As we report the latest numbers from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to tell you that it isn't over. Yes, we have been making progress. In North Carolina, 42% of the state's adult population has now been fully vaccinated. President Joe Biden set a new goal for vaccinations in America in remarks Tuesday afternoon (May 4th). Biden wants to have 70% of the US adult population to have at least one shot and 160 million Americans to be fully vaccinated by July 4th.
Mass vaccination clinics will be replaced by more widespread distribution of the vaccines, so if you need to be vaccinated, you can at almost any pharmacy or your doctor's office.
Most are surely aware that while the US is doing better in our efforts to stop the virus, it's going wild in other places including parts of Africa, South America and India. Human behavior is probably more to blame for the current overwhelming wave of the pandemic in India, but there have been new mutants and the combination of these two is proving catastrophic. India has had far more cases every day for the past few weeks than the US did at the worst of the virus in December and January.
In response to one of our articles about the pandemic, one Facebook commenter complained that we hadn't mentioned those countries who were doing well in slowing the spread of the virus. The comment was that we should have mentioned New Zealand, which has almost entirely eliminated cases of COVID-19.
New Zealand's success in stopping the virus was not related to the vaccines. Their population is less than 2% vaccinated. They used closures and other restrictions, got mass public support for wearing masks, etc. We need to continue to be cautious and understand that this virus is deadly and very contagious--no matter what those who want to politicize it may say. Get your shots and continue to wear your mask (properly) when in public places where social distancing can't be maintained and some may be present who still insist it's a hoax and refuse for that or other invalid reasons to wear a mask.
When we have reported on the virus, many of those with medical degrees from Facebook (they no doubt graduated summa cum loudmouth with a GED and an LSMFT) have been quick to chant their favorite 'fake news' charge.
I won't take credit for the following; it's from the BBC, which--despite some claiming all major news outlets are 'fake news,' I consider very reliable. The BBC gave the following update last Friday (April 30th), spelling out what's happening in Europe country-by-country:
France is staring to ease itself out of the lockdown. Beginning Monday (May 3rd) for the first time recently, traveling further than 10km from home will be permitted again. Shops, café terraces and cultural venues are expected to start opening their doors again in mid-May. Secondary school students are expected to go back in early May and nurseries and primary schools have already reopened. A curfew will be lifted on June 2nd. [...and you thought Roy Cooper's restrictions were rough!]
A controversial new lockdown law enables Germany's federal government to impose an overnight curfew and shut schools wherever infection rates rise too high. Cities or areas that exceed a rate of 100 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants for three consecutive days have to impose the measures. [Point of reference: in the last seven days, North Carolina had 117.1 new cases per 100,000 population.] Large parts of Germany already exceed the limit, including cities such as Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt and Munich as well as many rural areas. That law will remain in place until June 30th.
Most of Italy is now in a "yellow zone" which means that bars and restaurants can reopen. Most students are back at school, and some outdoor cultural events are allowed. A curfew between 10 PM and 5 AM remains in place nationwide and masks are compulsory in all public spaces, both indoors and outdoors.
Denmark has lifted a number of restrictions already - shops are open, outdoor eating is allowed and indoor dining will resume in early May. The government has also introduced a "corona pass" for everyone over the age of 15. This pass, available on mobile phone or on paper, shows whether people have been vaccinated, previously infected or have had a negative test in the past 72 hours.
People need to show it for entry to bars, restaurants, museums or hairdressers, or to attend football matches.
Beginning May 15th, the government will allow any tourist to visit the country, if they have been vaccinated or can provide a negative coronavirus test. However, restrictions were still in place for the Orthodox Easter (May 2nd) - travelling to another prefecture is not allowed and a curfew is in place. Beginning Monday (May 3rd) restaurants will be allowed to seat people outside.
Schools will reopen on May10th. When the pandemic first hit Europe, Greece was quick to impose restrictions far greater than most other countries; as a result, they had less cases and deaths (adjusted for population) than most European nations.
Beginning Tuesday (May 4th) shopping centers and hotels will be allowed to reopen with reduced customer numbers. All primary school children will be able to return to school. Hairdressers will be able to reopen.
The Czech Republic
The government has approved the return of the upper level of primary school starting Monday, on a week-on, week-off basis, but only in regions with favorable numbers. All shops will be allowed to reopen May 10th and outside table service in pubs and restaurants will resume May 17th.
The government says Spain will welcome tourists from June, following a pilot trial of digital health certificates at its airports in May. Some regions of Spain have started lifting restrictions. Catalonia now allows movement between zones, and in Valencia, restrictions on numbers of people allowed into bars and restaurants are being further eased.
Some lockdown measures have already been eased. Schools have reopened and a ban on non-essential travel was lifted in April. Hairdressers and other businesses are also open. Outdoor dining at bars and restaurants will be allowed beginning May 8th.
The lockdown in Portugal has been gradually eased, with pupils now back in schools. Museums, hair salons and restaurant and cafe terraces have reopened. Number-restrictions on sports activities have been removed and higher capacity limits for weddings and baptisms and big outdoor events introduced.
A controversial three-month curfew, which sparked protests and legal challenges, ended on April 28th. Outdoor areas in cafes have reopened - limits remain for the number of customers, and reservations are required. Non-essential stores can welcome "spontaneous shoppers" without an appointment. The Eurovision song contest, scheduled for Rotterdam May 18-22 will go ahead with a live audience. The Dutch government confirmed 3,500 people will be allowed to watch six dress rehearsals and three live performances inside the city's Ahoy Arena.
The Irish government has announced a gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions in May and June, subject to the public health situation at the time. Beginning May 10th, hairdressers, museums, libraries and galleries can reopen. All shops can reopen on May 17th, and hotels and B&Bs June 2nd. Beginning June 7th, restaurants and bars can open outside for groups of up to six customers, and outdoor sports matches can be played again - but with no spectators.
You no doubt remember when Sweden's answer to the virus was allowing it to run its course hoping for herd immunity by last Summer. Needless to say, it didn't work. Sweden tried to avoid imposing rules when other countries were in lockdown, but new emergency laws now give the government the power to impose coronavirus-related curbs. Visitor limits are in force in shops and public venues and in cafes and restaurants. Residents have been asked to wear a face mask on public transport and indoor public spaces such as shops.
In North Carolina, the Tuesday (May 4th) report showed 1,050 people still hospitalized with the virus. Gaston County was down to 20; Catawba County, 18. The number of new cases in our area has seen a sharp decline. Lincoln County reported 125 known active cases.
Get your shots, and while the new rules in our state no longer require wearing a mask while outdoors, it's still a good idea (even if you've had your shots) when you're going to be close to others. The wearing of masks, although still opposed by some, has had an additional benefit: since last September, North Carolina has had only 7 known deaths from influenza.
One of the top virologists in the country (with whom I talk regularly) says he doesn't expect us ever to achieve 'herd immunity.' He does say that he believes the pandemic will subside. He compares it to having a gathering of a hundred people in close quarters where one has a bad cold. It's likely, he says, that another four or five might come down with a bad cold. Increase the number to 25 with a bad cold and most likely half of more of the 100 would develop one. He says the vaccines are helpful and important but not perfect. He compares them to the flu shots many of us get every year. "We didn't eliminate flu," he told us, "but with the vaccines, we can at least have some protection and more people who don't get a flu shot (by percentage) die from the flu than those who do get the shot." He says we'll likely have booster shots that we may want to take when outbreaks of COVID occur in the future.