Lifestyle and Economy Archives

December 2020


  • A mutant strain of the coronavirus, called B.1.1.7, prompted strict lockdown measures in England and halted travel between the U.K. and more than 40 countries following reports that the mutant virus is spreading between people more quickly. Scientists are not yet sure of the strain’s importance or whether it is more contagious. It has also been detected in South Africa and Australia.
    • WHO officials said Monday that there is no evidence at this point to suggest that the new coronavirus variant discovered in the U.K. "is more likely to cause severe disease or mortality.”
  • The CDC said it is monitoring reports of severe allergic reactions to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in a COVID-19 vaccine, CDC recommends that you should not get that specific vaccine. If you have had a severe allergic reaction to other vaccines or injectable therapies, you should ask your doctor if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine.
    • The NIH said Monday it is planning a study to find out what’s behind the handful of severe allergic reactions that have been reported. Medical experts say that Pfizer’s vaccine is still safe for the general public, noting that allergic reactions are extremely rare and expected on a small scale with any type of vaccine.
  • More than 3 million elderly and infirm residents of nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities may face delays in getting coronavirus vaccines as the facilities confront the difficult task of obtaining consent, consumer advocates say.
  • More than a million travelers a day passed through American airport security checkpoints on each of the last three days, a spike in holiday travel that comes despite warnings from the CDC against travel.
  • Delta Air Lines said on Monday that it will require pre-departure COVID-19 tests from passengers leaving the U.K. who are flying to New York.
  • Virgin Atlantic will also require all travelers from London to the United States to present evidence of a negative COVID-19 test before departure under a new pre-departure screening beginning Dec. 24.
  • Health officials are administering the first doses of a coronavirus vaccine in Indigenous communities across the U.S., one of the populations most vulnerable in the pandemic. About 68,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses will initially be distributed among the population, the Indian Health Service said.
  • Stanford Medicine apologized on Friday for its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan – a plan that came under fire for leaving out nearly all of its medical residents and fellows, many of whom regularly treat COVID-19 patients.
  • During a "Sesame Street" town hall with CNN on Saturday, NIH director Dr. Anthony Fauci assured kids Santa Claus would be able to visit them on Christmas, because he traveled to the North Pole to vaccinate Santa personally.
  • After moving their entire football operation to Arizona for what they initially hoped would be just a three-week stay, the San Francisco 49ers will finish the 2020 regular season in the desert. A team spokesman said the decision was made to remain in the Phoenix area through the end of the NFL season after Santa Clara County announced it would be extending its COVID-19 restrictions, including a ban on contact sports, through at least Jan. 8.
  • There were nearly 12,000 more deaths than expected among young adults between March and July, according to new research published last week in JAMA.
  • The WHO keeps a running list of COVID-19 vaccine candidates, which you can view here. STAT News also has a resource tracking COVID-19 drugs and vaccines. The New York Times has a very helpful vaccine tracker as well, which you can view here. This AVAC pipeline tracker is great, too.
  • The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security has an extensive list of commercial and lab-developed tests.


  • A new MMWR release outlines the estimated resource costs for the successful implementation of CDC’s recommended COVID-19 mitigation strategies in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12 in public schools.
  • Based on early data, COVID-19 is now likely the leading cause of death in the U.S., ahead of heart disease and cancer, according to a research letter in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
  • A Johns Hopkins University medical expert estimates that between 53,000 and 54,000 U.S. hospital workers could become infected with COVID-19 during the course of the pandemic. His team also projects the number of U.S. hospital worker deaths for the same time period to be approximately 1,600.
  • Nearly 50 Georgia kids may have been exposed to COVID-19 after posing for a photo op with Santa at an annual Christmas parade.
  • Like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York City Marathon, and other iconic events in 2020, New Year's Eve in Times Square will take place this year without the crowd.
  • Twitter said that starting next week, the company will “prioritize the removal of the most harmful misleading information” and begin to label Tweets that contain potentially misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines.
  • The start of the Australian Open will be delayed by three weeks due to the pandemic. The first Grand Slam tournament of the year, the Open usually takes place in the last two weeks of January. Now, it will start on Feb. 8, 2021.
  • The NFL plans to invite health care workers who have received the coronavirus vaccine to February’s Super Bowl as guests of the league.
  • The WHO keeps a running list of COVID-19 vaccine candidates, which you can view here. STAT News also has a resource tracking COVID-19 drugs and vaccines. The New York Times has a very helpful vaccine tracker as well, which you can view here. This AVAC pipeline tracker is great, too.
  • The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security has an extensive list of commercial and lab-developed tests.
  • Continue to look at the NIH Office of Portfolio Analysis’s (OPA) expert-curated portfolio of COVID-19 publications and preprints. The portfolio includes peer-reviewed articles from PubMed and preprints from medRxiv, bioRxiv, ChemRxiv, and arXiv. It is updated daily with the latest available data and enables users to explore and analyze the rapidly growing set of advances in COVID-19 research.

Previous Updates

  • Peru’s Health Ministry said Saturday it has suspended a trial for China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine after a participant presented health problems.
  • The pharmaceutical companies Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline said Friday that their experimental COVID-19 vaccine did not appear to work well in older adults, a significant setback to their late-stage clinical trial that was previously expected to begin in the U.S. this month. The Sanofi vaccine is one of six selected for OWS. The companies negotiated a $2.1 billion agreement with the U.S. to provide 100 million doses.
  • Global health experts continue to point out the residual effects of COVID-19 on other existing health issues, like a dramatic uptick in measles cases and multiple polio outbreaks. Vaccine campaigns have been interrupted by access to health care and an acute emphasis on addressing COVID-19, which had led to an increase in other diseases.
  • As many as 300,000 COVID-19 cases in the U.S. can be traced back to a two-day conference in Boston attended by 175 biotech executives in February, according to a study published in the journal Science.
  • A recent study found that the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an estimated 218,000 excess deaths in the U.S. between March and August 2020, and that 80 percent of those deaths had COVID-19 as the underlying cause.
  • Scientists in Europe who have examined the genomes of 2,200 critically ill COVID-19 patients has found that certain gene variants are linked to severe coronavirus infections. These findings suggest that genetic makeup very well may play a role in severe COVID-19 cases that lead to death.
  • STAT published a special report, "The coronavirus at 1: A year into the pandemic, what scientists know about how it spreads, infects, and sickens."
  • A new online calculator for estimating individual and community-level risk of dying from COVID-19 has been developed by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The researchers who developed the calculator expect it to be useful to public health authorities for assessing mortality risks in different communities, and for prioritizing certain groups for vaccination as COVID-19 vaccines become available. The algorithm underlying the calculator uses information from existing large studies to estimate risk of COVID-19 mortality for individuals based on age, gender, sociodemographic factors and a variety of different health conditions. The risk estimates apply to individuals in the general population who are currently uninfected, and captures factors associated with both risk of future infection and complications after infection.
  • Uber's CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sent letters to the governors of every U.S. state arguing that the company's drivers should get priority when it comes to vaccine distribution. Khosrowshahi isn't alone - Airlines for America wrote the CDC last week advocating for pilots, stewardesses, air traffic controllers, and customer service representatives to be among the first Americans to be vaccinated.
  • Johnson & Johnson is reducing the size of its U.S. COVID-19 vaccine trial from 60,000 volunteers to 40,000 volunteers. The J&J candidate is currently the only single-dose vaccine being tested in a major study. The change in study size is possible because of the prevelance of COVID-19 and the increased likelihood that participants will be exposed to it, meaning researchers will be able to reach conclusions based on a smaller trial.
  • Doctors still aren’t sure why “long-haulers” continue to suffer the consequences of the disease months later or whether the symptoms will stay with them for the rest of their lives. But public health experts say it’s increasingly clear that many thousands of patients face long-term effects from the virus.
  • A survey from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows about a quarter of U.S. adults are not sure if they want to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Roughly another quarter say they will not.
  • A new series of polling from the de Beaumont Foundation explores the partisan divide between how Republicans and Democrats respond to communication about COVID-19. One question showed that 62 percent of Democrats said the current situation with COVID is “extremely serious,” compared with only 33 percent of Republicans feeling the same way.
  • Airlines and freight say they will need regulatory flexibility in order to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine requiring ultra cold storage efficiently, including being able to move the vaccine through borders and customs with the appropriate safeguards to prevent tampering and theft. In considering the need for dry ice to help with cold storage, the Federal Aviation Administration has permitted United Airlines, which is conducting charter flights from Brussels to Chicago with Pfizer’s vaccine, to carry 15,000 pounds of dry ice on charter flights carrying the vaccine — five times more than the roughly 3,000 pounds normally permitted.
  • A recent MMWR article found that, among parents of school-aged children who participated in an Internet panel survey, racial and ethnic minority parents were more concerned about some aspects of school reopening, such as compliance with mitigation measures, safety, and their child contracting or bringing home COVID-19, than were non-Hispanic White parents.
  • A second MMWR study from this week's edition found that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the total number of emergency department visits related to child abuse and neglect decreased, but the percentage of such visits resulting in hospitalization increased.
  • Officials have warned that hackers are targeting K-12 schools in a new wave of cyberattacks that is disrupting distance learning even as coronavirus cases spike across the country. Some of the hackers behind ransomware have held school data hostage or threatened to leak confidential student data if a payment was not made. Over the past month, the attacks have taken more than a hundred schools in Baltimore offline. They have also hit dozens of schools in Texas and Alabama, as well as a handful of schools in Georgia and Ohio.
  • BIO announced that today we launched a new educational website, COVID Vaccine Facts. The goal of the website is to address frequent questions about COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine development, with a specific focus on educating both providers and the general public in the U.S.
  • An MMWR early release outlines how Head Start and Early Head Start programs successfully implemented CDC-recommended guidance and other ancillary measures for child care programs that remained open, allowing them to continue offering in-person learning. These approaches were documented to guide implementation of mitigation strategies in child care settings.
  • Another MMWR report has summarized guidance for public health strategies to mitigate community spread, including the “consistent and correct” use of face masks indoors.
  • The D.C. government has released a new set of COVID-19 data — the first to arrange clusters of cases by setting — that shows restaurants and bars are among the most common environments where the virus spreads.
  • Elementary school students who were learning remotely in the spring lost the equivalent of roughly three months’ progress in math and fell a month and a half behind in reading, according to a new analysis released by McKinsey & Company.
  • Colleges and universities across the country are announcing decisions to host more students for the Spring semester than in the Fall as they say they have learned strategies to minimize risk.
  • new report from One Fair Wage found that more than 80 percent of service industry workers are seeing a decline in tips and over 40 percent say they're facing an increase in sexual harassment from customers. Of those, around 60 percent said they were reluctant about enforcing social distancing and mask use with customers from whom they would receive tips. The title of the report, "Take Off Your Mask So I Know How Much to Tip You," is a reference to one of several disturbing comments women workers say they've been hearing from patrons.
  • Pfizer announced that it expects to ship half of the COVID-19 vaccines it originally planned for this year because of slow-downs in the raw material supply chain. The company still expects to roll out more than a billion doses in 2021.
  • Facebook announced they will  remove posts that contain claims about COVID-19 vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts. Facebook added that it would also take down “false claims that COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips, or anything else that isn’t on the official vaccine ingredient list.”
  • Data from Moderna's vaccine trial suggests high levels of coronavirus antibodies will last for at least three months (the length of time people have been observed so far) after being vaccinated. How long immunity could persist will eventually determine whether people need to be vaccinated more than once, and how often.
  • IBM's cybersecurity division has identified a series of cyberattacks underway aimed at the companies and government organizations that will be distributing coronavirus vaccines around the world. So far, it is unclear whether the goal is to steal the technology for keeping the vaccines refrigerated in transit or to sabotage the movements.
  • Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton all said that they would publicly take a coronavirus vaccine, once it's available in the U.S., to encourage skeptical Americans to do the same.
  • A new Eurasia Group analysis shows that an equitable COVID-19 vaccine solution would generate at least $153 billion (USD) of economic benefits in 2020-21 for ten of the world's largest donor countries and $466 billion by 2025.
  • Forecasters expect a report Friday from the Labor Department will show that U.S. employers added fewer workers in November than the 638,000 created a month earlier.
  • Demand for travel nurses has increased by more than 40 percent in the last month, according to Aya Healthcare. There are approximately 25,000 nurses who work as travel nurses and sign temporary contracts for higher fees, moving from city to city.
  • An analysis of electronic health records has shown an 11-fold increase in hospitalization for patients with COVID-19 and end stage renal disease.
  • A couple from Hawaii were arrested and charged with reckless endangerment after they flew home from San Francisco, despite having received positive COVID-19 tests.
  • Jazz Standard, a popular New York City jazz club, has closed. It is the first major jazz club in the city to close permanently due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Out of 546 NBA players tested ahead of spring training, 48 tested positive for COVID-19. The league said anyone who has returned a positive test during this initial phase of testing in their team’s market is isolated until they are cleared under the rules established by the NBA and the Players Association in accordance with C.D.C. guidance.
  • This year's Rose Bowl will be played without fans due to COVID-19 concerns.
  • Iowa State University plans to allow as many as 15,000 fans to attend the last home football game of the season on Saturday, even as the state reports a positivity rate of 19 percent.
  • Eight members of the Pakistani national cricket team tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in New Zealand.
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