Published on: August 4, 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…
• The Covid-19 coronavirus numbers for the US now are 36,049,015 total cases, resulting in 630,497 and 29,756,586 reported recoveries.
Globally there have been 200,390,879 total cases, with 4,262,394 resultant fatalities and 180,635,606 reported recoveries. (Source.)
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 70.1 percent of the US population age 18 and older has received at least one dose of vaccine, with 60.6 percent being fully vaccinated; 67.7 percent of the population age 12 and older has gotten at least one vaccine, with 58.2 percent of that group being fully vaccinated.
• The New York Times reports that "with a new surge of coronavirus infections ripping through much of the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has accelerated its timetable to fully approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine, aiming to complete the process by the start of next month, people familiar with the effort said … Giving final approval to the Pfizer vaccine — rather than relying on the emergency authorization granted late last year by the F.D.A. — could help increase inoculation rates at a moment when the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus is sharply driving up the number of new cases.
"A number of universities and hospitals, the Defense Department and at least one major city, San Francisco, are expected to mandate inoculation once a vaccine is fully approved. Final approval could also help mute misinformation about the safety of vaccines and clarify legal issues about mandates."
• The National Retail Federation (NRF)'s chief economist, Jack Kleinhenz, said yesterday that while the economy has been heating up, with momentum created by "government money, and fiscal policies and, more importantly, the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations," concerns about new variants are "likely weighing on confidence."
“Vaccination is the key to further economic recovery, reopening and rebuilding,” Kleinhenz said. “With the outlook for the global economy continuing to hinge on public health, vaccine numbers are extremely important, not just for the United States but for the whole world.”
• Axios reports that "New York City will require proof of vaccination to participate in indoor activities, including visiting gyms and restaurants, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday … The mandate is the first of its kind for a major U.S. city, according to de Blasio. France and Italy announced similar requirements last month.
Last month, de Blasio announced that all city workers would be required to get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing."
According to the piece, "New York City will create a health pass called the 'Key to NYC Pass' for New Yorkers to provide proof of vaccination for gyms, indoor dining, and live performances and entertainment."
• The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "San Francisco residents who received Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine against the coronavirus are now able to get a supplemental mRNA dose at city-run clinics.
"Dr. Grant Colfax, the city’s health director, confirmed Tuesday that the additional shot would be an option for those who have consulted with a physician. He stressed that San Francisco’s health department does not currently recommend that people who received Johnson and Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine get an mRNA booster — a stance in line with guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"At the same time, there is no harm seen in it."
• The Wall Street Journal reports that Tyson Foods says that it will "require Covid-19 vaccinations for its U.S. workforce of about 120,000, aiming for total vaccination of the meat giant’s employees by Nov. 1.
"The Arkansas-based company’s target, which includes both processing plant and corporate office workers, is partly subject to discussions with labor unions that represent around one-third of the company’s hourly workers, Tyson officials said. The company said it would offer a $200 bonus to its front-line workers as an incentive.
"Chief Executive Donnie King said the effort is the best way to protect the health of Tyson’s workforce as more contagious and deadly variants of Covid-19 drive infections higher across the country."
• Add Microsoft to the list of companies with new coronavirus-related mandates. The New York Times reports that the company, "which employs roughly 100,000 people in the United States, said it would require proof of vaccination for all employees, vendors and guests to gain access to its offices."
• From the New York Times:
"Physicians working in Covid hot spots across the nation say that the patients in their hospitals are not like the patients they saw last year. Almost always unvaccinated, the new arrivals tend to be younger, many in their 20s or 30s. And they seem sicker than younger patients were last year, deteriorating more rapidly.
"Doctors have coined a new phrase to describe them: “younger, sicker, quicker.” Many physicians treating them suspect that the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which now accounts for more than 80 percent of new infections nationwide, is playing a role.
Studies done in a handful of other countries suggest that the variant may cause more severe disease, but there is no definitive data showing that the new variant is somehow worse for young adults.
"Some experts believe the shift in patient demographics is strictly a result of lower vaccination rates in this group."
• The New York Times has a piece about how the economic implications of such a large percentage of the population that remains unvaccinated, framing the argument this way:
"Getting hospitalized with Covid-19 in the United States typically generates huge bills. Those submitted by Covid patients to the NPR-Kaiser Health News Bill of the Month project include a $17,000 bill for a brief hospital stay in Marietta, Ga. (reduced to about $4,000 for an uninsured patient under a charity-care policy); a $104,000 bill for a 14-day hospitalization in Miami for an uninsured person; possibly hundreds of thousands for a two-week hospital stay — some of it on a ventilator — for a foreign tourist in Hawaii whose travel health insurance contained a pandemic exclusion.
"Even though insurance companies negotiate lower prices and cover much of the cost of care, a more than $1,000 out-of-pocket bill for a deductible — plus more for copays and possibly some out-of-network care — should be a pretty scary incentive" for someone to get vaccinated and avoid such crushing bills."
Now, the piece says, insurers are beginning to cut back on coverage for unvaccinated people:
"In 2020, before there were Covid-19 vaccines, most major private insurers waived patient payments — from coinsurance to deductibles — for Covid treatment. But many, if not most, have allowed that policy to lapse. Aetna, for example, ended that policy on Feb. 28; UnitedHealthcare began rolling back its waivers late last year and discontinued them by the end of March.
"More than 97 percent of hospitalized patients last month were unvaccinated. Though the vaccines will not necessarily prevent you from catching the coronavirus, they are highly effective at ensuring you will have a milder case and are kept out of the hospital.
"For this reason, there’s logic behind insurers’ waiver rollback: Why should patients be kept financially unharmed from what is now a preventable hospitalization, thanks to a vaccine that the government paid for and made available for free?"
The piece goes on:
"The logic behind the policies is that the offenders’ behavior can hurt others and costs society a lot of money. If people decide not to get vaccinated and contract bad cases of Covid, they are not only exposing others in their workplace or neighborhoods; the tens or hundreds of thousands spent on their care could mean higher premiums for others as well in their insurance plans next year. What’s more, outbreaks in low-vaccination regions could help breed more vaccine-resistant variants that affect everyone."
I am completely in favor of this approach. If you had access to vaccines and qualified to get them, and didn't, there's no reason that your insurance company should have to pick up those bills. I prefer carrots to sticks, but maybe we've gotten to the point that sticks are necessary.