FS-ISAC Coronavirus Update, Feb. 23, 2021


  • At least 1,932 cases of coronavirus strains have been reported in the US, according to data updated Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the vast majority of infections - 1,881 - the more  contagious variant known as B.1.1.7, originally detected in the United Kingdom and now found in 43 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, with more than a quarter in Florida.
  • The US Food and Drug Administration's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee meets on Friday to discuss the request for emergency use authorization from Johnson & Johnson for its vaccine candidate.
  • A new report out Tuesday warns that a more transmissible variant of coronavirus threatens to start a renewed surge of infections in March, and suggests the US speed up vaccination by skipping second doses for now, with Epidemiologist Michael Osterholm and colleagues at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota recommended that people over 65 should go to the front of the line, since they are by far the most vulnerable to severe disease and death.
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that states will now receive 14.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines per week, up from 8.6 million doses per week when the President took office and an increase in vaccine allocations of nearly 70% during the Biden Harris administration.
  • Pfizer and Moderna - the two companies with Covid-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use in the US – pledged Tuesday to make a combined total of 220 million doses available for shipment by the end of March, and Johnson & Johnson, which has yet to receive an emergency use authorization for its Covid-19 vaccine, pledged to make 20 million doses available in the same time frame – including 4 million that will be ready to immediately ship when approved.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he expects US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for fully vaccinated people will be coming soon, adding “I believe you’re going to be hearing more of the recommendations of how you can relax the stringency of some of the things, particularly when you’re dealing with something like your own personal family when people have been vaccinated.”
  • President Biden indicated the White House will move to send masks directly to the American people as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, something that was originally proposed by health officials during the previous administration, saying “We're probably going to be sending out an awful lot of mask around the country very shortly, millions of them.”
  • The Education Department told states Monday they are still required to administer annual exams to students, part of the national schools accountability program, though the agency offered flexibility in how the tests are given, with states able to seek permission to move assessments to the fall, administer tests remotely and/or shorten the exam.
  • Covid-19 is likely to be a problem for the next few winters - despite vaccination programs -  the chief medical officer for England, Chris Whitty, said Monday, explaining “This is something that we have to see for the long term and, in my view, is likely to be a problem in particular during the winter for the next few winters.”
  • As all eyes are on whether the Senate parliamentarian will allow an increase in the minimum wage in the Senate’s Covid-19 relief package, Democrats are having discussions about alternative paths they could take to salvage their increase in the minimum wage.
  • The economic recovery is uneven, far from complete and depends largely on controlling the pandemic, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell told Congress Tuesday morning, saying that “The resurgence in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in recent months is causing great hardship for millions of Americans and is weighing on economic activity and job creation.”
  • More than one-third of 950 Americans reported feeling lonely at least “frequently” in the previous four weeks, according to a newly released survey by researchers at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, conducted in October, that’s higher than the quarter of respondents who recalled feeling serious loneliness in the two months before the pandemic, and 28% of respondents said they had experienced increases in the frequency of their loneliness, with young adults and mothers felt especially isolated.
  • The trifecta of the pandemic, required social isolation, and social unrest has driven many of us to more extreme behavior and worries, including paranoia, with Dr. Bandy X. Lee, a New York City-based forensic psychiatrist who is currently president of the World Mental Health Coalition, saying "The pandemic has brought on great uncertainty and stress. “
  • A day after a similar gesture by President Biden, on Tuesday evening congressional leaders from both parties held a moment of silence on the steps of the US Capitol for the 500,000 lives lost to the coronavirus, and multiple governors have ordered flags being flown at half-staff to honor the victims
  • People around the world are calling Crocs the “it” shoe of the pandemic, as consumers flock to the brand for its comfortable and versatile footwear to accommodate their more casual lifestyles, with the company reporting huge sales gains last quarter, making CEO Andrew Rees optimistic about the brand’s future outlook as the company introduces new products, such as sandals.

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Vaccines – US

  1. AstraZeneca Plc expects its vaccine could receive US Emergency Use Authorization at the beginning of April and could immediately deliver 30 million doses of the shot there, a top executive said at a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday.
  2. More than 65 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 79% of the 82,114,370 delivered but only about 850,000 more reported since yesterday, with a seven-day average of about 1.4 million doses per day.
  3. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that, if that state gets approval, a federal vaccination site in Miami-Dade County will offer vaccines to law enforcement officers and teachers who are 50 years and older, in addition to senior citizens.
  4. Texas health officials were optimistic that vaccine distribution would get back on track by the end of the week, after last week's power crisis prompted shipping delays, canceled appointments and destroyed more than 900 doses of the vaccine across the state.
  5. New York state has administered more than 2.25 million first doses - 91% of the first doses it received from the federal government, according to the governor of New York, with more than 1.18 million New Yorkers have been fully vaccinated, according to state data.
  6. New York state officials said that 81 people who received vaccinations at the state-run vaccination site at Jones Beach will need to be revaccinated due to temperature fluctuations with the vaccine, less than a quarter of 1% of the people who receive shots on that specific day.
  7. Houston plans to prioritize residents of “high-risk” ZIP codes for more than 125,000 shots it plans to administer at a professional football stadium starting this week, and when the megasite opens at NRG Park within days, people 65 and older who live in neighborhoods with high positivity rates and meet other economic and social criteria will be first in line, next come 65-year-olds from other areas, followed by people 60 to 64 from high-risk zones.
  8. New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority will vaccinate its employees at a dedicated site in Brooklyn starting Wednesday, with officials saying it will be able to inoculate up to 200 transit workers per day.
  9. Virginia officials said Tuesday a feature that was supposed to allow residents seeking vaccinations to check a list to confirm that they are registered has not been working, leading to confusion and anxiety among those who couldn’t confirm that their names were carried over from wait lists kept by their local health districts to the state’s new centralized system for appointments.
  10. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday that if Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine candidate is granted emergency use authorization the number of doses will likely be relatively few at first, but will ramp up to meet contractual agreements.
  11. A vaccination clinic call center for seniors in Michigan was overwhelmed when it received nearly 1 million calls on Monday.

US Outbreak

  1. Nationwide, the rates of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths are declining, with the number of patients admitted with Covid-19 falling for the 40th day in a row, according to the COVID Tracking Project, and daily deaths have declined 24% this past week compared to the previous week, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  2. New cases and hospitalizations are on the downswing in the US and around the world, but hot spots along the East Coast have been sticking around longer compared to the rest of the country, and in the current wave of regional outbreaks, eight states that border the Atlantic Ocean have seen upticks in the past few months and only recently have started to level off or decline.
  3. South Carolina leads the nation with the highest rate of new cases, followed by New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Florida, Delaware and Georgia.
  4. New York state added 6,654 new cases Tuesday, marking a 4.23% positivity, and the 7-day average percent positivity is at 3.46%.
  5. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that he believed the city’s case numbers and positive test rates had not declined more dramatically because of population density, a legacy of poverty and a high number of New Yorkers without health care.
  6. Once lauded as essential and deserving of "hazard pay" for working during the pandemic, grocery store employees are now treated as "expendable," according to the head of the union that represents them, with Marc Perrone, international president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, saying today that "Ninety percent of our members are more afraid today than they were 60 days ago and 30 days ago because of the new variants."
  7. Forty-one percent of New York voters say Governor Andrew M. Cuomo did something unethical - but not illegal  - when they were asked about his handling of nursing homes in the state during the pandemic, according to a new Marist poll.

Business Related

  1. White House press secretary Jen Psaki would not say whether President Biden would sign a relief bill where the minimum wage is increased to $11 an hour as opposed to the $15 an hour that the President proposed.
  2. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a relief package Tuesday that includes $600 one-time payments for 5.7 million state residents with low-to-moderate incomes, with the $7.6 billion package, paid for by a $15 billion windfall of higher-than-expected tax receipts, also aiming to support small businesses.
  3. After announcing store staff layoffs two weeks ago, Best Buy said it will pay pandemic-related bonuses to hourly workers and will also allow extra paid time off for employees who receive the vaccine,
  4. Home Depot’s fourth-quarter earnings revealed that many Americans are still investing in their homes, as the home improvement retailer topped Wall Street’s earnings estimates, with its U.S. same-store sales growing by 25% - matching the sharp growth rate it saw in the early quarters of the pandemic when homeowners tackled do-it-yourself projects, spruced up their yards and took advantage of mild spring weather.
  5. United Kingdom holidaymakers have begun showering airlines with summer bookings after Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined a road map for air travel to return, with EasyJet Plc ticket sales more than quadrupled in the hours after the announcement Monday that international trips may restart as soon as May 17, and tour operator TUI AG said holiday bookings to Spain, Turkey and Greece jumped sixfold overnight.
  6. Mexico has logged more than 180,000 Covid-19 deaths but has some of the world's loosest entry requirements for foreigners, with visitors not required to submit negative test results, and there is no mandatory quarantine, but the pandemic’s economic effect on the tourism industry has still been devastating.