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More than 4,000 lives lost to COVID in U.S. in a single day, exceeding death toll from 9/11 attacks

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The U.S. set yet another record for the number of fatalities from the coronavirus-borne illness COVID-19 and recorded the highest number of new cases since the start of the outbreak, with the latest numbers exceeding even the worst case scenario forecasts of health experts.

More than 4,000 Americans died of COVID-19 on Thursday, according to a New York Times tracker, and at least 280,292 new cases were recorded. In the past week, the country has averaged 237,635 cases a day.

Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had warned in December that the U.S. would suffer more deaths every day for the following two to three months than the almost 3,000 who died in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, or the 2,400 who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Those numbers have now been shattered.

The U.S. continues to lead the world by cases, at 21.6 million, or more than double the next worst tally, India with 10.4 million, and by deaths, at 364,448, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. With 4% of the world’s population, the U.S. accounts for about 20% of fatalities.

Experts continued to fret that Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters has created a superspreader event, as the televised footage showed that many were not wearing face masks.

Lawmakers are equally concerned that their confinement in tight conference rooms during the siege has created yet another superspreader event. Rep. Susan Wild, a Pennsylvania Democrat, told CBS that some members of Congress — mostly Republicans, including freshman Republican congressmen — refused to don masks while sheltering in place.

The news is especially alarming given the new variant of the virus that appeared to originate in the U.K. that is 40% to 70% more infectious than the original virus.

“In the first week of 2021, US states and territories reported more cases of COVID-19 than at any point in the pandemic so far, and the second-highest number of deaths,” The COVID Tracking Project wrote in its weekly update on the pandemic.

“Holiday data reporting slowdowns from Christmas and New Year’s are likely still affecting most metrics—most notably reported tests, which remain well below pre-holiday levels. Hospitalizations, our most stable metric through the holidays, continue to march upward.”

There are more than 132,000 COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals, straining systems in California and the South. In Alabama, December’s case surge has translated into a higher per capita hospitalization rate than any state saw during the summer’s surge, said the update.

“Alabama now has the third-highest per capita hospitalizations in the country, trailing only Arizona and Nevada. Staffing shortages in Alabama hospitals, coupled with very low availability of ICU beds, have public health officials in the state bracing for a coming crisis as holiday exposures send more COVID-19 patients to the hospital,” said the update.

Los Angeles County is recording a COVID-19 death every 10 minutes and is rationing oxygen and care.

The vaccination program continued to stumble. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine tracker shows that as of 9.00 a.m. ET on Thursday, just 5.9 million Americans had been vaccinated, way below the 20 million that was the most recent revision to targets promised by the federal government. Just 21.4 million doses had been distributed. In December, when the first emergency use authorizations were granted to the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc.
PFE,
+0.03%

 and German partner BioNTech SE
BNTX,
+5.82%

 and later by Moderna Inc., the government initially promised 100 million doses would be delivered by year-end.

President Donald Trump has left it to states to administer the vaccine program — tweeting that it was “up to the states to administer” and then calling some states “very slow” — meaning that stressed state health departments, which have already had to deal with testing, contact tracing, public information campaigns and deciding when or whether schools or businesses should be open or closed, are now tasked with handling the biggest public health effort in decades.

See:These COVID-19 tax relief measures just got extended

In other news:

• Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech said an in vitro study found that their COVID-19 vaccine neutralizes the two new highly infectious variants that have emerged in the U.K. and South Africa. The results were published on the preprint service bioRxiv and have not yet been peer-reviewed. “Though these two rapidly spreading viruses are different, they share the N501Y mutation, which is located in the receptor binding site of the spike protein and results in the virus’s spike protein binding more tightly to its receptor.,” the companies said in a joint statement. “It has been shown to infect mice more efficiently.” The trial found the sera of 20 participants in the Phase 3 trials neutralized the virus with the mutation as well as they neutralized the virus without the mutation, said the statement. “Pfizer, BioNTech, and UTMB are encouraged by these early, in vitro study findings,” said the statement, although further research is needed.

See also:U.S. could see up to 150,000 more COVID-19 deaths by February as new strain takes hold, expert warns

• The European Medicines Agency said that the product information for BioNTech and Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine should be updated to say there are six doses in each vial. The authorization granted to the vaccine, which is referred to as Comirnaty in Europe, on Dec. 21 in the European Union says there are five doses in each vial. The EMA, which is the E.U.’s drugs regulator, said health care providers should use low dead-volume syringes or needles to extract what it says is an extra dose. The European Commission must next endorse the EMA’s recommendation for it to move forward into clinical practice.

• Moderna’s
MRNA,
-1.95%

 COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for emergency use by U.K. regulators, bringing a third shot to the country that is battling a surge in coronavirus cases. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, or MHRA, approved the vaccine after a “thorough and rigorous assessment” by the regulator’s teams of scientists, including advice from the independent Commission on Human Medicines, the government said in a statement on Friday. Moderna’s vaccine marks the third to be approved for use by the MHRA and the second that uses the mRNA approach, which sends a message to cells telling them to create proteins that can generate an immune response.

• China has placed 11 million people in the northern city of Shijiazhuang into strict lockdown after an outbreak of COVID-19, CNN reported. The city is based in the province of Hebei, which is suffering the worse flare-up in months. A total of 117 cases, including 67 in patients showing no symptoms, have been detected this week. Residents of the city are barred from leaving withy highways blocked, bus and train stations closed and flights canceled.

• The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has declared an emergency in the English capital as it struggles with a wave of new infections that are overwhelming hospitals, the Guardian reported. Khan declared a “major incident,” in his dual role as mayor and chair of the London Resilience Forum, after discussions with NHS London, local authorities, Public Health England and emergency services in the capital. Covid cases now exceed 1,000 per 100,000 people, he said, forecasting that the city may run out of beds in the next few weeks unless the spread is slowed dramatically. The U.K. has 2.9 million cases and 78,633 deaths, the highest in Europe and fifth highest in the world.

Don’t miss:Telemedicine provides people with a lifeline during the pandemic — but once again highlights the divide between rich and poor

Students Share Lessons From Their Virtual 2020
Latest tallies

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide climbed above 88 million on Friday, the Johns Hopkins data show, and the death toll rose above 1.9 million. About 49 million people have recovered from COVID-19.

Brazil has the second highest death toll at 200,498 and is third by cases at 7.9 million.

India is second worldwide in cases with 10.4 million, and third in deaths at 150,570.

Mexico has the fourth highest death toll at 131,031 and 13th highest case tally at 1.5 million.

China, where the virus was first discovered late last year, has had 96,489 confirmed cases and 4,788 deaths, according to its official numbers.

See also: Scotland to impose new lockdown starting at midnight

What’s the economy saying?

The U.S. lost jobs in December for the first time in eight months as the coronavirus bore down on the economy again and forced businesses to resort to more layoffs, MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash reported.

The government and private sector shed 140,000 jobs last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.

The decline in employment was the first since last April, when the U.S. lost a gargantuan 20.8 million jobs in that one month alone.

The economy is still missing some 10 million jobs that existed before the onset of the pandemic, with little prospect that they’ll be recovered any time soon.

If there was a glimmer of goods news in the report, layoffs were concentrated at restaurants and other businesses the rely on large crowds of customers. Many other segments of the economy actually post strong employment gains last month.

The official unemployment rate, meanwhile, was unchanged at 6.7%. Yet economists estimate true unemployment is several points higher because the official jobless rate doesn’t include about 4 million people who left the labor force last year.

Read: Jobless claims still very high at the end of 2020

“People dropping out of the labor force is a big problem,” said Thomas Barkin, president of the Federal Reserve.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
-0.26%

fell 0.1% after the report, while the S&P 500
SPX,
+0.16%

 eked out a 0.3% gain.





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I lost my job at 55 and started my own successful business. I now constantly get texts from friends and former coworkers asking how I did it. What do I do?

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I read your column regularly. I never thought that I would reach out to you with my own issues. But I was wrong. I’m hoping you can help on how best to handle this situation.

In 2016, I lost my long-term job. The company simply went through serious changes, and my position was no longer needed. They were great to me when I worked there, and they gave me a small severance package. I was 55 at the time. I was more than a bit anxiety ridden as I wasn’t in a position to retire, and I was concerned about the prospects of being rehired at this age. The good news is that I was a saver, had no debt and always lived frugally. My husband’s job carried the benefits.


‘I woke up every morning at 4 a.m. to research, research, research how best to use my resources and ended up starting a small business.’

I woke up every morning at 4 a.m. to research, research, research how best to use my resources and ended up starting a small business. Once I started, I made mistakes, messed things up but I kept educating myself more and more. There were tough times that were not easy to get through, but I was determined, and kept going.

After about 18 months, it was working! Everything fell into place, and the train finally started going down the track! Now, I wake up each day and think, ‘I own a small business!’ My hubby even took early retirement to partner with me. While we are not making $1 million, we crossed over into six digits over the past few years.

We run our business out of a home office. I offer a service based on my knowledge from my prior job that I lost. So what is the problem? Several times a month, friends and prior co-workers reach out to us to ask how they too can get started in what we do.

This is just one example of the text I woke up to this morning:

“We are thinking about starting our own business as a husband and wife team like you. We want to discuss this with you, and learn from your experiences. What day and time would be good for you? Early morning or late afternoon? Can you come to our house?”

These requests send me to the moon and back, and I’m not totally sure why. I’m struggling with being a good human being and helping them vs. asking myself why would I want to train my competition to take business away from ourselves?

I liken these friends and former colleagues to the kids at school who march right to the head of the lunch line to get their food, without waiting in line like the rest of us.

My husband and I built relationships across the country and locally, but we do not live in a town where there is enough business for all of us.

Quentin, I hope you can help me sort through how best to decline these requests or tell me if I am wrong? We will retire in 6 years, and we hope to sell the business at that time.

Enjoying My Second Act (& Want It To Last)

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

Dear Second Act,

Your life and business is not a blueprint for anyone. Your path is your own. Your timing was right for you. You did your boots-on-the-ground research, and it’s paying dividends. And you’re correct: Never underestimate your own ability to build relationships. Not everybody has that skill.

That text sounds like an aggressive sales pitch: a strong-armed approach with a smile. No. 1: If they are asking you to do them a favor, regardless of what that favor is, suggesting you do it on their terms is a no-no. If these friends are not willing or able to get off their sofa and come around to your home or meet you close to your house or business, how do they expect to start their own business from scratch, and go above and beyond to build both a reputation and a business?


‘Pushy people tend to know they’re being pushy. They just don’t care.’

No. 2: Pushy people tend to know they’re being pushy. They just don’t care. They may need you to acquiesce to their requests for the reassurance that others can and will bend to their will OR perhaps they simply have their eye on their goal and everyone else are minions (with a lower case “m”). You don’t need to worry about their psychology, of course, but you do need to be just as tough and push back. If people ask me what to do with their money, I say: “I don’t even recommend Broadway plays.”

And that lunar feeling you have when you get those texts? It’s your boundaries bending and creaking. It’s the Old You and the New You doing battle: guilt and people pleasing vs. self-protection and no-can-do. Remember, saying “no” does not make you a bad person. You could pick a book and say, “I read this. The rest was luck and timing. Good luck!” But my guess is someone who thinks that you hold the key to their success will not be so easily put off.


‘You learned a valuable lesson not to discuss your affairs with other people.’

That brings me to No. 3: The clearest, fiercest response is often times no response. Find that muscle. It’s one you can exercise over and over again. As a friend once told me when I had to make a big financial decision: “Take the emotion and personalities out of it. It’s just business.” This is your business. You have nurtured it and you have worked hard at it. Trust your instinct. Protect it. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Is your gut saying no? Then don’t go.

You have learned a valuable lesson not to discuss your affairs with other people. Make it known that you do not like to talk about business when you’re off the clock. Try a new approach to conversations at dinner parties or chats over the garden fence with friends or neighbors. If they ask you about your business and how it’s going, tell them: “Good, thanks.” If they persist, say: “My first and last rule of business is I never discuss business with friends, and I never mix business with friendship.”

Delete that text without replying. Do the same for other texts. Flex that “no reply” muscle and keep flexing it. It gets easier. Don’t be held hostage to the “reply” button on your phone, and do get acquainted with the ability to say “no.” After a while, you will likely come to enjoy it.

The Moneyist:‘Warren Buffett and Harry Potter couldn’t get those two retired early’: Our spendthrift neighbors said our adviser was ‘lousy.’ So how come WE retired early?

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My husband and his brother inherited a property. Our son moved in. We paid $60K in taxes and repairs. Do we split it 50/50?

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My husband and his brother inherited their family home. When they were able to take possession, our son and his family needed a place to live. His brother was quite willing to let them move in and, in lieu of paying him rent for his 50%, my husband and I would be responsible for all upkeep, repairs, taxes, etc.

The house is probably 90 years old, and needed quite a lot of work before they could move in. We spent approximately $20,000 to make it livable. After four years the house caught fire and, with the help of a crooked contractor, it took another $30,000 of our money to repair all the damage.

Now comes my concern: If my husband and his brother had sold the house when they first inherited it, they would have split proceeds 50/50. It would definitely have been sold, because we didn’t want to be landlords to anyone other than our son. But now six years later, we have paid well over $60,000 in repairs and taxes. This amount is well over what we had planned on, but it was a chance we took.

According to old tax records, the house was probably worth $45,000, and now is worth over $100,000, and growing. The future sale and split of the house proceeds was never discussed. My husband is all for splitting it evenly. I’m the one with the issue because of all the money we spent in improvements.

I understand his brother took nothing at beginning, and I’m all for his getting 50% of the original value plus some extra, but I just don’t feel like he should get half of the current value. The house would certainly never be worth what it’s worth now if we hadn’t done all the work on it. Unless the house continues to increase in value, we will never recoup our investment.

May I have your opinion on this problem? On paper, this makes me look petty but my mind is unsettled over this.

Upset Wife

Dear Upset,

Sometimes, the clue is in the question: “In lieu of paying him rent for his 50%, my husband and I would be responsible for all upkeep, repairs, taxes, etc.”

You are aggrieved that you walked into this money pit with both eyes wide open in order for your son to save money in the short term. It seemed like an attractive prospect at the time, and I can see why: Your brother-in-law is easygoing, so why don’t your son and his family live in the house for a while and give it a new lick of paint when needed, a scrub-scrub here and a scrub-scrub there, and make sure it’s ticking over while they live there rent-free? Everyone wins, right? Well, not quite.

You, your husband and your son and his family win. Your brother-in-law, alas, did not get much out of that deal. But being Mr. Nice Guy, he said, “Be my guest.” Literally. Why would he want to charge his nephew rent? He decided to forgo the money to be made from a potential rental property or quick cash for the sake of family. What’s the point in having a house if you can’t help other people out? Plus, it would be looked after. And it was. But then there was a fire.


‘Your brother-in-law decided to forgo the money to be made from a potential rental property for the sake of family.’


— The Moneyist

You don’t say how the fire started. Was the stove left on? Did faulty wiring cause it? Or did a power line fall on the house in a storm? If it was your responsibility to take care of the property while your son and his family lived there, you are accountable for those first two scenarios. Even if it was an act of nature, you are responsible for ensuring that the home is insured. Of course, the main thing is no one was hurt. Still, as you say, upkeep (and that includes insurance) is your department.

You don’t fare well in the renovation vs. free rent argument, but you also raise a hypothetical argument to support your case: You should receive more than 50% of the proceeds from the sale of the house because your brother-in-law and husband would have sold the house (maybe; we’ll never know for sure) had your son not moved in. It was worth $45,000 then, and it’s valued at $100,000 now, so given your $60,000 in repairs and taxes, he should be happy with $22,500.

OK, I’ll play that game. Let’s peel back another layer of wallpaper and say, “If their parents passed away when they were much younger, they would have sold the house at an even lower price.” Or, “If their parents lived to be 99 1/2, they could be living in the house in 2021, and maybe you would make out like bandits because you would never have paid money to Uncle Sam and Sam the Contractor.” Let’s peel away even more layers: “If no one had been born, we wouldn’t have this problem!”

If you have to bend the laws of space and time to justify your proposal, splitting the proceeds 50/50 doesn’t sound like such a bad idea, after all.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

The Moneyist: I married ‘the life of the party,’ but he’s different at home. He takes his money woes out on me — and calls me a ‘gold digger’

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As the market nosedived last year, my older brother advised me to sell. I lost $80,000. How can I ever forgive him?

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Dear Quentin,

This time last year, when the market was nosediving, my older brother advised me to get out of the market, and go to cash to conserve my assets. It was only going to get worse, he proclaimed, and he had 40 years’ experience in the market.

Granted, it was an ugly drop. Following his lead, I said hello to a $80,000 loss, while thinking I’d say goodbye to an even worse disaster. That same downturn soon ended, and the market recovered. It took me months to get back into the market.

If I’d ignored his advice and stayed the course, I’d be way ahead instead of way behind. To this day, I’m behind $55,000, so I’ve recovered some. I don’t feel good about being led down this path. Perhaps I have no one to blame for listening but myself.

Any thoughts on this matter would be greatly appreciated.

The Brother

Dear Brother,

Accountability is everything. You can start forgiving your brother by forgiving yourself. But in order to do that, you must repeat after me: “I, and I alone, was responsible for buying these stocks while the going was good, and I, and I alone, am responsible for selling them.”

Intent also matters. Your brother, whether he has four years or 40 years of experience, did not mean you harm. He may have been feeling concerned himself, and projected that worry onto you. You didn’t say whether he sold stocks too. Regardless, rinse and repeat the above quote.


‘It was a hard lesson. But the fun part is figuring out what it is you have learned.’


— The Moneyist

You are responsible for making money, you are responsible for saving money, and you are responsible for investing money. When you ask for advice and give 100% of your decision-making over to that person, you are making a choice. You are also handing over your power.

It was a hard lesson. But the fun part is figuring out what it is you have learned. 1. Don’t sell your stock during tumultuous times based on fear. 2. Don’t give up your own agency. 3. Don’t torture yourself by counting every rise and fall. That is what got you into this situation in the first place.

The situation, by the way, is temporary — so you can now choose to suffer, or you can take an action and choose NOT to suffer. Close your laptop, call your brother and ask how he is doing, stick with it for the long haul this time, and take a walk and get in some steps.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

The Moneyist: ‘Warren Buffett and Harry Potter couldn’t get those two retired early’: Our spendthrift neighbors said our adviser was ‘lousy.’ So how come WE retired early?

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