While You Were Sleeping: Coronavirus updates for October 27

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS — There were several developments in the coronavirus pandemic that you may have missed overnight.

Here’s a look:

U.S. deaths on the rise. Deaths per day from the coronavirus in the U.S. are on the rise again, just as health experts had feared, and cases are climbing in practically every state.

Average deaths per day across the country are up 10% over the past two weeks, from 721 to nearly 794 as of Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Newly confirmed infections per day are rising in 47 states, and deaths are up in 34.

Health experts had warned that it was only a matter of time before deaths turned upward, given the record-breaking surge in cases engulfing the country. Deaths are a lagging indicator — that is, it generally takes a few weeks for people to sicken and die from the coronavirus.

Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota expert on infectious diseases who warned over the summer of a fall surge, said what’s happening now is a confluence of three factors: “pandemic fatigue” among people who are weary of hunkering down and are venturing out more; “pandemic anger” among those are don’t believe the scourge is a real threat; and cold weather, which is forcing more Americans indoors, where the virus can spread more easily.

“When you put those three together, we shouldn’t be surprised what we’re seeing,” Osterholm said.

The virus is blamed for more than 8.6 million confirmed infections and over 225,000 deaths in the U.S., the highest such totals in the world.

Deaths are still well below the U.S. peak of over 2,200 per day in late April. But experts are warning of a grim fall and winter, with a widely cited model from the University of Washington projecting about 386,000 dead by Feb. 1. A vaccine is unlikely to become widely available until mid-2021.

“Lost control.” A French doctor warned Monday that his country has “lost control of the epidemic,” a day after health authorities reported more than 52,000 new coronavirus cases as nations across Europe enact more sweeping restrictions to try to slow surging infection rates.

Spain — the first European country to surpass 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases — declared a state of emergency Sunday that included a nationwide overnight curfew, a cap of six people on social gatherings and possible travel bans in and out of the hardest-hit regions.

The effect was clear on Barcelona’s famed Las Ramblas promenade, which was deserted Sunday night when it normally would have been teeming with people.

In two major Italian cities, people took to the streets amid a pushback from small sections of society to new restrictions. On Friday, demonstrators in Naples protested a locally imposed 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and clashed with police. On Saturday night, far-right and neo-fascist groups led a similar protest in Rome against a curfew. Another protest is planned for Tuesday in Milan.

Dr. Jean-François Delfraissy, president of the scientific council that advises the French government on the virus, said the country is in a “very difficult, even critical situation.”

“There probably are more than 50,000 new cases every day. Our estimate at the Scientific Council is closer to 100,000 – twice as many,” Delfraissy told RTL radio. “Between those who aren’t tested and asymptomatic patients, we’re close to that number of cases. This means the virus is spreading extremely fast.”

France declared a state of emergency earlier this month and has been imposing more and more restrictions since September to try to ease the pressure on France’s hospitals, where COVID-19 patients occupy more than half of all ICU beds.

Dr. Eric Caumes, head of the infections and tropical diseases department at Paris’ Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, said the country needs to lock down again.

“We lost control of the epidemic but that doesn’t date from yesterday,” he said on broadcaster Franceinfo. “We lost control of the epidemic several weeks ago already.”

Europe’s confirmed death toll has surpassed 250,000 according to a count by Johns Hopkins University, which puts the global toll at more than 1.1 million.

Early end. U.S. government officials are putting an early end to a study testing an Eli Lilly antibody drug for people hospitalized with COVID-19 because it doesn’t seem to be helping them.

Independent monitors had paused enrollment in the study two weeks ago because of a possible safety issue. But on Monday, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which sponsors the study, said a closer look did not verify a safety problem but found a low chance that the drug would prove helpful for hospitalized patients.

It is a setback for one of the most promising treatment approaches for COVID-19. President Donald Trump received a similar experimental, two-antibody drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. on an emergency basis when he was sickened with the coronavirus earlier this month.

In a statement Lilly notes that the government is continuing a separate study testing the antibody drug in mild to moderately ill patients, to try to prevent hospitalization and severe illness. The company also is continuing its own studies testing the drug, which is being developed with the Canadian company AbCellera.

Antibodies are proteins the body makes when an infection occurs; they attach to a virus and help it be eliminated. The experimental drugs are concentrated versions of one or two specific antibodies that worked best against the coronavirus in lab and animal tests.

Stocks plunge. U.S. stocks fell sharply Monday, deepening last week’s losses, as a troubling increase in coronavirus counts put investors in a selling mood. The skid came as doubts mount on Wall Street that Washington will come through with more stimulus for the economy before Election Day.

The S&P 500 slid 1.9%, its biggest single-day decline in more than a month. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 650 points after having been down more than 960 during the heaviest selling. Technology companies drove much of the broad sell-off, though losses in communications services, financial and industrial stocks helped weigh down the market. Energy stocks also dropped in tandem with crude oil prices.

Stocks also fell across much of Europe and Asia. In another sign of caution, Treasury yields pulled back after touching their highest level since June last week.

“It’s kind of a perfect storm,” said Ross Mayfield, investment strategy analyst at Baird. “The record case numbers and the kind of rolling lockdowns across Europe are getting the headlines. Oil is down on some supply and demand issues. Stimulus seems more and more unlikely by the day, at least pre-election.”

The S&P 500 fell 64.42 points to 3,400.97. The Dow slumped 650.19 points, or 2.3%, to 27,685.38. The Nasdaq composite lost 189.34 points, or 1.6%, to 11,358.94. Smaller company stocks also took heavy losses, knocking the Russell 2000 index down 35.29 points, or 2.2%, to 1,605.21.

Coronavirus counts are spiking in much of the United States and Europe, raising concerns about more damage to the still-weakened economy. The U.S. came very close to setting back-to-back record daily infection rates on Friday and Saturday. In Europe, Spain’s government declared a national state of emergency on Sunday that includes an overnight curfew, while Italy ordered restaurants and bars to close each day by 6 p.m. and shut down gyms, pools and movie theaters.

Hopes are fading, meanwhile, that Washington will be able to provide more support for the economy anytime soon. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin weren’t able to reach an agreement in a phone call Monday, according to a Pelosi aide. The two have been discussing a potential deal to send cash to most Americans, restart supplemental benefits for laid-off workers and provide aid to schools, among other things.

Deep partisan difference remains on Capitol Hill, and time is running out for anything to happen before Election Day on Nov. 3.

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