FS-ISAC Coronavirus Update, May 18, 2021

May 18, 2021

Headlines

  • For the first time since the pandemic began over a year ago, Covid-19 cases are down in all 50 states, President Joe Biden announced during a White House press conference on the nation’s progress fighting the virus, but warned that the progress could still be reversed and cases rise again, especially in states where a low percentage of people have been vaccinated.
  • The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccines appear to offer protection against the B.1.617 and B.1.618 variants first identified in India, researchers have reported in a new pre-print paper posted to the online server biorxiv.org on Sunday, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, with The researchers finding some decreases in neutralization, but overall, antibodies from people who had been vaccinated appeared to work "well above" the serum from people who had recovered from Covid-19 caused by earlier versions of the coronavirus.
  • President Biden announced today that the US will share at least 20 million doses of vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson for a total of 80 million doses globally by the end of June, five times more than any other country has shared to date and representing 13% of vaccines produced by the country by the end of June, with White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients to lead the efforts in global distribution.
  • With nearly 49,000 new cases, the US saw the lowest number of weekly Covid-19 infections among children since late-October, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday, accounting for 24% of the new cases reported late last week, and as of May 13, more than 3.9 million children have tested positive since the start of the pandemic.
  • Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, predicted Monday that by June nobody will be wearing masks, adding “I think prevalence is really collapsing around the country and we're going to be at a point where there's very little infection and the individual risk to a person is low.”
  • Across the country, US restaurant owners are grappling with confusion, wondering what the new masks and social distancing rules mean for their businesses and some fearing that the shift could lead to more potential conflict with guests over masking up and spreading out, and even before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement, many were attempting what feels like their 1,000th “pivot” of the pandemic, as many states and localities are loosening rules on restaurants’ capacity limits.
  • The world is reporting 1 million fewer coronavirus cases each week than it had been during the peak just three weeks ago, an analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows, and in the week ending Sunday, the world reported 4.74 million new cases, compared with 5.78 million cases in the week ending April 28, with the US, Turkey and France contributing the most to the decline of reported cases from several weeks ago.
  • The global pandemic isn’t over yet despite high Covid vaccination rates in some countries, the head of the World Health Organization warned on Monday, days after fully vaccinated Americans were told they can go without masks in most places, with Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus saying that “There is a huge disconnect growing where in some countries with the highest vaccination rates, there appears to be a mindset that the pandemic is over, while others are experiencing huge waves of infections,” warning that “It will not be over anywhere until it’s over everywhere.”
  • COVAX, the global vaccine-sharing program, is expected to have a shortfall of 140 million doses as a result of the ongoing crisis in India, according to UNICEF, a partner with COVAX, saying in a statement it had hoped to have delivered its 170 millionth dose of vaccine this week, but undersupply from India - home to the Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine maker - has resulted in a “severe reduction” in vaccines available to the vaccine equity scheme.
  • About 39 million American low- and moderate-income families will begin receiving $250 or $300 direct child benefit cash payments July 15 under the newly expanded Child Tax Credit starting July 15, with payments continuing on a monthly basis through December, and most eligible families receiving them via direct deposit.
  • Americans are rushing to travel again and breaking pandemic-era records, now flying at levels 70% of pre-pandemic levels, with the US Transportation Security Administration screening more than 1.8 million people at airports on Sunday, the most since March 8, 2020, a new number that is an 8% increase over the same day a week ago and more than six times greater than the depressed figures of a year ago.
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill, Target, CVS Health and Starbucks joined a growing list of retailers and restaurants that eased mask requirements on Monday for fully vaccinated customers, unless facial coverings are required by local or state law.
  • A random poll conducted by a major Japanese newspaper over the weekend shows that 43% of respondents were in favor of canceling the Olympics and Paralympics this summer, while 40% of respondents believed that the games should be postponed again, with the poll published in Asahi Shimbun newspaper showing only 14% of respondents believe Tokyo 2020 should be held this summer as currently planned.

US Outbreak

  1. Average daily Covid cases fell to about 33,200 on Sunday, a seven-day average of Hopkins data shows, a steep decline from the most recent peak of more than 71,000 per day in mid-April, with average daily counts falling by at least 5% in more than 40 states over the past week.
  2. The latest seven-day average of US Covid deaths is 602, according to Hopkins data, down 7% from a week prior, and on Saturday, the seven-day average dipped below 600 for the first time since July.
  3. States in the Northeast, after experiencing spikes in infections earlier this year, are reporting significant drops in cases and hospitalizations, with Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island all reporting many fewer infections in recent weeks as more people receive vaccinations, and New York and New Jersey also seeing steady declines in cases after struggling to contain the virus earlier this spring.
  4. Hospitals are seeing fewer Covid-19 patients but increasingly the ones who do land in the hospital are 50 or younger, according to national data, and with older Americans vaccinated at higher rates, health officials and epidemiologists said they aren’t surprised that more hospital beds are being filled with younger patients.
  5. New Jersey reported Monday the state had just 490 new positive PCR tests, 66 presumed positive antigen tests, and there were only 827 patients in hospitals.
  6. Pennsylvania’s reported cases have dropped 44 percent and hospitalizations have dropped 28 percent in the past two weeks after infections in the state started to rise in mid-March and continued to climb for weeks before reversing course in late April.
  7. Rhode Island’s confirmed cases have dropped 48 percent and hospitalizations have dropped 23 percent in the past two weeks, a fall state officials attribute to increased vaccinations.

The World

  1. Pakistan’s new infections dropped to the lowest level in nine weeks after it imposed a week-long shutdown, according to data by Johns Hopkins University.
  2. Italy is maintaining a nationwide curfew to try and curb its outbreak but will push it back from 10PM to 11PM. government officials said Monday, with officials stressing that it will only remain in place for a set amount of time until fully eliminated on June 21.
  3. The Netherlands will ease lockdown restrictions starting on Wednesday as the vaccination rollout eases pressure on hospitals, a government spokesperson said today, with step two of the country’s “opening plan” to commence this week with outdoor dining resuming until 8PM local time and open air theatres, cinemas, museums, amusement parks and zoos to also reopen Wednesday.
  4. Tanzania's new president Samia Suluhu Hassan’s Covid-19 special committee recommended restrictions to curb a looming third wave in the country and has also recommended the government resume public health information on the Covid-19 situation, including reporting cases which was stopped in late April 2020.

Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment

  1. The European Medicines Agency has updated its recommended storage conditions for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, now saying the vials can remain in normal fridge temperatures before they are opened, for up a month.
  2. Researchers in a new study on the variants first identified in India examined how Regeneron's monoclonal antibody cocktail therapy, called REGN-COV2, and it found that it worked against the B.1.617 and B.1.618 mutations, with both appearing to be "partially resistant" to the therapy.