Published on: January 29, 2021
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 26,338,607 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 443,769 deaths, and 16,070,127 reported recoveries.
Globally, here are the numbers: 102,117,505 confirmed coronavirus cases … 2,202,722 resultant deaths … and 73,966,647 reported recoveries. (Source.)
• The Washington Post reports that "at least 22 million people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in the U.S. This includes more than 4.5 million people who have been fully vaccinated … 48.4 million doses have been distributed."
• The Washington Post this morning reports that "a single-shot coronavirus vaccine from pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson was 66 percent effective at preventing moderate and severe illness in a massive global trial, findings released Friday show. But its performance was stronger in the United States and weaker in South Africa, where a worrisome coronavirus variant now dominates - a complicated result that reflects the evolution of the pandemic.
"The results, reported in a news release, put a third vaccine on the horizon in the United States — one with logistical advantages that could simplify distribution and expand access to shots in the United States and worldwide.
"Johnson & Johnson is expected to apply for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration next week. If the review follows the path of two earlier vaccine candidates, the shot could be authorized and available to the public by late February or early March."
• From the Wall Street Journal this morning:
"Hospitalizations due to Covid-19 in the U.S. fell to their lowest level since Dec. 7, as the nation marked its 12th day in a row in which newly reported cases were below 200,000.
"A total of 104,303 people were hospitalized due to the disease as of Jan. 28, according to the Covid Tracking Project. The number of people in intensive care units also declined slightly to 20,113."
• Also from the Journal:
"A continuing worry in the battle to curb the spread of the virus is the emergence of new variants. Health authorities in South Carolina said Thursday they have identified two people who were infected with a coronavirus variant that was first detected in South Africa and could evade some treatments.
"The two adults haven’t traveled to South Africa and aren’t connected to one another, authorities said, suggesting that the variant, known as B.1.351, is potentially circulating in the community. The finding means that all three 'variants of concern' identified recently by scientists around the world have now been found in the U.S.
"Meanwhile, Novavax Inc. said Thursday its Covid-19 vaccine was 89.3% effective at protecting people from the disease in an interim analysis from its late-stage study in the U.K. Yet the vaccine was less effective in a separate, middle-stage study in South Africa. In that country, the Novavax shot was about 49.4% effective against Covid-19 in the study. Preliminary results showed that more than 90% of the sick subjects for whom sequencing data were available were infected with the new variant circulating in South Africa."
• The New York Times this morning reports that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has asked the Pentagon to consider "sending active-duty troops to large, federally run coronavirus vaccine centers, a major departure for the department and the first significant sign that the Biden administration is moving to take more control of a program that states are struggling to manage."
FEMA has said it would like to set up as many as 100 vaccine sites around the country. This would be in addition to all the sites set up by state governments, many of them using major retailers as a conduit through which to get vaccine into people's arms.
The Pentagon reportedly is considering the request.
• Axios reports that "some teachers don't want to return to the classroom until they've been vaccinated - setting up potential clashes with state and local governments pushing to reopen schools." The problem is that "most states haven't put teachers at the front of the line for vaccines. Only 18 have included teachers in the early priority groups that can get vaccinated now, and in all but four of those states, teachers are competing for shots with other higher-risk populations, including the elderly."
The Axios story says that "a pair of studies from the CDC this week reiterated the agency's stance that schools can operate safely with the proper precautions, along with other mitigation measures in the broader community … Although the rise of new, more contagious variants has scrambled the calculus on school reopening, for now the expert consensus is that vaccinations aren't essential to safely reopening schools."
• Fast Company has a story about the development of a facemask that serves as a kind of smoke detector for Covid-19 - it actually will detect the presence of the virus.
You can read it here.
• The Washington Post reports that HBO has financed a new documentary called In The Same Breath, described as "scathing" in its evaluation of how China dealt with the early days of the pandemic.
"When evidence began mounting of a deadly new coronavirus in China a year ago, authorities could have reacted with swift warnings about public safety," the Post writes. "They didn’t. Instead, they banned social-media posts about the virus, stopped symptomatic people from entering hospitals, punished doctors who spoke of the risks and unleashed a stream of state-TV propaganda downplaying its severity."
That's the narrative of Breath, directed by "Oscar-shortlisted filmmaker Nanfu Wang. Wang’s movie, which has been viewed by the Washington Post, argues that the alleged suppression led to an untold number of deaths and the virus spreading rapidly, as unaware people kept taking risks."
No release date has been set for In The Same Breath.
• One of the problems with the vaccine is that it has to be held in a deep freeze, and once it is defrosted, unused portions cannot be refrozen. So you have to use all of it.
That's the problem that faced 20 employees with Oregon's Josephine County's department of public health who were traveling from a vaccination clinic with about six unused portions - and then got stuck in a snowstorm because of a truck accident that brought traffic to a halt.
So, the public health employees decided to walk up and down the road and offer the vaccine to other stranded drivers. An ambulance from the department, with EMT personnel, was o hand in case anything went wrong.
The Associated Press quotes Josephine County Public Health Director Mike Weber as saying that it was one of the “coolest operations he’d been a part of.”