Published on: January 18, 2022
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 US, we've now had 67,631,191 total cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 874,321 deaths and 43,165,667 reported recoveries.
Globally, there have been 331,803,152 cases, with 5,565,745 resultant fatalities and 269,280,850 reported recoveries. (Source.)
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 74.9 percent of the total US population and 79.6 percent of the population age five and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, with 62.9 percent of the total population and 66.9 percent of the five-and-older group being fully vaccinated. The CDC also says that 38.1 percent of the total US population has received a vaccine booster dose.
• HealthCareInsider is out with the results of a new survey saying that "30% think the pandemic will never end and COVID-19 will remain 'endemic' … 39% of Americans think life will return to normal in the coming year, down from 61% in 2020 … 61% think a COVID-19 vaccine will help end the pandemic, up from 51% in 2020 … 21% don’t think the vaccine will help end the pandemic … 64% report increasing their health precautions because of the Omicron variant … 37% say they limit travel when a new variant like Omicron is present … 34% limit live entertainment like concerts or sporting events … (and) 13% say they’ll be comfortable returning to normal activity once they’ve been vaccinated, down from 25% in 2020."
• Axios reports that "new data suggests that people with the Omicron variant frequently stay infectious for longer than five days, raising concerns about the CDC's updated isolation guidelines … The CDC on Dec. 27 cut isolation guidance for people recovering from COVID from 10 to five days, as long as they continue to wear a mask around others."
According to the story, "Experts say the issue could be resolved by using rapid tests to determine whether it is safe to exit isolation. But the CDC hasn't recommended a negative test as a condition to end isolation."
Axios notes that "the data adds to growing anecdotal evidence - in the form of positive antigen tests past the recommended isolation period - that there's no guarantee that someone isn't infectious after five days." However, "there's at least one hugely practical argument for allowing people to leave isolation (with a mask) after five days: So many Americans are infected right now that it threatens basic societal functions for them all to stay home longer."
• The New York Times puts the confusion in context:
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was long revered for its methodical and meticulous scientific approach. Agencies in other nations modeled themselves after the world’s most highly regarded public health authority, even adopting the name.
"At the outset of the pandemic, the C.D.C. moved at its accustomed pace. But this time, with a novel virus moving so quickly, the country paid a price: Testing and surveillance lagged as the agency tried to implement dated approaches with creaky infrastructure. Officials were late to recommend masking, in part because federal scientists took too long to recognize that the virus was airborne.
Now the contagious Omicron variant is pushing the C.D.C. into uncharted territory. Because decisions must be made at a breakneck pace, the agency has issued recommendations based on what once would have been considered insufficient evidence, amid growing public concern about how these guidelines affect the economy and education.
"The agency’s director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, has sometimes skipped much of the traditional scientific review process, most recently in shortening the isolation period for infected Americans."
• Another piece from the Times that focuses on some of the confusion facing businesses:
"Companies looking for an official rule book on pandemic precautions will be disappointed. The Biden administration’s nationwide coronavirus vaccine mandate has been overturned. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is facing criticism for its shifting guidance on isolation times. And just as cases surge to record levels, tests are scarce — and may not always be effective.
"As the federal government’s efforts to contain the coronavirus hit their limits — as the administration itself admits — employers are largely on their own.
"Business leaders must decide whether and how to use tools such as their own vaccine mandates, masking, distancing, and testing at their offices and other work sites. And more fundamentally, they must decide what kind of company they want to run: one that manages cases or one that manages risk.
"Managing cases, with a goal of avoiding all infections at the workplace, has been the approach of many companies thus far. This zero-Covid strategy treats the pandemic as an acute, emergency situation that requires upending business as usual. That might mean telling employees to work remotely indefinitely, with strict rules for those who come into the office.
"But some experts believe that the Omicron surge could peak this month. That could allow for a relatively safe return to workplaces as soon as February, given the bolstered immunity of the millions who have been vaccinated and recovered from infections. (It may not work out that way, of course: An alternative pandemic path is 'it gets worse,' said Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and a former White House adviser, 'which would be a disaster.')"
• From the Wall Street JournalI:
"One year into her tenure as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky acknowledged that she hasn’t been clear enough with the American public.
"She says the pandemic threw curveballs that she should have anticipated. She thinks she should have made it clearer to the public that new rules and guidelines were subject to change if the nature of the fight against Covid-19 shifted again. 'I think what I have not conveyed is the uncertainty in a lot of these situations,' Dr. Walensky said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
"The CDC director has come under fire from public-health experts for the way she has communicated pandemic guidelines from mask wearing to isolation requirements. Some Biden administration officials said the CDC’s explanations of new and amended guidelines can sometimes be hard to grasp.
"Dr. Walensky said she is committed to communicating CDC policy more clearly. She is being coached by a media consultant and plans to hold more media briefings in the coming months separate from her appearances with the White House Covid-19 Response Team. Some public-health experts have said such briefings would help highlight the CDC’s role as a scientific voice, independent of politics."
• The Verge reports that Apple "now requires store and corporate employees to get a COVID-19 booster shot … Once an employee is eligible to get a booster shot, they will have four weeks to comply, otherwise, they will need to take frequent tests to enter a retail store, partner store, or Apple office starting on February 15th. Apple will require unvaccinated employees — or those who haven’t yet submitted proof of vaccination — to provide negative COVID-19 rapid antigen tests before entering the workplace beginning on January 24th, although it’s unclear whether this applies to both corporate and retail employees."