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Coronavirus update: Hopeful vaccine news, recognizing an important symptom

Experts are having second thoughts on the pandemic’s economy impact

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 7,194,922 (7,156,562)

Total U.S. deaths: 206,252 (205,268)

Total global cases: 33,719,865 (33,431,133)

Total global deaths: 1,009,349 (1,003,168)

More positive vaccine news

Two pharmaceutical firms, Moderna and Regeneron, are reporting encouraging news about their coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine efforts.

A study shows that Moderna’s vaccine candidate was about as effective in older adults as it was with young people. Researchers said the vaccine also showed minimal side effects.

Regeneron reported that its COVID-19 antibody cocktail reduced levels of the virus in patients with the illness and eased symptoms in people who had milder forms of the virus. The company reportedly plans to step up efforts to win approval for the drug from regulators.

Researchers say loss of smell should be an official symptom

Symptoms of the coronavirus can vary widely, but researchers say one of them is nearly universal. They say four out of five people experiencing a recent loss of smell and/or taste tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies.

Of those testing positive, 40 percent did not have cough or fever, according to a new study published in PLOS Medicine by researchers from University College London.

The researchers say the findings are important for policymakers around the world because most countries do not currently recommend self-isolation and testing based on acute loss of smell/taste. This study suggests that an overreliance on cough and fever as the main symptoms of COVID-19 may be flawed and that loss of smell needs to be urgently recognized globally as a key symptom of virus.

Maybe the economy isn’t so bad

The initial reaction to the coronavirus pandemic in March, including a shutdown of the economy for weeks, produced a number of doomsday scenarios from economists. But it’s possible that those worries were overstated.

The UCLA Anderson Forecast has gone from classifying the event as a “depression-like crisis” in June to this week revising its forecast to say the economy could have “a better than expected outcome.” But a lot depends on whether an effective vaccine is found.

Meanwhile, layoffs continue to hammer the economy. The Walt Disney Company is laying off 28,000 theme park workers, and cuts continue to the oil and gas industry.

The pandemic changed hiring practices

The coronavirus pandemic didn’t stop companies from hiring new talent, but it did change the way they went about it, according to a study by staffing firm Robert Half.

A survey of more than 2,800 senior managers showed that prospective employees were mostly screened and interviewed remotely using video conferencing services like Zoom, taking the place of face-to-face meetings that were standard practice before the pandemic.

"Despite an overall slowdown in business, companies continue to hire for critical roles during the pandemic," said Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half. "In many cases, employers have adjusted their recruiting strategies to accommodate new, virtual work realities and are seeing immediate benefits, including faster and more successful hires."

New York City workers slow to return to the office

New York City is first in a lot of things, but not when it comes to employees returning to offices. The Wall Street Journal reports that many other cities are bouncing back at a faster rate.

Real Estate brokers say a significant number of bankers have returned to the office. But they say offices housing lawyers, media outlets, publishers, and tech firms are mostly empty. 

The Journal cites CBRE Group, a commercial real estate services firm, as saying only 10 percent of the city’s office workers had returned by Sept. 18. Nationally, nearly a quarter of American workers are back in the office.

Around the nation

  • Illinois: Chicago has added four more states to its quarantine list. Travelers from Kentucky, Texas, Wyoming, and Nevada will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine before entering the state.

  • Iowa: Despite a rise in coronavirus cases, Iowa is loosening some mitigation regulations. Residents will no longer have to self-quarantine for 14 days after being exposed to someone with the virus

  • North Carolina: The outlook is uncertain for more than 1,000 bars in the state that have been closed since March. An order requiring them to shut their doors expires this week, but it’s not clear how many are still in business.

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