Coronavirus update: Global COVID-19 cases top 39 million as trial of promising therapy finds it does not stop patients dying

Coronavirus update: Global COVID-19 cases top 39 million as trial of promising therapy finds it does not stop patients dying

17 Oct    Finance News

The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 world-wide climbed above 39.4 million on Saturday, a day after a clinical trial found one therapy believed to be promising as a treatment to have no effect on mortality in hospitalized patients.

The trial, conducted by the World Health Organization, found that Gilead Sciences Inc.’s US:GILD remdesivir, as well as hydroxychloroquine, and AbbVie’s US:ABBV lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon had “little or no effect” on overall mortality, ventilation, and length of hospital stay among 11,330 participating patients.

Results were presented in a preprint, which is medical research that has not been peer-reviewed. The Food and Drug Administration has authorized remdesivir as a COVID-19 treatment, based on a clinical study conducted in the U.S. that found the drug could reduce recovery times.

It had also granted an emergency use authorization to hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment although it was rescinded this summer. The WHO study was first reported by the Financial Times on Thursday.

In a statement shared after the FT story published, Gilead questioned the validity of the trial data, saying it was “concerned that the data from this open-label global trial have not undergone the rigorous review required to allow for constructive scientific discussion, particularly given the limitations of the trial design.”

However, Raymond James analyst say that Gilead’s response is off-base.

“We would hope that Gilead reconsiders its knee-jerk dismissal of the SOLIDARITY study and reassesses the clinical value of remdesivir in the context of these new data,” they told investors in a note.

The news comes as the U.S. counted more than 69,000 infections on Friday, its highest one-day number since late July, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

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On Thursday, the U.S. recorded 63,610 cases, breaching 60,000 for the first time since August.

New cases are rising at the fastest clip in the Midwest, with more than a half dozen states, including Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, reporting record one-day totals.

Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers asked residents on Twitter to “put science and public health before politics,” urging them to wear face masks and limit outings.

He also cited a White House report on Wisconsin from Oct. 11, that says: “Lack of compliance with these measures will lead to preventable deaths.”

Wisconsin Department of Health Services secretary-designee Andrea Palm said at a briefing that hospitals in some parts of the state are already at 90% capacity.

Forty-four states and the District of Columbia currently have higher caseloads than in mid-September, the Washington Post reported, as the virus moves across rural areas.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated advice for the coming holidays and said Americans should consider the number and rate of COVID-19 cases in their community, should consider whether others are socially distancing and wearing face masks and consider the location people are coming from when making plans for gatherings.

Read now:The CDC says big Thanksgiving gatherings are a high-risk activity. Here’s how to safely visit family this holiday season

See also: When will the COVD-19 pandemic end? History offers a sobering message

In other news:

• More than 1,000 current and former officers of an elite disease-fighting program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have signed an open letter expressing dismay at the nation’s public-health response to the Covid-19 pandemic and calling for the federal agency to play a more central role, the Wall Street Journal reported. “The absence of national leadership on Covid-19 is unprecedented and dangerous,” said the letter, signed by current and former officers of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service of outbreak investigators. “CDC should be at the forefront of a successful response to this global public health emergency.” Signers included two former CDC directors: Jeffrey Koplan, who led the agency under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and Tom Frieden, who served under President Barack Obama.

• A Berlin court suspended a planned curfew on bars and restaurants in the German capital, that aimed to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases, Reuters reported. Berlin’s local government announced last week that it would impose a nighttime curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. “The curfew has been suspended for the time being as the court considers it disproportionate in view of other measures taken to fight the pandemic,” a spokesman for the administrative court in Berlin said. The court found no evidence that a curfew would have much impact on bars and restaurants that are complying with mask-wearing and social-distancing rules. Paris and other French cities will be subject to an even more stringent curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. for the next four weeks.

• Switzerland set a record of 3,105 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, hitting record levels for a second straight day, the Guardian reported. The alpine nation and neighboring Liechtenstein now have 74,422 confirmed cases and 1,823 people have died.

Don’t miss:COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker: Everything you need to know about the companies with candidates in Phase 1 or later-stage trials

• Officials in the Chinese city of Qingdao have tested more than 10 million residents, according to a government notice, the Wall Street Journal reported. The city has counted just 13 local cases since last weekend, which were linked to a local hospital’s CT scanning room, that was used by two port workers who had earlier tested positive. A senior provincial health official said the room wasn’t disinfected properly.

Read now:Northern Italy sees resurgence of COVID-19 infections, with hospitalizations rising

• The coronavirus pandemic was a key theme at dueling town halls on live TV Thursday night featuring President Donald Trump and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden. Biden, appearing on ABC, kept up his attacks on Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic and his disdain for safety measures such as face masks. “The words of a president matter,” Biden said during the event in Philadelphia that was hosted by ABC News. “When a president doesn’t wear a mask and makes fun of folks like me when I’m wearing a mask for a long time, people say, ‘Well, it must not be that important’.” Trump, appearing on NBC, addressed his experience with COVID, saying his lungs were “a little bit, perhaps, infected,” and that he had “a little bit of a temperature.” But he could not answer for certain whether he took a COVID test on the day of the first debate with Biden, and did not definitively answer whether he would support “herd immunity” as a strategy to fight the disease.

See: Chanos says ‘torches and pitchforks are undervalued’ after allegation that hedge funds were privately briefed by White House about coronavirus early in 2020

• A growing chorus of critics are taking aim at herd immunity, after the Trump administration promoted a theory based on it on a call with reporters earlier this week, MarketWatch’s Jaimy Lee reported. The White House denies it has considered a herd-immunity strategy. Herd immunity occurs when 50% to 90% of a population becomes immune to a virus. The idea is that once people have been infected, they would then develop protective antibodies as part of their recoveries. The virus would then, in theory, lose mobility, with fewer and fewer hosts available. But with a highly contagious and sometimes fatal virus like SARS-CoV-2, this also means the loss of potentially hundreds of thousands of lives. “Without a vaccine, many people would have to die from COVID-19 before population immunity is achieved,” two professors wrote in an editorial in The Lancet last month.

Latest tallies

The coronavirus has caused the deaths of 1.1 million people world-wide, the Johns Hopkins data show, while 27.1 million people have recovered since the start of the outbreak.

The U.S. with 4% of the world’s population accounts for 8.05 million confirmed cases out of a global total of 39.4 million, or about 20%. The U.S. also leads by deaths with 218,618 Americans lost to the virus.

Brazil has the second highest death toll at 153,214 and is third by cases at 5.2 million. India is second in cases with 7.4 million, and third in deaths at 112,998.

See: Prepare for a ‘marathon’ and two years of wearing masks to battle COVID-19, says prominent Spanish virologist

Mexico has the fourth highest death toll at 85,704 and ninth highest case tally at 841,661. The U.K has 43,519 deaths, the highest in Europe and fifth highest in the world, and 692,126 cases.

Read: Second coronavirus wave could delay Europe’s recovery: ECB President Lagarde

China, where the illness was first reported late last year, has had 90,925 cases and 4,739 fatalities, according to its official numbers.

What’s the latest medical news?

The National Institutes of Health is launching a late-stage clinical trial to determine whether three drugs used for controlling immune systems could be used to treat respiratory distress and organ failure in severely ill Covid-19 patients, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The NIH study will evaluate two drugs already on the market, Johnson & Johnson’s US:JNJ  Remicade and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s US:BMY  Orencia, along with an investigational drug called CVC from AbbVie Inc. US:ABBV  

The study will evaluate whether any of the medicines, known as immune modulators, can control an overreaction of the patient’s systemic Covid-19 inflammatory response.

Pfizer Inc. US:PFE  is on track to know whether its potential COVID-19 vaccine is effective by the end of October, and currently expects to apply for Emergency Use Authorization by the second half of November, according to Chief Executive Albert Bourla.

Pfizer, which is developing its vaccine candidate with Germany-based biotechnology company BioNTech S.E. US:BNTX, said before it can apply for the EUA, it will have to prove the vaccine is safe.

To do so, the Food and Drug Administration requires two months of safety data on half of the trial participants following the final dose of the vaccine.

“Based on current trail enrollment and dosing pace, we estimate we will reach this milestone in the third week of November,” Bourla wrote in an open letter posted on its website Thursday. He said he wrote the letter to clear up any confusion regarding the development and approval of the vaccine candidate.

What’s the economy saying?

Sales at U.S. retail stores surged in September and rose for the fifth month in a row as Americans bought more clothes, went out to eat and splurged on new cars and trucks, suggesting an economic recovery was still well under way at the start of fall, MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash reported.

Retail sales climbed 1.9% last month, the government said Friday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 1.2% increase.

Setting aside the large auto segment, retail sales were still quite strong, up 1.5%.

Although retail sales have snapped back quickly to precrisis levels and done so far faster than expected, many economists worry a letdown is coming. People are returning to work at a slower pace, the coronavirus is spreading rapidly again, and Washington has failed to pass a second coronavirus-relief bill, triggering fresh worries about the health of the economy.

“The unexpectedly strong 1.9% rise in retail sales last month suggests the economy was carrying more momentum into the fourth quarter than anticipated,” said U.S. economist Michael Pearce of Capital Economics. “But we are wary of getting too carried away when events in Europe serve as a reminder of how quickly a renewed resurgence in virus cases could take hold, which could yet dampen the recovery in the U.S.”

Separately, industrial production fell for the first time in five months in September, surprising economists who had expected more steady growth from the factory sector, MarketWatch’s Greg Robb reported. Industrial output fell 0.6% in September, the first decline after four straight months of gains, the Federal Reserve reported Friday.

The decline was well below Wall Street expectations of a 0.4% gain, according to a survey by MarketWatch. Output remains 7.1% below its pre-pandemic level.

Finally, Americans grew more worried in early October about a resurgence in the coronavirus and slower hiring, but optimism that the economy will get better next year pushed consumer sentiment to a pandemic high.

The preliminary reading of consumer sentiment index edged up to 81.2 this month from a revised 80.4 in September, the University of Michigan said Friday. That’s the highest level since March, just when the pandemic slammed the U.S.

What are companies saying?

• Inc. US:AMZN wrapped up its Prime Day event for 2020, and said its own Echo Dot device, the Lego Star Wars Stormtrooper Helmet and the iRobot Roomba Robot Vacuum were among the bestsellers during the pandemic. Prime Day took place on Oct. 13 and Oct. 14 across 19 countries. India’s Prime Day took place in August. Amazon did not provide a final sales tally, which it often does not, but said third-party sellers, which includes small- and medium sized businesses, saw sales that surpassed $3.5 billion, up 60% from last year. Big selling categories include home, arts & crafts, electronics and nutrition and wellness. And the fastest delivery was in 29 minutes and 54 seconds. More customers opted for a pickup from an Amazon Hub location or an Amazon Locker with cities like New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles seeing the most activity as of the end of Oct. 13.

• Del Taco Restaurants Inc. US:TACO reported fiscal third-quarter results that were roughly in line with Wall Street estimates, as the company continues to feel the effects of the pandemic. Del Taco reported net income of $5.8 million, or 15 cents per share, compared with a loss of $7.7 million, or 21 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue inched up 0.5% to $120.8 million from $120.2 million a year ago. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had expected net income of 11 cents a share on revenue of $120.4 million.

• Hertz Global Holdings Inc. US:HTZ, the car-rental company that was an early victim of the pandemic when it declared bankruptcy amid a slump in travel, secured $1.65 billion in debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing. Up to $1 billion of the DIP can be used to provide equity for vehicle purchases in the U.S. and Canada, and up to $800 million can be used for working capital and general corporate purposes. The financing is subject to bankruptcy court approval. “This new financing will provide additional financial flexibility as we continue to navigate the pandemic’s effects on the travel industry and take steps to best position our business for the future,” said Chief Executive Paul Stone.

• Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. US:HPE  announced and improved fiscal 2021 financial outlook. HPE estimates non-GAAP diluted net earnings per share outlook of $1.56 to $1.76, up 10% year-over-year at the midpoint when adjusted for stock-based compensation expense. The company projects FY21 GAAP diluted net earnings per share outlook of 34 cents to 54 cents, up 77 cents year-over-year at the midpoint. “While the global pandemic is unlike any crisis we have ever faced, it has served as a catalyst, making digital transformation a strategic imperative for enterprises,” HPE Chief Executive Antonio Neri said in a statement. “Enterprises need to deliver secure connectivity, remote work solutions, data analytics capabilities and mobile-first, cloudlike experiences to their employees and customers. And they need to do it with speed and flexibility, preserving liquidity to navigate the macroeconomic uncertainty and adapt to the new world. This is a significant opportunity for Hewlett Packard Enterprise.”

• VF Corp. US:VFC, owner of Vans, Timberland and the North Face brands, posted better-than-expected earnings for its fiscal second quarter Friday, and said business is picking up again after taking a hit from store closures during the pandemic. Revenue fell to $2.608 billion from $3.179 billion, also ahead of the $2.494 billion FactSet consensus. “We are beginning to see signs of stabilization and strength across all aspects of our business, supporting our decision to raise the dividend and provide a financial outlook for the balance of the year,” Chief Executive Steve Rendle said in a statement. The company is now expecting fiscal 2021 sales of at least $9.0 billion, ahead of the $8.8 billion FactSet consensus. It expects adjusted EPS of at least $1.20, ahead of the $1.11 FactSet consensus. The company declared a dividend of 49 cents a share, payable Dec. 21 to shareholders of record as of Dec. 10.

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