U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks through the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., December 16, 2020. Reuters/Erin Scott

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Stock futures opened cautiously as investors monitored whether Congress would secure a coronavirus relief package before the weekend. A Food and Drug Administration panel voted nearly unanimously to endorse Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, marking the final step before FDA officials decide to approve the vaccine for mass use. 

States are still broadly hurting from the economic crisis, but some are predicting higher revenue even amid job losses – which is uncharacteristic compared to past recessions. The pandemic has piled its worst effects on low-wage workers, which means that some state budgets are heavily relying on wealthier residents. States that rely on higher-income taxpayers have also benefited as consumption shifts from services, which are hard to consume in person in a pandemic, to goods, which are taxed more heavily. 

Moderna – a pharmaceutical company that lacks the track record of giants like Pfizer when it comes to mass production – will likely outsource production to contract manufacturers that will make the COVID-19 vaccine on Moderna’s behalf. This could potentially stretch the supply and production chain and could add risk to the fulfillment of orders. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said he would like “more visibility” into the manufacturing of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, adding that the drugmaker has kept the federal government at “arm’s length” throughout the process. 

The prospect for profit making on the coronavirus vaccines is “through the roof,” according to a therapeutics and law expert. Initially, the profit will come from the pre-purchase agreements and then sustained if it is integrated into the normal vaccine market. Vaccines typically don’t go generic since they are complex products that require specialized manufacturing, so a pharmaceutical company can expect revenues for many years after selling a successful vaccine. 

New Zealand said it would provide free COVID-19 vaccines to its population of 5 million and additional free vaccines to neighboring nations. The country has purchased vaccines from two major developers, AstraZeneca and Novavax. Prime Minister Jacinda Arden acknowledged the initiative as the largest immunization disbursement ever, saying that never before has “the entire globe sought to vaccinate the entire population at the same time.” 

Homelessness is expected to surge in the coming weeks as Americans face continued economic turbulence, but vital housing assistance may not be fully available to families that don’t meet the definition of homeless. Some households are “doubling up” in an effort to secure temporary housing, but then are not allotted certain assistance such as rapid rehousing. Even with the nationwide eviction moratorium that was intended to protect renters, adherence has been spotty, housing experts say. Evictions processed while the moratorium is still in place is only a preview of what experts predict will be a wave of homelessness once the moratorium expires at the end of December. 

The popularity of jigsaw puzzles and board games surged during stay-at-home orders as consumers sought to find order in chaos. As sales rose by 300 to 400% for puzzle makers through the pandemic, echoes of escapism resonated from the last major puzzle craze: the Great Depression. Puzzles, or “dissected maps,” were invented in England in the early 1760s, likely by a mapmaker

NAVIGATING THE PANDEMIC

Inside One N.Y.C. School That Reopened During the Pandemic – The New York Times – 12/18/2020
Should schools be open in the United States while the pandemic is still raging? Elected officials, educators, unions, public health experts, parents and students have been debating this for months.

Somehow, we still don’t have enough N95 masks – Fast Company – 12/18/2020
Now, around 10 months after the first COVID-19 cases began to spread in the U.S., as a new surge hits much of the country, little has changed: Doctors and nurses still don’t have enough. Clinics, especially small practices, are struggling to buy supplies. And many of those with masks on hand are still forced to reuse them.

Modelling the shape of the mental health crisis after COVID – World Economic Forum – 12/18/2020
In the face of a pandemic and global recession, what price will nations pay in lost human potential? What contributions to civil society, to the arts, to science and technology, to the economy, and to humanity will be lost as hardships increase across communities, and the trajectories for young people are hampered by diminished opportunity?

Should pregnant people get the Covid-19 vaccine? – Quartz – 12/18/2020
Being pregnant during a global pandemic is complex enough. Doctor’s visits, shopping for baby stuff, birthing plans—it’s all made more complicated, and scarier, by the threat of a deadly sickness.

The Pandemic’s Hit Video Game Plans for Life After Virus – Bloomberg – 12/18/2020
The candy-colored video game Fall Guys became one of a handful of standout hits of the pandemic, catapulting its British creator out of obscurity. But as the world looks to dig out of a coronavirus-induced hibernation and venture off the couch, Mediatonic Ltd. is working to ensure its costumed little beans aren’t just a passing fad.

WHAT INFLUENCERS ARE SAYING

USA TODAY @USATODAY 17 Dec A West Virginia school superintendent’s order to shut down class for the county’s first snow day has gone viral, a reminder of “renewed wonder” despite a grueling, often cruel 2020.

Coach Machado @_CoachMachado 17 Dec CA, open schools and play high school sports! The state of CA cannot claim there information is better than the WHO!!! Here is the World Health Organization stating facts that Lockdowns don’t work!! @PAGMETER @WCCoachAlliance @Vongni @GavinNewsom

The Denver Post @denverpost 17 Dec Colorado’s cash-strapped public school districts risk losing tens of millions of dollars in state funding because of coronavirus-fueled enrollment declines. #EdColo

Claudia Hupkau @claudiahupkau 18 Dec School closures and parental job losses that cause economic and mental distress are likely to contribute to the expected rising inequality induced by the coronavirus crisis. They have to be kept in mind should school closures be considered again as a policy response. 1/N

Doug Sovern @SovernNation 17 Dec Today many #Oakland schoolkids are chalking holiday messages in front of their school or their teacher’s home. This one broke my heart. (In case you can’t decipher it: “I wish I could go to school, if the coronavirus wasn’t here I would love to meet you.” )

CONTENT FACTS

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