“Change in new COVID-19 cases in the past week” – Axios / Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Stock futures fell on Thursday following disappointing jobless claims data showing a rise to 861,000 in the last week, halting the downward trend in claims that pointed to an improving labor market. For about 425,000 Walmart employees, layoffs are far from a concern following the news that they will receive raises, reaping some of the benefits of the retail giant’s strong holiday sales, which included a 69% gain in e-commerce. 

Burlington Stores managed to recover sales to near pre-pandemic levels while spurning the e-commerce trend. Off-price retailers such as Burlington have benefited from the struggles of traditional department stores by taking in their scaled-back inventory, resulting in more product at better quality. 

New lab experiments show that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is less potent against the coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa, adding to concerns after vaccines from AstraZeneca, Novavax, and Johnson & Johnson were also found to be less effective against the variant. Thousands of healthcare workers in the European Union are refusing the AstraZeneca vaccine because its trials showed less robust protection against COVID-19 compared to the other vaccines authorized in the EU, while nearly a third of U.S. service members are putting off or refusing a vaccination altogether. For employees working in the Vatican, refusal to get vaccinated “without sufficient reason” could result in their termination.

Latino and Black Americans continue to be vaccinated at the lowest rates in the nation despite disproportionately high levels of serious illness. Just 3.5% of Latinos and 4.5% of Black Americans have so far received a shot, compared with 9.1% of white Americans and 8.6% of Asian Americans.

High death rates during the pandemic reduced life expectancy in the U.S. by a full year during the first half of 2020, highlighting the staggering rate of COVID-19 deaths as well as increases in drug overdoses, heart attacks and diseases that accompanied the outbreak. American life expectancy at birth has not been so drastically affected since World War II.

The United Kingdom has approved a study that will intentionally infect people with COVID-19 in the hopes of learning more about how the immune system responds to the virus. Scientists have so far avoided studies that deliberately expose trial participants due to ethical concerns that there is no known cure for COVID-19. For that reason, the study will be restricted to healthy volunteers in the 18 to 30 age range, meaning the results will be limited.

The desire for alternative companionship during isolation continues to affect millions of Americans, but for those not yet ready to adopt a new pet, Panasonic unveiled a companion robot that shows affection when petted. Efforts to make it more like a real pet mean it can also communicate with flatulence. 

NAVIGATING THE PANDEMIC

Why do kids tend to have milder COVID? This new study gives us a clue – The Conversation – 2/18/2021
One key innate immune cell that was elevated in children exposed to the virus was a type of white blood cell called “neutrophils”. These cells patrol the body for infections. When they discover a pathogen, they have a unique ability to respond by trapping and killing the invading pathogen (in this case, the coronavirus).

Some objects will remind us of the pandemic long after it’s over – Washington Post – 2/17/2021
The instinct to hold on to mementos of even the most awful and trying events is human. It’s why museums collect the objects left at the sites of tragedies. In the days after the Virginia Tech shooting, I was on the school’s Blacksburg campus talking to the group of people who were in charge of deciding what to keep and discard of the things individuals had sent from across the world in a show of solidarity. As I stood in the middle of piles of paper cranes, stuffed animals and bibles, I knew I wouldn’t soon forget that scene.

How To Apologize During A Pandemic — And Beyond – wbur – 2/18/2021
The ingredients of an effective apology are empathy, timing, and a genuine, ongoing effort to change behavior. When apologies are demanded or given in a pro forma manner, they lack the authenticity required to bring about true healing. Learning to offer heartfelt apologies increases the likelihood of them being well received and being extended one in return.

‘I’ve accepted the risk’: volunteering to be exposed to Covid in new trials – The Guardian – 2/17/2021
“Of course I have worries, everyone should do before going into a trial,” he added. “There are risks we don’t know about. Am I going to end up with an increased risk of lung cancer at 50 because I had coronavirus? But it’s part and parcel. I’ve accepted those risks.” His family are not thrilled, he said, but they “understand what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, and they’re really supportive”.

The pandemic has made the upskilling challenge even more urgent – Fortune – 2/18/2021
“Companies need to step up their investment in redeploying workers and creating alternative career pathways,” Lund says. “And it is also going to take investment from educational institutions and government.” One more thing to add to an already crowded 2021 agenda.

WHAT INFLUENCERS ARE SAYING

news10nbc @news10nbc 17 Feb While high-risk high school sports have been underway for almost three weeks, other extracurricular activities like choirs, bands, orchestras and drama clubs are still waiting for new guidance from New York State on when they can perform again.

Jason Dennis @JasonDennisWTVM 17 Feb He almost died from COVID-19. Now, this #Army veteran is back treating patients as a PT and singing a new song to inspire you & other vets. Check out my latest #MilitaryMatters report at Noon & 5:30pm today on @WTVM.#coronavirus #faith #music

Forbes Middle East @Forbes_MENA_ 17 Feb The late #Japanese fashion pioneer Kenzo Takada’s personal collection from his apartment in Paris will auction off in May, less than a year following his passing from #coronavirus complications.

amNewYork @amNewYork 17 Feb Guggenheim’s ‘Isolation to Creation’ documentary a glimmer of light for COVID-era performance art

New York Times Music @nytimesmusic 17 Feb A six-week program developed by the English National Opera and a London hospital offers customized vocal lessons to aid coronavirus recovery.

CONTENT FACTS

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