By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
The coronavirus pandemic is “not even close to being over,” according to the head of the World Health Organization, and the worst is still to come, in what was a grim assessment of the state of affairs some six months after the first cases were reported in China.
“Six months ago, none of us could have imagined how our world — and our lives — would be thrown into turmoil by this new virus,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a news briefing on Monday. “The pandemic has brought out the best and the worst of humanity.”
Tedros said WHO is sending a team to Wuhan, China next week to work on the virus’s origins. He stressed that everyone, including those not feeling any symptoms, should continue to socially distance, wash their hands frequently — and wear face masks when appropriate. Tedros said contact tracing is still the most effective tool in containing the spread and expressed frustration at those countries where it has not been working well.
Contact tracing has been notably poor in the U.S., with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, saying Friday that the process of tracking down people who may have been exposed to those infected was “not going well.”
That sentiment was echoed Tuesday by the Harvard Global Health Institute in a report that said most U.S. states are still far behind where they need to be on testing, even as COVID-19 outbreaks grow more severe. A full 35 states are showing increasing rates of infection over a 14-day period, according to a New York Times tracker, and seven states are experiencing a surge in hospitalizations, namely Arizona, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
“While testing has doubled in the nation since our last estimates in May (from around 250,000 to more than 500,000 daily tests), many states opened up before suppressing the virus and are now seeing rapid increases in new cases,” said the HGHI. “States can and must work together to ramp up their testing, tracing, and supported isolation strategies (TTSI), combine them with mask wearing, distancing and other measures, and bring case counts down. This can save both lives and billions of dollars.”
Fauci and other members of the White House Task Force created to manage the crisis testified to a Senate Committee on Tuesday on how to get Americans safely back to work and school. Fauci again urged young people, in particular, to behave more responsibly, lamenting the many images on social media of them gathering closely in bars, unmasked.
“We need to emphasize the responsibility that we have both as individuals and as part of a societal effort to end the epidemic...We’ve got to get that message out, that we are all in this together. And if we are going to contain this, we’ve got to contain it together,” he said.
Calling the latest surges “disturbing,” Fauci said it the virus is not contained, it could result in up to 100,000 cases a day, up from the daily record of 40,000 set last week.
Meanwhile, some state officials are reversing some of the reopening moves of recent weeks, with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey closing bars, gyms, cinemas, water parks and tubing rentals for at least a month and limiting gatherings to no more than 50 people.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said she will sign an executive order mandating the wearing of face masks in public, in an effort to rein in the spread in her state. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said indoor dining will no longer resume on Thursday in time for the July 4 holiday weekend, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to follow suit.
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There are now 10.4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide and at least 507,014 people have died, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The number of people who have recovered reached 5.3 million.
The U.S. continues to lead the world, with a case tally of 2.6 million and death toll of 126,360. The data have been revised down since this morning.
Brazil is next with 1.37 million cases and 58,314 deaths, the data show.
Russia is third measured by cases at 649,929, followed by India with 566,840 and the U.K. with 314,159. The U.K. has 43,815 fatalities, the highest in Europe and third highest in the world. China has 84,780 cases and 4,641 fatalities.
The European Union published a list of countries whose citizens will be allowed to enter the trading block during the summer tourism season and the U.S. did not make the cut, as expected, given it has not contained the spread of COVID-19, the Guardian reported. Travellers from China will be allowed entry, if Beijing offers a reciprocal arrangement. Travellers from Russia, Brazil and India are also banned.
What’s the latest medical news?
Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202993817/composite INO +8.49% disclosed early-stage data from a Phase 1 trial of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, and said it was considered safe and well-tolerated in all 40 of the participants in a Phase 1 clinical trial.
However, the company did not disclose data about the participants’ antibody response, though it said 94% of 36 trial participants showed “overall immunological response rates based on preliminary data assessing humoral (binding and neutralizing) and T cell immune responses.” The stock, which has skyrocketed this year amid high hopes for vaccine development, promptly fell.
Three trial participants tested positive for COVID-19 and one left the study for non-clinical reasons. There were some adverse events, though none were serious, that primarily consisted of redness on the skin where the experimental vaccine was administered.
Inovio has added older participants to the early-stage trial; the original 40 are between the ages of 18 and 50 years old. It also plans to start a Phase 2/3 study this summer.