Friday Stats and More

Based on the CDC’s Cases in the U.S. website, here is the FEHBlog’s chart of new weekly COVID-19 cases and deaths over the 20th through 48th weeks of this year (beginning May 14 and ending December 2; using Thursday as the first day of the week in order to facilitate this weekly update):

 

and here is the CDC’s latest overall weekly hospitalization rate chart for COVID-19:

The dip of the right side of this chart always happens and is not indicative of a drop in hospitalizations.

The FEHBlog has noted that the new cases and deaths chart shows a flat line for new weekly deaths  because new cases greatly exceed new deaths. Accordingly here is a chart of new COVID-19 deaths over the same period (May 14 through December 2):

This week’s dips on the right sides of the COVID 19 new cases and deaths charts are valid.

It’s worth adding that as of November 28, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control’s Fluview reports that “Seasonal influenza activity in the United States remains lower than usual for this time of year.” If anything proves that people are using masks and social distancing effectively this statistic does. COVID-19 simply is a stronger virus than the flu but it would be bad news to have a twin pandemic.

From the COVID-19 vaccine front, Fierce Healthcare reports that

After a bombshell report Thursday from the Wall Street Journal claiming Pfizer and BioNTech suddenly scaled back distribution targets for their mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine in 2020, the drugmaker said those revised plans were nothing new and, in fact, had been laid out last month. In announcements since, the company has quoted the new numbers. * * *

Pfizer is planning to distribute up to 50 million doses of its shot, dubbed BNT162b2, by the end of the year, a significant cut from the 100 million doses the drugmaker initially intended. Back in November, those plans were revised due to a slower-than-expected manufacturing scale-up and raw material shortages, a Pfizer spokesman said. 

Also, on the bright side, “Antibody levels stayed elevated in the 90 days after people received the second dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, raising hopes that the prophylactic can provide protection for one year.” Keep hope alive.

From the COVID-19 relief front, the Wall Street Journal reports that “A sharp decline in job growth in November further prodded lawmakers to reach an agreement on coronavirus relief, as negotiators hurried to craft a bill before a government funding deadline at the end of next week. * * * Rank-and-file lawmakers are still negotiating the details of the bipartisan proposal, including the language specifying how to distribute aid to state and local governments and the duration of a legal liability shield for businesses, health-care providers and schools. They are expected to continue crafting the text of the agreement, which also puts money toward schools, vaccine distribution and small business, through the weekend.” It will be telling if the negotiators release legislative language on Monday.

Also from Congress, Federal News Network informs us that

Federal employees who put off travel plans or simply didn’t have the time or flexibility to take time off this year will have a little more leeway with their unused annual leave in 2021. The latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act includes a provision that will allow federal employees to carry over an additional 25% of their annual leave into 2021. Conferees unveiled the details of their agreement for the 2021 NDAA, which is considered must-pass legislation, Thursday evening. * * *

[Also, ]Nearly a year after Congress passed paid parental leave benefits into law for federal employees, lawmakers are poised to correct a few mistakes with the original bill and expand coverage to the entire workforce.

The final NDAA agreement includes a provision that will ensure paid parental leave coverage to workers at the Federal Aviation Administration, non-screener personnel at the Transportation Security Administration and health professionals at the Veterans Health Administration, as well as any other Title 38 employees. Congressional employees, Article I judges, presidential appointees and employees of the District of Columbia courts and Public Defender Service are also covered in the final NDAA provisions.

The provision would go in effect as if they were immediately enacted after the passage of last year’s NDAA, meaning that an FAA or VHA employee expecting a new child on or after Oct. 1 should be entitled to receive paid parental leave benefits.

Finally, the Health and Human Services Department announced today “the creation of a False Claims Act Working Group (Working Group) that enhances its partnership with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) to combat fraud and abuse by identifying and focusing resources on those who seek to defraud the American taxpayers. HHS regulates over a third of the United States economy. In 2020, HHS provided over $1.5 trillion in grants and other payments to public and private recipients, including for healthcare items and services. In addition, HHS is one of the largest government contractors, paying over $170 billion in 2020 to thousands of contractors. In combating COVID-19, HHS has administered unprecedented levels of taxpayer support for private individuals and organizations.” OPM and its Inspector General, to their credit, have maintained a similar working group with FEHBP carriers for decades.

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