• Americans have entered a new, hopeful phase of the pandemic as the outlook has improved across the nation, with cases and hospitalizations at their lowest points in nearly seven months, and deaths from Covid-19 have not been this low since July, according to data from Johns Hopkins University data.
  • San Francisco and its suburbs have been cautious, maintaining various restrictions while other parts of the country reopened businesses and eased mask mandates, and meanwhile, its vaccination rate is among the highest of any major US city, with two-thirds of all adults having received at least one dose, with experts now cautiously saying the city may be seeing signs of herd immunity.
  • About 149.5 million people - about 45% of the US population - have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, and nearly 109 million - about 33% - is fully vaccinated, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data released today shows.
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday listed the B.1.617 coronavirus variant first detected in India and seen in the US and United Kingdom as well as recently detected in Israel as a "variant of interest," suggesting it may have mutations that would make the virus more transmissible, cause more severe disease or reduce vaccine efficacy. 
  • Vaccine advisers to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have scheduled an emergency meeting for Wednesday, with a draft agenda posted on the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices website that includes a discussion on the use of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds, and an update on rare blood clotting events following the Johnson & Johnson vaccination.
  • The 11-day pause on Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine last month caused 9% of unvaccinated US adults to say they’re less likely to want that vaccine, and 7% to say they’re less likely to want any Covid-19 vaccine, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll taken during and after the pause.  [See SPECIAL US Vaccine Survey following for these and more findings]
  • The first nationwide study of coronavirus vaccination, done in Israel, shows Pfizer/BioNtech’s vaccine works far better after two doses, with two shots providing greater than 95% protection from infection, severe illness and death, researchers reported Wednesday in the Lancet medical journal, far more than the 57.7% protection with one dose alone.
  • Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine, mRNA-1273, has shown an efficacy of 96% among teens in early data from its TeenCOVE study trial, CEO Stéphane Bancel announced Thursday, adding that the initial interim analysis found it was generally well tolerated with no serious safety concerns identified to date.
  • India’s devastating coronavirus crisis deepened on Thursday as the country reported 412,000 infections and nearly 4,000 deaths in the prior 24 hours, with the new daily cases the most anywhere since the pandemic began and the fatalities mark India’s deadliest day to date, but experts consider both statistics to be undercounts, given insufficient testing and weak systems for capturing covid-19 deaths.
  • Medical facilities in a hard-to-reach region of Syria are scrambling for resources and funding as a sharp rise in coronavirus cases batters the local health-care infrastructure, raising concerns about a growing humanitarian crisis there, with the outbreak in the northeastern part of the country, a Kurdish-led autonomous region, having already caused critical shortages of supplies such as oxygen, testing kits and antibiotics, international aid agencies say.
  • A barbecue enthusiast who went on a Sydney-wide search for grilling supplies while infected with the coronavirus has triggered new restrictions in Australia’s largest city, which is now battling new cases after a month without local transmission, with authorities mystified as to how the man, who is in his 50s and not a border or quarantine worker and had not recently returned from overseas, became infected.
  • Germany’s parliament Thursday passed a law that will give vaccinated people and those who have recovered from the coronavirus freedom to socialize and stay out past curfew, a move that has been criticized for creating a two-tier system that is unfair on the young.
  • England’s branch of the National Health Service originally spent 10 million pounds ($14 million) opening more than 80 long covid clinics in November last year, and then this year, amid widespread demand, pledged another 24 million pounds, but now officials are warning that the clinics may be needed for much longer than first anticipated and possibly beyond 2022.
  • US states that lifted business restrictions early during the COVID-19 pandemic benefited from a boost in economic activity, but those gains were limited or short-lived, as other states often caught up within a month, according to a study by Moody’s Analytics, and while the more aggressive states notched a longer-lasting advantage in employment other states have narrowed the gap in that critical category.
  • Data out Thursday showed US employment picture improved sharply last week, with first-time claims for unemployment insurance hitting a fresh pandemic-era low, as initial claims totaled 498,000 for the week ending March 1, against the Dow Jones estimate of 527,000, a number that was down from the previous week’s upwardly revised total of 590,000.
  • US stocks climbed Thursday as data showing the world’s largest economy is strengthening overshadowed inflation worries, with investors awaiting Friday’s jobs report, and the S&P 500 closed near session highs, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose to a record.
  • Housing experts say a judge’s overturning of the federal eviction moratorium on Wednesday puts tenants at risk just as rental assistance is finally making its way to renters behind on housing payments, and while the order was put on hold last night after an appeal from the Justice Department, meaning the eviction moratorium is still in place, it could be overturned again as soon as next week.
  • About 54 percent of schools that serve the nation’s kindergarten through eighth grades have reopened, according to an Education Department survey, fulfilling a promise that President Biden made to reopen more than half of schools within 100 days.
  • The US vaccination campaign is getting more reinforcements - this time with the help of the Muppets from “Sesame Street,” with the new ads, which feature Elmo, Louie, Cookie Monster and other characters promising “sunnier days are ahead,” developed by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind the children’s show, alongside the Ad Council, COVID Collaborative and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that has one ad featuring the letter U singing a Sesame Street-version of Billie Holiday’s “I’ll Be Seeing You” as the characters return to everyday activities - group embraces, family meals, laughter.

Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment

  1. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Thursday he expects results from tests of booster vaccines and newly formulated vaccines in the coming months, and that the company says the company can produce a booster or variant-specific vaccine in 90 days.
  2. Russia on Thursday authorized the use of a one-shot vaccine called “Sputnik Light,” according to the country’s sovereign wealth fund, a move designed to boost vaccine supplies in countries with surging infection rates, providing an efficacy rate of 79.4% and costing less than $10 a dose.

Economy and Business

  1. Signs of an economic rebound in the US are abundant, with hunger, which has hovered near historic highs for much of the pandemic, decreasing, the number of families behind on rent fell by more than 2 million in March, the S&P 500 has notched at least 21 records since President Biden took office, business optimism is bouncing back in the manufacturing and service sectors, and consumer confidence and retail sales have surged.
  2. The 10-year US Treasury yield fell slightly on Thursday amid the release of weekly jobless claims data, dipping one basis point to 1.58%, with the yield on the 30-year Treasury bond flat at 2.26%.
  3. US private payroll data released Wednesday showed 742,000 new jobs were added in April, though this was just below the 800,000 forecast from economists surveyed by Dow Jones.
  4. Roughly 35% of small businesses that were operational in February 2020 are still closed more than one year later, New York Fed economists found, with most shuttered for at least five months, including some that have been closed since the start of the pandemic, and just 3% of currently closed businesses will ever reopen, according to the analysis.
  5. As more Americans get vaccinated and more states lift their restrictive measures, the travel and tourism sector is already finding itself behind the curve, with employees from hotels to airport coffee shops saying they are stretched to their limit.
  6. New York City is launching a new $25 million program called the City Artist Corps to provide funding to artists for public works, an effort to lend financial support to artists whose income plummeted during the pandemic and who have clamored for government relief.
  7. Snacking habits consumers picked up during the pandemic aren’t going away, and Kellogg, the owner of Pringles and Cheez-its, is actually seeing it accelerate, with the company topping Wall Street’s earnings estimates and raised its full-year outlook on Thursday.