Coronavirus Update: Former global leaders urge U.S. to commit $5 billion to global COVID battle, urge Biden to take more forceful role at Thursday summit

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A group of former heads of state led by Gordon Brown, former U.K. Prime Minister, is calling on the U.S. to commit $5 billion to the effort to combat the pandemic globally and urging President Joe Biden to take a more forceful role at a COVID-19 summit planned for Thursday.

“I want America to recognize that the disease is not over anywhere until it’s over everywhere,” Brown told the New York Times, which reported the story. “We must not sleepwalk into the next variant.”

Biden acknowledged in a statement released on Monday that funding for the next phase of the pandemic is not coming soon, however, as congressional leaders from both parties have told him it must be handled separately to a package on aid for Ukraine.

“However let me be clear: as vital as it is to help Ukraine combat Russian aggression, it is equally vital to help Americans combat COVID,” said Biden.

“Without timely COVID funding, more Americans will die needlessly. We will lose our place in line for America to order new COVID treatments and vaccines for the fall, including next-generation vaccines under development, and be unable to maintain our supply of COVID tests.”

See now: New study finds omicron no less severe than earlier variants, and not just more transmissible

Biden’s administration has repeatedly urged Congress to free up funds for the next phase of the crisis, and warned that the country needs to prepare for an expected surge in fall and winter.

“In addition, our effort to help lower-income countries get COVID vaccines into arms will stall,” he warned.

Experts have consistently said the whole world needs access to vaccines to contain the pandemic and prevent new, potentially more lethal strains, from emerging.

The news comes as COVID cases continue to rise across the U.S. again driven by the BA.2 variant of omicron, and two other subvariants that appear to be even more infectious. The two, named BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1, were highlighted by health officials in New York State recently.

The U.S. is averaging 73,056 cases a day, up 49% from two weeks ago. Cases are climbing in all but seven states and territories and in Hawaii, Maine and Puerto Rico, case counts are nearing or surpassing the numbers seen during last year’s delta surge.

Cases among children are also spiking. In the week ended May 6, more than 62,000 child cases were reported, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, up 69% from two weeks ago. It’s the fourth straight week of rising cases in children.

The country is averaging 19,009 hospitalizations a day, up 20% from two weeks ago. The daily death toll has fallen below 400 to 367 on average, but is expected to hit an official one million this week.

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

Beijing is racing to test more than 20 million people as residents scramble to stock up on food. WSJ’s Jonathan Cheng shows what life is like in the capital and unpacks the likely ripple effects if officials can’t control the fast-spreading virus. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• White House adviser Susan Rice said Monday that she had tested positive for COVID-19 — just five days after attending a meeting with President Biden, the New York Post reported. “I’m feeling fine and grateful to be vaccinated and double boosted,” she said in a tweet. I last saw the President in person on Wednesday—masked—and under CDC guidance he is not considered a close contact.”

• Tensions between Shanghai residents and China’s COVID policy enforcers are on the rise again, the Guardian reported. Videos shared on China’s social media platforms showed suspected COVID-positive patients forcibly quarantined in central facilities. Censors have been removing the videos, as residents continue to repost them. President Xi Jinping said last week he has no intention of ending his zero COVID policy.

• Novavax
NVAX,
-11.00%

shares slid 12% Tuesday, after the company reported its first profitable quarter late Monday, but still lagged Wall Street estimates. The company, which has launched a COVID vaccine that has not yet been authorized in the U.S., said it’s on track to expand label use. “Importantly, as new variants have emerged, we have progressed our strategy to be ready to address the dynamic environment and continue development beyond COVID-19 with our COVID-19-influenza combination vaccine candidate,” Chief Executive Stanley C. Erck said in a statement. The company has submitted a emergency-use authorization request for its COVID-19 vaccine, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committee scheduled to meet June 7. 

• The head of the U.K. Labor Party, Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to offer his resignation if he is issued a fixed penalty notice for breaking COVID rules, Sky News reported. Sir Keir has come under pressure over an event in Durham in April 2021 with party colleagues when he was filmed having a drink and a takeaway curry was ordered. Sir Keir, who has been a fierce critic of Boris Johnson’s rule breaking in Downing Street, said he was “absolutely clear that no laws were broken” in his case. But he added: “If police decide to issue me with a fixed penalty notice, I would of course do the right thing and step down.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologized after being fined by U.K. police for breaking Covid-19 lockdown rules. When asked if he would quit, Johnson said he wanted to tackle the problems the country currently faces. Photo: Tayfun Salci/Zuma Press

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 518.1 million on Wednesday, while the death toll rose above 6.25 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 81.9 million cases and 998,050 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 220.2 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 66.3% of the total population. But just 101.2 million are boosted, equal to 46% of the vaccinated population.

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