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Coronavirus Dashboard for March 21: the likely course of BA.2 in the US

  – by New Deal democrat[Note: I am having a major issue with formatting photos today, which will be readily apparent. I will fix this as soon as I am…

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 - by New Deal democrat

[Note: I am having a major issue with formatting photos today, which will be readily apparent. I will fix this as soon as I am able.]

This is the second part of my discussion of the likely US trajectory of the BA.2 Omicron subvariant. Part one was Friday, and if you missed it, here is the link.

First, a brief update. Cases in the US are now slightly below 30,000. This is the lowest since last August except for two days after Thanksgiving. Deaths have declined to 866. If deaths, like cases, decline over 96% from their Omicron peak, that will mean there will be only about 100 deaths per day in about a month.

To quickly refresh, there have been many warnings about the new BA.2 wave which has overtaken much of Europe, specifically including the UK, and warning that the same is in store for the US. 

The truth appears to be more complicated.  As I wrote on Friday, “the data she has collected demonstrate that BA.2 is very much an Omicron, rolling in and out like a tsunami. Like BA.1, the BA.2 variant causes peak infections by or very shortly after it approaches 100% of all infections.” To cut to today’s chase, the course of BA.2 in any given area depends on the level of previous infection by BA.1:

- Where BA.2 overtook BA.1 very quickly, there was only 1, more intense and longer lasting, wave. 
 - Where BA.2 only overtook BA.1 after a long time, there were relatively few people left who BA.2 could reach, resulting in a “long tail” of declining cases, but no new wave.
 - Only where BA.2 overtook BA.1 after its peak, but - probably because of better mitigation efforts - there were lots of people left who BA.2 could reach, has there been a new wave. The 

Let’s start with the 26 countries in the EU. Like me, you’ve probably seen the graph showing cases rising sharply in some EU countries. Here’s what the entire Union, plus the UK, looks like:

1. There are a number of countries in the EU - Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechia, and Spain - where no increase has happened at all, and in fact cases are decreasing.

2. There are 15 countries where cases bottomed and started increasing between February 24 and March 9, the majority of which were between March 1 and March 3.

3. Of those 15, 6 - Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Cyprus, Finland, and Portugal - appear to have already peaked, generally about 2 to 2.5 weeks after the increase began. Their increases varied but generally were in the range of a 75% to 100% increase from a low level (I.e., don’t freak out over the percentages).

4. That leaves 9 of 20 European countries still increasing, less than 3 weeks after the new “waves” began. In several of those - the UK, Germany, Austria, Greece - the rate of increase appears to have slowed substantially. In the remaining 5, notably in France and Italy, the wave is continuing in full force.

So let’s be clear: BA.2 has not started a new “wave” everywhere. And where it has caused a new wave, it appears to be short, as in 2 to 4 weeks from trough to new peak.

Like Friday, I am indebted to Emma Hodcraft, Ph.D. of the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the  University of Bern, Switzerland, on whose data of infection prevalence by variant for many countries and for all jurisdictions in the US is found at Covariant.org, for the below information, including graphs.

Let’s start with Scenario 1: Where BA.2 overtook BA.1 very quickly, there was only 1, more intense and longer lasting, wave.

Here is a graph for Denmark, in which the BA.2 variant almost completely replaced BA.1 no later than the end of February, after only a short time (about 1 month) during which BA.1 was dominant:

 

Now, here is the graph of cases in Denmark:


As you can see, the uptrend lasted longer than in most countries. But Denmark has had an uninterrupted downtrend since.

Similarly, here is her graph of the US territory of Guam in the Mariana Islands:

 

And here is Guam’s case graph (note that Guam only peaked at the end of January, and its peak lasted 3 weeks, vs. the shorter, sharper peaks in states that will be discussed below):

G

Similar trends occurred in the Nordic countries of Sweden and Norway, and in India and the Philippines.

But perhaps the poster child for this is South Africa, which famously was the first country in which BA.1 was identified. The wave lasted a slightly longer time, but was supplanted by BA.2 two months ago:


Here are cases for South Africa:


South Africa hasn’t experience a new wave, either; just a “long tail” of a slow decline in cases which remains significantly above their level before BA.1 struck.

This brings us to Scenario 2: Where BA.2 only overtook BA.1 after a long time, there were relatively few people left who BA.2 could reach. A good example of this is Spain:


Spain’s experience with BA.1 has lasted over 3 months, and BA.2 is only gradually taking over:

Here is Spain’s level of cases:


Spain is still experiencing a slow decline, with no sign of a BA.2 wave, even though BA.2 currently makes up over 1/3rd of all cases.

Next, let’s look at Scenario 3: where BA.2 overtook BA.1 after its peak, but - probably because of better mitigation efforts - there were lots of people left who BA.2 could reach, has there been a new wave.

This is best demonstrated by one of the present scary examples, the UK. According to the most recent UK government data I have seen, BA.2 accounts for 90% or more of all new COVID infections. It should be essentially 100% within about a week. Here is the relevant graph:


And here is the UK’s case count:


Here is the week over week change in average daily cases:


As you can see, the rate has slowed already in the past few days. In the last 5 days, cases are only up 10%, vs. 50% 5 days ago.

In other words, the countries of Europe where there is a new, identifiable BA.2 wave are ones where the BA.1 wave did not last as long, or was not as intense, as others. BA.1 had peaked, but had not yet burned through the vulnerable population.

In contrast, the original Omicron wave began in the UK only about 5 days before that in the US. But the UK’s peak began 8 days before the US, and lasted only about 6 days before beginning a sharp decline, vs. 15 days in the US:


And here is the US’s graph of the prevalence of BA.1 and BA.2:



BA.1 hit hard and lasted 3 months before BA.2 started to kick in. In other words, the US’s graph looks closest to Spain’s, where there has been no BA.2 wave, just a long tail of slow decline.

Let’s look at a few US States. BA.2 is already a majority of cases in Connecticut:


After a brief uptick almost two weeks ago, Connecticut has fewer cases than at anytime except for summer 2020 and summer 2021.

Currently BA.2 is running over 33% in NY:


New York has begun to show an increase in cases over the past week:


Finally, here is Florida:


BA.2 has barely begun there, and cases continue very low:


Put this together and I am expecting BA.2 to result in an experience between that of the UK and South Africa: an increase in cases, but not so pronounced as in the UK, where cases doubled in the first half of March. Once BA.2 becomes virtually 100% of all US cases, probably around late April, cases will recede again.

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Analyst reviews Apple stock price target amid challenges

Here’s what could happen to Apple shares next.

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They said it was bound to happen.

It was Jan. 11, 2024 when software giant Microsoft  (MSFT)  briefly passed Apple  (AAPL)  as the most valuable company in the world.

Microsoft's stock closed 0.5% higher, giving it a market valuation of $2.859 trillion. 

It rose as much as 2% during the session and the company was briefly worth $2.903 trillion. Apple closed 0.3% lower, giving the company a market capitalization of $2.886 trillion. 

"It was inevitable that Microsoft would overtake Apple since Microsoft is growing faster and has more to benefit from the generative AI revolution," D.A. Davidson analyst Gil Luria said at the time, according to Reuters.

The two tech titans have jostled for top spot over the years and Microsoft was ahead at last check, with a market cap of $3.085 trillion, compared with Apple's value of $2.684 trillion.

Analysts noted that Apple had been dealing with weakening demand, including for the iPhone, the company’s main source of revenue. 

Demand in China, a major market, has slumped as the country's economy makes a slow recovery from the pandemic and competition from Huawei.

Sales in China of Apple's iPhone fell by 24% in the first six weeks of 2024 compared with a year earlier, according to research firm Counterpoint, as the company contended with stiff competition from a resurgent Huawei "while getting squeezed in the middle on aggressive pricing from the likes of OPPO, vivo and Xiaomi," said senior Analyst Mengmeng Zhang.

“Although the iPhone 15 is a great device, it has no significant upgrades from the previous version, so consumers feel fine holding on to the older-generation iPhones for now," he said.

A man scrolling through Netflix on an Apple iPad Pro. Photo by Phil Barker/Future Publishing via Getty Images.

Future Publishing/Getty Images

Big plans for China

Counterpoint said that the first six weeks of 2023 saw abnormally high numbers with significant unit sales being deferred from December 2022 due to production issues.

Apple is planning to open its eighth store in Shanghai – and its 47th across China – on March 21.

Related: Tech News Now: OpenAI says Musk contract 'never existed', Xiaomi's EV, and more

The company also plans to expand its research centre in Shanghai to support all of its product lines and open a new lab in southern tech hub Shenzhen later this year, according to the South China Morning Post.

Meanwhile, over in Europe, Apple announced changes to comply with the European Union's Digital Markets Act (DMA), which went into effect last week, Reuters reported on March 12.

Beginning this spring, software developers operating in Europe will be able to distribute apps to EU customers directly from their own websites instead of through the App Store.

"To reflect the DMA’s changes, users in the EU can install apps from alternative app marketplaces in iOS 17.4 and later," Apple said on its website, referring to the software platform that runs iPhones and iPads. 

"Users will be able to download an alternative marketplace app from the marketplace developer’s website," the company said.

Apple has also said it will appeal a $2 billion EU antitrust fine for thwarting competition from Spotify  (SPOT)  and other music streaming rivals via restrictions on the App Store.

The company's shares have suffered amid all this upheaval, but some analysts still see good things in Apple's future.

Bank of America Securities confirmed its positive stance on Apple, maintaining a buy rating with a steady price target of $225, according to Investing.com

The firm's analysis highlighted Apple's pricing strategy evolution since the introduction of the first iPhone in 2007, with initial prices set at $499 for the 4GB model and $599 for the 8GB model.

BofA said that Apple has consistently launched new iPhone models, including the Pro/Pro Max versions, to target the premium market. 

Analyst says Apple selloff 'overdone'

Concurrently, prices for previous models are typically reduced by about $100 with each new release. 

This strategy, coupled with installment plans from Apple and carriers, has contributed to the iPhone's installed base reaching a record 1.2 billion in 2023, the firm said.

More Tech Stocks:

Apple has effectively shifted its sales mix toward higher-value units despite experiencing slower unit sales, BofA said.

This trend is expected to persist and could help mitigate potential unit sales weaknesses, particularly in China. 

BofA also noted Apple's dominance in the high-end market, maintaining a market share of over 90% in the $1,000 and above price band for the past three years.

The firm also cited the anticipation of a multi-year iPhone cycle propelled by next-generation AI technology, robust services growth, and the potential for margin expansion.

On Monday, Evercore ISI analysts said they believed that the sell-off in the iPhone maker’s shares may be “overdone.”

The firm said that investors' growing preference for AI-focused stocks like Nvidia  (NVDA)  has led to a reallocation of funds away from Apple. 

In addition, Evercore said concerns over weakening demand in China, where Apple may be losing market share in the smartphone segment, have affected investor sentiment.

And then ongoing regulatory issues continue to have an impact on investor confidence in the world's second-biggest company.

“We think the sell-off is rather overdone, while we suspect there is strong valuation support at current levels to down 10%, there are three distinct drivers that could unlock upside on the stock from here – a) Cap allocation, b) AI inferencing, and c) Risk-off/defensive shift," the firm said in a research note.

Related: Veteran fund manager picks favorite stocks for 2024

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Major typhoid fever surveillance study in sub-Saharan Africa indicates need for the introduction of typhoid conjugate vaccines in endemic countries

There is a high burden of typhoid fever in sub-Saharan African countries, according to a new study published today in The Lancet Global Health. This high…

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There is a high burden of typhoid fever in sub-Saharan African countries, according to a new study published today in The Lancet Global Health. This high burden combined with the threat of typhoid strains resistant to antibiotic treatment calls for stronger prevention strategies, including the use and implementation of typhoid conjugate vaccines (TCVs) in endemic settings along with improvements in access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Credit: IVI

There is a high burden of typhoid fever in sub-Saharan African countries, according to a new study published today in The Lancet Global Health. This high burden combined with the threat of typhoid strains resistant to antibiotic treatment calls for stronger prevention strategies, including the use and implementation of typhoid conjugate vaccines (TCVs) in endemic settings along with improvements in access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene.

 

The findings from this 4-year study, the Severe Typhoid in Africa (SETA) program, offers new typhoid fever burden estimates from six countries: Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, and Nigeria, with four countries recording more than 100 cases for every 100,000 person-years of observation, which is considered a high burden. The highest incidence of typhoid was found in DRC with 315 cases per 100,000 people while children between 2-14 years of age were shown to be at highest risk across all 25 study sites.

 

There are an estimated 12.5 to 16.3 million cases of typhoid every year with 140,000 deaths. However, with generic symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and abdominal pain, and the need for blood culture sampling to make a definitive diagnosis, it is difficult for governments to capture the true burden of typhoid in their countries.

 

“Our goal through SETA was to address these gaps in typhoid disease burden data,” said lead author Dr. Florian Marks, Deputy Director General of the International Vaccine Institute (IVI). “Our estimates indicate that introduction of TCV in endemic settings would go to lengths in protecting communities, especially school-aged children, against this potentially deadly—but preventable—disease.”

 

In addition to disease incidence, this study also showed that the emergence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Salmonella Typhi, the bacteria that causes typhoid fever, has led to more reliance beyond the traditional first line of antibiotic treatment. If left untreated, severe cases of the disease can lead to intestinal perforation and even death. This suggests that prevention through vaccination may play a critical role in not only protecting against typhoid fever but reducing the spread of drug-resistant strains of the bacteria.

 

There are two TCVs prequalified by the World Health Organization (WHO) and available through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. In February 2024, IVI and SK bioscience announced that a third TCV, SKYTyphoid™, also achieved WHO PQ, paving the way for public procurement and increasing the global supply.

 

Alongside the SETA disease burden study, IVI has been working with colleagues in three African countries to show the real-world impact of TCV vaccination. These studies include a cluster-randomized trial in Agogo, Ghana and two effectiveness studies following mass vaccination in Kisantu, DRC and Imerintsiatosika, Madagascar.

 

Dr. Birkneh Tilahun Tadesse, Associate Director General at IVI and Head of the Real-World Evidence Department, explains, “Through these vaccine effectiveness studies, we aim to show the full public health value of TCV in settings that are directly impacted by a high burden of typhoid fever.” He adds, “Our final objective of course is to eliminate typhoid or to at least reduce the burden to low incidence levels, and that’s what we are attempting in Fiji with an island-wide vaccination campaign.”

 

As more countries in typhoid endemic countries, namely in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, consider TCV in national immunization programs, these data will help inform evidence-based policy decisions around typhoid prevention and control.

 

###

 

About the International Vaccine Institute (IVI)
The International Vaccine Institute (IVI) is a non-profit international organization established in 1997 at the initiative of the United Nations Development Programme with a mission to discover, develop, and deliver safe, effective, and affordable vaccines for global health.

IVI’s current portfolio includes vaccines at all stages of pre-clinical and clinical development for infectious diseases that disproportionately affect low- and middle-income countries, such as cholera, typhoid, chikungunya, shigella, salmonella, schistosomiasis, hepatitis E, HPV, COVID-19, and more. IVI developed the world’s first low-cost oral cholera vaccine, pre-qualified by the World Health Organization (WHO) and developed a new-generation typhoid conjugate vaccine that is recently pre-qualified by WHO.

IVI is headquartered in Seoul, Republic of Korea with a Europe Regional Office in Sweden, a Country Office in Austria, and Collaborating Centers in Ghana, Ethiopia, and Madagascar. 39 countries and the WHO are members of IVI, and the governments of the Republic of Korea, Sweden, India, Finland, and Thailand provide state funding. For more information, please visit https://www.ivi.int.

 

CONTACT

Aerie Em, Global Communications & Advocacy Manager
+82 2 881 1386 | aerie.em@ivi.int


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US Spent More Than Double What It Collected In February, As 2024 Deficit Is Second Highest Ever… And Debt Explodes

US Spent More Than Double What It Collected In February, As 2024 Deficit Is Second Highest Ever… And Debt Explodes

Earlier today, CNBC’s…

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US Spent More Than Double What It Collected In February, As 2024 Deficit Is Second Highest Ever... And Debt Explodes

Earlier today, CNBC's Brian Sullivan took a horse dose of Red Pills when, about six months after our readers, he learned that the US is issuing $1 trillion in debt every 100 days, which prompted him to rage tweet, (or rageX, not sure what the proper term is here) the following:

We’ve added 60% to national debt since 2018. Germany - a country with major economic woes - added ‘just’ 32%.   

Maybe it will never matter.   Maybe MMT is real.   Maybe we just cancel or inflate it out. Maybe career real estate borrowers or career politicians aren’t the answer.

I have no idea.  Only time will tell.   But it’s going to be fascinating to watch it play out.

He is right: it will be fascinating, and the latest budget deficit data simply confirmed that the day of reckoning will come very soon, certainly sooner than the two years that One River's Eric Peters predicted this weekend for the coming "US debt sustainability crisis."

According to the US Treasury, in February, the US collected $271 billion in various tax receipts, and spent $567 billion, more than double what it collected.

The two charts below show the divergence in US tax receipts which have flatlined (on a trailing 6M basis) since the covid pandemic in 2020 (with occasional stimmy-driven surges)...

... and spending which is about 50% higher compared to where it was in 2020.

The end result is that in February, the budget deficit rose to $296.3 billion, up 12.9% from a year prior, and the second highest February deficit on record.

And the punchline: on a cumulative basis, the budget deficit in fiscal 2024 which began on October 1, 2023 is now $828 billion, the second largest cumulative deficit through February on record, surpassed only by the peak covid year of 2021.

But wait there's more: because in a world where the US is spending more than twice what it is collecting, the endgame is clear: debt collapse, and while it won't be tomorrow, or the week after, it is coming... and it's also why the US is now selling $1 trillion in debt every 100 days just to keep operating (and absorbing all those millions of illegal immigrants who will keep voting democrat to preserve the socialist system of the US, so beloved by the Soros clan).

And it gets even worse, because we are now in the ponzi finance stage of the Minsky cycle, with total interest on the debt annualizing well above $1 trillion, and rising every day

... having already surpassed total US defense spending and soon to surpass total health spending and, finally all social security spending, the largest spending category of all, which means that US debt will now rise exponentially higher until the inevitable moment when the US dollar loses its reserve status and it all comes crashing down.

We conclude with another observation by CNBC's Brian Sullivan, who quotes an email by a DC strategist...

.. which lays out the proposed Biden budget as follows:

The budget deficit will growth another $16 TRILLION over next 10 years. Thats *with* the proposed massive tax hikes.

Without them the deficit will grow $19 trillion.

That's why you will hear the "deficit is being reduced by $3 trillion" over the decade.

No family budget or business could exist with this kind of math.

Of course, in the long run, neither can the US... and since neither party will ever cut the spending which everyone by now is so addicted to, the best anyone can do is start planning for the endgame.

Tyler Durden Tue, 03/12/2024 - 18:40

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