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Coronavirus update: Antibody drug reduced nursing home infections, more executive orders

Home data usage is surging during the pandemic

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 24,737,567 (24,475,210)

Total U.S. deaths: 412,239 (407,111)

Total global cases: 97,901,441 (97,116,661)

Total global deaths: 2,099,562 (2,080,009)

Antibody drug reduced coronavirus cases in nursing homes

While the vaccines to prevent the coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to roll out nationwide, drug maker Eli Lilly reports that its antibody treatment drug appeared to have a protective effect among nursing home residents.

The drug developed to help COVID-19 patients recover faster reduced the number of new infections by 80 percent when given to residents in nursing homes that were experiencing an outbreak.

"We are exceptionally pleased with these positive results, which showed bamlanivimab was able to help prevent COVID-19, substantially reducing symptomatic disease among nursing home residents, some of the most vulnerable members of our society," said Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly's chief scientific officer and president of Lilly Research Laboratories. 

Biden still signing executive orders

President Biden is scheduled to sign more executive orders today, some targeted at providing relief to Americans coping with the coronavirus. One order is aimed at alleviating food shortages and the other is seeking to boost workers’ pay.

The president will ask the Department of Agriculture to allow states to expand access to enhanced Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, a response to the huge lines that have formed at food banks in recent months.

Another order would require federal contractors to pay a minimum wage of $15 an hour and provide paid emergency leave. A number of retailers in the private sector have already committed to a $15 per hour minimum wage.

Pandemic data usage through the roof

The closing of offices and businesses and the overnight pivot to working at home has, as you might expect, had a huge impact on data usage. A report by Comscore shows that overall in-home data usage levels throughout 2020 remained significantly higher than in 2019.

And it wasn’t just people binge-watching Netflix. Data consumption from Comscore Connected Home custom reporting showed increased usage across all connected devices. That includes smart TVs, laptops, gaming consoles, phones, smart speakers, streaming boxes and sticks, and tablets — with all of them seeing strong growth in data usage versus 2019.

The report shows that usage began to level off during the summer months at about 15 percent above normal. However, the authors say smart TVs and home computers continued to see growth rates that were upwards of 30 percent over 2019.

Scientists say pandemic effect on mental health needs study

With shelter in place orders and remote working becoming the norm during the pandemic, scientists say they’re concerned that a sense of isolation is taking a toll on mental health. Writing in the British medical journal The Lancet, they say the risks need to be examined.

“While the effects of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) on the nervous system remain unclear, there is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic is bad for mental health,” the authors write. 

To alleviate the impact of both the virus and the measures taken to control its spread, the researchers say doctors need “high-quality information” about the immediate and long-term effects of the pandemic on mental health and which countermeasures are most effective. 

Couple donates 20,000 masks to those in need

Some people think about doing something to help those in need during the coronavirus pandemic. Barton and Kristina Henderson, a New Jersey couple, actually did something.

The Hendersons purchased 20,000 face masks and handed them out to 2,200 families at a food distribution event in Atlantic City. The Hendersons own a factory in California that produces surgical masks.

Company officials say the donation is part of a broader donation of more than 108,000 masks to food banks and various nonprofits in New Jersey, New York, California, Pennsylvania, and Florida. The donation comes as President Biden has asked every American to mask up for the first 100 days of his administration.

Around the nation

  • Texas: The City of Dallas has backtracked on a plan to prioritize the coronavirus vaccine for people living in zip codes with mostly minority populations. State officials threatened to reduce the city’s vaccine allocation if they carried out the plan.
  • Pennsylvania: The state has observed a coronavirus milestone this week as it surpassed 20,000 deaths since the pandemic began. The state Department of Health reported Thursday that another 260 people died from the virus.
  • Arizona: A new WalletHub survey shows that Arizona ranks last in the nation for safety during the coronavirus pandemic. The study looked at five different metrics — rates of vaccination, COVID-19 positivity, hospitalization, deaths, and transmission.

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