Published on: February 11, 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, we've now had 27,897,214 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 483,200 deaths and 17,827323 reported recoveries.
Globally, there have been 107,926,455 confirmed coronavirus cases … 2,366,991 resultant fatalities … and 79,975,949 reported recoveries. (Source.)
• The Washington Post reports that "at least 34.4 million people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in the U.S. This includes more than 10.9 million people who have been fully vaccinated … 66 million doses have been distributed."
This translates to about 3.3 percent of the US population being fully vaccinated, and 10.4 percent being partially vaccinated.
• From the Wall Street Journal:
"The number of people hospitalized due to Covid-19 in the U.S. fell to the lowest level since Nov. 16 as newly reported cases remained under 100,000 for the fourth day in a row.
"For the second consecutive day, hospitalizations due to the disease were under 80,000, totaling 76,979 as of Wednesday, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Pressure was also easing on intensive care units, with 15,788 Covid-19 patients requiring treatment in ICUs across the country, the lowest total since Nov. 19."
However, the Journal writes, "The spread of new variants of the virus is a growing concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 34 states had reported 932 cases of the variant first identified in the U.K., while nine cases of a South African variant and three cases of the variant from Brazil had been found, as of Feb. 9. Florida remained the state with the most detected cases of the U.K. variant, at 343 identified cases."
• As retailers around the country prepare to receive more than a million doses of the Covid-19 vaccines and develop protocols and hire personnel to make sure that they are able to get the doses into people's arms, a question has emerged - what do they do with leftover doses at the end of the day?
Retailers tell the Wall Street Journal that " they are determined that no doses will go to waste, and are compiling wait lists and putting their own workers on standby in case extra shots become available." However, the story says, "The question of what to do with extra shots can be tricky … Doses, which can expire within hours after coming out of cold storage, might go unclaimed if people don’t show for appointments, or if vials contain more doses than expected."
The Journal writes that "each state has its own rules for vaccine eligibility, in addition to guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In some places, a vaccine provider can be penalized for inoculating a person who doesn’t meet eligibility requirements, though generally those rules are relaxed when it comes to finding a use for spare doses that would otherwise expire, according to retailers and state guidelines.
"Retail pharmacies are taking varied approaches to extra doses, with some saying they’ll give priority to their employees while others say they’ll try to find takers among the public and only vaccinate employees as a last resort, if at all. Most companies say they will coordinate with local health officials to ensure additional doses get to the right recipients."
The New York Times has the other side of this story, however:
"The Texas doctor had six hours. Now that a vial of Covid-19 vaccine had been opened on this late December night, he had to find 10 eligible people for its remaining doses before the precious medicine expired. In six hours.
"Scrambling, the doctor made house calls and directed people to his home outside Houston. Some were acquaintances; others, strangers. A bed-bound nonagenarian. A woman in her 80s with dementia. A mother with a child who uses a ventilator.
"After midnight, and with just minutes before the vaccine became unusable, the doctor, Hasan Gokal, gave the last dose to his wife, who has a pulmonary disease that leaves her short of breath.
"For his actions, Dr. Gokal was fired from his government job and then charged with stealing 10 vaccine doses worth a total of $135 - a shun-worthy misdemeanor that sent his name and mug shot rocketing around the globe."
The Times goes on:
"The matter of Dr. Gokal is playing out as pandemic-weary Americans scour websites and cross state lines chasing rumors, all in anxious pursuit of a medicine in short supply. The case opens wide to interpretation, becoming a study in the learn-as-you-go bioethics of the country’s stumbling vaccine rollout.
"Late last month, a judge dismissed the charge as groundless, after which the local district attorney vowed to present the matter to a grand jury. And while prosecutors portray the doctor as a cold opportunist, his lawyer says he acted responsibly — even heroically."
If the way the Times describes the scenario is accurate, then this fellow sounds like a hero to me. Protocols are fine, and I think we have to respect them - the rich people who take advantage of their resources to cut the line, especially at the expense of poor folks who have been bearing the brunt of the pandemic, are utterly disgusting. But in the end, the goal has to be to let none of the vaccines go to waste, and to use common sense.
• Go figure. Two masks are better than one.
From the New York Times this morning:
"Wearing a mask — any mask — reduces the risk of infection with the coronavirus, but wearing a more tightly fitted surgical mask, or layering a cloth mask atop a surgical mask, can vastly increase protections to the wearer and others, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Wednesday.
"New research by the agency shows that transmission of the virus can be reduced by up to 96.5 percent if both an infected individual and an uninfected individual wear tightly fitted surgical masks or a cloth-and-surgical-mask combination.
"Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the C.D.C., announced the findings during Wednesday’s White House coronavirus briefing, and coupled them with a plea for Americans to wear 'a well-fitting mask' that has two or more layers … One option for reducing transmission is to wear a cloth mask over a surgical mask, the agency said. The alternative is to fit the surgical mask more tightly on the face by 'knotting and tucking' - that is, knotting the two strands of the ear loops together where they attach to the edge of the mask, then folding and flattening the extra fabric at the mask’s edge and tucking it in for a tighter seal."
• Politico has a piece about some hopeful predictions by Ian Shepherdson, an award-winning British economist who is the founder of Pantheon Macroeconomics.
Richardson, the story says, has "some very hopeful thoughts on Covid-19," writing, "Could the U.S. be much further down the road towards Covid herd immunity than is popularly believed? We're asking the question because of two unexpected developments in the data, one which has emerged over the past months and one of which is very recent.
"First, the drop in new cases since the holiday spike began to fade has been steeper than we expected. … [T]he combination of falling test numbers and falling positivity is what we'd expect to see when a pandemic is fading … If this persists indefinitely, Covid will be gone - as far as policymakers are concerned - well before the middle of the year."
Richardson reportedly has two caveats: "“Reopenings … could slow this progress, and the risk of much more rapid spread of new variants is very real." And, a recovery could "torque up the inflation risk."