WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Unemployment claims fell to 779,000 last week, beating expected numbers as pandemic-related layoffs eased. Smaller cities fared better through the unemployment crisis than major cities like New York and Chicago. Overall, 265 U.S. metro areas analyzed showed December jobless numbers below the national 6.5% rate. Many states’ unemployment systems faced a backlog in aid, leaving millions of unemployed Americans still waiting to receive benefits.
Global stock markets gained as oil approached $60 a barrel after OPEC extended production cuts. Royal Dutch Shell’s 2020 profit fell to its lowest level in two decades as energy demand dropped worldwide during the pandemic.
Nearly 70% of Americans support President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, according to a Quinnipiac poll. House Democrats approved a budget resolution Wednesday that would allow Congress to pass Biden’s plan without Republican support. Only two Democrats voted against the measure in an otherwise party-line vote. Biden vowed to deliver his proposed $1,400 checks but noted that he was open to tightening eligibility for those checks.
While some states have struggled to jumpstart vaccine drives by delegating distribution to underfunded county health departments, the states moving fastest have one method in common: keeping the process uniform and simple statewide. In the states leading the way, 1 in 7 people has received at least their first injection, compared to 1 in 17 in the slowest states. Though seniors were one of the first groups eligible for vaccines, efforts to vaccinate the age group hit digital snags as cumbersome appointment systems forced people to compete for appointment slots.
Denmark’s government announced its partnership with businesses to develop a digital passport to show whether people have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, opening a pathway to travel and easing public health restrictions. Those developing this type of technology, however, have warned the documents could have serious consequences, such as excluding entire groups from social participation.
More than half of New Delhi’s 20 million inhabitants may have contracted the coronavirus, according to a government survey. India has reported the most cases of COVID-19 outside of the U.S. A nationwide study found 21.4% of Indian adults have been infected with the coronavirus prior to the country’s vaccine rollout. Nearly one-third of people living in India’s urban slums had antibodies, while 26% of residents in other urban areas had been infected. Over one-quarter of Indian children were infected.
A Belgian restaurant owner protested local coronavirus regulations by serving drinks to mannequins and dummies. Theresa Mahieu said the dummies give her a sense of community that has been missing since restrictions were set in October. Belgium has not seen a third wave of coronavirus, though the country has one of the world’s highest per capita COVID-19 death rates.
What you need to know about Covid vaccine mixing and matching – The Independent – 2/4/2021
What it means is that you give one vaccine to get the immune system triggered up and another one to then boost it further with a different vaccine — that’s an established way of getting the immune system geed up,” he said. Public Health England’s Green Book on vaccinations already says that, in exceptional circumstances, people can be given a different second dose to their first if it’s not available due to supply issues.
Remote work was easy. Hybrid is hard. – Protocol – 2/4/2021
Hybrid offices are going to be big business, both Moseley and Wilder told me. Zoom already works with a big set of hardware manufacturers (including Poly) and Poly’s gear supports an ever-growing set of conferencing services (including Zoom). And over the next few years, practically every work tool — from the whiteboard to the water cooler — is going to have to change all over again.
The US may soon have its first standards for consumer face masks. Are they strict enough? – CNN – 2/4/2021
American consumers may be about to get the first standards for face masks. […] ASTM International, an international technical standards organization, and the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, are working on standards to “establish minimum design, performance (testing), labeling, user instruction, reporting and classification, and conformity assessment requirements for barrier face coverings.”
‘I Am Blown Away’: Strangers Are Helping Strangers Get Vaccinated – New York Times – 2/4/2021
Mr. Goldberg, 75, then came across a stranger’s post in a neighborhood Facebook group: “If anyone has a family member, friend or knows someone who is elderly and needs help pre-registering or registering online for the Covid-19 vaccine, I am happy to help,” it said. The person was not asking for money and said, “I don’t care how long it takes.”
How COVID-19 Ended Flu Season Before It Started – FiveThirtyEight – 2/4/2021
We don’t track the flu the way we track COVID-19. The average seasonal flu exists in a weird liminal space, serious enough to keep an eye on, but also not so serious that we are literally trying to count every single case. After all, most people who get sick with the flu won’t even bother to go get tested for it.
WHAT INFLUENCERS ARE SAYING
PolitiFact @PolitiFact 4 Feb It’s not uncommon for a virus to change and evolve, and with uncontrolled spread in the United States and around the world, the coronavirus is getting plenty of chances.
The Conversation @ConversationUK 4 Feb The E484K mutation has been found in the UK variant. Here’s what it means.
CNN @CNN 4 Feb Health officials are still learning about the new Covid-19 variants, but data suggests the variant first identified in the UK may be deadlier than the original strand, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says.
Delaware Online @delawareonline 4 Feb Infection rates are at two-month lows. More vaccines are becoming available in the coming weeks. But a new variant is here, too, and herd immunity is still months away.
John Bridges @JohnBridges 4 Feb Another unwelcome new arrival in Austin. via @statesman
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