Vaccine Study Spurs Hope; U.S. Cases at 10 Million: Virus Update

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The Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech prevented more than 90% of infections in a study, the most encouraging scientific advance so far in the battle against the coronavirus.

The U.S. surpassed 10 million cases and appears poised to hit recordhospitalizations later this week, with numbers soaring in populous Midwest states and along the Mexico border. President-elect Joe Biden announced a new 13-member coronavirus task force andwarned of a “dark winter” ahead as the disease spreads unabated.

Hungary is tightening its lockdown measures after Prime Minister Viktor Orban dropped his opposition to doing so. Ukraine’s president tested positive. In Asia, Shanghai reported its first domestic case in months.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases surpass 50.7 million; deaths top 1.26 million
  • With U.S. cases at record levels,hospitalizations may be next
  • Pfizer vaccine results leavequestions about safety, longevity
  • NYC coming ‘dangerously close’ tosecond wave, mayor says
  • Trumpadviser leading post-election fight has the virus
  • Vaccine Tracker: Encouraging results could mean there’s a tool to control the virus

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125,414 in FranceMost new cases today

+4% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-0.​8039 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

4.​7% Global GDP Tracker (annualized), Sept.

Fed Warns of Asset Declines If Virus Unchecked (5 p.m. NY)

The Federal Reserve is warning that asset prices in key markets could still take ahit if the coronavirus pandemic’s economic impact worsens in coming months.

“Uncertainty remains high, and investor risk sentiment could shift swiftly should the economic recovery prove less promising or progress on containing the virus disappoint,” the Fed said in its twice-yearly Financial Stability Report, which is meant to spotlight emerging threats to the financial system. “Some segments of the economy, such as energy as well as travel and hospitality, are particularly vulnerable to a prolonged pandemic.”

California Expects to Scale Back Reopenings (4:20 p.m. NY)

California Governor Gavin Newsom said some areas will have to scale back their reopenings under the state’s tiered system after a resurgence of coronavirus cases.

“We’ll see some counties moving backwards, not forwards, and this is exactly why we designed the tier system the way we did,” Newsom said at a press briefing Monday. California’s tier assignments, which allow for varied levels of opening based on positivity rates and new cases per capita, are updated each Tuesday.

The most-populous state recorded more than 7,000 cases on both Sunday and Monday, a daily level not seen since the summer. While increased testing may account for some of the rise, the rate of positive tests has climbed to 3.7% from 2.5% just three weeks ago, Newsom said. He blamed the uptick on increased private gatherings and residents letting down their guards, and warned people not to get complacent because of news of a potential vaccine.

Utah Turns Away Out-of-State Patients (3:47 p.m. NY)

Utah Governor Gary Herbert said the state’s health-care system is so taxed by the Covid-19 pandemic that hospitals are rejecting patients from other states.

Speaking at a news briefing Monday, Herbert said overcrowded health facilities in Utah “are at the brink of not being able to take anyone.”

“We’re in overflow mode, particularly in our intensive-care units,” the Republican governor said. “It’s not that we don’t have rooms with four walls,” he said, it’s that hospitals are facing shortages in doctors, nurses and others who provide care.

Wyoming, Montana Cope With Spikes (2:30 p.m. NY)

In Wyoming, where health officials have for weeks implored stubborn residents to mask up, hospitalizations set a record of 172 Monday, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. Seventeen of 19 intensive-care unit beds at the state’s largest hospital, Wyoming Medical Center, were full, the Star-Tribune said, and three others reported no open ICU beds. The Cowboy State is the least populated, with about 600,000 residents.

Neighboring Montana reported 470 virus hospitalizations Monday, a third of the total since March, according to official data. Seven of 10 large hospitals in the state reported beds in limited availability or near capacity, the Billings Gazette reported. Intensive-care units were also filling up. Montana’s population is just over 1 million.

N.J. Halts Late Dining as Cases Spike (2:15 p.m. NY)

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ordered restaurants to stop serving indoors at 10 p.m. daily and banned seating at bars, among new restrictions as the state reported more than 7,000 new Covid-19 cases in just 72 hours.

The rules will take effect Thursday, Murphy said at a Trenton news conference. New Jersey over the weekend surpassed 250,000 positive tests since March, and in the past 24 hours topped 1,500 hospitalized for the first time in five months. The testing positivity rate reached 7.52%, from 6.99% on Nov. 4.

France Sees Signs Measures Working (2 p.m. NY)

France is seeing some signs that measures to keep the spread of the coronavirus in check are working, Director for Health Jerome Salomon said in a briefing on Monday. In French cities where a curfew was instated mid-October, there’s a slowdown in virus activity, he said.

For the country as a whole, the peak of virus activity is still ahead, Salomon said. France started a second lockdown on Oct. 30, with limits on movement and closures of some stores, as infections rose too fast to await the effects of curfews. The measures are among the most stringent in Europe, according to an index maintained by the University of Oxford.

France has registered a total 1.81 million confirmed cases, according to Salomon, indicating an increase of 20,155 cases on Monday. He said hospitalizations rose to 31,125, while the number severely ill Covid-19 patients in intensive care climbed to 4,690. Both numbers are the highest since April.

N.Y. Focuses on New Hot Spots (12 p.m. NY)

New York state is focusing on new coronavirus hot spots as positive test rates near 3% statewide.

“The virus is making headway, and we’re going to increase restrictions and we’re going to increase enforcement,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday in a conference call with reporters.

As of Sunday, 2.8% of statewide tests were positive, including in hot spots, he said. There were approximately 1,400 hospitalizations and 26 virus-related deaths on Sunday, he said.

The state is clamping down on portions of western New York, central New York, and the Finger Lakes region, particularly parts of Erie, Monroe, and Onondaga counties, where cases continue to increase.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio warned a second wave is “dangerously close.” The city’s positive test rate is above 2% and increasing, and cases are rising as well. “We need to do everything in our power” to control the virus, the mayor said.

Russia: Our Vaccine Is More Than 90% Effective (10:40 a.m. NY)

Russia’s Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, is more than 90% effective, according to preliminary observations, the Health Ministry said in text message. The ministry cited observations of patients outside phase 3 of trial, according to Oksana Drapkina, Director of National Research Center for Preventive Medicine of the Ministry of Health.

WHO’s Aylward Sees Direction Changing by March (10:30 a.m. NY)

The ACT Accelerator program, which is an alliance between the World Health Organization, countries including France and organizations such as the World Bank, aims to “fundamentally change the direction” of the pandemic by March as more tests, treatments and vaccines become available, said Bruce Aylward, a senior WHO adviser.

Speaking at this week’s World Health Assembly in Geneva, he said the ACT Accelerator is in need of $4.5 billion of additional financing. He said that data on the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech is a substantial step forward, though more data on safety and quality are still needed.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the WHO, said earlier at the meeting that the UN body is looking forward to work with the Biden administration.

Ukrainian President Zelenskiy Tests Positive (10:25 a.m. NY)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says he tested positive for Covid-19 and is self-isolating. Zelenskiy is feeling fine and will continue to work remotely, according to a statement from his office.

Fauci Says Pfizer Results ‘Extraordinary’ (10:05 a.m. NY)

Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, said the Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Pfizer will have a “major impact” on the battle against the coronavirus. The efficacy of the Pfizer drug candidate being over 90% “is just extraordinary,” Fauci said Monday on a call with reporters. Separately, he said Moderna may have similar results to the Pfizer vaccine because it is also based on mRNA technology.

U.S. and Europe First in Line for Pfizer Vaccine (9:50 a.m. NY)

The U.S. and Europe are in line to get the first doses of an experimental coronavirus vaccine after a partnership between Pfizer and BioNTech delivered positive preliminary results in a large patient trial. The partners said they’ll be able to produce enough to inoculate 25 million people this year, less than a third of the population of Germany, where BioNTech is based.

“We will need to find a way to distribute that in a fair fashion,” BioNTech Chief Executive Officer Ugur Sahin said in an interview.

The partners expect to ramp up production significantly next year, with capacity for as many as 1.3 billion doses.

Novavax Vaccine Gets FDA’s Fast-Track Tag (9:30 a.m. NY)

Novavax Covid-19 vaccine received a fast-track designation from U.S. regulators as the drugmaker prepares to launch a large, late-stage study before the end of the month, the company said on Monday. The expedited review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could help push the candidate forward into a short-list of frontrunners in the race to bring a vaccine to market.

Shanghai Reports First Domestic Case in Months (6 a.m. NY )

Shanghai reported a single domestic case of Covid-19 on Monday, according to the municipal government. The confirmed case works as a porter at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. The Chinese financial hub hasn’t reported any local cases in months, although it has seen a steady stream of imported cases.

— With assistance by Mark Schoifet

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