FS-ISAC Coronavirus Update, Feb. 17, 2021


  • The number of new coronavirus cases has declined by 16% worldwide over the past week, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, even as more virulent strains of the virus spurred outbreaks in multiple regions, and there has been a 10% reduction in the number of global deaths over the past week as well, the agency added.
  • Data from more than 600,000 vaccinated Israelis shows the Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective, with only 21 vaccinated people ending up in the hospital with Covid-19, according to a press release released today from Maccabi Healthcare Services, Israel’s second largest healthcare provider, with the findings, while preliminary, suggesting the vaccine remains remarkably effective in the real world and not just in the clinical trials conducted last year by Pfizer and BioNTech.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech is effective against the United Kingdom and South African variants, the vaccine's Brazilian partner said on Wednesday, citing test results in Chinese trials.
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking Americans to postpone their travel plans after a newly released investigation found Minnesota residents who were infected with the highly contagious United Kingdom Covid variant had histories of domestic and international travel before displaying symptoms.
  • The extreme winter weather covering much of the US is causing enough disruption to vaccinations that the country may take slightly longer to reach herd immunity against Covid-19, potentially extending the length of the pandemic, experts who are following the vaccination rollout said, and while the full extent of the disruption isn’t yet known, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned late Tuesday that there were likely to be “widespread delays” in vaccine shipments and deliveries over the next few days.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Wednesday that “discrepancies and difficulties” in vaccine distribution from state to state are going to disappear as more vaccine supply becomes available, and that while there’s a need “to respect the ability and the right of the states who know their own situation well to make their own decisions,” and avoid dictating from above, “there should be some sort of consistency, not necessarily identical, from state to state.”
  • The US needs to rapidly deploy Covid-19 vaccines and ramp up its surveillance before highly contagious variants take hold or the virus mutates again and makes the pandemic even worse, the nation’s top health experts warned Wednesday in a viewpoint published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
  • In recent weeks, hospitals in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Colorado, Nebraska and New Jersey have reported an increase in cases of MIS-C cases, a rare inflammatory condition found in children, with the apparent uptick coinciding with a decrease in COVID-19 cases nationwide in the wake of a post-holiday surge,, but experts say there is often a lag - sometimes three to four weeks - between COVID-19 infections and the onset of MIS-C symptoms.
  • Covid-19 infections in England have fallen by more than two-thirds in recent weeks, initial findings from a survey on community prevalence show, based on interim findings from the ninth report of REACT-1, a study into Covid-19 infections in England, released Thursday by Imperial College London.
  • The European Union has announced a plan called the “HERA Incubator” to combat the increased threat from coronavirus variants, bringing together “researchers, biotech companies, manufacturers, regulators and public authorities to monitor variants, exchange data and cooperate on adapting vaccines,” with the core function to “boost preparedness, develop vaccines for the variants and increase industrial production.”
  • The White House has gotten back in step with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after some confusion regarding vaccinating teachers, saying Wednesday that it is not mandatory though teachers should be prioritized like frontline workers.
  • White House Covid-19 response team testing coordinator Carole Johnson announced new steps from the Biden administration to increase testing efforts and capacity across the country, focused on testing for schools and underserved communities, testing supplies, and genomic sequencing as a “bridge” before Congress is able to pass a stimulus package. 
  • After three months of declines, retail sales soared a seasonally adjusted 5.3% in January from the month before, the US Commerce Department said Wednesday. the biggest increase since June and much larger than the 1% rise Wall Street analysts had expected, a rise said to have been helped by stimulus checks sent out at the end of last year.

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Vaccines – US

  1. More than 56 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the US, according to data published Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 72% of the 72,423,125 doses distributed and more than 1 million more administered doses reported since Tuesday, for a seven-day average of about 1.6 million doses per day.
  2. More than 40 million people have now received at least one dose of the vaccine and more than 15 million people have been fully vaccinated, Centers for Disease Prevention and Control data showed as of today.
  3. Top US health officials said Wednesday that the country will have enough vaccine for every American by the "end of July," echoing an estimate from the president hours earlier but contradicting predictions from the nation's top infectious disease expert.
  4. Johnson & Johnson has only manufactured “a few million” doses of its single-shot vaccine ahead of its regulatory clearance expected later this month, President Joe Biden’s coronavirus czar Jeff Zients said today.
  5. US service members by the thousands are refusing or putting off the vaccine as frustrated commanders scramble to knock down internet rumors and find the right pitch that will persuade troops to get the shot, with some Army units seeing as few as one-third agree to the vaccine.
  6. The National Guard has administered over 1.2 million vaccinations – averaging over 72,000 doses a day - to civilians across 42 states and territories in their support of distribution efforts across the country, Major General Steven Nordhaus, Director of Operations of the National Guard Bureau, said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing today.
  7. Massachusetts announced today that individuals over the age of 65 and those 16 and older with two or more of certain medical conditions, including asthma, can begin booking appointments Thursday for vaccinations.
  8. Minnesota educators will have access to more than 18,000 doses at vaccine sites and through other providers starting next week in an attempt at vaccinating all educators across the state, with 25% of teachers and 405 of seniors now vaccinated.
  9. New York City has fewer than 30,000 first doses of Covid-19 vaccine on hand and will run out of supply today or tomorrow according to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said that the weather has caused delays in shipments.
  10. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced four new mass vaccination sites in Buffalo, Rochester, Albany and Yonkers that will come online March 3 to help increase the supply of doses in “socially vulnerable communities” in partnership with the federal government and with the goal of vaccinating 1,000 New Yorkers a day.
  11. US diplomats serving in countries with poor medical infrastructure and high infection rates are venting frustrations about the way top officials in Washington are distributing the vaccines for the virus.

Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment

  1. A new report published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday suggests that Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine can protect people against concerning new coronavirus variants, including one first seen in South Africa called B.1.351, with researchers finding that while vaccinated blood samples tested against genetically engineered versions of the mutation produced less neutralizing antibody activity, it was still enough to neutralize the virus.
  2. Researchers have observed the coronavirus mutates faster in immunocompromised people, which may provide a clue to how current variants emerged, Sharon Peacock, director of the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium, a group working on Covid-19 virus sequencing in the United Kingdom said Wednesday.
  3. The variant first identified in the United Kingdom does not cause more severe disease in children than variants circulating earlier in 2020, new data from doctors at King’s College Hospital in London suggests.
  4. The world's first Covid-19 human challenge study will begin within a month in the United Kingdom, the country's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said Wednesday, and during this trial, up to 90 volunteers aged 18-30 years will be exposed to Covid-19 in a safe and controlled environment to increase understanding of how the virus affects people, a study that will play a "key role in developing effective Covid-19 vaccines and treatments".
  5. Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a laboratory test for measuring neutralizing antibodies against the coronavirus that requires only a single drop of blood, collected and dried on filter paper.
  6. A commercially available electronic "nose" manufactured by Dutch company Breathomix can tell when a person does not have COVID-19 and would be a useful screening tool, researchers at Leiden University Medical Center have found.
  7. Nigerian students have built a machine they hope can one day help hospitals remotely treat COVID-19 patients, taking temperatures, transporting medicine and allowing medical workers to communicate with patients with a webcam and screen.
  8. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it's "possible" that the Covid-19 vaccine could become a yearly vaccine, like the flu shot, explaining “We hope we can contain this particular outbreak and all of its ramifications throughout the world in a way that doesn't have the ... cycling of various versions of the virus so that you have to address it differently each year.”

Business Related

  1. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that President Biden included a minimum wage increase in the Covid-19 relief bill "because he feels it's important, it's a priority," but wouldn't say if the administration thinks it will survive Senate rules.
  2. New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed suit against Amazon on Tuesday evening, alleging that the global technology giant "has repeatedly and persistently failed" to adequately protect its workers in two New York City facilities amid the pandemic and has even retaliated against those who voiced concerns.
  3. The International Franchise Association estimates that more than 26,000 franchised locations will be added this year, which amounts to a rise of 3.5%, a gain that should offset last year’s setbacks, and the expert group also expects employment in the industry to rise by 10% to about 8.3 million workers.
  4. Grocery giant Kroger plans to close two stores in Seattle after the city passed a $4-an-hour hazard pay mandate for grocery workers, drawing sharp rebukes from local officials and worker advocates who point to the company’s booming sales.