Ultra-cold freezers are required to store the Pfizer vaccine

Across the country, hospitals and trauma centers that have spent months preparing to administer a vaccine for a virus that has killed some 300,000 people in the US alone will begin receiving shipments of the medicine today.

The initial distribution to hospitals, which are struggling with climbing case numbers and a rapidly rising death toll, is the beginning of one of the most complicated logistical missions in American history. Nearly 3 million doses of the vaccine, manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech, are being sent by airplane and guarded truck. This particular vaccine must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures.

The vaccine is scheduled to arrive at 145 locations today, mostly large hospital systems. Another 425 sites are supposed to receive a supply tomorrow, Tuesday. The final 66 of the 636 locations scheduled to receive vaccine doses in the first round of Pfizer shipments are to receive a supply on Wednesday.

The initial shipments total fewer than 3 million doses, with an equivalent amount to be shipped 21 days later for a required booster shot. According to recommendations from the CDC, the nation’s 21 million health care workers and 3 million residents of long-term care facilities should receive the vaccine first.

A CDC vaccine advisory committee is expected to issue guidance next Saturday recommending that the vaccine should be given to everyone 16 and older – effectively opening the door for immunizations to begin.

Health-care workers, who have been prioritized because of their exposure to the coronavirus and their critical role in keeping the nation’s strained health-care system upright, will begin receiving the vaccine within days.

The Markets

On Friday, the major US stock market indices closed down slightly. The S&P 500 Index lost 5 points to close at 3,663; for the week the index was down slightly less than 1%. The technology-heavy Nasdaq fell 28 points to close at 12,377; for the week the index was down just over 1%. Finally, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 47 points to close at 30,046; for the week the index was flat. All three of the US major indices are very near their all-time highs.

Gold rose 0.3% to $1,843 an ounce on Friday, as investors demonstrated concerns about the US government’s inability to provide additional relief stimulus.

US domestic (WTI) oil futures declined slightly to $46.60 a barrel on Friday, but still rose for the sixth week in a row. Traders are concerned about the slowing US economy and a global trade environment that remains constrained by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Economy

Even as the first vaccine doses are distributed across the country – promising eventual relief from a global pandemic that has devastated many sectors of the world’s economy – millions of Americans face a deepening financial disaster.

Congress continues to bicker and argue as they fail to agree on a new coronavirus relief package. About 12 millions Americans will see their support cut off completely at year-end if no agreement is reached.

With coronavirus cases skyrocketing (see more below), the economic recovery has stalled and job opportunities in many hard-hit sectors remain scarce. Fewer than 250,000 jobs came back in November, the smallest number since the recovery began. Restaurants and retailers continue to cut their payrolls, and more small businesses are closing.

Many unemployed Americans were able to delay paying rent this fall under eviction moratoriums. But those protections will end soon, and landlords and utilities are anxious to get paid, because they have their own bills and taxes to pay. Economists are warning that low-income families won’t be able to suddenly pay back three to six months of rent at once. The federal eviction moratorium is slated to end on December 31.

The Labor Market

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose to 853,000 in the week ended December 6th, from the previous week’s revised level of 716,000. It’s the highest number since mid-September amid rising COVID-19 cases and new lockdowns across the country. Also, more than 428,000 people applied for help from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which covers workers that do not qualify for initial claims.

Trading Economics Jobless Claims 2020 12 06

Source: Trading Economics

The Public Health

Hospitalizations in the US are now consistently over 100,000 per day. Over 200,000 new cases were reported on Friday. There have been over 3,000 deaths a day for four consecutive days. These gruesome numbers are widely expected to get worse because of large gatherings over the Thanksgiving weekend and, over the slightly longer term, the Christmas holiday.

COVID Tracking Project 2020 12 11

Source: COVID Tracking Project

COVID 19 Numbers

Across 191 countries and regions, nearly 72 million have contracted the virus and over 1.6 million have died. In the US, over 16 million have been infected and over 300,000 have died.

The positivity rate has leveled off only slightly.

JHU Testing and Positivity 2020 12 12

Source: Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center

Closing Thoughts

There is little we can say that hasn’t been said already. We are all in this together.

Be safe, stay healthy and keep the faith.


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