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African Union Secures An Additional 270 Million Covid-19 Vaccines 

The African Union has now secured an additional 270 million Covid-19 vaccines to be distributed among the many countries within the continent. The African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), however, is still not convinced that this will be enough to meet the entire nation’s demand. 

From April to June at least 50 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines will be available according to the AVATT press release published this week. Chair President of the African Union Cyril Ramaphosa recently spoke with the media about the increase in doses that Africa is now set to receive. 

“From the onset of this pandemic our focus as a continent has been on collaboration and collective effort. We have held steadfastly to the principle that no country should be left behind.”

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Ramaphosa also emphasized that “all 270 million vaccine doses will be made available this year with at least 50 million being available for the crucial period of April to June 2021.” The African Union secured these doses along with a vaccine program from COVAX; a World Health Organization and Gavi Vaccine Alliance initiative that specifically works to bring more vaccines to Africa.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, recently spoke with the media to praise Africa for the acquisition of the additional doses and adoption of the program from COVAX, as it shows true initiative and will make a real difference in getting the continent vaccinated as promptly as possible. 

“Covax can only cover 20% of the African population, so it’s wonderful to see the African Union’s efforts to secure a provisional 270 million doses by the end of 2021.”

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President Ramaphosa did caution, however, that while this new initiative is vital for Africa’s recovery, it “may not extend beyond the needs of frontline health care workers, and may this not be enough to contain the ever-increasing toll of the pandemic in Africa.” 

Africa is currently experiencing a second wave of Covid-19 that is currently higher than the peak they hit back in July 2020. The continent currently has an average daily new case count of more than 25,000 for the past 14 days. 

The African Export-Import Bank will be implementing a strategy this month that will provide up to $2 billion in advancements to vaccine manufacturers in the continent. The African Union and World Bank will also be working together to grant member states access to a $5 billion fund specifically for purchasing more vaccines when needed. 

The announcement of these plans couldn’t have come at a more crucial time for Africa, as Ramaphosa reported this week that South Africa is extending their Covid-19 restrictions due to a “massive increase” in Covid-19 cases driven by a new strain of the virus that is thought to be much more transmissible.

Delta Airplane

Delta And United Airlines Will Permanently Remove International Change Fees 

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the travel industry in the US in more ways than one. Many major airline companies have begun implementing new policies to help cushion the economic blow that the tourism sector has suffered from within the past ten months of the pandemic. Most recently, Delta and United airlines have announced that they will be permanently eliminating change fees for flights across the globe. 

Throughout the entire pandemic airlines throughout the world and nation have recognized that there would be a major decline in travel, so they began eliminating fees that are typically charged to travelers who change their international flights or cancel them all together. Initially this was just a temporary move so that travelers wouldn’t have to worry about paying more money in the middle of a global health and economic crisis, however, Delta and United realized the elimination of these fees is actually a great thing for consumers and the airlines all together. 

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For Delta specifically, the airline will waive its $200 international change fee for any flight that “originates in the US or between the US, Mexico and the Caribbean going forward, including code-share flights,” according to the company’s announcement. Basic economic fares are excluded and according to Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian this elimination has proven to be extremely valuable.

“Our approach has always been to put people first, which is why we’re extending our current change fee waiver and making lasting changes to our practices, so customers have the trust and confidence they need long after the pandemic ends.”  

Delta is going to continue to charge $75 for same-day standby, but the airline is extending its Covid-19 policy waivers which removes change fees for all domestic and international tickets purchased through March 30th of this year. 

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United Airlines also recently announced that they would be eliminating change fees for international flights moving forward. For domestic flights, change fees will also be eliminated but only for flights booked before or on March 31st of this year. The airline wrote a statement in which they claimed that the decision was “made recognizing that flexibility is more important to our customers than ever.” 

United initially implemented the no-change fee policy back in August for all domestic flights which inspired a slew of other airlines in America to waive their flight change fees as well. American Airlines became the first US airline to get rid of change fees completely for all flights from North or South America and the airline has also eliminated their fee for domestic same-day standby.

American Airlines Chief Revenue Officer, Vasu Raja, recently released a statement regarding the choice, stating that the company is “committed to making travel easier for customers who fly on American.” 

It’s expected that other modes of transportation that make up the tourism sector for the US’s economy will also begin to implement policies and waivers of fees like these airlines at least in the beginning of the post-pandemic reopening of the country as a means of rebuilding what was lost within the past ten months.

US Covid Vaccine

Covid-19 Vaccine Delays And Lack Of Federal Action Putting US In Deadly Position 

For the past 40 days, the US has surpassed 100,000 hospitalizations relating to the Covid-19 pandemic. While health officials across the country are doing their best to speed up vaccine distribution so that average Americans can begin receiving their dosages, a lack of federal action and planning is once again hindering the nation’s ability to heal from this pandemic. 

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, spoke with the media recently about how America “really needs to get this vaccine out more quickly, because this really is our only tool for beating this pandemic.” Experts have been saying from the beginning that universal mask wearing, social distancing, and widespread vaccination is the only way this pandemic will fully reach its end. However, after ten months of nearly no enforcement of these procedures on a federal level, over 22 million Americans have been infected, and over 370,000 have died.

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So far 22.1 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine has been distributed, and 6.7 million people have actually received their first dose, however, the initial plan was to get 20 million people vaccinated with their first dose by the end of 2020. Due to a complete lack of interest from the current president and his administration within the past two months, hundreds of thousands of Americans have continued to suffer while their government watched and made daily claims of a fraudulent and unfair election. The only new aide that the government has provided is a $600 stimulus check to every American, after nearly nine months of no other economic assistance.

The US hit a new record last week and surpassed 4,000 Covid-19 deaths in a single day. California alone is thought to be a major epicenter for the virus, after they added almost 50,000 new cases on Sunday alone, bringing the state total up to more than 2.6 million. 

According to Johns Hopkins University, which has been recording data regarding this pandemic in America since March, within the first 11 days of 2021, 28,400 new Covid-19 deaths have been reported. At this current rate, more individuals could die from Covid-19 in January than any other month of this pandemic due to an extreme influx in holiday travel and lack of policy. 

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“We should expect to set new records for cases, hospitalizations, and deaths over the coming weeks. Policy action is urgently needed to mitigate the worst possible outcome.”

Joe Gerald, an associate professor at the University of Arizona, recently expressed great concern about the “inevitable arrival of the more transmissible” strain of Covid-19 that has appeared in the UK, and is thought to have been in the US since September. “If it gathers a foothold it will accelerate, lengthen, and deepen the outbreaks in Arizona and other states like it.” 

The recent riot at the US Capitol will also likely lead to a “surge event” of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to the fact that a majority of Trump’s supporters are anti-mask, and the footage from the violent event clearly showed a crowd of hundreds of individuals not wearing a mask, mobbed together in a giant crowd. 

Medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen recently shared a statement to the press about this reckless riot that will lead to even more death and infection: “It’s very likely they’re engaging in other risky behaviors there and potentially seeding coronavirus all around the country, wherever they came from. I hope that everyone who participated in those events will go back and quarantine and get tested.”

Many of the rioters who have been identified from images online but have yet to be arrested are being placed on No Fly lists, and local authorities for individuals who came from out of state to participate in the riot have been notified of their citizens involvement in the act of domestic terror that took place last week.

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Lifestyle And Wellness Trends To Expect In 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has truly changed the way in which we run our everyday lives and take care of ourselves. While 2021 is looking a lot more hopeful with the release of multiple vaccines and a new administration running things in the White House, the pandemic is likely still going to drive trends within the next year in terms of how we live our lives and take care of ourselves. Here are some of the pandemic trends expected to be carried into 2021. 

Comfort Crafting: Whether you like knitting, painting, or even baking, creating something with your hands is always a satisfying feeling. The pandemic has given people the perfect excuse to finally explore any and all hobbies that they may have never had time to try in the past. Dayna Johnson is a trend expert working for Etsy who claims that “crafting and learning new skills in general serves as a form of self-care and grounding.”

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Meditation: It’s no surprise that a global health crisis paralleling an economic recession would cause some extreme feelings of stress and anxiety. For those who have always suffered with their mental health, or those who may be learning about their own anxiety for the first time this pandemic, this crisis has shown us all that taking care of ourselves needs to be a priority. Learning proper meditative practices, or any other activity that can help ease the daily stresses of living during a pandemic will likely carry out into the new year as we all start to navigate the uncharted territory of post-vaccination life. 

Outdoor Activities: If we think back to the beginning of this pandemic, Friluftsliv is a Norweigan concept that began trending when lockdowns were initially occuring last spring. The word translates to “free air life” and is explained as a deep appreciation for being outdoors and incorporating outdoor activities in your life. Utilizing whatever outdoor spaces one has at their home or taking advantage of whatever walking paths your town may have is an amazing way to safely get out of your house, and appreciate the world around you. 

Road Trips/Solo Travel: Travel has become the last thing on most of our minds within the past year, however, as the pandemic progressed, new and safe ways of travelling began emerging so that individuals could get out of their quarantine space and feel a certain sense of freedom. Road trips and solo vacations have grown in popularity this past year due to the fact that you don’t need to be around anyone else to do so. Solo travel has given people an excuse to truly appreciate their own company and remember what it’s like to fall in love with yourself and the world around you. 

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Going Green: Throughout their time in lockdown many individuals have realized that the world is actually enduring two global pandemics right now; Covid-19 and climate change. At this point it’s going to take true systemic change from our world leaders to really reverse all the damage that humans have done to the planet, however, many are spending their time at home figuring out ways that they can personally better the planet. Many are learning how to properly recycle, remove single-use plastic items from their homes, and reduce their overall carbon footprint. 

Interior Design: Since we’ve all been stuck at home for the past year, many of us have decided to redesign the spaces that we’ve been spending an indefinite amount of time in. Creating home offices, rearranging furniture, creating pieces of art to revamp a plain wall, painting rooms, building gardens, etc. have all been home improvement projects that interior design blogs have been discussing immensely within the past year. So many first time designers are taking to the internet and its multitude of tutorials and tips for freshening up their spaces and implementing more of their personal style into the spaces.

Remote Working: While this is less of a trend and more of a circumstantial activity, many companies and employers are seeing how successfully they can still run their companies in a remote setting, and are thus opting to remain remote as the world begins to reopen. Even large corporations like Facebook and Twitter have announced that their employees will now always have the option to work from home, or come into an office space once the pandemic becomes less of a threat, if they wish.

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Japan Enters New State Of Emergency To Contain Spread Of Covid-19 

Japan has entered into a “light” state of emergency that is projected to last a month, however, public health experts in the country already believe that it will take longer to sufficiently slow down the rate in which the Covid-19 virus is spreading. 

Japan has reported record breaking new daily infections for at least two days in the last week, and the capital of Tokyo is facing some of the worst rates it’s seen in months. Hitoshi Oshitani, a professor of virology at Tohoku University and a member of the expert panel advising the government, recently spoke with the press regarding the current timeline the nation has set up in regards to curbing the spread. 

“I’m not sure if the situation can become better within a month. It’s certainly much more difficult to control the current situation compared to the outbreak in summer.”

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Japan has entered into a more limited state of emergency, meaning remote work is being encouraged, and restaurant hours have been reduced. Movie theaters, gyms, karaoke bars, and theme parks are all set to remain open as well with reduced hours, and large events are still permitted with a reduced capacity; for reference in their initial state of emergency all of those businesses were completely shut down. 

For the time being, these measures only apply to the capital of Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures. In order for the emergency status to be lifted these regions must emerge from their current “Stage 4” rankings; stage 4 is the highest stage an area can be in Japan, and is determined by hospital capacity, positive test rates, and weekly increases in new infections. 

Shigeru Omi is the head of the panel of experts that is advising the government on these states of emergency, and recently spoke with the media about how initially he believed it would to be “next to impossible” for the nation to emerge from their state of emergency in just a month, however, after analyzing the recent data he seems more hopeful for the future. 

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“It’s not very easy but I believe it’s possible to reduce the infections to a Stage 3 level within a month if everyone does their best.” 

Omi went on to explain that residents need to fully follow the suggested measures by staying home and avoiding all nighttime dining, drinking, and partying; which as we’ve seen here in America, is quite difficult to do when the government keeps these establishments open. He also explained that the government will need to push for legal changes so that establishments that refuse to follow these rules will be punished through fines. 

Japan last entered a state of emergency in the spring which began in just seven prefectures, but eventually expanded to be nationwide. The state of emergency slowly began being phased out in May of last year. 

While Japan was highly praised in the beginning of this pandemic for its success in containing the virus without imposing strict lockdowns, after a while a slew of challenges began appearing. Cases initially began increasing across the country in November, and have remained on the rise ever since. Tokyo being the city hit the hardest, Omi and other experts are hopeful that the nation can return to a greater sense of normalcy by February.

Man Filing for Unemployment

Weekly Jobless Claims Remain Stagnant As Hiring Slows Down In America 

Throughout this past week in America there have been indicators that the labor market is continuing to weaken, and new jobs aren’t being created at a rate they once were. The pandemic obviously has everything to do with this, however, despite the decline in hiring throughout the nation, first-time filings for unemployment remained relatively stagnant in the end of 2020. 

This is surprising because in terms of the pandemic and economy, the US has entered into its worst phase so far; and that began back in November. First-time filings have been on a steady increase throughout the fall, but by the end of last week, weekly claims totaled 787,000. The Labor Department and Dow Jones both estimated that 815,000 filings would’ve been the total based on the trends that existed at the end of the year. 

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The report showed that compared to the week prior the amount of filings decreased by 3,000 for first-time filings, and 126,000 for continued claims. Now, the total amount of individuals receiving continuous claims is around 5.07 million and those receiving benefits from all government assisted programs declined by 420,000 to 19.2 million. 

This week ADP reported that private contracts and workers accounted for 123,000 job losses in December, which is the first time that the sector of the labor market has seen such a substantial decline in employment. Ian Shepherdson, a chief economist, recently spoke with the media about this predictable yet devastating consistency in unemployment. 

“A combination of Covid fear and state-mandated restrictions on activity in the services sector is squeezing businesses, and no real relief is likely until a sustained decline in pressure on hospitals emerges.”

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The Labor Department is currently projected to report that the US economy has added at least 50,000 jobs to the labor force in America at the end of 2020. However, the unemployment rate has continued to increase and is now at 6.8%, according to estimates from Dow Jones. 

While the labor market continues to remain in deep distress the average for continued unemployment claims has oddly decreased; last week it fell down to 818,750, for comparison this time last year the amount of continued claims totaled 219,750. 

Illinois is the state responsible for the biggest drop in claims with a decline of 62,765. Multiple states showed that they gained more than 10,000 claims in the last week; including Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Virginia, and Texas. 

The fourth quarter is expected to show a considerable growth in the amount of new hires that occurred. This is also based on current investment and consumer spending data. The Atlanta Federal Reserve’s GDPNow tracker of activity is predicting a 8.9% gain for “domestic product” and employment.

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How Palm Beach’s Real Estate Market Is Beginning To Thrive Again 

Suburbs in America helped keep the real estate market afloat throughout the past ten months of the Covid-19 pandemic. As individuals fled their small apartments in bustling metropolitans for a quieter, more secluded space to spend their quarantine, markets in city spaces began to decline. However, with the release of multiple vaccines, a new administration taking control over how we respond to this pandemic, and a new year on the market’s side, some areas of the country are already seeing an increase in desire to buy. 

The exclusive town of Palm Beach, Florida is a small sliver of an island that is typically home to some of the nation’s wealthiest individuals. Now, people throughout America are fleeing their Suburban spaces to get away to warm Palm Beach, creating a new sellers market that Guy Clark, an agent with Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Palm Beach, was truly not expecting. 

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“Anyone with money is currently fleeing places like New York and coming here, it’s a seller’s market like I’ve never experienced.” 

Some of the migration, according to Wall Street data, is due to a multitude of job relocation’s from New York to Florida. Some of the wealthiest in America who have the privilege and ability to move right now are also fleeing Covid hotspots to take advantage of Florida’s lack of state income tax.

The Palm Beach County Clerk’s office recorded more than 20 home sales in 2020, exceeding $20 million each; for reference in 2019 only 10 homes of the same pricing were sold. According to John Cregan, an agent at Sotheby’s International Realty, many of the homes currently being rented or sold are off the market and being done in private deals. Older homes are being torn down and renovated to prepare for a future influx in buying once the pandemic is over. 

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The rental market also picked up with the winter season, which is typically a hot time for buying in Palm Beach. Even with the limited supply that realtors were working with, rentals overall have been on the rise within the past few months. Some have even turned to hotels for long-term stars as an alternative to their suburban homes. 

According to Lesley Sheinberg and Barbara LeBrun of NAI/Merin Hunter Codman, migrants from around the nation are also looking for commercial spaces to rent to be used as an office space. 

“Every single showing this week we have there is from people up north or different states, either wanting to have a presence here, so they don’t have to commute back and forth, or wanting to get out and move their business here.”

The rise in rental markets, and the real estate market in Palm Beach overall, will have an amazing trickle down effect on the local economy. Interior design firms and other local businesses in Palm Beach all report a rise in transactions when the real estate market begins to rise in the area. Some businesses are already seeing this increase occur, and the hope is that as time moves on the positive effects of that spending will ripple out to the rest of the state.

COVID Lockdown in the UK

UK Announces New Lockdown And Mass Vaccinations To End Spread Of Covid-19

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced a national recovery plan this week after the United Kingdom entered another lockdown amid a massive increase in the spread of Covid-19

Covid-19 in Scotland

Scotland Enters Full Lockdown To Further Curb Spread Of Covid-19

Nicola Sturgeon recently announced that mainland Scotland would be placed in full lockdown for the duration of January.

Coronavirus Vaccination

4.2 Million Americans Have Been Vaccinated For Covid-19

Although more than 4 million Americans have now been vaccinated with their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, health experts are saying the country needs to start moving a lot quicker. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke to the media this past Sunday regarding the current rate that America is getting its citizens vaccinated. 

“No excuses, we’re not where we want to be, but hopefully we’ll pick up some momentum and get back to where we want to be in terms of getting people vaccinated.” 

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 13 million doses have already been distributed throughout the nation, however, the federal government had repeatedly promised that 20 million individuals would have received their initial dose by the end of 2020. While they may be behind with their original predictions, the rate of distribution is still increasing.

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According to Fauci 1.5 million doses were administered within 72 hours this past week, which means the rate is continuously increasing as well. Moncef Slaoui is the chief adviser for Operation Warp Speed, who recently told the media that 17.5 million doses have now been shipped and the government is confident that this will help that rate increase even further. 

Currently vaccines are only being administered to healthcare workers and long-term care patients who are much more susceptible to getting infected with Covid-19. While America continues to wait for vaccinations to be distributed, our current administration is still battling the results of the 2020 election, meaning no further health and safety guidelines are being enforced throughout the nation, and hundreds of thousands of Americans are still being infected. 

The US has reported over 100,000 new Covid-19-related hospitalizations every day for 33 consecutive days, and a majority of the states are still relatively open in terms of businesses and public settings. With holiday travel restrictions being practically non-existent this past month, even more Americans are expected to become infected in the coming weeks. 

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“There’s no running away from the numbers. It’s something that we have absolutely got to grasp and get our arms around and turn that inflection down by very intensive adherence to the public health measures, uniformly throughout the country, with no exceptions.”

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for coronavirus response, recently claimed, however, that there is still hope for the US and other countries currently enduring massive surges in new cases and deaths, but only if these countries adopt federally enforced measures such as mass-testing, isolation, contact tracing, and quarantining. President-elect Joe Biden has made multiple claims in the past that it’s likely he would be placing America under another lockdown once he’s inaugurated to alleviate all the pressure currently being placed on the nation’s hospitals. 

US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams urged Americans, especially those who gathered over the holidays, to “self-quarantine, get tested, wear a mask, wash their hands and watch their distance. The projections are pretty scary, but they’re projections, and what we do now matters. I want people to understand that if we get over this current surge, then things will start to get better, but it depends on the actions that we all take right now.”

Covid-19 vaccines are expected to continue to be distributed throughout the nation to all vulnerable parties first. Fauci has claimed that it is likely most Americans will be vaccinated by the summer, however, that will also be dependent on what happens with this pandemic in the meantime in terms of new infections.