FS-ISAC Coronavirus Update, Feb. 18, 2021


  • At least 1,549 cases of coronavirus strains first spotted in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil have now been reported in the US, according to data updated Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the vast majority of infections the more contagious variant originally detected in Britain, which has now been found in 41 states and Washington, DC, with more than a quarter in Florida.
  • After the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that severe weather will delay Covid-19 vaccine deliveries in the coming days, infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm said this will not slow down production, it will just delay when the shots get into people’s arms, and instead, the big concern is the availability of enough doses and how many people can be vaccinated before the anticipated surge in infections in the next five to 14 weeks due to the United Kingdom variant, as the decline in cases and hospitalizations is “lulling us into a sense of security that we just can't afford.”
  • Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease doctor in the US, said today winter storms and bad weather have brought vaccinations to a “grinding halt” in some places, and that he did not know the precise extent of the national slowdown but it was “a problem.”
  • Even though the US will have enough Covid-19 vaccines for all Americans by at least the end of July, it may take an additional couple of months to get everyone vaccinated, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci Wednesday night, who said the country needs "about 600 million doses" to vaccinate the entire population and believes between 70% and 85% may need to get immunized against coronavirus for herd immunity to take effect.
  • About 57.7 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the US, according to data published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 79% of the 73,377,450 doses distributed and nearly 1.5 million more administered doses reported since yesterday.
  • Pfizer-BioNTech announced Thursday that the first participants of its global Covid-19 vaccine trial for pregnant women have received their first doses, with the Phase 2/3 trial expected to enroll about 4,000 healthy pregnant women age 18 or older and designed to evaluate the vaccine in pregnant women, but also their infants, who will be monitored until they’re about six months old, for safety and for the transfer of potentially protective antibodies.
  • A recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found pregnant women in Washington state were infected with COVID-19 at a 70% higher rate than others at similar ages, providing further evidence that pregnancy should be considered a high-risk health condition for COVID-19 vaccine priority.
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will call on world leaders to back a bid to cut the time it takes to develop new vaccines to 100 days, as he chairs the first G7 leaders’ meeting of the United Kingdom’s presidency on Friday.
  • Food and food packaging are highly unlikely to spread Covid-19, the US Food and Drug Administration, US Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a reminder Thursday, with the three agencies saying they wanted to stress the lack of credible evidence to suggest that food or its packaging are associated with transmission of the virus.
  • Life expectancy for the entire US population dropped a full year – to 77.8 - in the first half of 2020, according to a report published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, with experts saying that Covid-19 was a significant factor contributing to the decline.
  • US workers will use personal protective equipment if their employers give it out, a new study from researchers from the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. 
  • House Democrats hope to pass their $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan by the end of next week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday, with the party aiming to approve the bill in both chambers of Congress and get President Joe Biden’s signature before March 14 - the same day a $300 per week unemployment insurance supplement and provisions expanding jobless benefits eligibility are set to expire.
  • Another 861,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, according to seasonally adjusted data released Thursday from the Labor Department, nearly 100,000 claims more than economists had predicted, as well as an increase from the week before - which was also revised higher.
  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Thursday that a major stimulus package is necessary for the economy to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic even amid strong economic momentum to start 2021, explaining “We think it’s very important to have a big package [that] addresses the pain this has caused – 15 million Americans behind on their rent, 24 million adults and 12 million children who don’t have enough to eat, small businesses failing.”
  • As Democrats try to push President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion rescue plan through Congress, some states are taking matters into their own hands by sending stimulus checks to their residents, with California and Maryland both passing legislation distributing stimulus checks of $600 and $300 per person, respectively, to qualifying residents.
  • The Transportation Security Administration said it has received “fewer than 1,000” reports of violations in the more than two weeks since it began enforcing a federal requirement to wear masks when traveling. 

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Vaccines – US

  1. The seven-day average of doses administered has been ticking down slightly since Tuesday, from about 1.7 million doses per day to about 1.6 million, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, with more than 41 million people now having received at least one dose of the vaccine and more than 16 million people fully vaccinated.
  2. White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday the winter storm and power outages across Texas are a significant problem for Covid-19 vaccine distribution, and that “We’re just going to have to make up for it as soon as the weather lifts a bit, the ice melts and we can get the trucks out and the people out.”
  3. Demand for vaccines is outstripping supply in the federal retail pharmacy program for the US, with appointments filling up quickly, and many pharmacies saying this week that they can receive and administer far more doses than are arriving so far.
  4. Washington, D.C., residents employed in grocery stores or manufacturing were added Thursday evening to the roster of workers who can sign up for a vaccine, and city officials said inoculations will soon widen further to cover people with a range of medical conditions.
  5. Pennsylvania’s Department of Health acknowledged tens of thousands of vaccination appointments will have to be rescheduled because not enough second doses of the Moderna vaccine were saved and were instead administered as first doses.
  6. Scarce supply of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has stirred anxiety about whether the required second dose will be available, and different protocols in different jurisdictions - as well as several mishaps in recent weeks - have added to the frustration and concern in the greater Washington region.
  7. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called the city's vaccine supply shortage “outrageous,” and he called upon pharmaceutical companies to "step up and give us the doses we need."
  8. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said he’s considering sending National Guard troops to pick up the state’s next vaccine shipments housed in Tennessee and Kentucky to avoid any delay from bad weather.
  9. Workers at a Kroger-owned supermarket near Seattle, including baggers and produce clerks, say they have been pulled into the vaccination distribution effort and told to monitor newly inoculated customers for side effects without proper training, protection or extra pay.
  10. Even seemingly minor things can set back vaccine production by months, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday talking about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine supply mix up where the number of doses is far fewer than originally expected.
  11. As vaccinations speed up across the US, a hospital in hard-hit California says its staff has achieved herd immunity, after dropping the number of employees out due to the virus Wednesday to just 10 after having 231 infected in December, when the pandemic was at its peak in the state.

US Outbreak

  1. At least 68,419 new cases were reported in the US on Wednesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, and at least 2,366 people died.
  2. The United States attorney's office in Brooklyn, along with the FBI, is scrutinizing the handling of some of the data surrounding Covid-19 deaths in long term care facilities in New York, according to a law enforcement official.
  3. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s long-awaited guidance on how to safely reopen schools during the pandemic could end up keeping kids out of the classroom longer than necessary, four doctors who reviewed the guidance said Thursday, and at the heart of their criticism is the decision to tie reopening decisions to how severely the virus is spreading in the surrounding county.
  4. A month into the new administration, the White House still cannot provide the clarity much of America needs about when children can return to school, which kids can go back and when their teachers will be vaccinated, confronting a regulatory maze and hazy messaging in a push to get students back to in-person learning.
  5. California lawmakers on Thursday proposed a $12.6 billion package to fast-track teacher vaccines and provide incentives to public schools to reopen classrooms by April 15, with the legislation, which is virtually assured of passage early next week, restoring about 10 weeks of in-person class for the regular school year, and then only for elementary and special needs students.
  6. University of Virginia officials said Thursday that widespread noncompliance of campus health guidelines is driving an explosion of cases at the school, with 779 active cases of the virus - including 18 among employees - on and around the Charlottesville campus, more than half of which were reported this week.

Business Related

  1. Hospitals in rural communities across the US have long faced financial woes, with dozens of cash-strapped facilities closing over the past decade, but COVID-19 is threatening to close many more small hospitals in less populated regions, threatening the quality of care for millions of Americans.
  2. Vice President Kamala Harris said on Thursday that the 2.5 million women who have left the work force since the beginning of the pandemic constituted a “national emergency,” one that she said could be addressed by the Biden administration’s coronavirus relief plan, and that “Our economy cannot fully recover unless women can participate fully.”
  3. Vaccinated or not, more than half of employees said that given the option they would want to keep working from home even after the pandemic, according to a recent survey, but employers are not hinging their return-to-work plans on vaccinations, so many are already planning how and when offices will reopen, and employees who may not be ready “need to be aware of the policies and understand the exceptions,” said Carol Goodman, chair of the employment practice at New York-based law firm Herrick, Feinstein.
  4. Uber announced Thursday it was extending  its remote-work policy through September 13, with Chief People Officer Nikki Krishnamurthy said in an email to employees that “In considering the extension, we took into account the latest scientific data and experts’ views; the fact that different countries are at different stages of recovery; and the start of the school year.”
  5. Walmart pledged to raise average wages for 425,000 front-line employees, following a profitable holiday season that produced a surge in e-commerce sales, the company said Thursday, with the retailer bringing in a record $152.1 billion in revenue for the three months ending January 31, a jump of more than 7% from a year ago.
  6. New York transit officials on Thursday announced that they had avoided major reductions for the next two years after a new infusion of federal aid and better than expected tax revenues helped steady the system’s finances.