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Coronavirus update: January’s record death toll, a promising new drug

The amount of pandemic-related credit card debt is growing

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 25,466,642 (25,306,581)

Total U.S. deaths: 426,052 (421,890)

Total global cases: 100,441,945 (99,866,335)

Total global deaths: 2,162,333 (2,144,594)

January claims title of deadliest month

With five days left in the month, January has already become the deadliest month for the coronavirus (COVID-19). An analysis of data collected by Johns Hopkins University shows that there have been about 80,000 reported COVID-19 deaths, slightly more than recorded in December.

Health officials are hopeful that January will mark the peak of coronavirus deaths, and there are already signs that could be the case. The seven-day average of daily coronavirus cases has fallen by about 17 percent from a week ago. That said, the worldwide number of cases went over 100 million today.

In another good sign, the number of people requiring treatment in hospitals is also declining. However, there are still plenty of reasons to be concerned as new strains of the virus are beginning to show up in the U.S.

Eli Lilly says drug combo may help lower death toll

Eli Lilly has announced that two of its drugs, bamlanivimab and etesevimab, “significantly reduced” COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk patients when used together. The company says the drugs could be powerful weapons in the effort to lower the death rate from the virus.

"The death toll from COVID-19 continues to rise around the world and hospitalizations, particularly in the U.S., have reached record highs,” said Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly's chief scientific officer. “These data further support our belief that bamlanivimab and etesevimab together have the potential to be an important treatment that significantly reduces hospitalizations and death in high-risk COVID-19 patients.”

Lilly says bamlanivimab and etesevimab together also demonstrated statistically significant improvements on all key secondary endpoints, providing strong evidence that the therapy reduced viral load and accelerated symptom resolution.

Poll: Pandemic causes rise in credit card debt

American households that have credit card balances have added to those balances during the coronavirus pandemic. A poll by CreditCards.com found that 51 million people have a larger credit card balance now than they did before the start of the pandemic.

The poll also shows that millennials are struggling more than any generation – more than half of them have gone more deeply into debt over the last 10 months. Fifty-five percent said the extra debt is directly related to the pandemic.

“Millennials are overrepresented in the workforce right now, especially in service jobs, which are very heavily affected by the pandemic,” said Jake Hill, CEO of DebtHammer.

Wages rose in 2020 despite pandemic

The pandemic sent the nation’s unemployment rate to new highs in 2020, but people who kept their jobs enjoyed higher wages, according to a report from ADP. The report showed that wages for U.S. workers grew 4.4 percent over the last year, increasing the average wage level by $1.27 to $30.19 an hour.

At the same time, the report documents a continued slide in employment growth, which fell 7.9 percent. Claims for unemployment benefits have risen in the last four weeks as the rise in coronavirus cases has produced renewed restrictions on some businesses.

"The headline wage number masks the turbulence in the job market caused by COVID-19," said Nela Richardson, chief economist at ADP. "When you look deeper at the data, it shows that the significant job losses we've seen in the lower-income positions has inflated the overall average wage growth. For that reason, it looks like wages are growing at a healthy clip, when for the majority of workers, wages were either mostly flat or barely growing above inflation at year-end.”

Free app can detect when shoppers aren’t wearing a mask

For some reason, wearing a mask in a crowded public space is still a controversial idea in some circles. But a tech company says it has an app to improve compliance with mask mandates.

The firm, workM8.io, has released a free mask detection algorithm for its visionM8 Android computer-vision app. The algorithm is able to detect people without appropriate face coverings and is designed for deployment in retail stores, hospitality, services, and public organizations.

It relieves staff of the burden of confronting the person. Instead, an alarm sounds and the image of the offender is displayed on large video monitors.

Around the nation

  • Texas: After congressional efforts to shield businesses from COVID-19 lawsuits failed, Gov. Greg Abbott is pressing the state legislature to provide that protection in Texas. He said his purpose is to reduce the number of lawsuits and create more jobs.

  • Minnesota: With the coronavirus vaccine in short supply, state health officials are resorting to a unique solution. They’ve created a lottery for the state’s senior citizens who want to be inoculated. More than 200,000 seniors have already signed up.

  • Ohio: With statewide cases on the decline, Gov. Mike DeWine is considering a change to Ohio's curfew. “If Ohio has 7 straight days of hospitalizations below 3,500, we will go to an 11 p.m. curfew for at least 2 weeks,” DeWine said in a tweet. “So far, we have had 6 straight days below this number.”

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