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 17,143,942 confirmed cases of ther Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 311,073 deaths and 10,007,956 reported recoveries.
Globally, there have been 73,924,303 coronavirus cases … 1,644,449 fatalities … and 51,921,105 reported recoveries. (Source.)
• The Washington Post reports that "the United States could have two coronavirus vaccines by the time the week is over: Moderna’s vaccine was found 'highly effective' in a detailed review by Food and Drug Administration scientists and appears to be on track for approval by regulators."
The Post goes on:
"The FDA is likely to authorize the Moderna vaccine as soon as Friday, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue. Anticipating that decision shortly, Gen. Gustave Perna, who is overseeing the federal effort to distribute vaccines, said Monday that the United States was preparing to ship almost 6 million doses of the Moderna vaccines to 3,285 locations in the first week."
• The Wall Street Journal reports that "there were 112,816 people hospitalized with the disease on Tuesday, according to the Covid Tracking Project, the 10th record-high day in a row. That included a record-high 21,897 in intensive care." The story notes that even as vaccines start to be administered around the country, "states continue to grapple with rising numbers of patients and fatalities. California, which has logged more than 1.65 million cases in total, the most of any state, reported 33,249 for Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins data. It reported its second-highest number of deaths in a day, with 276, just lower than the record-high 278 deaths reported for Aug. 14."
• From the New York Times:
"The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday issued an emergency authorization for the country’s first coronavirus test that can run from start to finish at home without the need for a prescription.
"People as young as 2 years old are cleared to use the test, which takes just 15 to 20 minutes to deliver a result. Unlike many similar products, which are only supposed to be used by people with symptoms of Covid-19, this test is authorized for people with or without symptoms."
The kit is expected to retail for about $30.
The Times writes: "The test, developed by the Australian company Ellume, detects bits of coronavirus proteins called antigens. It’s slightly less accurate than gold standard laboratory tests designed to look for coronavirus genetic material with a technique called polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R. But in a clinical study of nearly 200 people, Ellume’s product was able to detect 95 percent of the coronavirus infections found by P.C.R., regardless of whether the infected people felt sick."
The FDA says that "people without symptoms who test positive … should confirm their results with another test, especially if the coronavirus is scarce in their community."
• Axios asks the question: "Can employers force staff to take vaccines to return to work?"
The answer: Yes. But there is "wiggle room."
According to Axios, "The law lets both public and private organizations require vaccinations, and schools, hospitals and a host of other institutions have long done so." However, lawyers could argue that these laws do not include vaccines authorized for emergency use, as opposed to being fully approved, as the Covid-19 vaccines are.
We know that the coronavirus can't be defeated without at least 70 percent of the country being vaccinated, so, as the story points out, companies could play a "key role" in driving vaccination rates. Which is somehow depressing - that there are so many people out there who do not trust the science.
• The Washington Post quotes Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), as saying that he, like so many Americans, will be restricting who he sees during the Christmas holiday. In other words, he's following his own advice, and won't be seeing his three adult daughters in-person on the holiday for the first time since they were born.
"I'm going to be with my wife — period," Fauci said. "The Christmas holiday is a special holiday for us because Christmas Eve is my birthday. And Christmas Day is Christmas Day. And they are not going to come home … That's painful. We don't like that. But that's just one of the things you're going to have to accept as we go through this unprecedented challenging time.”
Fauci is turning 80 on Christmas Eve, the Post notes.
The story goes on: "Fauci warns that Christmas celebrations could create an even more catastrophic spread of the virus than Thanksgiving, when millions traveled and gathered despite similar pleas to stay home. The country has seen record-breaking numbers of infections and hospitalizations as a result. Fauci says Americans cannot afford to 'run away from the data,' as painful as time spent without loved ones can be on the holidays."
• The New York Times reports that "a wild mink in Utah has tested positive for the coronavirus. Mink on fur farms in the area have been infected with the virus, and the U.S. Agriculture Department, with other government agencies, was testing wild animals looking for potential infections spreading from those farms.
"The department notified the World Organization for Animal Health of the case, stating that this appeared to be the first wild animal to have naturally been infected with the virus, which has infected mink at a number of fur farms worldwide.
"The virus has spread from people to mink, and back again in a few instances. A mutated strain of the virus that jumped from mink back to people led Denmark to kill all its mink, wiping out a major industry. No further evidence has supported initial concerns that the mutated variant of the virus might affect the usefulness of vaccines, but scientists are still concerned about how easily the virus can spread on mink farms."
PETA probably is trying to figure out who to sue even as we speak…
• The Points Guy website reports that "Delta will fly its first 'COVID-free' flight Tuesday, part of an effort to demonstrate that international travel can occur even at the height of the coronavirus crisis.
"Delta Flight 76 will depart Atlanta at 9:55 p.m. Tuesday and arrive Amsterdam at 12:10 p.m. Wednesday, all times local. Only a few dozen passengers will occupy the Airbus A330-300, but Delta sees the flight as 'just a first step,' said Perry Cantarutti, Delta senior vice president for alliances and international.
"Passengers must undergo three COVID tests: one three or four days before departure, one at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and one on arrival at Schiphol Airport. Negative results will enable passengers to avoid quarantine."
• The New York Times reports on another time-honored tradition that seems to be falling victim to the pandemic.
The snow day.
The Times story notes that "as school districts adapt to the pandemic by moving classes online, the ability to teach and learn remotely could make the beloved snow day a thing of the past. In New York City, the season’s first big snowfall, which is expected to begin blanketing the streets on Wednesday, will simply mean another day of school in front of a screen for students."
Part of the logic is that students simply cannot afford to miss class time this year. But, "The shift could be permanent. School leaders in several areas, including the city, are considering whether to continue the online approach to snow days even after most students fully return to in-person learning after the virus has been curbed."
We're going through that in our district, where it is fully expected that the blizzard predicted to be hitting the region tonight and tomorrow will close the schools but not education; teachers and students are used to remote learning at this point, and so cancelling school seems like a 20th century construct.
Being the son of a teacher … a brother to several teachers … the husband of one teacher … and the father of another … I think I can say with a certain amount of confidence that it isn't just students who will miss snow days. Teachers don't like too many of them because it extends the school year later into summer, but one or two, placed nicely in January and February, can be a welcome treat.