By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
Just one day after the U.S. for the first time surpassed 100,000 new cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 in a single day, it set a fresh record that was 20% higher, straining hospitals in areas of the Midwest and South as they struggle to cope with an influx of patients.
The U.S. reported at least 121,200 new cases on Thursday, according to a New York Times tracker, and at least 1,108 people died. In the last week, the U.S. has averaged 96,231 cases a day, an increase of 54% over the average of two weeks ago.
Data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University show 13 states posted record case numbers on Thursday, including Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, Oklahoma, Nebraska and North Dakota.
North Dakota’s hospital system is at 90% capacity, according to the state health department. Dr. Jeffrey Sather, the chief of staff at Trinity Hospital in Minot, said Tuesday, “We North Dakotans are in crisis,” the Dickinson Press reported.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum moved nearly two dozen counties up a risk level on the state’s five-level color-coded system on Thursday, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
An Associated Press analysis of 376 counties with the highest number of new cases per capita, the overwhelming majority — 93% of those counties — voted for incumbent President Donald Trump, and most were areas with little compliance with public safety measures recommended by experts in place.
Most were rural counties in Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Wisconsin, where few people are reportedly socially distancing or wearing face masks.
“Public health officials need to step back, listen to and understand the people who aren’t taking the same stance” on mask wearing and other control measures, Dr. Marcus Plescia of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials told the AP.
The analysis also found that Trump supporters were more bullish on the state of the pandemic than voters for his rival, Democrat Joe Biden. A full 36% of Trump voters said the pandemic was completely or mostly under control — as Trump has insisted — while 47% said it was somewhat under control.
In contrast, 82% of Biden voters said the pandemic is not at all under control.
Public health experts were dismayed by the latest numbers in tweets.
In other news:
• A poll worker in Missouri who tested positive for COVID-19 at a private lab on Oct. 30 failed to follow the advice of the lab to quarantine for 14 days, according to a statement from the St. Charles County health department and the county election authority. The worker showed up at the County’s Precinct 41 polling site, where 1,858 people voted. “Authorities have informed the County that this individual has died, although a cause of death has not been given at this time,” said the statement. Election workers who were at the site have been informed, and officials are working with family members to trace contacts.
• Denmark is pushing ahead with plans to cull its entire mink population of up to 17 million after a mutation of the coronavirus found in the animals spread to humans, potentially lowering the efficacy of future vaccines, the government said. Health authorities found five cases of the new virus strain had been recorded on mink farms and 12 cases in humans, Magnus Heunicke, Denmark’s minister for health, said Thursday in a statement . Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at a news conference on Wednesday that there were now concerns that the new, mutated virus posed a “risk to the effectiveness” of a future COVID-19 vaccine. “It is very, very serious,” Frederiksen said. “Thus, the mutated virus in minks can have devastating consequences worldwide.”
• China is banning foreign arrivals from France and other countries that are experiencing a surge of infections, the Guardian reported . China, where the disease was first reported late last year, has had 91,558 cases and 4,740 fatalities, according to its official numbers. Beijing said the new restrictions are “reasonable and fair” and said it was following the practices of other countries.
• Aspirin will be investigated as a possible treatment for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in one of the U.K.’s biggest trials looking into a range of potential treatments for the disease, MarketWatch’s Lina Saigol reported. Patients infected with coronavirus are at higher risk of blood clots forming in their blood vessels because of hyperactive platelets — small cell fragments in the blood that stop bleeding. Since aspirin is an antiplatelet agent, it may reduce the risk of blood clots in patients with COVID-19, the Randomised Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY (RECOVERY) trial said on its website Friday. “There is a clear rationale for believing that it might be beneficial and it is safe, inexpensive and widely available,” said Peter Horby of the Nuffield Department of Medicine, a co–chief investigator of the RECOVERY trial. “We are looking for medicines for COVID-19 that can be used immediately by anyone, anywhere in the world. We do not know if aspirin is such a medicine, but we will find out,” Horby added.
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The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide now stands at 48.9 million, the Johns Hopkins data show , and the death toll is 1.2 million. At least 32 million people have recovered from COVID-19.
Brazil has the second highest death toll at 161,106 and is third by cases at 5.6 million.
India is second in cases with 8.4 million and third in deaths at 124,985.
Mexico has the fourth highest death toll at 93,772 and 10th highest case tally at 949,147.
The U.K has 48,210 deaths, the highest in Europe and fifth highest in the world, and 1.1 million cases, or eighth highest in the world.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DOW:DJIA) recently was down 80 points, while the S&P (S&P:SPX) was down 0.2%.
What‘s the economy saying?
The U.S. regained 638,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate fell to 6.9%, reflecting a surprising show of strength for the economy even as coronavirus cases rose to record highs, MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash reported.
Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast 503,000 new jobs. Private-sector employment rose by a more robust 906,000, but a sharp decline in government employment pulled down the overall total.
The better-than-expected employment report suggests the economic recovery is setting deeper roots, giving the next occupant of the White House some breathing room when he takes office in January. The latest results pointed to a victory by Democrat Joe Biden.
Unemployment sank to fresh postpandemic low of 6.9% from 7.9% in September as more people went back to work, but economists say the official rate understates the true level of joblessness.
Some 11 million of the 22 million jobs that were lost early in the pandemic still haven’t been recovered, however.
“The recovery in the economy and the labor market remained on track in October,” said Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors. “Can we keep it up? It is all about the virus, not any underlying weakness in the economy.”
What are companies saying?
• Carnival Corp.‘s (NYS:CCL) Costa Cruises will suspend cruises to Greece, citing travel restrictions imposed by the Greek government in response to increases in new coronavirus cases. Costa Deliziosa will end the current cruise on Nov. 7, will cancel the next seven scheduled cruises and expects to resume operations on Dec. 26, with an Italian itinerary.
• DISH Network Corp. (NAS:DISH) reported surprise increases in third-quarter profit and revenue, with both beating expectations by wide margins during the pandemic. Revenue grew to $4.53 billion from $3.17 billion, while the FactSet revenue consensus called for a decline to $3.13 billion. Net pay-TV subscribers increased by 116,000 in the quarter, compared with a 148,000 increase a year ago, while retail wireless net subscribers decreased by 212,000.
• CVS Health Corp. (NYS:CVS) beat estimates for the third quarter and raised its full-year guidance, amid strong demand for coronavirus testing. Revenue rose to $67.056 billion from $64.810 billion, also ahead of the FactSet consensus of $66.624 billion. “We’ve opened more than 4,000 COVID-19 test sites across the country since March, and have administered over 6 million tests,” Chief Executive Larry Merlo said in a statement. “We’re helping businesses and universities safely reopen, and we were recently selected to administer COVID-19 vaccinations in long-term-care facilities. “CVS raised its full-year adjusted EPS guidance to a range of $7.35 to $7.45 from a previous $7.14 to $7.27. The FactSet consensus is for $7.23.
• Hershey Co. (NYS:HSY) reported third-quarter profit and revenue that rose above expectations, and provided an upbeat full-year outlook. “Our core U.S. business remains healthy as consumers reach for small treats during the pandemic, and our decision to lean into Halloween ahead of the season supported consumers’ desire to find new and creative ways to celebrate safely,” said Chief Executive Michele Buck. Revenue rose 4% to $2.22 billion, just above the FactSet consensus of $2.18 billion, as price realization provided a 2.9 percentage point benefit and volume growth was a 90 basis point benefit. Gross margin improved to 48.7% from 44.2% last year. The company reinstated its 2020 earnings guidance, after withdrawing it in April because of the uncertain effects of the pandemic. The company now expects 2020 adjusted EPS of $6.18 to $6.24, above the FactSet consensus of $6.05.
• Marriott International Inc. (NAS:MAR) reported a surprise third-quarter profit and revenue that fell a little less than forecast, while not providing financial guidance given “numerous uncertainties” associated with the pandemic. Revenue dropped 57.3% to $2.25 billion, topping the FactSet consensus of $2.22 billion. Worldwide revenue per available room (RevPAR) dropped 65.9%, after falling 84.4% in the second quarter. Occupancy in North America was 37%, nearly double the second-quarter rate, primarily driven by leisure and drive-to demand, with business and group recovering more slowly. “While COVID-19 is still significantly impacting our business, our results for the third quarter showed continued improvement in demand trends around the world,” said Chief Executive Arne Sorenson. China occupancy was 61% and the RevPAR decline of 26% was a 35%-percentage-point improvement from the second quarter.
• Peloton Interactive Inc.’s (NAS:PTON) pandemic surge continued through the summer, and the company expects that the holidays will bring its first-ever billion-dollar quarter. Peloton on Thursday reported first-fiscal-quarter earnings of $69.3 million, or 20 cents a share, after posting a loss of $1.29 a share a year ago. The interactive-exercise-equipment company more than tripled sales to $757.9 million from $228 million in the same quarter last year. Analysts on average expected earnings of 11 cents a share on sales.
• Roku Inc. (NAS:ROKU) showed that it continues to benefit from the shift of advertising dollars away from traditional television. The streaming-media company delivered a big revenue beat for the period, buoyed by a “confluence of very positive trends,” Chief Financial Officer Steve Louden said on Roku’s earnings call. He called out “strong performance” on the advertising side as well as record growth for Roku’s streaming-player business and robust sales of TVs running the company’s operating system.
• Fresh off its election victory to avoid classifying drivers as employees in California, Uber Technologies Inc. (NYS:UBER) reported that its business continued to recover from a pandemic-induced slowdown. “All early evidence makes it increasingly clear that it’s a matter of when, not if, our rides business will recover,” Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi said on the company’s earnings call, although he noted that the performance of the segment continues to be correlated with lockdowns. Uber narrowed its loss although revenue fell and missed estimates.
• ViacomCBS Inc. (NAS:VIAC) topped third-quarter earnings and revenue expectations Friday even as the company continues to face pressure in its advertising and theatrical businesses due to the COVID-19 crisis. Viacom’s revenue for the quarter decreased to $6.2 billion from $6.7 billion, while analysts had been expecting about $6 billion. Viacom disclosed that its affiliate revenue was up 10% from a year prior, while advertising revenue dipped 6% “driven by the adverse effects of COVID-19, including lower demand in the advertising market.” Content licensing revenue fell 33%, “driven by the timing of program availabilities and the adverse impacts of COVID-19,” while theatrical revenue was “immaterial” given closures or capacity reductions at many movie theaters due to the pandemic. Publishing revenue increased 29% as the company cited “strong releases” during the quarter, including Mary Trump’s “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.”
• Yelp Inc. (NYS:YELP) reported third-fiscal-quarter revenue and earnings that beat Wall Street estimates, even as it swing to a loss and revenue fell 16%. Yelp reported a loss of $1 million, or a penny a share, compared with net income of $10.1 million, or 14 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue slid 16% to $220.8 million from $262.5 million a year ago. However, net revenue increased 31% from the second quarter as shelter-in-place orders relating to the pandemic eased.