US-health-virus-travel-tourism People wear facemasks upon entry from Mexico into the United States at the San Ysidro Land Port Entry in San Ysidro, California on November 8, 2021. - Long lines formed at border crossings Monday as the United States reopened to foreign visitors vaccinated against Covid-19, ending 20 months of restrictions that separated families, hobbled tourism and strained diplomatic ties. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images) FREDERIC J. BROWN / Contributor
Frederic J. BROWN/FREDERIC J. BROWN/Contributor/AFP via Getty Images

News

Monday | November 29th, 2021

It’s Monday, November 29th, and this is your Morning Wire. Listen to the full podcast:

1) Global Markets Tumble As Omicron Emerges

The Topline: Reports of a new COVID variant emerged in Europe and parts of Africa last week, leaving global markets tumbling and governments quickly reimplementing travel bans.

Quote Of The Day: “It’s all speculation at this stage. It may be it’s highly transmissible, but so far the cases we are seeing are extremely mild…There’s a whole lot of hype out there. We’re not sure why.” 

– Dr. Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical association

James D. Morgan/Contributor/Getty Images

Omicron Variant

Last week, doctors in Botswana reported multiple cases of a new COVID strain with mutations not seen before. On Wednesday, doctors in South Africa confirmed multiple cases of a new strain dubbed Omicron. By Sunday evening, there had been confirmed cases of the variant in South Africa, England, Germany, Israel, Italy, and even Canada. 

There has yet to be a confirmed case in the U.S., but experts say it’s only a matter of time, and that it’s likely already here.

Reactions

Medical experts are looking into how dangerous the strain is, and how resistant it will be to existing vaccines and COVID treatments. So far, many experts say the strain doesn’t appear particularly dangerous. 

Vaccine effectiveness against the new variant won’t be understood until there is time for testing. Moderna said they’ve been preparing for variants like this since last winter and are currently testing stronger booster shots to ward off the variant, or a new shot that will anticipate strain mutations before they happen. Pfizer also said they can develop a specific vaccine for the new variant within 100 days if needed.

Markets Respond: On Friday, the Dow Jones had its worst day of the year, falling 900 points as news of the variant broke. The S&P and NASDAQ also dropped over 2% each. Asian and European markets were also negatively impacted on Friday as renewed travel bans were announced in response to the variant. 

Travel Bans

The E.U. and U.K. both implemented travel bans from 8 South African countries. In Israel, all foreign travelers were banned from entry for two weeks, after a visitor coming from Malawi tested positive for the variant. 

President Joe Biden announced beginning on Monday, the U.S. would be restricting travel from 8 African nations, most notably South Africa. 

Hollie Adams/Stringer/Getty Images

2) What We Know About The Newest Variant

What They’re Saying

Dr. Mary Makary of Johns Hopkins University told Morning Wire that people shouldn’t jump to conclusions about the new variant, adding that new therapeutics are likely able to fight the variant if it evades immune protection, which is unlikely. 

Makary said it’s difficult for a virus to mutate to become more dangerous at this point, adding that people should mostly keep on living their lives. 

He also said travel bans aren’t very effective when there is plenty of testing available. 

Quote Of The Day: “Variants are going to continue to happen. Year to year, we’re going to see this virus ebb and flow at low levels. And we’re going to continue to see people with immunity protected, and they should live their lives. So at this point, we need to recognize that this is going to be endemic.”

–Dr. Marty Makary, Johns Hopkins University

AGUSTIN PAULLIER/AFP via Getty Images

3) ‘Flash Mob’ Thefts Hit Major Cities 

The Topline: Amid an uptick in crime nationwide, police are warning about a wave of “flash mob” robberies, particularly in California. 

‘Flash Mob’ Burglaries

Major metropolitan areas are struggling with a wave of “flash mob” robberies, which are essentially burglaries committed by a large group of often armed people, who are frequently young adults and teenagers. 

The group goes to a store, overwhelms the employees, smashes display cases and loads up on expensive items, before running to getaway cars waiting outside. 

This past weekend, Oakland, California, saw flash mob robberies in multiple pharmacies, a cannabis dispensary, a Nordstrom, a Louis Vuitton, and a jewelry shop. 

On Wednesday, a San Francisco news crew was able to capture a robbery on tape, where 12 thieves raided a clothing store. One assailant tried to steal the channel’s camera equipment, and a security guard for the news crew was fatally shot while trying to protect the news crew. 

Why Now?

In San Francisco, many are blaming the DA Chesa Boudin, who has been criticized as soft on crime, resulting in a recall effort. Some Californians are also pointing to California’s Proposition 47, which went into effect in 2014. It recategorized some common nonviolent offenses as misdemeanors, rather than felonies, including shoplifting, which drastically reduced penalties for certain crimes. 

Similar crimes are happening outside of California, as well. On Black Friday, two Best Buy locations in Minnesota were similarly burglarized by large groups of people. 

Some are also pointing to reduced police presence as a cause of increased and more brazen crime. 

Marcos Granda P – Peru via Getty Images

Other Stories We’re Tracking

Peru Earthquake

A 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck northern Peru at around 6 a.m. Sunday, causing damage to buildings, including a 16th century church, and blocking several roads. Despite the fact that tremors were felt as far as Colombia and Brazil, no deaths have been reported, though at least three people have suffered minor injuries.

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