Novel Coronavirus/COVID-19 COVID-19 News from Around the Web

About Half Of U.S. Homes Lost Wages During Pandemic, Census Bureau Finds

NPR - May 21, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a hit in the paychecks of close to half of U.S. households, the Census Bureau says. Since March 13, 47% of adults say they — or another adult in their home — have lost employment income, while 39% say they're expecting their households to earn less from work over the next four weeks. With the first of the month coming in less than two weeks, more than a fifth of adults report they have just slight or no confidence in their ability to make their next rent or mortgage payment on time. "When we saw those numbers, we were very surprised," Victoria Velkoff, associate director of the Census Bureau's demographic programs, said Wednesday during a webinar about early findings from a new weekly survey the bureau rolled out last month to try to gauge how the outbreak is altering lives in the U.S.

Global coronavirus cases surpass 5 million, infections rising in South America

Reuters - May 21, 2020

Global coronavirus cases surpassed 5 million on Wednesday, with Latin America overtaking the United States and Europe in the past week to report the largest portion of new daily cases globally. It represents a new phase in the virus’ spread, which initially peaked in China in February, before large-scale outbreaks followed in Europe and the United States. Latin America accounted for around a third of the 91,000 cases reported earlier this week. Europe and the United States each accounted for just over 20%. A large number of those new cases came from Brazil, which recently surpassed Germany, France and the United Kingdom to become the third-largest outbreak in the world, behind the United States and Russia.

World Health Organization records worst day

NBC News - May 21, 2020

The globe recorded it worst single-day of coronavirus cases, more than 100,000, since the beginning of the outbreak, the director-general of the World Health Organization said Wednesday. The countries with the highest numbers of confirmed cases are the U.S., Russia, Brazil and the U.K., according to the WHO. On the same day, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly published a 60-page document that recommends precautions for reopening the nation's restaurants, mass transit, schools and child care programs. The CDC cautioned that, depending on the number of COVID-19 cases in a particular region, not all businesses and institutions should reopen just yet.

AstraZeneca secures orders for virus vaccine under testing

AP - May 21, 2020

Drug maker AstraZeneca secured its first agreements Thursday for 400 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, bolstered by an investment from the U.S. vaccine agency. The Anglo-Swedish company reported it had received more than $1 billion from the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for the development, production and delivery of the vaccine, starting this fall. The investment will accelerate the development and production of the vaccine, AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said. It had already joined forces with the British government. In a statement as markets opened, AstraZeneca said it has now secured manufacturing capacity for 1 billion doses and aims to secure further agreements to expand capacity further over the next months “to ensure the delivery of a globally accessible vaccine.″ The company also finalized its licence agreement with Oxford University for the vaccine, now known as AZD1222.

U.S. secures 300 million doses of potential AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

Reuters - May 21, 2020

The United States has secured almost a third of AstraZeneca’s one billion possible COVID-19 vaccine doses by pledging up to $1.2 billion, as the world’s biggest powers scramble for medicinal supplies to get their economies back to work. “This contract with AstraZeneca is a major milestone in Operation Warp Speed’s work toward a safe, effective, widely available vaccine by 2021,” U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar said.

Trump Says Funding Cuts Will Be Permanent If WHO Doesn’t Commit To ‘Major’ Changes

NPR - May 20, 2020

President Trump is giving the World Health Organization 30 days to commit to substantial changes in how it operates — or he will make his hold on U.S. funding permanent. The threat came in a letter that sharply criticizes the WHO response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its relationship with China. "The World Health Organization has repeatedly made claims about the coronavirus that were either grossly inaccurate or misleading," Trump wrote in the four-page letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

‘This is war’: Virus charges beyond Latin American hot spots

AP - May 20, 2020

Beyond the hot spots of Brazil and Mexico, the coronavirus is threatening to overwhelm Latin American cities large and small in an alarming sign that the pandemic may be only at the start of its destructive march through the region. More than 90% of intensive care beds were full last week in Chile’s capital, Santiago, whose main cemetery dug 1,000 emergency graves to prepare for a wave of deaths. In Lima, Peru, patients took up 80% of intensive care beds as of Friday. Peru has the world’s 12th-highest number of confirmed cases, with more than 90,000.

Vaccine experts say Moderna didn’t produce data critical to assessing Covid-19 vaccine

STAT - May 20, 2020

Heavy hearts soared Monday with news that Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate — the frontrunner in the American market — seemed to be generating an immune response in Phase 1 trial subjects. The company’s stock valuation also surged, hitting $29 billion, an astonishing feat for a company that currently sells zero products. But was there good reason for so much enthusiasm? Several vaccine experts asked by STAT concluded that, based on the information made available by the Cambridge, Mass.-based company, there’s really no way to know how impressive — or not — the vaccine may be.

Trump threatens to permanently pull funding from WHO and ‘reconsider’ US membership

CNN - May 19, 2020

President Donald Trump late Monday threatened to permanently pull US funding from the World Health Organization if it does not "commit to major substantive improvements in the next 30 days." In a letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Trump said, "It is clear the repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world. The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China.” The threat is more proof of Trump's instinct to distrust global institutions at a time when many of his predecessors would rely on such relationships to help stem the tide of a pandemic.

Trump says he’s taking malaria drug to protect against virus

AP - May 19, 2020

President Donald Trump said Monday that he is taking a malaria drug to protect against the coronavirus, despite warnings from his own government that it should only be administered for COVID-19 in a hospital or research setting due to potentially fatal side effects. Trump told reporters he has been taking the drug, hydroxychloroquine, and a zinc supplement daily “for about a week and a half now.” Trump spent weeks pushing the drug as a potential cure or prophylaxis for COVID-19 against the cautionary advice of many of his administration’s top medical professionals. The drug has the potential to cause significant side effects in some patients and has not been shown to combat the new coronavirus. Trump said his doctor did not recommend the drug to him, but he requested it from the White House physician.

Moderna: Early coronavirus vaccine results are encouraging

AP - May 19, 2020

An experimental vaccine against the coronavirus showed encouraging results in very early testing, triggering hoped-for immune responses in eight healthy, middle-aged volunteers. Study volunteers given either a low or medium dose of the vaccine by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc. had antibodies similar to those seen in people who have recovered from COVID-19. In all, 45 people have received one or two shots of the vaccine, which was being tested at three different doses. The kind of detailed antibody results needed to assess responses are only available on eight volunteers so far. The vaccine seems safe, the company said, but much more extensive testing is needed to see if it remains so. A high dose version is being dropped after spurring some short-term side effects.

Beaches, parks busy as Europe heat wave and U.S. spring test new coronavirus rules

Reuters - May 18, 2020

Summer weather is enticing much of the world to emerge from coronavirus lockdowns as centers of the outbreak from New York to Italy and Spain gradually lift restrictions that have kept millions indoors for months. People are streaming back to beaches, parks and streets just as a heat wave hits southern Europe and spring-like temperatures allow Americans to shed winter coats. As they venture out again, most are keeping their distance and some are wearing masks. However, protests are also heating up from Germany to England to the United States, arguing the government restrictions demolish personal liberties and are wrecking economies.

Trump administration outlines audacious plan to deliver ‘hundreds of millions’ of Covid-19 vaccine doses by end of 2020

STAT - May 18, 2020

The Trump administration on Friday rolled out a hyper-ambitious plan to develop and manufacture hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses by the end of 2020, outlining an aggressive process that, if successful, would shatter conventional wisdom about the typical process for developing vaccines for emerging infectious diseases. At a Rose Garden press conference, the president and his deputies acknowledged their goal, dubbed “Operation Warp Speed,” was lofty.

13 USS Roosevelt Sailors Test Positive For COVID-19, Again

NPR - May 18, 2020

The U.S. Navy says 13 sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt who had apparently recovered from the coronavirus and had received negative test results have now tested positive for a second time. In a statement released earlier on Saturday when five sailors were found to have retested positive, the Navy said the sailors had "met rigorous recovery criteria, exceeding CDC guidelines," including testing negative for the virus at least twice, but have now retested positive. The statement said the sailors had been monitoring their health and adhered to social-distancing protocols while on board the Roosevelt, which has been docked in Guam following an outbreak infecting hundreds of crew members. "These five Sailors developed influenza-like illness symptoms and did the right thing reporting to medical for evaluation," the statement said.

Powell: Recovery may begin by summer, will likely be slow

AP - May 18, 2020

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell expressed optimism Sunday that the U.S. economy can begin to recover from a devastating recession in the second half of the year, assuming the coronavirus doesn’t erupt in a second wave. But he suggested that a full recovery won’t likely be possible before the arrival of a vaccine. In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Powell noted that the economy was fundamentally healthy before the virus struck suddenly and forced widespread business shutdowns and tens of millions of layoffs. Once the outbreak has been contained, he said, the economy should be able to rebound “substantially.”

CDC Issues Tools To Guide Reopening Of Schools, Businesses, Transit

NPR - May 15, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a set of documents on Thursday designed to provide guidance on how childcare centers, schools, restaurants and bars, and other establishments could begin the process of reopening in the face of coronavirus. The direction comes after calls from lawmakers and state officials mounted for the CDC to weigh in on how regions should reopen their economies. The decision tools the agency released recommend that all workplaces hold off on reopening unless they are ready to protect employees at higher risk for severe illness, including those 65 and older and people of all ages with underlying medical conditions.