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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

A Holiday Season Surge, Outbreaks in Swing States, and More Coronavirus News

Coronavirus cases rise dramatically, drugmakers prepare for distribution, and the pandemic collides with the upcoming election. Here’s what you should know:

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Coronavirus cases surge across the US ahead of the holiday season

Cases skyrocketed nationwide this week, with all but three states reporting rising numbers. In a weekly report, the White House coronavirus task force wrote, “We continue to see unrelenting, broad community spread in the Midwest, Upper Midwest and West.” Experts say the US is once again following the trajectory of Europe, where countries like Germany and France are implementing new shutdowns as the days get shorter and colder. With hospitals across the US filling up, local officials have had to make difficult decisions about imposing curfews and triaging care. And to make matters worse, a fresh wave of cyberattacks has targeted already overwhelmed American hospitals.

The rise in cases comes just weeks before the holiday season begins. This year, many face tough decisions about whether to be together—an inevitably tricky decision—and how to mitigate risk if they are choosing to do so. “My personal advice is, you don’t have family gatherings—even for Thanksgiving,” Governor Andrew Cuomo advised New Yorkers. A top Trump health official warned this week that local governments could start imposing “draconian measures” if Americans don’t begin to take the necessary steps to curb the spread of the virus on their own.

Vaccine and treatment makers prepare to distribute drugs

On Wednesday, the US government agreed to pay drug manufacturer Eli Lilly $375 million for 300,000 doses of its experimental antibody treatment. The drug will be delivered over two months following emergency use approval from the FDA. A study earlier this month found that it is not an effective treatment for hospitalized patients, but these doses will go to people earlier in their diagnosis in the hopes of helping them avoid a trip to the hospital. Because the drug is administered intravenously, it could be prohibitively expensive even once it’s more readily available.

Preparations are also underway for vaccines to be delivered rapidly once they are approved. Moderna announced yesterday that it has already taken in $1.1 billion in deposits from governments eager to secure doses of its vaccine, which is currently in the middle of Phase III trials. Preliminary analysis of the trial is expected some time next month. Pfizer, another front-runner in the vaccine race, had previously said that Phase III trial data might be ready as early as October. This week, its CEO said that it is highly unlikely that will be the case.

Rising cases and the upcoming election collide

During his whirlwind final week of campaigning before Tuesday’s election, President Trump has maintained that America is “rounding the turn” on the pandemic. However, many of the states hardest-hit by this fresh wave of cases are the most hotly contested in the election, notably those in the upper Midwest and the Mountain West. In Wisconsin, a state currently battling one of the worst outbreaks in the country, polling indicates that perceptions of Trump’s performance are slipping.

In Washington, the Congress adjourned earlier this week until November 9, dashing any lingering hopes of another stimulus bill before Election Day. Since then, Speaker Pelosi has continued to press the treasury secretary to resume talks, so far to no avail. The Commerce Department reported on Thursday that the US economy grew at a historic pace during the third quarter of this year, but that was owed in large part to previous government stimuli. Without further aid, the trend is unlikely to continue through the fourth quarter.

Daily Distraction

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Something to Read

In 2017, the president retweeted @Team_Trump45, a troll account posting two kinds of content: pro-Trump conspiracies and pleas to help an alleged daughter named Nicky fight cancer. Follows and donations poured in simultaneously. But a few Twitter users thought the whole thing seemed fishy—so they decided to go sleuthing.

Sanity Check

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One Question

How is the pandemic affecting climate change?

You’ve probably seen pictures of newly car-free city streets and unpolluted skies, but the pandemic’s effect on climate change hasn’t been uniformly positive, and the good changes probably won't last. Single-use plastic is making a comeback, the government is rolling back emissions regulations, and the renewable energy industry is taking a serious hit. Coronavirus deaths tend to be higher in areas with worse air pollution. Not to mention, dealing with natural disasters is much harder when we're also faced with a pandemic, as we've seen with wildfire and hurricane seasons.

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