It’s Monday of a holiday week. In most years on this day, you’d be hearing a familiar broadcast trope about how high or low gas prices are.
As of Friday, the national average was about $2.21 a gallon, according to the AAA. But even those low prices don’t appear to be enough to entice people to travel over the holidays in a pandemic.
AAA estimates that 34 million fewer people plan on traveling this year compared with Christmas week of 2019.
According to Jeanette McGee with AAA, “what that ultimately means is 3 in 4 Americans are going to stay home.”
McGee added that many of the people who said they were planning long drives this holiday might yet cancel their plans in the next few days.
That’s what happened in November, she said. “For Thanksgiving, we’d forecasted at least a 10% decline, and as we’re going through and finalizing our data, that’s looking more like a 15%-20% decline.”
And that’s despite the low gas prices, which have been depressed partly because demand for gas has been low since the start of the pandemic.
Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for the website GasBuddy, said that “in a typical year where income is being earned at a normal pace, having a lower gasoline bill would certainly be helpful and a windfall to consumers.”
But, in the face of the challenges of COVID-19, cheap gas prices have not been a big incentive to travel this year.
“Now, under such economic duress, most consumers are probably not noticing the savings. Or the savings are going to more important things like keeping a roof over their head,” De Haan said.
He also said that although optimism over the coming vaccine has pushed the cost to fill up your tank slightly higher in recent weeks, on this Christmas Day, prices are likely to be at their lowest levels since 2015.
Which essential workers should be prioritized for vaccines?
Americans have started to receive doses of the first COVID-19 vaccine. Front-line health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities will be first to get the shots, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. Essential workers will be considered next, but with limited vaccine doses and a lot of workers considered essential, the jockeying has already started over which ones should go to the front of the line: meatpacking workers, pilots, bankers and ride-share drivers among them. The CDC will continue to consider how to best distribute the vaccine, but ultimately it’s up to each state to decide who gets the shots when.
Could relaxing patents help poorer countries get vaccines faster?
The world’s poorest countries may not be able to get any vaccine at all until 2024, by one estimate. To deliver vaccines to the world’s poor sooner that, some global health activists want to waive intellectual property protections on vaccines, medicines and diagnostics. India, South Africa and Kenya have asked the World Trade Organization to allow pharmaceutical plants in the developing world to manufacture patented drugs without having to worry about lawsuits. The United States, Britain and the European Union, have repeatedly rejected the proposal at the WTO.
The Pfizer vaccine has to be kept in extreme cold at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. And keeping it that cold requires dry ice. Where does that dry ice come from?
Also, is there enough of it to go around? And how much is it going to cost? The demand for dry ice is about to spike, and a whole bunch of industries are worried. Now, dry ice sells for $1 to $3 a pound. While the vaccine gets priority, smaller businesses and nonessential industries may end up losing out.
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