FS-ISAC Coronavirus Update, March 3, 2021


  • States and municipalities nationwide have started abandoning coronavirus restrictions this week, allowing pandemic-weary Americans to shun masks, eat at restaurants without capacity limits and go to entertainment venues, despite federal officials’ warnings that the population should remain cautious, with Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Tuesday lifting the state’s mask mandate and allowing all businesses to operate at full capacity, Mississippi lifting most restrictions, and governors in numerous states, including Arkansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Virginia, also reopening this week. 
  • President Biden said that there will be enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May, thanks to ramped up production and the authorization of a third vaccine by Johnson & Johnson, announcing the “unprecedented, history step” of a new partnership between competitor pharmaceutical companies Merck and Johnson & Johnson to speed up vaccine production, with the federal government involved in the partnership and invoking the Defense Production Act to implement fill finish capacity and drug substance availability.
  • A coronavirus variant of concern first reported in Brazil, known as P.1, may be up to 2.2 times more transmissible and could evade immunity from previous Covid-19 infection by up to 61%, a new modelling study by researchers in Brazil and the United Kingdom suggests.
  • A single dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines reduces the risk of hospitalization from Covid-19 by more than 80% in people aged over 80, new data from Public Health England shows, an effect seen three to four weeks after vaccination.
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will release guidance for people who have been fully vaccinated when it is finalized later this week, which is reported to include a recommendation that fully vaccinated people limit their social interactions to small home gatherings with other fully vaccinated people, fully vaccinated people continue to wear masks in public and practice social distancing, and include scenarios for Americans to consider when making plans, including travel.
  • President Biden said his administration would order states to prioritize educators in vaccination efforts in remarks from the State Dining Room Tuesday, announcing he was “using the full authority of the federal government” to direct states to move teachers and school staff to the front of the line, with a goal of “every educator, school staff member and childcare worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March.”
  • Nearly 70% of Americans are likely to get the vaccine as soon as it is available to them or have already gotten it, according to Axios-Ipsos, with the number saying they’re not at all likely to get the vaccine - 21% - remaining essentially unchanged since January, but the number saying they’re not very likely to - 10% - has decreased by nine points since earlier in the year, according to a poll released Tuesday conducted February 26 to March 1 based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,088 adults age 18 and up.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer expressed confidence on Tuesday that President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill will pass in the Senate this week, saying the Senate will take up the legislation as early as Wednesday using the budget reconciliation process to pass the bill, which limits time for debate and allows legislation to pass with a simple majority.
  • Economists who track data on Covid-19 virus infections say they are seeing initial signs that vaccines are working to cut down on the number of deaths and infection rates in the US, and the early findings, along with ramped up vaccination rates and the arrival of a new vaccine from Johnson & Johnson are making economists optimistic about their forecast for a strong economic rebound in the summer.

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Vaccine Rollout - US

  1. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took the final step to sign off on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Tuesday, publishing the vaccine recommendation in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, and while the agency did not recommend one population group over the other, its characteristics - the single dose that doesn’t need special refrigeration - should help states expand the availability to “most community settings and mobile sites” once it is more widely available, and also said the vaccine might be good for people who would have a hard time returning to get a second dose, as would be needed for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
  2. Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine should not replace the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines except in “exceptional situations,” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday, adding that vaccines are not interchangeable, and the safety and efficacy of a mixed product series has not been evaluated.
  3. The federal government has crossed the 100 million mark vaccine doses distributed, and more than 78 million of them have been administered, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.
  4. The White House announced another increase in vaccine supply amid the push to gets shots into American arms Tuesday, with the supply increased for states, tribes, and territories from 14.5 to 15.2 million doses per week, according to Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
  5. With the nationwide demand for shots continuing to far outstrip supply, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday states should consider prioritizing people with disabilities or cognitive decline as officials broaden access to vaccines.
  6. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said a new Federal Emergency Management Agency-supported vaccination site in Philadelphia, and other ones like it around the US, will be able to vaccinate up to 6,000 people a day, and also issued a message to undocumented immigrants, saying Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection "will not conduct immigration enforcement operations at or near vaccine distribution sites or clinics."
  7. CVS will begin administering Johnson & Johnson vaccines this week, Health spokesperson Ethan Slavin said today, adding that the drug chain will receive more than 200,000 doses this week, and increase active stores accordingly in the 17 states currently offering shots.
  8. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster announced Tuesday plans to expand eligibility for more than 2.7 million residents across the state starting next week, and beginning Monday, South Carolinians who qualify for what is being referred to as Phase 1B will be able to start making appointments for the vaccine, including those 55 & up, people 16-64 with pre-existing conditions, people with special needs or a high-risk disability, frontline workers such as K-12 school staff and daycare workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, law enforcement officers, and individuals at increased risk in settings where people are living and working in close contact such as group home settings, homeless shelters or correctional facilities.
  9. Michigan has administered 2,269,495 doses so far, and the state expects to receive 82,700 doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine, is equitably distributing at least 50,000 shots per day to underrepresented groups - a metric the state has met for 16 days, and has vaccinated over 45% of its residents age 65 and over.
  10. Alaska has ordered 8,900 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, chief medical officer, Anne Zink, tweeted Tuesday, with 3,000 doses allocated to Native American tribes for the Sovereign Nations Supplement and the state's Federal Pharmacy Partnership also receiving part of the distribution.
  11. Maryland health departments that do not administer all of their coronavirus vaccine doses within one week might see their allotments given to other providers, Governor Larry Hogan said Tuesday, a new policy intended to encourage local health departments, which focus on the highest priority recipients, to schedule appointments for each available dose.
  12. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for the state to expand vaccination eligibility to include sanitation workers, lifeguards, district attorneys, courtroom staff, board of elections staff, building inspectors and New York City Housing Authority frontline staff among others.
  13. Detroit’s manufacturing workers are now eligible to receive vaccinations without any restrictions such as age or proof of preexisting conditions.
  14. Seven Republican physicians in Congress on Tuesday urged the Health and Human Services Department to review its long-held two-dose vaccination strategy, asserting that shifting to a one-shot plan could save tens of thousands of lives by ensuring partial protection.
  15. A congressional committee has opened an investigation into concierge health-care provider One Medical over reports that it gave vaccine shots to family, friends of executives and wealthy clients who weren’t yet eligible in their states.

Business and Finance Related

  1. Democrats' hopes of including a minimum wage increase in their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill seemed all but dead Monday as the Senate prepared to debate its own version of the House-passed aid package, and four days after the chamber’s parliamentarian said Senate rules forbid inclusion of a straight-out minimum wage increase in the relief measure, Democrats seemed to have exhausted their most realistic options for quickly salvaging the pay hike.
  2. Three-quarters of small and mid-sized business owners plan to either encourage or require employees to become vaccinated, according to a recent survey from financial services company PNC, who surveyed 500 small and mid-sized businesses from January 2 to February 2, with 48% saying they would require employees to get vaccinated, one-third saying they would provide employees with information about vaccines, and 22% saying they would even incentivize employees to get the vaccine with perks like paid time off and bonuses.
  3. Owners of the smallest businesses have just over a week to take advantage of priority access to the Paycheck Protection Program’s forgivable loans, and at the same time, sole proprietors are still awaiting guidance from the Small Business Administration, who is expected to update its formula this week to shift eligibility calculations from net-profits based to gross-income based.
  4. The Office of Management and Budget says origination fees on federal student loans may be modestly increased in the 2021 fiscal year because of mandatory sequestration caused by Covid relief legislation such as the CARES Act, but some experts predict that Democrat and Republican legislators will agree to waive the cuts and avoid fees increases.
  5. Airline executives say they’re starting to see glimmers of a rebound in air travel demand, though it could take years for the battered industry to fully recover, with some carriers buying new planes, training pilots and even hiring again, decisions that generally have to be made far in advance.
  6. Air cargo demand in January recovered to pre-crisis levels, topping year-earlier volumes by 1%, according to the International Air Transport Association, highlighting one of the only bright spots in aviation during the pandemic, however global passenger demand slumped in January as travel volumes eased after the year-end holidays, with domestic travel, measured in revenue-passenger kilometers, leading the decline, falling 47% compared with January 2019.
  7. Target benefited from a familiar script in the fourth quarter, attracting consumers by offering convenient and contactless ways to shop during the pandemic, and the big-box retailer exceeded Wall Street’s expectations for earnings, getting a lift from strong holiday sales and gaining momentum in January as Americans received stimulus checks, as comparable sales, a key metric that tracks sales at stores open at least 13 months and online, rising 20.5% compared with a year earlier.
  8. Ride-hailing company Lyft said users booked more rides in the final week of February than any other week since Covid lockdowns began, and the company is now expecting a faster rebound from widespread shutdowns and financial losses than it previously forecast, with a forecast to post positive year-over-year growth in rideshare volume this month, according to an SEC filing.