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 28,974,623 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 518,363 deaths, and 19,340,329 reported recoveries.
Globally, there have been 113,184,076 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 2,510,700 resultant fatalities, and 88,790,054 reported recoveries. (Source.)
• The Washington Post reports that "at least 45.2 million people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in the U.S. This includes more than 20.6 million people who have been fully vaccinated … 88.7 million doses have been distributed."
• From the Wall Street Journal:
"Newly reported coronavirus cases in the U.S. rose slightly for the second day in a row, as expectations grew that a third vaccine would soon be approved for use in the country." However, "Hospitalizations in the U.S. have been on the decline for more than 40 consecutive days. As of Wednesday, 54,118 Covid-19 patients required hospitalization, down by more than 51% from a month earlier, according to the Covid Tracking Project. The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive-care units fell to 11,026, the fourth day in a row the figure has been under 12,000."
• The New York Times reports that "throughout the pandemic, there has been perhaps nowhere more dangerous than a nursing home. The coronavirus has raced through some 31,000 long-term care facilities in the United States, killing more than 163,000 residents and employees and accounting for more than a third of all virus deaths since the late spring.
"But for the first time since the American outbreak began roughly a year ago — at a nursing care center in Kirkland, Wash. — the threat inside nursing homes may have finally reached a turning point.
"Since the arrival of vaccines, which were prioritized to long-term care facilities starting in late December, new cases and deaths in nursing homes, a large subset of long-term care facilities, have fallen steeply, outpacing national declines, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data. The turnaround is an encouraging sign for vaccine effectiveness and offers an early glimpse at what may be in store for the rest of the country, as more and more people get vaccinated."
• The New York Times reports that "a new form of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly in New York City, and it carries a worrisome mutation that may weaken the effectiveness of vaccines, two teams of researchers have found.
"The new variant, called B.1.526, first appeared in samples collected in the city in November. By the middle of this month, it accounted for about one in four viral sequences appearing in a database shared by scientists."
• The Washington Post reports that "a coronavirus variant detected in California this winter rapidly became dominant in the state over five months and now makes up more than half of the infections in 44 counties, according to new research from scientists who believe this version of the virus should be declared a 'variant of concern warranting urgent follow-up investigation'."
According to the story, "The variant contains a mutation that scientists suspect is enhancing the virus’s ability to bind to human receptor cells. If truly more transmissible, as the new study contends, the California variant joins a growing list of virus variants circulating in the United States as the country continues to emerge from the devastating winter wave of infections, hospitalizations and deaths."
• The Wall Street Journal writes about how "the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE is equally effective across all age groups, including those over 60, according to a new Israeli study, in a boost of confidence to global vaccine efforts.
"The Pfizer vaccine provided around 94% protection against developing coronavirus symptoms across all age groups above 16 a week after the second shot of a recommended two-dose regimen, according to a study by researchers from Israel’s Clalit Research Institute and Harvard University. The study also found the vaccine is 92% effective in preventing severe disease."
The Journal goes on: "The results are in line with the vaccine maker’s own clinical trial, but the large size of the study, which covered nearly 1.2 million people, provides more precise insight into older age groups that were sparsely covered by the drugmaker’s trial, according to the study’s authors."
• The Wall Street Journal reports that Moderna "said it has made the initial batch of doses of a new Covid-19 vaccine designed to better protect people against a new strain of the coronavirus that has shown some resistance to the company’s original vaccine.
"The Cambridge, Mass., company on Wednesday said it shipped the new shots to the National Institutes of Health to conduct the first human study of the variant vaccine, which could start within weeks.
"The new vaccine, code-named mRNA-1273.351, is designed to better match the virus variant that was first identified in South Africa but has since spread elsewhere."
• The Associated Press reports that "February is usually the peak of flu season, with doctors’ offices and hospitals packed with suffering patients. But not this year.
"Flu has virtually disappeared from the U.S., with reports coming in at far lower levels than anything seen in decades.
"Experts say that measures put in place to fend off the coronavirus — mask wearing, social distancing and virtual schooling — were a big factor in preventing a “twindemic” of flu and COVID-19. A push to get more people vaccinated against flu probably helped, too, as did fewer people traveling, they say."
• Axios reports that "United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby believes that people will feel safe traveling again by this time next year, depending on the pace of vaccinations and the government's ongoing response to the pandemic."
Kirby said, "You know, I have real confidence in the long term that by this time next year we'll be back towards a world where people feel safe traveling again. And while COVID may not be completely in the rearview mirror, that all the safety protocols that we have, mean people are back comfortable flying again … And importantly, we need to reach a final scientific medical conclusion that once you've been vaccinated, it's safe for you to be out and behaving normally."