The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 rose above 87,000 on Saturday, a day after new outbreaks were reported in states where stay-at-home orders are set to expire and others that never imposed them.
Minnesota is due to lift lockdown measures in mid-May even as cases continue to climb. Iowa, which did not implement restrictions on movement, recorded another 386 cases on Thursday, and its infection curve is not flattening, according to a New York Times tracker. Nebraska has seen cases more than double since April 30, while major cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago are still suffering from high death tolls.
Health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, continue to caution that moving too quickly to reopen plants, offices and shops could cause unnecessary deaths and suffering — and also disrupt any economic recovery. Fauci and others have consistently warned that reopening should be conducted using testing and contact tracing to avoid a second wave of infections that is worse than the first.
President Donald Trump said late Thursday that testing is “overrated.”
“ More than 30 countries rank higher than the U.S. in terms of per capita testing. ”
“We have more cases than anybody in the world, but why? Because we do more testing,” Trump said in comments to workers at an Owens & Minor Inc. OMI,
Critics on social media noted a flaw in the president’s logic:
Others observed that the U.S. has lagged in testing when measured on a per capita basis, and is far behind such countries as South Korea and Germany that have successfully contained their infection rates. More than 30 countries rank higher than the U.S. in terms of per capita testing, according to Worldometers.info.
“The [Trump administration] is obsessed with magic bullets — vaccines, new medicines, or a hope that the virus will simply disappear,” medical journal the Lancet wrote on Friday. “But only a steadfast reliance on basic public health principles, like test, trace, and isolate, will see the emergency brought to an end, and this requires an effective national public health agency,” it said in an article on how the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control has been sidelined and had its reputation battered during the pandemic.
The CDC’s initial batch of tests were faulty and had to be replaced, delaying the initial effort. Since then, the agency has been at odds with federal government advisers, including Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the U.S. COVID-19 task force, who was reported by the Washington Post recently to have said: “There is nothing from the CDC that I can trust.”
That is an “unhelpful statement,” according to the Lancet, “but also a shocking indictment of an agency that was once regarded as the gold standard for global disease detection and control. How did an agency that was the first point of contact for many national health authorities facing a public health threat become so ill-prepared to protect the public’s health?”
There was more bad news from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which said late Thursday that it is investigating preliminary data suggesting Abbot Laboratories ABT,
It is also used at thousands of hospitals, clinics and testing sites across the U.S.
Abbott Labs said Friday that it stands by the test.
There are now 4.57 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, and 308,843 people have died from it, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. At least 1.7 million people have recovered.
The U.S. has the highest case toll at 1.45 million and the highest death toll at 87,643.
Russia has 272,043 cases, after another huge overnight spike. Russia had 252,245 cases early Friday. Its death toll is 2,537, according to official numbers.
The U.K. has 241,454 cases and 34,546 deaths, the highest death toll in Europe and second highest in the world after the U.S.
Spain has 230,698 cases and 27,563 deaths, while Italy has 223,885 cases and 31,610 deaths. Brazil saw another spike in cases overnight and now has 220,291 cases and 14,962 deaths.
France has 179,630 cases and 27,532 deaths, while Germany has 175,715 cases and 7,931 deaths.
Turkey has 146,457 cases and 4,055 deaths and Iran has 118,392 cases and 6,937 deaths.
India has 86,595 cases and 2,760 deaths.
Peru has moved past China by case number at 84,495 cases and 2,392 deaths. China, where the disease was first reported late last year, has 84,038 cases and 4,637 deaths.
New York is still the U.S. epicenter with 350,951 cases and 27,755 deaths, according to the New York Times data. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced a gradual reopening of the state that starts with five regions where the rate of infection can be managed, according to a checklist of metrics that the state has asked regions to monitor daily.
The state’s pause order is in place through May 28, as the Buffalo News and others have reported.
What’s the latest medical news?
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) launched a clinical trial testing hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin in 2,000 patients with mild and moderate cases of COVID-19.
Hydroxychloroquine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis; azithromycin is a commonly prescribed antibiotic.
The trial was announced Thursday during Dr. Rick Bright’s testimony before a House of Representatives committee. Bright has filed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging that his reluctance to promote hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, as Trump had publicly advocated on multiple occasions, led to his demotion within the National Institutes of Health.
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. TEVA,
“Although there is anecdotal evidence that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin may benefit people with COVID-19, we need solid data from a large randomized, controlled clinical trial to determine whether this experimental treatment is safe and can improve clinical outcomes,” NIAID director Fauci said in a statement.
The FDA in March granted an emergency-use authorization to hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as COVID-19 treatments. More recently, the regulator authorized Gilead Sciences Inc.’s GILD,
The American Medical Association said antibody tests should not be used to determine immunity against future infections with the novel coronavirus or make the case for less stringent social distancing rules. The serologic tests, which test for past infections with COVID-19, can be used to help determine the prevalence of the disease in the U.S. population, but the prevalence of false positives and cross-reactivity (when a test identifies antibodies for other coronaviruses, such as the one that causes the common cold) are of concern.
The AMA, which is the largest lobbying organization for physicians in the U.S., also said antibody tests should not be used to form the basis of “immunity certificates,” a concept that would allow people who test positive for COVID-19 antibodies to move more freely in their communities. It also warned doctors to pay attention to whether a serologic test has been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, which recently cracked down on how it is regulating the makers of antibody tests.
Hologic Inc. HOLX,
What’s the economy saying?
Retail sales fell a record 16.4% in April after the pandemic locked down much of the economy, cost millions of jobs and spawned an unprecedented slump in consumer spending, as MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash reported.
Retail sales tumbled in every category except online shopping, the government said Friday. Sales also sank by a revised 8.3% in March, easily marking the worst back-to-back declines in modern American history. Economists polled by MarketWatch expected a 12.5% plunge
“With states either already starting to reopen their economies, albeit at differing speeds, or at the least planning for such a move, retail sales should begin to stabilize and rebound in the months ahead,” said senior economist Andrew Grantham of CIBC Capital Markets. Yet he cautioned that the rebound will be much slower than the slump in spending.
The New York Fed’s Empire State business conditions index rose 29.7 points to -48.5 in May, the regional Fed bank said Friday. This was the second lowest reading on record. Economists had expected a reading of -65, according to a survey by Econoday. Any reading below zero indicates deteriorating conditions.
Consumer sentiment improved slightly in early May after a two-month free fall, as some states began to reopen economies and stimulus checks began to arrive. The preliminary reading of the consumer-sentiment survey in May edged up to 73.7 from 71.8 in April, the University of Michigan said Friday. Economists had forecast a small decline.
What are companies saying?
J.C. Penney JCP,
Elsewhere, companies continued to offer updates on the reopening of their businesses, to cut costs and withdraw guidance and fret about the uncertain outlook for a recovery.
Here are the latest things companies have said about COVID-19:
• Applied Materials Inc. AMAT,
• Boeing Co. BA,
• Conagra Brands Inc. CAG,
• Denny’s Corp. DENN,
• Dillard’s Inc. DDS,
• Online-gambling and fantasy-sports company DraftKings Inc. DKNG,
• Farfetch Ltd. FTCH,
• U.S. cannabis company Green Thumb Industries Inc. GTII,
• Kroger Co. KR,
• The New York Stock Exchange will reopen its trading floor to “a subset” of floor brokers on May 26, with new safety measures, Stacey Cunningham, the exchange’s president, said in a guest column in the Wall Street Journal. The NYSE, owned by Intercontinental Exchange ICE,
• Nike Inc. NKE,
• Vans and North Face parent VF Corp. VFC,