By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 rose above 101,000 on Thursday, one day after it exceeded the 100,000 level, a grim marker for the nation with the highest number of cases and deaths in the world.
President Donald Trump described the latest tally as a “very sad milestone” in a Thursday tweet, which comes as all 50 U.S. states are in the process of easing restrictions on movement and other measures that health experts say are needed to prevent another wave of infections.
Trump also tweeted at technology companies for attempting to censor him, after Twitter put a fact check warning on the president’s tweets for the first time. The president is expected to sign an executive order on social-media companies on Thursday, according to a White House spokesperson.
Late Wednesday night, the Wall Street Journal reported a draft copy of the order would limit legal protections afforded to social-media companies, making it easier for federal regulators to hold companies liable for curbing users’ free speech. The aggressive order would be broad-reaching and revoke protections tech companies have under the 1996 Communications Decency Act that give them wide latitude in moderating content, and could lead to federal agencies withdrawing advertising contracts with companies found in violation.
The news comes as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise around the world, including in countries that appeared to have contained the spread. South Korea reported 79 new infections overnight, its biggest one-day increase in about two months, and is considering reimposing restrictions on movement, the Guardian reported.
Brazil again recorded more than 20,000 infections overnight, as the Americas cement their positions as center of the pandemic, as the World Health Organization had warned on Wednesday.
New Zealand, meanwhile, which has been praised for moving fast to contain the virus and for implementing a robust testing and tracing program, discharged its last COVID-19 patient from hospital on Wednesday. New Zealand has recorded zero cases for six days.
There are now 5.93 million case of COVID-19 worldwide and at least 357,781 people have died, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. At least 2.4 million people have recovered.
The U.S. has 1.71 million cases, or more than a fifth of the total, and 101,002 fatalities, or nearly a third of the total.
Brazil has 411,821 cases and 25,598 deaths, while Russia has 379,051 cases and 4,142 fatalities.
The U.K. has 270,507 cases and 37,919 deaths, the highest death toll in Europe and second highest in the world after the U.S.
Spain, an early hot spot, has 237,906 cases and 27,119 deaths, while Italy has 231,732 cases and 33,142 deaths.
France has 183,038 cases and 28,599 deaths, while Germany has 181,918 cases and 8,464 deaths.
India surpassed Turkey by case numbers on Thursday and now has 165,348 cases and 4,710 deaths. Turkey has 160,979 cases and 4,461 deaths. Iran has 143,849 cases and 7,627 deaths.
Peru has 135,905 cases and 3,983 deaths. Canada is next with 89,668 cases and 6,954 deaths. That’s followed by Chile, which has passed China by case numbers at 86,943 and 890 deaths.
China, where the disease was first reported late last year, has 84,106 cases and 4,638 deaths.
The U.K. has the highest rate of deaths as measured by excess mortality figures, the Financial Times reported, based on an analysis of deaths among countries that use comparable data. The U.K.’s excess mortality rate comes to 59,537 since the week ended March 20, equal to 891 deaths per million people, said the paper.
What’s the latest medical news?
Swiss drug company Roche Holding AG /zigman2/quotes/204037183/delayed CH:RO -1.03% is testing a combination of its rheumatoid arthritis drug Actemra with Gilead Sciences Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/210293917/composite GILD +0.96% remdesivir in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
Roche has previously announced it is studying Actemra in 450 hospitalized COVID-19 patients participating in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled late-stage trial; results from that trial are expected “this summer,” Roche said.
The new Phase 3, randomized, double-blind, multicenter study will test Actemra and remdesivir against placebo and remdesivir in about 450 patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 pneumonia. Trial sites are in Canada, Europe, and the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency use authorization| to remdesivir on May 1 as a treatment for some severely ill COVID-19 patients. The experimental drug has not been approved as a treatment for the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Quest Diagnostics Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201001842/composite DGX +1.95% was granted Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization for the company’s first at-home COVID-19 test kit. Quest has received EUAs for several tests during the coronavirus pandemic, including for its diagnostic and antibody tests.
The at-home test allows adults or their children to gather a nasal sample using a swab at home and then send out the specimen for shipping using FedEx Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203047719/composite FDX +1.71% at the discretion of a health care provider. Quest said it has already tracked individuals collecting their own specimens at drive-through testing sites, including at Walmart Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT -0.01% locations.
What’s the economy saying?
More than 2.1 million unemployed Americans applied for state unemployment benefits in the week ended May 23, down from 2.4 million claims in the prior week, but still marking the 10th straight week with first-time claims of over 2 million, as MarketWatch’s Greg Robb reported.
Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had been looking for 2.12 million new claims. A new federal relief program for so-called gig workers like Uber Technologies Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/211348248/composite UBER +3.19% drivers, totaled 1.2 million last week.
Since the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns started in mid-March, some 46 million people have applied for jobless benefits, on an unadjusted basis. Initial claims have fallen steadily since hitting a record 6.9 million in the week ended March 28.