Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — May 4, 2022

“Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

531.   China’s attempts to eliminate Covid’s spread are unusually extreme.

         QHave other countries accepted the notion that Covid-19 will become endemic?

         A:  No.  The New York Times recently reported that in China, parents have organized petitions, imploring the government not to separate children infected with coronavirus from their families. Residents have confronted officials over containment policies that they see as inhumane, then shared videos of the arguments online.  As the coronavirus races through Shanghai, in that city’s worst outbreak since the pandemic began, the authorities have deployed their usual autocratic playbook to stamp out Covid-19, no matter the cost. What has been different is the outpouring of public dissatisfaction rarely seen in China.

The crisis in Shanghai is shaping up to be more than just a public health challenge. It is also a political test of this zero-tolerance approach on which the Communist Party has staked its legitimacy.  For much of the past two years, the Chinese government has stifled domestic criticism of its Covid strategy, using a mixture of censorship, arrests, and its previous success at keeping caseloads low.   But in Shanghai, which has recorded more than 70,000 cases since March 1, that is proving increasingly more difficult.

This scenario is now just beginning in the capital city of Beijing.  The intolerance of China’s government is shown when only seventy people tested positive in the city’s 3.5 million population caused an order to have every citizen in 11 of its 16 districts in Beijing take 3 separate PCR Covid tests over the next 5 days.  Knowing the harsh conditions mandated for Shanghai, citizens have cleared store shelves hoarding food and supplies in case neighborhoods become fenced in, patrolled 24/7 by drones, and firmly locked down.  In other Chinese cities, mass testing in response to a scattering of coronavirus cases has already been a prelude to similar stringent restrictions.  The disruptions to China’s economy have become significant with the restocking of goods being seriously reduced by not allowing workers to leave their homes to manufacture them.  Worldwide shortages of some essential products, such as computer chips, are now being felt.

532.  The W.H.O. global vaccination goals for Covid-19 will not be met.

         Q:  Will enough people be vaccinated to reduce the chance of troublesome future variants?

         A:  The World Health Organization has set the goal to immunize 70 percent of people in every nation by June 2022 to control Covid-19 worldwide.  Now, it is clear that the world will fall far short of that target by the deadline. And there is a growing sense of resignation among public health experts that high Covid vaccination coverage may never be achieved in most lower-income countries, as badly needed funding from the United States dries up and both governments and donors turn to other priorities.

“The reality is that there is a loss of momentum,” said Dr. Isaac Adewole, a former health minister of Nigeria who now serves as a consultant for the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Only a few of the world’s 82 poorest countries – including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, and Nepal have reached the 70 percent vaccination threshold. Many are under 20 percent, according to data compiled from government sources by the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.  By comparison, about two-thirds of the world’s richest countries have reached 70 percent. (The United States is at 66 percent.)

Public health experts say that the consequence of abandoning this global effort could lead to the emergence of dangerous new variants that would threaten the world’s work to live with the virus.  “This pandemic is not over yet — far from it — and it’s imperative that countries use the doses available to them to protect as much of their population as possible,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, chief executive of Gavi, the nonprofit that runs the global vaccine clearinghouse.  Fewer than 17 percent of Africans have received a primary Covid immunization.  Nearly half of the vaccine doses delivered to the continent thus far have gone unused. Last month, the number of doses injected on the continent fell by 35 percent contrasted to the previous month in February.

533.   The FDA Approves First COVID-19 Treatment for Young Children.

          Q:  Have any Covdid pediatric therapeutics received full authorization by the FDA? 

          A:  On April 25, 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approved a Covid-19 therapeutic drug for children who have been infected with Covid-19.  It expanded the emergency use authorization (EUA) approval of the drug Veklury (remdesivir) to cover pediatric patients 28 days of age and older weighing at least 3 kilograms (about 7 pounds) who show positive results of direct PCR Covid testing.  To qualify for this treatment, the child must be either hospitalized or if not hospitalized, have mild-to-moderate symptoms, and be at high risk for progression to severe disease.  This action makes Veklury the first fully approved COVID-19 treatment for children under 12 years of age.

534.  European and American officials: Covid-19 is no longer in an emergency phase.

         Q: Is Covid still a high-risk disease?

         A:  The European Union said on Wednesday that it was moving out of the emergency phase of the Covid-19 pandemic.  The move comes as the number of deaths and hospitalizations across Europe has dropped significantly because of the prevalence of the less severe Omicron variant, as well as high immunization levels. Three-quarters of Europeans are fully vaccinated, and over half have received an additional booster shot.  This compares to the 66% of Americans who are fully vaccinated.   The E.U. announcement, which came from the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, is an attempt to coordinate the management of the pandemic as it becomes less acute, though national governments continue to set their own policies on public health. Wednesday’s recommendation is not legally binding, and countries are free to follow or ignore it.

Ursula von der Leyen, the commission’s president, said on Wednesday that it was crucial to stay vigilant.  “New variants can emerge and spread fast,” Ms. von der Leyen said. “But we know the way forward. We need to further step up vaccination and boosting, and targeted testing — and we need to continue to coordinate our responses closely in the E.U.”

A week after the UE announcement, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden. during an interview on the PBS Newshour stated The U.S. is no longer in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the coronavirus’s continuing global threat.  “We are certainly right now in this country out of the pandemic phase,” Fauci said.  “Namely, we don’t have 900,000 new infections a day and tens and tens and tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. We are at a low level right now.”  In an interview with the Associated Press on April 27, Fauci said the pandemic isn’t over. “We are in a different moment of the pandemic,” he said. After a brutal winter surge, Fauci added, “we’ve now decelerated and transitioned into more of a controlled phase.  By no means does that mean the pandemic is over.”

535.  More than half of the U.S. population has contracted Covid-19.

         Q:  How many people have been infected by Covid-19?

         A:  The New York Times published an article last week, that was republished by many local newspapers, stating that, “By February, nearly 60% of the population had been exposed (infected) by the coronavirus, almost double the proportion seen in December 2021, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”  This increase was among every age group, while infections of the Omicron variant were greatest among children and adolescents, probably because those age groups were the least vaccinated.