Published on: October 13, 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, we've now had 8,038,037 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 220,018 deaths and 5,185,986 reported recoveries.
Globally, there have been 38,083,379 confirmed coronavirus cases, resulting in 1,086,044 fatalities and 28,628,473 reported recoveries.
• From the New York Times:
"Case numbers are rising nationally as uncontrolled outbreaks continue to spread in the Upper Midwest and Rocky Mountains, and as the Northeast sees early signs of a resurgence.
"In Wisconsin, a long-dormant field hospital at the state fairgrounds is being readied for patients. In New York, officials fear clusters in some neighborhoods and suburbs could spread further. And in Utah, Montana, Wyoming and other Western states, new infections have emerged at or near record levels. Still, the number of new cases nationally remains below the levels seen in late July, when the country averaged more than 66,000 per day.
"Deaths, though still well below their peak spring levels, averaged around 700 per day in October, far more than were reported in early July."
• The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has a piece in which it looks to estimate the economic impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus - and the number it comes up with is more than $16 trillion, "or approximately 90% of the annual gross domestic product of the US."
JAMA's calculation is based on a number of factors - including unemployment claims filed because of the pandemic, lost output, the cost of premature deaths, and long-term impairment of people who survive the virus." According to the lengthy analysis, "Approximately half of this amount is the lost income from the COVID-19–induced recession; the remainder is the economic effects of shorter and less healthy life."
• Axios writes:
"The weather is getting colder and the days are getting shorter — accelerating the economic and psychological damage of the coronavirus pandemic … During the summer, businesses took advantage of outdoor dining, exercise and shopping, and families and friends safely gathered outside and at a distance. As the season changes, much of what made the last several months bearable will vanish.
"Businesses that have made it this far could start closing in droves.
"The pandemic has already forced at least 100,000 restaurants to close indefinitely or permanently.
"Those that have stayed open in big metros have done so by seating patrons outside. And although many cities are extending outdoor dining permits into the fall and winter, restaurateurs doubt customers will want to sit outside in the cold or the rain — unless they spend big on outdoor heaters.
"Many other businesses — from yoga studios to music schools — have been conducting classes outside all summer. Their customers may disappear in the winter, too."
• From the Wall Street Journal:
"A Nevada man became the first published case of Covid-19 reinfection in the U.S., adding to a number of examples world-wide signaling that patients who have recovered from the viral disease might still be at risk of getting it again.
"In a paper in the medical journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, a group of authors including University of Nevada researchers recount the case of a 25-year-old who suffered two bouts of Covid-19 infection, one confirmed through testing in mid-April and the second in early June. Symptoms of the second case started in late May, a month after the patient reported his initial symptoms as having resolved.
"The two strains of virus were genetically distinct, signaling that it is unlikely that the man simply remained unknowingly infected with the virus in one, longer bout, the authors wrote. The paper notes that the patient’s second case of Covid-19 was more severe than his first, requiring supplemental oxygen and admission to a hospital after he suffered from shortness of breath."
The Journal writes that the Nevada case, in addition to similar cases of reinfection that have been found in other countries, suggests that herd immunity as a public health policy will have limited efficacy, and that claimed individual immunity may be fallacious.
• CNBC has an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in which he says that the US is "facing a whole lot of trouble" as it moves through the fall and into the winter and still registers some 40,000 new cases of Covid-19 per day.
“That’s a bad place to be when you’re going into the cooler weather of the fall and the colder weather of the winter,” Fauci tells CNBC's Shepard Smith. “We’re in a bad place. Now we’ve got to turn this around."
According to the story, "Fauci said there are five basic public health protocols that 'could certainly turn around the spikes that we see and can prevent new spikes from occurring.' He said universal mask use, maintaining of physical distance, avoiding crowds, doing more things outdoors and frequently washing hands would help stop the spread of the virus.
However, the "percent of tests coming back positive, or the test-positivity rate, is on the rise across states in the Midwest and Northwest. That figure is seen as an early indicator of a growing outbreak that will lead to 'more cases, and ultimately more hospitalizations, and ultimately more death'."
"'I have a great deal of faith in the American people and their ability to realize what we’re facing is a significant problem,' Fauci said. 'We’re talking about using public health measures as a vehicle or a gateway to keeping the country open, to keeping the economy going. It is not an obstacle'."
• USA Today reports that "slightly more than half of Americans in a recent poll from Sports and Leisure Research Group say they already have or plan to stockpile food and other essentials. The chief reason: fears of a resurgent pandemic, which could lead to disruptions such as new restrictions on businesses."
"While roughly 52% plan to stockpile this fall, about 48% said they aren’t," USAToday writes. "Of those who are stockpiling, the majority are concerned about an increase in infection rates, but a smaller share of people say they are worried about unrest surrounding the election next month."
The good news: "Shoppers are unlikely to see the types of shortages experienced in March and April when states enacted stay-at-home orders and grocery shelves were emptied of essentials like toilet paper and flour. Grocery chains are stocking up on supplies ahead of the winter months to ensure they can meet demand as COVID-19 cases increase, as well as the holidays."
• From the Wall Street Journal:
"Johnson & Johnson said it has paused further dosing in all clinical trials of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine because a study volunteer had an unexplained illness.
"The pause announced Monday affects all trials of J&J’s vaccine, including a large Phase 3 trial that began in September and aimed to enroll as many as 60,000 people in the U.S. and several other countries.
"An independent data-safety monitoring board is reviewing the study subject’s illness, the company said. The company didn’t immediately disclose more information about the illness, and said it needed to respect the subject’s privacy.
"This is the second time trials for a Covid-19 vaccine trial have been paused over a safety concern. Last month, AstraZeneca PLC paused clinical trials of an experimental Covid-19 vaccine after a participant in a U.K. study had an unexplained illness. The U.K. study resumed, but a large U.S. study is still on hold."
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was one of the most advanced in terms of development, the story says.
The Journal goes on: "Side effects often turn up during clinical trials. Sometimes, they don’t turn out to have a link to the vaccine. But if the independent experts monitoring the safety of the trial find a link, the safety issue can derail the experimental shot.
The safety board needs to assess whether the subject’s illness was related to the vaccine or not, a person familiar with the matter said."
• The New York Times has a story in which it writes that "demonstrating that a new vaccine was safe and effective in less than a year would shatter the record for speed, the result of seven-day work weeks for scientists and billions of dollars of investment by the government. Provided enough people can get one, the vaccine may slow a pandemic that has already killed a million people worldwide."
But it is important to rein in expectations, the Times writes:
"The first vaccines may provide only moderate protection, low enough to make it prudent to keep wearing a mask. By next spring or summer, there may be several of these so-so vaccines, without a clear sense of how to choose from among them. Because of this array of options, makers of a superior vaccine in early stages of development may struggle to finish clinical testing. And some vaccines may be abruptly withdrawn from the market because they turn out not to be safe."
As for the potential choices, "A vaccine that showed 50 percent efficacy in one trial, for example, might actually be more protective than one showing 60 percent efficacy in a different trial."
• New York Times science writer Donald G. McNeil Jr., who has done great work covering the pandemic, has a piece headlined "A Dose of Optimism, as the Pandemic Rages On," in which he writes:
"Since January, when I began covering the pandemic, I have been a consistently gloomy Cassandra, reporting on the catastrophe that experts saw coming: that the virus would go pandemic, that Americans were likely to die in large numbers, the national lockdown would last well beyond Easter and even past summer. No miracle cure was on the horizon; the record for developing a vaccine was four years.
"Events have moved faster than I thought possible. I have become cautiously optimistic. Experts are saying, with genuine confidence, that the pandemic in the United States will be over far sooner than they expected, possibly by the middle of next year.
"That is still some time off. Experts warn that this autumn and winter may be grim; indoor dining, in-classroom schooling, contact sports, jet travel and family holiday dinners may all drive up infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Cases are rising in most states, and some hospitals already face being overwhelmed.
"Even if the cavalry is in sight, it is not here yet. To prevent deaths reaching 400,000, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci has warned, 'We all need to hunker down'."
Worth reading, here.
• Here's one thing that has benefitted from the pandemic.
Bloomberg writes that "after months of face masks fogging up their glasses and contacts drying out from all the extra Zoom meetings while working from home, Americans are fed up and are boosting demand for the corrective surgery that had waned in popularity over the past decade.
"During the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers have cut back on activities, like overseas travel and entertainment, and for many that has left a big pot of cash to be spent elsewhere. A lot of that has been poured into home improvement and buying cars. And now consumers are shifting to upgrading themselves with procedures like Lasik and its starting price tag of about $4,500."