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 United States, there now have been a total of 29,526,086 Covid-19 coronavirus cases, resulting in 533,636 deaths and 20,093,442 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been a total of 116,307,456 coronavirus cases, with 2,583,349 resultant fatalities, and 91,960,954 reported recoveries.   (Source.)

•  The Washington Post reports that "at least 54 million people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in the U.S.  This includes more than 27.8 million people who have been fully vaccinated …109.9 million doses have been distributed."

The New York Times reports that this means that "providers are administering about 2.04 million doses per day on average."

•  From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

"Newly reported coronavirus infections ticked down slightly and deaths declined, as the number of cases each day appeared to plateau after a recent drop … While most states continue to see declines, some states are seeing an uptick. The Journal’s analysis showed that in more than 15 states as of Wednesday, the average number of new cases over the past seven days was greater than the average number of cases over the past 14 days, a sign cases are on the rise. Those states include Texas, Arkansas, New Jersey and Mississippi."

Texas?  Mississippi?  Really?  Wonder what they have in common?

•  Dr.  Anthony S. Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), weighed in on the decision by some states to end pandemic-related restrictions and mask mandates, saying, "I don’t know why they’re doing it but it’s certainly, from a public health standpoint, ill-advised."

The Washington Post writes that Fauci also called the decision "inexplicable."

Maybe not so much.

I am reminded this morning about Michael Sansolo's chapter about the movie Charlie Wilson's War in our book, "The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies."  In the movie - which tracks what happened in real life, Rep. Charlie Wilson (ironically, from Texas!) pushes for US funding of Afghan freedom fighters.  When it is delivered, the rebels begin to make strides in their battle against the Soviets.  However, when the Soviets withdraw, the US cuts off additional funding that would have built schools, restored plumbing, and dramatically improved conditions in Afghanistan - allowing the country to fall into chaos and proving a window for the Taliban.  In the words of the movie, "We F#@*&ed up the endgame."  Which is exactly what could happen here if we allow impatience and exhaustion to dictate our actions against Covid-19.

•  Great quote this morning from West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, whose state has been highly effective at vaccine distribution, explaining why he is resistant to removing mask mandates and other restrictions at this time:

"One robin does not make spring."

•  The Wall Street Journal also reports that "Connecticut is lifting all capacity limits on offices, retail shops and restaurants in the state’s most expansive rollback of restrictions since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

"The restrictions, which currently cap capacity at 50%, end on March 19, according to state officials. Capacity limits at gyms, bowling alleys, libraries and houses of worship will also be lifted on that date. Personal-service businesses like barber shops and salons can also fully reopen.

"Connecticut’s mask mandate, however, will remain in effect."

“This is not Texas. This is not Mississippi. We are maintaining the masks,” said Gov. Ned Lamont.

Too much, too soon, methinks.  

But I also have to think that what the states says will be less important than how consumers react.  I know that it'll be awhile before I am comfortable going to a bar or sitting inside a restaurant, especially one that is crowded.  I'm guessing that some restrictions could be reimposed within six weeks.  I hope I'm wrong.

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that "a backlash is growing in Connecticut and Maine following the adoption of age-based eligibility rules for Covid-19 vaccinations that will force some people with serious medical conditions and essential workers to wait longer for their turn.

"The two states are the only ones in the country to base eligibility for the Covid-19 vaccine mostly on age. In recent weeks, both abandoned previous plans to also give priority to people with certain underlying medical conditions and people working in some occupations. In Connecticut, people 55 years and older are currently permitted to get the vaccine, and in Maine people 60 and older can get it.

"Younger people will become eligible in phases. Both states have carved out an exception for people who work in education."

The story points out that "the eligibility criteria for Covid-19 vaccines varies by state, but all have given priority to vaccinating their oldest residents and healthcare workers. The vast majority also follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines to give priority to people with high-risk underlying medical conditions and essential workers."

First - full disclosure.  I live in Connecticut, and I am old enough to have gotten my first Moderna shot more than two weeks ago.  Mrs. Content Guy got her first shot this week.  My daughter, who is 26, is a teacher and is scheduled to get her first shot later today.  So as a family, we've benefitted from the change in Connecticut policy and the fact that the governor has decided to ignore CDC recommendations.

I have to admit that I am troubled by the Connecticut approach - mostly because I know people with high-risk health conditions who are younger than I am, and who have been unable to get vaccination appointments.  They should've been able to go before me, and the Connecticut approach to public health policy was inadequate for the moment.

I will tell you, however, that whatever the inadequacies and inequities here, it could be a lot worse.  I did a remote speech to an Irish group this week, and at the beginning I asked how many folks had been vaccinated.  The answer was - nobody.  In Ireland, unless you are a healthcare worker or live in a nursing home, the demographic currently being vaccinated is age 85+.  (A large part of the problem there is vaccine supply, apparently.)  The Gaelic response to this, I think, would be, "Cac asail!"

•  The Seattle Times reports that "with federal COVID-19 vaccine shipments on the rise, Gov. Jay Inslee Thursday expanded the list of Washingtonians eligible for doses in the coming weeks to law enforcement, public transit and grocery workers, and to people incarcerated, people experiencing homelessness and people with underlying medical conditions.

"The new timelines — which are still tentative — nonetheless put some specifics to a vaccination plan that is picking up speed after a slow start … The governor pointed to the quickening pace of vaccinations in Washington, saying more than 1.7 million doses have so far been administered. That includes two recent days where more than 60,000 doses were administered each day, he said, calling it 'a remarkable acceleration of our vaccination program'."

•  The New York Times has a story about an additional vaccine problem occurring globally - there are not enough syringes.

From the Times story:

"Officials in the United States and the European Union have said they need more. And in January, Brazil restricted exports of syringes and needles when its vaccination efforts fell short.

Further complicating the challenge, not just any syringe will do the trick.

"Japan revealed last month that it might have to discard millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine if it couldn’t secure enough syringes able to draw out a sixth dose from vials. In January, the Food and Drug Administration advised health care providers in the United States that they could extract more doses from the Pfizer vials after hospitals there discovered that some contained enough for a sixth — or even a seventh — shot."

According to the story, "The world needs between eight billion and 10 billion syringes for Covid-19 vaccinations alone, experts say."

•   The Washington Post reports that after eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo were found to have Covid-19 earlier this year, the zoo said this week that "four orangutans and five bonobos have now received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine made specifically for animals. They’re the first nonhuman primates to be vaccinated against the virus, which has been shown to infect a number of mammals."

The Post writes that Pascal Gagneux, a zoologist at the University of California at San Diego, says that "the zoo made the right decision.  'It makes quite a bit of sense. These animals are incredibly precious.  There’s a very finite number of great apes in captivity."

•  From Fast Company:

"Ro, an online pharmacy that got its start prescribing sexual health products, is now offering to vaccinate seniors at home in New York.  The company is working with the New York Department of Health as well as local organizations on the effort."

The program is being tested in Yonkers, New York.

"Ro’s nurses, who are supplied through a staffing agency, pick up doses from healthcare providers and bring them directly to a roster of patients based on their proximity," the story says.  "After giving a patient a shot, nurses will monitor them for 20 minutes just in case there is a rare adverse event.

"Ro CEO Zachariah Reitano says he believes that his company will be able to deliver at least one vial of 10 doses per healthcare provider every day. If there are extra doses left over at the end of the day, Reitano says that Ro is working with the mayor’s office to give excess vaccines to essential workers like police officers and firefighters. The goal is to expand the program over time to other parts of the state."

Wait a minute.  An online pharmacy specializing in sexual health is going to nursing homes to give vaccines?  I hope they don't get their syringes mixed up.