The coronavirus pandemic continued to set records across the U.S. on Wednesday, even as the administration of President Donald Trump touted its first-term accomplishments in a news release that suggested it had ended the crisis that has cost more than 226,000 American lives and shows no signs of abating.
The U.S. has counted a record 500,000 new infections in the past week, according to the New York Times, as 20 states, including Illinois, recorded their highest seven-day averages since the start of the outbreak.
The Midwest and Mountain West are in precarious positions with hospitals rapidly filling. Three states, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Oklahoma, suffered record seven-day averages for fatalities, the Times reported, while Oklahoma and Wyoming set records for most deaths in a single day.
The White House in a press release wrote “ENDING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC” in bold capitalized letters as one of the administration’s achievements during Trump’s first term.
‘There is no metric that points to the U.S. being anywhere close to ending the pandemic; actually, we are trending in all the wrong directions and are in the middle of a coronavirus storm. Downplaying the virus is really dangerous, because letting down our guard enables the virus to spread much more.’
“This is wishful thinking, not the truth,” Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University School of Public Health, told MarketWatch.
“There is no metric that points to the U.S. being anywhere close to ending the pandemic; actually, we are trending in all the wrong directions and are in the middle of a coronavirus storm. Downplaying the virus is really dangerous, because letting down our guard enables the virus to spread much more.”
Others said members of the White House task force created to manage the pandemic response that is led by Vice President Mike Pence and includes leading infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, and, as coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx are angry about the claim, coming as the U.S. is still in the throes of a crisis that has killed more Americans than died in combat in World War I and World War II combined.
Trump continued to hold campaign rallies against the advice of his own health experts, and freezing weather at a rally in Omaha late Tuesday caused mayhem for some of the roughly 6,000 people who attended, according to media reports.
Supporters were gathered in close quarters for the rally, and many were seen in video footage not wearing face masks, the public safety measure that experts say is key to containing spread. Trump has occasionally said he has “no problem” with masks but recently has mostly jeered his presidential rival, Democrat Joe Biden, for wearing one and has encouraged anti-mask protests.
A new study this week found that a national face-mask mandate could significantly reduce COVID-19 deaths in the next few months, as flu season arrives and as people tend to gather more indoors. Researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimate that a mask mandate could save nearly 130,000 lives by February 2021, MarketWatch’s Elisabeth Buchwald reported. The study was published in Nature Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal.
“I find it misleading to attribute political purposes to the work of science, and, in doing so, this has caused uncertainty amongst citizens, which has really made the COVID-19 pandemic have a much greater adverse impact,” Dr. Louis Sullivan, founding dean of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta and the first African-American secretary of health and human services to serve under a Republican president, George H.W. Bush, told MarketWatch in an interview.
The rising global case tallies spooked financial markets, with the Dow Jones Industrial
down more than 800 points on Wednesday, and the S&P 500
down nearly 3%, turning negative for the month.
In other news:
• There were more than 500,000 new cases of COVID-19 recorded worldwide on Tuesday, a record, according to Agence France-Presse. The total was 516,898 cases and 7,723 fatalities, according to an AFP tally.
• European countries set a series of records on Tuesday, and World Health Organization’s head of emergencies, Dr. Michael Ryan, warned this week that Europe has again become the epicenter. “Right now we are well behind this virus in Europe, so getting ahead of it is going to take some serious acceleration in what we do and maybe much more comprehensive nature of measures that are going to be needed,” he said. The latest records reported by the Guardian include: Poland with 18,820 new cases, the Czech Republic with 15,663 new infections, Germany with 14,964 infections, Switzerland with 8,616 new infections, Slovenia with 2,605 new infections, Russia with a record 346 deaths and 16,202 new cases, and Ukraine with 165 deaths and 7,474 new cases.
• Germany and France were both set to announce new lockdowns as both countries grapple with surges in new cases. French President Emmanuel Macron slated to address the nation later Wednesday and to announce a one-month lockdown, Reuters reported, citing news channel BFM TV. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was expected to meet state leaders on a conference call to discuss closing restaurants and bars, while keeping schools open, and allowing people to go out in public only with members of their own households, the Associated Press reported.
• Peter Piot, a virologist and head of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said Wednesday the virus is resurging because “we relaxed too much.” Speaking at a press briefing along with European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, whom he is advising, said the new infections coming after initial success in containing the pandemic in summer show “how fragile these gains are.”
“We kind of relaxed too much the measures that are basically about behavior, and we are paying a high price … and also we have learned there are no silver bullets. I wish there were,” he said. Piot contracted COVID-19 himself and suffered from exhaustion for months.
• China counted 42 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, its highest daily toll in more than two months, Reuters reported. Of that total, 22 were previously asymptomatic patients whose infections were detected in the prefecture of Kashgar where an outbreak has been traced to a textile factory. Officials have tested all 4.7 million residents of Kashgar, and reported 19 symptomless infections, which China does not count as official COVID-19 cases.
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide now stands at 44.2 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, and the death toll is 1.17 million. At least 29.9 million people have recovered from COVID-19.
The U.S. has the highest case tally at 8.8 million and the highest death toll at 226,9823, about a fifth of all global deaths.
Brazil has the second highest death toll at 157,946 and is third by cases at 5.4 million. India is second in cases with 7.9 million, and third in deaths at 120,010
Mexico has the fourth highest death toll at 89,814 and ninth highest case tally at 901,268.
The U.K has had 45,455 deaths, the highest in Europe and fifth highest in the world, and 920,647 cases.
China, where the disease was first reported late last year, has had 91,224 cases and 4,739 fatalities, according to its official numbers.
What’s the latest medical news?
Eli Lilly and Co.
said the U.S. government signed a deal to acquire 300,000 doses of its experimental neutralizing antibody COVID-19 treatment bamlanivimab for $375 million, MarketWatch’s Jaimy Lee reported.
Per the terms of the deal, Lilly will distribute vials of the drug, which is also referred to as LY-CoV555, to the government if the Food and Drug Administration grants an emergency-use authorization.
The company filed this month for emergency authorization of the drug in the treatment of people with mild to moderate forms of COVID-19 who are also at high risk. SVB Leerink’s Geoffrey Porges previously predicted that the drug would receive an EUA by the end of the year.
A Phase 2 study indicates that bamlanivimab may reduce the rate of hospitalization and viral load in some COVID-19 patients.
But the news comes just two days after the National Institutes of Health halted a clinical trial for bamlanivimab saying the therapy isn’t likely to help hospitalized COVID-19 patients recover. A trial pairing the therapy with Gilead Sciences Inc.’s
remdesivir in hospitalized patients was halted in mid-October over safety concerns.
There are at least three other trials of the investigational drug under way, including one testing the therapy in recently diagnosed mild to moderate COVID-19 patients that is also sponsored by the NIH.
There is an option for the U.S. government to buy additional doses on the same terms through June 30. In the news release, the U.S. government has “committed” to patients being charged no out-of-pocket costs; however, bamlanivimab is a drug that must be infused in a health-care setting, so health-care providers can charge a fee for that service. Mild to moderate COVID-19 patients aren’t usually hospitalized.
Lilly said this “presents unique challenges.”
What are companies saying?
• Bed Bath & Beyond Inc.
announced a $225 million accelerated share-buyback program. Union, N.J.–based Bed Bath & Beyond said it is planning to buy back shares totaling up to $675 million over the next three years. The program will be funded by cash resources generated from the sale of certain noncore assets. The company suspended buybacks in March among actions taken to conserve cash during the pandemic. The company will hold an investor day on Wednesday and will discuss the share-buyback program and other measures to invest for growth.
• Boeing Co.
swung to a narrower-than-expected third-quarter adjusted loss, while revenue fell more than forecast. Revenue fell 29% to $14.14 billion, just below the FactSet consensus of $14.2 billion. Among Boeing business segments, commercial airplanes revenue dropped 56% to $3.6 billion, missing the FactSet consensus of $3.96 billion, as commercial airplanes deliveries fell 55% to 28. Defense, space and security revenue slipped 2% to $6.85 billion but beat expectations of $6.83 billion, and global services revenue declined 21% to $3.69 billion but topped expectations of $3.64 billion. The company didn’t provide financial guidance. “The global pandemic continued to add pressure to our business this quarter, and we’re aligning to this new reality by closely managing our liquidity and transforming our enterprise to be sharper, more resilient and more sustainable for the long term,” said Chief Executive Dave Calhoun.
• Brinker International Inc.
the parent of the restaurant chains Chili’s and Maggiano’s, reported a surprise first-fiscal-quarter adjusted profit and revenue that fell less than forecast. Same-restaurant sales fell 10.9%, with Chili’s same-restaurant sales declining 7.2% and Maggiano’s sales dropping 38.6%, as results were hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. For the second quarter, the company expects same-restaurant sales to be at a negative mid-single-digit percentage, with adjusted EPS of 40 cents to 60 cents. The FactSet consensus for second-quarter EPS is 50 cents. “The team has responded to this unprecedented environment by unlocking organic growth through the introduction of It’s Just Wings, skillfully managing our P&L, and further reducing our debt levels, all resulting in a sustainable growth model that serves both our guests and our shareholders,” said Chief Executive Wyman Roberts.
• Dine Brands Global Inc.
parent of the IHOP and Applebee’s restaurant chains, reported third-quarter earnings that beat expectations. It also announced a review of IHOP restaurants. Revenue of $176.6 million was down from $217.4 million last year but also ahead of the FactSet consensus for $166 million. Domestic comparable sales at IHOP sank 30.2%, while Applebee’s domestic comparable sales were down 13.3%. As of Sept. 30, 97% of Dine Brands restaurants were open for either off-premise or dine-in service. “As state and local governments began to ease restrictions on dining-room service, our off-premise business at each brand still drove robust sales,” said Steve Joyce, chief executive officer of Dine Brands, referring to pandemic orders. As of Sept. 30, Dine Brands had $389.6 million of total cash, including restricted cash of $80.3 million. The company is reviewing underperforming IHOP locations with 100 locations possible over the next six months. The company is expected to close 15 Applebee’s locations in the fourth quarter.
• General Electric Co.
reported a surprise third-quarter adjusted profit and positive cash flow, as revenue fell less than forecast during the pandemic. Revenue fell 17% to $19.42 billion, but was above the FactSet consensus of $18.73 billion. Among GE’s business units, Power revenue rose 3% to $4.03 billion, above the FactSet consensus of $3.89 billion; Renewable Energy revenue grew 2% to $4.53 billion to top expectations of $4.48 billion; Aviation revenue tumbled 39% to $4.92 billion, just shy of expectations of $4.95 billion; and Healthcare revenue fell 7% to $4.57 billion, beating expectations of $4.14 billion. “We are improving our profit and cash performance with organic margin expansion in every segment except Aviation, though orders more broadly remain under pressure,” said Chief Executive Larry Culp.
• Six Flags Entertainment Corp.
posted weaker-than-expected third-quarter earnings, with attendance continuing to be negatively affected by the pandemic. The company swung to a loss of $116 million, or $1.37 a share, in the quarter, after earnings $180 million, or $2.11 a share, in the year-earlier period. Revenue fell to $126 million from $621 million. The FactSet consensus was for a loss of 96 cents a share, and revenue of $143 million. Nine of the company’s 26 parks were closed in the quarter because of the pandemic and the parks that were open had attendance limitations. “While operating conditions continue to be challenging, attendance trends improved from a range of 20% to 25% of prior year levels upon the initial reopening of certain parks in the second quarter to approximately 35% in the third quarter, for the parks that were open,” the company said in a statement. The company has made progress on a transformation plan that aims to recover profitability. Attendance was 2.6 million guests, down 11.4 million from the year-earlier period.
• Tupperware Brands Corp.
shot upward by more that 30% on Wednesday, after the food-storage-products company reported a third-quarter profit and sales that rose well above expectations, as more consumers cook at home and store leftovers amid the pandemic. Sales rose 14% to $477.2 million, beating the FactSet consensus of $362.8 million. North America sales surged 42%, Europe sales grew 23% and South America sales increased 4%, while Asia Pacific sales fell 6%. The company said it remains in compliance with its financial covenants. Tupperware Chief Executive Miguel Fernandez said the revenue growth reflects a “rapid adoption of digital tools by our sales force to combat the social restrictions surrounding COVID-19, and the increased consumer demand for our innovative and environmentally friendly products, as more consumers cook at home and are concerned with food safety and storage.”
• United Parcel Service Inc.
reported third-quarter profit and revenue that rose above expectations, as all three business segments beat forecasts amid a burst in demand for delivery during the pandemic. Revenue rose 15.9% to $21.24 billion, beating the FactSet consensus of $20.21 billion. U.S. domestic package revenue rose 15.5% to $13.23 billion, above the FactSet consensus of $13.05 billion, while international package revenue grew 17% to $4.09 billion to beat expectations of $3.7 billion and supply chain and freight revenue increased 16.5% to $3.93 billion to top expectations of $3.59 billion. “Our results were fueled by continued strong outbound demand from Asia and growth from small and medium-sized businesses,” said Chief Executive Carol Tome. The company didn’t provide financial guidance, given continued uncertainty surrounding the effects of the pandemic.