The COVID Crisis: Model Shows Big Spike May Be Coming, New Vaccine Tests Underway

May 5, 2020

Here are Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

  • Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,181,885 (1,161,804)
  • Total U.S. deaths: 69,079 (67,798)
  • Total global cases: 3,610,006 (3,534,544)
  • Total global deaths: 252,346 (248,164)

Model shows big spike in new cases in June

Even as a number of states take steps to reopen their economies, health officials are pointing to a new projection model that predicts the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the U.S. is about to get a lot worse.

A model released by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation shows the U.S. could see deaths surge to 3,000 per day and total 135,000 by early August. The Institute revised its models after states began lifting restrictions and relaxing social distancing guidelines.

“Growing contacts among people will promote transmission of the coronavirus,” the institute said in a release.

A new round of vaccine testing is underway

Development of a potential vaccine against the coronavirus is occurring at an accelerated pace. Researchers have begun giving healthy volunteers an experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and a partner, BioNTech.

Volunteers are being injected with the first of four vaccines, BNT162. The current trial will test the vaccine on people between the ages of 18 and 55. Later, older adults will be added to the test group.

“We look forward to advancing quickly and collaboratively with our partners at BioNTech and regulatory authorities to bring a safe and efficacious vaccine to the patients who need it most,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.

Starbucks reopening U.S. stores

Starbucks says it plans to reopen about 85 percent of its U.S. stores by the end of this week, but its dining areas will remain closed. In fact, most stores will still not allow patrons to enter.

The company said it is developing a model called “entryway handoff,” with an associate bringing the order to the customer at the door. The company said it’s also working on a curbside pickup plan.

Starbucks has already been through this drill, reopening all of its stores in China that were closed for most of January and February. Starbucks said it hopes to have 90 percent of its U.S. stores back in business by June.

Sinking ship

There’s no doubt the cruise line industry has been hard-hit by the pandemic. Some ships were the scene of onboard outbreaks in the early days, with several passengers getting sick.

Now, Norweigen Cruise Lines has acknowledged “substantial doubt” about its ability to remain a “going concern.” In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company warned it may have to file for bankruptcy protection.

The cruise line said the coronavirus has reduced the public’s desire to travel and will likely continue to impact our results, operations, outlook, plans, goals, growth, reputation, cash flows, liquidity, demand for voyages and share price.”

At the same time, another cruise line faces litigation. The family of a 74-year-old man who died of COVID-19 following a cruise has sued Carnival Corp. and its subsidiary Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. in California federal court, claiming the companies failed to properly address an on-board outbreak.

COVID-19 prevalent at meat plants

The coronavirus has reportedly been detected at meat processing plants in 19 states as the industry fights to keep stores and restaurants stocked with products. A new CDC report has now found that the virus was confirmed at 115 meat processing plants between April 20 and 27, 2020.

The affected plants employ about 130,000 people, most of whom work in close proximity to others, making it easy to spread the virus. About 3 percent of the employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

These conditions have forced the closing of some plants and reduced output at others, contributing to meat shortages at some grocery stores. It’s also forced Wendy’s to temporarily remove hamburgers from the menu in some locations.

Around the nation

  • New Mexico: The coronavirus has done nothing to slow the real estate market in the state.“The fastest I have seen offers come in at is three hours and the fastest I have seen a house sold at is six,” said Albuquerque real estate agent Brennan Posen. “Most homes are selling with multiple offers and more than the asking price. It’s a good time to sell a home.”

  • Connecticut: People in the state who haven’t had a haircut in six weeks or more are looking forward to May 20. That’s when Connecticut plans to lift some restrictions on salons and spas, allowing them to reopen.

  • Iowa: Gov. Kim Reynolds has partially reopened the state to business but is defending her decisions against critics who say she isn’t moving fast enough. “This isn’t political and it shouldn’t be for anybodyb and I don’t believe it is,” Reynolds said at her daily press briefing. “These are some of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make as a governor of this great state.”

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