As we near the end of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much with us. Efforts to contain the virus have continued to vary across the United States and around the world, while research into treatment and a vaccine remains ongoing. Since its onset early this year, the pandemic has cemented its place at the top of the list of concerns in our personal lives, politics, and business. Mb Staffing Services (Mb), like all businesses, has prioritized adapting and responding to the new frontier of COVID-19 and the challenges it poses to both personal and fiscal health and safety.
In the wake of the presidential election, it is worth taking a moment to first revisit the pandemic’s impact on our health. As of Thursday, November 19, there have been approximately 11.6 million diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, leading to approximately 250,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been 55.6 million cases, leading to 1.34 million lives lost. In Washington, D.C., there have been 19,465 recorded cases and 665 deaths; in Maryland there have been 172,000 cases with 4,351 lives lost; and in Virginia the numbers are 209,000 recorded cases and 3,860 deaths.
Though the recovery has largely gone well and the summer saw improvements across the board, the new numbers that have come in this fall are concerning. Maryland’s rolling 7-day average is now being measured at 1,914, its highest on record, while the District’s rolling 7-day average has continued to rise and is now at 155. Virginia’s 7-day average is higher than ever and is now at 1,310. This trend matches other states across the country, with many continuing to report record-number new single day totals. Many are cautioning that the worst of the pandemic could still be ahead.
Experts are viewing new statistics as evidence of the pandemic’s so-called second wave. A common feature of pandemics, COVID-19’s second wave was predicted early on, expected to correlate with the change to cooler weather and the onset of flu season.
But while the numbers appear stark, there have been ebbs and flows in the pandemic’s progress and in the overall response. As the virus has become more broadly understood, individuals, businesses and public officials have found ways to adapt and understand what precautions are truly necessary. Overtime, this led to the phased recovery plans currently underway at different rates across the country, adjusted practices for businesses like expanding remote work options, and carefully curated strategies to ensure safety and cooperation in public spaces.
It is also important to note that the virus’ mortality rate has declined as doctors and hospitals have grown more used to treating patients. While hospital rates are again on the rise, healthcare workers are not nearly as in the dark as they were at the onset of the pandemic.
Until the recent surge, in many ways these collective efforts have proven remarkably successful; large population centers, like the DC area and New York City, turned from huge virus hotspots into relative success stories. And as summer turned into fall, the specter of the unknown that the virus holds over everyday life has lifted somewhat, allowing able-bodied people to become more comfortable with their “new normal” and engage in the outer world with growing confidence. This growing confidence, however, runs the risk of turning into recklessness, with many healthy Americans understandably impatient to get on with it, and members of different cultural and political communities confronting a discrepancy in information about the virus’ true reach and severity.
In response to the new surge in cases, new restrictions have already been implemented in Virginia and in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Virginia’s new restrictions include reducing capacity for both indoor and outdoor gatherings from 250 to 25 and lowering the required age for wearing a mask from age 10 to age 5. At the top of this week, Prince George’s County began mandating the wearing of masks outdoors and placing tighter restrictions on capacity for both indoor and outdoor gatherings. Statewide restrictions in Maryland will take effect on Friday. In the District, Mayor Muriel Bowser has yet to announce new restrictions, but has not ruled them out and many expect new restrictions to be implemented.
There is no doubt that the near future of the pandemic is uncertain. Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia have been among the states to take virus recovery most seriously. If numbers indeed continue to get worse, we can expect to see further restrictions and rollbacks in state recovery plans.
But the new peak is not the only headline that could determine the future of the pandemic. First, with Vice President Joe Biden’s victory last week in the presidential election, we can reasonably expect to see changes to the country’s pandemic strategy on a national level. This may include a nationwide shutdown that could somewhat supersede the strategies of individual states.
The second big development in the past two weeks has been the announcement of preliminary vaccine results from both Pfizer and Moderna. Last week, analysis of Pfizer’s vaccine trial has shown it to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing infection. With their latest trial data, that number has increased to 95 percent. At the top of this week, results from Moderna’s trial have shown their vaccine to be more than 94 percent effective. These are both preliminary studies that are still awaiting peer review and approval, and if approved both would initially be prioritized for high-risk populations. However, the results from both trials are a surprising development in the road to treatment and indicate what could be a historic scientific advance in vaccine science, both in timing and in methodology. If approved, one or both vaccines could begin to be rolled out as early as January.
Mb Staffing Services has continued to place safety and adaptation at the top of our list of priorities. As eager as we are to return to the rhythms and routines of the pre-COVID workday, we acknowledge the “new normal” that will likely stay with us even after the pandemic comes to an end. Our plan to return to the corporate office approximately two weeks after the announcement of Phase Three in the District of Columbia remains in effect. When we do return, we still anticipate many changes, including a rotating schedule, temperature checks, mandatory masks and air purification.
We are proud to say that we have adapted well to the challenges posed by the pandemic; we have moved forward with new contracts and have retained strong relationships with our clients, colleagues and associates. In lieu of our ability to communicate in person, we have made every effort to keep remote lines of dialogue open and we have had positive results. Of course, adapting to pandemic conditions has not been without its challenges, but we are looking forward to 2021 knowing that we are on the right track moving forward.
We know that this dark chapter is still not over. We urge all our clients, colleagues and associates to continue to respond to the latest rise in infection rates, resist the urge to be complacent, and go the extra mile on an individual level. We cannot rely on our businesses and public policy to do the work for us; even this many months into the pandemic there are still unknowns about the virus and misinformation continues to be pervasive. Cities, counties and states are continuously adjusting their restrictions and protocols as they struggle to remain on top of the virus. We encourage remaining as informed as possible through the news, local and state government websites and the CDC’s website, and to continue to err on the side of caution.
Thank you for your attention and relationship with Mb Staffing Services. We appreciate your ongoing business and support.