The coronavirus is surging again in Europe, forcing harsh new restrictions in London and Paris as governments carefully weigh their next steps. That’s bad news for the region’s economic recovery — and puts the United States on notice ahead of a difficult winter.
What’s happening: Paris has imposed an overnight curfew. In London, people from different households are banned from meeting indoors. The measures are an attempt to stem the rapid rise in Covid-19 cases across the continent as hospital capacity again becomes a concern.
Stocks in London, Paris, Milan and Frankfurt sold off sharply on Thursday before rebounding Friday. Markets aren’t tanking like they did in March, but the quick change in climate still presents a cautionary tale.
Bank of America’s economists in Europe put it simply in a note to clients on Friday: “Yes, it is bad.”
“Localized and surgical restrictions could become more disruptive if they keep mounting up,” they said. “Precautionary savings, which are already large, could increase further driven by virus related uncertainty. And voluntary social distancing can easily amplify the economic impact of the resurgence of the virus.”
The size of the economic impact of the fresh measures is difficult to ascertain, especially given the patchwork response in countries like the United Kingdom, where cities such as Liverpool face even tighter rules than London.
“Tracking the scale and scope of restrictions will be [of] utmost importance going forward,” said Deutsche Bank economist Sanjay Raja. He’s sticking with his prediction for 2% growth in the United Kingdom between October and December, but said that if any more restrictions are imposed, the economy could completely stall.
Allianz now expects key European economies to contract again in the final quarter of the year, with Spain’s economy shrinking 1.3% compared to the previous quarter and France’s economy shedding 1.1%.
Big picture: There’s little reason to think that the challenge facing leaders in Europe — act decisively and try to stave off a worsening health crisis, or take moderate steps that could protect fragile economic gains — is purely a local phenomenon.
See here: New York City is grappling with a Covid-19 resurgence in some neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens by closing non-essential businesses and schools in certain areas, an attempt to avoid broader shutdowns for now.
In the United States, the one-week average of new daily cases has moved above 53,000, an increase of more than 55% in just over a month, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The Back-to-Normal Index from CNN Business and Moody’s Analytics shows that the US recovery has effectively plateaued since mid-September. Yet Europe demonstrates how quickly the situation can go into reverse.
Investor insight: European stocks have enjoyed heightened demand from investors in recent months. Money managers pointed to Europe’s relative control of the virus after the spring, while lauding an agreement among EU leaders to raise 800 billion euros ($938 billion) for rercovery efforts. Without the first part of that equation, however, the region could struggle.
Netflix is having a killer year. Can it keep it up?
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been hunkering down at home that Netflix is having a knockout year.
While movie theaters are quickly running out of cash, Netflix is thriving. The streaming service added 26 million subscribers in the first half of the year as the cultural conversation centered on shows like “Tiger King.” Last quarter, Netflix more than doubled its profit compared to the same period a year earlier.
Watch the stock: Shares have skyrocketed 64% in 2020, while the S&P 500 has gained closer to 8%.
Investors will tune in Tuesday to see if Netflix can maintain momentum when it reports results for the July to September quarter. The company said in July that it expected to bring about 2.5 million subscribers during that period.
Bank of America analysts thinks subscriber numbers could be weaker this quarter given increased competition from players like Disney+ and NBC’s Peacock, the return of live sports and a predicted increase in people cancelling subscriptions.
Even so it raised its target for the stock to $670, a 26% rise over Friday’s closing price, due to faith in the company’s long-term strategy.
Louisiana Congressman-Elect Luke Letlow Dead From COVID-19
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Luke Letlow, Louisiana’s incoming Republican member of the U.S. House, died Tuesday night from complications related to COVID-19 only days before being sworn into office. He was 41.
Letlow spokesman Andrew Bautsch confirmed the congressman-elect’s death at Ochsner-LSU Health Shreveport.
“The family appreciates the numerous prayers and support over the past days but asks for privacy during this difficult and unexpected time,” Bautsch said in a statement. “A statement from the family along with funeral arrangements will be announced at a later time.”
Louisiana’s eight-member congressional delegation called Letlow’s death devastating.
“Luke had such a positive spirit, and a tremendously bright future ahead of him. He was looking forward to serving the people of Louisiana in Congress, and we were excited to welcome him to our delegation where he was ready to make an even greater impact on our state and our nation,” they said in a statement.
The state’s newest congressman, set to take office in January, was admitted to a Monroe hospital on Dec. 19 after testing positive for the coronavirus disease. He was later transferred to the Shreveport facility and placed in intensive care.
Letlow, from the small town of Start in Richland Parish, was elected in a December runoff election for the 5th District U.S. House seat representing central and northeastern regions of the state, including the cities of Monroe and Alexandria.
He was to fill the seat being vacated by his boss, Republican Ralph Abraham. Letlow had been Abraham’s chief of staff and ran with Abraham’s backing for the job.
Gov. John Bel Edwards urged people to pray for Letlow’s family.
“COVID-19 has taken Congressman-elect Letlow from us far too soon,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “I am heartbroken that he will not be able to serve our people as a U.S. representative, but I am even more devastated for his loving family.”
Before working for Abraham, Letlow had worked for former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration. Jindal’s one-time chief of staff, Timmy Teepell, described Letlow on Twitter as “a good man with a kind heart and a passion to serve. He loved Louisiana and his family. He was a brother and I’m heart broken he’s gone.”
Letlow is survived by his wife, Julia Barnhill Letlow, and two children.
U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican and doctor who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this year and has since recovered, posted in a Twitter video: “It just, just, just, just brings home COVID can kill. For most folks it doesn’t, but it truly can. So, as you remember Luke, his widow, his children in your prayers, remember as well to be careful with COVID.”
Oklahoma Health Officials Reject CDC Vaccine Recommendation
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma health officials say they don’t plan to follow all of the newly released federal guidelines for vaccine distribution and will keep adults 65 and older in phase two of the state’s distribution protocol.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines over the weekend to prioritize those aged 75 and older and frontline essential workers in phase two. But Oklahoma Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said in a statement late Wednesday that the state’s advisory committee decided it would be problematic to prioritize young and healthy workers ahead of Oklahomans in the 65-74 age group.
Along with adults 65 and older, the state also plans to prioritize adults of any age with comorbidities, including hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers or chronic lung, liver or renal diseases. The state estimates there are about 635,000 Oklahomans in these two categories.
Frye says health officials plan to closely monitor the state’s vaccine supply and could consider prioritizing those age 75 and older if supplies and provider access remains limited.
First Coronavirus Vaccine US Shipments Expected To Arrive Monday December 14th
(Washington Post) — Hospitals that have spent months seeking a silver bullet against a virus that has killed more than 295,000 people in the United States will begin receiving shipments of the first coronavirus vaccine on Monday, U.S. officials said, comparing the start of distribution this weekend to the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944.
Saturday, said the four-star Army general overseeing vaccine rollout, was “D-Day,” following the Food and Drug Administration’s Friday-night clearance for emergency use of the two-dose regimen developed by Pfizer and the German company BioNTech.
“D-Day was a pivotal turning point in World War II; it was the beginning of the end,” said the general, Gustave Perna, who is chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, the public-private partnership speeding the development of vaccines and therapeutics. “D-Day was the beginning of the end, and that’s where we are today.”
The initial distribution of 2.9 million doses, a sliver of what was initially anticipated and intended only for health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities, will arrive at hospitals battling climbing case counts and mounting deaths. Immunization in its early phases will not curtail intensifying outbreaks, experts cautioned, underscoring the need for continued public-health precautions.
But the vaccine’s clearance on Friday night from the FDA, followed by backing on Saturday from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory group, set into motion one of one of the most complicated logistical missions in U.S. history, marking a new phase of the pandemic. The vaccine, which must be stored at ultracold temperatures, is being sent nationwide by plane and guarded truck.
“It’s a hugely important step,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Saturday as the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and older.
Members of the committee stressed that the vaccine, while developed in record time, had moved transparently through all required regulatory channels. They also expressed alarm about the lack of resources available to state and local authorities to carry out vaccination, in contrast to the billions in taxpayer dollars devoted to quickening the vaccine’s rollout.
As experts gave final sign-off, boxes were being packed and loaded with the vaccine, Perna said. The cargo would begin moving Sunday morning from Pfizer’s manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Mich., to FedEx and UPS hubs nationwide, he said.
Vaccine, he predicted, would arrive at 145 sites, mostly large hospital systems, on Monday, with another 425 sites receiving supply on Tuesday. The final 66 of the 636 locations poised to receive doses in the first round of Pfizer shipments would receive their supply on Wednesday, Perna said.
The general made clear that earlier-than-anticipated clearance from federal regulators, which took place late Friday instead of Saturday after pressure from the White House, did not alter the timetable for the distribution or actual administration of the shots. Delivery, he said, must occur when “professionals are available to receive it, and then eventually administer it,” making Monday the anticipated target.
Top FDA officials took steps on Saturday to assure the public that the vaccine was safe, that its clearance was not driven by politics and that health care sites would be equipped in the event of a rare allergic reaction observed among two British health care workers with a history of severe reactions.
Stephen Hahn, the FDA commissioner, told reporters he would get the vaccine as soon as he was eligible for it, denying, as he did on Friday, that his job had been threatened over the timing of the vaccine’s approval. Asked about the possibility of allergic reactions, Peter Marks, director of the agency’s division that regulates vaccines, said officials had examined possible side effects and concluded that people should be vaccinated unless they have had a severe reaction to one of the vaccine’s components.
The initial shipments include only the first shot in a two-dose regimen for some of the nation’s most at-risk people, with another 2.9 million doses set for distribution 21 days later. According to CDC recommendations, the nation’s 21 million health care workers and three million residents of long-term care facilities should receive the vaccine first. With a second vaccine from Moderna expected to gain approval from the FDA soon, as many as 40 million doses could be delivered by the end of the year — enough to vaccinate the CDC’s first priority group. Additional vaccines are in late-stage trials.
Health care workers, who have been prioritized because of their exposure to the virus and critical role in sustaining the nation’s strained health care system, will begin receiving the shots within days. Each hospital system is moving on a slightly different timetable, depending on resources and staffing needs, with many saying vaccination would not begin until Wednesday. Some medical centers were independently reviewing the vaccine data to double-check the FDA’s decision.
Inoculation at long-term care facilities could begin by the end of the week, Perna said. Separate kits with needles and alcohol wipes are being shipped so as to sync up with vaccine batches at each site, underscoring the complex choreography of the operation.
Perna tempered his confidence with an acknowledgment of the challenges involved in a mass vaccination campaign against a rampaging virus, with limited supplies initially available for a country of 330 million people eager to return to normal.
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