Coronavirus: What's happening around the world on Saturday
Several states scale back COVID-19 reporting amid surge across the U.S.
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Several U.S. states scaled back their reporting of COVID-19 statistics this month just as cases across the country started to skyrocket, depriving the public of real-time information on outbreaks, cases, hospitalizations and deaths in their communities.
The shift to weekly instead of daily reporting in Florida, Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota marked a notable shift during a pandemic in which coronavirus dashboards have become a staple for Americans closely tracking case counts and trends to navigate a crisis that has killed more than 600,000 people in the U.S.
In Nebraska, the state actually stopped reporting on the virus altogether for two weeks after Gov. Pete Ricketts declared an end to the official virus emergency, forcing news reporters to file public records requests or turn to national websites that track state data to learn about COVID statistics.
The state backtracked two weeks later and came up with a weekly site that provides some basic numbers.
Other governments have gone the other direction and released more information, with Washington, D.C., this week adding a dashboard on breakthrough cases to show the number of residents who contracted the virus after getting vaccines.
Many states have recently gone to reporting virus numbers only on weekdays.
When Florida changed the frequency of its virus reporting earlier this month, officials said it made sense given the decreasing number of cases and the increasing number of people being vaccinated.
Cases started soaring soon after, and Florida earlier this week made up one-fifth of the country's new coronavirus infections.
As a result, Florida's weekly releases — typically done on Friday afternoons — have consequences for the country's understanding of the current summer surge, with no statewide COVID stats coming out of the virus hot spot for six days a week.
In Florida's last two weekly reports, the number of new cases shot up from 23,000 to 45,000 and then 73,000 on Friday, an average of more than 10,000 day. Hospitals are starting to run out of space in parts of the state.
The trend of reducing data reporting has alarmed infectious disease specialists who believe that more information is better during a pandemic.
People have come to rely on state virus dashboards to help make decisions about whether to attend large gatherings or wear masks in public, and understanding the level of risk in the community affects how people respond to virus restrictions and calls to get vaccinated.
But reporting the numbers on a weekly basis still allows people to see the overall trends while smoothing out some of the day-to-day variations that come from the way cases are reported and not the actual number of new cases.
And experts have long advised that it makes sense to pay more attention to the seven-day rolling average of new cases because the numbers can vary widely from one day to the next.
State health departments have a long history of providing the public regular updates on other diseases like flu and West Nile, but those viruses have none of the political baggage associated with COVID-19.
What's happening in Tokyo
The very first match of the Olympic beach volleyball tournament has been cancelled because a Czech player tested positive for COVID-19.
Marketa Slukova tested positive earlier this week, knocking her and partner Barbora Hermannova out of the Tokyo Games.
The Czechs were supposed to be playing a team from the host country that would have been making its Olympic debut. Instead, the Japanese pair of Megumi Murakami and Miki Ishii earned the victory by default.
Slukova is one of at least three members of the Czech team who have tested positive since their arrival in Japan, including men's beach volleyball player Ondrej Perusic.
The team has said it's investigating if the outbreak of COVID-19 is linked to its charter flight to Tokyo.
What's happening around the world
As of Saturday, more than 193.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's case-tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.1 million.
In Asia-Pacific, thousands of people took to the streets of Sydney and other Australian cities on Saturday to protest pandemic lockdown restrictions amid another surge in COVID-19 cases, and police made multiple arrests after crowds broke through barriers and threw plastic bottles and potted plants.
In Africa, Tanzania on Saturday received its first batch of one million Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines donated by the U.S. government. Tanzania had been among the few countries in Africa yet to receive vaccines or start vaccinating its population, mainly because its former leader had claimed that prayer had defeated COVID-19 in the country.
In the Americas, Cuba has received a shipment of COVID-19 aid from Russia, including one million medical masks, according to the Latin American country's Defence Ministry. Cuba, which kept coronavirus infections low last year, earlier this week reported the highest rate of infections per capita in the region, straining its health-care sector and helping stoke rare anti-government protests earlier this month.
In Europe, far-right activists and members of France's yellow vest movement are holding protests on Saturday against new coronavirus measures. French lawmakers are debating a bill requiring everyone to have a special virus pass to enter restaurants and other venues and mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for all health-care workers as infections and hospitalizations are again on the rise.
With files from Reuters