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Coronavirus Update: U.S. excess death toll has climbed above 1 million during the pandemic: ‘We’ve never seen anything like it,’ says CDC official

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The U.S. has recorded more than 1 million excess deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ahead of the roughly 926,000 deaths captured by Johns Hopkins data.

The number crossed the 1 million milestone last week to reach 1,023,916, the Washington Post reported, citing the CDC’s head of mortality statistics, Robert Anderson.

While most of those deaths are due to the coronavirus, records also show higher numbers of fatalities from heart disease, hypertension, dementia and other illnesses during the two years of the pandemic, declared by the World Health Organization on March 12, 2020.

“We’ve never seen anything like it,” Anderson told the paper.

The news comes as daily cases continue their steep decline from January peaks caused by the highly infectious omicron variant and are now below the peak seen during the delta-driven wave.

Cases are averaging 140,204 a day, according to a New York Times tracker, down 67% from two weeks ago. Hospitalizations are down 38% to an average of 85,086 a day, and deaths are finally starting to fall to a current average of 2,328 a day, down 12% from two weeks ago. That number is still higher than at any other time during the pandemic apart from last winter, before vaccines were widely available.

New studies offer clues about who may be more susceptible to long Covid, a term for lingering Covid-19 symptoms. WSJ breaks down the science of long Covid and the state of treatment. Illustration: Jacob Reynolds for the Wall Street Journal

The WHO said the global case tally fell 19% in the week through Feb. 13 compared with the previous week, while deaths were roughly flat.

In its weekly epidemiological update, the agency also said early studies are showing that the BA.2 subvariant of omicron is more infectious than the original omicron variant, dubbed BA.1. A Danish study suggested it’s about 30% more infectious. But other studies show that, so far, it is not more lethal or more likely to create severe disease in the vaccinated.

“Overall, there is no difference in severity when looking at countries where BA.2 is dominant and those where BA.1 is dominant,” said WHO.

There was positive news from the head of Moderna
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who said the world may be entering the final states of the pandemic — with one caveat.

There is an “80% chance that as omicron evolves or SARS-CoV-2 virus evolves, we are going to see less and less virulent viruses,” Stephane Bancel told CNBC in an interview that published Wednesday. But he cautioned that there’s still a 20% chance of another scenario emerging involving a mutation that proves to be “more virulent than omicron.”

Don’t miss: ‘You will not believe what I’ve just found.’ Inside the ivermectin saga: a hacked password, mysterious websites and faulty data.

His comments come as more companies and organizations are lifting restrictions on workers and customers, including face-mask requirements among fully vaccinated people.

Retailing giants Walmart
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 and Amazon
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 have dropped mask requirements for fully vaccinated workers, tech companies such as Microsoft 
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 and Facebook
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are setting office return dates for employees, and even Disney World
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has dropped mask requirements for vaccinated visitors.

President Joe Biden said in a recent interview that it was “probably premature” for states to drop their indoor face-mask requirements, and the CDC is sticking with its recommendation for protective face masks.

“I think we got lucky as a world that omicron was not very virulent, but still are we see thousands of people dying every day around the planet because of omicron,” said Bancel, who added that “this virus is going to stay with humans forever, like flu, and we’d have to live with it.”

Moderna has clinical studies under way of a specific vaccine for the omicron variant, should it be needed, he said.

From New York to California, an increasing number of states are lifting statewide mask mandates as the Omicron wave recedes. Federal public-health officials, meanwhile, continue to recommend mask-wearing in public indoor settings in much of the country. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• Two of the country’s largest music festivals — Coachella and sister event Stagecoach — will drop all COVID-19 precautions when they are held in April, MarketWatch’s Mike Murphy reported. “There will be no vaccination, testing or masking requirements,” the Stagecoach Country Music Festival, scheduled for April 29-May 1, tweeted Tuesday. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, to be held on consecutive weekends April 15-17 and April 22-24, did not make a similar announcement, but it updated its “Health & Safety Rules” web page to read: “In accordance with local guidelines, there will be no vaccination, testing or masking requirements at Coachella 2022.” Both festivals are held in Indio, Calif., and are run by Goldenvoice, a unit of AEG Presents.

•The Biden administration is telling Congress that it needs an additional $30 billion to press ahead with the fight against COVID-19, the Associated Press reported. Two people described as familiar with the administration’s plan confirmed key details: $17.9 billion for vaccines and treatments, $4.9 billion for testing, $3 billion to cover coronavirus care for uninsured people, and $3.7 billion to prepare for future variants. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss deliberations between the administration and lawmakers over the supplemental funding.

• China’s president, Xi Jinping, has told Hong Kong’s leaders that their “overriding mission” was to stabilize and control a worsening COVID-19 outbreak, Reuters reported, citing local media. The directive increases the pressure on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and comes a day after she said her government’s response to the outbreak had been unsatisfactory, with hospitals and medical staff unable to cope. Health authorities in the global financial hub reported a record 1,619 confirmed new infections on Tuesday, and another 5,400 preliminary positive cases. The daily tally of COVID infections is now more than 20 times the level at the start of February.

A key U.S.-Canada trade corridor has reopened for travelers and freight, marking an end to protests over Covid-19 restrictions that lasted roughly a week and caused economic repercussions. Photo: Nicole Osborne/Associated Press

• Ottawa’s police chief resigned Tuesday amid criticism of his inaction against the truck protests that have paralyzed Canada’s capital for over two weeks, while demonstrators elsewhere across the country abandoned their blockade at a U.S. border crossing, the AP reported. The two developments came just a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked extraordinary emergency powers to try to end the occupation in Ottawa and elsewhere around the country. Across Canada and beyond, the question in the coming days will be whether it works.

• BioNTech
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is developing mRNA manufacturing facilities using mobile containers to promote scalable vaccine production in Africa. The company is expecting to deliver the first BioNTainer in the second half, comprising one drug substance and one formulation module. “Each module is built of six ISO sized containers (2.6m x 2.4m x 12m). This allows for mRNA vaccine production in bulk (mRNA manufacturing and formulation), while fill-and-finish will be taken over by local partners,” the company said in a statement. The BioNTainers are expected to have the capacity to produce up to 50 million doses of the COVID vaccine that BioNTech developed with Pfizer
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Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose above 415.7 million on Wednesday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, while the death toll climbed above 5.83 million.

The U.S. leads the world with 78 million cases and 925,560 deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 214 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 64.5% of the population. But just 91.9 million are boosted, equal to 43% of the vaccinated population. 

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