Covid Surge Worse Than Anything We’ve Seen

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said boosting vaccination rates will not be enough to contain soaring coronavirus infections across the country, Bloomberg reported, calling for tough action as countries across Europe come down hard on the unvaccinated and prepare drastic measures to smother the outbreak.

Key Facts

Merkel reportedly told officials from her conservative party on Monday that many Germans don’t appear to understand how severe the country’s outbreak is, according to Bloomberg, calling on individual German states to implement tougher restrictions this week.

The measures would exceed new restrictions barring unvaccinated people from public transport and many areas of public life—which apply in areas where hospitalized Covid-19 patients exceed a certain threshold—and health minister Jens Spahn said he could not rule out another nationwide lockdown.

Some politicians in Germany are debating following neighboring Austria—which went back into full lockdown Monday after a more targeted, unvaccinated-only lockdown—in requiring everyone to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

From February next year, Austrians refusing the jab will face fines of up to €3,600 ($4,000), with smaller penalties for those refusing booster shots.

Czechia and Slovakia have also started to make life harder for vaccine holdouts—Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger reportedly called the measures a “lockdown for the unvaccinated”—barring them from using various services, entering restaurants and public events.

Crucial Quote

By spring, “pretty much everyone in Germany… will be vaccinated, cured or dead,” Spahn said at a news conference Monday. “With the very contagious delta variant, it is very, very likely … that anyone who is not vaccinated will over the next few months become infected.”

Key Background

Europe has, again, become the center of the pandemic. Cases and deaths have been rising there even as they mostly fell around the world. The World Health Organization said it is “very worried” about the situation, warning that an additional 500,000 deaths could be recorded by March if sufficient steps aren’t taken.

Many countries, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, are facing dramatic surges and infections are at record-breaking levels. Slovakia, Slovenia, Austria, Czechia, Germany and the Netherlands are all at, or have hit, new highs and cases are rapidly rising in other countries.

Violent protests against new lockdowns and other restrictions have erupted across the bloc as governments scramble to contain rising cases. Many of these measures explicitly target the unvaccinated, who experts and officials warn are undoubtedly driving the new wave by refusing provably safe and effective vaccines.

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I am a London-based reporter for Forbes covering breaking news. Previously, I have worked as a reporter for a specialist legal publication covering big data and as a freelance journalist and policy analyst covering science, tech and health. I have a master’s degree in Biological Natural Sciences and a master’s degree in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge. Follow me on Twitter @theroberthart or email me at rhart@forbes.com

Source: Covid Surge ‘Worse Than Anything We’ve Seen’: Germany Mulls Tough Restrictions As Europe Targets Unvaccinated With Lockdown, Compulsory Shots

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Further Reading

Czechs, Slovaks target unvaccinated people in step behind Austria (Reuters)

Not Just Austria—Here Are The Countries Making Covid-19 Vaccination Compulsory For Everyone (Forbes)

Europe’s Carrot vs. Stick Approach to COVID-19 Vaccination (Atlantic)

Austria Sends Unvaccinated Into Lockdown—Here’s How Other Nations Are Limiting People Who Don’t Get Covid-19 Shots (Forbes)

Merkel Says Covid Spike ‘Worse Than Anything We’ve Seen’ (Bloomberg)

‘We Have To Face Reality’: Austria Announces Nationwide Vaccine Mandate, Full-Scale Covid-19 Lockdown (Forbes)

Lockdown And Restrictions Resurface In Europe As Continent Battles Another Covid Surge (Forbes)

The COVID Vaccine For Kids Is Almost Here. Let’s Not Forget The Children Who Made This Possible

This week Pfizer and BioNTech said that their COVID-19 vaccine was safe for children aged 5 to 11. If approved by the FDA for emergency use, it could be ready for children as early as late October. Since the emergence of the delta variant, children have accounted for more than one in five new cases, and more children are hospitalized now, as a result of the coronavirus, than at any other time in the pandemic.

The concern and frustration surrounding relatively slow approval of treatment for kids under 12 years old is nothing new. For decades, kids with cancer have had to wait for trials to improve drug options and improve patient outcomes.

The call to do more, faster, has gone unanswered by drug companies who don’t invest in trials for a small number of unprofitable kids and by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which allocates only 4% of its annual $6.56 billion budget to pediatric cancer and other rare diseases.

Less than 6% of our budget comes from government support. WBUR only exists because readers like you fund our quality reporting. Donate Now.

Trials are a key component to curing cancer and achieving vaccine safety, yet come with a caveat that most parents aren’t willing to risk. It feels good to help mankind, but not at the expense of their child’s growing body.

In 2010, my husband and I agreed to send my 4-year-old daughter to trial to treat her stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma. Emily’s oncologist was desperate to enroll kids in the trial and we were desperate to get rid of the cancer. It was the most difficult decision we’ve ever made.

Emily received two back-to-back stem cell transplants. The theory was that two transplants — as opposed to one that was the protocol of care — would be better at killing the tricky neuroblastoma cells that often lurked and caused a relapse.

It would seem a no-brainer to want two opportunities to kill the cancer cells, but it wasn’t. Kids died during the transplants. The amount of chemo they got in one transplant would kill an adult instantly, but kids metabolized it quicker, so they lived, but just barely. Three weeks after being discharged from the first transplant, a kid in the trial would be admitted into the hospital for the second one. If the neuroblastoma didn’t kill them, the trial protocol might.

We wanted to do everything possible to prevent Emily from dying, so we agreed to the trial. We weren’t about to wait around for her cancer.

We watched her claw her way through line infections, thick mucus in her lungs and ICU visits. We doubted whether we made the right decision with every obstacle, especially when she needed surgery to drain seven ounces of liquid from her heart during her second transplant.

We wanted to do everything possible to prevent Emily from dying, so we agreed to the trial. We weren’t about to wait around for her cancer.

Emily almost got kicked out of the trial in the last few months when her damaged kidneys were failing and dipped below the trial parameters. After her tandem stem cell transplants, 21 rounds of radiation, and months of an experimental antibody therapy, she was so close to finishing. Yet somehow, with the help of smart doctors and more medicine, she finished the trial.

After 18 months, the trial was successful in eliminating Emily’s body of neuroblastoma cells, but it stole parts of her she’d never get back.

Emily, who’s now 16, has chronic kidney disease, estrogen levels of a post-menopausal woman, stunted growth, frail hair and a 65% bi-lateral hearing loss from the toxic drugs used during the trial protocol. It’s been the catch-22 of a lifetime: Agreeing to have her participate in a trial that saved her life, but also compromised the quality of it.

About a year after Emily finished treatment, when she was 5, the trial she’d been enrolled in was stopped early. The data showed that the kids who had received two transplants were relapsing less and had a significantly better chance of survival than the kids who had received one transplant. It worked.

As a result, 300 to 400 kids a year who are diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma receive the protocol of care that Emily helped pioneer 10 years ago.

Despite the dark days of treatment and unpredictable secondary effects from chemo, I would make the same decision again, and send her into the trial. Emily would agree, though she longs for the hair that didn’t grow back well after treatment. We know how much worse the alternative could have been. She might not be alive, picking out a homecoming dress and watching Tik Tok videos for hours a day. She might be a statistic.

[The COVID vaccine trials] serve as a gatekeeper to kids’ health from a nation that doesn’t like to wait.

And now a nation of parents looks toward science to approve a COVID-19 vaccine to keep their kids from being statistics, too. The American Academy of Pediatrics reported 225,978 child COVID-19 cases last week, nearly 26% of the weekly reported cases. It’s the second-highest total of new diagnoses among children over the course of the pandemic.

As desperate as we are for our children to get their COVID-19 vaccines, the trial pharmaceutical companies are running — and the in-depth data analysis the FDA undertakes — exists to protect millions of kids from adverse effects that can’t be predicted. It serves as a gatekeeper to kids’ health from a nation that doesn’t like to wait.

When the FDA approves a vaccine for kids — and they will — let’s acknowledge the kids who, like Emily, answered the call. They’re the unsung heroes in getting a nation back to health.

Follow Cognoscenti on Facebook and Twitter.

By: Amy McHugh

Cognoscenti contributor
Amy McHugh is a high school teacher on Cape Cod where she lives with her husband, two teenage daughters, and two goldendoodles. She’s helped raise over $750,000 for neuroblastoma research at Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic.

Source: The COVID Vaccine For Kids Is Almost Here. Let’s Not Forget The Children Who Made This Possible | Cognoscenti

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Asian Stocks Mixed as Data Show Delta Sapped China: Markets Wrap

Asian stocks were mixed Tuesday as weaker economic activity in China and the latest escalation in Beijing’s crackdown on private industries overshadowed another record close on Wall Street.

Equities slipped in China, where data signaled that an outbreak of the delta virus variant led to a service-sector contraction for the first time since February last year. Hong Kong slid as Beijing’s stepped-up curbs on video-gaming firms weighed on Chinese technology stocks.

U.S. futures edged up after the S&P 500 hit its 12th all-time high in August and the Nasdaq 100 rose. Treasuries held gains made following Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s measured comments about a possible reduction in stimulus and any future interest-rate hikes. The dollar dipped.

Oil declined, with traders assessing the prospect of additional OPEC+ production. Aluminum and nickel advanced as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. raise target prices. In cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin fell to about $47,000.

Global stocks overall are set for a seventh monthly advance on strong company profits, expanding vaccinations to underpin economic reopening and supportive Fed policies. At the same time, the decline in Treasury yields from a March peak may partly reflect concerns of a slower recovery ahead on risks such as the impact of the delta strain.

“The bond market is getting a little nervous about the economic outlook,” Priya Misra, head of global interest rate strategy at TD Securities, said on Bloomberg Television. But she added the U.S. economy is “strong” and that “by year end, if the economy holds up, which we forecast it will, that’s when we expect rates — especially in the long end — to start to edge higher.”

In the latest U.S. data, pending home sales fell in July. Traders are awaiting key payrolls figures Friday for further guidance on the economy’s strength.

Here are some key events to watch this week:

OPEC+ meeting on output WednesdayEuro zone manufacturing PMI WednesdayU.S. jobs report Friday

Some of the main moves in markets:

Stocks

S&P 500 futures climbed 0.2% as of 1:42 p.m. in Tokyo. The S&P 500 rose 0.4%Nasdaq 100 futures increased 0.1%. The Nasdaq 100 rose 1.1%Japan’s Topix index rose 0.7%Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.6%South Korea’s Kospi added 0.8%Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 1.4%China’s Shanghai Composite index retreated 0.8%

Currencies

The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index shed 0.1%The euro was at $1.1818The Japanese yen was at 109.88 per dollarThe offshore yuan was at 6.4660 per dollar

Bonds

The yield on 10-year Treasuries held at 1.28%

Commodities

West Texas Intermediate crude was at $68.90 a barrel, down 0.5%Gold was at $1,815.12 an ounce, up 0.3%

By:

Source: Stock Market Today: Dow, S&P Live Updates for Aug. 31, 2021 – Bloomberg

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High-Frequency Charts Show U.S. Economy Softening From Delta

The Delta version has muted the progress of the US economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, with consumers delaying some holiday spending and businesses returning to normal operations, according to multiple high-frequency reports. Show softness in August.

Airlines

The number of passengers passing through airport checkpoints has started declining again. According to data from the Transportation Security Administration, 1.47 million passengers flew on Tuesday, the lowest in more than three months. The seven-day average dropped to about 1.76 million passengers a day at the end of August, from about 2.05 million a month earlier.

While this partly marks the end of the summer holiday season, airlines have cited the Delta version as well. “There has been a slowdown in holiday bookings and an increase in cancellations,” said Helen Baker, senior research analyst at Cowen Inc. As companies delay return to offices, the return of business air travel may also be delayed, she said.

Restaurant Dining

After narrowing the gap to just 5-6% at the end of July, sit-down meals at U.S. restaurants have been down about 10-11% from 2019 levels in recent weeks, according to OpenTable, which processes online reservations. Is. Concerns about Delta and the city’s mandate are playing a part, according to the company.

“We see a clear decline in late July and August,” said OpenTable CEO Debbie Sue. “While several factors may be at play here, we believe the primary driver of the slowdown is diners’ concern about the rise in COVID cases.”

Hotel Occupancy

According to STR, a lodging data tracker, while leisure travel helped boost some popular destinations in the summer, the number of hotel stays declined for four consecutive weeks. Average room rates for three weeks have dropped.

Among the 25 major US markets, none saw engagement in the week ending August 21 compared to the same week in 2019, STR found. Occupancy in San Francisco has dropped by more than 40%, the most of any market.

“Demand looks like it’s doing a little worse than a normal seasonal decline,” said Bill Crowe, Raymond James Financial Analyst. There is a “coolness on travel due to delta-type case growth” with the business-travel markets underperforming.

Job Listing

While the labor market has hardened this year, and many employers say they are struggling to fill positions, there are some signs of a slowdown in demand among Delta. Dental office and child care jobs, for example, have declined in job postings for positions that would call for close contact with the public.

“During the latest wave of the virus, those virus-sensitive sectors have already seen a decline in job postings,” said Indeed chief economist Jed Kolko. If the wave continues, “demand for labor could collapse if people cut back on travel, eating out and other services.” And potential workers may be reluctant to look for work, he said.

Home Again

Big US companies’ plans to bring workers back to their offices in busy business districts are being reversed. Average office occupancy in the 10 largest business districts fell to 31.3% of pre-Covid-19 levels for the week ended August 18, according to data from Kastel Systems.

While the August holidays may have contributed, “the return to normal offices has been a bit slow due to delta,” said JPMorgan Chase Real Estate Investment Trust analyst Anthony Paolone.

This affects not only real estate but also a group of businesses that depend on offices, such as dry cleaners and urban restaurants, and the city through taxes.

“There is a cascading effect for the vibrancy of the various urban cores,” he said.

By: and

Source: High-Frequency Charts Show U.S. Economy Softening From Delta – Bloomberg

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Did Inequality Increase During Pandemic?

It is widely believed that the Covid-19 pandemic and the reactions to it by governments and businesses accelerated an already-strong trend toward increasing economic inequality in the U.S. People on the political left think this and people on the political right do too, a heartwarming exception to the political polarization of our age.

This belief is also based on some actual evidence. Thanks to big increases in the prices of stocks and other assets after the initial shock of the pandemic, the nation’s billionaires have in fact added many billions to their net worths, while lots of affluent homeowners and 401(k)-holders have added hundreds of thousands.

The risks of both Covid-19 infection and job loss have been higher for those who can’t work from home, and those who can work from home tend to have more degrees and earn more money than those who can’t. Poorer children have struggled much more with remote schooling than richer ones. And so on.

So yes it’s possible, maybe even likely, that when the dust settles and all the relevant data are available, we will conclude that economic worsened over the course of the pandemic. But I wouldn’t be sure of it. Pandemics are one of the “Four Horsemen” of economic equalization described by historian Walter Scheidel in his acclaimed 2017 book, “The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century” (the other three being war, revolution and state collapse).

Scheidel did have more devastating diseases in mind than what Covid-19 has proved to be so far, but as of January, Nobel-prize-winning economist Angus Deaton found that economic inequality among countries had decreased during the pandemic, although this didn’t hold on a population-weighted basis because the of India, the largest country in the bottom half of the world’s income distribution (it’s “lower middle-income,” according to the World Bank), had suffered greatly even before this year’s rise of the Delta variant.

Within the US, the very real forces pushing toward more inequality have been counteracted by an unprecedented outpouring of government aid, while trends boosting wages in the lower part of the distribution that were apparent before the pandemic seem to be accelerating now. The numbers available so far, while preliminary and in some cases a bit contradictory, aren’t really telling a story of exploding inequality.

Perhaps the simplest of these numbers, from the distributional financial accounts that the Federal Reserve began releasing quarterly in 2019, is the wealth share of the bottom 50 per cent of the wealth distribution. It bottomed out in the second quarter of 2011 at a barely-there 0.4 per cent of household wealth and has been rising most quarters since, reaching 2 per cent in the first quarter of this year for the first time since just before the Great Recession started in December 2007.

This measure, which I’ve written about before, has its limitations. The Fed estimates wealth by combining household-level data on assets and liabilities from its triennial Survey of Consumer Finances, most recently conducted in 2019, with aggregate numbers from its quarterly Financial Accounts of the United States, and lumps the entire bottom half of the wealth distribution together because it doesn’t have enough information to do otherwise. It is able to slice things more finely within the top half, where the top 1 per cent gained wealth share since the end of 2019 while those between them and the 50th percentile lost ground.

So yes it looks like wealth inequality increased during the pandemic within the top half, and most of the bottom half’s gains came from those just above it in the wealth distribution rather than the very richest. The bottom half did enjoy a bigger percentage wealth gain than the top 1 per cent —30.3 per cent versus 20.7 per cent since the end of 2019 — although because it had so little wealth to start with, that amounted to just $609 billion in new wealth versus $7.1 trillion for the 1 per cent. Still, the total wealth of the bottom 50 per cent in the first quarter of this year amounted to 6.3 per cent of that of the top 1 per cent, up from 5.8 per cent at the end of 2019 and the highest such percentage since 2007. In that sense, at least, inequality between the top and bottom decreased.

That sense may not be enough for most people who are concerned about inequality, but improved conditions for the less-well-off are worth celebrating in any case, and it’s not just the Federal Reserve that’s detecting signs of them. Researchers at the Urban Institute estimated last month that, thanks to big job gains and the benefits included in the American Rescue Plan approved in March and earlier pandemic-aid legislation, the share of Americans below the poverty line would fall to 7.7 per cent this year from what they estimated using the same methodology to have been 13.9 per cent in 2018.

These estimates use what’s called the Supplemental Poverty Measure, a decade-old metric that attempts to better incorporate all the resources available to poor families, and the Urban Institute’s number for 2018 is a bit higher than the 12.8 per cent SPM rate estimated by the Census Bureau and the 12.7 per cent estimated by Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy based on Census data. Measuring poverty is complicated, especially over time. But the trend does seem to be headed in the right direction.Because the expected drop in poverty in 2021 owes so much to federal aid, some of it could prove temporary. But gains for the lower part of the income distribution are also coming from the private sector in the form of higher wages.

It’s hard to know what to make of the 2020 data, which may be skewed by low response rates to government surveys and big job losses among low-wage workers. But the high wage growth before the pandemic and so far this year seems to be for real, and all the anecdotal evidence from the job market points to it continuing. In previous economic expansions the wage gains at the bottom of the scale came only after years of job growth; this time it seems to be the norm from the get-go.

A full picture of the pandemic’s impact on income and wealth inequality will have to wait on more data. The most recent income-distribution numbers available are from 2019 in the case of Census Bureau survey data and 2018 for tax statistics from the Internal Revenue Service. The Census Bureau’s estimate of the Gini coefficient, a measure of how equally incomes are distributed that comes out to one if one person gets all the money and zero if everyone earns the same amount, has been rising at a somewhat slower pace in the 2000s than in the 1980s and 1990s. It even fell slightly in 2018 and 2019, although it seems too early to make much of that.Such broad measures of inequality have taken something of a backseat in recent years to the statistics on income and wealth at the very top compiled from tax data by economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, Gabriel Zucman and others. Saez and Zucman’s most recent updates of the data (and revisions in response to critiques from other economists), show a decade-long plateau in the share of income going to the top 0.1 per cent and a more recent halt in wealth-share gains.

Given what we know from other sources it seems pretty likely that the income and wealth shares of the top 0.1 per cent rose in 2020, and given that I don’t have a great explanation for why inequality was declining — or at least somewhat on hold — before the pandemic, I’m not going to make any confident predictions here about what it will do after.

One thing that is clear from the above chart is that inequality can decline, and decline by a lot. Amid the great equalization of the mid-20th century, economist Simon Kuznets (another Nobel winner) wrote an influential paper in 1955 speculating that it might be in the nature of economic modernization and industrialization for inequality to at first increase and then decline. After decades of rising inequality in the US and other rich countries, such examinations are now more likely to conclude that a growing gap between rich and poor is an inevitable trait of capitalist economies (Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”) or human society in general in the absence of calamity (Scheidel’s book). They may be right! But again, I wouldn’t be sure of it.

By: Justin Fox | Bloomberg Opinion

Source: Did inequality increase during pandemic? Wait for more data to get answers | Business Standard News

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