Three more US senators test positive for Covid19

Coronavirus pandemic has killed over 4.4 million people and infected over 210.6 million globally. Here are the coronavirus-related developments for August 20:

A person has a nasal swab applied for the Covid-19 test taken at a mobile testing site in Times Square in New York City, US, on August 16, 2021. (Reuters)

Friday, August 20, 2021

Three more US senators test Covid positive

Three US senators from different political affiliations and different parts of the country have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The lawmakers, who were vaccinated, are among the 71 members of Congress to be diagnosed with Covid-19 since the beginning of last year, according to the nonpartisan group GovTrack.

“I’ve tested positive for a breakthrough case of Covid-19. I feel good but will isolate per docs instructions,” Senator John Hickenlooper, 69, said on Twitter.

“I’m grateful for the vaccine,” the Colorado Democrat added, as he encouraged other people to get the shot.

Republican Senator Roger Wicker, 70, tested positive earlier Thursday “after immediately seeking a test due to mild symptoms,” his office said in a statement.

Wicker is being treated by a doctor in Mississippi, his home southern state with the 10th highest infection rate in the nation.

A third senator, 77-year-old Angus King, was tested Thursday as a precaution after he began experiencing symptoms.

“While I am not feeling great, I’m definitely feeling much better than I would have without the vaccine,” said King, an independent from Maine where the Covid infection rate is relatively low.

Congress is currently on recess, and the Senate comes back into session on September 13.

Last February 67-year-old House Republican Ron Wright, who lived for years with cancer, died two weeks after contracting Covid-19.

Japan action star Sonny Chiba dies from Covid-19 complications

Japanese action star Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba has died in hospital from complications related to Covid-19, public broadcaster NHK said. He was 82.

Chiba a martial artist and imposing actor known for his legendary fight scenes, was best known in the West for his role as sword maker Hattori Hanzo in the “Kill Bill” series of films.

Mexico reports 23,006 new cases, 850 more deaths

Mexican health authorities have reported 23,006 new Covid-19 cases and 850 more deaths, bringing the total number of infections in the country since the pandemic began to 3,175,211 and the total confirmed death toll to 251,319.

Feds seize over 3,000 fake vaccination cards in Anchorage

More than 3,000 fake Covid-19 vaccination cards have been confiscated at cargo freight facilities at the Anchorage airport as they were being shipped from China, officials said.

Officers from US Customs and Border Protection seized the cards in the past week as they arrived in small packages, said Jaime Ruiz, an agency spokesperson.

There were between 135 and 150 packages found in Anchorage, all sent by the same person in China, Ruiz said.

The packages contained small amounts of the fake cards, about 20 or 25 each.

The cards confiscated in Anchorage closely resemble the authentic Centers for Disease Control and Prevention certificates given out by health care workers when US citizens receive their vaccinations, the agency said. However, this shipment had cards that exhibited low-quality printing.

The seizure comes as a cottage industry for counterfeit cards has sprung up online to accommodate people who say they won’t get vaccinated for either personal or religious reasons.

Another 3,600 fake cards were found recently at cargo facilities in Memphis, Tennessee, Ruiz said.

Brazil reports 36,315 new cases and 979 deaths

Brazil has had 36,315 new cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 979 deaths from Covid-19, the health ministry said.

The South American country has now registered 20,494,212 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 572,641, according to ministry data, in the world’s third worst outbreak outside the United States and India and its second-deadliest after the United States.

As vaccination advances, the rolling 7-day average of Covid deaths has fallen to less that one third of the toll of almost 3,000 a day at the peak of the pandemic in April.

Israel to begin Covid booster shots for over 40s

Israelis aged 40 and over will be able to receive coronavirus vaccine booster shots starting this weekend, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said Thursday, as the country battles a spike in infections.

Israel was one of the first countries to launch a vaccination drive in mid-December via an agreement with Pfizer to obtain millions of paid vaccine doses in exchange for sharing data on their effectiveness.

The inoculation campaign was hailed as a success story that helped drastically reduce infections in the country of nine million.

But cases have been rising due to the spread of the Delta variant among the unvaccinated and waning immunity in others.

To try and contain the spread, authorities last week began administrating a booster shot to those aged 50 and older, after starting a campaign for over-60s late last month.

Israel has recorded more than 970,000 coronavirus infections since the pandemic started early last year and over 6,700 deaths.

More than 5.4 million people have received two doses of the vaccine, while 1.2 million have had a third jab.

Scientists question evidence behind US Covid-19 booster shot drive

The Biden administration’s plan to provide Covid-19 vaccine boosters is based on concerns that a decrease in the vaccines’ ability to protect against milder infections could also mean people will have less protection against severe illness, a premise that has yet to be proven, scientists said.

US officials, citing data showing waning protection against mild and moderate illness from the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines more than six months after inoculation, on Wednesday said boosters will be made widely available starting on September 20.

The additional dose will be offered to people who received their initial inoculation at least eight months earlier.

Data on so-called “breakthrough” infections in vaccinated people shows that older Americans have so far been the most vulnerable to severe illness.

As of August 9, almost 74 percent of the 8,054 vaccinated people that were hospitalized with Covid-19 were above the age of 65, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost 20 percent of those cases ended in deaths.

Based on available data on vaccine protection, it is not clear that younger, healthier people will be at risk.

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