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Coronavirus update: Another promising vaccine, U.S. records 11 million cases

The flu and COVID-19 can be a dangerous combination

Photo (c) Delpixart - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases:  11,082,027 (10,997,987)

Total U.S. deaths: 246,586 (245,979)

Total global cases: 54,615,099 (54,251,464)

Total global deaths: 1,320,742 (1,315,291)

Moderna vaccine reported to be 94 percent effective

A week after Pfizer reported its coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine candidate was over 90 percent effective in preliminary results from its clinical trial, Moderna said its vaccine candidate was more than 94 percent effective.

While the two vaccines are similar, the Moderna vaccine may have some logistical advantages over the Pfizer drug, which must be kept at frigid temperatures at all times. Health experts say that makes distribution complicated.

The Moderna vaccine, and others currently under development by other companies, only have to be kept in a refrigerator or freezer, experts say.

Another milestone

The United States recorded its 11 millionth case of COVID-19 over the weekend as the number of cases got bigger by the day. In another grim milestone, the U.S. recorded 1 million new cases over the last seven days.

There were 133,000 new cases of the virus reported on Sunday. The COVID-19 Tracking Project at Johns Hopkins University reported nearly 70,000 hospitalizations by the end of the weekend. The U.S. death toll from the virus is more than 246,000.

Flu, COVID-19 combine for a ‘twindemic’

It’s flu season, and coronavirus cases are surging across the country. The “twindemic” is posing challenges for rural hospitals, according to TeleHealth Solution.

"Recently we had a patient in rural Northwest Wisconsin go to his local emergency department with generalized weakness, nausea and abdominal pain," said Dr. Ricardo de Leon. "The patient tested positive for COVID-19, but when the hospital reached out to TeleHealth Solution for specialist care, based on the patient's symptoms, we had the physician run an influenza test as well—which came back positive.”

Having the flu at the same time as COVID-19 is a complicating factor. TeleHealth Solution said it was able to triage the patient quickly and get him on oxygen to prevent a transfer to a larger hospital.

Johnson & Johnson testing two-dose vaccine

Johnson & Johnson has begun a clinical trial of its two-dose COVID-19 vaccine to determine whether the second dose provides another layer of protection. 

The company hopes to enroll as many as 30,000 participants in the study and run it at the same time as its single-dose trial. That trial, which began in September, has around 60,000 participants.

“The study will assess efficacy of the investigational vaccine after both the first and second dose to evaluate protection against the virus and potential incremental benefits for the duration of protection with a second dose,” the company said in a statement.

Dr. Gottlieb: It could be over next year

The news that two pharmaceutical companies have achieved more than 90 percent effectiveness in their vaccine trials suggests that the pandemic’s days are numbered, according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Once we get these vaccines in sufficient qualities heading in 2021, the combination of the fact that a lot of the population will have already had Covid, combined with the fact that we’ll be vaccinating the public with a highly effective vaccine, we could effectively end this pandemic in 2021 with our technology,” Gottlieb told CNBC.

People who have gotten the virus and recovered from it are believed to have some level of immunity that could protect them for a year or longer.

Around the nation

  • Connecticut: Researchers at Yale have reported a dramatic increase in the coronavirus found in municipal wastewater around the state, suggesting cases of the virus are rapidly rising. Yale scientists said virus concentration in wastewater from Stamford, Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven are especially heavy.

  • West Virginia: Gov. Jim Justice has issued an order that tightens state requirements for residents to wear masks in public places. The governor’s order also cancels winter high school sports.

  • Texas: The growing number of coronavirus cases in Texas is taking a heavy toll on hospitals around the state. Burnout appears to be a growing problem. Hospital officials say staff resignations are rising as the number of patients increase.

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