N.Y. Deaths Dip; Gilead Drug Shows Early Promise: Virus Update

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New York, which remains the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus, had a slight decline in fatalities after three record-high days. Illinois may be showing signs of a slower spread of Covid-19.

A Gilead drug showed promise for treating patients with severe infections. France reported four deaths in patients using experimental drugs.

Italy extended its lockdown into May, ignoring pleas from business. The U.K. had the most deaths in one day. President Donald Trump said lifting restrictions will be his “biggest decision.”

32,385 in U.S.Most new cases today

-18% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-1.​013 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23


Key Developments

  • Coronavirus Tracker: Global Cases 1.68 Million; Deaths 102,000
  • Apple, Google plan contact-tracing phone app
  • Potential coronavirus drugs may cost as little as $1, study says
  • U.S. to meet airline industry executives
  • Americans worship from the parking lot, online
  • NIH plans antibody tests to map spread

U.S. Spurns Airline Stakes, Mnuchin Says (6:45 a.m. HK)

U.S. airlines receiving $100 million or less in payroll assistance from the government won’t need to offer a financial stake, the Treasury Department said as it began sending offers to the carriers.

The agency said 230 applications for aid have been received from passenger carriers. It is working with 12 that would get more than $100 million and is discussing what sort of financial instruments it will require in return.

Illinois May Have Slower Spread: Data (6:30 a.m. HK)

Illinois, with more than 17,800 cases, may be showing signs of a slower spread of Covid-19 at an earlier stage than other hot spots, according to a new analysis.

The state has stretched the number of days over which cases double to 7.9 as of Thursday from 2.1 on March 22, data compiled by Rush University Medical Center in Chicago showed.

The analysis, tracking the rate from the day hot-spot states confirmed their 100th cases, found Illinois’s doubling rate is taking longer than New York, California and Washington state at this stage in its outbreak. The higher the number, the better.

Drug Shows Promise in Early Analysis (5:30 p.m. NY)

A Gilead Sciences Inc. experimental drug for patients with severe Covid-19 infections showed promise in an early analysis, raising tentative hope that the first treatment may be on the horizon.

The report in the New England Journal of Medicine tracked 53 people in the U.S., Europe and Canada who needed respiratory support -- half on mechanical ventilation and four on a heart-lung by-pass machine. All got remdesivir for up to 10 days under a program that lets people use unapproved medicines when no other options are available.

Over 18 days, 68% of patients improved, with 17 of the 30 patients on mechanical ventilation being able to get off the device. Almost half the patients studied were ultimately discharged, while 13% died.

“We cannot draw definitive conclusions from these data, but the observations from this group of hospitalized patients who received remdesivir are hopeful,” said lead author Jonathan Grein, director of hospital epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, in a statement from Gilead, which provided the drug and helped analyze the results.

NIH Begins Study to Measure Virus’s Spread (5:20 p.m. NY)

The U.S. National Institutes of Health plans to test 10,000 Americans with no history or symptoms of the coronavirus for the presence of antibodies, a sign that they may have been unwittingly infected, the agency said. Unlike the nasal swabs that are used to diagnose people currently ill, an antibody test can show signs of previous infection.

“This study will give us a clearer picture of the true magnitude of the Covid-19 pandemic” by measuring people who may have had no symptoms or mild ones, or who weren’t tested while they were ill, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a news release.

U.S. Funding to WHO Targeted by Trump (4:55 p.m. NY)

President Donald Trump said he may “hold” funding for the World Health Organization, hinting a cut might be made in the U.S. contribution to an agency criticized by his political allies for being too trusting of China on the coronavirus outbreak.

“We give them approximately $500 million a year and we’re going to be talking about that subject next week,” Trump said at a press conference. “We’ll have a lot to say about it. We’ll hold it.”

Some Trump allies have said the WHO accepted Chinese assertions about the disease after it first surfaced last year. Trump said the United Nations organization has been “very China-centric” and that he didn’t believe it was “fair to the American people.”

L.A County Extends Restrictions (4:40 p.m. NY)

Los Angeles County extended its order to keep people at home for two more weeks, to May 15, as cases increase and as the virus spreads in the community.

The county reported 18 new deaths, for a toll of 241, and 475 new cases, raising the total to 8,430, L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a briefing. The order imposed more than three weeks ago led to the closure of non-essential businesses, cutting access to beaches and parks and other restrictions to keep residents at home.

U.S. Deaths Climb; N.Y. Falls Slightly (4 p.m. NY)

U.S. cases were 486,994 on Friday, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. U.S. deaths reached 18,022 from 15,938 a day earleir.

In New York, the number of deaths dropped slightly to 777, a figure that remains grimly high following three straight days of record fatalities, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. The toll in New York has reached 7,844, he said.

In New Jersey, huge daily infection increases are slowing in Bergen County, which has the state’s most cases, another big sign that the curve is flattening, Governor Phil Murphy said. Infections in Bergen now are doubling every seven days or more.

California added 49 deaths amid improving signs among patients in intensive-care units edged up 1.1% to 1,145 after a decrease the day before, Governor Gavin Newsom said. The number of deaths rose to 541, Newsom said. The single-digit ICU increase is an encouraging sign, he said.

Elsewhere:

  • Michigan reported the most deaths in a single day, raising total fatalities to 1,281, ranking third behind New York and New Jersey. “We are not out of the woods yet,” Governor Gretchen Whitmer tweeted when announcing the deaths.
  • Louisiana reported a rise of 53 deaths, pushing the total to 755, while total cases increased by 968, to 19,251. More than 2,000 Louisianians in the hospital. The state’s epicenter remains the New Orleans area.

Trump to Meet Airline Executives (3:50 p.m. NY)

President Trump said he will meet with leaders in the aviation industry, including Boeing Co., over the weekend as they struggle with a dramatic revenue shortfall from the pandemic.

“We have a great plan for the airlines -- got to keep the airlines going,” Trump said Friday during a White House news conference.

Canada’s Best-Case Shows Summer Return (2:35 p.m. NY)

Canada may be able to loosen lockdowns and let some sectors return to work by summer if the nation abides by tight restrictions now in place, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Ottawa.

The nation is in the “first and worst phase” and models shows that under a best-case scenario it could emerge relatively quickly if people observe social distancing measures, Trudeau said.

Trudeau tempered expectations: “We will not get back to the normal that we had before at least until we have developed a vaccine for the virus -- that is the reality.”

Read full story here.

U.K. Lacks Evidence to Lift Limits (2:40 p.m. NY)

The U.K. does not yet have the evidence it needs to ease restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

As Prime Minister Boris Johnson begins his recovery from the disease in a hospital, officials are working on a strategy to exit lockdown measures but the outbreak has not yet reached the point at which curbs can be removed. The government’s emergency committee will review the restrictions next week.

The death toll rose by a further 980 -- the highest daily total so far -- to bring the total to 8,958 in the data published Friday.

Apple, Google in Joint Covid Deal (2:30 p.m. NY)

Apple Inc. and Google unveiled a rare partnership to add technology to their smartphone platforms later this year that will alert users if they have come into contact with a person with Covid-19. Users would need to opt-in for the service.

The rivals said they are building the technology into their operating systems in two steps. In mid-May, the companies will add the ability for iPhones and Android phones to exchange anonymous information via apps run by public health authorities. In the coming months, both companies will add the technology onto their operating systems so the software works without having to download an app.

Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android systems have about 3 billion users.

Read full story here.

France Reports Heart Incidents From Drug (12:30 p.m NY)

French authorities reported 43 cases of heart incidents tied to using hydroxychloroquine amid mounting interest in the malaria drug to treat coronavirus cases. The U.S. has stockpiled as many as 29 million doses and President Donald Trump touts the drug as a possible “game changer.”

The French drug safety agency ANSM said four of the patients died in incidents since March 27 while in total, 82 serious adverse reactions were found from experimental treatments, split between hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir-ritonavir.

— With assistance by Steve Geimann, Paul Tugwell, Justin Sink, Rudy Ruitenberg, Colin Keatinge, Wout Vergauwen, Adveith Nair, John Follain, Geraldine Amiel, Joao Lima, Michelle Fay Cortez, Robert Langreth, and Linus Chua

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