North America Update: February 17
Click here to subscribe. Keep an eye out for the next weekly update on Tuesday, February 23. Thank you for your readership!
TOPLINE PERSPECTIVE: february 17, 2021
- The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. fell 23% from a week ago to roughly 85,200 cases as of Monday, while COVID-19-related deaths hold steady at roughly 3,000 per day, according to a seven-day average of data from Johns Hopkins University. The Biden administration will send out 13.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine per week to states going forward, up from 11 million last week.
- Efforts to administer vaccines took a hit after a severe winter storm crippled parts of the southern United States and forced vaccination sites from Texas to Indiana to close, canceling thousands of flights and creating hazardous road conditions that disrupted vaccine shipments.
- The White House will double the number of vaccine doses sent directly to retail pharmacies, up from 1 million last week. A federal partnership with pharmaceutical companies began last week when doses were shipped to 6,500 stores nationwide and the Biden administration hopes to expand that program eventually to 40,000 stores. After a slower-than-expected initial rollout of the vaccine, many states now say the lack of supply from the federal government is their biggest constraint.
- Canada has introduced new travel restrictions for non-essential travelers entering Canada. As of February 15, travelers by land are required to show the results of their COVID-19 test. Negative tests will need to be taken within three days upon arrival at the border, and positive tests must be taken 14 to 90 days prior. Visitors and returning residents still have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival into the country. Travelers by air will be required to take a COVID-19 test at the airport at their own expense and spend the first three days of their quarantine at a supervised hotel while awaiting their results. Truckers and health-care workers entering Canada are exempt from the new rules.
- Canada’s sluggish COVID-19 vaccination efforts are expected to get a big boost as the country prepares for a dramatic increase in the delivery of shots from Pfizer-BioNTech. The Public Health Agency of Canada says it expects more than 400,000 doses this week and another 475,000 following a month-long slowdown as Pfizer expanded a production plant in Belgium.
- On Sunday, the European Commissioner for Health, Stella Kyriakides, announced that the EU would fast-track the approval process for new versions of already-approved vaccines designed to fight COVID-19 variants stating, “It will be faster to have dedicated vaccines available without compromising on safety.”
- On Friday, France’s top health authority, the Haute Autorité de Santé, recommended people who have already contracted COVID-19 should wait six months after recovering to receive their first dose of vaccine. The authority also stated that people who have recovered from COVID-19 will only require one dose of the vaccine as opposed to two.
- The lockdown to combat the coronavirus in Germany, which was due to last until mid-February, is to be extended until March 7. Individual states will have the freedom to decide on the opening of day care and schools, and free COVID-19 antigen tests will be offered to all from March.
- Celebrations for the Lunar Year in Malaysia, Hong Kong SAR, Indonesia, and the Philippines were subdued due to movement restrictions preventing cross-country travel. Vietnam enforced restrictions in the north as COVID-19 cases began to surge ahead of the national holiday. In Malaysia, reunion dinners could only take place if family members from different households lived within 10km of each other.
- The Indonesian Chinese community was unable to travel during the festive period. Despite a low case count, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center introduced crowd control restrictions at street markets and attractions. South Koreaimposed limits on the number of people traveling domestically by requiring train operators to sell only window seats (i.e. half capacity).
- This year’s World Economic Forum in Singapore has been rescheduled to 17-20 August due to the travel restrictions brought about by the pandemic. The special annual meeting is focused on addressing the challenges of recovering from COVID-19. Singapore has also suspended business travel green lanes with Malaysia, South Korea and Germany until the end of April, and delayed plans for a business travel bubble zone.
- On Monday, the Mexican government began vaccinating senior citizens in more than 300 municipalities across the country after receiving roughly 870,000 doses of India’s AstraZeneca vaccine.
- As a member of the UN Security Council, Mexico filed a complaint on behalf of Latin America concerning the “inequality” in vaccine distribution. The complaint includes the United States and other larger countries, for limiting vaccine access to emerging nations.
- In the last week, Brazil recorded its highest moving average of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic and experts predict that with possible clusters and clandestine parties during the carnival, the number will grow in coming weeks.
- According to government data, more than 5 million Brazilians received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The total accounts for roughly 2.4% of the Brazilian population. Although cities in various parts of the country have stopped or reorganized vaccination for lack of doses, Health Minister, General Eduardo Pazuello, told the Senate that he hopes to vaccinate the entire population by the end of the year.
- With the recent approval of the Oxford vaccine by the World Health Organization (WHO), Brazil expects 1.6 million doses will arrive in the first quarter and 6 million by July, through the Covax consortium. To this end, the National Health Surveillance Agency relaxed the rules for importing vaccines through this consortium. In total, the government estimates 90 million doses by April. The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation officially started manufacturing Oxford vaccines in Brazil and the institution plans to deliver 15 million doses in March.
Below are summaries of interesting business responses to COVID-19 in recent days:
- Last Thursday, the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program—activated by the Biden administration—enabled COVID-19 vaccine distribution to major retail locations throughout the country. In this initial phase, the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have selected certain pharmacy chains—including CVS, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart among others—to provide injection sites to specific communities across the country.
INSIGHTS & INTEL
- For months, millions of American parents have been urging primary and secondary schools to reopen. President Biden promised that guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention would enable them to do so safely. The much-anticipated guidelines were released on Friday and were stricter than some expected, with full in-person schooling recommended only when levels of community transmission are low, a standard that almost no place in the U.S. meets today. If all schools adhered to the CDC guidelines, many that are fully open now would close for in-person learning or return to a hybrid system. Advocates for school reopening are disappointed.
- The CDC recommends either fully remote or hybrid plans, where students spend some time in school and some at home. However, some elements of the guidance will help speed reopening. The CDC says vaccination of teachers is a strategy for reopening, but not a requirement. It also places almost no emphasis on improving air ventilation systems, an expensive proposition that has led to contentious negotiations between some school systems and their teachers.
- Virtual Programming: New virtual events from Economist, The Atlantic, and Washington Post will cover a variety of topics, including re-imagining health industries, rebuilding a more equitable education system, and digital transformation in education and manufacturing amid the pandemic.
- Forbes CIO Summit: For the second year in a row, Forbes will host its CIO Summit virtually, beginning March 25 with episodes held through June 17. Topics will range from planning the future of work in a fast-changing world to building and turbocharging growth through data-driven insights and bold innovation.
- NCAA Tournament: The NCAA mandated that teams must have seven consecutive days of negative tests before arriving in Indiana for the March tournament. Players must have an additional two negative PCR tests before starting practice.
- Australian Open: The Grand Slam event will proceed without spectators due to the spread of a more contagious variant of COVID-19. Previously, 30,000 fans were allowed to attend each day.
For more information about how we are helping clients solve in this uncertain time, please contact:
- Micho Spring, Chair, Global Corporate Practice, email@example.com
- Pam Jenkins, President, Global Public Affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org