Health Highlights: Jan. 19, 2021

Expert Panel Criticizes WHO, China for Pandemic Response

China should have done more to fight the coronavirus pandemic in the early stages, according to a panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization.

“What is clear to the panel is that public health measures could have been applied more forcefully by local and national health authorities in China in January,” the panel said in a report released to the media Monday, the Associated Press reported.

There were “”lost opportunities” to establish basic public health measures early in the pandemic, according to the panel led by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.

The panel also questioned whether the WHO should have labeled the situation a pandemic sooner, the AP reported.

However, the WHO is constrained by a lack of funding and “has no powers to enforce anything,” Johnson Sirleaf noted at a press briefing on Tuesday. “All it can do is ask to be invited in.”

“This clearly isn’t working,” she added.

Countries need to decide whether to give WHO more authority to combat outbreaks, Johnson Sirleaf said, the AP reported.

California First State With Over 3 Million Coronavirus Cases

California has become the first state with more than 3 million known coronavirus infections, far outpacing other states.

The state’s nation-leading case count was released Monday by Johns Hopkins University, the Associated Press reported.

California’s first coronavirus case was confirmed Jan. 25, 2020, and it took 292 days for the state to reach 1 million infections on Nov. 11. It then took only 44 days to reach 2 million cases on Dec. 24.

There have been more than 33,600 COVID-19 deaths in California.

California is placing its hopes on mass vaccinations to reduce the number of infections but there have been snags in the immunization drive.the AP reported. On Sunday, Dr. Erica Pan, the state epidemiologist, urged that providers stop using one lot of a Moderna vaccine because some people needed medical treatment for possible severe allergic reactions.

The state has already shipped about 3.2 million doses of the vaccine — which requires two doses for full effect — to local health departments and health care systems, the state’s Department of Public Health reported Monday. Only about 1.4 million of those doses have actually been administered.

Other states with high numbers of cases include Texas at more than 2 million and Florida at more than 1.5 million, the AP reported.

Biden Will Reinstate COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Lifted by Trump

Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump announced Monday that COVID-19-related travel restrictions on Europe and Brazil would be lifted as of Jan. 26, the day President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

But the incoming administration plans to rescind the Trump order, and will not lift the travel conditions on Jan. 26, Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki tweeted Monday, CBS News reported.

“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” Psaki wrote.

The U.S. has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world and the highest COVID-19 death toll, and many countries restrict travelers from entering from the United States, CBS News reported.