The COVID-19 Pandemic: US Death Toll Exceeds 90,000; Vaccine Trial Shows Promising Early Results; and More

World News:

We’re more than half way through the month of May, and COVID-19 has now infected almost 5 million people worldwide and caused over 317,000 deaths. The SARS-CoV-2 virus has a foothold on 213 countries and territories and is present in all but one continent.

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

  • Russia: 290,678 confirmed cases; 2,722 deaths.
  • Spain: 277,719 confirmed cases; 27,650 deaths.
  • Brazil: 244,052 confirmed cases; 16,201 deaths.
  • UK: 243,695 confirmed cases; 34,636 deaths.
  • Italy: 225,435 confirmed cases; 31,908 deaths.

More Than 100 Countries Pushing for a Coronavirus Inquiry

About 100 countries are backing a resolution at the upcoming World Health Assembly (WHA), calling for an independent “evaluation” into China’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, CNN reported. The European Union-backed resolution has met with an angry response from China, and was called a move that could “disrupt international cooperation in fighting the pandemic and goes against people’s shared aspiration.”

Italian Prime Minister Warns of a “Very Hard” Next Few Months as Country

As Italy begins to reopen after months of being under lockdown, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that the next few months will be “very hard.” As of Monday, Italy reopened region bars, restaurants, retail stores, hairdressers, and museums after nearly 10 weeks of lockdown.

Conte commented that: “We are facing the toughest test since the post-war period. The government is fully aware of this. We are doing everything we can to meet everyone’s needs even faster,” Conte added, referring to the economic stimulus package on which the government is working on to support workers and companies affected by the coronavirus crisis.

National News

Monday, May 18, 2020

US Death Toll Tops 90,000; New York Update

There are now over 1.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and over 91,000 deaths to report. Despite the numbers and the fact that only 18 states show a downward trend of cases, virtually all US states have began phased reopenings of their economy. New York, the hardest hit state in the nation, reports 359,847 confirmed cases and 28,326 deaths. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that Western New York is expected to enter the first phase of the state’s reopening plan on Tuesday. During phase one, region’s can reopen construction, retail (for curbside or in-store pickup or drop off), manufacturing, wholesale trade, and agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting.

Gov. Cuomo added that New York sports teams should plan to reopen without fans. “New York state will help those major sports franchises to do just that. Hockey, basketball, baseball, football, whoever can reopen. We’re a ready, willing and able partner,” the governor said.

Outside of New York, the US states with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases are:

  • New Jersey: 148,197 confirmed cases; 10,366 deaths.
  • Illinois: 94,191 confirmed cases; 4,177 deaths.
  • Massachusetts: 86,010 confirmed cases; 5,797 deaths.
  • California: 80,256 confirmed cases; 3,289 deaths.
  • Pennsylvania: 65,816 confirmed cases; 4,503 deaths.

Moderna Coronavirus Vaccine Trial Shows Positive Early Results

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. The first eight people enrolled in the trial back in March, all healthy volunteers, produced antibodies that were tested on human cells in a lab, and were subsequently able to stop the virus from replicating. Moderna said that it working on an accelerated timetable, with phase two of testing to be begin soon. Phase two will comprise 600 people, while a third phase will be begin in July, and involve 1,000 healthy volunteers.

Apple to Require Temperature Checks in Masks as Stores Reopen

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. ‘”We look at every available piece of data, including local cases, near and long-term trends, and guidance from national and local health officials,” said Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s senior vice president of retail and people, in a statement. “These are not decisions we rush into? and a store opening in no way means that we won’t take the preventative step of closing it again should local conditions warrant.”

Uber to Lay Off Another 3,000 Workers

Uber will cut another 3,000 jobs, the company said in an email to staffers. The ride-hailing giant initially cut around 3,700 full-time roles on May 2, or roughly 14% of its staff on its customer support and recruiting teams. The lay offs are the result of a reduced volume of ride requests due to the coronavirus pandemic. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi also said the company is “closing or consolidating around 45 office locations globally.”

145 Children in NYC May Have Mysterious Illness Linked to COVID-19

New York City has identified Almost 150 Children Possibly Suffering from multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday. Given the new federal definition of the syndrome the city expects to update those numbers later this week. Of the 145 affected children, one has died, and 67 have tested positive for COVID-19 or its antibodies.

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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