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Nov. 23, 2020, 2:58 p.m. EST

U.S. coronavirus case tally tops 12 million amid growing fears that Thanksgiving travel will spark another surge of infections

‘Four days before a holiday with potentially the most indoor and in-person gatherings of the year in the U.S., the virus is here and more prevalent than ever,’ says one analyst

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By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch

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Interim analysis from the Phase 3 vaccine trial found that the AstraZeneca experimental shot is 90% effective when administered as a half dose and then a full dose one month later. Effectiveness falls to 62% when two full doses are administered one month apart. AstraZeneca said there were no serious safety events related to the vaccine and it was well tolerated across both dosing regimens. Late-stage clinical trials of the vaccine are continuing in the U.S.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate is viewed as promising, as it can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures, easing the path to distribution. Both the Pfizer–BioNTech and Moderna vaccine candidates require low temperatures.

Separately, U.S. health officials said Saturday they have agreed to allow emergency use for a second antibody drug that helps the immune system fight COVID-19, an experimental medicine that President Donald Trump was given when he was sickened last month, as the AP reported.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized use of the Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203149337/composite REGN -2.01%  drug to try to prevent hospitalization and worsening disease from developing in patients with mild to moderate symptoms.

See now: BioNTech and Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is surprisingly effective, though experts question what effectiveness will look like in the real world

Finally, the head of the U.S. federal vaccine development program Moncef Slaoui said the first immunizations could happen on Dec. 12. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee is scheduled to meet on Dec. 10 to review the EUA for Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s vaccine candidate.

Slaoui, head of “Operation Warp Speed,” the coronavirus vaccine program, says plans are to ship vaccines to states within 24 hours of expected FDA approval. Slaoui told CNN he expects vaccinations would begin on the second day after approval, Dec. 12.

Vaccine optimism sent financial markets higher on Monday with the Dow Jones Industrial /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +1.35%  recently up 154 points and the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +1.14%  up 0.3%.

In other news:

• Thousands of workers at Shanghai International Airport were tested for the coronavirus on Sunday, after an outbreak understood to stem from cargo, the South China Morning Post reported. An official said 17,719 workers from the cargo handling division were tested. By noon Monday, 11,544 were determined to be negative, while analysis of the remaining samples continues. High-risk workers will be inoculated with China’s experimental vaccine candidate, the official said. Shanghai has counted five new COVID-19 cases since Friday.

• Russia saw its biggest one day case load of 25,173 infections, the Guardian reported . The country’s coronavirus task force has reported 361 deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the official death toll to 36,540. With more than 2.1 million infections, Russia has the world’s fifth largest number of cases after the US, India, Brazil and France, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

• A Hasidic synagogue in Brooklyn planned the wedding of a chief rabbi’s grandson with secrecy and hosted thousands of revelers without face masks and without the city finding out in advance, the New York Post reported. The paper published videos showing thousands of guests crammed closely in the Yetev Lev temple in Williamsburg for the event which took place Nov. 8, singing, dancing and stomping without a single face mask. Williamsburg has become a COVID-19 hot spot as the religious community has persistently defied state and city restrictions on gatherings and refused to wear face masks.

• A Malaysian company that is the world’s biggest manufacturer of surgical gloves will close over half of its factories after a surge in coronavirus cases among workers, AFP reported. The company, called Top Glove, has seen a huge jump in demand for its gloves during the pandemic as many countries have scrambled to stock up on much needed protective equipment. But a cluster of virus outbreaks among Top Glove employees at factories in an industrial area near the capital, Kuala Lumpur, has now forced the shutdown.

See also: Is COVID testing free? Where can I get a rapid test? Your complete guide to coronavirus testing

Latest tallies

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide now stands at 58.8 million, the Johns Hopkins data show, and the death toll is 1.4 million. At least 37.6 million people have recovered from COVID-19.

Brazil has the second highest death toll at 169,183 and is third by cases at 6.0 million.

India is second in cases with 9.1 million, and third in deaths at 133,738.

Mexico has the fourth highest death toll at 101,676 and 10th highest case tally at 1 million.

The U.K has 55,121deaths, the highest in Europe and fifth highest in the world, and 1.5 million cases, or seventh highest in the world.

China, where the virus was first discovered late last year, has had 92,189 confirmed cases and 4,742 deaths, according to its official numbers.

What are companies saying?

• Guitar Center Inc. filed for bankruptcy Saturday, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to batter the retail industry. The retail chain, the largest seller of musical equipment in the U.S., said it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and plans to keep its nearly 300 U.S. stores open during the process. Guitar Center will seek to reduce its debt by $800 million. The company is saddled with $1.2 billion in long-term, high-yield debt, after it was taken private by Bain Capital in 2007 in an LBO valued at $2.1 billion.

Read now: Sturgis Motorcyle Rally caused at least 86 COVID-19 cases in neighboring Minnesota, CDC says

• Merck & Co. Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209956077/composite MRK +0.04% is buying clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company OncoImmune for an upfront payment of $425 million in cash. OncoImmune shareholders will also be eligible to receive payments based on sales payments contingent the achievement of regulatory milestones. OncoImmune recently announced positive findings from an interim analysis of a Phase 3 study of CD24Fc for the treatment of severe and critical COVID-19. The acquisition is expected to close before the end of the year. “Recent clinical investigations support the view that CD24Fc may provide benefit beyond standard of care therapy for COVID-19 patients requiring oxygen support, and hence will represent an important addition to the Merck pipeline of investigational medicines and vaccines designed to address the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Roger Perlmutter, president of Merck Research Laboratories.

• Warner Music Group Corp. /zigman2/quotes/218669580/composite WMG +1.91% reported a breakeven fiscal fourth quarter, missing expectations, although revenue rose slightly above forecasts. Revenue rose 0.2% to $1.13 billion, just above the FactSet consensus of $1.11 billion, as “robust” digital revenue growth was partially offset by a decline in recorded music artist services, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on its music publishing business. “We’re essentially flat against a record-breaking prior year and, during the quarter, we grew 11% on an as-reported basis, excluding the revenue streams most impacted by COVID,” said Chief Executive Steve Cooper. “Our streaming growth has stayed strong, and we’ve also seen an acceleration in a whole spectrum of emerging revenue streams such as social media, gaming, and in-home fitness.”

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US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 458.60
-9.43 -2.01%
Volume: 1.10M
Feb. 24, 2021 4:00p
P/E Ratio
14.95
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$50.14 billion
Rev. per Employee
$931,393
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US : Dow Jones Global
31,961.86
+424.51 +1.35%
Volume: 413.35M
Feb. 24, 2021 5:20p
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/zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime
US : S&P US
3,925.43
+44.06 +1.14%
Volume: 2.78B
Feb. 24, 2021 5:20p
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/zigman2/quotes/209956077/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 74.57
+0.03 +0.04%
Volume: 9.39M
Feb. 24, 2021 4:02p
P/E Ratio
26.80
Dividend Yield
3.49%
Market Cap
$188.59 billion
Rev. per Employee
N/A
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/zigman2/quotes/218669580/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 36.22
+0.68 +1.91%
Volume: 464,446
Feb. 24, 2021 4:00p
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
1.33%
Market Cap
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$811,455
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Ciara Linnane is MarketWatch's investing- and corporate-news editor. She is based in New York.

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