The COVID-19 Pandemic: Another 2.4 Million Americans File for Unemployment; FDA Approves Phase 3 Trial for COVID-19 Drug; and More

World News:

As of Thursday, May 21, there are over 5.1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world. Despite the fact that more and more countries have started reopening their economies, yesterday World Health Organization (WHO) reported a record number of new cases in a 24-hour period – more than 106,000 – underscoring the fact that this pandemic is far, far from over.

Outside of the US, the countries with the most confirmed cases are:

  • Russia: 317,554 confirmed cases; 3,099 deaths.
  • Brazil: 296,033 confirmed cases; 19,148 deaths.
  • Spain: 279,524 confirmed cases; 27,888 deaths.
  • UK: 250,908 confirmed cases; 36,042 deaths.
  • Italy: 228,006 confirmed cases; 32,486 deaths.

National News

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Now Over 95,000 US Lives Lost to COVID-19

There are now over 1.6 million confirmed infections and over 95,000 deaths to report from the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the United States. The US epicenter, New York, now reports 364,249 confirmed cases and 28,758 deaths, while neighboring New Jersey remains by far the second most affected state with 152,096 confirmed cases and 10,843 fatalities.

Outside of NY and NJ, the US states with the most confirmed coronavirus cases are:

  • Illinois: 100,418 confirmed cases; 4,525 deaths.
  • Massachusetts: 88,970 confirmed cases; 6,066 deaths.
  • California: 86,227 confirmed cases; 3,512 deaths.
  • Pennsylvania: 68,509 confirmed cases; 4,852 deaths.
  • Michigan: 53,009 confirmed cases; 5,060 deaths.

The Economic Effect of COVID-19 is Devastating: Millions More File for Unemployment

More and more Americans are losing their jobs as the result of the novel coronavirus. About 2.4 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, according to a weekly report from the Labor Department. “In only nine weeks, unemployment claims made during the coronavirus crisis have already exceeded the 37 million claims made over the entire 18 months of the Great Recession,” Daniel Zhao, senior economist for the jobs site Glassdoor, said in a statement, as reported by USA Today. “While recent indicators show the initial steep job declines are slowing, the labor market remains in a deep hole it will have to climb out of.”

FDA Approves Phase Three Clinical Trial of COVID-19 Drug

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the investigational new drug (IND) application submitted by Octapharma USA for a phase three clinical trial of of Octagam® 10% [Immune Globulin Intravenous (Human)] therapy in COVID-19 patients with severe disease progression, according to a press release. Patients in this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter study will receive either Octagam® 10% or a placebo, and will be monitored for approximately 33 days.

Although many therapies based on provisional data have been proposed for patients who suffer from COVID-19, known treatments are limited,” said Octapharma USA President Flemming Nielsen. “Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), which consists of pooled IgG preparations from thousands of donors, has been used to treat patients with immune-mediated diseases for almost 40 years. Our hypothesis is that the use of IVIG in the prophylaxis of severe infections, especially in immunocompromised patients, makes it an attractive therapeutic possibility for COVID-19.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

  • On Wednesday, Connecticut became the final state to begin lifting lockdown restrictions, meaning that now all 50 US states have started reopening their economies. However, only a handful of states show a significant decline in infection rates, and experts caution that the reopening may be premature.
  • Nevertheless, states continue to lift restrictions, and on Wednesday Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that the state will reopen movie theaters, zoos, aquariums, museums, and wedding reception venues as of Friday. “Iowa’s recovery is underway and our collective work to mitigate, contain, and manage virus’s activity in our community is generating the type of results that enable us to ease restrictions,” Gov. Reynolds said.
  • Walmart will begin offering self-administered, self-swabs at several locations across New Jersey, according to Gov. Phil Murphy. This follows an announcement earlier in the week that CVS would begin offering the same tests. The testing will not be conducted in the stores themselves, and results will be available in approximately two days.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

  • President Donald Trump has said that he is taking the unproven drug hydroxychloroquine to prevent COVID-19 infection. “I’m taking it for about a week and a half now and I’m still here, I’m still here,” Trump announced. Not only is no evidence that hydroxychloquine can fight COVID-19, but regulators warn that the drug may cause heart problems, which is concerning for the 73-year-old Trump, who added: “I’ve heard a lot of good stories [about hydroxychloroquine] and if it’s not good, I’ll tell you right I’m not going to get hurt by it.”
  • Gym owners in New Jersey opened their facility yesterday, defying Governor Phil Murphy’s restrictions on nonessential businesses in place in the state. The gym opened for a second day in a row today.
  • A study from Korea shows that patients who test positive for COVID-19 for a second time aren’t contagious and may possess antibodies to protect them from getting sick.

Monday, May 18, 2020

  • The first COVID-19 vaccine tested in humans, developed by the company Moderna, is showing early safety and efficacy – stimulating an immune response against the respiratory virus, the New York Times reports.
  • Apple will that both staff members and patrons wear masks when they reopen the more than 500 stores they closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. They will also require temperature checks at the door, and more frequent deep cleanings.
  • Uber will cut another 3,000 jobs, the company said in an email to staffers.
  • New York City has identified Almost 150 Children Possibly Suffering from multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday.

Friday, May 15, 2020

  • President Donald Trump named Moncef Slaoui, the ex-head of GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccine division, to lead the Trump administration’s “warp speed” effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine. Slaoui said he is confident a vaccine will be developed by the end of this year. “I have very recently seen early data from a clinical trial with a coronavirus vaccine and this data made me feel even more confident that we’ll be able to deliver a few hundred million doses of vaccine by the end of 2020 and we will do the best we can,” he said at a news conference with Trump on Friday.
  • The House will vote on Friday on a $3 trillion COVID-19 relief package that would include another a second round of stimulus payments to up to $1,200 per person. Being called the “HEROES Act”, the bill would include.
  • Almost $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments.
  • Expanded COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and a requirement for the Trump administration to develop a national testing strategy.
  • Support to help rents and homeowners make monthly rent, and utilities payments.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will soon release an alert warning doctors to look out for rare, yet dangerous inflammatory syndrome in children that could be linked to COVID-19 infection, according to a CNN report. The syndrome was initially reported by New York officials, and patients typically present with persistent fever, inflammation, poor function in one or multiple organs, and other symptoms that resemble shock. “We will provide a working case definition of what cases look like,” a CDC spokesman said.
  • Without the exception of Connecticut and Massachusetts, all US states have begun phased reopenings. Some examples include:
  • Although NJ still has a stay-at-home order, which has been in effect since March 21, on April 27, Gov. Phil Murphy announced a “road back” plan that laid out six metrics that would determine the easing of restrictions. They include 14-days of receding cornavirus cases and hospitalizations. Gov. Murphy officially reopened state/county parks and golf courses on May 2.
  • Florida began reopening certain businesses throughout the state on May 4, which restaurants, which are restaurants “are allowed to offer outdoor seating with six-foot space between tables and indoor seating at 25% capacity. Retail can operate at 25% of indoor capacity, and bars, gyms and personal services such as hairdressers will remain closed.”
  • Georgia famously became the first state to start reopening on April 24, by authorization from Gov. Brian Kemp. Gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, hair and nail salons, estheticians and massage therapists were all permitted to reopen April 24, with certain rules. Theaters and restaurants were allowed to reopen April 27, also with rules in place. Georgia’s shelter-in-place order ended on April 30.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Model Now Predicts Almost 150,000 US Deaths

A new model frequently used by the White House is now predicting 147,000 people in the US will die from COVID-19 by August. The prediction comes from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE).

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned senators Tuesday that states and cities face dire consequences if they reopen too quickly. “My concern that if some areas — cities, states or what have you — jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up, without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently, my concern is we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” Fauci said in testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
  • On the topic of vaccines, Dr. Fauci told the Senate committee that there are multiple possible vaccines being developed – and researchers are hoping to develop more than one. “We have many candidates and hope to have multiple winners,” Fauci said, explaining that more vaccines will be good for global availability.
  • Dr. Fauci also warned against the belief that children are immune to COVID-19, citing new cases where children have a developed an inflammatory syndrome that may be linked to the novel virus. “We don’t know everything about this virus, and we really better be very careful, particularly when it comes to children, because the more and more we learn, we’re seeing things about what this virus can do that we didn’t see from the studies in China or in Europe,” Fauci said.
  • Robert Redfield, Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told Senator Chris Murphy that new guidelines on reopening states could be posted online “soon,” and noted that it was undergoing review. “As we work through the guidances, a number of them go for interagency reviews and interagency input to make sure these guidances are more broadly applicable for different parts of our society. The guidances that you’ve talked about have gone through that interagency review. There are comments that have come back to CDC. And I anticipate to go backup into the task force for final review,” Redfield said.

Monday, May 11, 2020

  • A key model used to project COVID-19 deaths in the US is now predicting more than 137,000 people in the US could die by August from the novel coronavirus. Researchers claim the augmented death toll is due to more people leaving their homes as governors relax social distancing restrictions. IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray said in a press release that: “Unless and until we see accelerated testing, contact tracing, isolating people who test positive, and widespread use of masks in public, there is a significant likelihood of new infections.”
  • A new Gallup survey shows that 68% of Americans rate the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine as very important, and nearly three-quarters consider it “very important” for there to be a significant reduction in the number of new cases or deaths before normal life can continue.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, will begin “modified quarantine” after being exposed to the White House staffer who tested positive for COVID-19, according to a report. This is a “low risk” step taken because Dr. Fauci was not in close proximity with the infected staffer.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

  • Dr. Stephen Hahn, the head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will self-quarantine for 14 days after coming in contact with a person who tested positive for the novel coronavirus. “As Dr. Hahn wrote in a note to staff today, he recently came into contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. Per (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines, he is now in self-quarantine for the next two weeks. He immediately took a diagnostic test and tested negative for the virus,” FDA spokesman Michael Felberbaum said in a statement on Friday.

Friday, May 8, 2020

  • A record 20.5 million Americans lost their jobs in April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday – by far the sharpest decline since the government began tracking data in 1939. The US employment rate is now 14.7% – the highest its been since The Great Depression – further evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated America unlike any other event in the nation’s history.
  • Researchers found traces of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the semen of some severely infected men, according to a study which appeared in the journal JAMA Network Open. However, it remains unclear if this finding proves that the virus is transmitted through sex.
  • Some California retailers were allowed to reopen their businesses today, by authorization of California Governor Gavin Newsom. The easing of restrictions occurs after groups of protesters gathered across the state in defiance of lockdown orders last week. However, Gov. Newsom stated that the reason California is able to ease some restrictions is because “the data says it can happen.”
  • A now second member of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, one day after a personal valet of President Donald Trump tested positive for the novel virus.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

  • The New York Department of Health issued an alert that said 64 children and teens in New York State are suspected of having a mysterious inflammatory disease linked to COVID-19. Similar cases – including one death – have been reported in other US states and Europe, though the syndrome remains largely a mystery.
  • One of President Donald Trump’s personal valets tested positive for COVID-19, marking the the closest known exposure of the president to the virus. After being made aware of the positive test, both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were both tested, and came back with negative results.
  • Neiman Marcus declared for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Thursday, making it the largest retailer to do so amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Company CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck said in a state that (Neiman Marcus) and other retailers are facing “unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has placed inexorable pressure on our business.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

  • President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that the White House coronavirus task force will continue working “indefinitely,” reversing an initial decision he made on Tuesday to phase out the team in the coming weeks.
  • A new genetic analysis of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19, shows that coronavirus started circulating in people late last year, and spread extremely quickly after the first infection, according to a CNN report.
  • The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that at least 4,893 incarcerated or detained people have been infected with COVID-19. Moreover, the CDC reports that at least 2,778 staff members have tested positive for the respiratory disease, resulting in 15 deaths.
Tuesday, May 5, 2020
  • The projected US death toll from COVID-19 has hit an upward trajectory. Researchers who developed the model that has been cited by the White House nearly doubled their estimated death toll to 134,475 deaths through August.
  • US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is underway with human testing for an experimental coronavirus vaccine in the US, the company announced on Tuesday. Pfizer, working in conjunction with German drugmaker BioNTech, said the first human participants have been dosed with the potential vaccine, BNT162. Human trials for the experimental vaccine initiated last month in Germany. “With our unique and robust clinical study program underway, starting in Europe and now the U.S., we look forward to advancing quickly and collaboratively with our partners at BioNTech and regulatory authorities to bring a safe and efficacious vaccine to the patients who need it most,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.
  • Officials in 46 US states, as well as Washington DC, have ordered or recommended that schools remain closed for the duration of this academic school year to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, according to CNN data. Moreover, schools in five US territories – America Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands – will also keep schools closed for the remainder of the academic year.

Monday, May 4, 2020

  • Scientists working on the White House’s “Operation Warp Speed” to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 have honed in on 14 vaccines to focus on, a Trump administration official told CNN. President Donald Trump said Sunday night at a Fox News town hall, “We are very confident we are going to have a vaccine by the end of the year.”
  • A Trump administration model is now predicting a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the coming weeks as most states begin easing lockdown restrictions that were put in place to mitigate the spread of the virus. The model is projecting up to 3,000 daily deaths in the US by June, according to an internal document procured by the New York Times. However, the White House said in a statement that the document obtained by the Times has not undergone review by the White House’s coronavirus task force.
  • New Jersey schools will remain closed for the duration of the 2019-2020 academic year, by order of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. Murphy made the announcement at his daily news briefing. “This is a difficult decision and I know that many students, parents, and staff would like to be able to return to school,” Murphy said in the statement. “However, I have been unwavering on the message that we need to make decisions based on science, not emotion. And while New Jersey is making great strides in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, science tells us that at this point, we can’t safely re-open our schools.”
  • J.Crew Group, the parent company of J.Crew ad Madewell Brands, became the first national US retailer to file for bankruptcy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a CNN report. The popular clothing retailer announced on Monday that it began the process of filing for Chapter 11 proceedings in federal bankruptcy court in the Eastern District of Virginia. “We will continue all day-to-day operations,” J.Crew Group CEO Jan Singer said in a statement.

Friday, May 1, 2020

National News:

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci said the Trump administration is ramping up efforts for developing a coronavirus vaccine, and one could be available by January, the NY Post reports. “We want to go quickly, but we want to make sure it’s safe and it’s effective,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Today” show on Thursday. “I think that is doable if things fall in the right place.”
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention how the US deals with the COVID-19 pandemic in the coming weeks will be “critical” to how the virus will evolve come the fall season. “I do think that what we do this summer is going to be critical,” said Dr. Ann Schuchat, CDC principal deputy director in an interview with JAMA Network. “The more we intensify the testing and expand the public health capacity and assure that our hospital capacity and material to support the hospitals is adequate or has excess, the better we’re going to be in the fall.”

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