A man walks to his friend’s home in a neighborhood without electricity as snow covers the BlackHawk neighborhood in Pflugerville, Texas, U.S. February 15, 2021. Picture taken February 15, 2021. Bronte Wittpenn/Austin American-Statesman/USA Today Network via REUTERS

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Power has been restored for most residents in Texas facing a bitter cold winter storm that left 47 dead, but challenges remain in compensating for COVID-19 vaccine shipment delays caused by the massive winter storm. Vaccine shipments have been delayed in at least 10 states, forcing cancellations of thousands of appointments. As the icy weather moves into parts of Mississippi and Louisiana, residents seeking alternate methods of heat face potential carbon monoxide poisoning, which has surged in Texas and compounded public health issues amid the pandemic. The major outages have forced some residents to decide whether to take on the risk of infection by giving others who lost their power a warm place to stay.

State vaccine coordinators say they are “wheeling and dealing ” in an effort to free up tens of thousands of coronavirus vaccine doses for the general population after they were left unused by nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Millions of doses were allocated in excess, trapping the vials in a logistical limbo. 

Pfizer and BioNTech have begun vaccine trials for pregnant women, answering a call for the inclusion of pregnant and lactating women in vaccine research. Pregnant women face a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 and pregnancy complications.

The U.S. will contribute $4 billion to COVAX, the global vaccine alliance aimed at distributing coronavirus vaccines to low- and middle-income countries. President Joe Biden will make the announcement on Friday during a virtual meeting of G-7 leaders about the pandemic. 

Japan has identified a new virus variant circulating in the country, showing a similarity to other variants that could undermine the effectiveness of vaccines. In China, fresh evidence indicates that COVID-19 was spreading in the Wuhan area before the first case was confirmed in early December. Chinese authorities have confirmed 174 COVID-19 cases from around the city in December 2019.

U.S. grocers are bringing in an average of $6 billion more per month compared to sales before the pandemic, an increase of about 11% in 2020 compared to the previous year. The recession has had a relatively mild impact on total food spending, suggesting that consumers replaced their restaurant spending with a higher budget at the grocery store. 

Most of the nation’s grocery store workers, long deemed essential, are still waiting to receive their doses of coronavirus vaccine. After facing higher risks of exposure for nearly a year, workers say they have grown frustrated with the vaccine rollout, which is still largely focused on the elderly and other prioritized groups.

NASA’s Perseverance rover successfully touched down on Mars on Thursday afternoon, offering a virtual experience that would have looked the same to spectators even outside of a pandemic. Thursday’s landing was the result of over a decade of work, with about a 50% chance that it would succeed. NASA’s director said he wanted the rover to land with cameras on so that the world would be inspired and see that the agency is capable of achieving difficult tasks despite the operational challenges posed by the pandemic.

NAVIGATING THE PANDEMIC

As Coronavirus Variants Spread, the US Struggles to Keep Up – Wired – 2/19/2021
ACROSS THE US, the coronavirus is in retreat. The pandemic is still raging, mind you, with more than 70,000 new cases still reported each day. But since the post-holiday peak in mid-January, the seven-day average of new cases has fallen by nearly 64 percent. Hospitalizations have plunged too.

Polls On Reopening Schools Are All Over The Map – FiveThirtyEight – 2/19/2021
Being a parent is hard enough — but being a parent during a pandemic is even harder. With many schools physically closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, parents are now balancing their omnipresent concerns over their children’s education, development and emotional well-being with their own lives and careers. And the stress of that has bubbled over to the point where reopening schools is now a major political issue.

How to turn everyday stress into ‘optimal stress’ – McKinsey & Company – 2/19/2021
Peter is stressed out. He’d hoped a vacation would be the reset he needed, giving him a productive head of steam to fight through the growing sense of frustration, anxiety, and restlessness he’d been feeling as the pandemic wore on. But it isn’t working out that way.

Why We Can’t Make Vaccine Doses Any Faster – ProPublica – 2/19/2021
President Joe Biden has ordered enough vaccines to immunize every American against COVID-19, and his administration says it’s using the full force of the federal government to get the doses by July. There’s a reason he can’t promise them sooner.

British people are really missing the pub – here’s why – The Conversation – 2/19/2021
The events of the past year have had a devastating impact on the hospitality sector in the UK. At the forefront of lockdown’s sacrifices for many is the closure of an institution that is a cornerstone of british culture – the pub.

WHAT INFLUENCERS ARE SAYING

Karen-Raven50VB @Bright1950start 18 Feb ◦Stimulus Check Update:◦House Democrats advanced a wide range of coronavirus relief provisions last week, meaning the House could pass the $1.9 trillion stimulus package legislation as soon as next week.#DemVoice1 #Covid19

Financial Times @FinancialTimes 18 Feb The countries that will suffer the least from the coronavirus crisis will have been careful with their health policies, bold with stimulus and flexible enough in enabling people to move jobs and sectors to fit the needs of the post-pandemic world

Business Insider @BusinessInsider 18 Feb Bank of America breaks down how massive stimulus and a record savings rate could lead to the fastest economic recovery in US history

Jonathan D. Salant @JDSalant 18 Feb Third stimulus check update: New study says pandemic-fueled recession hurt red and blue states as Congress works on $1,400 payments

Eric Holcomb @HolcombForIN 18 Feb Today, Gov. Holcomb signed Senate Bill 1 into law. This legislation will provide business & schools with #COVID liability protections. For more information, check here.

CONTENT FACTS

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