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Coronavirus Update: China to stop reporting asymptomatic COVID cases, which are ‘impossible’ to track without mass testing


China is scaling back its daily COVID reporting as the end of mass PCR testing and the decision to allow people with mild symptoms to recover at home make it more difficult for the government to accurately track cases.

The government said Wednesday it would stop reporting asymptomatic COVID cases, as they have become “impossible” to track without mass testing, the Associated Press reported.

The development is one side effect of the easing of restrictions and end of zero-COVID, the policy that had frustrated the millions of Chinese citizens who were forced into lengthy quarantines and had hurt the country’s economy.

Beijing’s streets have grown eerily quiet, with lines forming outside fever clinics — the number of which has been increased from 94 to 303 — and at pharmacies, where cold and flu medications have become harder to find, said the AP. And while officials have said they are sourcing millions of rapid-test kits for Beijing pharmacies, those are also difficult to find.

China reported just 2,249 “confirmed” infections on Wednesday, bringing the nation’s official total over the course of the pandemic to 369,918 — more than double the number on Oct. 1. It has recorded 5,235 deaths, compared with 1.1 million in the United States. China’s official numbers are widely held to have been massively underreported since the beginning of the pandemic.

Production at the world’s biggest iPhone factory – Foxconn’s site in Zhengzhou, China – has been disrupted by protests, quarantines and a worker exodus. Here’s how the chaos erupted and what it means for Apple. Photo: AFP/Getty Images/Bloomberg News

In the U.S., known cases of COVID are rising, along with hospitalizations, fatalities and test-positivity rates. The daily average for new cases stood at 66,045 on Tuesday, according to a New York Times tracker, up 55% from two weeks ago.

Cases are rising in 45 states, led by Oklahoma, where they have climbed 211% from two weeks ago; Georgia, where they are up 145%; Nevada, where they are up 119%; and South Carolina, where they are up 114%.

Cases have more than doubled in seven states.

The U.S. average for hospitalizations is up 22% to 38,732, led by Vermont, where they are up 69% in two weeks.

The number of deaths is up 65% to 473, in a disappointing reversal of what was until recently a steadily declining trend. The test-positivity rate has climbed 23% to 12%.

Coronavirus Update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• Pfizer

has agreed to supply the U.S. government with another 3.7 million courses of its antiviral Paxlovid, adding to the 20 million treatment courses already ordered. The new batch is scheduled for delivery in early 2023. The antiviral has been authorized for emergency use by the FDA for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID in adults and pediatric patients who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death.

• Fewer than 20% of Minnesotans are current on their COVID shots ahead of the Christmas holiday, and health officials said Tuesday that that has them worried, the AP reported separately. “The numbers have been improving recently, and though this is better than the vast majority of the nation, it is way below where we would like to see it,” state epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield said during a briefing on the high numbers of cases and hospitalizations the state is experiencing for COVID, flu and the respiratory virus RSV.

• Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that he plans to petition the state’s supreme court to convene a grand jury to investigate “any and all wrongdoing” with respect to COVID vaccines, the AP reported. The Republican governor, who is often mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2024, gave no specifics on what wrongdoing the panel would investigate but suggested it would be in part aimed at getting more information from pharmaceutical companies about the vaccines and potential side effects. The announcement was greeted with dismay by health experts.

Here’s what the numbers say:

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 650.6 million on Wednesday, while the death toll rose above 6.65 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 99.5 million cases and 1,085,251 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 228.6 million people living in the U.S., equal to 68.9% of the total population, are fully vaccinated, meaning they have had their primary shots.

So far, just 42 million Americans have had the updated COVID booster that targets the original virus and the omicron variants, equal to 13.5% of the overall population.

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