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Coronavirus update: Pandemic throws more people out of work, China records a rare death

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine has shown promising early results

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 23,103,550 (22,864,103)

Total U.S. deaths: 385,503 (381,513)

Total global cases: 92,563,274 (91,838,572)

Total global deaths: 1,983,691 (1,968,343)

New jobless claims spike

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is taking an ever-increasing toll on the job market because businesses are shutting down or limiting operations in the face of rising cases. The Labor Department reports that new claims of unemployment benefits surged last week, rising to 965,000.

That’s the largest number since mid-August, when the second wave of coronavirus cases began to take hold in wide areas of the country. After peaking at nearly 7 million in March, jobless claims have mostly remained under 1 million per week.

In last week’s report, the largest increase in new claims occurred in Florida and Illinois, with both states reporting more than 50,000 new claims.

China records another death

The pandemic began in Wuhan, China but was quickly brought under control. In fact, there had not been a reported death from the virus in China for six months.

That changed when Chinese officials reported that a woman in Hebei died Wednesday afternoon. While her death was attributed to COVID-19, state media noted that she had a severe case and pre-existing health conditions.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is on track for its deadliest month since the pandemic began. China’s total death toll since March is about the same as the number of people who die each day of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Third COVID-19 vaccine could roll out soon

Researchers at Johnson & Johnson have reported that the company’s single-dose vaccine is safe and produces promising results. Researchers say it has shown that it produces antibodies to protect against the virus and appears to work in both young and old subjects.

Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers say 90 percent of the volunteers who received the vaccine instead of the placebo developed “detectable antibodies” 28 days after getting the shot. By day 57, they say 100 percent of the subjects had the antibodies.

It should be noted that there were only 850 people in the trial. The company said it expects to report the results from its trial of 45,000 subjects by the end of the month. 

CDC: New limits on travel from outside the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has adopted a new rule requiring all airline passengers entering the U.S. to test negative for the coronavirus (COVID-19) before traveling. The rule takes effect on Jan. 26.

The agency first suggested that protocol in late November after cases in the U.S. surged and a new strain of the virus was found in the U.K. It has become a requirement, the agency says, because of the huge spike in new cases and concerns about possible new variants of the virus.

The rule requires all passengers to get a COVID-19 test no more than three days before their departure. The airlines will require further proof of negative test results as part of the boarding process. 

Already planning celebrations

With the vaccine rollout underway, a lot of people are looking forward to the end of the pandemic. And a new survey from LendingTree suggests they’re planning one heck of a celebration.

Eight in 10 Americans questioned in the survey who also plan to get vaccinated say they're planning a celebratory splurge for sometime in 2021. On the downside, 15 percent of those in the survey said they might not feel financially secure enough to spend on a big celebration.

The survey authors say that split represents the pandemic's economic impact in a microcosm. Many Americans are thriving financially, having benefited from staying at home, reducing their spending, and paying down debts while maintaining their jobs and their incomes. Millions of others, however, have been devastated financially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and are struggling just to keep the lights on. 

Around the nation

  • Florida: Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees felt some heat this week from legislators over the state’s vaccine rollout. Democratic state senators questioned Rivkees about the state’s alleged lack of planning and reports that the rich are skipping the vaccine lines.

  • Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has launched a new website to publicize which restaurants have violated the state’s COVID-19 guidelines. Wolf said consumers can find out if restaurants are enforcing social distancing and other mitigation measures.

  • Iowa: Cases of the coronavirus are still increasing statewide, but the number of people requiring treatment in hospitals is trending in the right direction, officials say. The Iowa Department of Public Health reports that hospitalizations and ventilator usage have dropped significantly since peaking in mid-November.

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