A Year of Good News: March 16, 2020 – March 15, 2021
This wraps a year of weekly good news from me each Monday morning. This week, I’ll review some of the best news from the last 12 months in order from the beginning.
1. Vaccines. There is a race to a vaccine and the entire planet is collaborating and competing. Everyone wins in this combination (V1-Mar 23). The progress on vaccines is incredible. Currently there are 115 initiatives under way, and funding at an extraordinary rate to be ready to mass produce (V6-Apr 27). Vaccine development accelerates. Two of the leading US companies, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna, have partnered with manufacturing firms to shorten time to availability (V7-May 4). Moderna’s early-stage trial produced antibodies in all 45 participants. Pfizer and BioNTech have another strong candidate (V9-May 18). Moderna will roll out Phase III trials in July, and Johnson & Johnson have moved up their testing to July as well (V13-Jun 15). Scientists believe they have a breakthrough in early trials as those administered the vaccine showed both antibodies and helper T cells. The T cells are important as these stay in the body longer to provide long-term protection (V18-Jul 20). Moderna and Pfizer released comprehensive roadmaps of their vaccine evaluation processes wanting to be more transparent in their testing since vaccines are our best hope for ending the pandemic (V27-Sep 21). Johnson & Johnson just became the fourth company to enter Phase III clinical trials, and having four this fast is an amazing feat made possible by decades of progress in vaccine technology (V28-Sep 28). More than two dozen experts on vaccine development agree there has been amazing progress and we are likely to have a safe, effective available vaccine within a year. They also agree the adherence to safety standards is uncompromised, with trials enrolling far more participants than typically required and higher standards from the FDA (V30-Oct 12). Pfizer released Phase III results with 90% effectiveness, and Moderna topped these results announcing 94.5% effectiveness this morning. We could have an approved vaccine (or two) by the end of the month (V35-Nov 16). Pfizer vaccine is approved and vaccinations starting this week! (V39-Dec 14). Moderna vaccine approved by unanimous vote. Vaccinations will likely start today (V40-Dec 20). Vaccines increase while case counts decline. US cases are falling faster than they ever have, and hospitalizations and testing positivity rates are also dropping. Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine released data showing 72% effectiveness in the US, with zero hospitalizations or deaths (V46-Feb 1). Vaccination for the win. All five of the approved or nearly approved vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Novavax, and Johnson & Johnson are performing by the most critical metric. Of the roughly 75,000 who received any one of these in a research trial, not a single person has died from COVID-19, turning it into something much milder than the typical flu (V47-Feb 8). Vaccines – Now there are three! The FDA granted emergency use authorization for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and doses could reach Americans in days (V50 – Mar 1). More than 100 million vaccine doses have been administered in the US as of today, March 15! It is the path out of the pandemic, and was the most consistent good news all year long.
2. Focus on things we can control. Distilleries are making hand sanitizer, grocery stores are opening early, and your companies are getting creative in how you approach this unprecedented time (V1-Mar 23). At work we’re using video conferencing to stay connected to coworkers and teams. Our fascination with faces starts in infancy, and this vision stimulation provides a different level of connection (V4-Apr 13) Outside is open and safe, and the great outdoors are a low-risk place to be during a pandemic. Sam and AJ recommend outdoor picnics with friends, just watch out for the sprinklers (V9-May 19). In Britain, over 1 million people have quit smoking since the outbreak of COVID-19 (V19-Jul 27). 2021 may be the year of travel, and just planning a trip provides a significant boost in happiness, according to a study from Applied Research in Quality of Life (V24-Aug 31). Vitamin D is linked to lower COVID risk and we live in Florida. Sun-derived Vitamin D may be the best source, and 8-15 minutes in the Florida sun is enough to make plenty (V25-Sep 7). Good nutrition can help keep COVID-19 and other illnesses away, especially a focus on plant-based foods. Increase your daily consumption of fruits and vegetables to have an immediate positive effect on your immune system (V28-Sep28). National Geographic published an article this week saying sleep boosts your immune system, and keeps your T cells ready to fight infection. Work on your sleep strategies (turn off devices early, completely darken your room, keep a regular sleep schedule) to stay positive and healthy (V29-Oct 5). Exercise for immunity! 30 minutes a day walking or 150 minutes each week of moderate intensity exercise boosts immunity, reduces stress, promotes endorphins and helps with weight management. Those who exercise five days a week had 43% fewer sick days according to Harvard Medical School (V31-Oct 19). An act of kindness offers the single most reliable momentary boost in mood of anything scientists have studied, so look for an opportunity to do something nice for someone and you’ll both benefit (V31-Oct 19). Mayo Clinic says a daily gratitude practice is a magic health pill – boosting energy, improving sleep, increasing kindness and even making you more successful. This Thanksgiving, really count your blessings (aim for 100). You’ll be happier and healthier (V36-Nov 23). Power of positivity- research has found that structured positive thinking reduces anxiety, increases positive emotions and might help your immune system. Read Jon Gordon’s 21 Tips for a Positive New Year to get started (V43-Jan 11). Forest bathing for immunity – a new study confirms our need to connect to nature. Researchers have found spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is linked with good health and well-being (V44-Jan 18). Do the walk of life – studies show that people who took 8,000 steps a day had a 51% reduced risk of death than those who took 4,000 steps a day. Walking is free, easy and possible to do outside almost every day in the Sunshine State (V46-Feb 1). Indulge a little – coffee, cheese and wine have all shown positive health effects in recent studies. Caffeinated coffee is associated with a reduced risk of heart failure; cheese was protective against cognitive decline, along with red wine. Enjoy – guilt free! (V48-Feb 15). Take advantage of Florida beaches – there is a calming effective of the sun, sand and water to relieve stress and improve sleep, plenty of opportunities for exercise, and your daily dose of Vitamin D (V49-Feb 22).
3. Family & Animals. Love will always win. Samantha Schilke added Dowse to her name last Thursday in a small ceremony at our home. Sam and AJ were ready to be husband and wife, and we created a beautiful celebration in less than 24 hours (V3, Apr 6). Welcome, Percie & Cora. Shane and Michelle McGuiness welcomed their twin daughters this weekend, joining big sister Everly (V7-May 4). We’ve learned celebrations aren’t about fanfare or crowds, they’re about connection to those you love. Lara Triozzi’s daughter Charlie, one of the many seniors missing the usual fanfare, celebrated a virtual prom last weekend (V8-May 11). The world is still amazing. In North Carolina, we were treated to a rare sighting when a bobcat climbed a tree near our back deck, giving us ample opportunity to study one another (V9-May 26). Scientists are exploring the Coral Sea, and what they found blew their minds – including this creature which you have to see: Dumbo Octopus – be amazed! (V15-Jun 29). There is an elephant baby boom in Kenya including two sets of twins, rare for elephants (V22-Aug 17). The pandemic has been good for dogs – adoptions are way up, and people are spending more time with their dogs. Dogs boost their owners’ moods as well, with companionship, exercise and time outdoors (V26-Sep 14). Baby animals are actually good for you! The University of Leeds released a study that shows they have measurable impact, lowering heart rates, blood pressure and anxiety (V29-Oct 5). Rocky is gonna fly now. A tiny owl, an adult male saw-whet, discovered in the branches of the giant Rockefeller Center Christmas tree this year was rescued and set free. Enjoy watching this video of his release last week! (V37-Nov 30). Ecologists discovered a little pygmy possum on Kangaroo Island, the first seen since the Australian wildfires early this year (V40-Dec 21). Rare animal sightings in recent weeks included a white bison in Missouri, a wolverine in Yellowstone, a harbor seal in Florida, and the now famous lawyer cat, spotted in a memorable Zoom meeting. Watch it (again for some) for your Monday morning smile. (V48-Feb 15).
Each week this has been an opportunity to help bring some positivity and perspective in a tumultuous time. A year ago it was just beginning, and some weeks during the last year good news was pretty challenging to find. We are in a different place now, so I will be shifting to a monthly update of the best news. I hope this weekly update has been helpful. Keep your positive mindset moving forward and take it to your teams this week and every week! (Some of my favorite pics from the year below)