North America Update: January 7
- COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. have hit yet another all-time high, rising to 128,210 on Monday, with a record of 23,435 people in intensive-care units. The U.S. has reported more than 125,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations every day but one since December 30.
- The rise of hospitalizations across the U.S. is straining hospital systems with limited space and has overwhelmed health professionals. Public-health officials are keeping an eye on the fast-spreading new variant of COVID-19, which has been detected in California, New York, Florida and Colorado to date.
- Acknowledging that coronavirus vaccinations around the United States are going slowly, Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, is urging states not to stick rigidly to the CDC’s guidelines about whom to vaccinate first. If fewer healthcare workers are agreeing to be vaccinated, he said, states should “move quickly to other priority groups,” such as people older than 75 and essential workers. Nearly all states have made getting healthcare workers and nursing home residents immunized a top priority. The federal government has shipped more than 15 million vaccine doses to states, but only 4.5 million people have been vaccinated so far.
- Case counts in the country’s most populous provinces continue to rise to high levels. On Monday, Ontario reported another day with more than 3,100 new infections, along with 51 new deaths. In Quebec, the province registered at least 2,800 cases in a single day three times over the last week.
- Canada is rolling out COVID-19 vaccines at a slower pace than other countries, prompting health experts to warn that the country must accelerate its efforts. Prime Minister Trudeau said yesterday that he shares Canadians’ frustration about the pace of the country’s vaccine rollout plan while case numbers and hospitalizations continue to spike. The federal government has taken the lead on procuring COVID-19 vaccines and delivering them to the provinces but is relying on those provincial governments for distribution.
- Several European nations started the New Year off on lockdown struggling to curb current COVID-19 cases. The tightened restrictions come as a new variant of the virus causes alarm among governments across the continent.
- Several European officials have voiced their concerns about the European Union’s vaccination plan. The European Union has also been heavily criticized for the speed of its deployment of the COVID-19 vaccines, amid its two largest economies extending their restrictions due to growing case numbers.
- A report by scientists at Imperial College London released on December 31 estimated that the new coronavirus strain tripled the number of infections in England during the November lockdown while the number of new cases caused by the previous variant decreased by a third.
- Campaigns to kickstart domestic tourism have helped Australia, China and Japan keep their hospitality industries afloat, according to a study conducted by the Urban Land Institute.
- However, according to a study conducted by the University of Tokyo and the University of California, the Japanese government’s recent domestic tourism campaign contributed to the current third wave of COVID-19 cases. Japan’s Prime Minister Suga defended the campaign, despite coming under criticism from medical groups. Prime Minister Suga announced the temporary halting of the campaign nationwide through January 11.
- While COVID-19 cases remain low, Thailand’s hospitality sector continues to remain subdued. The Group Chief Executive of Thai hospitality chain Dusit Thani commented that if the country is not reopened soon, hotel operators will suffer heavy losses and the sector will fail to attract investment.
- Last week, the Mexican government began vaccinating frontline healthcare workers using the first batch of the Pfizer Biontech vaccines. It has also approved the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will provide access to almost 100 million doses produced and packed in Argentina and Mexico. In the next few days, federal authorities could also approve the CanSino Chinese vaccine.
- Mexico City declared a red flag alert due to the rise in COVID-19 cases. Although hospitals are working to their full capacity, local authorities are awaiting an increase of cases in the post-holiday period.
- According to Johns Hopkins University, to date, Brazil has more than 196,560 deaths due to COVID-19 and it is expected that cases will increase following the holidays.
- Private health clinics in Brazil are in the process of negotiating the purchase of 5 million doses of Covaxin, the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Indian company Bharat Biotech in partnership with the National Institute of Virology and the Indian Council of Medical Research.
- The government of the state of São Paulo confirmed two cases of the new variant of the coronavirus that was initially detected in the United Kingdom.
INSIGHTS & INTEL
- U.S. regulators said changing the authorized dosing or schedules of COVID-19 vaccines is premature, not supported by available data, and could put public health at risk. The Food & Drug Administrration (FDA) says it is watching reports about lowering the number of doses, extending the length of time between doses, cutting doses in half, or mixing and matching vaccines to immunize more people.
- Available data continues to support the use of two specified doses of each authorized vaccine at specified intervals, the FDA said. However, scientists at the National Institutes of Health and Moderna are analyzing vaccine data to see if they can double the supply of the company’s coronavirus vaccine by cutting doses in half, a move that would help alleviate vaccine shortages.
- The Armani Group teamed up with its historic licensees L’Oréal Luxe, Luxottica and Fossil Group to raise funds for the Community of Sant’Egidio. The donation will support the “Go Ahead” initiative lending assistance to people in need, whose conditions have been made more precarious by the health emergency.
- Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced he will double his contribution to All in Washington, a statewide effort to provide COVID-19 relief funds. In total, he pledged $25 million in matching funds, equaling a contribution he made back in June.
- The United Nations Foundation announced U.S. Xbox players who donated their Microsoft Rewards towards the effort to contain and stamp out COVID-19 will have their donations matched by Microsoft through December 31.
- Shell Oil Company (Shell) announced it will contribute more than one million pieces of PPE to communities and medical care facilities from coast to coast. Extra face shields, non-medical masks and nitrile gloves are now arriving in some of the hardest-hit areas of the country.
- Virtual Programming: Several top organizers will continue to hold marquee events virtually in early 2021, including WSJ Health Forum (March 23), CNBC @Work (March 30) and Collision (April 20-22).
- Aspen Programming: The Aspen Institute announced new 2021 programming and updates on Aspen Ideas: Health and the Aspen Ideas Festival:
- Aspen Ideas: RE$ET (February 22-23): In partnership with Bloomberg Economics, the event will focus on how to rebuild the U.S. economy in light of the pandemic and associated recession and will share ideas from around the U.S. on what is possible.
- Aspen Ideas: Health (April 27-29): Health will return with an all-new digital format, exploring the big ideas and bold approaches re-shaping the future of health and health care in the U.S. and around the globe. Note, Health was previously a lead-in event, but will be held two months in advance of the Festival this year.
- Aspen Ideas Festival (June 27-30): The June festival will incorporate four nights of digital programming with new interactive sessions introduced during the day. The overarching theme will be “American Futures,” exploring issues ranging from democracy to science, the USA’s role on the world stage, and inequality. Note, Aspen will decide in February about the possibility of any live components on the Aspen campus.
- March Madness: The NCAA announced that the entire Men’s Division 1 March Madness basketball tournament will be held in Indiana at six locations, primarily in the greater Indianapolis area. Plans remain to hold the Final Four on April 3 and 5, however, the exact preliminary round dates are still to be determined.
- Tokyo 2020: Olympic organizers for the 2020 Tokyo Games confirmed that all 68 domestic sponsors agreed to contract extensions following a year-long delay to the Games.
- NCAA Hockey: The NCHC (National Collegiate Hockey Conference) announced plans to host all in-conference games in a bubble-environment located in Omaha, Nebraska. The bubble will not allow spectators.
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