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FS-ISAC Coronavirus Update, April 2, 2021
The US reported more than 79,000 cases for Thursday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University that was published early Friday, a figure that was higher than Wednesday’s revised total of 67,029 and similar to levels reached in late February, when the country’s worst wave of infections, which peaked in January, was waning.
Those who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can safely gather for Easter this Sunday, indoors and without wearing masks, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday, and in a series of tweets the public health agency also recommended that those who aren't fully vaccinated enjoy Easter dinner and egg hunts with the people they live with, or outdoors while six feet apart, in order to protect against spreading Covid-19.
While Covid-19 vaccines appear to be safe and provide protection against the identified variants of the novel coronavirus, vaccination is also important to prevent further viral mutation, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said today, warning that “Our concern is that in the future, some of those variants may be much more resistant to protection from a vaccine.”
More than 100 million people in the US have now received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, White House Covid-19 Data Director Cyrus Shahpar tweeted Friday, with nearly 4 million more shots reported administered since yesterday, for a record-high seven-day average of nearly 3 million per day.
Despite issuing new guidance that says people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can travel at low risk to themselves, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says they do not recommend it, with Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky saying during a White House Covid-19 Response team briefing Friday that “While we believe that fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves, CDC is not recommending travel at this time due to the rising number of cases.,"
US drug maker Johnson & Johnson announced on Friday that it will soon begin vaccinating children as young as 12 in the company’s ongoing Phase 2a clinical trial of its Covid-19 vaccine - and already has begun vaccinating older participants, the third company to enter the race to expand its vaccine to adolescents.
President Joe Biden expressing concern even as he touted Friday’s exceptionally positive jobs report and the accelerating pace of vaccinations in the US, saying that progress can still be reversed if Americans don’t moderate their behaviors to stop the spread of Covid-19, and warning that “Too many Americans are acting as if this fight is over,” and stressing “It is not.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday night walked back contentious comments made in an interview by its director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, suggesting that people vaccinated against the coronavirus never become infected or transmit the virus to others, an assertion that called into question the precautions that the agency had urged vaccinated people to take just last month, like wearing masks and gathering only under limited circumstances with unvaccinated people, and in response in part to criticism from scientists who noted that current research was far from sufficient to make such claims.
The United Kingdom’s medicines watchdog has identified 30 cases of rare blood clots in people who have received the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine - 25 more than previously reported, but said the cases were still very rare and advised the vaccine continue to be used, as the benefits outweigh the risk.
Europe headed into its second locked-down Easter weekend on Friday amid fears that family gatherings could fuel a growing new wave of coronavirus infections with vaccinations still lagging, with leaders balancing fears of spiraling infections with demands from exhausted populations who are struggling after a year of on-and-off lockdowns and the result has been a chaos of contradictions, with policymakers tightening restrictions but also suggesting that they will turn a blind eye to people who violate the rules to take a break.
Italy may be in a strict coronavirus lockdown this Easter with travel restricted between regions and new quarantines imposed. But a few miles offshore, guests aboard the MSC Grandiosa cruise ship are shimmying to Latin music on deck and sipping cocktails by the pool, and in one of the anomalies of lockdowns that have shuttered hotels and resorts around the world, the Grandiosa has been plying the Mediterranean Sea this winter with seven-night cruises, a lonely flag-bearer of the global cruise industry.
The US economy's recovery from the pandemic strengthened in March as employers added 916,000 jobs, the Labor Department reported Friday, a job gain that was up from the revised 468,000 increase in jobs reported for February, and the unemployment rate improved to 6%, compared with the 6.2% the previous month.
In a survey of more than 350 CEOs and human resources and finance leaders, 70% said they plan to have employees back in the office by the fall of this year, according to a report by staffing firm LaSalle Network.
The social and economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and the disproportionate impact on women may delay gender parity around the world by nearly four decades, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum, which keeps an index on “gender parity” in more than 150 countries, and has in its past annual reports estimated that gender parity was already a century away.
Vaccine Rollout - US
The US has vaccinated more than 30% of its population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine tracker, with more than 17% of the total population now fully vaccinated, as have more than 53% of those 65 and older.
President Biden announced Friday that the US has set a new record for vaccinations, administering 20 million doses in one week yesterday, and saying that the March jobs report “reflects the progress we’ve made” on getting people vaccinated.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said Friday that, beginning April 5, individuals 16 and older can receive a vaccine, an expansion that means nearly 4 million residents will be eligible as the state receives around 115,000 doses a month and so far at least 1,724,463 shots have been administered.
West Virginia residents aged 16 and older are now eligible to receive a vaccine, Governor Jim Justice said on Friday, and 500,000 residents having received at least one shot, marking a new milestone for the state, and 342,851 people have gotten two doses.
As the US ramps up vaccinations and expand eligibility, health officials can look to Maryland in particular to better understand the challenges ahead, a state that has encountered nearly all the geographic, demographic and human behavioral challenges that come with a public health task of this scale, with poor urban neighborhoods where many people lack access to regular care, wealthy Washington suburbs whose residents have proved adept at vacuuming up shots meant for other ZIP codes, isolated rural areas, and a sign-up system that has turned vaccine hunting into a part-time job for many.
New York added at least 7,787 new cases, and marked a 3.02% positivity in its Friday report, both numbers that were down from Thursday, but Governor Andrew Cuomo encouraging residents to stay vigilant and reminding them the “pandemic isn’t over.”
West Virginia reported 420 new positive cases within the last 24 hours on Friday, the daily positivity rate is now 3.48%, and the cumulative positivity continues at 5.25%.
Oregon governor Kate Brown warned today for residents not to let their guard down, saying “It's clear that in Oregon, and across the country, the fourth surge of this virus is at our doorstep.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will continue to monitor Covid-19 data and update its travel guidance as the science evolves, Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a virtual White House briefing on Friday, after the agency released highly anticipated updated guidance today for people who are fully vaccinated to be able to travel at low risk to themselves.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed an executive order Friday extending the state mask mandate for the next 30 days, including requiring masks in schools in all counties, during extracurricular activities, in childcare centers, and indoor children's camps, in all jails, prisons, congregate care facilities and public-facing state government facilities.
California will allow indoor concerts, theater performances and other private gatherings starting April 15, changes announced Friday by the Department of Public Health as the rate of people testing positive nears a record low.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an Executive Order Friday banning the mandated use of Covid-19 passports in the state, a measure that is effective immediately and says that shows are available but not mandated in the state and cites freedom and privacy concerns as the primary basis for the action.
Economy and Business
While some sectors are back to their pre-pandemic employment levels, the overall US economy still has more than 8 million fewer jobs than it did before Covid-19 related job losses started a year ago.
The travel industry on Friday applauded new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said Americans who are fully vaccinated could travel at low risk to themselves as likely to help ailing businesses and encourage more Americans to board flights, cruises, buses and trains.
While leisure travel within the US may be recovering steadily, airlines expect it will still take until 2023 or 2024 for passenger volumes to return to 2019 levels, according to Airlines for America, a trade association and lobbying group.
Shoots of budding optimism pop up almost daily in New York City after one of the hardest years in its history, with the Mandarin Oriental Hotel overlooking Central Park calling back workers for a reopening this week, and Union Square Café, a popular Manhattan restaurant that had been closed for months, feeding diners again.