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Coronavirus update: Study says death rate significantly lower, business loans already snapped up

Gilead officials have high expectations for a drug treatment

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 843,981 (826,248)

Total U.S. deaths: 46,859 (45,153 )

Total global cases: 2,659,557 (2,594,724)

Total global deaths: 185,494 (179,778)

USC study: COVID-19 death rate significantly lower

While the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) cited above may seem large, two California studies suggest cases of the virus are an order of magnitude higher, meaning the death rate from the virus is actually a fraction of the official estimate of between 1 percent and 2 percent.

A study by USC and the Los Angeles County Health Department confirmed the findings of a smaller Stanford study showing 80,000 residents of Santa Clara County have or have had COVID-19, not the 1,962 cases counted by Johns Hopkins. That means the 94 deaths attributed to the virus make for a fatality rate of .001 percent, not the 4.7 percent “official” death rate.

Similar results were found in Los Angeles County, where the estimated number of infected people is between 221,000 and 442,000, not the 16,449 that are officially confirmed.

“We haven’t known the true extent of COVID-19 infections in our community because we have only tested people with symptoms, and the availability of tests has been limited,” said lead investigator Neeraj Sood, a USC professor of public policy at USC Price School for Public Policy and senior fellow at USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics. “The estimates also suggest that we might have to recalibrate disease prediction models and rethink public health strategies.”

Second round of small business loans already gone

Congress hasn’t even given final approval to the second round of funding for emergency loans for small businesses, but bank groups say the money has already been allotted to borrowers. The Consumer Bankers Association says the majority of the $310 billion in the pending legislation is already spoken for.

The initial $349 billion contained in the CARES Act was gone within two days, with some publicly traded restaurant chains getting large loans before small businesses could get their applications in. 

Meanwhile, the Small Business Administration issued new guidance today to make it harder for  big publicly traded companies to access the next round of funding in the popular loan program.

Gilead is betting on its own coronavirus treatment

Clinical trials of Gilead Science’s experimental drug remdesivir are still underway, but the pharmaceutical giant is reportedly in full production of the drug. The move has raised eyebrows since large companies don’t normally take that kind of risk.

It’s led some industry analysts to conclude that Gilead is very confident that remdesivir will be an effective treatment for the most severe effects of the coronavirus. Anecdotal evidence has raised hopes. A National Institutes of Health (NIH) clinical trial may be concluded before the end of May.

Publix helping two ways

Supermarket chain Publix saw two problems and will try to help out with one solution. Farmers are discarding milk and produce because the market has nearly collapsed with the closing of schools around the country. At the same time, people are lining up at food banks.

The company plans to purchase fresh produce and milk to assist farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and donate these products directly to Feeding America member food banks in its market area. 

The initiative will support Florida produce farmers, southeastern dairy farmers, and the growing number of families looking to Feeding America for fresh fruits, vegetables, and milk during the coronavirus pandemic.

26 million jobs lost

The Labor Department reports that there were 4.4 million initial claims for unemployment benefits in the last week, meaning more than 26 million people have been thrown out of work since the economy went into shutdown mode. That more than wipes out the total number of jobs created since the Great Recession.

Even though it’s a staggering number, unemployment claims have declined from their record highs during the first two weeks of the shutdown. The latest number is a decline of 810,000 from the previous week.

Around the nation

  • Louisiana: Governor John Bell Edwards says all state residents must wear a mask for the indefinite future. The government said there won’t be exceptions for young children and people with breathing problems. 

  • Vermont: Georgia has gotten all the attention, but it’s not the only state lifting restrictions on some aspects of daily life. Vermont is also opening up some businesses in the state while maintaining social distancing regulations.

  • Nevada: The state gaming commission has issued guidance for reopening casinos. Establishments must submit a detailed plan that includes the re-opening date and time and, if the re-opening process is phased in at larger operations, specific dates and times for each area.

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