FS-ISAC Coronavirus Update, Feb. 15, 2021


  • Vaccine advisers say they’re keeping a close eye on the emergence of new variations of the coronavirus and vaccine efficacy after researchers reported Sunday that they identified seven troubling new strains circulating in the US - all affecting the same portion of the virus’ spike protein, near a region that may affect virulence.
  • The World Health Organization on Monday authorized the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, clearing a path for the cheap and easy-to-store shots to be distributed in lower- and middle-income countries around the world.
  • The biotechnology company Novavax said Monday that its scientists are testing a new version of its Covid-19 vaccine in the lab that specifically targets the coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa, and as part of this research, they are hoping to determine whether the new vaccine would serve as a booster shot to the original vaccine that has already been developed, or as a bivalent vaccine administered on its own, meaning it would target two strains of the coronavirus.
  • The massive storm that triggered blackouts across the central US on Monday caused Harris County, Texas, where Houston in located, to rush to administer more than 8,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine after the facility where the shots were being stored lost power and the back-up generator failed.
  • The National Governors Association wrote to President Biden on Monday requesting better coordination between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and states on vaccine distribution, with the bipartisan group raising alarm over confusion around the numbers the agency publicly reports for distribution, and the recently-launched program where the federal government sends vaccines directly to pharmacies. 
  • Cold weather and the nation’s homeless crisis have long been a fatal mix that community advocates and public officials have struggled to address, but this winter, the coronavirus has added a dangerous new complication as cities and community groups wrestle with how to shelter members of a vulnerable population from the elements while not exposing them to an airborne virus that spreads most easily indoors, a calculation that has taken on greater urgency in recent days as arctic weather freezes a large swath of the middle of the country.
  • This weekend has been one of the busiest for pandemic air travel in more than a month, with Transportation Security Administration figures showing that 946,458 passed through security at airports on Sunday, meaning more than four million people have flown since Thursday, with more than 1.1 million people flew on Friday alone.
  • In less than a month, unemployment benefits will begin to lapse for millions of American, putting the pressure squarely on Congress to usher through a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, with the next four weeks testing putting aside clear philosophical differences over the scope of what is needed for the recovery right now.
  • The IRS says it won't push back the April 15 deadline this year to file taxes as it did last year during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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US Outbreak

  1. The seven-day average of new cases in the US has declined in 40 states and territories, remained the same in eight, and increased in three states, South Dakota, Nebraska and Alaska, according to COVID Tracking Project data, and the most recent weekly average for hospitalizations has decreased in 45 states and territories and remained the same in the rest.
  2. New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said on Monday that his administration’s lack of transparency about the scope of virus-related deaths in nursing homes was a mistake, and by failing to answer questions from lawmakers and the news media, acknowledged that the state created a void that was “filled with skepticism, cynicism, and conspiracy theories which furthered confusion.”
  3. New Orleans is tamping down its annual Mardi Gras celebrations this week and health officials in other cities are warning would-be revelers to do the same amid a spike in variant cases across the nation.
  4. California added 6,487 new cases Monday, the lowest daily increase since early November and another sign the disastrous holiday surge continues to recede, and while Mondays often reflect lower case numbers due to weekend reporting lags, the state has seen a steady decline after peaking at the beginning of the year with several days over 50,000 additional cases.
  5. West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources reported 301 new cases over the last 24 hours and a daily percent positivity rate of 5.19%, with Governor Jim Justice Monday celebrating that none of the state's counties were marked "red," the highest-alert tier and also announced a decrease in long-term care facility outbreaks.
  6. California’s positivity rate stands at 4.3% today, nearly 10 points lower than the 14% marked in early January, which was the highest since widespread testing began in the state, while hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions have also fallen steadily over the past month, with about 9,300 of those infected currently receiving in-patient treatment, 2,650 who are in intensive care units.
  7. Illinois Department of Public Health Monday reported 1,420 new cases and a 3.5% positivity rate along with 1,789 people hospitalized with Covid-19 in the state, 389 patients who in the ICU and 184 on ventilators.
  8. Many Americans stayed away from the emergency room when the nation went under lockdown for fear of contracting COVID-19 at the hospital, and while this led to an overall decline in emergency department visits, a recent study shows weekly trips to the ER for drug overdoses were higher in 2020 than in 2019.
  9. Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has extended restrictions through mid-March in Hawaii's most populous city but said that could change if confirmed cases remain low.
  10. New York subways will soon resume running longer into the night, transit officials announced today, marking a step toward the resumption of normal life amid the pandemic, and starting next Monday, the system will only stop operating from 2AM to 4AM, instead of the current closure of 1AM to 5AM.
  11. Two more states have started allowing all or some teachers and school staff to receive the vaccine starting today, bringing the total to 28 states plus Washington, DC., with Alaska, where all teachers are now eligible, and North Dakota, where some counties are now vaccinating group 1B, which includes K-12 teachers, being added.


  1. Biotechnology company Novavax said Monday that it expects to announce this week that its PREVENT-19 trial has reached full enrollment, a trial that will include about 30,000 adults across 115 locations in the US and Mexico to test whether the company's investigational vaccine prevents Covid-19 disease.
  2. Los Angeles County officials reported that a 78 year old Los Angeles County woman with a history of heart illness “passed away unexpectedly” shortly after receiving the Pfizer vaccine, but the Public Health Department said her death appeared to be unrelated to the vaccine.
  3. West Virginia has fully vaccinated 140,540 residents, with a total of 391,186 doses administered in the state and 250,646 residents now having received their first dose, Governor Jim Justice announced on Monday.
  4. Las Vegas announced it is making vaccination appointments available for people over the age of 70 and utility workers who are employed by providers of gas, power, water and sanitation services starting Wednesday.
  5. A pan-European consortium developing a vaccine is in talks with big pharma to support the late-stage development of its shot and ramp up manufacturing, the head of German biotech firm Leukocare said today.
  6. The EU is holding talks with Moderna on buying more vaccine and AstraZeneca, with which talks have stalled, has suggested delivering doses of its own vaccine made outside Europe to make up for supply cuts.

Business Related

  1. Freezing weather in regions across the US sparked another rally in energy prices and put West Texas Intermediate crude on pace to settle above $60 a barrel for the first time since the early days of the pandemic, with the latest pop in the market coming as cold weather racked large portions of the nation and fostered demand for power and fuel while simultaneously threatening to hamstring production in Texas.
  2. German travel restrictions at the border with the Czech Republic risk severing automotive supply lines that could spark a wave of production stoppages, according to Germany’s VDA automaker association, including impact on BMW AG and Volkswagen AG, both who operate plants in Bavaria and Saxony that depend on car parts particularly from the Republic.