Coronavirus: Shoot the messenger

A new kind of vaccine on the scene.
A new kind of vaccine on the scene.
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Hi Quartz readers,

This is the penultimate edition of Need to Know: Coronavirus, and next week will be our final newsletter. Why stop when omicron is raging? After 22 months and 120 emails, the line between “covid news” and “the news” has almost fully dissolved. That’s not the best thing for our mental health, but it does mean you can find all of Quartz’s coronavirus coverage (and more great puns) in the Quartz Daily Brief. Make sure you’re subscribed.

Covid’s legacy

A hundred years from now, people won’t remember much about this pandemic. Memories of masked gatherings and lines for testing will slip out of the popular consciousness. But it’s likely something else will have more staying power: mRNA (messenger RNA) technology.

The speed at which companies developed vaccines against covid-19 gave the world a taste of the potential for technologies built around mRNA, a genetic molecule that exists in all of the body’s cells and gives them instructions to create the proteins necessary for us to function. Although mRNA naturally occurs in most organisms, it can be recreated in a laboratory, too; when used in a vaccine, it trains the immune system to respond to an infection as if it had been exposed to a pathogen.

That doesn’t only apply to pathogens like viruses. The truly revolutionary promise of mRNA technology rests in the fact that it could provide a highly tailored—and fast—response to a person’s cancer, or dial down the exaggerated immune responses that cause autoimmune conditions. In a way, it’s our first real hope for an everything vaccine.

✦  Moderna is already exploring 14 products that use mRNA, and BioNTech is working on five. To learn more, check out this week’s Forecast for Quartz members. And to get each week’s Forecast directly in your inbox, try membership for free.

Talking points

🧪  US rapid test production is ramping up too late for omicron. But even a belated push to improve capacity could help the country navigate future pandemic waves.

😬  “Deltacron” is probably a lab mistake, not a new variant. It is possible for coronavirus variants to “recombine” their genomes and form new strains—just not this time.

👩‍⚕️  Omicron is soaring among health workers. A quarter of US hospitals are critically short-staffed, while in India the surge comes just months after delta slammed doctors.

📉  Condom makers are regrouping. Sales at Karex Berhad, which makes one out of every five condoms sold globally, have dropped 40% during the pandemic.

💼  The latest US jobs report was mostly promising… although Black Americans were the only demographic group to see unemployment rise in December.

✌️  …But the US quits rate returned to a record. Pandemic-hit industries like food services are seeing the largest number of workers giving notice (and that was in November, before omicron).

The US quits rate climbed again in November, led by quits in accommodation and food services.

The labor crystal ball

A lot of open jobs plus a lot of quitting workers means a lot of hiring ahead. What will that hiring actually look like? LinkedIn chief economist Karin Kimbrough offered up some predictions, including:

  1. The “reservation wage” will go up.
  2. Pay in the US will keep rising.
  3. US workers will be choosy.

Fighting words

“I really want to piss them off. I’m not going to throw [the unvaccinated] in prison. I’m not going to get them vaccinated by force…We put pressure on the unvaccinated by limiting their access to social activities as much as possible.” —French president Emmanuel Macron

Facing a record number of covid-19 cases in France, Macron had harsh words for the unvaccinated last week, prompting an outcry from opposition politicians and causing the French parliament to suspend debate on virus restrictions. The government is currently pushing new legislation to require proof of vaccination for entry to public venues and transportation, without an option to test.

Macron is far from the only leader doubling down on vaccine mandates in an effort to curb the omicron surge. Austria plans to fine unvaccinated people up to €3,600 ($4,080) every three months starting in February, Germany’s new chancellor wants to require covid vaccines for all citizens by February, and Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte told officials to rout out unvaccinated people caught outside their homes.

Let’s all go to the IMAX

The jury’s still out on the future of movie theaters, but it’s safe to say things are looking up for IMAX. The premium theatrical experience company grossed $277 million at the box office in the last quarter of 2021, its best end-of-year showing since 2017.

Elsewhere on Quartz

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