FS-ISAC Coronavirus Update, Jan. 21, 2021


  • Wednesday marks one year since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in the US, and it wouldn't be until several months later that scientists identified the virus that caused COVID-19 in blood samples from people in various states as early as December 2019, and since the first confirmed case 365 days ago, more than 24.2 million people have tested positive, which means that approximately one in every 13 Americans have contracted the disease, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
  • There were 168,058 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the US on Tuesday, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University, a daily case count that was far less than the country's all-time high of 298,031 newly confirmed infections on January 2.
  • The US reported 4,409 deaths Wednesday, the highest number of daily COVID-19 fatalities on record, according to the COVID Tracking Project, and with 11 days remaining, the month is now the 2nd-most deadly month, as the seven-day average of daily deaths is 3,043.
  • The COVID Tracking Project reported today that daily hospitalizations have seen a slight decrease over the last few days and is now at 122,700, and in the last week, no states have reported an increase in hospitalizations by 10% or more.
  • The death rate among hospitalized Covid-19 patients in Los Angeles has nearly doubled in recent months, as health officials are seeing a “substantial increase in severity” among those sickened with the disease,  with officials saying it does not mean the virus has become more virulent or that care in hospitals worsened during the surge, but rather because hospitals, facing capacity constraints, became more selective in determining which patients to admit.
  • More than 16.5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the US, about 46% of the 36 million distributed, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today, with at least 2.1 million people receiving both of the required shots.
  • At least 144 cases of a variant first identified in the United Kingdom have been identified in 20 US states, according to data posted Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and to date, 60 countries across all six World Health Organization regions have reported either imported cases or community transmission of the strain - 10 more than a week ago, the agency said in a report released Wednesday.
  • New findings from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa released Tuesday suggest someone might be able to still get infected with the new variant first spotted in the country even if they've had Covid-19 before or have been vaccinated, with Penny Moore, the senior author of the study, saying "This is the first time I've been concerned about a variant partially evading the immune response and partially evading the vaccine."
  • New research published late Tuesday provides reassuring evidence that people vaccinated will be protected against emerging new variants, with two teams testing two of the new mutations against blood taken from people who had received the full two-course dose of either the Moderna or the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and finding that while the mutations in the new variants - one first seen in Britain, and another first identified in South Africa- did allow them to evade some of the immunity induced by vaccination, it was far from a complete escape.
  • The World Health Organization is evaluating 15 vaccines and says it could list several of them for emergency use within weeks, according to a new guidance document published by agency on Wednesday. 
  • Vaccine advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have scheduled an emergency meeting for next week to discuss progress in administering vaccine doses, safety, testing in children and studies on effectiveness, and there is also a time slot for an unspecified manufacturer to present.
  • US President Joe Biden used his inaugural address Wednesday to reflect on the “winter of peril” challenge of containing the pandemic but struck a note of optimism about the future, saying "This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward,” and then later signed a number of executive orders addressing the pandemic. 
  • In her first statement as Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky promised Wednesday that "healthier days lie ahead" - but getting there will require a rapid acceleration of Covid-19 testing, surveillance and vaccination, and that the agency is conducting a comprehensive review of all existing Covid-19 guidance, which will be updated wherever needed.
  • The United Nations health agency said today that 93,000 people died globally in the week ending January 17 - a record and a 9% rise over the previous week, but the number of new cases dropped 6%, with most of the decline in infections occurring in Europe, which registered a drop of 15% in the last seven day reporting period.
  • A study commissioned by the United Kingdom Department of Health and Social Care has warned that the prevalence of coronavirus is at its highest since the peak of the first wave of the pandemic, adding that infections in England increased by 50% from early December, with one in 63 people infected, and Home Secretary Priti Patel said the high death toll and rate of hospital admissions mean that it is “far too early to speculate” about easing lockdown measures, adding they are in a “pivotal stage” in the vaccination effort but that the country has a “long way to go.”
  • Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger received his vaccine and encouraged others to do the same Tuesday, waiting in line for the shot at the Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, California, a mass vaccination site set up earlier this month, and at the end of a short video posted on Twitter, donned his mask and with intonation that only the Terminator actor can achieve, warned, “Come with me if you want to live.”

Presidential Actions

  1. President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday requiring masks in all federal buildings and on federal grounds, urged Americans to don face coverings for 100 days, and revived a global health unit in the National Security Council - allowed to go dormant during the previous administration - to oversee pandemic preparedness and response.
  2. The President asked the Education Department to consider extending a freeze on both interest and principal payments for federal student loans until September 30.
  3. Biden requested the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extend a moratorium on evictions that expires after this month to at least through March, and asked three key agencies - the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Agriculture and Housing and Urban Development - to extend foreclosure moratoriums for federally backed mortgages under their purview through at least the end of March.
  4. The Biden administration also intends to join the COVAX alliance, an initiative led by the World Health Organization and two other groups that seeks to secure greater access to vaccines for poor countries.
  5. White House officials emphasized the need for Congress to approve the President’s larger relief package, which would extend unemployment benefits, dole out an additional $1,400 in stimulus payments for millions of Americans, and devote tens of billions of dollars to economic needs such as rental, housing and food assistance, among other measures.
  6. The White House will require daily testing for coronavirus and N95 masks for staffers in a bid to model good pandemic behavior, according to press secretary Jen Psaki, who said the new rules include stringent requirements on social distancing and that the administration will resume regular briefings with public health officials in addition to the daily White House press briefings.
  7. Amazon on Wednesday offered to help with national efforts involving the Covid-19 vaccine, according to a letter sent to President Joe Biden, with Dave Clark, CEO of the company’s worldwide consumer business, saying they were prepared to offer up operations, information technology and communications capabilities and expertise to “assist with your administration’s vaccination efforts.”
  8. Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci will lead the US delegation at the World Health Organization’s annual meetings this week as President Biden announced he was reversing the plan to withdraw from the international aid group.
  9. US Surgeon General Jerome Adams announced he resigned from his post Wednesday at the request of President Biden.
  10. The World Health Organization’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus sent his congratulations to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on their inauguration today, as the incoming administration is set to rejoin the global health agency.

Vaccines – US

  1. West Virginia continues to lead the nation in the number of vaccine doses administered per capita, with more than 8,800 doses administered per 100,000 people.
  2. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said Tuesday that the state will "have to move quicker" to vaccinate people, and reported that due to a misunderstanding, some hospitals had been setting aside doses for follow-up injections, ultimately only administering "about half" of the doses they should have been giving.
  3. San Francisco's Department of Public Health has received 31,655 doses of the vaccine, a total of 28,501 residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 6,347 have received their second shot, with officials announcing today that the supply will be exhausted by Thursday if they don't immediately receive an additional allotment.
  4. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that at least 23,000 appointments for first vaccine doses are being rescheduled because of a lack of supplies.
  5. Georgia announced that anyone 65 or older could get the vaccine, which resulted in the 10-county Northwest Health District becoming swamped with more than 10,000 appointment requests in one weekend - far more than it could satisfy with the supply it had on hand, so it shut down its scheduling website, and told people to call their local health department to arrange an appointment instead, frustrating many people who thought they had already secured a slot.
  6. Erie County, New York, which includes Buffalo, canceled seven days of appointments this week, affecting 8,010 people, saying the state had sent far fewer doses than the county ordered, and that all future appointments should be considered “tentative, and are subject to vaccine availability.”
  7. Beaufort Memorial Hospital in South Carolina hospital officials canceled 6,000 scheduled appointments through March 30 after they were notified that thousands of vaccine doses they expected were not coming.
  8. Pharmaceutical distributor McKesson Corporation, which is distributing Moderna’s vaccine in the US, said today it learned Monday that some of the deliveries it sent Sunday were too cold upon arrival and are being replaced, with the company attributing the issue to gel packs used in shipping the shots not maintaining a temperature in the acceptable range.
  9. Starbucks is helping reimagine vaccination sites as part of the Washington State Vaccine Command and Coordination Center, a group announced by Governor Jay Inslee Monday to help boost vaccinations in the state, with the coffee giant tasked with improving the operational efficiency of distribution, starting with employees visiting existing vaccination centers to research pain points, then creating a mock distribution center at its Seattle headquarters that addresses the problems.

US Outbreak





20 Jan Wed

24,382,159 (+171,967)

404,895 (+3,770) - 1.66%

9,593,594 (+109,271)

19 Jan Tue

24,210,192 (+169,005)

401,125 (+2,540) - 1.66%

9,484,323 (+78,939)

18 Jan Mon

24,041,187 (+147,488)

398,585 (+1,336) - 1.66%

9,405,384 (+42,157)

17 Jan Sun

23,893,699 (+224,536)

397,249 (+2,839) - 1.66%

9,363,227 (+79,743)

16 Jan Sat

23,669,163 (+193,935)

394,410 (+3,315) - 1.67%

9,283,484 (+61,706)

15 Jan Fri

23,475,228 (+252,599)

391,095 (+3,995) - 1.67%

9,221,778 (+121,083)

14 Jan Thu

23,222,629 (+224,461)

387,100 (+3,765) - 1.67%

9,100,695 (+91,114)

  • The US has experienced "a second week of encouraging data trends and projections" which "lends greater confidence that the country may, as a whole, be rounding a corner," according to researchers with PolicyLab at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, who said in their weekly report that:
  • Much of the country appears "to be in a transition period during a winter surge."
  • Current positivity rates are down nationally and "projections from Southern California to Arizona suggest while overall case incidence may continue over the next four weeks, these areas might expect declines in overall transmission rates in many counties."
  • Researchers noted caution "not to overstate ... optimism," citing evidence for possible increased transmission in winter vacation destinations such as Vail, Colorado, as well as Park City, Utah, and Sun Valley, Idaho.
  • Despite some positive outlook, the report said incidence in coastal areas of the Southeast may continue to worsen into February as people attempt to escape the winter weather.
  • Variants could also be a factor in the "potential to increase case incidence again."
  1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest ensemble forecast published today now projects there will be 465,000 to 508,000 deaths in the US by February 13, updated from the January 13 projection of up to 477,0000 by February 6.
  2. Weekly deaths in the U.S. are forecast to dip in about a month, a refreshing change in the wake of months of increased fatalities, with the US expected to register about 22,510 deaths in the third week of February, marking a slight decline that would reflect a lowering of the death curve from its steepest point since the beginning of the pandemic, an estimate from the University of Massachusetts’ Reich Lab, which is based on models collected in collaboration with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  3. California crossed 3 million confirmed cases and reported its second highest single number of deaths on Wednesday, and though infection rates are dropping in the state, hospitals remain crowded with more than 20,800 patients, 4,750 of those are in intensive care units.
  4. Texas added 25,512 new cases today, reported a new record for daily deaths, and was averaging more than 20,000 infections as of Monday, with the state seeing a steady increase in new cases since October, when there were approximately 4,000 a day on average.
  5. New York City reported today it added 4,692 new cases, a 7-day positivity rate of 8.53%, and 284 people were admitted to hospitals with suspected cases.
  6. Laredo has had 35 to 40 percent of its hospital beds filled with Covid-19 patients for more than a month, a higher ratio than anywhere else in the state,  and on Tuesday the figure was nearing 50 percent.
  7. The National Association of County and City Health Officials plans to continue meeting regularly with the new Biden administration to curb the pandemic.

US Restrictions & Schools

  1. The University of Arizona in Tucson’s semester began last week with all classes online except for “essential in-person” teaching, much of that in laboratories, and President Robert C. Robbins is promoting a January viral “testing blitz” to help keep the campus safe.
  2. Johns Hopkins University is revving up for a wider opening in Baltimore after a months-long clampdown to fight the pandemic, but undergraduate classes will remain online for the first week.
  3. The College of William & Mary in Virginia and the University of Maryland at College Park won’t start teaching in person until the spring term is two weeks old, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will hold off for three weeks.

Business Related

  1. United Airlines swung to a net loss of $1.9 billion in the fourth quarter from a $641 million profit a year earlier, and warned investors another difficult winter is ahead with revenues set to fall as much as 70% from 2019 levels, but the Chicago-based carrier said it is plotting a recovery, partially fueled by increased cost-cutting, and eyeing recovery by 2023.
  2. Procter & Gamble raised its fiscal 2021 outlook for the second consecutive quarter as the pandemic continues to fuel higher demand for its cleaning products and shaving and styling products, and the Tide owner now expects sales growth of 5% to 6% in fiscal 2021, up from its prior outlook of 3% to 4% growth.
  3. UnitedHealth topped fourth-quarter earnings estimates, as the health insurer’s results were helped in part by lower medical costs as more people put off elective surgeries because hospitals needed to make room for Covid-19 patients and patients were fearful of contracting the virus, and a demand for health-care services and rise in costs related to its programs to make coronavirus testing and treatment more available to its customers.