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Coronavirus update: Five states produce most new cases, study will look at severe reactions to vaccines

Carnival Cruise Line reports record bookings

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 30,931,178 (30,851,290)

Total U.S. deaths: 559,219 (556,578)

Total global cases: 133,311,664 (132,605,091)

Total global deaths: 2,891,206 (2,876,691)

Increase in cases focused in just five states

New coronavirus (COVID-19) infections have been on the rise recently, and health officials now say it appears that nearly half the new cases are occurring in just five states.

An analysis of data collected by The COVID-19 Tracking Project at Johns Hopkins University shows that New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey accounted for 44 percent of all new infections between March 29 and April 4. They reported a combined 197,500 cases out of around 452,000 reported nationwide.

New York leads the nation in new infections. The state logged 52,922 cases last week, or an average of about 7,560 a day. That makes up about 12 percent of U.S. cases of the virus.

Clinical trial to examine vaccine reactions

The Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines were tested in clinical trials before they were approved for use. Now, a new clinical trial will examine the reason why some patients have severe allergic reactions when given the shots.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is running the trial, which will involve 3,400 adults. Most of the subjects have histories of severe allergic reactions. Researchers say they will look for a genetic pattern or other factors that can help predict who has a higher risk of a reaction.

While some people have experienced anaphylaxis when given the mRNA vaccines, they are not common. Scientists at two Boston hospitals monitored nearly 65,000 people who received the shots and found only 0.025 percent experienced the most severe type of allergic reaction.

Carnival reports record bookings

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be keeping U.S. cruise ships in port but many consumers are eager to get back on the high seas. Carnival Cruise Line is reporting record bookings during the first quarter, which are 90 percent higher than in the fourth quarter of last year. Bookings for 2022 are said to be higher than 2019 levels.

“Everybody wants to go away,” David Bernstein, Carnival’s chief financial officer, said in a conference call with analysts. “And I will tell you, the next best thing to actually going away is planning a vacation. And that’s what a lot of people seem to be doing right now.” 

Carnival is also eager to get sailing again. The company said that if the CDC doesn’t lift its “no sail” order soon, it could shift its home ports to those outside of the U.S. 

New jobless benefits claims increased last week

After a big improvement the previous week, layoffs apparently have increased again. The Labor Department reports that initial claims for unemployment benefits rose to 744,000 last week, an increase of 16,000 from the previous week.

The previous week's level was revised up by 9,000, from 719,000 to 728,000. The four-week moving average was 723,750, an increase of 2,500 from the previous week's revised average. 

The total number of Americans still receiving unemployment benefits continued to go down last week, suggesting more people are finding jobs. Continuing claims totaled 18,164,588, a decrease of 50,862 from the previous week. 

Schwab: Pandemic created millions of new stock traders

One of the biggest stories on Wall Street so far in 2021 has been the rise of the individual investor and the so-called “Reddit revolution,” in which social media fueled the stocks of struggling companies like Gamestop and AMC.

A new survey from brokerage firm Charles Schwab has now linked that phenomenon directly to the pandemic. It found that 15 percent of all current U.S. stock market investors say they first began investing in 2020.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth and engagement among individual investors over the past year as a result of lower trading costs, new products and services aimed at greater ease and accessibility, and the investing opportunities presented by market volatility,” said Jonathan Craig, Schwab’s senior executive vice president and head of Investor Services. “A big part of this growth is Generation Investor – the large number of people who are bound together not by their birth years but by when they got started in their investing journey.”

Around the nation

  • Vermont: Health officials are concerned about the emergence of COVID-19 variants. Gov. Phil Scott says the state has now recorded three different variations of the virus. Like two other variants found in the state recently, scientists believe the newly detected P.1 variant may be up to twice as transmissible as the original strain of the virus. 

  • New Mexico: While many states have begun loosening COVID-19 restrictions, it’s still business as usual in New Mexico. A WalletHub survey shows that the state is the most restrictive in the nation even though it has one of the lowest positivity rates in the nation -- 2.5 percent.

  • Illinois: The state’s vaccination efforts got a big boost this week when Kane County's mass COVID-19 vaccination site in Aurora opened thousands of new appointments. Specifically, the site is administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which has been in short supply in other states.

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