectators. This year, all have returned to their regular spots on the calendar.

Attendance for the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico on Friday and at the Preakness on Saturday was capped at 10,000 fans each, a figure that includes those in the normally raucous infield. That is a little less than 10 percent of the track’s usual capacity. (The announced crowd for the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs last week was 41,472, and for the Derby the next day it was 51,838, close to a third of the venue’s usual capacity.)

The Pimlico grounds are divided into distinct spectator sections, and no crossover is allowed. Temperature checks and questionnaires to assess coronavirus exposure are being administered at the gates, and social distancing signage, plexiglass barriers and hand sanitizing stations will be placed around the track. Despite the latest C.D.C. guidance, masks are required when not eating and drinking, and “Covid compliance officers” are reminding guests to adhere to the policies. Signs along the track promoted Maryland’s vaccine program.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/15/sports/preakness-fans-attendance-cap-covid.html

Nurses’ Union Condemns C.D.C.'s New Mask Advice
The nation’s largest union of registered nurses condemned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday for lifting mask recommendations for vaccinated people and called on the agency to “do the right thing” and revise its guidance.

Bonnie Castillo, a registered nurse and executive director of the union, National Nurses United, said the most recent guidance, which was issued on Thursday and rolled back mask recommendations and other precautions for those who are fully vaccinated, “is not based on science.” Ms. Castillo said the new guidance would jeopardize the health of frontline workers and the general public and would disproportionately harm people of color.

“This is a huge blow to our efforts at confronting this virus and the pandemic,” said Ms. Castillo, whose union represents 170,000 nurses nationwide. Although vaccination is vitally important to stopping the virus’s spread, she noted that millions of Americans still had not been vaccinated.

“The mask is another lifesaving layer of protection for workers,” she said.

The union also criticized the C.D.C. for other actions, including its decision to stop monitoring breakthrough infections among vaccinated individuals and to investigate such cases only if they result in a hospitalization or death. The agency announced that, as of May 1, it would no longer track or investigate all infections among vaccinated people so that it could “maximize the quality of the data collected on cases of greatest clinical and public health importance.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/15/world/nurses-union-cdc-mask-vaccinated.html

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It has since spread worldwide, leading to an ongoing pandemic.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are variable, but often include fever, cough, fatigue, breathing difficulties, and loss of smell and taste. Symptoms begin one to fourteen days after exposure to the virus. Most people (81%) develop mild to moderate symptoms (up to mild pneumonia), while 14% develop severe symptoms (dyspnea, hypoxia, or more than 50% lung involvement on imaging) and 5% of patients suffer critical symptoms (respiratory failure, shock, or multiorgan dysfunction). At least a third of the people who are infected with the virus remain asymptomatic and do not develop noticeable symptoms at any point in time, but can spread the disease. Some patients continue to experience a range of effects—known as long COVID—for months after recovery and damage to organs has been observed. Multi-year studies are underway to further investigate the long term effects of the disease.

Source: Coronavirus disease 2019 - Wikipedia