Experts Back Moderna Vaccine; N.Y. Toll Above 100: Virus Update

Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine won backing from a panel of experts who advise U.S. regulators, setting the stage for its shot to be the second vaccine cleared in the U.S.

Pfizer Inc. said it has shipped all 2.9 million doses that the U.S. government ordered this week, while governors from several states say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told them they will get fewer doses than planned.

California set a record for fatalities for the second consecutive day. New York state again topped 100 daily deaths, as Arizona reported the highest death toll since August. The U.S. passed 17 million total infections. French President Emmanuel Macron tested positive for Covid-19.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases pass 74.7 million; deaths top 1.6 million
  • Los Angeles is now the worst-hit U.S. metro area for Covid-19 cases
  • The work-from-home boom is here to stay. Get ready for pay cuts
  • U.S. jobless claims unexpectedly jump to highest in three months
  • NYC hotel bust means even $1,000 rooms aren’t profitable
  • The coronavirus vaccine could be the ultimate gateway drug
  • Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID

Benefits Outweigh Risks of Moderna’s Vaccine (5:15 p.m. NY)

FDA advisers agreed Thursday that the benefits of Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine outweigh any risk, giving a boost to efforts to ramp up the U.S. immunization campaign. The effort is initially focusing on health-care workers and seniors who live in long-term care facilities. The FDA could authorize the shot within the next day.

Moderna’s product is based on the same technology as a shot made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE that was cleared by the FDA last week, and like that vaccine showed a high degree of efficacy in late-stage clinical trials. At Thursday’s advisory meeting, some of the discussion focused on a handful of allergic reactions experienced by people in the U. S. and U.K. who got the Pfizer shot.

Putin’s Vaccine Comments Rattle Argentina (5:10 p.m. NY)

Comments by President Vladimir Putin signaling caution about Russia’s coronavirus vaccine reverberated in Argentina, where the government plans to use it on priority groups, including the elderly. Argentina will await the final results before importing the vaccines by plane to Buenos Aires, said a person familiar with the matter.

Putin, 68, expressed caution about taking the Sputnik V vaccine, saying at a news conference earlier Thursday that it hasn’t been fully tested on people his age.

Microsoft Urges Faster School Openings, Pledges Aid (5:05 p.m. NY)

Microsoft Corp. called for an accelerated reopening of elementary schools in Washington State and pledged protective equipment, cleaning supplies and technology to track Covid-19 tests. The company, based in Redmond, Washington, also called for teachers to be prioritized in the state’s vaccination plans.

The comments from the software giant come a day after Governor Jay Inslee loosened the state’s guidelines for school reopenings. Inslee’s announcement Wednesday was condemned by the statewide teacher’s union and also comes as hospitalizations linked to the virus have surged in the state over the past month.

Portugal to Limit Movement on New Year’s Eve (4:29 p.m. NY)

Portugal will limit movement from 11 p.m. on Dec. 31 as it tries to contain the spread of the coronavirus. On Jan. 1-3, movement will be banned in public spaces from 1 p.m., Prime Minister Antonio Costa said Thursday night. No new restrictions will be added for the long Christmas weekend, he said.

Rhode Island Nursing Home Deaths Total Over 1,000 (4:07 p.m. NY)

Deaths at Rhode Island long-term care facilities have risen to as many as 1,039 at long-term care facilities and almost 100 at assisted-living facilities since the start of the pandemic, state data show. Total fatalities in the state, which has been hit hard in the virus’s recent wave, are 1,602.

European Leaders Isolating After Macron Tests Positive (3:54 p.m. NY)

Leaders from across Europe announced they’re isolating after coming into contact with French President Emmanuel Macron who tested positive for Covid-19.

Hours after being tested positive for Covid-19 after what an official described as “mild symptoms,” Macron, 42, took part in a conference about development aid via video, from isolation. His 67-year-old wife Brigitte tested negative on Thursday.

Macron is suffering from a cough, fever and fatigue, an official in his office said. Macron will isolate and work in a state residence known as “la Lanterne” in Versailles, while his wife will remain at the Elysee Palace.

Eight Nuns Die in Wisconsin (3:42 p.m. NY)

A convent outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin said that eight nuns had died of Covid-19 since Dec. 9, the Associated Press reported, citing a statement from the School Sisters of Notre Dame Central Pacific Province.

Florida Cases Rise by Most Since July (3:32 p.m. NY)

Florida reported 13,164 new cases among residents, the most for a single day since a summer surge in mid-July. The state’s positive-test rate, which stayed below 8% on most days in December, came in at 8.8% on Wednesday, according to health department data.

Deaths declined from 87 as recently as a month ago to four in the latest daily update.

Sydney Beach Virus Cluster Triggers Swift State Restrictions (3:23 p.m. NY)

A week out from one of the biggest public holidays of the year, Australia’s largest city is battling to contain an outbreak of Covid-19, ending a more than month-long run with limited community transmission in New South Wales state.

Sydney reported an additional 15 cases on Thursday, taking the total cluster on the city’s northern beaches to 17. The state health department has asked that region’s 250,000 residents to remain at home as much as possible over the next three days and avoid unnecessary gatherings to assist with contact tracing.

Arizona Reports Most Deaths Since Summer (3:10 p.m. NY)

Arizona on Thursday reported 147 deaths from Covid-19, the biggest single-day tally since Aug. 12, as the state continues to battle a resurgence of the virus.

U.S. Governors Say They Will Get Fewer Vaccine Doses (2:57 p.m. NY)

Many U.S. states are going to get fewer vaccine doses than originally planned, according to Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, marking what could be a significant hiccup in the effort to distribute shots to all Americans.

Next week’s allocation for Washington, the state that saw the first outbreak of the epidemic in the U.S., was cut by 40%, Inslee, a Democrat, said on Twitter. “All states are seeing similar cuts,” he said, adding the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention didn’t give the state any explanation.

On Monday, Washington said it was expecting 62,400 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week and a total of 222,000 by the end of the month. The Evergreen State, which has about 7.6 million residents, would also get 183,800 doses of Moderna’s vaccine this month if that inoculation is approved by regulators. Washington’s frustrations echo complaints from states including Illinois, Michigan and Florida.

California Deaths Set Record for Second Day (2:23 p.m. NY)

California reported 379 daily coronavirus deaths, breaking the record of 293 set just yesterday. The state had 52,281 new infections, for a total of more than 100,000 in the past two days, though the health department said some of those cases reflect a processing backlog.

The home of 40 million people is facing a rapidly worsening crisis that is threatening to overwhelm medical systems. Hospitalizations jumped 3.3% over 24 hours to a record 16,426 patients, while the number of people in intensive care climbed 2.8%. Four of the state’s five regions are now under stay-at-home orders after ICU capacity fell below a 15% threshold.

Ireland May Impose New Covid Curbs Earlier (1:49 p.m. NY)

Ireland is likely to bring in new coronavirus limits before year-end, Prime Minister Micheal Martin told RTE Television. Ireland had planned to tighten restrictions on Jan. 6 after easing them for three weeks over Christmas.

Now though, restrictions are likely to come in earlier, Martin said. The so-called reproduction number is now between 1.1 and 1.4, with case numbers rising steadily, he said. The government is likely to set new restrictions on pubs and restaurants, while limits on household visits will be tightened. There were about 480 newly confirmed cases on Thursday, Martin said. That’s the highest level in a month.

U.K. Passes Record After Error in Wales Reporting (1:18 p.m. NY)

The U.K. recorded its highest daily increase of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, in part because Wales added thousands of previously unreported infections.

A further 35,383 new cases were reported, about 11,000 of them as a result of “system maintenance in the NHS Wales Laboratory Information Management System.”

Even without the additional cases, the number is a worrying sign that the U.K. hasn’t fully controlled its second outbreak, with the seven-day rolling average steadily creeping higher. Earlier on Thursday more areas of England were moved to the nation’s highest level of coronavirus restrictions.

French Health Chief Sees Worrying Situation as Covid Cases Rise (1:07 p.m. NY)

France’s coronavirus situation is worrying as the number of new cases is rising again after a November decline and the year-end holiday period will increase infection risk, the country’s director general of health said.

“We know we have a two-week risk period ahead of us, this being the festive period,” Jerome Salomon said in a briefing on Thursday.

France registered 18,254 new Covid-19 cases over 24 hours, the most since Nov. 20. The rolling seven-day average of cases, which smooths out fluctuations over a week, jumped 5.3% to 12,764, back to levels last seen at the end of November.

Pfizer Says No Vaccine Shipments Have Been Delayed (1:03 p.m. NY)

Pfizer Inc. said it has shipped all 2.9 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine that the U.S. government ordered this week and that it has millions more doses sitting in warehouses awaiting instructions for where to ship.

Some governors have complained this week that their allocations of Pfizer’s vaccine are less than what they had expected. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said Pfizer is experiencing production issues, an assertion that Pfizer rejected. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar made similar claims in a briefing Wednesday.

New York State Deaths Top 100 Again (11:50 a.m. NY)

Coronavirus-related deaths rose above 100 in New York state again — the highest since mid-May. Meanwhile, of the 202,772 coronavirus tests conducted statewide on Wednesday, 5.38%, or 10,914 were positive, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday during a briefing in Kingston.

There were 120 virus-related fatalities. Covid-19 deaths have been above 100 three of the last seven days.

Cuomo declared a state of emergency in 18 counties as a snowstorm barraged parts of the state. The distribution of the coronavirus vaccine has not been disrupted by the storm, he said.

FDA, Pfizer Revising Covid Vaccine Guidelines on Side Effects (10:32 a.m. NY)

Pfizer Inc. and U.S. drug regulators are revising information for use and monitoring of the company’s Covid-19 vaccine developed with BioNTech SE after rare allergic reactions were seen in some recipients.

The revisions reflect guidelines from the CDC for following vaccine recipients and managing potential reactions, Doran Fink, deputy director of FDA’s division of vaccines and related products applications, said Thursday in a meeting of FDA advisers.

Two people in Alaska who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine suffered reactions, which have also been seen in vaccine recipients in the U.K.

U.K. Extends Wage Support and Business Loans (9:55 a.m. NY)

The U.K. government announced it will extend a package of measures aimed at helping businesses and workers through the pandemic, with support for wages and loans to firms at risk of collapse.

In a series of statements on Thursday, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak set out his plan to extend the business loans and furlough wage support programs, and announced he will unveil the government’s tax and spending plans at a budget on March 3.

— With assistance by Ian Fisher, Tony Czuczka, Dina Bass, and Anna Edney

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