FS-ISAC Coronavirus Update, Feb. 22, 2021


  • At least a half a million people have now died from Covid-19 in the US since the pandemic began, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, meaning that about one in every 660 Americans have lost their lives since the first fatality was reported on February 29, 2020 in Washington.
  • President Biden marked half a million Covid-19 US deaths with a moment of silence and a candle lighting ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House this evening, and ordered all flags on federal property be lowered to half-staff for the next five days.
  • At the beginning of today’s Covid-19 briefing, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky touted encouraging numbers in declining new cases, deaths, and hospital admissions, but also offered a note of caution, warning “We continue to see trends head in the right direction, but cases, hospital admissions, and deaths remain at very high levels.”
  • New findings from Public Health England show shots given in the United Kingdom provide a high level of protection against infection and illness after a single dose, with the initial data in medical workers released Monday showing that one shot of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine reduced the risk of infection by more than 70% and 85% after the second dose, findings that suggest the shot helps interrupt transmission, yet it’s unclear how much.
  • More than two months after the first coronavirus vaccine shots were distributed in the US, many states and local governments are providing limited vaccine information in languages other than English, and language and cultural barriers are making it difficult for many people of color, immigrants and non-English-speaking communities to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Only 18% of US counties have coronavirus spread that is at the low to moderate level needed for safest return to in-person school, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Monday.
  • A study published Monday that showed teachers and not students were the probable source of several school-related Covid-19 outbreaks demonstrates the need to scale up vaccination efforts, Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, but she did not said teachers need to go to the front of the line for vaccines, and instead schools need to work harder to make sure teachers, staff and students wear masks properly and maintain social distancing as possible.
  • The Food and Drug Administration said Monday vaccines that are modified to protect against new, emerging variants may be authorized without the need for lengthy clinical trials, ensuring optimized drugs could hit the market quickly once developed, with the companies behind the adjusted drugs needing to submit data that shows the modified vaccine produces a similar immune response to the original formula and is safe.
  • The House Budget Committee voted 19 to 16 Monday to advance President Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package, and while the committee will continue to hold votes on non-binding resolutions, but this is the official step triggering the legislation to go to the House floor for a vote later this week.
  • President Biden on Monday criticized the Paycheck Protection Program created at the start of the coronavirus pandemic because small businesses struggled to get subsidized loans that instead went to larger companies with more resources, and announced a 14-day exclusive loan program using PPP funds for businesses with under 20 employees to apply for financial assistance.
  • As the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine ramps up across the US, women of childbearing age - who make up a large share of the health-care workforce - have emerged as a surprising roadblock to efforts to halt the pandemic by achieving herd immunity, largely due to disinformation spread on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, with vaccine uptake at nursing homes and hospitals as low as 20 to 50 percent in some places - a far cry from the 70 to 85 percent population target that health officials say may be needed to stop the virus.

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Vaccine Rollout – US

  1. According to data published Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 64 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the US, about 85% of the 75,205,940 doses delivered and around 1.1 million more than yesterday.
  2. About 13% of the US population - more than 44.1 million people - have now received at least one dose of vaccine, and nearly 6% of the population - about 19.4 million people - have been fully vaccinated with two doses, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday.
  3. The US government is working to correct problems with the federal system for tracking the shipment and administration of vaccines after state officials said it was not accurately reflecting the progress of the vaccine rollout, a top healthcare official said on Monday.
  4. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said the state will expand vaccine eligibility to people between the ages of 55 to 64 on March 1, and that eligibility will expand by age tiers in the following weeks, starting with ages 45 to 54 on March 22, age 35 to 44 on April 12 and 16 to 34 on May 3.
  5. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said today that although the state has administered vaccines to 1.7 million residents including 763,000 seniors, the vaccine demand continues to vastly outpace supply.
  6. New York City has administered over 1.5 million vaccine doses to date, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday, and despite vaccine shipping delays due to winter weather last week, said the city is still on track to achieve its goal of fully-vaccinating five million residents by June 2021.
  7. Georgia opened four new mass vaccination sites across the state on Monday, which are expected to administer shots to as many as 1,100 people per day.
  8. Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House Covid-19 response team, said that all backlogged doses of vaccines that were delayed due to winter weather last week will be delivered by mid-week, adding that once the weather began to improve, there was “an all-out, around-the-clock effort from our teams and partners” to get back on track with vaccine shipments.
  9. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores is urging the Biden administration to more fully supply pharmacies with vaccine, saying demand for vaccines is “stratospheric,” and in a letter sent to the White House, the association said only 1 million of 73 million total doses distributed throughout the nation to date were part of the soft launch of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program on February 11.

US Outbreak

  1. President Biden warned Americans this evening not to allow Covid-19's staggering death toll to lead to numbness, callousness or apathy, saying "We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow," and that "We have to resist viewing each life as a statistic or a blur or on the news."
  2. New cases have declined steadily for five weeks, with the current weekly average down 74% from its peak on January 11, and today’s seven-day average is now at 66,000 cases per day and comparable to last summer’s peak, accordingly to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Monday.
  3. Covid-19 fatalities fell for the third week in a row and are almost 30% lower this week than last week, with hospitalizations down 15 percent, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
  4. Nationally, 5.3% of tests came back positive for the virus, the lowest level since the week ended October 18, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project, with the rate remaining above 20% in South Dakota, Kansas, Alabama and Idaho.
  5. California’s number of patients in state hospitals with COVID-19 has fallen below 7,000, a drop of more than a third over two weeks, state health officials said today.
  6. Texas on Sunday reported the state’s lowest number of Covid-related hospitalizations - 7,146, since mid-November.
  7. West Virginia has had 36 straight days of active cases dropping in the state and marking the first time since November 12 below 9,000, Governor Jim Justice said Monday, with new infections down to 248 in the last 24 hours.
  8. New York City reported a 7.2% positivity rate, and at least 252 new Covid-19 patients have been hospitalized, for a hospitalization rate of 4.09 per every 100,000 residents.
  9. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said again on Monday that Americans might be wearing masks into 2022, and although there may be far less spread of the coronavirus, people must be prepared for the possibility of another surge of cases, explaining that “The point I was trying to make is that people ask you to make a projection when there are so many variables in there that are unpredictable.”

US Restrictions & Schools

  1. New York City movie theaters will be allowed to reopen beginning March 5 at 25% capacity or 50 people per screening, Governor Andrew Cuomo said today, with seating assigned, masks required and staff to control occupancy and traffic flow to ensure compliance.
  2. New Jersey, home to several major league sports teams, will allow a limited number of fans to attend sports and entertainment events at venues with 5,000 or more seats as soon as next week, Governor Philip D. Murphy said on Monday, with indoor limited to 10% of their seating capacity, while outdoor venues will be limited to 15% capacity.
  3. Nearly 53 million children - about 72% of the US population under the age of 18 - live in a county considered a red zone with high levels of Covid-19 transmission under school reopening guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which means they cannot “strictly implement” the key mitigation strategies, according to an analysis of federal data and representing a 29% improvement week-over-week.
  4. The University of Maryland will move all classes online for the next week and has asked students who live on the College Park campus to stay in their residences in an effort to squelch a worrisome rise in infections.

Business Related

  1. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged Monday that the country is at a "crossroads," saying the US economy is now "chomping at the bit to rebuild the prosperity we lost last year," and crediting the bipartisan Covid relief legislation passed last year in Congress for getting the country to this pivotal moment.
  2. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen discussed the road to economic recovery from the pandemic today, saying a successful recovery to her “would be if we could get back to pre-pandemic levels of employment,” and adding that “We need to make sure that those who are most affected are not permanently scarred by this crisis.”
  3. Senator Joe Manchin said he would try to amend the Covid-19 relief package with a federal minimum wage hike of $11 an hour, a move he argues will allow the party to get behind a compromise on one of the thorniest issues in the debate.