U.S. Raises Bar For Vaccines; Cases Top 28 Million: Virus Update

Drugmakers seeking an emergency authorization for a Covid-19 vaccine will have to meet a higher standard than normal to win clearance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said. Global cases topped 28 million as Western Europe surpassed the U.S. for new infections, re-emerging as a global hotspot.

Senate Democrats blocked a narrowly tailored pandemic relief plan proposed by Republicans, contending the measure was too meager. AstraZeneca Plc said its vaccine could still be ready by year-end, while Singapore Airlines cut more than 4,000 jobs.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases surpass 28 million; deaths exceed 907,000
  • Europe is trying to beat flareups with patchwork of strategies
  • U.S. Covid funding shortchanges hospitals in Black areas
  • Volatility in vaccine support highlights looming Covid challenge
  • Etiquette on how to attend a wedding (or not) during a pandemic

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on coronavirus cases and deaths.

Japan to Set Up Virus Test Sites Near Bars (9:50 a.m. HK)

The Japanese government is planning to have testing centers for coronavirus in nightlife districts across the nation in a bid to prevent flareups, Yomiuri reported, without saying who provided the information. Areas to be targeted include bar districts in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo and Fukuoka.

95,735 in IndiaMost new cases today

-2% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-1.​052 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

5.​3% Global GDP Tracker (annualized), Aug.

Toxic Hand Sanitizers Sold in Mexico After U.S. Ban (9:20 a.m. HK)

Deadly hand sanitizers that were banned in the U.S. are still circulating widely in Mexico, raising concerns among health experts that scores of people slathering the gel on may be slowly poisoning themselves.

Four people died in the U.S. and three people partially lost their eyesight this year after drinking the sanitizers, prompting a testing campaign by the Food and Drug Administration that found methanol in Mexican imports. Thirty-seven Mexican companies were banned from exporting their hand sanitizers to the U.S., with nearly half of them voluntarily recalling their product -- but only in the U.S.

Singapore Air Cuts 4,300 Jobs (7:45 a.m. HK)

Singapore Airlines Ltd. is eliminating about 4,300 jobs, or 20% of its workfoce, as the coronavirus outbreak devastates the aviation industry.

The cuts will be made at Singapore Airlines and its SilkAir and Scoot units. Discussions are underway with unions and arrangements will be finalized as soon as possible, the carrier said in a statement late Thursday.

The job losses are the first at Singapore Airlines since the SARS outbreak in 2003.

NYC Business Leaders Urge Mayor to Fix Services (6:45 a.m. HK)

Leaders of more than 150 New York City corporations and financial firms called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to pay more attention to a declining quality of life, as the city struggles to contain the Covid-19 pandemic that has ravaged its economy.

In a letter sent to the mayor Thursday, the chief executives of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Blackstone Group Inc. and other prominent companies acknowledged the city’s accomplishment in limiting the spread of the virus. But they said they were losing confidence in the city as a place that feels safe for people to live and work.

“Despite New York’s success in containing the coronavirus, unprecedented numbers of New Yorkers are unemployed, facing homelessness, or otherwise at risk,” the letter states. “There is widespread anxiety over public safety, cleanliness and other quality of life issues that are contributing to deteriorating conditions in commercial districts and neighborhoods across the five boroughs.”

Fine on Meatpacking Plant Called ‘Paltry’ (6:35 a.m. HK)

U.S. regulators issued their first sanction against a meatpacker connected with a deadly Covid-19 outbreak: a $13,494 fine against Smithfield Foods Inc. that drew criticism as inadequate from at least one senator, a former safety official and a major national union.

Nearly 1,300 workers at Smithfield’s Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plant tested positive for the virus, 43 were hospitalized and four died between March 22 and June 16, according to inspection documents. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration said in a statement that the fine was the maximum allowed by law. Smithfield is owned by the Hong Kong-based WH Group Ltd.

The meatpacking industry was an early epicenter of coronavirus as the disease rapidly spread among its often poorly paid immigrant employees working in close quarters. In a tweet, Democratic Senator Cory Booker, one of several who highlighted the toll the pandemic has taken on frontline workers, called the fine “paltry.”

Brazil Cases Rise, Deaths Slow (5:57 p.m. NY)

Brazil reported 40,557 cases, up from 35,816 the previous day, for a total of 4,238,446, according to the Health Ministry’s website. That represented a 1% rise compared with an average daily increase of 0.7% over the previous week.

Another 983 deaths were reported in the nation with the third worst outbreak after the U.S. and India. That compares with 1,075 the day before, for a total of 129,522 fatalities.

Jets Player Charged in PPP Fraud (5:47 p.m. NY)

Former New York Jets wide receiver Josh Bellamy has been charged for his alleged participation in a $24 million Paycheck Protection Program fraud scheme.

Bellamy is one of 11 defendants, according to a press release by the U.S. Justice Department on Thursday.

The professional football player is accused of obtaining a PPP loan for $1.2 million for his company Drip Entertainment LLC. Bellamy is accused of using the funds to purchase jewelry and spend $62,774 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, according to the release. In total, the group applied for more than $24 million of loans and received at least $17.4 million.

American Express Extends Work-From-Home (5:40 p.m. NY)

American Express has decided to extend its temporary work-from-home policy through June 30, 2021, according to a statement from Chairman and CEO Stephen Squeri.

This week, the firm began reopening facilities in London and New York, with about 10% of workers opting to return in the initial phase.

The updated policy covers all colleagues worldwide who are able to effectively perform their roles at home and opt not to return to the office once it reopens, until the new June 2021 deadline.

“To date, we have begun the process of phased reopenings in almost 30 locations where infection rates remain consistently low, mostly in Europe and Asia,” Squeri said.

FDA Sets Higher Bar for Emergency Vaccines (5:04 p.m. NY)

Drugmakers seeking an emergency authorization for a Covid-19 vaccine will have to meet a higher standard of efficacy than normally would be required for such a clearance, the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s office that handles vaccines said.

Typically, an emergency use authorization, or EUA, would require a company to show their product may be effective. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s biologics office, said Thursday that the agency will require more robust data about how well a coronavirus vaccine works before granting an emergency waiver -- something he called “EUA plus.”

The medical community has raised concerns about allowing a vaccine on the market under emergency authorization, rather than the regular FDA approval process, particularly given President Donald Trump’s push to have a shot available by the Nov. 3 election.

U.S. Cases Rise 0.7% (4 p.m. NY)

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased 0.7% as compared with the same time Wednesday to 6.38 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The increase was in line with the average daily gain of 0.6% over the past week. Deaths rose by 0.8% to 191,444.

  • Florida reported 654,731 cases, up 0.4% from a day earlier, in line with the average increase in the previous seven days. Deaths reached 12,326, an increase of 1.7%.
  • Arizona reported 461 cases, a 0.2% increase to 207,002 that was just below the prior seven-day average increase of 0.3%. The state recorded 22 new deaths, bringing the toll to 5,273.
  • Idaho experienced a 4% increase in the number of cases from the same time yesterday, bringing the total to 35,353, according to the Johns Hopkins and Bloomberg News data.

California Cases Ease; Fires Affect Testing (2:51 p.m. NY)

California reported 3,338 new virus cases, less than the 14-day average of 4,238. Deaths rose by 137, bringing total fatalities in the state to 13,978. The average rate of positive tests was stable at 4%, the lowest level since the outbreak began.

While California has been showing ongoing improvement in its outbreak, testing has been hampered by fires that are raging across the state. Los Angeles County, home of the most cases, on Thursday said six testing sites will close for two days because smoky conditions are causing unhealthy air quality.

France Hits Most Cases Since Lockdown Ended (1:40 p.m.)

France recorded close to 10,000 new cases Thursday, the most since the country’s lockdown ended four months ago and ahead of a government meeting Friday to discuss measures to curb the rising infections.

Cases rose by 9,843, the most new laboratory-confirmed infections since the lockdown ended in mid-May, according to data from the public health agency. The seven-day rolling average stands at 7,680 and has been steadily climbing for more than three weeks.

The virus is circulating actively in major cities including Marseille and Lyon, and authorities may have to “tighten the bolts a bit, because there is a lot of laxity occurring in France,” Jean-Francois Delfraissy, who heads the scientific council advising the government, said in an interview on RTL radio.

Democrats Block Senate Republicans’ Stimulus Bill (1:25 p.m. NY)

Senate Democrats blocked a narrowly tailored pandemic relief plan proposed by Republicans, contending the measure was too meager a response given the damage that Covid-19 continues to wreak on the U.S. economy.

The Senate’s vote in favor of the bill was short of the 60 needed to advance the legislation for floor debate, leaving Congress at an impasse just weeks before lawmakers return home to campaign in the pivotal fall elections.

Estimated at roughly $500 billion to $700 billion, the package was less than the Republicans’ own $1 trillion plan from July, intended to target the most pressing areas for help -- revived supplemental unemployment insurance benefits and extended aid for small business, in particular. The bill was a fraction of the $2.2 trillion backed by Democrats.

WHO Says Astra Trial Halt Is Good Wakeup Call (11:53 a.m. NY)

AstraZeneca Plc’s halt of its vaccine trial after a patient became ill is a good wakeup call for everyone to recognize that there are ups and down in research and clinical development, the World Health Organization’s Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said at a briefing. Every clinical trial protocol has an operating procedure for how to manage side effects.

“This is normal procedure, this is good clinical practice, because safety is the highest priority in any clinical trial,” she said. “It’s not always a fast or a straight road.”

Separately, the WHO said there’s currently no way of predicting which vaccine candidates are going to be effective, but that the data from Phase 1 and 2 studies has been quite promising for most.

Macron Vows to Avoid ‘Panic’ in France (11:34 a.m. NY)

President Emmanuel Macron signaled French government measures are likely to be adjusted to counter a resurgence of the virus.

“We have to continue to be rigorous and realistic, without giving in to any kind of panic,” Macron said during an official trip to Corsica.

France’s government is meeting on Friday to discuss possible measures to curb the rising pace of infections. “What we have to do is adapt to the evolution of the virus,” Macron said.

U.S. Ends Airport Screening of International Arrivals (10:40 a.m. NY)

The U.S. is ending its Covid-19 screening of international travelers arriving at airports as airlines seek new ways to more aggressively test for the virus to boost anemic traffic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is ending its program that directed all flights from high-risk areas to 15 U.S. airports. The system was deemed ineffective because so many people who transmit the disease don’t show symptoms, the CDC said.

The government will now focus more on voluntary measures, such as educating passengers and requesting contact information electronically. The health screening will end on Sept. 14.

Western Europe Passes U.S. in New Infections (9:48 a.m. NY)

Western Europe has surpassed the U.S. in new daily infections, re-emerging as a global hotspot after bringing the pandemic under control earlier in the summer.

The 27 countries in the European Union plus the U.K., Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein recorded 27,233 new cases on Wednesday, compared with 26,015 for the U.S. That follows several weeks of resurgent infections in Spain, France and other countries across the continent. The comparison is based on data from the World Health Organization for the U.S. and Bloomberg calculations using numbers from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

— With assistance by David Scanlan, and Will Davies

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