The number of confirmed U.S. cases of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 rose above 7.3 million on Saturday, and now includes President Donald Trump and first lady Melania and at least eight others in their circle, with more people expected to test positive from a White House Rose Garden event last weekend and other gatherings over the past week.
Trump was admitted to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center late Friday, where he has been given a dose of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s experimental neutralizing antibody cocktail, in addition to Gilead Sciences Inc.’s remdesivir.
“ “As the president undergoes treatment for his emerging symptoms, the public must receive daily, honest updates about the president’s condition, not from White House staff but from his medical team.” ”
Dr. Sean Conley, Trump’s physician, wrote in a letter shared by White House officials that he expects the president to continue his duties “while recovering.” People familiar with the matter told The New York Times that he has a fever, congestion, and a cough, and is expected to be hospitalized for several days.
Conley held a brief news conference on Saturday, but declined to offer specifics on areas of Trump’s treatment and condition.
Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said it is reasonable to assume that Trump was infected between last Saturday, when he announced his Supreme Court candidate at the Rose Garden at an event at which he and many others were not wearing face masks, and Monday, and was infectious to others as early as Tuesday, when the first presidential debate was held in Cleveland.
Jha called for “radical transparency” on the course of the president’s illness. “As the president undergoes treatment for his emerging symptoms, the public must receive daily, honest updates about the president’s condition, not from White House staff but from his medical team,” Jha said in a statement.
He also said it is crucial that immediate and widespread testing be carried out of all who attended events with Trump over the last week to avoid further transmission of the virus.
“The public also needs to know how testing and tracing are being implemented and in what time frame, and if all relevant parties are quarantining,” he said. “In light of the upcoming election and a nation deeply polarized and increasingly losing trust in government, honest updates about the president’s condition and actions taken to control further spread and keep key leaders safe, will assure a basic level of trust in the government’s ability to respond effectively at this critical moment.
“Failing to be transparent will further erode the social contract. We need transparency at every level,” he wrote.
On Friday, many lawmakers voiced hope that Trump’s positive diagnosis would change Americans’ view of the crisis and improve compliance with safety measures.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told MSNBC she hoped the news would bring a complete shift in the U.S. approach to managing the pandemic.
“Maybe now that people that see that the president of the United States, and all the protection he has, and the first lady, having this exposure, it might be a learning experience” she said. “And more than learning, it has to be something that is acted upon.”
Pelosi criticized Trump’s attitude to the illness as cavalier. “Going into crowds unmasked and all the rest was a sort of brazen invitation for something like this to happen” she said. “It’s sad that it did, but it’s nonetheless hopeful that it will be a saner transition to what this virus all about.”
Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat who was in the audience for Tuesday’s presidential debate, echoed that sentiment: “This is a reminder that all of us are vulnerable to this dangerous virus and should follow public health guidelines about mask wearing, social distancing, and more,” Coons said in a statement, CNN reported.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said she hoped the news would serve as a wake-up call to every single American.
“Here’s the good news. We can beat this enemy — but it’s going to take every single one of us working together to do it. Right now the most effective weapon we have is pretty simple: it’s wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth. It’s washing your hands with soap and water. And maintaining six feet of physical distance from one another.”
World leaders rushed to wish the president and first lady speedy recoveries, while markets initially tumbled as pundits weighed in on what this means for the election and the management of the pandemic. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, which Trump has attacked for its handling of the pandemic, sent his best wishes to the president and his wife.
The U.S. counted another 53,428 new infections and at least 863 deaths on Friday, according to a New York Times tracker. In the past week, the daily count has averaged 43,274 a day, up 7% from the average two weeks earlier.
The U.S. has lost 209,042 people to the virus, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, or about a fifth of the global toll of 1.03 million. Experts have for months lamented the U.S.’s failure to adopt the testing, contact tracing and isolation that have allowed some countries to contain the spread, and to persuade the public of the need to fully comply with the recommended safety measures.
Trump confided to journalist Bob Woodward that he has publicly downplayed the virus. Trump has insisted it would disappear, touted unproven and even harmful treatments, and derided Biden for wearing a face mask. That in turn has created mistrust among his supporters and led to protests against face masks in many states.
Coronavirus cases have climbed in 33 states and Puerto Rico since August, according to a Washington Post analysis. Now hospitalizations are on the rise again in at least a dozen states, including New Jersey, Delaware and Texas. Wisconsin has seen record high cases counts for 20 straight days as of Thursday, and added more than 17,000 cases in a single week, the analysis found.
In other news:
• Former White House adviser Kellyanne Conway has tested positive for coronavirus, after attending last weekend’s Rose Garden event. Conway disclosed the news in a tweet, in which she said her symptoms were mild and that she felt fine. “I have begin a quarantine process in consultation with physicians,” she wrote. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also tweeted that he has tested positive. The two joint a number of people close to Trump to test positive, joining the president and first lady Melania Trump, adviser Hope Hicks, campaign manager Bill Stepien, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican, North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, also Republican, and University of Notre Dame President, the Rev. John Jenkins. Conway stepped down from her role as adviser in August, saying she wanted to devote more time to her family.
• Solomon Islands reported its first case of COVID-19, after remaining free of the illness throughout the global pandemic, the Guardian reported. Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare confirmed the news in a nationally televised address that a Solomon Islands student repatriated from the Philippines late last month has tested positive for Covid-19. “It pains me to say we have lost our Covid-19 free status, despite our collective efforts to prevent the pandemic from entering our country,” he said. The student is in quarantine and contact tracing and testing of medical staff taking care of students is in effect, he said.
• New York state officials have launched Covid Alert NY, an app that will warn New Yorkers if they’ve spent more than 10 minutes within 6 feet of other app users, creating a network of “close contacts” who can easily be notified of exposure if one of them later tests positive for the virus. “This is a technology-based contact tracing app,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “Testing is only as good as your contact tracing.” Cuomo made the announcement in partnership with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. New York and New Jersey will now join Pennsylvania and Delaware in a regional app network that will work across state lines to help stop the spread. Connecticut is expected to join the network in the coming weeks.
• Australia has announced plans for a limited travel bubble with New Zealand, the BBC reported. New Zealanders will be allowed to travel to the Australian regions of New South Wales and the Northern Territory without requiring quarantine. “This is the first stage in what we hope to see as a trans-Tasman bubble between the two countries, not just that state and that territory,” said Australian Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. New Zealanders will still have to quarantine on the way back, and for now Australians are not being granted access to New Zealand.
• Amazon.com Inc. said than 19,000 of its workers — out of the 1.37 million it employs worldwide — have tested positive for COVID-19 or are presumed to have had the virus, MarketWatch’s Jon Swartz reported. “We have been conservative in this analysis. First, we cast a wide net by including both confirmed and presumptive cases in the Amazon figures,” the e-commerce giant said in blog post disclosing a data analysis. “Second, actual COVID-19 rates in the general population are greater than the official counts because not everyone in the general public gets screened for symptoms or tested.” Amazon employees are regularly screened for symptoms and are increasingly being tested at work, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms, to identify asymptomatic cases, according to the company.
There are now 34.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, the Johns Hopkins data show, and at least 24 million people have recovered.
The U.S. leads the world as measured by cases and deaths. Brazil has the second-highest death toll after the U.S. at 145,388, but third-highest case tally at 4.9 million. I
India is second to the U.S. by case tally at 6.5 million, and has the third-highest death toll at 100,842, crossing the grim 100,000 milestone overnight.
Mexico is fourth with 78,492 deaths and ninth with 753,090 cases.
The U.K. has 42,358 deaths and 469,782 cases, the highest death toll in Europe and fifth-highest in the world.
China, where the illness was first reported late last year, has had 90,584 cases and 4,739 fatalities, according to its official numbers.
What’s the latest medical news?
Promising new clinical data for an experimental COVID-19 treatment hints at a secondary but possibly more important takeaway for investors: that, if this neutralizing antibody treatment works in coronavirus patients, so will the vaccines that are in development, as MarketWatch’s Jaimy Lee reported.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. REGN, -0.58% on Tuesday shared preliminary data from a Phase 1/2/3 clinical trial for REGN-COV2, finding that the investigational therapy reduced viral load and made symptoms go away sooner in some nonhospitalized patients with mild or moderate cases of COVID-19. It was most effective in patients with higher viral loads who had not tested positive for antibodies.
“We believe our data will have positive implications for the likelihood of success of vaccines that target the same spike protein that REGN-COV2 targets,” Regeneron CEO Leonard Schleifer told investors on Tuesday, according to a FactSet transcript of the call.
Moderna Inc.’s MRNA, -1.74% potential coronavirus vaccine will not be ready by the U.S. presidential election, the biotech company’s chief executive told the Financial Times, as MarketWatch’s Mike Murphy reported.
CEO Stéphane Bancel told the FT in an interview that Moderna — a front-runner in the COVID-19 vaccine race — will not seek emergency-use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration until Nov. 25 at the earliest and does not expect to have secured approval for distribution of the vaccine to the general public until spring 2021.
“I think a late [first quarter], early [second quarter] approval is a reasonable timeline, based on what we know from our vaccine,” Bancel told the FT.
Pfizer Inc. PFE, +0.02% CEO Albert Bourla told employees that development of its COVID-19 vaccine would move “at the speed of science” rather than due to political pressure, the Associated Press reported. The AP cited an internal letter. Pfizer and BioNTech BNTX, +1.36% have an experimental coronavirus vaccine that is currently in Phase 3 trials. There are three other vaccine candidates in late-stage trials in the U.S., and Trump has repeatedly said that a vaccine may be ready by November, referring at least twice to Election Day, Nov. 3, as a “special date” by which time a vaccine could be available.
LabCorp. LH, +0.57% has been granted an emergency-use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a new type of molecular test for COVID-19. The new test uses heat and technology to extract RNA from samples collected for COVID-19 testing and can improve the efficiency of testing, the company said in a statement.
“The innovative heat extraction process, which has comparable sensitivity to current extraction methods, traps viral particles, eliminating the need for RNA extraction reagents to capture and concentrate viral nucleic acid,” said the statement.
An emergency-use authorization is not a full FDA approval.
What’s the economy saying?
The U.S. created 661,000 new jobs in September and the unemployment rate fell again to 7.9% to the lowest level of the pandemic, but the gain in hiring was the smallest since the economy reopened and pointed to deceleration in the recovery, MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash reported.
The increase in employment last month fell short of Wall Street’s estimate. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a recapturing in September of some 800,000 lost jobs.
Private-sector hiring was somewhat stronger, with 877,000 new jobs created, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday. What dragged down employment in September was a decline in public-educations jobs at local schools and state colleges. Most have adopted forms of online learning.
The unemployment rate, meanwhile, fell for the fifth month in row to 7.9% from 8.4%, a new pandemic low. The official jobless rate had peaked at 14.7% in April before its ongoing decline.
“This underscores that job gains from here on will be tougher, and speaks to the need for more stimulus to help the economy and to support the more than 11 million Americans who had jobs in February and who are unemployed now,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union.
Separately, Americans grew more optimistic toward the end of September as consumer sentiment reached a six-month high, reflecting more confidence in the U.S. economy after a summer lull.
The final consumer-sentiment survey in September climbed to 80.4 from a preliminary reading of 78.9, the University of Michigan said Friday. It was also up from August’s 74.1 score.
The index now sits at the highest level since the pandemic erupted in March, mirroring the results of other household surveys. Earlier this week the Conference Board said its consumer-confidence index shot up to a pandemic-period high.
What are companies saying?
• Activision Blizzard Inc. ATVI, -5.29% is delaying the release of its “World of Warcraft: Shadowlands” installments to continue beta testing the game. The company’s Blizzard division had expected to release the update to the massive multiplayer online role-playing game at the end of October but is opting to release it “later this year.” “Blizzard is extending the beta test and iterating based on great input from players, focusing on endgame-related tuning and polishing efforts that have been partially slowed due to the team working from home during the ongoing pandemic,” the company said in a statement.
• General Motors Co.’s GM, +0.26% third-quarter total automobile sales fell 10%, but the company said there were “signs of recovery” in the auto industry and highlighted its September sales. GM delivered 665,192 vehicles in the quarter, a 10% drop compared with the year-ago period, but sales improved each month within the three-month span during the pandemic. The industry and GM sales “rebounded significantly in September, finishing the month with year-over-year sales increases,” the company said. Retail sales also were a reason for optimism and GM said its pickup trucks and SUVs “are selling extremely fast.” GM “remains focused on producing the right mix of vehicles to meet demand. Large pickup and full-size SUV plants are all operating on three shifts and at maximum overtime,” it said.
• Marathon Oil Corp. MRO, +4.30% is reinstating its dividend despite the pressures created by the pandemic and slumping oil price. The company took recent debt-reduction measures aiming for a “transparent framework for future capital allocation and uses of free cash flow intended to maximize long-term shareholder value.” The dividend returned at 3 cents a share, payable on Dec. 10 to stockholders of record on Nov. 18. “Marathon Oil continues to maintain a solid balance sheet,” the company said. “While 2020 has included its fair share of challenges, we believe we have successfully repositioned our company for success in a lower, more volatile commodity price environment,” Chief Executive Lee Tillman said in a statement.