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FS-ISAC Coronavirus Update, March 31, 2021
Vaccination rates in the US provide hope for an end to the pandemic, but that hope is tempered by new infection rates, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday, but warned “There is some tempered news, and that is that we are currently in this country at 61,000 new infections a day, a 13% increase from last week at this time.”
White House senior Covid-19 adviser Andy Slavitt suggested Tuesday that American governors “know better” than to relax Covid-19 restrictions as fears of a fourth surge in the US rise, saying “I think the governors know that they’re not helping the cause, that they’re actually weighing down the cause,” adding “I think people want to be told what the truth of the matter is” and “To me, a mask feels like a very small price to pay to protect people’s lives.”
While new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests just one dose of Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine may have an 80% effectiveness rate in real-life, it is unknown whether that protection is long-lasting or strong enough to substitute for the two-dose schedule, National of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Monday night.
A type of T-cell responsible for destroying cells infected with virus was able to recognize three Covid-19 variants in a small US study, a promising sign that the vaccines should still protect against new, emerging strains, researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said Tuesday.
Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE plan to begin testing soon a freeze-dried version of its vaccine in April, a two month study which if proven to work safely could ease storage and handling of the shots in rural US areas and low-income countries.
About 29% of the US population - more than 96 million people - have now received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, and more than 16% – about 53.4 million people – are fully vaccinated, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data posted Tuesday shows, with just under half of the 65 and older population - 49.8% - fully vaccinated, and more than seven out of 10 seniors having received at least one dose.
All states in the US have now announced when they plan to open up coronavirus vaccinations to everyone eligible under the vaccines' Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorizations - if they haven't done so already, with Arkansas the most recent state to announce plans to expand vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 and older starting on Tuesday.
US counties with the highest levels of vaccine coverage are those that already had the lowest levels of Covid-19 community transmission, an indication that vaccines are not always getting to where they are most needed, according to a new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation that also found vaccination rates in counties that have had the worst Covid-19 case and death rates lag behind counties that have had the lowest case and death rates by about one percentage point, on average.
A Kaiser Family Foundation poll taken March 15 through March 22 found that the so-called wait and see group — people who have yet to make up their mind on getting a vaccination - is shrinking and now at 17 percent, down from 31 percent in January, but despite the progress, one in five adults still say they would either definitely refuse the shot or only be vaccinated if required by their job or school.
President Biden signed the PPP Extension Act of 2021 into law on Tuesday, a law extending the application deadline, originally set to expire on March 31, to May 31, and providing an additional 30-day period for the Small Business Administration to process applications that are still pending.
The Dow lost more than 100 points today, falling from a record high reached on Monday, the S&P fell about 0.3%, and the Nasdaq dipped about 0.1%.
A hybrid workplace - partly from home, partly from the office - is emerging as the major model for post-pandemic work, but meshing in-person and virtual workers will require logistical solutions such as teleconferencing technology to help in-person and remote workers feel as if they are a level playing field and having managers undergo extensive training to fight against the instinct to give workers in the office preferential treatment, with some business specialists predict that establishing this mix may be even more disruptive than the shift to totally remote work.
The novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 probably spread to people through an animal, and probably started spreading among humans no more than a month or two before it was noticed in December of 2019, according the new 120-page report from the World Health Organization released Tuesday, but the agency said the search for the origin of the virus is ongoing, and that while the report summarizes the investigation into the origins there is nothing conclusive and more study is recommended.
Leaders from more than 20 countries and the World Health Organization have agreed to work towards an international treaty on future pandemics, in a joint letter published in media outlets Tuesday around the world, an effort intended to “greatly” enhance international co-operation to improve research, data-sharing, distribution of vaccines, medicines and personal protective equipment to protect future generations from pandemics, and while the US and China were not included, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the absence of their leaders’ signatures “wasn’t even a problem.”
Vaccine Rollout - US
Nearly 148 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 78% of the 189,451,285 doses delivered and around 1.8 million yesterday, for a seven-day average of about 2.8 million doses per day.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has expanded vaccine eligibility to anyone 30 and older today and will make all residents 16 or over eligible on April 6.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers announced today that everyone 16 and older will be eligible to receive a vaccine starting on Monday, and Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk for the Department of Health Services Said that more than one million residents have now completed their vaccine series, the state has administered at least 2,753,146 doses as of today, and 75% of people age 65 and older have received at least one shot.
Kaiser Family Foundation releasing an analysis Tuesday that found that the average rate of vaccination is lower in counties with certain underserved and high-risk populations that have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19, including some racial and ethnic groups, those with high-risk medical conditions and those with high social vulnerability.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said as of Tuesday more than 3,200 homebound New Yorker’s had been vaccinated, with the team carrying out the initiative in contact with more than 14,000 residents, and that the city is on the cusp of surpassing 4 million vaccination doses administered.
Maryland’s primary care doctors are receiving small batches of coronavirus vaccines to administer to patients - part of the state’s latest effort to broaden vaccine access and reach minority communities struggling to navigate complex registration systems.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, citing a strategy floated by some experts, asked the White House on Tuesday to consider rushing doses to hard-hit parts of the country, including her state, rather than allocating vaccines based on population.
Cases continue to rise, jumping by 13 percent nationwide in the past week, according to data compiled by The Washington Post on Tuesday, with the average daily number of new infections - more than 64,000 - at its highest level in nearly a month, interrupting what was a weeks-long downward trend.
The US reported more than 69,000 new infections for Monday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and published Tuesday, with yesterday’s figure up from the 43,694 reported a day earlier and 51,567 a week earlier.
More than 550,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus epidemic, according to Johns Hopkins University data, claiming the lives of 1 in every 600 residents, with the nation still averaging about 1,000 deaths per day.
Covid-19 deaths in the US are expected to bottom out in the next two weeks and then may inch higher as the nation races to blunt an incipient new wave of cases with its vaccination campaign, according to the Covid-19 Forecast Hub, a project from the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Reich Lab.
Michigan, which relaxed pandemic restrictions earlier this month, has recorded the nation’s largest recent increase in cases, reporting a 52 percent jump from a week ago, the state’s daily average of more than 5,400 new cases is higher than it has been since December, and there has been a surge in the number of people hospitalized with coronavirus infections.
California ranked 49th in the week ending Sunday among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows.
Los Angeles County will move into the second highest tier of the state’s four-tiered reopening system next week, officials announced Tuesday, allowing bars, which were previously forced to shut down, to open outdoors with modifications, restaurants to increase their indoor dining capacity from 25% to 50%, and gyms and fitness centers may increase their indoor capacity from 10% to 25%.
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak announced Tuesday he would extend the state’s eviction moratorium for two more months, but at the end of May, it will not be extended again.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson plans to lift the state's mask mandate on Wednesday, according to his office, an order that was first issued for the state in July, requiring masks be worn in all indoor areas.
The University of Connecticut football team cut its spring practices short because of positive test results and subsequent contact tracing protocols, after the Huskies were one of a small number of teams to opt out of the 2020-21 season.
Economy and Business
The Biden administration is expanding an existing pause on student loan interest and collections to include more than 1.1 million borrowers whose defaulted loans - part of the Federal Family Education Loan program - were ineligible for the current payment pause and interest due to their loans being held by private entities, the Department of Education announced Tuesday.
Social Security and other federal beneficiaries who do not normally file tax returns can expect their $1,400 stimulus payments to be issued this weekend, the IRS and Treasury Department said on Tuesday, with the majority of the payments expected to be sent electronically and received on April 7, the government agencies said.
Wells Fargo & Co. is making plans to bring its employees back into offices in September, aiming to return to a “more normal operating model” that month, according to a memo from Chief Executive Officer Charlie Scharf and Chief Operating Officer Scott Powell.
The Irish government announced this week that it was prepared to spend about $1 billion to encourage people to settle in rural areas, hoping that an investment in revitalizing town centers and other incentives will lure back younger people who have for years flocked to cities, particularly Dublin.