U.S. Cases Rise 1.2% for Third Day; Moderna Trial: Virus Update
A medical worker wearing protective gear works with a patient in the Covid-19 ICU at the Emilio Ribas Institute of Infectious Disease hospital in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photographer: Jonne Roriz/Bloomberg)

U.S. Cases Rise 1.2% for Third Day; Moderna Trial: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is severing ties with the World Health Organization, which President Donald Trump said failed to provide accurate information on the virus. New York City, last of the state’s regions to remain in lockdown, will start reopening on June 8.

Toronto’s biggest employers agreed to keep office staff working from home until at least September. The outbreak in India’s financial capital has overwhelmed Mumbai’s health care system.

Moderna started a mid-stage trial of its vaccine, which showed promising safety and early efficacy data earlier this month. The virus may have started spreading in U.S. communities weeks before the first diagnosis of patients not linked to international travel.

Key Developments:

  • Virus Tracker: Cases top 5.8 million; deaths over 363,000
  • Bodies left on hospital beds as Mumbi is overwhelmed
  • In boom-and-bust San Francisco, pandemic brings grim new reality
  • Washington reopens in win for Trump amid nagging safety doubts
  • Canada’s Covid hot zone is even deadlier than Chicago or L.A.
  • Citi breaks with rivals on whether work from home is permanent

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U.S. Cases Rise 1.2% for Third Day; Moderna Trial: Virus Update

Moderna Begins Vaccine Trial (5:15 p.m. NY)

Moderna Inc., one of the leading companies developing a coronavirus vaccine, said it had started a mid-stage trial and given doses to the first patients.

The 600-person, phase 2 study will give healthy participants one of two doses of the shot, or a placebo, Moderna said in a statement. They’ll be examined for potential side effects as well as whether it creates an immune-system response that could protect against the virus that causes Covid-19.

The company plans to launch a larger phase 3 study in July with many more patients, working with the U.S. government. Published results of the phase 1 study are pending, though the shot showed promising safety and early efficacy data earlier this month.

Toronto Office Workers at Home to September (4:30 p.m. NY)

Canada’s major banks and other businesses will encourage Toronto office staff to keep working from home until at least September to help contain the spread of Covid-19, Mayor John Tory said.

Telecom companies, accounting firms, insurance companies and universities and colleges joined financial companies in agreeing to continue telework at the request of the city and Tory, who is concerned about a potential flare-up in the pandemic if too many people flood the downtown core as restrictions are lifted.

At least 24 companies agreed to ask staff to work remotely including Canada’s six biggest banks, Manulife Financial Corp., Sun Life Financial Inc., Rogers Communications Inc., PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and Ryerson University.

U.S. Cases Rise 1.2% for Third Day (4 p.m. NY)

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased 1.2% from the same time Thursday, to 1.73 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That’s in line with Wednesday and Thursday’s rates, and below the average of 1.3% over the past seven days. Deaths rose 1.1% to 102,201.

  • New York reported 67 deaths, the lowest daily total since the start of the pandemic, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. Cases rose 0.4% to 368,284, in line with the average in the past week.
  • Florida reported 54,497 cases, up 2.3% from a day earlier, according to the state’s health department. It was the third-largest daily increase since Florida started reopening on May 4.
  • California cases rose 2.2% to 103,886 while deaths increased 2.4% to 4,068, according to the state’s website.

Trump Says U.S. to Sever WHO Ties (3 p.m. NY)

President Donald Trump said the U.S. will sever ties with the World Health Organization, the United Nations body he accuses of failing to provide accurate information on the spread of the coronavirus that broke out in China.

“Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving, urgent global health needs,” Trump told reporters in the Rose Garden of the White House. “The world needs answers from China on the virus. We must have transparency.”

The U.S. contributes more than $450 million to the WHO, Trump said.

U.S. Cases Rise 1.2% for Third Day; Moderna Trial: Virus Update

Lisbon Delays Reopening Malls (2:30 p.m. NY)

Portugal will delay by three days reopening shopping malls in the Lisbon region, which reported new clusters of the coronavirus. The capital’s malls will remain closed until June 4 as other centers open as planned on June 1, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said. Lisbon’s situation is not “out of control” and new cases are quite focused, he said after the biggest daily jump in infections in three weeks.

Florida Sees One of Largest Jumps Since Reopening (2:07 p.m. NY)

Florida reported 54,497 Covid-19 cases on Friday, up 2.3% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 1.3% in the previous seven days. It was the third-largest daily increase since the state started reopening on May 4.

Deaths among Florida residents reached 2,413, an increase of 2.1%.

Overall, case numbers had been trending downward. Governor Ron DeSantis has often attributed out-of-trend upticks to “data dumps” from laboratories, but it wasn’t immediately clear if that was the case Friday.

NYC Set to Reopen June 8 (1:30 p.m. NY)

New York City will start reopening some businesses on June 8, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, as officials meet the set of metrics the state is following to end the mandatory lockdown. The city could see 400,000 workers back on the job as the first phase of reopening begins, he said.

A sticking point for the city is a high infection rate in some communities. Cuomo said the overall rate is about 20% but that in some neighborhoods in the Bronx and Brooklyn, the rate exceeds 40%. The governor said officials will concentrate on those hot spots next week, which he said will set the stage for reopening. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the subways, commuter rail and bus services, is preparing for the return of workers, he said.

“Reopening does not mean we’re going back to the way things were,” Cuomo said. “We go forward.”

Sanofi Seeks Assurance on Hydroxychloroquine (1:21 p.m. NY)

Sanofi decided to temporarily suspend the recruitment of new Covid-19 patients for hydroxychloroquine trials until it has reassurance on safety, the French drugmaker said in an emailed statement Friday.

The drugmaker also put on hold the release of supplies of hydroxychloroquine for off-label use in Covid-19 until safety concerns are cleared up by the World Health Organization, according to the statement. The antimalarial drug has been touted as a Covid-19 treatment by President Donald Trump, who said he had used it.

U.S. Spread May Have Started in January: CDC (1 p.m. NY)

The coronavirus may have started spreading in U.S. communities during the second half of January or in early February, weeks before the first known patients that weren’t linked to international travel were diagnosed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The death from Covid-19 of a woman in Santa Clara County, California, who fell ill on Jan. 31, plus the death of an unrelated man between Feb. 13 and 17, show that the virus was established well before the first known case of community transmission was diagnosed on Feb. 26, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. A genetic analysis found a single lineage of virus was imported from China between Jan. 18 and Feb. 9, followed by several from Europe.

The early transmission was limited. Emergency department records from the same period showed no increase in visits for Covid-like infections before late February, while testing of 11,000 respiratory specimens starting on Jan. 1 found no positive cases before Feb. 20, the report said.

“It is not known how many U.S. infections occurred during February and March, but overall disease incidence before February 23 was too low to be detected through emergency department syndromic surveillance data,” the report concluded.

U.K. to Taper Pay Support (12:20 pm. NY)

The U.K. will gradually taper a job support program for workers hurt by the pandemic, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said in a bid to avert a mass wave of unemployment this summer.

Self-employed workers will be offered a further grant in August covering three months of earnings to help weather the lockdown, under plans outlined on Friday. Sunak is asking 1 million firms that furloughed employees onto his wage-subsidy plan to start making contributions.

The Chancellor is making the program more flexible to allow furloughed employees to work part-time from July -- a month earlier than previously planned. U.K. programs are currently supporting 10.7 million jobs, at a cost of almost 22 billion pounds ($27 billion).

Restaurant Firms Said to Be at Risk (12:40 p.m. NY)

Nearly two-thirds of publicly traded restaurants are at risk of bankruptcy as the pandemic batters the industry, with concern highest for small operators and restaurants that specialize in dine-in, Aaron Allen & Associates said in an analysis.

Allen’s analysis, which calculated risk scores for 46 companies using metrics such as working capital and earnings, finds 65% in what it calls the “distress zone.” The at-risk companies account for about 73,000 individual U.S. restaurant locations and $85 billion in annual sales.

Italy Cases, Deaths Rise (12:15 p.m. NY)

Italy’s new cases remained broadly stable on Friday, with 516 more infections, down from 593 a day earlier. Daily deaths rose to 87 from 70 on Thursday, for a total of 33,229.

New cases in Lombardy, the hardest-hit region that includes Milan, fell to 354 from 382 Thursday; the daily increase is higher than the average in the past 10 days.

Pakistan Has Biggest Single-Day Rise (10:55 a.m. NY)

Pakistan’s new cases rose by 2,801 and deaths increased by 57 in the past 24 hours, its biggest single-day increase. The South Asian nation has more than 64,000 cases, the third-most in Asia after India and China.

Cases are expected to spike, Pakistan health minister Zafar Mirza said in a televised briefing. The number of tests with positive results has climbed above 20% in the past two days.

Pakistan eased its lockdown, opening shopping malls and neighboorhood shops before Eid festivities this week. The government has hinted at a return to a lockdown if cases spike.

De Blasio Declines to Give NYC Reopening Date (10:43 a.m. NY)

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio again declined to give a specific date for the first phase of the city’s reopening, saying only that he expected it would be in the first two weeks of June. Speaking at his daily briefing Friday, the mayor said New York still needs to meet a set of metrics required by the state and city. He repeated his plan to announce the reopening without giving businesses any advance notice. New York City remains the only region of the state still under a lockdown order.

Vaccine Unlikely to Kickstart U.S. Economy: Survey (10:27 a.m. NY)

Investors think Moderna Inc.’s experimental Covid-19 inoculation wouldn’t be enough to unlock the economy, an Evercore ISI survey showed. The survey of over 100 investors -- more than half of whom specialize in health care -- found there’s a 43% probability that Moderna’s vaccine would be sufficient to set the U.S. economy aright, analyst Joshua Schimmer wrote in a note. Still, a majority expect the next update on mRNA-1273 will be positive and predicted emergency use authorization will be granted in the fourth quarter and regulatory approval in 2021.

Portugal Cases Rise Most in 3 Weeks (9:35 a.m. NY)

Portugal reported 350 new cases on Friday, the biggest daily increase in three weeks, with new infections mostly in the Lisbon region. Total cases stand at 31,946 after cases rose for five days. New deaths were 14, bringing the total to 1,383. New cases near Lisbon have come from some construction projects, some companies and certain neighborhoods, Director-General of Health Graca Freitas said Friday. Portugal started easing confinement measures on May 4 and plans to further loosen restrictions on June 1.

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