COVID-19 Bulletin: December 23
December 23, 2020 • Posted in COVID-19
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- Oil prices ended lower yesterday and are poised to break a seven-week streak of gains. Prices were modestly higher in early trading today, with the WTI at $47.08/bbl and Brent at $50.17/bbl. Natural gas was lower at $2.73/MMBtu.
- U.S. oil inventories rose by 2.7 million barrels last week, a second consecutive weekly increase, according to the American Petroleum Institute.
- ConocoPhillips announced a large oil discovery in the Norwegian Sea close to a producing oilfield that could hold up to 75 million barrels and 200 million barrels of recoverable oil equivalent, the company said.
- Despite an uptick in travel during the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., jet fuel consumption remained 50% below the year-ago level.
- A train carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire in Washington state near the Canadian border, triggering an emergency response.
- Airfreight rates from China to the U.S. have increased 58% since mid-October, with higher rates possible in the first half of 2021 due to ramped-up distribution of coronavirus vaccines.
- UPS will reinstate pre-holiday peak surcharge rates on January 17, citing a period of “sustained accelerated activity.”
- Several members of the Federal Maritime Commission warned that major ocean carriers who refuse to export U.S. cargo may violate the Shipping Act.
- Logistics conditions continue to deteriorate, with trucking demand exceeding availability, growing congestion at ports, and backlogs at warehousing and packaging facilities due in part to operating challenges related to the pandemic. Shipping containers are in short supply, with demurrage charges rising. Clients are advised to provide expanded lead times on orders to help ensure delivery dates.
- There were 195,033 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and 3,401 deaths, the second highest number of daily fatalities on record. Hospitalizations of 115,351 set a record.
- COVID-19 has now hospitalized almost twice as many Americans as at any previous point in the pandemic, with California, Texas and New York accounting for more than a quarter of the total.
- California continues to be the hardest hit state for COVID-19 hospitalizations as health officials there turn to opening field hospitals and taking over emergency rooms to deal with a lack of available beds.
- Arkansas will build two facilities to provide more than 100 extra hospital beds in preparation for COVID-19 patient surges.
- Health care workers across the country are taking to social media to show they received Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to reduce public hesitation about inoculation.
- The federal government is nearing a deal with Pfizer/BioNTech to secure 100 million more doses of the partnership’s COVID-19 vaccine.
- Congressional lawmakers passed a $900 billion pandemic relief bill, tacked onto a broader $1.4 trillion government funding package, that includes $600 direct payments for many Americans, $300 a week in extra jobless aid, funding for vaccine distribution and more. The president threatened to reject the bill unless direct payments to citizens are raised to $2,000.
- The relief bill includes $27 billion in aid for transit systems in the U.S., allowing them to avoid many hard budget cuts.
- The bill includes a narrower revamp of the Paycheck Protection Program, which will provide a second round of small business loans limited to borrowers with 300 or fewer employees who show revenue was hurt by the pandemic.
- Taken together, the measures are expected to spur stronger economic recovery in the second half of 2021, suggesting the nation faces several more difficult months of the pandemic before the effects of vaccines are felt.
- U.S. airlines applauded provisions in the bill that will permit the recall of furloughed workers but remain concerned about the outlook with air traffic at just 40% of pre-pandemic levels.
- A man who died on a United Airlines flight last week was confirmed to have had COVID-19.
- There were 803,000 first-time jobless claims last week.
- The amount of fraud on state unemployment programs is reaching new levels as governments struggle to process record-high claims from layoffs brought on by the pandemic.
- U.S. consumer confidence unexpectedly fell in December to a four-month low in the biggest decline since April.
- U.S. home sales declined 2.5% in November after five consecutive months of gains but remained elevated nearly 25% from the same time last year. The drop was likely due to a shortage of sellers rather than buyers.
- Investors are increasingly buying hotels to turn them into rental apartments, taking advantage of the hospitality industry’s crisis alongside many Americans looking for inexpensive, downsized housing.
- Some automakers are seeking extensions of deadlines for strict content rules under the USMCA trade agreement among Canada, Mexico and the U.S.
- South Korea’s LG Electronics and Canada’s Magna International are forming a joint venture to make motors, inverters and onboard chargers for electric vehicles.
- With Amazon, Google and Apple beginning to develop advanced in-house chip technology for use in their own products, industry giants Intel and Nvidia are shifting focus to more specialized chip development for use in certain types of advanced products.
- Maine is delaying enforcement of a single-use plastics ban scheduled to take effective January 1 due to pandemic priorities.
- Global COVID-19 cases rose by 4.6 million last week, the highest weekly amount since the pandemic began, fueled by sharp rises in the Americas that accounted for more than half of new infections.
- Another new COVID-19 variant, similar to the one recently identified in the U.K., is spreading rapidly in South Africa.
- Europe surpassed 500,000 COVID-19 fatalities, led by Italy.
- Hospitals in the Netherlands are postponing all non-critical care to make way for COVID-19 patients.
- Ireland imposed new coronavirus restrictions from Christmas to January 12 to curb the spread of new infections.
- Some South Korean hospitals are running out of ICU beds as COVID-19 cases rapidly rise, prompting officials to consider imposing the nation’s highest warning level since the pandemic began.
- Taiwan, so far highly effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 within borders, reported its first case of local transmission of the virus in eight months, officials say.
- Japanese officials are recommending people wear COVID-19 masks while at home as new cases in the country rise.
- A surge of COVID-19 infections that began at a seafood market in Thailand infected a further 427 people Tuesday, as officials suggest more caution in following social and traveling restrictions.
- Lockdowns in the Sydney, Australia region will be extended past Christmas after a small cluster of COVID-19 cases grew to 97 infections Tuesday, while lockdowns in other regions will be eased over mental health concerns.
- The virus has made its way to the last uninfected continent on earth: Antarctica.
- Mexico will receive its first shipment of Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine today, with plans to launch an inoculation program within days.
- South Africa has finally made a down payment to secure its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines from international health group COVAX.
- A highly contagious COVID-19 variant discovered in England could require more people to get vaccinated against the disease, potentially lengthening the amount of time needed to develop herd immunity. British drug maker AstraZeneca followed other vaccine makers in saying inoculations should be effective against the new strain.
- European Union officials are calling on bloc member states to reopen vital trade routes to the nation to allow freight transport in and out, putting an end to more than 1,500 backed-up trucks and potential food shortages at supermarkets. France was one of the first countries to reopen routes, conditioned on drivers taking COVID-19 tests before entering the country.
- An India-developed COVID-19 vaccine is producing millions of doses in expectation of authorization from the nation’s regulators. A tall task awaits in supplying enough shots for half the country’s 1.4 billion people.
- Singapore became the first Asian nation to receive shipments of Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, as the city-state plans to inoculate all 5.7 million residents by the third quarter of 2021.
- A last-minute Brexit deal could be reached between the U.K. and European Union Wednesday, officials say.
- M. Holland will be closed on Thursday and Friday, December 24 and 25, for the Christmas holiday. We will be closed Friday, January 1, for New Year’s Day.
- Market Expertise: M. Holland offers a host of resources to clients, prospects and suppliers across nine strategic markets. To arrange a videoconference or meeting with any of our Market Managers, please visit our website.
- To access 3D Printing training, order parts and seek technical assistance, visit our online resource.
We will provide further COVID-19 bulletins as circumstances dictate. For all COVID-19 updates and notices, please refer to the M. Holland website.