Published on: October 1, 2020
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…
• In the United States, there now have been 7,447,693 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, 211,752 deaths and 4,700,746 reported recoveries.
Globally, there have been 34,185,646 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 1,019,165 fatalities and 25,446,745 reported recoveries.
• From Axios:
"New coronavirus infections rose over the past week in half the country … The number of new daily infections rose in 25 states, spanning every region of the country. New Mexico recorded the biggest spike, at over 50%.
"That broad, nationwide increase was offset by continued progress in pockets of the southern U.S. Only eight states saw their new infections decline over the past week, but that group includes the populous states of Arizona, Florida, Texas and Virginia."
• From the Wall Street Journal:
"Coronavirus infection rates in the U.S. remain elevated, and now that states are reopening schools and businesses, there is high demand for tests to monitor the pandemic’s spread … Public health experts say that frequent, comprehensive testing will be critical to containing the pandemic, especially as states reopen schools and businesses and cooler weather increases the likelihood of indoor interactions that could hasten the virus’s spread."
The Journal goes on:
"In New York City, restaurants were preparing for the resumption of indoor dining, even as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio warned of worrying clusters of new infections in parts of Brooklyn and the northern suburbs.
"Florida resumed indoor dining without limitations on seating last week, and banned penalties for failing to wear masks, even as the state averages more than 2,300 new cases of Covid-19 per day.
"In North Carolina, the daily average of new confirmed cases rose to more than 1,900 over the past week. Nevertheless, Gov. Roy Cooper said the state would move to Phase 3 of its reopening plan on Friday, allowing bars to open outdoor seating and movie theaters, amusement parks and meeting areas to reopen, all at reduced capacities.
"Rates of Covid-19 have increased across Wisconsin, including in rural areas, said Laura D. Cassidy, professor and director of epidemiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Rates were particularly high among young adults at the end of summer, she said. Wisconsin reported more than 2,000 new cases for Tuesday and the seven-day average stood at 2,255 cases, according to the state’s Department of Health Services."
• The New York Times reports that "New York City is reopening all its public schools on Thursday in a milestone for the city’s recovery from its position as the global epicenter of the pandemic and a hopeful sign for the country’s unsteady effort to return children to classrooms.
"Middle and high school students are being welcomed to school buildings, following elementary school children who had started earlier this week.
"About half a million students, from 3-year-olds in pre-K programs to high school seniors, have now returned to school for the first time since March.
"Roughly another 480,000 children have opted to start the school year remote-only, an indication of how wary many New Yorkers are of sending their children back to classrooms in a city that still fears a second wave of the virus."
• The Boston Globe reports that Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh is saying that "positive COVID-19 cases have recently ticked up, and that officials are working to avoid having to 'shut down' the city again.
"Speaking during his regular briefing at City Hall, Walsh said the seven-day average for positive tests in Boston for the week ending Sept. 26 was 3.5 percent, up from 2.2 percent the week before … That means, Walsh said, that indoor performance venues in Boston will remain closed and outdoor venues will maintain a 25 percent capacity limit. Businesses such as trampoline parks, roller rinks, laser tag, and fitting rooms at retail outlets remain closed."
• Also from Axios:
"An increasing number of COVID-19 cases among school-aged children across the U.S. throughout September may be linked to school reopenings and other community activities resuming … The American Academy of Pediatrics reported this week that children of all ages make up 10% of U.S cases, up from 2% in April, per AP. As of Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counted more than 435,000 cases among children ages 0–17, and 93 deaths."
• Two different views of the potential for a coronavirus vaccine expressed in two different stories.
The Financial Times has a story about how Moderna, one of the companies developing a vaccine, has said that it will not be able to apply for approvals until well after Election Day this year.
According to the story, CEO "Stephane Bancel told the Financial Times on Wednesday that Moderna would not be ready to seek emergency use authorisation from the Food and Drug Administration before November 25 at the earliest. He added that he did not expect to have full approval to distribute the drug to all sections of the population until next spring."
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla is saying that he predicts that the company will have "an answer" by the end of October.
The Times writes that "by repeating a date that flies in the face of most scientific predictions, Dr. Bourla is making a high-stakes gamble. If Pfizer puts out a vaccine before it has been thoroughly tested - something the company has pledged it will not do - it could pose a major threat to public safety."
A company spokesperson does walk back the prediction to some extent: "Pfizer will not be anywhere near completion of its clinical trial by the end of October, according to a company spokeswoman. When Dr. Bourla referred to a 'conclusive readout' next month, she said, he meant that it’s possible the outside board of experts monitoring the trial would have by that date found promising signs that the vaccine works."
There's also another interesting passage from the Times story: "Unlike Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, which have said they will not profit from their products during the pandemic, Pfizer has made no such promises.
"It also has not taken federal money to develop its vaccine, instead signing a $1.95 billion deal to sell the first 100 million doses of its vaccine to the U.S. government. Dr. Bourla has said that the company didn’t accept federal investment in its research and development so that the government wouldn’t be able to control the price of the vaccine later on."
• The Daily Mail reports on a new Axios-Ipsos poll saying that more Americans say that they'll trust a vaccine recommended by health experts than by politicians.
Fewer than one out of five people say they'll take a coronavirus vaccine first recommended by the White House, but more than twice as many say they'd take the vaccine if it is recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration. Three times as many say they'd take a vaccine recommended by their doctor.
I am reassured that we live in a world where more people trust scientists than politicians.
• From the Los Angeles Times:
"A state agency responsible for protecting the health and safety of workers hit five grocery stores in Los Angeles and Culver City with coronavirus-related citations, it announced Wednesday.
"California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal/OSHA, found that a Ralphs in Culver City as well as one in Sherman Oaks each failed to report a worker’s death from COVID-19. A Food 4 Less store allowed too many customers inside, preventing workers from maintaining a recommended six feet of physical distance and putting them at risk for serious illness, the agency said.
"In total, four Ralphs stores and one Food 4 Less received citations Sept. 24 for failing to protect workers from exposure to the coronavirus because they did not update their workplace safety plans to properly address hazards, according to a statement by California’s Department of Industrial Relations.
"A Ralphs in Studio City did not install plexiglass barriers between employees and customers in the cheese department. A West Hollywood Ralphs failed to install similar barriers at eight registers. Several locations failed to provide training for their employees on how the virus spreads, how to identify signs and symptoms, and measures to avoid infection."
All the stores cited are owned by Kroger, which has said that the charges reflect a "misrepresentation of the facts." Kroger says it will appeal the citations, which could cost it more than $100,000 in fines.
• The National Football League has decided to postpone Sunday's Tennessee Titans-Pittsburgh Steelers game on Sunday until Monday or Tuesday, after another Titans player tested positive for Covid-19.
Eight members of the Titans organization now have tested positive. Both the Titans and the Minnesota Vikings - who played the Titans last weekend - have suspended all in-person activities for the time being. Nobody on the Vikings has yet tested positive and for time being, the Vikings-Houston Texans game is still to be played on Sunday as scheduled.
• Axios reports on how "scientists are racing to learn more about the damage the novel coronavirus can do to the heart, lungs and brain … It’s becoming increasingly clear that some patients struggle with its health consequences — and costs — far longer than a few weeks … The virus can have a severe impact on the lungs, as you might expect. Pneumonia associated with the disease can damage air sacs in the lungs, and the resulting scar tissue can cause long-term breathing problems.
"But researchers conducting autopsies have also found evidence of the virus in parts of the brain, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract and in the cells that line blood vessels … One of the most attention-grabbing effects of the virus is its link to myocarditis, particularly because of concerns about the dangers the heart disease poses to athletes."
• Axios reports on one impact from the pandemic: "Americans reported drinking alcohol more frequently and in higher quantities since last year, according to a study published in JAMA."
According to the story, " The greatest changes were among women and people 30 to 59 years old. On average, alcohol was consumed one day more per month by three of four adults.
"Frequency of alcohol consumption for women increased by 17%. Heavy drinking among women — four or more drinks within a few hours — spiked 41% since 2019.
"Adults aged 30 to 59 years increased their drinking by 19% since last year."
The problem: "Excessive alcohol consumption may cause or worsen mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression. Experts have also warned the stress of the pandemic has fomented alcohol and drug abuse."