By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
With close to 4.5 million Americans confirmed to have been infected with the coronavirus illness COVID-19, the pandemic will continue for some time, public health officials will tell Congress on Friday, underscoring the importance of following their recommendations on face masks, frequent hand washing and social distancing.
“While it remains unclear how long the pandemic will last, COVID-19 activity will likely continue for some time,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, along with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Dr. Robert Redfield and Health and Human Services testing czar Adm. Brett Giroir will say, according to prepared testimony for a special House panel investigating the pandemic.
The U.S. is still seeing high case numbers across the South and the West in states that reopened quickly and are now experiencing record numbers of one-day infections. Testing constraints are still being reported, as well as stress on hospital systems. The race for a vaccine, meanwhile, although progressing at a faster clip than in other epidemics, has not yet produced a clear breakthrough.
France’s Sanofi SA. /zigman2/quotes/206928357/delayed FR:SAN -0.16% and U.K. drug maker GlaxoSmithKline PLC /zigman2/quotes/206928357/delayed FR:SAN -0.16% said they will receive $2.1 billion in funding from the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed program, aimed at accelerating the development of their vaccine candidate and have agreed to deliver 100 million doses to the U.S. The program has invested more than $8 billion in developing a vaccine, according to data provided by the government agency, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, backing numerous candidates and trials and paying for the manufacture of doses even before trials have been completed.
On Thursday, Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House Task Force created to manage the pandemic, urged states and localities with rising cases to mandate face masks. In an interview with Fox News, Birx said there is a “very serious pandemic” in Southern states and its moving fast.
“So now we see the virus, probably because of vacations and other reasons of travel, moving up into Kentucky, Tennessee, southern Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska,” she said. “And, of course, we continue to have problems across the coast — Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho and Utah, and now increases in Colorado.”
Dr. Michael Osterholm, epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, told MarketWatch’s Jaimy Lee in an interview that the U.S. effort to contain the virus has failed because victory was declared long before it made sense. Early hot spot New York and neighboring states succeeded in getting their outbreaks under control by strict lockdowns that were followed by very gradual reopenings. Other states did not follow suit.
“This virus has been poised to be transmitted in our communities, and we thought we had done enough to get it down. It’s like a fire crew. I only put out half the forest fire but you know, I put out half so we’re done. And then look what happened. It’s burned more acres since we gave up than it did before we gave up,” he said.
The U.S. has counted another 2,000 deaths since the death toll surpassed 150,000 on Wednesday. The toll now stands at 152,075, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. Florida and Arizona broke one-day records for fatalities on Thursday, with Florida counting 253 deaths and Arizona 48, the New York Times reported.
Mississippi, Hawaii and Ohio set one-day records for new cases.
A total of 67,167 new cases were counted across the U.S. on Thursday, above the average of 64,632 a day recorded in the last week, according to a New York Times tracker.
There are 27 states showing rising cases over the last 14 days, and 20 that are pretty much the same.
There are now 17.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, the Johns Hopkins data show, and at least 673,868 people have died. More than 10 million people have recovered.
Brazil is second to the U.S. with 2.6 million cases and 91,263 deaths.
India is third measured by cases at 1.6 million, followed by Russia with 838,461 and South Africa with 482,169.
The U.K. has 303,913 cases and 46,084 fatalities, the highest in Europe and third highest in the world.
China, where the illness was first reported late last year, has 87,610 cases, and 4,661 fatalities.
In Europe, Germany added another three Spanish regions to its list of high-risk destinations, the Guardian reported. Spain is currently suffering fresh outbreaks in tourist hot spots Barcelona and the beaches of the Costa Brava. Germans arriving from those areas will be required to produce a negative test of quarantine for 14 days.
France health officials reported a 54% increase in COVID-19 cases in the last week, according to its health department. The rise has been especially strong in people aged 20 to 30 as France braces for a heat wave that could see temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
What’s the latest medical news?
Medical news was dominated by the Sanofi-Glaxo funding news, the highest amount awarded by the U.S. government so far. The Phase 1/2 study for the Sanofi/GSK vaccine is expected to begin in September.
“No single vaccine or company will be able to meet the global demand alone,” Thomas Triomphe, global head of Sanofi Pasteur, the drugmaker’s vaccines business, said in a news release.
Both companies also said they are in talks with the European Commission, as well as France and Italy, about supplying Europe with their vaccine.