FS-ISAC Coronavirus Update, March 19, 2021


  • Covid-19 cases are rising by more than 10% in 14 states this week compared to last week, with half of those states rising by more than 20%, and while nationally the number of new cases has continued to decline - though at a much slower rate over the past three weeks compared to late January and February – the trend is not down for all states.
  • Two coronavirus strains first detected in California are now officially "variants of concern," according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with early research showing that the mutations may be about 20% more transmissible and some Covid-19 treatments may also be less effective against the strains, but the agency stopped show of saying whether vaccines would stop working against them.
  • More than 113 million doses of vaccine have now been administered in the US, according to data published Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 77% of the 147,590,615 doses delivered and around 2.3 million more administered doses reported since yesterday, for a new record seven-day average of nearly 2.5 million doses per day.
  • After several European Union countries temporarily suspended the use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, the World Health Organization said Wednesday that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh its risks and vaccinations should continue, and adding that it’s routine for countries to signal potential adverse events during extensive vaccination campaigns, and it doesn’t necessarily mean the events are linked to the vaccination.
  • Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said on Wednesday that is seems “fairly unlikely” that the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is causing blood clots, and that he was surprised that so many countries have paused administration of the vaccine, explaining “Everything that I have heard so far - but we’re waiting for the European Medicines Agency report tomorrow - would indicate that this is one of those things where clotting is a fairly common medical problem and you have 17 million people getting a vaccine, some of them are going to have various medical problems just because that was going to happen to them anyway.”
  • In at least 34 states, Covid-19 test positivity rates are higher among older children between the ages of 12 and 17 than any other age group, according to a CNN analysis of the latest Covid-19 Community Profile Report published by the federal government, and on average, the group was more than double state rates over the past week.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued expansive new recommendations on coronavirus testing Wednesday in an effort shift the role of testing from diagnostic tool to screening and prevention, advising screening schedules for workplace employees, college and university students and employees, correctional facilities and homeless shelters, and Director Rochelle Walensky said that testing “remains a critical component of our comprehensive approach to ending this epidemic.”
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci told a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee today “that we should be literally flooding the system with easily accessible, cheap, not needing a prescription, point of care, highly sensitive and highly specific” coronavirus testing kits to control the pandemic and help schools and workplaces open more safely, adding “you are going to be seeing more of that soon.”
  • US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday that the agency plans to issue new guidance allowing less social distancing in schools, and is looking at studies that indicate physical distancing of 3 feet is sufficient to keep students and teachers safe in school, but the American Federation of Teachers national union is staunchly opposing changing the recommendation now and is planning to try to persuade the agency not to take that step.
  • The US Department of Health and Human Services has signed a $150 million agreement to help people with Covid-19 access monoclonal antibody treatments, with Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the Biden administration’s lead on health equality task force, announcing the deal during a White House Covid-19 briefing Wednesday, with money intended to help the government get these therapies to additional sites and be used to fund additional equipment, education and outreach materials, along with additional staffing at infusion centers.
  • Global cases of Covid-19 increased by 10% over the past week peaking in early January and declining the week beginning February 15, but deaths are declining, according to the weekly epidemiological update from the World Health Organization published Tuesday, with all regions reported a rise in new infections apart from Africa.
  • Pan American Health Organization officials addressed the Covid-19 crisis in Brazil at Wednesday’s virtual press briefing, with Director Dr. Carissa Etienne calling it a “cautionary tale that keeping this virus under control requires continuous attention by public health authorities and leaders to protect people and health systems alike” from the effects of the virus.
  • The European Commission Wednesday unveiled its proposal for a "Digital Green Certificate", or vaccine passport, to allow for safe and free movement within the EU during the pandemic, providing a way to confirm that a person has been vaccinated against Covid-19, has received a negative test result or has recovered from Covid-19 and can be used across all EU Member States.
  • The Internal Revenue Service confirmed this afternoon plans to delay this year's tax filing deadline by roughly a month, to mid-May, a decision made in order to allow filers more time to navigate tax situations complicated by the coronavirus pandemic and also due to the large backlog of returns still not processed.
  • Approximately 90 million stimulus checks have been disbursed to Americans, the Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, and the Bureau of the Fiscal Service announced Wednesday, totaling over $242 billion in payments.
  • Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday that inflation will tick-up because of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill and the one-time increases in prices “are likely to have only transient effects on inflation,” and noted that "the economy is a long way from our employment and inflation goals."
  • Ford Motor Company told employees Wednesday they can continue to work from home, allowing more than 30,000 to use the office only when they need to, even after the pandemic is over.
  • A new study is underway to see if at-home COVID-19 tests could pave the way to reopening America's workplaces, with Citigroup, a U.S. multinational investment bank and financial services company, launching a pilot program with Chicago-area bank branch employees and its traders, headquartered in New York, aimed at allowing their personnel to utilize a rapid antigen test, provided by Innova Medical Group, before coming into the workplace.
  • People who get Covid-19 shots at thousands of Walmart and Sam’s Club stores may soon be able to verify their vaccination status at airports, schools and other locations using a health passport app on their smartphones, with the retail giant saying on Wednesday that it had signed on to an international effort to provide standardized digital vaccination credentials to people, joining a push already backed by major health centers and tech companies including Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, Cerner, Epic Systems, the Mitre Corporation and the Mayo Clinic.
  • Former President Donald J. Trump recommended in a nationally televised interview on Tuesday evening that Americans who are reluctant to be vaccinated against the coronavirus should go ahead with inoculations, saying “I would recommend it, and I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it – and a lot of those people voted for me frankly,” adding “It is a safe vaccine, and it is something that works.”

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Vaccine Rollout - US

  1. The seven-day average of reported doses administered in the US has now topped 2 million per day for more than two weeks according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday, and if that pace continues 100 million doses will have been administered under the Biden administration a few days sooner than their goal of day 60. 
  2. About 22% of the US population - nearly 74 million people - have received at least one dose, and about 12% of the population - nearly 40 million people - are fully vaccinated, according to Centers for Disease Prevention and Control data released today.
  3. White House Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anthony Fauci told lawmakers Wednesday that the US could start vaccinating high school students as soon as this fall, while younger elementary-aged kids will likely have to wait until early next year.
  4. In the first two and half months of vaccine distribution in the US, counties considered to have high social vulnerability – which includes socioeconomic status, household composition, racial/ethnic minority status and housing type. Counties were split equally between high, moderate and low social vulnerability - had lower vaccine coverage than counties considered to have low social vulnerability, according to a study published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  5. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona wouldn’t say on Wednesday if the administration would support mandating vaccinations for educators before they could return to work.
  6. All vaccination sites and testing locations were closed in Mississippi on Wednesday in advance of severe weather that could also jeopardize vaccine activity in Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama.
  7. At least four states - Maine, Virginia, North Carolina and Wisconsin - and Washington, D.C., have said that they will expand eligibility to their general population by May 1, the deadline President Biden set last week, with other states - including Colorado, Connecticut, Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana and Utah – hoping to do so this month or next.
  8. Massachusetts is expecting to hit one million fully vaccinated residents within the next 24 hours, Governor Charlie Baker announced today, and the state announced that they would open vaccine eligibility to people 16 and over starting April 19, which was made possible by an increase in vaccines from the federal government.
  9. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said today the state will open up eligibility to all resident April 5, contingent on the state receiving the increase in doses it's expecting.
  10. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, hours after receiving his own shot, announced on Tuesday that the state has administered its 7 millionth Covid-19 vaccination and fully vaccinated “about two million New Yorkers” through 145 community-based pop-up sites, 14 state mass vaccination sites, six mass vaccination sites in partnership with the federal government or at one of 52 churches doing vaccinations.
  11. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers said the state is heading in the right direction with vaccinations with “over 2 million shots in people's arms,” as he toured the newly opened Covid-19 community vaccination site at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, which has the capacity to vaccinate 6,000 to 10,000 people a week, depending on supply.
  12. Andy Slavitt, White House senior advisor for the Covid response team, said today he is optimistic a growing number of Americans will continue to take the vaccine, and predicted that at least 89% of US seniors will get a shot.
  13. Peter Marks, a top Food and Drug Administration vaccine official, told a House subcommittee today that the US stockpile of AstraZeneca vaccine is not in danger of expiring anytime soon, and that “I do not believe we are at risk of throwing this out at any time in the near future.”

US Restrictions & Schools

  1. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today that next Monday the state’s final five yellow zone clusters will be lifted and will rescind their orders for specific guidance and will then follow overall state guidance moving forward.
  2. New York will allow fitness classes to return at 33% capacity beginning March 22, and it will lift its 11PM curfew on casinos, movie theaters, bowling alleys, billiards halls, gyms and fitness centers starting April 5, according to a statement from Governor Andrew Cuomo's office today.
  3. New Jersey will increase indoor capacity limits for restaurants, gyms and health clubs, recreational facilities and arcades and personal care businesses to 50% effective Friday at 6AM, Governor Phil Murphy said Wednesday.
  4. The US Department of Health and Human Services is funneling $10 billion to states to help implement coronavirus surveillance testing in K-12 schools across the country, the agency announced Wednesday, part of the Biden administration's push to help schools reopen safely for in-person learning.
  5. Chicago’s public high school students could return to class for limited in-person instruction starting next month under the outline of plan district leaders unveiled Tuesday as negotiations with the teachers union over COVID-19 precautions continued, possibly becoming the first time the nation's third-largest school district would the option to be back in classrooms since going fully remote a year ago amid the pandemic.
  6. Virginia’s largest school district in Fairfax County will return the vast majority of its 180,000 students to five days a week of in-person learning this fall, Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand told the school board Tuesday, with virtual offerings “limited” at the start of next academic year and probably restricted to students who must remain online-only for medical reasons.

Economy and Business

  1. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed an extension of the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, a bill which next heads to the Senate and which passed 415-3, that would extend the program to May 31 from its current March 31 deadline, and give the SBA an additional 30 days to process forgivable loans for small businesses.
  2. Start-ups with all-female founders saw their share of total US venture capital decline to 2.4% last year from 3.4% in 2019, according to data from Crunchbase, and meanwhile companies led by all-male founders saw their share of venture capital increase to nearly 87% in 2020 from 85% in 2019.
  3. Venture and equity financing for education technology start-ups has more than doubled, surging to $12.6 billion worldwide last year from $4.8 billion in 2019, according to a report from CB Insights, a firm that tracks start-ups and venture capital, as companies that market digital learning tools to schools are enjoying a windfall.