WHO says Covid-19 emergency is over-The Covid-19 emergency is over after nearly 20mn deaths, the World Health Organization said on Friday, ending a three-year designation it first adopted in January 2020.
COVID-19 deaths fell nearly 50% in 2022-U.S. decline credited to widespread vaccinations and rise in natural immunity. By Rong-Gong Lin II and Luke Money for the LA Times.
The national COVID-19 death rate fell by nearly 50% in 2022 compared with the prior year, a decline that has been credited to widespread vaccinations as well as a rise in natural immunity after the first Omicron surge.
There were 244,986 deaths in the U.S. that listed COVID-19 as the underlying or contributing cause, down 47% from 2021 when 462,193 deaths were reported, according to an analysis of provisional death certificate data published Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number excludes residents of U.S. territories and foreign countries.
The early months of 2022 included the second-deadliest surge of COVID-19, as the first Omicron wave sent the extraordinarily contagious variant seemingly every- where in the U.S. But during the summer and most recent winter, deaths dropped sharply.
Besides vaccinations and rising natural immunity, 2022 also brought the widespread availability of anti-COVID therapeutic drugs such as Paxlovid , an oral medication that significantly reduces the risk of hospitalization and death when taken by people infected with the coronavirus.
Nonetheless, with nearly a quarter-million fatalities in 2022, COVID-19 has remained a leading cause of death — albeit less so. Last year, COVID-19 deaths were seven times higher than the annual number of flu deaths , which averaged about 35,000 each year in the decade before the start of the pandemic.
Nationally, COVID-19 surged to become the third leading cause of death in both 2020 and 2021 . Last year, it fell to fourth place, behind heart disease, cancer and unintentional injury (a category that has remained high because of the elevated number of drug overdose deaths).
The cumulative COVID-19 death toll — now 1.13 million in the U.S. and 6.9 million worldwide — is staggering, with a national death toll that exceeds the last global pandemic of this scale, although the global tally is far lower. The flu pandemic that began in 1918 resulted in an estimated 675,000 deaths in the U.S. and at least 50 million worldwide.
According to the latest analysis, published by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, COVID-19 deaths were highest in the U.S. for people 85 and older. In 2022, that group’s death rate was triple those ages 75 to 84 and about eight times higher than the youngest seniors, ages 65 to 74.
Men had a 50% higher death rate than women.
Of all fatalities with any mention of COVID-19 on the death certificate, 76% listed COVID-19 as the underlying cause. That’s lower than in 2020 and 2021, when COVID-19 was the underlying cause in 90% of deaths in which the illness was mentioned anywhere on the death certificate; the rest listed it as a contributing cause of death.
Among deaths in which COVID-19 was listed as a contributing factor, the most frequent main causes of deaths were heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, unintentional injuries, diabetes, kidney disease and Parkinson’s disease.
In 2022, most COVID-19 deaths — 59% of them — occurred in hospitals. An increasing number were occurring at home (15%) or a nursing home or long-term care facility (14%), the report said.
The analysis also calculated death rates by the 10 regions defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For the second consecutive year, the South had the worst COVID-19 death rates. The highest rate in both 2021 and 2022 occurred in the central South region that covers Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and New Mexico. In 2022, the rate for that region was 69.3 COVID-19 deaths for every 100,000 residents.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will step down from her position on June 30, she announced on Friday, capping a tumultuous tenure at the nation’s leading public health agency as it struggled to rein in the Covid-19 pandemic, the greatest threat to American well-being in decades.
Her departure comes as the administration contends with major vacancies in its Covid-19 response team. Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s Covid-19 coordinator, plans to leave his position this month, along with other key officials, including Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, a White House adviser on the global response. A new White House pandemic office has no leader or staffing.
The administration plans to end the public health emergency on May 11, closing major programs — like access to free tests — that had helped sustain Americans through the worst days of the pandemic.
The Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point on Wednesday, its tenth consecutive increase in just over a year, but signalled it could soon pause its aggressive monetary tightening campaign.
The European Central Bank has raised interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point — less than previous increases — in a sign that eurozone borrowing costs may soon reach their peak.
From the New York Times: A cluster of regional banks scrambled on Thursday to convince the public of their financial soundness, even as their stock prices plunged and investors took bets on which might be the next to fall.
The tumult brought questions about the future of the lenders to the fore, suggesting a new phase in the crisis that began two months ago with the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, and was punctuated on Monday by the seizure and sale of First Republic Bank.
PacWest and Western Alliance were in the eye of the storm, despite the companies’ protestations that their finances were solid. PacWest’s shares lost 50 percent of their value on Thursday and Western Alliance fell 38 percent. Other midsize banks, including Zions and Comerica, also posted double-digit percentage declines.
On Friday, there were early signs of a potential rebound, as shares of PacWest and Western Alliance both rose about 12 percent in premarket trading.
Unlike the banks that failed after depositors rushed to pull their money out, the lenders now under pressure have reported relatively stable deposit bases and don’t sit on mountains of soured loans. They are also much smaller than Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic, which each had about $200 billion in assets when they collapsed. PacWest, based in Los Angeles, has about $40 billion in assets, and Western Alliance, with headquarters in Phoenix, has $65 billion in assets. Both banks run fewer than 100 branches.
The most immediate threat the banks face, analysts said, is a crisis of confidence. Headlines about their spiraling share prices could spook depositors and upend the banks’ ability to operate normally.
After its share price suddenly dropped late Wednesday, following a Bloomberg News report that it was evaluating its strategic options, PacWest said it was continuing to look to sell assets to shore up its finances. It said that it had not seen an “out-of-the-ordinary” outflow of deposits in recent days. In a statement issued shortly after midnight, the Los Angeles bank said that it was planning to sell a $2.7 billion loan portfolio, that it was reviewing other options after being approached by potential “partners and investors,” and that deposits stood at $28 billion as of Tuesday, compared with roughly $29 billion that it held in late April.
Western Alliance, in Phoenix, also tried to reassure investors, saying late on Wednesday that it was not seeing deposit outflows. As of Tuesday, the bank said, deposits stood at $48.8 billion, compared with $47.6 billion at the end of March.
From the Financial Times: US economy adds 253,000 jobs in April in sign of labour market strength. US jobs growth was stronger than expected in April, providing a reminder of the resilience of the US economy despite the Federal Reserve signalling it was “getting close” to pausing its cycle of interest rate hikes.
Job openings in March fell to 9.6 million, the Labor Department reported on Tuesday, the lowest level in two years and a further indication that the slowdown in the labor market is becoming more entrenched. It was the third straight month that job openings have declined, a notable development after last year, when job openings bounced around month to month.
Transportation, warehousing and utilities, professional and businesses services and construction were among the sectors that posted large drops in open positions, as higher interest rates and fears of a pullback in consumer spending continued to discourage employers from hiring.
Other readings in Tuesday’s report underscored the labor market’s restraint. The total number of open jobs per available unemployed worker, a ratio that the Federal Reserve has been watching as it tries to tame rapid inflation, decreased slightly to 1.6, the lowest level since October 2021. Layoffs, which have remained historically low outside of some big-name companies in the tech sector, rose to 1.8 million in March. The number of workers voluntarily leaving their jobs — a sign that workers are finding opportunities to switch to better-paid positions, or are confident they can do so — was relatively unchanged but has been inching down.
The labor market is still defying gravity — for now.
Employers added 253,000 jobs in April on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Labor Department reported Friday, in a departure from the cooling trend that had marked the first quarter and was expected to continue.
The unemployment rate was 3.4 percent, down from 3.5 percent in March, and matched the level in January, which was the lowest since 1969. Wages also popped slightly, growing 4.4 percent over the past year.
The higher-than-forecast job gain complicates the Federal Reserve’s potential shift toward a pause in interest rate increases. Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, said on Wednesday that the central bank might continue to raise rates if new data showed the economy wasn’t slowing enough to keep prices down.
It’s also an indication that the failure of three banks and the resulting pullback on lending, which is expected to hit smaller businesses particularly hard, hasn’t yet hamstrung job creation.