US equity futures pointed to a sharp jump at the open on Tuesday, with the Nasdaq eying a return to the old highs, as traders celebrated the return of floor traders to the New York Stock Exchange as a symbol of the resilience of the capitalist system – or maybe it was the latest suspiciously preliminary vaccine news.
Two days after the NYT published the names of American coronavirus dead on the front page of its Memorial Day Weekend edition in solemn remembrance of the 100k milestone, the US still hasn’t actually crossed the threshold. Virginia became the latest state to report a one-day record jump in new cases over the weekend after the US saw a jump in cases and a slight uptick in hospitalizations last week.
Experts expected a jump in cases and hospitalizations as states adjusted to the first few weeks of ‘Phase 1’ reopening. Most hope that a ‘seasonal effect’ will help offset the increase in social interaction
An uptick in new cases was expected, due to the inevitable increase in interactions as restrictions are lifted. States have also expanded testing access as they’ve loosened restrictions.
With Brazil and Russia still accounting for ~1/5th of all new cases reported on Monday, the global total number of confirmed cases has broken above 5.5 million, though many experts believe the roughly 330k confirmed cases in Brazil represents just a quarter of the total infections in the country.
I haven’t commented publicly on the situation with Dominic Cummings as I have waited to hear the full details. I welcome the statement to clarify matters, but there remains aspects of the explanation which I have trouble with. As a result I have resigned as a government Minister. pic.twitter.com/6yXLyMzItJ
— Douglas Ross MP (@Douglas4Moray) May 26, 2020
as we noted earlier, over the weekend, the CDC released its first official estimate of the overall infection fatality rate (IFR). The number? Just 0.26% – a full 3.2 percentage points below the WHO’s official estimate of 3.4%. The CDC also estimated the rate of “asymptomatic” infection (patients who showed few or no symptoms) at 35%.
I NYC alone, 0.3% of all city residents have died from the virus (more than 30k have died in the US alone). “According to some surveillance studies using antibody tests, roughly a quarter of NYC residents have been infected. This would suggest the mortality rate might be closer, or just above, 1%, but still well below the WHO number that unleashed a wave of panicked lockdowns across the world.
To be sure, roughly 50% of deaths across the US have occurred in nursing homes. This alarmingly high rate is due in part to certain Democratic governors instituting obviously dangerous policies allowing COVID-19-positive patients to be returned to the managed-care facilities where they lived. Some have suggested that better protecting the most vulnerable patients might greatly mitigate the mortality rate. But we digress…
As the WHO warns that the world remains mired in the ‘first wave’ of the outbreak, the AP reported Tuesday that states are scrambling to spend billions of dollars on PPE and medical supplies to replenish depleted stockpiles. But more than 2 months into the supply scramble, few states are sharing information about what they’re buying and how much they’re paying (remember, reports about states and cities being swindled have proliferated during the crisis). While many states have obscured their spending, Illinois has released a detailed database that can be accessed by the public.
With the US inching ever-closer to the 100k fatality mark, the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care said the country had surpassed 47,000 deaths on Tuesday, coming ever-closer to the 50k mark which Boris Johnson’s government had once said would be a ‘worst-case’ scenario for the outbreak. Meanwhile, Tory Junior minister Douglas Ross resigned on Tuesday, saying Dominic Cummings’ interpretation of the lockdown guidelines weren’t shared by the majority of Britons.
The ONS said 42,173 people had died in England and Wales with suspected COVID-19 as of May 15, bringing the UK total to 47,343 – which includes earlier data from Scotland, Northern Ireland, plus recent hospital deaths in England, Reuters reports. Chatter about Johnson being “replaced” – not unlike his predecessor, Theresa May – as Tories begin to see him as a liability has intensified.
As scrutiny of the EU’s paycheck subsidies intensifies, the bloc’s global campaign to fund the development of vaccines and therapies against COVID-19 has so far raised $10.4 billion, according to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
On Tuesday, as images of packed Ozark beaches lingered in the minds of Americans, the WHO warned of the risks of an “immediate second peak” as Europe, the US and others ease up on lockdown conditions, while urging countries to step up surveillance, testing and tracking.
In vaccine news, after a flurry of conflicting reports, Pharmaceutical giant Merck, which has “largely kept to the sidelines” of the vaccine race according to Reuters, has unveiled plans to buy privately-held Austrian vaccine maker Themis Bioscience. Merck also said it plans to collaborate with research nonprofit IAVI to develop two separate vaccines.
Merck also announced a partnership with privately-held Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to develop “an experimental oral antiviral drug” to help patients infected with the virus.
Maryland-based biotech firm Novovax announced early Tuesday that it had begun injecting its experimental coronavirus vaccine candidate into test subjects in Australia on Tuesday, CNBC reports.
The company hopes to release a vaccine by the end of the year if its early studies find success. Novavax will inject 131 volunteers in the first phase of the trial testing the safety of the vaccine and looking for signs of its effectiveness, the company’s research chief Dr. Gregory Glenn said. At this point, roughly a dozen experimental vaccines are in early stages of testing, or are poised to start in the near future; most of these are based in China, the US and Europe.
“We are in parallel making doses, making vaccine in anticipation that we’ll be able to show it’s working and be able to start deploying it by the end of this year,” Glenn told a virtual news conference in Melbourne from Novavax’ headquarters in Maryland.
Finally, as Beijing scrambles to test millions of people in Wuhan and China’s northeaster Jilin Province, Taiwan on Tuesday announced plans to lift its coronavirus-related restrictions on mass gatherings and the sale of masks next month as China’s ‘wayward province’ has nearly stamped out the virus.
On seemingly every cable news channel, pundits are bemoaning the ‘politicization’ of the coronavirus pandemic. While their conclusion is typically to blame the president, we suspect there might be another reason why it sometimes seems like red states and blue states are experiencing different versions of the same reality.
Because they, effectively, are.