North America Update: February 9
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TOPLINE PERSPECTIVE: february 9, 2021
- New York City, home of the nation’s largest public-school system, will take another step toward a full reopening later this month by welcoming middle school students back into classrooms that have been closed since November. About 62,000 of New York City’s middle school students will be able to return to classrooms for at least part of the week starting February 25. The city still does not have a plan to reopen its high schools. Reopening schools has become one of the most fraught political issues in cities across the country. The teacher’s union in Chicago has been threatening to strike if teachers are forced to return to classrooms.
- House Democrats are preparing to unveil legislation that would send up to $3,600 per child to millions of Americans as Congress seeks to change the tax code to target child poverty rates as part of President Biden’s sweeping $1.9 trillion pandemic package. The credits would be split into monthly payments from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) beginning in July, based on a person’s or family’s income in 2020.
- Canada’s chief public health officer said that national data is showing “hopeful signs of declining COVID-19 activity,” suggesting ongoing public health restrictions across the country are taking effect.
- Alberta, Quebec and Nova Scotia saw some COVID-19 restrictions lifted Monday. Ontario, Canada’s largest province, announced plans for a gradual easing of its COVID-19 restrictions, pledging to allow non-essential retailers in parts of the province to reopen with 25% capacity limits, while maintaining shutdowns in Toronto and other hotspots for another two weeks.
- Canada’s lagging vaccination efforts took another hit, with only 70,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine scheduled to arrive this week. With nearly 90% of the current vaccine supply already administered, there will be less than a quarter of a million doses of vaccine available this week. Officials remain optimistic however, with 335,000 doses from Pfizer scheduled to arrive next week – the single largest vaccine delivery to Canada to date.
- Several European countries, including France, Germany, Switzerland and Spain, have restricted the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to those under 65 years of age. While the vaccine has been approved for use in adults of all ages by the European Medicines Agency, some national regulators have raised doubts over the small number of people aged over 65 who participated in the Oxford vaccine’s trials.
- The WHO has also warned against dismissing the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine after setbacks. The body and its Covax partners insist that the jab is an important tool to fight coronavirus. It accounts for almost all of the 337.2 million doses Covax is preparing to ship to 145 countries during the first half of 2021 – once it gets WHO approval.
- Coronavirus restrictions in Belgium are set to be partially lifted on the 13th of February, allowing hairdressers, zoos and campsites, among other activities, to open. The move comes amidst a “mixed” coronavirus situation, according to Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, with infections rising slightly, but deaths falling slightly since December.
- Moderna Inc. won approval from Singapore for its COVID-19 vaccine and signed a deal to sell doses to the Philippines, becoming the fourth supplier to get regulatory clearance in Southeast Asia.
- Shots by AstraZeneca Plc, Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE and Sinovac Biotech Ltd. have also been approved by at least one country in the region as inoculations roll out. China and India are giving some free vaccines to countries like the Philippines, Myanmar and Cambodia.
- Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest and most populous economy, started its coronavirus vaccination program on Jan. 13, with President Joko Widodo taking the first Sinovac jab. More than 784,000 people have received their first dose.
- Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador returned to his daily morning news conferences Monday following a two-week absence after catching the coronavirus.
- Mexico approved the emergency use of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and is close to supporting China’s CanSino vaccine to begin the vaccination of its elderly population. A variant of COVID-19 may make current vaccines less effective, warned Ravi Gupta, a microbiology professor at the University of Cambridge.
- Next Wednesday, Brazil should receive a new batch of inputs from China to produce 8.7 million doses of CoronaVac. The forecast is for 100 million doses to be manufactured through September, by the Butantan Institute. To date, Fiocruz has received the first batch of supplies from China to make 2.8 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
- According to the WHO, it is too early to know the effectiveness of the Oxford vaccine against the Brazilian strain.
- On Saturday, Pfizer asked the National Health Surveillance Agency for the definitive registration of its vaccine, developed in partnership with the German laboratory BioNTech. There is a memorandum of understanding between Pfizer and the Ministry of Health for the purchase of 70 million doses, but negotiations are stalled.
Below are summaries of interesting business responses to COVID-19 in recent days:
- Honeywell partnered with Atrium Health, Tepper Sports & Entertainment and the State of North Carolina to create a mass vaccination site at Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Football Club. Together, the public-private partnership aims to pursue a goal of delivering 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine by July 4, 2021
- In a letter sent on February 5 to President Joe Biden, Commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL will make the remaining of the league’s 30 stadiums available as COVID-19 vaccination sites, joining the seven facilities already administering the vaccine. Many of the stadiums should be able to get vaccination efforts moving quickly because of previous offers to use stadiums as virus testing centers and election sites. The seven clubs already using their stadiums as vaccine sites are the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots.
INSIGHTS & INTEL
- A small portion of Americans — about 11% — have received one or two shots of the vaccine to date. Some people who have received the first shot are finding themselves in limbo about receiving their second shot, especially in states that have yet to distribute vaccines widely across their population. Each state has set its own rules and priorities for vaccinations.
- The pandemic has created waves of exhaustion, fear, hope, uncertainty and fatigue. Now the vaccine rollout is causing similar emotions. People are scrolling through perpetually crashing vaccination websites, driving long distances in winter weather, lining up at grocery stores or pharmacies for hours on end hoping to get a leftover shot, or racing to hospitals amid rumors of extra doses.
- The stakes are high. Debates over masks, indoor eating, testing availability and school re-openings all now center around a single axis: the lagging rollout of the vaccine. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, says about 75% of the population would need to acquire resistance to the coronavirus, either through infection or vaccination, in order to achieve herd immunity. But President Biden says achieving herd immunity by the summer will be “very difficult.”
- Virtual Programming: New virtual events from Forbes, FT, Axios and Washington Post will cover a variety of topics, including advancing equity, the impact of digitalization on society, transforming communication, and how the past shapes our understanding of where we are today during Black History Month.
- Australian Open: The year’s first Grand Slam is being held despite an earlier suspension of play where hundreds of players and officials were tested for COVID-19, after the first locally acquired infection in 28 days was detected. The event will allow 50% attendance, with mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing.
- Summerfest: The Milwaukee-based three-weekend music festival will be postponed from its original June/July dates to September 2-4, 9-11 and 16-18.
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