A quarter of a million people have now died in the U.S. from Covid-19, with no end in sight for the next few months.
Good news: Three vaccines were announced this week by Pfizer, Moderna, and Astra Zeneca, all with an over 90% effectiveness rate at preventing Covid infection. They have begun to seek emergency use authorization, read more here. Lots of questions remain at this point: How long the protection lasts, and whether vaccinated people can still spread the virus.
The other good news is that we can stop scrubbing so hard: Scientists say there’s little to no evidence that deep cleaning mitigates the threat of the virus indoors, because it primarily spreads through inhaled droplets.
State and local lowlights: New York City reached an infection rate of 3%, triggering the country’s largest public school system to switch to all-virtual. Forbes advised that people simply stay away from the current worst-hit states, including South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota for the near future. Check the 10 riskiest states right now. (Forbes)
Dine at your own risk: Restaurants, gyms, hotels, cafes and religious organizations carry the biggest risk of spreading infections, according to a new study of 98 million Americans. (Nature, Wall Street Journal). A few of these places are “super spreader” locations, so maximum-occupancy restrictions can be surprisingly effective. These findings, if heeded, can help community leaders make better rules to protect people.
Work-from-home tax wrinkles
If you are an employee earning a W-2, you cannot deduct home office expenses; the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated this deduction. Your employer should either provide home office supplies and equipment or reimburse you for your purchases of those things. If they do neither, you’re out of luck; no other federal tax benefits exist now.
If you are an independent contractor or self-employed, you are still in luck. Self-employed people or contractors can claim all their expenses for equipment and supplies as deductions. Read more on Kiplinger Tax Wrinkles.