business news in context, analysis with attitude

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 United States now reports that there have been a total of 51,765,714 cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 827,323 deaths and 40,539,875 reported recoveries.

Globally there have been 275,136,042 total cases, with 5,372,791 resultant fatalities and 246,909,654 reported recoveries.   (Source.)

•  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 77.3 percent of the US population age five and older and 72.8 percent of the total US population has received at least one dose of vaccine, while 65.3 percent of the five-and-older population and 61.4 percent of the total population has been fully vaccinated.

The CDC also says that 32.1 percent of the 18-and-older US population and 29.5 percent of the total population has received a vaccine booster dose.

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that "the coronavirus’s Omicron variant has been detected in 89 countries, and Covid-19 cases of the variant are doubling every 1.5 to 3 days in places with community transmission, the World Health Organization said Saturday. The variant is spreading rapidly even in countries with high levels of immunity in the population, the WHO said.

"The Dutch government imposed lockdown measures, with all nonessential shops, bars and restaurants closed until mid-January.

"Paris canceled its traditional New Year’s Eve festivities on the Champs-Élysées. London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared a 'major incident' in the British capital following what he said was the largest daily rise in cases in the city since the pandemic began, with 26,000 new cases recorded in the latest 24 hours."

•  Ashish K. Jha, M.D., Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, put out a Tweet over the weekend saying that "for nearly 2 years, I've closely tracked infections … Because infections invariably led to hospitalizations and deaths … But I expect that in the upcoming wave … That link will finally break … Cases will spike … But among vaccinated/boosted people, it won't lead to serious illness."

Jha has an excellent piece in The Atlantic about the Omicron variant and how to deal with it, writing, in part, that "successfully navigating the next wave of the coronavirus pandemic requires charting a middle course - one designed with clear goals in mind: preventing deaths, protecting our hospitals from crushing caseloads, and keeping schools and businesses open. We can do this with the proven, effective tools we already have, while giving in to neither dismay nor dismissal."

You can read it here.

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"Schools can use frequent testing to keep students in class after exposure to someone with Covid-19, federal officials said, embracing a strategy some educators and parents have adopted to keep children out of home quarantines.

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday updated its guidance for K-12 schools to include the strategy, known as test-to-stay. The CDC said testing students frequently after exposure to someone with Covid-19 can limit transmission of the virus while sustaining in-person learning."

•  The New York Times reports this morning that "a booster shot of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine significantly raises the level of antibodies that can thwart the Omicron variant, the company announced on Monday.

"The news arrives as Omicron rapidly advances across the world, and most coronavirus vaccines seem unable to stave off infection from the highly contagious variant.

"Moderna’s results show that the currently authorized booster dose of 50 micrograms — half the dose given for primary immunization — increased the level of antibodies by roughly 37-fold, the company said. A full dose of 100 micrograms was even more powerful, raising antibody levels about 83-fold compared with pre-boost levels, Moderna said.

"Both doses produced side effects comparable to those seen after the two-dose primary series. But the dose of 100 micrograms showed slightly more frequent adverse reactions relative to the authorized 50-microgram dose."

•  Axios reports that "parents of small children started 2021 with the hope of giving their kids a more normal life — and are ending it with 2020 déjà vu."  The story notes that "a wave of K-12 schools is going virtual, citing rising cases among students and staff.  A Pfizer vaccine trial for kids under 5 failed to generate the desired immune response, the companies said today.  Kids 15 and under aren't eligible for boosters."

The Axios story makes the point that it isn't just the pandemic creating "incredible stress" for parents, as last week there were a series of "viral TikToks alluding to potential violence in schools" that "horrified parents and sparked law-enforcement alerts.  Some parents kept their children home. Some districts canceled classes or limited where students could go inside school buildings. Many increased security.  

We're living in a world where no place is safe, and there's no place to hide.

•  Axios has a story noting that compared to pre-pandemic, "cities are lagging behind the nation in jobs recovery," and that "88 of the largest 100 metropolitan areas had fewer jobs in October than before the pandemic."

•  The Associated Press reports that Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly told the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation last week that masks do not add any significant level of safety when worn on airplanes, though public health experts immediately pushed back on the assertion.

According to the AP, "Kelly said that '99.97% of airborne pathogens are captured' by high efficiency particulate air filters, or HEPA filters, on airplanes, before suggesting that masks are unnecessary during air travel.  'Yeah, I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment,' Kelly said. 'It’s very safe, and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting'."

Ironically, the AP writes, "On Friday, after returning home from the hearing, Kelly tested positive for COVID-19."