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COVID-19 Testing in the US Compared to Other Countries

Source: John Hopkins University of Medicine

Despite conducting the second-highest percentage of daily tests, the United States still has the highest number of COVID-19 cases of any country in the world. The size of the circles in the graph above display how large the epidemic is in each location — ideally countries should have small circles and a low percentage of positive tests. 

Research by Johns Hopkins recently found that the amount of COVID-19 testing needs to be based on the size of a country’s epidemic rather than the size of its population. Johns Hopkins recommended that governments should look at the country’s COVID-19 positivity rate to determine if they are testing enough. A poll conducted at the end of July by NPR/Ipsos shows that the majority of the American public believes that the U.S. is handling the crisis worse than any other country and want the federal government to take extreme actions to slow the spread. Testing will continue to ramp up as the U.S. debates whether to open schools and lift further restrictions.

Majority of US Employees Support Employer Vaccine Mandates

Source: Morning Consult

Fifty-eight percent of American employees support employer vaccine mandates. A June survey shows that baby boomers, millennials and men express the most support in companies requiring vaccines.   

Over 40% of respondents say they already have an in-person workplace structure, but 12% of workers say they would prefer to never physically return to the office. Women and Generation X were the largest groups to express a lack of interest in an in-person workplace. Many women have had to reprioritize their time since early 2020 to care for children or help guide them through remote education, ultimately setting them back in the job market.

Although employee uncertainty around returning to work appears to be declining, Morning Consult found that most employees want to have a say in the outcome. Forty-six percent expressed that if they are unhappy or feel unsafe about their company’s plan, they would consider quitting. A hybrid workplace is the favorable option for most — 75% plan to continue working remotely one to four days per week.

Dangerous Air Quality: 5 Asian Countries That Surpass the WHO’s Limit

Source: World Bank

Five Central Asian countries far exceed the WHO’s recommended exposure to air pollution — 10 micograms per cubic meter on average each year. Bishkek, in the Kyrgyz Republic, recorded the highest level of pollution in the world last year. 

At an international level, the cost associated with the damage to health, driven by poor air quality, is estimated to be $5.7 trillion — around 4.8% of global GDP. Asia accounts for 53% of global emissions, ranking as the largest contributor to global emissions. With immediate action, Central Asia could contribute to GHG emissions reductions goals by 2030 while simultaneously improving people’s health and achieving billions in economic gains.

The World Bank identifies five actions that Central Asia could take for more sustainable air quality, including improving the precision of air quality monitoring, as well as investing in cleaner fuels and technologies. The World Bank also recommends overhauling industry permits and offering incentives to encourage behavior change. All actions would “require a formal commitment from governments, financial investments, capacity building, and the deployment of new technology.”

Vaccine Hesitancy Is Highest in the US and Russia

Source: Morning Consult

The Russian population has the highest percentage of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy — at 29% — compared to the 14 additional countries surveyed. Experts believe that skepticism specific to this country’s population comes from the relationship between the Russian government and the public. The United States ranks second in vaccine hesitancy at nearly 20%, according to the Morning Consult. 

Concerns over potential side effects and whether the approval process was rushed through clinical trials are the two main drivers for vaccine skepticism across the world. Income, race and education levels also seem to impact the decision-making process. Compared to mid-April, however, the share of vaccine skeptics dropped by an average of 10 points in the 15 countries surveyed. 

Some countries, including Russia and the U.S., recently announced vaccine-related incentive programs, such as lotteries and other cash prizes. U.S. public officials are already seeing positive results from these programs, yet experts warned that this method may not bring reassurance to those with safety concerns around the vaccine. Instead, the World Economic Forum suggests that local leaders to prioritize reaching out and educating the public on misinformation circulating around COVID-19 vaccine risks.

Confidence in Mass Gatherings Remains the Lowest in Japan

Source: World Economic Forum-Ipsos survey

More than three-quarters of the respondents surveyed in nine countries plan to continue socially distancing themselves in public areas despite being fully vaccinated. Findings also show that the majority are also going to continue wearing masks in public areas. As the Delta variant spreads rapidly throughout the world, hospitalization rates are rising, and the WHO is urging fully vaccinated people to continue to wear masks in public spaces.

Of the countries surveyed, Japan responded with the lowest level of comfort in terms of attending large gatherings. But this Friday, the Summer Olympics will begin in Japan, where over 11,000 international athletes are expected to compete. The majority of the Japanese public would like the Games to be either cancelled or postponed again in fear of a resurgence in COVID-19 infections. The government announced that a state of emergency in Tokyo will run throughout the Games to combat the virus, and athletes will have to follow a long list of rules while they’re in the country. 

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