Lockdowns are coming, here is where they are happening

Coronavirus cases are spiking across the country at record rates and we are now starting to see more lockdowns happening.

If you were wondering where these lockdowns are happening and what type of restrictions are getting put into place, here’s a brief rundown.

The states taking the most aggressive approach to closing businesses are Michigan, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.

In these states, it is common to see indoor dining banned along with bars. Many entertainment venues such as movie theaters are also shuttered.

Some states are taking it pretty far like New Mexico where they have even closed retail stores and shut down personal care venues like hair salons, barbershops, etc.

Even outdoor recreation such as state parks and golf courses are closed in New Mexico.

For the most part though, it seems like outdoor recreation is still remaining open and houses of worship are also remaining open.

In many cases, the restrictions are put into place at the city or county level so you can’t always know exactly what rules are in place by looking at state level policies.

For example, in California they have stay at home orders for certain counties that have high positive rates.

If you’d like to check out the latest restrictions for different states across the US, you can check out the map here.

There was a lot of talk about a possibility of a nationwide lockdown that could happen after Biden is presumably sworn in in January.

But according to recent reports, Joe Biden says that he will not pursue a national lockdown.

“I am not going to shut down the economy, period,” Biden said Thursday.

“I’m going to shut down the virus … no national shutdown.”

So it looks like lockdowns will continue to be a decision made by the states.

More good news for coronavirus vaccine

We’ve got more great news about coronavirus vaccines today!

The Pfizer coronavirus vaccine has been found to be 95% effective and more importantly it has passed all safety checks.

We previously heard that this vaccine was at least 90% effective and now it looks like it has increased to 95% which is on par with the Moderna vaccine.

They found a good immune response consistent across different ages, genders, races, and ethnicity demographics.

This includes a high efficacy rate for those aged over 65 years old which are of course most at risk for the coronavirus.

Dr Charlie Weller, head of vaccines at the Wellcome Trust, said this was “another bright moment in what has been a dark year”.

“Today’s update from Pfizer/BioNTech on the efficacy of their vaccine is highly encouraging. Such high levels of efficacy reported in over 65-year-olds surpasses all expectations we had for the first generation of Covid-19 vaccines. This group is amongst those most at risk of serious illness, and alongside healthcare workers must be prioritised to receive the first doses of any vaccines.”

Pfizer stated that there were no serious side effects from the vaccine reported which is the same finding that Moderna had.

The side effects that some people did have were very mild things like headaches and fatigue but even those were reserved to a small minority of patients. We’re talking like 2 to 3%.

This means that it is now ready to be presented to regulatory authorities to receive market approval.

It’s believed that the US FDA will be able to approve the trial data within days.

The Pfizer vaccine will require two separate dosages spaced out by a couple of weeks.

It takes a total of 28 days for the vaccination to kick into gear so there is a four week waiting period.

This vaccine will require special refrigeration protocol but there are already procedures in place to deal with that obstacle.

The companies have developed specially designed, temperature-controlled thermal shippers utilizing dry ice to maintain temperature conditions of -70°C±10°C. They can be used be as temporary storage units for 15 days by refilling with dry ice. Each shipper contains a GPS-enabled thermal sensor to track the location and temperature of each vaccine shipment across their pre-set routes leveraging Pfizer’s broad distribution network.

According to CNN, “Based on current projections, the companies expect to produce globally up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.”


How much will the coronavirus vaccines cost?

Breaking: Covid vaccine 94.5% effective

Major vaccine progress

How much will the coronavirus vaccines cost?

This has been an exciting month for vaccine developments.

We first heard about Pfizer’s success with their trials which showed the vaccine was 90% effective.

And then more recently we heard from Moderna that their vaccine was close to 95% effective.

The trials have also shown extremely mild side effects for only a small percentage of participants suggesting that these vaccines will likely be safe and not problematic for most people who take them.

But a big question looms as far as how much these vaccines will cost.

Are the vaccines going to be free or are Americans going to be forced to pay astronomical prices?

We already have some indication of what to expect and here is the breakdown.

Reports indicate that Moderna would charge about $50 to $60 per two shot course. Meanwhile, Pfizer reportedly will charge $42 per two shot course.

That’s not horrible but there is a big difference between those prices and other vaccines.

For example, the Oxford vaccine which does not require a booster shot is said to go out for around three dollars per dosage. Meanwhile, other vaccines may go out for around $10 per dose.

(Prices are taken from the Guardian.)

At £38 to £45 for a course of two shots, Moderna’s vaccine is more expensive than the other frontrunners. AstraZeneca and Oxford University are aiming to sell their vaccine at about £3 a dose, while vaccines in trial with Johnson and Johnson and a collaboration between Sanofi and GSK are both expected to cost about £8 a dose. Pfizer is charging the US about £30 for a two-shot course. The UK has ordered 40m Pfizer shots but none of the Moderna vaccine.

There have been talks about the government covering the cost of coronavirus vaccines.

A joint report to Congress (PDF) from the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense stated that they intended for the vaccines to be administered “with the goal of no upfront costs to providers and no out-of-pocket cost to the vaccine recipient.”

This would mean that if you want a vaccine you should not have to pay for it.

Of course, that might also mean that you have to wait extra long for the government to get it to you. I’ve got a feeling that if you want to pay for a vaccine, you will be able to get it much sooner than those waiting on it for free. But that is just my hunch.

If the entire public cannot get vaccinated free of charge, I think there will at least be some segments that do get covered.

According to elderlawanswers.com, “the CARES Act provides that if a vaccine becomes available, Medicare is required to cover this vaccine under Part B.”

It’s also possible that the next stimulus package could provide more coverage for vaccines as well.

It’s worth noting that the different vaccines present different logistical issues as they hit production.

For example, some of the vaccines like the Pfizer vaccine have a shorter refrigeration shelf life of only a few days while others can last a few weeks.

Also, the Pfizer vaccine requires refrigerators that are extremely cold and many doctors’ offices and pharmacies may not be equipped with those type of freezers since most common vaccines don’t require temperatures that cold.

These logistical challenges could impact the distribution so we will have to keep tabs on how things develop.

Overall though, this is all exciting news that so much progress has been made and that we are so close to rounding the corner with respect to widespread vaccines.


Breaking: Covid vaccine 94.5% effective

Major vaccine progress

New coronavirus treatment approved by FDA

Breaking: Covid vaccine 94.5% effective

We just received more good news regarding a potential coronavirus vaccine.

The Moderna vaccine is 94.5% affective against the coronavirus according to early research data that was released by the company today.

The high success rate has a lot of experts feeling very optimistic about the vaccine.

“These are obviously very exciting results,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“It’s just as good as it gets — 94.5% is truly outstanding.”

The results came from the Data Safety and Monitoring Board, which is an independent panel analyzing Moderna’s clinical trial data.

Members of Moderna were thrilled to hear the results.

“It was one of the greatest moments in my life and my career. It is absolutely amazing to be able to develop this vaccine and see the ability to prevent symptomatic disease with such high efficacy,” said Dr. Tal Zacks, Moderna’s chief medical officer.

It’s expected that vaccinations could begin to be administered in the second half of next month and that they will begin with high-risk groups.

Closer to the spring, the vaccines will be available to the rest of the population.

The actual participant results were pretty interesting.

15,000 study participants were given a placebo and over the course of several months, 90 of them develop the coronavirus. Of those 90, 11 developed severe forms of the disease.

Out of the 15,000 participants who were given the vaccine, only five of them developed coronavirus and none of them became seriously ill.

So it seems that even when you contract the virus after getting vaccinated, your odds of getting seriously ill decrease (probably pretty dramatically).

It was also reported that the vaccine did not have any serious side effects.

The only side effects that were reported were mild symptoms such as body aches and headaches but those were only a small percentage of the participants.

At a time when we are likely looking at more lockdowns coming our way in the next couple of weeks, this news is very up-lifting.

It suggests that in a matter of only another month or two, members of the public will begin getting vaccinated and we will start to be on the path back to normalcy.

If everything goes according to plan, next summer could be the time everybody has been waiting for where group gatherings no longer pose a serious risk and large stadium venues can open back up.

We just need to get through the middle of winter and we should be off to the races!



Major vaccine progress

New coronavirus treatment approved by FDA

Coronavirus vaccine showing positive early signs

Nationwide lockdown could result in stimulus checks for struggling Americans

Pending the resolution of several legal actions taken by the Trump administration, it seems like the new president of the US is going to be Joe Biden.

One of the major issues that Biden ran on was a commitment to better handling the coronavirus pandemic.

This has a lot of people wondering what type of policies a Biden administration will implement and how will they differ from the Trump administration?

Firstly, we know that Biden is in favor of a very large stimulus relief bill likely priced around $3 trillion.

(Unless the Democrats sweep the runoff in Georgia, however, a package like that stands little to no chance of actually getting through Congress.)

But we may have just gotten a sneak peek at what is in store for us if Joe Biden is sworn in as president.

His coronavirus advisor, Dr. Michael Osterholm, has suggested a nationwide lockdown for 4 to 6 weeks.

During this lockdown, he states that the government could cover people for lost wages.

“We could pay for a package right now to cover all of the wages, lost wages for individual workers, for losses to small companies, to medium-sized companies or city, state, county governments. We could do all of that,” he said.

“If we did that, then we could lock down for four to six weeks.”

This would allow us to buy some time for the vaccines to get widely distributed and would be a way for us to curb the spread of the virus during the winter with some people predicting a pretty massive second wave (that we are basically already in).

“We could really watch ourselves cruising into the vaccine availability in the first and second quarter of next year while bringing back the economy long before that,” he said.

There are a couple of issues with this plan in my opinion.

First, some experts state that we will not have vaccines widely available until possibly Q2 of 2021.

That means it could take up to six months in 2021 for the majority of Americans to be vaccinated.

This plan calls for covering lost wages for 4 to 6 weeks which is essentially a month to a month and a half.

So it seems like there is a large gap here of possibly several months.

This seems like it could lead to a situation where a lockdown is put into place initially for only a few weeks but then it is extend it out after every month.

This route of doing a lockdown causes a lot of frustration and distrust among the public and so I’m not sure I am very optimistic about that route.

I like the idea of covering lost wages, though.

Based on the budgets that have been tossed around over the past few months, I don’t doubt that the government could cover lost wages for 4 to 6 weeks or possibly even longer.

The thing is, lockdowns also produce other unwanted results such as domestic abuse, depression, and they prevent people from going out and getting checked for routine health issues that could be prevented.

So there are some definite drawbacks to a nationwide lockdown, even if it is only for a month and a half.

I think the key during a time like this is to just make sure that the hospitals are not overwhelmed like is starting to happen in some places again.

As long as we can avoid putting an unsustainable strain on the healthcare system, I think we should allow people to participate in society to the degree in which they feel comfortable.



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Joe Biden urging lawmakers to quickly pass relief

Major vaccine progress

Millions of people around the world have been waiting for months for a vaccine to come out and get us back on track to living a normal life.

Well, today some big news was announced as Pfizer said that their human trial suggest its coronavirus is 90% effective at preventing coronavirus infections in people not known to have had the virus already.

It’s now going to apply for emergency use authorization from the FDA as soon as its final data meets its last safety milestones which is expected to occur in just a couple of weeks.

“Today is a great day for science and humanity. The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19,” Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen. With today’s news, we are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis,” he continued.

If this vaccine is approved, it will require folks to receive two shots within a 21 day period.

That double dosage complicates matters a little bit because it requires people to remember to get the second dosage.

“We know it’s a two-dose vaccine, so we want to ensure that we can manage the — the delivery of the first dose and ensure the delivery of the second dose — while we simultaneously integrate new rounds of doses being delivered to the American people,” General Gus Perna, leader of Operation Warp Speed, said.

The emergence of a vaccine is huge news for travel bugs.

Although traveling, such as by air, is probably much safer than many of us initially thought it was, there are still looming dangers when you get in close quarters.

And if you do enough traveling, eventually you get forced to hop on a packed shuttle bus or forced to wait in line in throngs of people.

In those situations, masks and social distancing probably help a good deal but it still makes a lot of people uneasy especially when you hear a dreaded cough or sneeze.

But now that we are seeing effective vaccines rollout, and these vaccines seem to be reasonably safe, I think it’s safe to say that large amounts of people will start to get vaccinated very soon.

I’m sure a lot of people will hold off on getting vaccinated because of worries that the vaccine might not be safe which is understandable.

After all, we are talking about an emergency use authorization so there could always be a risk there.

But overall I think this is a great sign for the world but especially the travel industry that has been hit so hard.

As millions of people begin to get vaccinated I think others will start to feel more confident about getting out and doing some traveling.

It may still take another year or longer for us to get close to back to normal but given how bad things were for most of 2020, even getting back to 50% normal would be a large victory.

One interesting thing about Pfizer is that it is the only US based pharmaceutical company that rejected government funding.

And it did so because it wanted to avoid the problems that come from bureaucracy.

“When you get money from someone, that always comes with strings. They want to see how we are going to progress, what type of moves you are going to do. They want reports. I didn’t want to have any of that. I wanted them — basically I gave them an open checkbook so that they can worry only about scientific challenges, not anything else. And also, I wanted to keep Pfizer out of politics,” Bourla said.

Even though they did not take funding from the government, they did strike a production and delivery deal worth close to $2 billion that will secure an initial 100 million doses of the vaccine following its approval.

As for when the masses in the US will have access to the vaccine, many experts believe that will probably not happen until 2021, perhaps Q1.



New coronavirus treatment approved by FDA

Coronavirus vaccine showing positive early signs

60% of businesses won’t be reopening (Yelp)

Small businesses all across the country have been hit pretty hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Some small businesses were able to get special aid over the last few months with programs like the paycheck protection program (PPP).

But as you are probably aware, additional aid for small businesses has been on hold as lawmakers have struggled to pass another stimulus bill.

For this reason, we are continuing to see small businesses hit very hard.

Yelp released its latest Economic Impact Report and shed light on business closures across the U.S.

According to Yelp data, permanent closures have reached 97,966, representing 60% of closed businesses that won’t be reopening.

“Overall, Yelp’s data shows that business closures have continued to rise with a 34% increase in permanent closures since our last report in mid-July,” Justin Norman, vice president of data science at Yelp, told CNBC.

These numbers are extremely disturbing and or even more troubling because the government could be offering a solution to many of these businesses to help them stay afloat.

Over the past six months, restaurants, bars and nightlife venues have been hit the hardest.

Specifically, the types of restaurants with the highest closures include breakfast and brunch places, sandwich shops, and Mexican restaurants.

So I would consider visiting some local dining establishments in the next few weeks to try to help support local businesses in these categories.

Consider visiting restaurants that don’t cater heavily to delivery services because those are in need of the most help.


New coronavirus treatment approved by FDA

Some slightly good news came out today that the FDA has approved emergency use authorization of convalescent plasma to treat Covid-19, after finding “known and potential benefits of the product outweigh the known and potential risks of the product.”

The FDA stated that more than 70,000 patients had been treated with convalescent plasma which is made from the blood of people who have already recovered from coronavirus infections.

“Today I am pleased to make a truly historic announcement in our battle against the China virus that will save countless lives,” President Trump said at a White House briefing.

“Today’s action will dramatically increase access to this treatment.”

The authorization was somewhat controversial as there was apparently resistance from a group of federal health officials — including National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. H. Clifford Lane, NIAID deputy director.

They reportedly claimed that the evidence was too weak to authorize the treatment.

But the FDA’s deputy commissioner came back out and said that the NIH was out of line for its remarks.

“In general, NIH is not involved in the decision-making process at the FDA and does not have the entirety of confidential data the FDA uses to make these regulatory decisions.”

“We take seriously our mandate to follow the data and science on the review of medical products to prevent or treat COVID-19 based on the agency’s established legal and regulatory standards.”

It’s encouraging news to see a treatment to get approval and to know that it has been used to treat more than 70,000 coronavirus patients.

But convalescent plasma is in limited supply and so there may be supply issues going forward. There are also limitations due to issues like blood type matches.

Also, there still needs to be randomized clinical trial data that needs to be confirmed but some of those trials are currently underway.

Hopefully, this is just the beginning of new treatments and soon vaccines that we will be hearing more positive news about in the next month or two.



Coronavirus vaccine showing positive early signs

Coronavirus may be spread easier than imagined via air particles

When it comes to the latest science regarding coronavirus, I think it’s a good idea to be a bit cautious about jumping to conclusions.

With this virus, it is somewhat difficult to ascertain the facts given that they seem to be constantly evolving.

However, I think it’s important to pay attention to what experts and scientists are saying so that you are at least aware of some of the risks that have been discovered.

Right now, it looks like there is a new science backing a claim that has been somewhat controversial regarding the spread of coronavirus.

The World Health Organization has long stated that the coronavirus is spread primarily by large respiratory droplets that typically fall directly to the floor after they are expelled by people coughing and sneezing.

The implication here is that unless people are coughing and sneezing near you, you don’t have as much to worry about.

This has been widely transmitted and has been used as guidance all around the world for millions of people.

But in an open letter to the WHO, 239 scientists in over 30 countries have now outlined evidence that shows that smaller airborne particles can infect people.

This would make it more risky to spend time in any kind of indoor environment such as bars, restaurants, offices, and casinos.

This is especially true considering that the coronavirus may now be up to nine times more contagious than it initially was.

It’s really frustrating to see leaders in the health industry lack consensus on crucial facts like whether or not the virus can spread in an airborne fashion.

We’ve seen conflicting messages come from health organizations at the top regarding:

  • the threat level of transmission from surfaces
  • the effectiveness of masks
  • the threat of asymptomatic spread
  • and now there seems to be disagreement over how the virus can spread via airborne particles.

These scientific disagreements are really starting to get old and it just doesn’t seem like we have the leadership we need.

We still may need to wait for this for letter to be published and all of the data to be reviewed and verified but I think this is something that everybody should at least be made aware of.

Spending time indoors, even in a setting where people are not coughing and sneezing within close proximity, could still be more risky than we’ve been told.

Just how risky, I’m not sure but hopefully we will have the data on that when this letter is fully published.


Coronavirus vaccine showing positive early signs

A couple of months ago I wrote about a coronavirus vaccine in the works from Oxford University in the UK. Some people in that camp believed that a vaccine could be ready by as early as September.

And while we don’t yet know about a definite timeline, it looks like the trials taking place in Oxford are showing some great early signs.

Not only does the vaccine they are working on look like it could be effective but it also could last for several years.

Professor Sarah Gilbert who runs the trials at Oxford stated that the experimental vaccine has been found to generate antibody levels up to three times more than patients who recovered from coronavirus.

At this point, they are hopeful to see a reasonable duration of immunity and think that it will probably be even better than naturally acquired protection.

This trial is a pretty large vaccine trial taking place in the UK. Approximately 8,000 Britons enrolled in the vaccine trial that is being manufactured by AstraZeneca.

And now that the infections have gone down in the UK, the researchers are trying to get 4,000 Brazilians and 2,000 South Africans involved with the study.

Apparently, they still have a ways to go before the vaccine can really takeoff but at this time it appears to be a viable vaccine candidate based on its tolerability and safety profile.

The jury is still out on whether or not an individual can get coronavirus a second time. We still just don’t know enough about how the antibodies work to conclusive state either way it seems.

So naturally people will want to know if a vaccine will be able to protect individuals from becoming reinfected.

Some believe that these type of vaccine jabs may not prevent infection altogether but they could play a key role in reducing the severity of symptoms.

We still have not heard specific timelines on when these vaccines could be deployed on a widespread basis so hopefully those details will be coming sometime soon.

In any event, it is encouraging to see early positive results from these trials especially as it relates to safety.

It sounds like things are on the right track.


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