The Latest: US to start distributing experimental virus drug

Posted 11/23/20

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government on Tuesday will start distributing 30,000 doses of an experimental antibody drug to fight COVID-19, the one President Donald Trump received last month.

Over the …

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The Latest: US to start distributing experimental virus drug

Posted

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government on Tuesday will start distributing 30,000 doses of an experimental antibody drug to fight COVID-19, the one President Donald Trump received last month.

Over the weekend, the Food and Drug Administration agreed to allow emergency use of the drug, made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., for people with mild to moderate symptoms who are at high risk of developing serious illness because of their age or other medical conditions. It’s not authorized for use in sicker, hospitalized patients or those who need extra oxygen.

Antibodies bind to the virus and help the immune system eliminate it. The Regeneron drug is a combo of two antibodies that seemed to do this well in lab tests.

The emergency authorization allows limited use of a drug while studies continue to test its safety and effectiveness. Early results suggest it may reduce COVID-19-related hospitalization or emergency room visits.

The drugs are given as a one-time treatment through an IV. Under federal contracts, the drugs for now will be supplied for free, although patients may have to pay part of the cost of the IV treatment.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

—AstraZeneca says late-stage trials show it does not need the deep cold storage that rival vaccines do

— Cut off: School closings

— Jury duty? No thanks, say many,

— virus testing access as cases surge

— New Zealand leader Jacinda Ardern to Joe Biden

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Follow AP’s coverage at and

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MESA, Ariz. — An Arizona woman who drew widespread attention after opening her Thanksgiving table to a stranger she accidentally texted has kept the tradition going, despite losing her husband Lonnie to COVID-19.

Wanda Dench and 21-year-old Jamal Hinton met in 2016 after the grandmother from the Phoenix suburb of Mesa mistakenly texted her grandson about coming for Thanksgiving to Hinton’s number. Hinton jokingly replied he would like to come as well. Dench told him he was welcome.

Last week, they celebrated a mini Thanksgiving dinner with a photo of Lonnie Dench and an empty chair for him. The couple was infected in March and Lonnie Dench died the next month.

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MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s Roman Catholic Church announced the cancellation Monday of what’s considered the world’s largest Catholic pilgrimage, for the Virgin of Guadalupe, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mexico’s Episcopal Conference said in a statement that the basilica will be closed from December 10-13. The Virgin is celebrated on Dec. 12 and for weeks in advance, pilgrims travel from across Mexico to gather by the millions in Mexico City.

The church recommended that “the Guadalupe celebrations be held in churches or at home, avoiding gatherings and with the appropriate health measures.”

Bishop Salvador Martínez, rector at the basilica, said recently in a video circulated on social media that as many as 15 million pilgrims visit during the first two weeks of December.

The basilica holds an image of the Virgin that is said to have miraculously imprinted itself on a cloak belonging to the Indigenous peasant Juan Diego in 1531.

The church recognized that 2020 has been a trying year and that many of the faithful want to seek consolation at basilica, but said that conditions don’t permit a pilgrimage that brings so many into close contact.

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MADRID — Spanish King Felipe VI is self-isolating after being with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

The royal household said Monday the 52-year-old monarch was “in close contact” the previous day with someone infected by the new coronavirus.

Felipe will self-isolate for the mandatory 10 days and has canceled his official duties for that period.

The royal household gave no information about the state of his health.

Also on Monday, Spain’s 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population — a key metric in measuring the pandemic’s spread — has continued to fall.

The Health Ministry said that number has fallen to 374 cases per 100,000. That’s down from 470 cases a week earlier and from the Nov. 9 peak of 529.

The Spanish government credits limits on movement and social gatherings for the drop.

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GENEVA — The head of emergencies at the World Health Organization says it’s “extremely important” for its international team to visit China to look into the origins of the coronavirus, saying the U.N. health agency has been reassured such a trip will happen “as soon as possible.”

Dr. Michael Ryan said such a visit is needed so that “the international community can be reassured of the quality of the science” that he lamented has been increasingly questioned for political ends — including pressure and threatening e-mails against scientists.

“Clearly, we all need to understand the origin of the virus. We all need to understand where it has come from, not least to understand where it may re-emerge in the future,” Ryan told a news conference from Geneva. “I believe our Chinese colleagues are just as anxious to find those answers as we are.”

Ten months after its declaration that COVID-19 represented an international public health emergency, WHO is still working to deploy an international team of experts to China to visit the suspected epicenter in the city of Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.

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GENEVA — The chief scientist of the World Health Organization is hailing the “huge logistical advantages” offered by a COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by Swedish-British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan noted the vaccine — for which AstraZeneca released initial results on Monday — can be stored in an “ordinary refrigerator” and can remain stable at temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius.

That would enhance the possibility of getting coronavirus vaccines to many countries where so-called cold chains — which are required of other vaccine candidates from drug makers Moderna and Pfizer — are harder to ensure.

Dr Mariangela Simao, a WHO assistant director-general in charge of access to medicines and health products, told a news conference alongside Swaminathan that top officials at the U.N. health agency are looking forward to getting more data from AstraZeneca in coming days.

Simao said WHO expects to have finalized an assessment of its vaccine “in the beginning of next year” which could lead to deployment of the vaccine.

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CHICAGO — Nearly 700 nursing home workers walked off the job Monday at 11 mostly Chicago-area Infinity Healthcare Management facilities, saying they won’t return until the company offers them higher wages and safer working conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic that’s hit nursing homes hard.

Striking workers and representatives of their union, SEIU Healthcare Illinois, stood outside nursing homes in Cicero, Maywood and Chicago’s Brainerd neighborhood, while recounting a list of grievances against Infinity. The workers are demanding at least a $15 an hour wage, hazard pay for all employees and a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment.

Messages emailed to the company seeking comment Monday were returned as undeliverable, while telephone calls to the company’s offices in Hillside, Illinois, failed to reach any company representative.

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BERLIN — German pharmaceutical company CureVac says it has signed a contract to produce major quantities of a COVID-19 vaccine under development in the Netherlands.

The Tuebingen company said Monday it had agreed with Munich’s Wacker Chemie AG on a contract for the production of its COVID-19 vaccine using mRNA technology at Wacker’s site in Amsterdam in the first half of 2021.

It plans to produce 100 million doses of the CureVac vaccine per year at the facility, and said there is potential for expansion.

CureVac says the vaccine it is developing can be stored at regular refrigerator temperatures for up to three months, and even unrefrigerated at regular room temperatures for a period of 24 hours.

CureVac isn’t as far along in its trials, however, and says it plans to initiate a phase 2b/3 clinical study before year’s end.

The European Commission last week said it has sealed an agreement to buy up to 405 million doses of CureVac’s product as part of its procurement of the vaccine from various sources.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says shops, hairdressers, beauty salons and gyms in England will reopen and some fans will be allowed back into sports stadiums when a four-week lockdown comes to an end next week.

Johnson confirmed to lawmakers Monday the government will lift the stay-at-home instruction on Dec. 2 that were introduced early this month to curb a new surge in coronavirus cases. Shops, gyms, personal care businesses and leisure facilities will be allowed to reopen, and collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume.

The lockdown will be replaced with regional measures involving three tiers of restrictions based on the scale of the outbreak in different areas.

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LONDON — AstraZeneca says that late-stage trials showed its COVID-19 vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is easier to distribute than some of its rivals.

The results reported Monday are based on interim analysis of trials in the U.K. and Brazil of a vaccine developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca.

AstraZeneca is the third major drug company to report late stage results for its potential COVID-19 vaccine. Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the Oxford-AstraZeneca candidate doesn’t have to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, making it easier to distribute, especially in developing countries. All three vaccines must be approved by regulators before they can be widely distributed.

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A representative for Reggaeton superstar Bad Bunny said Monday that the singer has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The announcement came a day after the musician won favorite male Latin artist and favorite Latin album for “YHLQMDLG” at the American Music Awards.

Bad Bunny, whose real name is Benito Martínez Ocasio, was scheduled to sing his hit, “Dákiti,” with Jhay Cortez at the event but canceled without explanation, leaving many fans disappointed. The singer, however, presented the award for favorite Latin female artist remotely.

It’s unclear if Bad Bunny was showing any symptoms of COVID-19. His publicist did not immediately return a message for comment.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan will again close all educational institutions as of Thursday because of a steady and increasingly drastic increase in coronavirus cases.

Schools were opened in September as Pakistan appeared to have achieved a sustained flattening of the curve.

Daily cases had dropped to less than 300 a day, but few people wear masks and social distancing is mostly non-existent in the country of 220 million.

Pakistan recorded 2,756 new cases in the last 24 hours, one of the sharpest spikes since the outbreak began in March. The country has 376,929 confirmed cases, and 7,696 people have died from the virus.

The government announced Monday that schools will be closed through December and the possibility of re-opening will be discussed again in early January.

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MOSCOW — Daily new coronavirus infections in Russia hit a new high on Monday, with authorities reporting a record 25,173 new cases. The latest figure brings the country’s total to over 2.1 million. The government coronavirus task force also reported 361 deaths on Monday, raising the total since the start of the pandemic to over 36,500.

Russia, which currently has the world’s fifth largest number of confirmed cases, has been swept by a rapid coronavirus resurgence since September. Despite this, authorities insist there are no plans to impose a second lockdown or to shut businesses nationwide.

When asked why other hard-hit Russian regions aren’t following Buryatia’s example, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that regional governments decide on which restrictions to impose in their regions depending prevailing conditions there, like the number of available medical workers and hospital beds.

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JERUSALEM — The Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank has announced a partial two-week lockdown to clamp down on the coronavirus’ spread as new cases have rapidly increased.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Monday that the West Bank will be under a full lockdown over the weekends, and a curfew will be imposed from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. on weekdays. All non-essential businesses will be closed during the periods of lockdown.

The Palestinian Health Ministry has recorded over 3,000 new cases of the coronavirus in the West Bank in the past week, and a total of more than 84,000 since the beginning of the pandemic. It says at least 714 Palestinians have died from the disease.

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JAKARTA — Indonesia’s confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed half a million as the government of the world’s fourth most populous nation scrambles to procure vaccines to help it win the fight against the pandemic.

The Health Ministry reported 4,442 new cases on Monday to bring the country’s total to 502,110, the highest toll in Southeast Asia and second in Asia only to India’s more than 9.1 million confirmed cases.

The ministry said that the death toll from the virus is 16,002, and that it has been adding 3,000-5,000 daily cases since mid-September.

President Joko Widodo said his administration is working on a mass vaccination program for the vast archipelago nation, home to more than 270 million people.

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BEIJING — Chinese authorities are testing millions of people, imposing lockdowns and shutting down schools after multiple locally transmitted coronavirus cases were discovered in three cities across the country last week.

As temperatures drop and people move actitivies indoors, large-scale measures are being enacted in the cities of Tianjin, Shanghai and Manzhouli, despite the low number of new cases compared to the United States or other countries that are seeing new waves of infections.

On Monday, the National Health Commission reported two new locally transmitted cases in Shanghai over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to seven since Friday. China has recorded 86,442 total cases and 4,634 deaths since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

In Tianjin, health workers have collected more than 2.2 million samples for testing from residents in the Binhai new district, after five locally transmitted cases were discovered.

In Manzhouli, a city of more than 200,000, health authorities are testing all residents after two cases were reported on Saturday. They also shut down all schools and public venues and banned public gatherings such as banquets.

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