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Coronavirus update: A slight increase in cases, most homeowners have exited forbearance

Reopenings are creating supply chain issues

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Photo (c) Radoslav Zilinsky - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 33,058,956 (33,029,091)

Total U.S. deaths: 588,583 (587,930)

Total global cases: 165,639,253 (165,015,132)

Total global deaths: 3,432,672 (3,420,173)

Cases tick higher at week’s end

As vaccinations increase across the U.S., the number of new COVID-19 cases has flatlined. However, new cases ticked higher at the end of this week.

According to data compiled by the COVID-19 Tracking Project at Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. reported almost 30,000 new cases on Thursday, a few hundred higher than the day before. Despite the increase, the U.S. has kept new cases below 30,000 for the last several days.

Deaths from the virus remain the lowest since the pandemic began. There were 666 deaths on Thursday and 667 the day before.

Homeowners still in forbearance programs are vulnerable

Research from the New York Federal Reserve Bank shows that about 65% of homeowners who entered a pandemic-related mortgage forbearance program are now out of it. The report found that those who remain typically have lower credit scores and are more likely to have subprime mortgages.

The report’s authors suggest that those still not making payments may face a high degree of difficulty in transitioning back to normal payments. About 70% are not making any monthly payments.

On the bright side, the report found that the booming housing market has helped many homeowners leave the forbearance program. The increase in home equity has helped homeowners sell their homes for a profit, an avenue not open to delinquent homeowners during the financial crisis.

Reopening is creating supply chain issues

New mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is leading to a rush on restaurants, many of which are being allowed to return to 100% capacity. That, in turn, is leading to challenges in maintaining a normal menu.

While restaurants struggle to find employees, the same is true at food processing plants, which scaled back operations during the pandemic. Chicken processors say they are having a hard time hiring employees, and that has created shortages and higher prices.

While no fast-food company has said it’s raising prices on chicken products yet, they’re also wrestling with having to pay more for chicken meat. “We are just absorbing that for now and plugging away,” said Executive Chef Brian Morris at Nashville hot chicken chain Hattie B’s.

WHO says variants respond to existing vaccines

Variants to the coronavirus are a source of concern because they appear to spread more easily, although they don’t seem to be more deadly. In a new report, the World Health Organization (WHO) says people who are fully vaccinated have even less to fear. It says existing vaccines are effective against known variants.

That’s consistent with research conducted by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Their trials have shown that their vaccines are only slightly less effective when confronted with mutated forms of the virus.

"All COVID-19 virus variants can be controlled in the same way with public health and social measures," European Regional Director Hans Kluge said at a press conference. "All COVID-19 virus variants that have emerged so far do respond to the available approved vaccines." 

When will this be over?

The CDC’s guidance that fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks in most settings has lots of people seeing the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. But just when, exactly, will the pandemic be over?

According to health information publisher STAT, that’s not an easy question to answer. It notes that we’ve had influenza pandemics in the past that burned themselves out in about a year and a half.

However, it also notes that COVID-19 is a different kind of virus, so previous pandemics may not be an accurate guide. But a modeling paper published in Science predicts that the body’s immune system will learn to handle the virus so that its effects are much less severe within about two years.

Around the nation

  • Nevada: Two Republican state legislators are facing disciplinary action for refusing to wear masks on the floor of the state assembly, as required by rules. Neither would say whether they had been vaccinated. One lawmaker is being barred from voting until she apologizes.

  • Virginia: Efforts are now underway across the state to vaccinate children. About 600 kids got their first shot at a mass vaccination venue set up at Richmond International Raceway.

  • Florida: Beaches have begun to fill up with vaccinated vacationers, and Florida tourism officials are beginning to breathe a sigh of relief. "We're growing increasingly optimistic about the summer," Daryl Cronk, senior director of research for Visit Orlando, told U.S News and World Report. "In Orlando, tourism is the heart of the economy."

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