As vote counting stretched well beyond Election Day, new coronavirus cases in the US climbed to record highs, topping 130,000 on Monday and averaging more than 116,000 per day over the past week. This is a count that won’t be finalized anytime soon.
We pause on this Veterans Day—if pause is at all possible in this frantic world—to honor all who have served their country. This morning, the traditional laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was live-streamed from Arlington National Cemetery, where normally 5,000 people would gather to pay their respects.
We pay our respects to all, including the more than 4,000 veterans who have died of COVID-19 at Veterans Affairs hospitals and medical centers across the country.
This edition of Coronavirus Briefing is 1,520 words long and will take you seven minutes to read.
The wave rolls on…
…and on. The coronavirus odometer has now rolled past 50 million cases worldwide, with 10 million in the U.S. Individual cases don’t happen in isolation. When it comes to getting sick or staying well, we are all in this together.
- An outbreak of coronavirus among college students in a Wisconsin county was followed by a “devastating increase” in cases and deaths among local nursing home residents. The long-term care industry notes that cases in nursing homes are closely tied to the spread of disease in the surrounding community. Meanwhile, cases among nursing home staff have quadrupled in 20 “surging” states in the past five months. Danielle Brown, Liza Berger and Alicia Lasek are on top of it all in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.
- In Denmark, the world’s largest producer of mink, the pandemic virus has spread from humans to minks and back to humans in mutated form. The government first decided to cull the country’s entire population of 17 million minks, based on concerns that spread of a mutated virus would render any human vaccine less effective. They have since relented, although the disease continues to pose a challenge on mink farms in Denmark, the U.S. and several other countries.
- Mindful of the mink situation, the U.K. has now banned travelers coming from Denmark. U.K. citizens visiting Denmark can return home, but they and everyone in their household must isolate for 14 days. The move comes on top of a one-month lockdown announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
- Step 1 in preventing COVID-19 is developing a vaccine. Step 2 may be even more daunting: deciding who has priority in getting vaccinated, a question “fraught with thorny ethical and practical issues,” notes Batya Swift Yasgur in MPR. She explores those concerns in an interview with clinical ethicist David Marcus from LIJ Medical School in New York.
- In announcing a 13-member coronavirus task force, President-elect Joe Biden urged everyone to wear face masks and said that vaccines, when available, should be distributed “equitably and efficiently and free.”
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is under investigation as a contributor to poor outcomes in patients with COVID-19. Pulmonology Advisor’s Tori Rodriguez interviews a key researcher and notes that OSA could join a list of COVID enablers that includes lung disease, heart disease, diabetes and hypertension.
Nothing happens in a vacuum. In the real world, one thing leads to another. Diseases spread and, of course, go viral. Coronavirus is its own meme.
The business end of things
The scientific community and the world of commerce—all of us, actually—just need to keep moving forward, even when running against the wind.
- Pharma’s creative marketers have nimbly adapted to the shifting contours of the pandemic landscape, Marc Iskowitz reports in MM+M. Product launches have gone virtual and patient vignettes are being created via Zoom calls, where “real life” takes the place of scripted studio shoots.
- Haven’t we all been pondering what is suitable Zoom attire? Orianna Rosa Royle polls business leaders and comes up with helpful answers in Management Today. A happy medium between pajama-casual and shirt-and-tie seems to work best. Helpful hint: Don’t show up for a virtual job interview in an “I Love Beer” t-shirt (as did one hopeful but hapless applicant).
- The pandemic has had a profound impact on the responsibilities of C-suite executives, Mark Parrish reports in People Management. Execs are taking a more hands-on approach to mitigating COVID-caused business disruptions and making employee health and safety a priority.
- In Campaign, Alison Weissbrot speaks with UNICEF USA’s chief marketing officer, Shelly Diamond, to explore how the agency has pivoted during the pandemic. It has committed to a brand refresh to highlight its grassroots community efforts—what Diamond calls “our badass do-gooder stories.”
- Meanwhile, UNICEF and the World Health Organization have issued a call for emergency action to avoid major epidemics of measles and polio in children, as COVID-19 has seriously disrupted normal immunization efforts.
- A luxury car show on the grounds of England’s Blenheim Palace smoothly handled 2,500 attendees with the help of masks, social distancing and a track-and-trace app that, among other features, takes body temperatures. Conference & Incentives Travel explains how the event stayed true to its theme of “Coming Together, Keeping Apart.”
When pivotal moments arrive in human history, smart people pivot.
The sunny side
It’s easy to forget, but there’s always good news.
- Folks 85 and older in senior communities say they’ve had generally positive experiences during the pandemic, Kimberly Bonvisutto reports in McKnight’s Senior Living. Yes, they fear for their physical, emotional and financial well-being, but they enjoy online exercise classes and staying in touch with family, are grateful to have a social worker on call for crises and appreciate frequent interaction with “supportive” and “thoughtful” staff.
- Bills in Congress that have bipartisan support (that’s not an oxymoron) would preserve survivor benefits for veterans whose service-related disabilities contribute to deaths from COVID-19. If the cause of death is simply listed as COVID, survivor benefits might not apply.
- In early Phase 3 results, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in people with no history of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection, reports Diana Ernst in MPR. MM+M’s Marc Iskowitz observes that the 90% far exceeds the “good enough” boundary of 63%. If the Pfizer vaccine is approved, global production could reach 50 million doses this year and possibly 1.3 billion in 2021. The European Commission just announced plans to buy as many as 300 million doses.
- The American College of Physicians has issued clinical “practice points” for using the recently approved antiviral remdesivir to treat patients with moderate to severe COVID-19, Brandon May reports in Infectious Disease Advisor.
- Meanwhile, monoclonals are moving forward. MPR’s Brian Park notes that Lilly will supply the US government with 300,000 vials of its monoclonal antibody bamlanivimab for mild to moderate disease; the drug just received emergency use authorization from the FDA. Park also reports that lenzilumab, Humanigen’s monoclonal antibody, is showing promising results in Phase 3 trials among hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
Those 80-somethings who’ve had positive coronavirus experiences keep things in perspective by remembering how they survived polio epidemics, the Depression, the Holocaust and Hitler. As Bette Davis said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”
- Broadway will stay dark until at least May 30, 2021. Challenges to reopening: a large percentage of older patrons, many theater-goers from overseas and tightly clustered seats in old theaters. A perfect storm?
- Somehow, someway, the show must go on. A dazzling ad for Amazon, created by the agency Lucky Generals, features a young ballet dancer who finds the limelight after her performance is cancelled by the pandemic. Read about it in Campaign.
- Remote learning is only remotely possible for millions of kids. The National Education Association says that 25% of school-age children in the US do not have broadband access or a web-enabled device like a computer or tablet. At greatest disadvantage: Native students, rural students and students of color. Closing the “homework gap” will require a huge dose of funding to provide Wi-Fi hotspots, connected devices and other tech stuff.
- Answer: This was the first TV quiz show to come back on the air during the pandemic. Question: What is Jeopardy? Rest in peace, Alex Trebek, the show’s host for 37 years. He didn’t miss a beat for the past 20 months while facing down Stage 4 pancreatic cancer—and taped episodes less than two weeks before his death at age 80.
- A Veterans Day salute to 13-year-old Boy Scout Alex Saldana, who played Taps nightly last spring in front of a New Jersey veterans home where at least 10 residents had died of COVID-19. By mid-October, the toll at the home exceeded 80.
Stuff you can do
- Thank a veteran
- Pay a virtual or in-person visit to the new National Museum of the American Army
- Support a local soup kitchen or food pantry this Thanksgiving
…and some songs
- Battle Hymn of the Republic—Joan Baez
- Wrong Side of Heaven—Five Finger Death Punch
- Freedom Song—US Air Force Band
- The Star-Spangled Banner—Jimi Hendrix
We’ll be back next Wednesday, good friends, with another edition of the Haymarket Media Coronavirus Briefing. Until then, stay tuned and stay well.