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 a total of 52,059,667 cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 828,836 deaths and 40,719,047 reported recoveries.
Globally, there have been 275,900,600 cases, with 5,379,813 resultant fatalities and 247,625,845 reported recoveries. (Source.)
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 77.4 percent of the US population age five and older, and 72.9 percent of the total population has received at least one dose of vaccine, with 65.4 percent of the five-and-older population and 61.5 percent of the total population being fully vaccinated.
The CDC also says that 32.4 percent of the US population age 18 and older, and 29.8 percent of the total population has received a vaccine booster dose.
• The CDC is saying that 73 percent of new coronavirus cases in the US are of the Omicron variant, the Wall Street Journal reports, saying that this highlights the variant's "substantial increase in infectiousness compared with earlier versions of the virus.
"The CDC said Monday that Omicron had overtaken the Delta variant of the coronavirus in the U.S. and accounted for an estimated 73% of infections for the week ending Dec. 18.
"In many parts of the U.S., Omicron now makes up more than 90% of cases, the CDC said. Infectious-disease experts have said they believe the true share is likely even higher than that."
• The Wall Street Journal this morning writes that "the Biden administration will distribute 500 million free at-home Covid-19 testing kits to Americans and take steps to deploy federal medical personnel to overburdened hospitals this winter, as the Omicron variant spreads around the country.
"President Biden will outline the plan during a speech at the White House on Tuesday. His administration is grappling with how to publicly underscore the urgency surrounding the highly transmissible variant, while seeking to convey that the U.S. is better prepared to battle the pandemic than it was a year ago.
"Mr. Biden is expected to stress that Americans should take the Omicron variant seriously but shouldn’t panic, according to administration officials. The president will tell vaccinated Americans who are following public health guidelines that they should feel comfortable spending the holidays with their families. Unvaccinated Americans, however, are at much greater risk of hospitalization and death, Mr. Biden will warn, according to the officials, who added that the administration is preparing for cases to keep rising.
"Even as parts of Europe have returned to previous pandemic-related restrictions including lockdowns and tightening border controls, Mr. Biden is expected to once again rule out the need for shutdowns or other tough measures."
• The New York Times this morning reports that "Fox Corporation, the owner of Fox News, told employees on Friday that those working in New York City would have to show proof they’d had at least one dose of the Covid vaccine by Dec. 27, removing the option to get tested weekly instead.
"The new policy was in keeping with New York City’s vaccine rule, which Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in early December and which is more stringent than a contested Biden administration rule requiring vaccine mandates or weekly testing at larger employers.
"The New York City mandate, which requires on-site workers at all businesses to be vaccinated, is the country’s most sweeping local vaccine mandate and affects some 184,000 businesses."
At the same time, the Times writes, "CNN is closing its U.S. offices to all employees who are able to work remotely, according to an internal memo sent to staff Saturday evening
“'If your job does not REQUIRE you to be in the office in order to do it, please work from elsewhere,' the network’s president, Jeff Zucker, wrote to staff, citing a surge of COVID cases around the country and within the teams at CNN.
"'We are doing this out of an abundance of caution,' the memo read. 'And it will also protect those who will be in the office by minimizing the number of people who are there'."
And, the Times reports, "Several of Broadway’s biggest shows, including 'Hamilton,' 'Hadestown' and 'Aladdin,' are canceling all performances until after Christmas, and 'Jagged Little Pill' announced it was closing for good, as a spike in coronavirus cases batters the performing arts throughout North America as well as in London.
"The cancellations, prompted by positive coronavirus tests among cast or crew members, come at the worst possible time for many productions, because the holiday season is typically the most lucrative time of year … with the Omicron variant driving a surge in cases, there were multiple Covid-prompted cancellations Off Broadway, as well as in Chicago, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles and other cities."
• Axios reports that "the World Economic Forum announced Monday it will delay its 2022 global meeting in Davos, Switzerland, until the summer in response to uncertainty over the emergency of the Omicron coronavirus variant … The annual January meeting has now been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic for a second year."
• The Boston Globe reports that Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced yesterday that "indoor venues — including restaurants, gyms, and nightclubs and performance venues — must begin checking proof of vaccination … The policy will take effect over the coming weeks, and be scaled up over time, giving businesses time to train their staff and the city time to create a smartphone app akin to the one used in New York City to help support the vaccine requirement rollout. By May 1, though, everyone over the age of four will need to be able to show proof they’ve received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to enter many businesses in the city.
"Response to that idea was mixed.
"Many businesses celebrated the move, saying a citywide policy sets clear rules for themselves and their patrons. Others saw it as yet more red tape after two years of ever-changing pandemic restrictions. Some were heartened that leaders of neighboring communities — such as Arlington, Brookline, Cambridge, Medford, and Salem — signaled support for the policy and may follow suit."
• In an exchange on "This Week" on Sunday morning, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who turns 81 on Christmas Eve and has been in his job since being appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, said he plans to remain on the job until Covid-19 is under control.
" There's no doubt about it. ... It's kind of like we're halfway through World War II, and you decide: 'Well, I think I’ve had enough of this. I'm walking away.' You can't do that. You've got to finish it — and we're going to finish this and get back to normal."
Which sort of reminded me of this scene from Skyfall, in which M says, "I know I can't do this job forever, but I'll be damned if I'm going to leave the department in worse shape than I found it … I'll leave when the job's done."