FS-ISAC Coronavirus Update, April 28, 2021
- After a worrisome uptick in Covid-19 cases in the US in recent weeks, there are encouraging signs that the situation is beginning to stabilize, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky saying in a briefing Tuesday that there have been declines across the board, with new cases, hospitalizations and daily deaths all falling over the past seven days.
- The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Tuesday that two additional people experienced a rare blood clotting condition after receiving the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, bringing to 17 the number of known cases of what the agency is calling thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, one a male previously reported and the other a woman, both under the age of 60.
- The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not found a link between heart inflammation and COVID-19 vaccines, the agency’s Director Rochelle Walensky said on Tuesday, adding that the agency is in touch with the Department of Defense over its investigation of 14 cases of heart inflammation or myocarditis among people who were vaccinated through the military's health services.
- A variant of the coronavirus first spotted in India, known as B.1.617, has been detected in the US and 18 other countries and territories, adding to a growing roster of evolutionary spinoffs of the virus that scientists and health authorities are keeping under close observation.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday there is "growing evidence" about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy, and it reiterated its guidance on vaccinations for pregnant people, after it was asked to clarify a remark the CDC director made Friday about the recommendation, using a statement that said "If facing decisions about whether to receive a COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant, people should consider risk of exposure to COVID-19, the increased risk of severe infection while pregnant, the known benefits of vaccination, and the limited but growing evidence about the safety of COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy."
- US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy offered some guidance Tuesday for what kind of “small gatherings” fully vaccinated people can join without masks, saying that “While there's not a hard and fast number the CDC put out, part of what constitutes ‘small’ has to do with how many people you can come together with, without crowding,” and adding “What we don't want is people jammed up in enclosed spaces, because in that setting, even if you're outdoors, there may be a greater risk.”
- As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered on Tuesday new guidance about when masks should be worn outdoors, people across the US are living under an often confusing patchwork of limits, one that could continue for some time, with individual state, country and sometimes city restrictions adding to a patchwork of mandates.
- US federal health officials said on Tuesday that they were directing nearly all drugstores and grocery-store pharmacies to offer second doses of Covid-19 vaccines to people who received their first shot from a different provider, as a growing numbers of Americans who received a first shot of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna vaccine are not getting their second shots, in part because of challenges with access.
- White House Covid-19 adviser Andy Slavitt announced a measure during Tuesday's briefing to address concerns from states regarding college students on the cusp of leaving for summer vacation who may have only received one dose of two-dose Covid-19 vaccines, saying it will ensure that pharmacies deploying vaccines via the federal pharmacy program “do not have residency requirements in place so that students who do return home can get their second dose in that home state.”
- The $28.6 billion US Restaurant Revitalization Fund will start taking applications on May 3, the Small Business Administration announced Tuesday, the first federal grant of its kind administered by the SBA passed in March as part the $1.9 stimulus bill that aims to help restaurants and bars that have suffered economic loss because of Covid-19.
- India’s astonishing spike in new cases has helped push global infection rates to record levels, and the country announced 323,144 new infections over the last 24 hours, a 10 percent drop from the day before, but experts warned this may be more a function of a fall in testing than a sign the new wave is abating and was still the sixth day with new infection numbers over 300,000 cases.
- The European Union's member states such as Ireland, Belgium, Romania, Luxembourg, Portugal and Sweden said they will supply oxygen concentrators, ventilators and antiviral medicines, including Remdesivir, to India as the nation struggles with a critical shortage of oxygen, according to a statement from the European Commission Tuesday.
- Australia and the Philippines said on Tuesday they would pause commercial flights from India, joining Britain, Canada, Singapore and several other nations that have restricted travel from the country, with Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, saying his government would donate ventilators and protective equipment to help contain the outbreak.
- Brazilian health regulators have issued a scathing rebuke of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, rejecting the shot’s approval in a decision late Monday that could affect its use elsewhere in the world, a ruling from the country’s Health Regulatory Agency, or Anvisa, that cited a range of concerns with development and production, including what it said was a lack of quality control and efficacy data, as well as little if any information on the shot’s adverse effects.
- Americans will have two more years to obtain a Real ID driver’s license or identification card, the Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday, with the new deadline for when US air travelers will be required to present the Real ID credential to board a domestic flight now set for May 3, 2023.
- Researchers in Spain have found “no sign” of higher levels of infection among 5,000 music fans who took part in a large test concert last month, and while six people tested positive within 14 days of attending the show in Barcelona, the incidence was lower than that seen in the general population.
- Organizers of the Burning Man festival announced Tuesday that they were canceling their in-person event for the second straight year, and as they did for the 2020 event said there will be a free “Virtual Burning Man” event beginning on August 21.
- Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday evening he will be walking his dog without a mask after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its recommendations for what precautions fully vaccinated people should take while in public.
- New reported US infections fell by 21 percent over the past week, with the most recent seven-day average coming in at just over 54,400 cases per day, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky saying today the figure was "a really hopeful decline."
- Hospitalizations in the US fell by 9 percent, with an average of more than 5,100 hospital admissions per day over the past seven days, and the most recent seven-day average for daily deaths stood at roughly 660 per day, representing a decline of 6 percent.
- New York City added at least 1,603 new cases and a 3.5% positivity rate, and on Tuesday, Covid-19 hospitalizations totaled 140 - comprising about 2.24 people per 100K hospitalized.
- Philadelphia has seen an alarming outbreak among children and several fully vaccinated adults in one suburb, with eight second-graders and two fully vaccinated family members from Penn Valley Elementary School in quarantine after testing positive - all connected to a single classroom.
- White House Covid-19 adviser Andy Slavitt said during today’s that the administration is paring back the thrice-weekly Covid briefings to twice per week, on Tuesdays and Fridays.
US Restrictions & Schools
- The updated guidance for fully vaccinated people released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a step towards normalcy, but not the last step, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Tuesday, explaining “What we're going to see as more and more people get vaccinated, is that we're going to be able to open up, including indoors, down the line.”
- After the CDC’s announcement on Tuesday, a handful of governors said they would relax their outdoor mask mandates, and in Massachusetts, masks won’t be required unless it is not possible to social distance, Maine recommends wearing a mask outdoors when it’s difficult to stay distanced, and Governor Gavin Newsom of California said that “if you’re fully vaccinated, outdoors and not in a large crowd — you do not need to wear a mask.”
- New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said today that the state would adopt the CDC’s guidance on outdoor mask wearing, adding “That is liberating, especially now that the weather is getting warmer.”
- Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced the end of statewide public health orders and issued an executive order that ends the authority of local officials to issue mask requirements in the 89 counties directed by the state health department, and also asked larger counties with their own health departments to lift restrictions like mask requirements by Memorial Day.
- The State Department announced Tuesday that students, journalists, certain academics and those “who provide critical infrastructure support” from countries affected by travel restrictions may now come to the US under a National Interest Exception.
- Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis has extended the state’s Covid-19 emergency order, set to expire today, for another 60 days, saying the extension was necessary to keep schools open and to protect Floridians from being required to produce a vaccine passport “as a condition of participating in everyday life."
- Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced today that any fully vaccinated residents will no longer have to quarantine if they are exposed to someone with Covid-19, a change that will apply to all adults, except for those in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or other congregate care settings outlined in the new health order, and the state is also changing its health order to allow students 16 and 17 years old to participate in sports and other activities, even when they have been exposed.
- A Miami private school will not employ any teacher or staff member who gets the COVID vaccine, citing a debunked conspiracy theory in their email to the faculty.
- As more colleges and universities announce plans to require all students be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to return to campus, they've placed themselves at the forefront of a politically charged debate over whether institutions should be able to mandate vaccines.
Economy and Business
- Women and people of color are the most likely to say they are financially worse off today than before the pandemic began, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, underscoring the struggles many Americans are still facing even as the broader economy shows signs of improvement.
- BlackRock’s Rick Rieder said the Federal Reserve should start talking about tapering its bond buying soon and is likely to start cutting back on its monthly purchases in the fourth quarter, possibly as early as October, a prediction that is ahead of the view of some others on Wall Street, who expect the Fed to pare back bond purchases early next year.
- A House bill proposed Tuesday aims to make recent enhancements to the child tax credit permanent, with Representative Richard Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and gatekeeper of new tax legislation, issuing a bill that would codify changes made by the recent $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that raised the maximum credit amount, made it fully refundable and allowed families to get the tax break in monthly installments.
- Exxon Mobil Corp. told its Houston-area workforce that all employees will be back in the office on a full-time basis by May 17, with workers required to wear masks and take other anti-pandemic measures in the office until further notice, the oil explorer said in an internal email on Tuesday.
- HSBC Holdings Plc expects to cut its office footprint by 20% this year and is budgeting for half its previous business travel costs as the adoption of flexible working spurs changes to longstanding practices, an announcement that comes after the bank had already committed to a 40% reduction in office space in the long term.
- Shares of Crocs, the maker of foam clogs worn by everyone from children to celebrity chefs, soared Tuesday after the shoemaker raised its 2021 sales forecast, and the company said it expects revenue for the year to increase between 40% and 50%, up from its previous estimate of 20% to 25%.
- India’s economy may shrink in the current quarter as cases surge, but the country could recover in the next one, according to two economists, with one predicting that the gross domestic product will shrink around 1.5% in the current quarter, which ends in June.