NJ eyes next reopen phase; protests, curfews fan fears of COVID spread

The global coronavirus pandemic converged on Monday with social unrest roiling the U.S., as hopes for relaxing lockdowns were undercut by raucous protests that prompted several big cities to impose curfews.

A weekend of mass demonstrations against police brutality, following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, descended into violence and looting — which led some large cities like New York City, Philadelphia and parts of California to impose curfews.

The protests have sparked fears about a resurgence of the coronavirus, just as the world’s largest economy appeared to be in the midst of a leveling off in cases.

Dr. Howard Forman, a professor of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, Economics, and Public Health at Yale University, told Yahoo Finance on Monday that he is concerned about a lack of social distancing during the protests, and how it might spark a fresh wave of cases.

“We would expect to see some type of bump from it,” he said.

Worldwide, the number of COVID-19 infections rose above 6.2 million on Monday, with a death toll that claimed 373,000 lives and counting. Growing exponential in new hotspots around the world added to the urgency to find effective treatments and cures, with Eli Lily being the latest pharmaceutical company to enter the fray.

Meanwhile, experts continued to debate the implications of the U.S. announcement that it would withdraw support from the World Health Organization, which fanned concerns about the agency’s ability to manage the pandemic.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday that the organization has received several questions about Friday decision by President Donald Trump, who accused the WHO of being too deferential to China at the expense of global health.

“The world has long benefited form the long collaborative engagement with the government and the people of the United States,” Ghebreysus said.

He added the U.S.’s generosity over many decades has made a difference in public health globally, and that “it is WHO’s wish for this collaboration to continue.”

There are nearly 1.8 million coronavirus cases in the U.S. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

New Jersey, New York turn a corner

In hot spots like New York and New Jersey, reopening is underway. The Big Apple is targeting next Monday to begin a phased reopening, as other regions in the Empire State continue to open their doors anew. Yet it was unclear how the protests might impact those moves.

On Monday, New Jersey became the latest to enter the second phases of reopening, which would allow outdoor dining in time for the summer months. In addition, hair salons can open this month. Gov. Phil Murphy reiterated concerns about a second wave, telling reporters he wants the economy back open, but not recklessly.

Growth has become a major force multiplier behind ending the lockdowns, as a decimated economy tries to recover. The Congressional Budget Office told lawmakers in a letter Monday that the coronavirus will shave $15.7 trillion off the country’s gross domestic product in the next decade, or a 5.3% reduction.

Treatment news

A rallying market has been mollified in part by growing expectations of a public health solution to blunt COVID-19’s impact. The health sector, which has been at the forefront of the battle, is expected to make new advances in the search for treatments and vaccines — and some more trial results may come this month.

Eli Lilly (LLY) announced Monday it began clinical trials for an antibody treatment co-developed with AbCellera, a Vancouver-based biotech. In March, AbCellara screened over 5 million immune cells from the blood sample of the first recovered patient in the U.S. in order to identify neutralizing antibodies that could work as a treatment.

Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly’s chief scientific officer and president of Lilly Research Laboratories, said in a prepared statement that if Lilly’s treatment “becomes part of the near-term solution for COVID-19, we want to be ready to deliver it to patients as quickly as possible, with the goal of having several hundred thousand doses available by the end of the year.”

Other companies are also preparing a similar type of therapy, while data from the phase 3 clinical trials of Gilead Sciences (GILD) antiviral drug remdesivir were released Monday. The company’s chief medical officer said the results were positive and the company continues to look at ways to fight the virus.

The treatment showed moderate improvement overall, and a five-day treatment course was just as effective as a 10-day course, according to the data.

Gilead is expanding its trial to include patients on ventilators, and has two other active trials for the treatment.

Anjalee Khemlani is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @AnjKhem

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