Below are what you need to know about COVID-19 at the moment
World leaders will send videos instead of physically gathering at the United Nations in September due to the coronavirus pandemic, the General Assembly decided on Wednesday, paving the way for people wary of travelling to the United States – like North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un – to participate.
The annual high-level meeting had been shaping up to be a week-long celebration of the 75th anniversary of the world body, but U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres suggested in May that leaders send video statements due to likely travel issues.
Traditionally hundreds of events are held on the sidelines of the U.N. debate, but General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande has urged states “to move all side events to virtual platforms to limit the footprint and number of people in the U.N. building.”
First citation for violating U.S. COVID-19 safety protections
The Department of Labor cited Ohio nursing home operator OHNH EMP LLC for failing to protect workers from the coronavirus, the first time that a U.S. employer was found in violation of federal safety protections relating to COVID-19.
OHNH, which operates as CommuniCare Health Services, was cited for violations at three Ohio nursing homes. The operator allowed staff to use the same N95 respirator for up to a week and lacked a comprehensive respiratory protection plan, among other violations, the department said on Tuesday.
The company disputed the findings and said it intended to seek an adjustment of the citation and proposed penalty of $40,482. Fred Stratmann, the company’s general counsel, said the company made reasonable efforts to comply but also noted it was not required to put in place a respiratory protection plan.
Not till next year
Researchers are making “good progress” in developing vaccines against COVID-19, with a handful in late-stage trials, but their first use cannot be expected until early 2021, Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies programme, said on Wednesday.
“We need to be fair about this, because this is a global good. Vaccines for this pandemic are not for the wealthy, they are not for the poor, they are for everybody,” Ryan said, noting that several vaccines were now in Phase 3 trials and none had failed, so far, in terms of safety or ability to generate an immune response.
The U.S. government will pay $1.95 billion to buy 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Pfizer Inc and German biotech BioNTech if it proves safe and effective, the companies said.
Reducing Corporate America’s real estate footprint
A Reuters analysis of quarterly earnings calls over the past week revealed more than 25 large U.S. companies plan to downsize their office space in the year ahead, a move designed to reduce the second-largest expense after payrolls at corporations.
Reductions in office spending could likely be followed by layoffs and investments in technology that should help improve productivity, said Bill McMahon, chief investment officer of active equity strategies at Charles Schwab.
While companies tend to cut back on their real estate needs during typical recessions, the last four months of economic lockdown have shown many workers can remain productive at home, said Danny Ismail, an analyst at independent research firm Green Street Advisors. As a result, the cutbacks that companies are making are more likely to be permanent, he said.