GetSmart: What is the most generous state in America?
Jobless claims: 709,000 filed for unemployment for the week ending Nov. 7, a 48,000 drop when compared to the previous week. The numbers beat economists’ expectations of 725,000 jobless claims.
Joe Biden is moving forward with his transition to the White House, although President Trump has not yet conceded. Biden has appointed Ron Klain as his chief of staff, who served on President Obama’s Ebola task force.
Context: When an incumbent president is defeated, between election day and inauguration day in late January, Congress and the White House enter a “lame duck” period meant to serve as a transition time between one presidential administration and another.
The Vatican released a 449 pg. report on Monday which investigated its dealings with the disgraced former Cardinal McCarrick, who was removed from the priesthood in 2019. Read more from the WSJ, Catholic News Agency.
Georgia to Recount: On Wednesday, Georgia’s Secretary of State announced an audit of the presidential election results, triggering a hand tally. In order to hand count, the election commission plans to separate every ballot for each candidate into separate piles and then insert them into counting machines. Biden currently leads Trump in the state by 14,000 votes.
McDonalds announced it will roll out plant-based (McPlant) sandwiches at select locations in 2021. McDonald’s has been piloting plant-based alternatives this year in partnership with Beyond Meats, Inc. Other fast food chains have recently expanded their meat-substitute options as well, including Burger King who uses Impossible Foods, Inc.’s products.
Coronavirus Vaccine Found to be 90% Effective
Context On May 15 of 2020, President Trump launched “Operation Warp Speed”, a public-private partnership with the goal to facilitate and accelerate the production and distribution of a coronavirus vaccine in record time. The operation is working with companies such as Pfizer and Moderna to develop 300 million vaccines by January 2021, a 14 month span. Historically, vaccines often take over 70 months to develop.
What is the news? Pfizer and BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine is 90% effective, according to preliminary data from the final stage of trials. The early results were reviewed by an independent third-party data-monitoring group. The efficacy rate, which was much higher than people had expected, suggests that 90% of people who receive the vaccine will be protected against the virus.
The U.S. FDA has said it would approve a vaccine that is 50% or more effective.
The final trial stage, which is ongoing, involves over 43,500 subjects from across the world. Researchers say it’s important to ensure the vaccine is effective for people of different ages, ethnicities, and health statuses. Pfizer has reported no safety concerns to date.
Moving Forward Pfizer is hoping to have enough safety data by the end of November to send the vaccine to regulators for review and receive emergency approval for use. The company said it can provide 50 million doses by the end of 2020, and roughly 1.3B in 2021.
The vaccine must be administered in two separate doses, so 50 million doses would cover 25 million people.
Who will be first to get the vaccine? No official distribution decisions have been made, but health care workers and elderly people with pre-existing conditions are likely to receive the vaccine first. People under the age of 50 with no underlying health conditions are expected to be last.
What other vaccines are in development? Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Astrazeneca (British company) all have vaccines in final testing phases. The timeline for approval remains unclear, although Moderna’s has a chance of being approved in December.
The Latest on the 2020 Election
Presidential election update The Associated Press called the state Pennsylvania for Joe Biden on Saturday, putting him over the 270 electoral votes. Media outlets often call a presidential winner. That said, elected state officials are ultimately the ones responsible for declaring the winning presidential candidate in their respective states.
Some states have not finished counting all their ballots, and others are starting vote recounts and facing legal challenges from the Trump campaign.
In the case of the 2000 election between Al Gore and George H.W. Bush, the Supreme Court had to step in to end the recounts and declare a winner.
How voter demographics changed Voter bases shifted a bit in 2020. In particular, Biden gained voter share among Whites and suburban voters, while Trump made his largest gains among Hispanics and rural voters. Below is a table by The News Memo highlighting the changes:
Two last data points… Among voters who did not cast a ballot in 2016 but did so in 2020, Biden enjoyed 56% support compared to 41% support for Trump. When asked what the most important issue was heading into the election, the top response was coronavirus at 41%, followed by the economy at 28%. Those who listed the virus as their top concern voted Biden by a wide majority.
Trump campaign on the attack The Trump campaign is waiting for lawsuit rulings in numerous swing states and has released 234 pages of affidavits from polls watchers who claim they witnessed voter fraud or misconduct. An affidavit is a statement written under oath before a judge. At this point, there does not appear to be evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Senate election update The balance of power in the senate will come down to two runoff races in Georgia in January. The runoff races were triggered because no candidate obtained at least 50% of the vote. Currently, Republicans hold a 50-48 advantage over their Democrat colleagues. In the case of a 50-50 tie, VP-elect Kamala Harris would be the tie-breaking vote.
House of Representatives election update Entering the election, Democrats held a 232-197 majority and were projected to expand it. However, that advantage has shrunk to 218-202, with Republicans expected to narrow the gap even more because they lead in many of the 15 races that are still undecided. The last time Democrats held this slim of a majority in the House was the 1940’s.
COVID-19 Cases Rise as States Impose New Restrictions
COVID-19 cases and deaths have been rising across the U.S. The News Memo has made a graph to show the average number of cases and deaths in the last month compared to the average number of cases and deaths during the first peak of the pandemic in April-May.
It should be noted that testing capacity in April and May was much lower than it is today, which means more cases likely went unreported in the early months of the pandemic.
States impose new restrictions Multiple states such as Maryland, New York, Iowa, Minnesota and Utah, among others, are enforcing new lockdown measures as cases and hospitalization rates rise. New York, specifically, is now forcing bars and restaurants to close at 10:00 p.m. and limit private gatherings to 10 people. Here is a list of each state's current rules.