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Coronavirus Update: Global COVID case tally climbs in latest week, breaking streak of declines that began in January

The World Health Organization said Wednesday the number of new COVID-19 cases reported globally rose in the week through March 13, breaking the streak of declining numbers seen since the end of January.

Global cases rose 8% to just over 11 million in the week and just over 43,000 people died, the agency said in its latest weekly epidemiological update.

By region, cases rose 29% in the Western Pacific Region, rose 12% in the African Region and were up 2% in the European Region, which includes parts of the former Soviet Union that are closer to Asia.

Cases fell 24% in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, were down 21% in South-East Asia and down 20% in the Americas.

“These trends should be interpreted with caution as several countries are progressively changing their testing strategies, resulting in lower overall numbers of tests performed and consequently numbers of cases detected,” the WHO said.

Separately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the omicron subvariant BA.2 now accounts for about 23.1% of all COVID cases in the U.S., up from 13.7% a week ago.

The BA.2 subvariant has been designated a variant of concern by the World Health Organization and “appears inherently more transmissible than BA.1,” the organization said in February. BA.1, another subvariant of omicron, made up an estimated 66.1% of all cases in the U.S., while omicron is 10.8% of all cases, according to data gathered for the week ending March 12.

The WHO did not mention a new variant that has been unofficially named ‘deltacron’ because it combines elements of the delta and omicron variants. The agency has said it’s closely monitoring that variant but that there’s not enough data yet to know if it’s more transmissible or more risky.

See now: Fully vaccinated will need fourth dose later this year, and new variant dubbed ‘deltacron’ detected in Europe

The U.S. COVID numbers continue to decline, and the nation is now averaging 32,094 new cases a day, according to a New York Times tracker, down 46% from two weeks ago. The average daily number of hospitalizations stands at 26,436, down 44% from two weeks ago. Deaths are averaging 1,226 a day, down 36% from two weeks ago, but still an undesirably high number. 

What is an endemic and how will we know when Covid-19 becomes one? WSJ’s Daniela Hernandez breaks down how public-health experts assess when a virus like Covid-19 enters an endemic stage. Photo: Michael Nagle/Zuma Press

The administration of President Joe Biden made a firm push for Congress to provide additional funding to fight COVID-19 on Tuesday after $15.6 billion was dropped from a spending bill, arguing that it needs to make sure there are enough doses on hand to provide fourth jabs for all Americans if such boosters are needed—or to provide variant-specific vaccines if those are needed.

Without additional funding, the government does not have the ability to maintain the country’s domestic testing capacity beyond June, another official said. Officials also warned that providers soon would no longer be able to submit claims for testing, treating and vaccinating uninsured people, and the government would face a reduced ability to rapidly identify and assess new strains of COVID. 

Special report: Two years of COVID-19: How the pandemic changed the way we shop, work, invest and get medical care

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• Doug Emhoff, husband of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, tested positive for COVID on Tuesday, according to a statement from Harris’ office. Emhoff is the first known case of Covid-19 among the first or second families since Biden and Harris took office in January 2021. Emhoff took to Twitter to urge others to get vaccinated and boosted.

The Transportation Security Administration has investigated more than 3,800 incidents of possible violations of the federal face-mask mandate among travelers in the U.S. from February of 2021 to March of 2022, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. The investigations have resulted in more than 2,700 warning notices and more than 900 civil penalties. The TSA is responsible for enforcing the mandate in airports and other public transportation systems and has fined people more than $644,000 in total, according to the report.

• Pfizer
PFE,
+1.65%

is expected to request authorization this week for an additional COVID-19 booster dose for seniors, according to a person familiar with the matter, the Associated Press reported. It would add a fourth dose to the regimen, which currently consists of a primary series of two shots, followed months later by a booster dose, in an effort to provide maximum protection to the over-65 population that has been hit hardest by the pandemic.

• New Zealand will allow international tourists in stages from mid-April, accelerating its previous cautious plans for reopening that threatened to choke a crucial part of the economy for a third year, Dow Jones Newswires reported. The decisions announced Wednesday are a boost for thousands of small businesses and corporations such as Auckland International Airport Ltd. 
AIA,
-1.10%
,
 Air New Zealand Ltd. 
AIR,
+2.17%

 and casino operator Skycity Entertainment Ltd. 
SKC,
+3.19%

 that have laid off staff and suffered financial losses during the pandemic.

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 461.9 million on Tuesday, while the death toll rose above 6.05 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 79.6 million cases and 966,495 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 216.7 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 65.3% of the population. But just 96.1 million are boosted, equal to 44.4% of the vaccinated population.

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