business news in context, analysis with attitude

Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and how businesses and various business sectors are trying to recover from it, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  The United States now has had a total of 84,357,607 total cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 1,026,899 deaths and 81,327,131 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 523,246,578 total cases, with 6,290,706 resultant fatalities and 493,271,643 reported recoveries.   (Source.)

•  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 77.7 percent of the total US population has received at least one dose of vaccine … 66.4 percent are fully vaccinated … and 46.4 percent of fully vaccinated people have received a vaccine booster dose.

•  The New York Times has a story about how "the coronavirus has become more adept at reinfecting people. Already, those infected with the first omicron variant are reporting second infections with the newer versions of the variant — BA.2 or BA2.12.1 in the United States, or BA.4 and BA.5 in South Africa.

"Those people may go on to have third or fourth infections, even within this year, researchers said in interviews. And some small fraction may have symptoms that persist for months or years, a condition known as long COVID."

The Times writes that "it’s difficult to quantify how frequently people are reinfected, in part because many infections are now going unreported."  Of course, this "is not how it was supposed to be. Earlier in the pandemic, experts thought that immunity from vaccination or previous infection would forestall reinfections.

"The omicron variant dashed those hopes. Unlike previous variants, omicron and its many descendants seem to have evolved to partially dodge immunity. That leaves everyone - even those who have been vaccinated multiple times - vulnerable to multiple infections."

•  Fascinating piece in the New York Times about how and why "the United States and Australia share similar demographics, but their pandemic death rates point to very different cultures of trust."

The Times points out that there are at least two reasons for the differences.

For one thing, "Australia restricted travel and personal interaction until vaccinations were widely available, then maximized vaccine uptake, prioritizing people who were most vulnerable before gradually opening up the country again."

But perhaps even more important, it was a matter of trust.  People there trusted the medical and scientific establishment's research, conclusions, and recommendations to a degree that a sizable percentage of people in the US did not.  And, people there trusted each other to do the right - which is to say, the responsible - thing in terms of masking, keeping appropriate physical distancing, and getting vaccinated.

Here's how the Times offers some context:

"If the United States had the same Covid death rate as Australia, about 900,000 lives would have been saved. The Texas grandmother who made the perfect pumpkin pie might still be baking. The Red Sox-loving husband who ran marathons before Covid might still be cheering at Fenway Park.

"For many Americans, imagining what might have been will be painful. But especially now, at the milestone of one million deaths in the United States, the nations that did a better job of keeping people alive show what Americans could have done differently and what might still need to change.

"Many places provide insight. Japan. Kenya. Norway. But Australia offers perhaps the sharpest comparisons with the American experience. Both countries are English-speaking democracies with similar demographic profiles. In Australia and in the United States, the median age is 38. Roughly 86 percent of Australians live in urban areas, compared with 83 percent of Americans.

"Yet Australia’s Covid death rate sits at one-tenth of America’s, putting the nation of 25 million people (with around 7,500 deaths) near the top of global rankings in the protection of life.

"Australia’s location in the distant Pacific is often cited as the cause for its relative Covid success. That, however, does not fully explain the difference in outcomes between the two countries, since Australia has long been, like the United States, highly connected to the world through trade, tourism and immigration. In 2019, 9.5 million international tourists came to Australia. Sydney and Melbourne could just as easily have become as overrun with Covid as New York or any other American city."

The entire story can be accessed here.

The lack of trust pointed to by the story isn't just of the scientists and doctors who look out for the public health.  It is, in fact, of virtually every institution.  Sometimes, unfortunately, American exceptionalism just doesn't sound all that exceptional.