Published on: November 23, 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 12,590,220 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 262,711 deaths and 7,453,115 reported recoveries.
Globally, there have been 59,076,121 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 1,395,296 fatalities and 40,833,503 reported recoveries. (Source.)
• And then there were three…
The Financial Times reports this morning that "the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford university and AstraZeneca has exceeded regulatory requirements for effectiveness in phase 3 trials, giving another boost to hopes that the disease can be defeated.
"The vaccine will be submitted for approval “immediately” after Oxford and AstraZeneca said two different dosing regimens showed different levels of effectiveness in trials in the UK and Brazil. When the vaccine was given as a half dose, followed by a full one at least one month later, efficacy — a measure of how a vaccine prevents infection or severe disease in trials — was 90 per cent. When the jab was given as two full doses at least one month apart, efficacy was 62 per cent. The average efficacy was 70 per cent."
More from the FT story: "The jab is priced at about $3 to $4 a dose, supply deals suggest, a fraction of the price of other vaccines. AstraZeneca has agreed to sell it at cost to developing nations in perpetuity. The vaccine can be stored long-term at normal fridge temperature, between 2C and 8C. Others require a storage temperature as low as -70C. AstraZeneca is targeting the manufacture of up to 3bn doses next year. Depending on regulatory approval, different dosing regimens could mean more doses are available."
The Wall Street Journal writes, "The results bode well for the near-term availability of a third vaccine to battle Covid-19, after a shot created by Moderna Inc. and one made jointly by Pfizer Inc. and Germany’s BioNTech SE were found to be more than 90% effective in their own late-stage trials. Pfizer and BioNTech last week said they had asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to permit use of their vaccine."
• From CNN:
"Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the head of the government's effort to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, said the first Americans to receive a coronavirus vaccine could get it as soon as Dec. 11.
"On Friday, Pfizer submitted an application to the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization for their Covid-19 vaccine candidate, and an FDA vaccine advisory committee is slated to meet December 10."
• From the New York Times:
"The Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency authorization for the experimental antibody treatment given to President Trump shortly after he was diagnosed with Covid-19, giving doctors another option to treat Covid-19 patients as cases across the country continue to rise.
"The treatment, made by the biotech company Regeneron, is a cocktail of two powerful antibodies that have shown promise in early studies at keeping the infection in check, reducing medical visits in patients who get the drug early in the course of their disease. A similar treatment, made by Eli Lilly, was given emergency approval earlier this month.
"The emergency authorization for Regeneron’s drug is limited in scope: It is for people 12 and over who have tested positive for the coronavirus and who are at high risk for developing severe Covid-19. Evidence so far suggests that antibody treatments work best early in the course of the disease, before the virus has gained a foothold in the body. Like Eli Lilly’s treatment, Regeneron’s is not authorized for use in people who are hospitalized or who need oxygen."
• The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that "there were 83,870 people hospitalized with the disease as of Sunday, according to the Covid Tracking Project. The U.S. has set records for hospitalizations every day since the number surpassed 60,000 on Nov. 10, according to the project’s data."
The Journal goes on: "The U.S. seven-day moving average of new cases, which smooths out day-to-day irregularities in data, continues to climb. As of Sunday it was 170,855, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Johns Hopkins data—higher than the 14-day moving average of 159,809, a sign cases are on the rise.
"The U.S. reported 921 deaths from Covid-19 on Sunday, bringing its total to 256,782. Deaths are also on the rise, with the seven-day average exceeding the 14-day average since Oct. 19, but they are lower than in the first months of the pandemic, as doctors understand better how to treat the disease."
• Axios reports that the "TSA screened 1 million passengers Friday for only the second time since the pandemic began (last time was Sunday, Oct. 18), despite CDC guidance on Thursday advising against Thanksgiving travel."
However, the story acknowledges, "it was still down from 2.5 million on the same day last year."
• Walmart announced last week in an internal memo that its headquarters employees will continue to work from home until July 2021 - a change from the previously announced date of January 31, 2021. The decision is an acknowledgment that the Covid-19 pandemic continues to be a threat to the nation's health, and that broad-scale distribution of a vaccine probably is at least months away.
• The Seattle Times reports on a new six-point plan sent to Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee by a group called Challenge Seattle - made up of some of the state’s top chief executive officers, including among others the leaders of Microsoft, Boeing, Nordstrom, Alaska Airlines, REI, Starbucks, Weyerhaeuser and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center - that is designed to propose a framework for navigating the pandemic.
Among the proposals are "more resources for coronavirus testing and contacting tracing. More state aid for struggling businesses and workers. Getting young children back into school in January, if the public health metrics show it is safe … more resources to help distribute a vaccine when it becomes available, and better and more public data on coronavirus activity, such as positivity rates in hot spots and more detailed figures on hospitalizations."
• At a virtual meeting hosted by Saudi Arabia, "Leaders from the Group of 20 nations urged greater global cooperation Saturday to ensure coronavirus vaccines reach beyond the wealthiest regions as promising U.S. vaccines appear closer to approval," the Washington Post reports.
• The New York Times reports that "the French government on Friday declared it was postponing Black Friday, as it moved to quell a nationwide rebellion by shopkeepers who say that Amazon has been stealing business from them during France’s coronavirus lockdown.
"Black Friday, the U.S. import that has been embraced by European retailers as the quasi-official kickoff to the Christmas shopping season, will be delayed by a week in France, to Dec. 4, after the government wrested an agreement from Amazon and the country’s biggest retailers to delay their discounts.
"The move is intended to level the playing field for booksellers, clothing shops and 'nonessential' businesses that were forced to close their doors on Oct. 30 after a second national lockdown was imposed, propelling consumers to online sites, including Amazon. Under the accord, big retailers agreed to put off their Black Friday sales promotions on the condition that the government reauthorizes the reopening of small retailers by then."
• Variety reports on another theatrical film that now will go directly to a streaming service because of the impact that the pandemic has had on the movie theater business. According to the story, Amazon has acquired worldwide rights to Coming 2 America, a sequel to the highly successful 1988 Eddie Murphy comedy, Coming To America, and will make it available for streaming on March 5, 2021.
Returning cast members include Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones and John Amos.
In a story about this trend, the New York Times writes about how "the end-of-the-year holiday season usually means that theaters are packed with blockbuster crowd pleasers, award hopefuls — and moviegoers.
"Not this year. With many theaters shut because of the coronavirus and the ones that are open struggling to attract audiences, many studios have either pushed the release dates of major films into 2021 or created a hybrid model in which the theaters still in operation can show new releases while they are also made available through streaming or on-demand services."
What this means, the Times writes, is that many industry executives are coming to grips with a new reality, that "no longer … would a film’s success be judged solely by the box office revenue it generates in theaters."
There will be other metrics - like how many subscribers can be attracted to a streaming service by a high profile movie. Which also is likely to mean the economics of the film industry's supply chain are likely to change. (It may not be possible to drop $200 million-plus on a superhero film that will be streamed.)
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'll trade spectacle for plot and character development any day.
But this is a good lesson for every industry that we live in a world where every assumption can be challenged, where every economic model can be undermined, and that consumer preferences may not be what you think they are (or at least c an be subverted by new realities).
• The Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association (NBA) said that it will begin its 2020-2021 season in Tampa, Florida, after the Canadian government refused to allow the team to host games at home because of concerns that opposing teams would bring the coronavirus with them.
NBA training camps start up on December 1m with a shortened 72-game schedule set to begin on December 22.
• Some good news…
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has gone on the record as saying that Santa Claus has “innate immunity” from the coronavirus, and so the children of the world need not worry that he'll be sidelined this Christmas by the pandemic.