business news in context, analysis with attitude

Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and how businesses and various business sectors are trying to recover from it, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  In the US, here are the numbers:  17,628,568 confirmed Covid-19 coronavirus cases, with 317,929 resultant deaths and 10,294,941 reported recoveries.

Globally, there now have been 75,380,870 confirmed coronavirus cases, 1,670,620 fatalities, and 52,938,025 reported  recoveries.  (Source.)

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recommended Thursday that Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine be cleared for broad use, setting the stage for the FDA to grant an expected emergency-use authorization by late Friday.

"The advisory panel’s vote was 20-0, with one abstention, to recommend use of the Moderna vaccine for people 18 years of age and older."

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"Newly reported cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. dipped from a record high a day earlier, as did deaths, but hospitalizations continued to set records … Hospitalizations hit a record for a 12th straight day, with 114,237 people admitted, including 21,900 in intensive care, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

"In Southern California, one of the hardest-hit areas of the nation, intensive-care unit capacity reached 0% on Thursday. Although officials have said that hitting 0% doesn’t mean that no beds are available, Southern California’s ICU capacity has steadily eroded as case numbers have climbed.

"Hospitalizations in New York are also surging. The number of people hospitalized for Covid-19 across New York state reached 6,147 people on Thursday, a figure not seen since mid-May and more than six times the number of patients hospitalized for the disease just two months ago."

•  The Washington Post reports that "in Boston, pediatric wards are being consolidated to fit all the adults battling covid-19. Philadelphia hospitals are once again barring family visitors due to transmission worries. And in Los Angeles, a public hospital canceled elective and scheduled surgeries because it cannot spare ICU beds.

"Mounting hospitalizations in these and other states are pushing some hospital systems to near breaking points, with many scrambling to reconfigure themselves to handle a crush of patients streaming in after holiday gatherings and the arrival of flu season."

•  From the Washington Post:

"The Food and Drug Administration reiterated Thursday that the newly authorized Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine should continue to be used with no new restrictions despite several reports of health-care workers who had a severe allergic reaction after receiving the injection.

"Two of those incidents happened in the United Kingdom last week, and a third in Alaska on Tuesday. Another Alaska hospital employee had a brief but much less serious reaction on Wednesday.

"The FDA said it is closely monitoring these situations and is teaming with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate what incited these responses. While that is being investigated, the FDA is working with Pfizer to update fact sheets and prescribing information to reflect the evolving information. 

"The FDA said that would underscore an existing requirement — that facilities administering the vaccine must be capable of immediately treating any severe allergic reaction."

•  USA Today reports that "Uber will offer 10 million free or discounted rides to people looking to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.  The rides include transportation to and from their destination, as well as rides for their second and final dose."

The story says that Uber is partnering "with organizations dedicated to serving communities of color, such as the National Urban League, the Morehouse School of Medicine and the National Action Network, to help target riders that could benefit from the offer the most."

•  The New York Times has a story about how a mass-vaccination program designed to target residents and employees in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, who have been hard-hit by the coronavirus.  "In coming days, squads of CVS and Walgreens employees, clad in protective gear and carrying small coolers, will begin to arrive" at these facilities, prepared to administer vaccinations.

But, the Times writes, "even before it begins, the mass-vaccination campaign is facing serious obstacles that are worrying nursing home executives, industry watchdogs, elder-care lawyers and medical experts. They expect nursing homes to be the most challenging front in the mission to vaccinate Americans.

"Some residents and staff are balking at taking the vaccine. Short-staffed facilities are concerned about workers calling in sick with side effects, straining resources just as some frail residents are likely to experience fever and fatigue from the shot."

And, the Times writes, "there remains widespread confusion about a key element: how nursing homes will get consent to vaccinate residents who aren’t able to make their own medical decisions. A CVS executive said such residents’ legal representatives will be able to provide consent to nursing homes electronically or over the phone, but officials at multiple large nursing home chains said they weren’t aware of that.

"If residents or their representatives haven’t given consent before CVS or Walgreens employees show up, it is not clear whether or when they will have another chance to be inoculated."

•  Business Insider reports that "CVS Health is planning to pay special $250 bonuses to almost 200,000 of its workers to reward them for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The bonuses are for part-time and full-time workers in a variety of roles, including retail, long-term care pharmacy, distribution, pharmacy benefit management, and other areas.

"This is the second time CVS has paid bonuses during the pandemic. CVS offered bonuses ranging from $100 to $500 in March."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that an independent report has criticized the Swedish government's approach to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.  The story notes that "in the spring, Sweden hoped the virus would spread chiefly among the young and healthy, creating herd immunity with minimal deaths."

Now, "The increase in deaths and hospitalizations has already forced Sweden to set aside a policy of using voluntary measures to contain the virus, a strategy that has drawn global interest. By contrast, most European countries have used lockdowns and mandatory restrictions to contain the virus this year … With a daily average of over 6,000 new cases over the past week, hospitals in virtually all of the country are under strain, Ann Söderström, Sweden’s director of health and medical care, told reporters Tuesday. In Stockholm, hospitals have nearly twice as many Covid-19 patients as they do intensive-care beds, said Bjorn Eriksson, the city’s health and medical care director."

Interesting, since there are folks in this country who point to Sweden as an example of how to do it right, of how herd immunity is the best way to approach the pandemic.  Not so much, apparently.