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Coronavirus update: Another successful vaccine, FDA approves antibody drug

Health officials are fretting over Thanksgiving travel plans

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 12,261,424 (12,219,209)

Total U.S. deaths: 256,837 (256,723)

Total global cases: 58,819,529 (58,538,551)

Total global deaths: 1,391,311 (1,386,204)

Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine 90 percent effective

A third coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine candidate has been shown to be at least 90 percent effective in clinical trials. AstraZeneca, developing a vaccine with Oxford University, is the third drugmaker in the last two weeks to report promising results.

In the last two weeks, both Pfizer and Moderna have reported that their vaccines were shown to be about 95 percent effective in preventing the spread of the virus. While the success rate for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is a bit lower, researchers say the latter vaccine costs less to make.

"The announcement today takes us another step closer to the time when we can use vaccines to bring an end to the devastation caused by [the virus]," the vaccine's architect, Prof. Sarah Gilbert, told the BBC.

FDA approves Regeneron antibody treatment

In addition to promising vaccine news, progress continues in the area of therapeutic treatment. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of Regeneron’s drug cocktail, which is made using antibodies from recovered COVID-19 patients.

The agency issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the drug, pending a formal review. It was used in October to treat President Trump.

The drug is designed to treat COVID-19 patients who are recently diagnosed and have yet to develop severe symptoms. It is not approved for the treatment of COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized.

Health officials worry about Thanksgiving travel as cases mount

Thanksgiving week is giving health officials a sense of dread, as Sunday marked the 20th straight day the U.S. recorded more than 100,000 new cases of the coronavirus. Early indications that Americans are ignoring pleas to stay home are leading to predictions of a massive explosion in new cases two weeks before Christmas.

The Thanksgiving holiday has traditionally been the busiest travel time of the year. While travel may be less than in recent years, officials say semi-crowded airports and even small family gatherings could be super-spreader contributors.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued updated guidance that strongly advised Americans not to travel this week.

New tool aids COVID-19 prognosis

A new tool developed by Kaiser Permanente researchers and physicians reportedly helps doctors predict how COVID-19 will affect the recovery chances for patients who have the virus. The tool, subject of a study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, could be used to determine a patient’s treatment.

"As the pandemic surges again across the country and hospitalizations are increasing, front-line physicians often must make quick decisions to hospitalize or discharge patients with COVID-19 symptoms," said Dr. Adam Sharp, an emergency medicine physician who is also a researcher for the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation. 

Sharp said the research team created a risk assessment that looks at many different patient variables that might predict a critical poor outcome — without any lab or diagnostic testing.

Fish prices have fallen during the pandemic

While the pandemic has caused the price of some food to go up, it’s having the opposite effect on fish and seafood prices, industry experts say. The fishing industry had been hard-hit by COVID-19.

That’s because the biggest market for seafood is not the consumer, but rather restaurants -- mostly full-service restaurants. Most of those businesses are either closed or are buying less seafood than they did before the pandemic.

The Virginian Pilot reports that  Norfolk fish market, which previously sold only to restaurants, is now selling directly to consumers for up to 50 percent off the retail price.

Around the nation

  • Florida: Florida is poised to join Texas and California as recording at least a million cases of the virus. The Florida Department of Health reported 8,410 new cases over the weekend, bringing the state’s overall total to 931,828 cases since March.

  • Iowa: The state saw its situation improve slightly over the weekend. Positive COVID-19 tests declined Saturday from the day before, as did the number of hospitalizations, according to data recorded by the Iowa Department of Public Health.

  • Virginia: Virginia experienced a spike in coronavirus cases last week, according to health officials who reported cases were up nearly 50 percent. Even so, the state ranks 47th in the nation for the spread of the virus.

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