WHO reports nearly 15 million deaths related to COVID as more Americans apply for unemployment, and more COVID news

Here’s the COVID-19 news for today, May 5.

WHO reports nearly 15 million deaths have been linked to COVID

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 15 million people were killed either by coronavirus or by its impact on overwhelmed health systems during the first two years of the pandemic, more than double the current official death toll of over 6 million.

Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas, according to a WHO report issued Thursday.

The U.N. health agency’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, described the newly calculated figure as “sobering,” saying it should prompt countries to invest more in their capacities to quell future health emergencies. Read more on what that means here:

COVID coverage for all dries up even as hospital costs rise

For the first time, the U.S. came close to providing health care for all during the coronavirus pandemic — but for just one condition, COVID-19.

Now, things are reverting to the way they were as federal money for COVID care of the uninsured dries up, creating a potential barrier to timely access.

But the virus is not contained, even if it’s better controlled. And safety-net hospitals and clinics are seeing sharply higher costs for salaries and other basic operating expenses. They fear they won’t be prepared if there’s another surge and no backstop. Get more info here:

More Americans apply for jobless aid; job growth starting to slow

More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week but the total number of people collecting jobless aid is at its lowest level in more than 50 years.

Jobless claims in the U.S. rose by 19,000 to 200,000 for the week ending April 30, the Labor Department reported Thursday. First-time applications generally reflect the number of layoffs.

The four-week average for claims, which softens some of the weekly volatility, rose 8,000 from the previous week to 188,000.

Meanwhile, the days of millions of job gains per month are behind us and the US labor market recovery has moved into a new phase, complete with new challenges: It’s not that companies don’t want to hire, it’s that there were nearly two available positions for every unemployed person as of March. That is constraining how many jobs can be added each month. Get more data here:

Hong Kong reopens beaches, Beijing relaxes quarantine rules

Hong Kong reopened beaches and pools and relaxed other pandemic restrictions Thursday, a day after China’s capital, Beijing, announced it would ease its tough quarantine rules for arrivals from overseas.

The two Chinese cities are at opposite ends of COVID-19 outbreaks. Hong Kong is emerging from by far its deadliest wave, which killed 9,000 people. In Beijing, a new wave is just beginning and authorities have imposed a series of restrictions on residents to try to snuff it out. Find out more here: