Midwest Governors Join Forces; Gilead Drug Trial: Virus Update


Bloomberg) — Seven Midwest governors began work on steps to reopen the regional economy, as state leaders in the mid-Atlantic and West Coast planned similar actions. The governor of New York extended a lockdown to May 15, while his New Jersey counterpart said schools will be closed at least until the same date.

U.S. President Donald Trump will hold a news conference at 6 p.m. to unveil guidelines to relax stay-at-home rules. Massive numbers of Americans sought unemployment benefits again.

The U.K. added three weeks to its restrictions as total infections exceeded 100,000. New cases also climbed in Italy, Spain and Germany, where the government plans to keep most of the restrictive measures in place. Singapore reported its highest daily increase for a second day.

Key Developments

Virus Tracker: Cases top 2.1 million; deaths exceed 140,000Japan’s Abe expands state of emergencyRisk of getting sick may lie in your genesConsumer habits in virus-ravaged Wuhan may forever be changedFDA shifts its stance on Covid-19 vaping, smoking impactCarnival knew it had a virus problem but kept the party going

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus.

Gilead Gains on Report on Covid-19 Drug Test (5 p.m. NY)

Gilead Sciences Inc. climbed 4.4% post-market Thursday as STAT reported severe Covid-19 patients being treated in Chicago with the company’s experimental drug remdesivir are “seeing rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms.”

Almost all patients were discharged in under than a week, and only two patients died, STAT said, citing comments made this week during a video discussion about trial results with University of Chicago faculty members.

STAT cautions that trials are running at other institutions and full study results can’t yet be determined; Gilead told the news outlet that it’s looking forward to data becoming available.

U.S. Confirmed Cases Rise 4.7% (4 p.m. NY)

U.S. cases rose 4.7% from the day before to 648,788 by Thursday afternoon, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That was higher than Wednesday’s growth rate of 3.5% but lower than average daily increase of 5.7% over the past week. Deaths increased 14% to 31,590.

New York cases rose 9.8%, spiking higher after the hardest-hit state showed signs of stabilizing in the past week. New York’s cases had risen just 0.5% during the same time period on Wednesday.

South Dakota had the biggest daily increase, with cases rising 12% to 1,311. On Sunday, Smithfield Foods Inc. said it would idle a South Dakota pork-processing facility amid a spike in infections.

Midwest Governors Form Partnership (3:25 p.m. NY)

Seven U.S. governors are forming a Midwest regional partnership to closely coordinate plans to reopen their economies based on data and advice from experts in a way that “prioritizes our workers’ health,” the leaders announced Thursday.

Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Kentucky will cooperate, their governors said in a statement Thursday. The move follows similar coalitions of governors on the West Coast and Northeast who are working together on how to reopen schools and businesses after the coronavirus outbreak eases.

South Africa Reports 14 Deaths (3:25 p.m. NY)

South Africa reported Thursday that 14 people who had contracted the coronavirus had died, the highest daily toll in the country to date. The number of confirmed infections rose 4% to 2,605, the most in Africa, as the number of tests conducted increased. President Cyril Ramaphosa last week extended a three-week national lockdown until the end of April in a bid to curb the further spread of the disease.

French Oxygen Bottler Triples Output (1:40 p.m. NY)

French industrial-gas giant Air Liquide SA will triple production of oxygen bottles to meet soaring demand due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to a surge in patients with respiratory problems.

Manufacturing capacity at a site near Paris has already been increased to 300 of the up to 44-liter reservoirs a week from around 100, and production will be raised even more if necessary, the company said in a statement Thursday. The equipment is used by people needing oxygen at home or in care facilities.

U.K. Adds 3 Weeks to Lockdown (12:10 p.m. NY)

The U.K. will extend the country’s lockdown by a further three weeks at least in an effort to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is standing in for Prime Minister Boris Johnson while he recovers from his own infection with the virus, said the March 23 decision to close most shops and meeting places and limit all but essential travel has worked to slow the spread of the virus.

“Relaxing any of the measures in place would damage both public health and the economy,” Raab said.

N.Y. Extends Shutdown to May 15 (11:50 a.m. NY)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo extended the statewide lockdown to May 15, citing progress made in limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

Cuomo also ordered masks to be worn by riders on public transit or in for-hire vehicles, such as Uber and Lyft. In addition, operators of public systems, private carriers and for-hire services must always wear masks.

New York had 606 deaths in the past 24 hours, the second straight daily decline and the lowest toll in several days. The state has reported 12,192 deaths.

Singapore’s New Cases at Record (11:45 a.m. NY)

Singapore had 728 new cases, the Ministry of Health said, the second straight day of reporting the most cases for 24 hours. About 90% of the cases were Work Permit holders living in dormitories. None of the new cases was imported from abroad. Singapore has not had any new imported cases since April 9, according to the ministry.

Amsterdam Pride Week Canceled (11 a.m. NY)

Amsterdam Pride week, set to run from July 25 until Aug. 2, has been canceled as organizers are running into “too many uncertainties and limitations.” Organizing the event in what Prime Minister Mark Rutte has dubbed a “1.5 meter society” is also not feasible, the organizers said in a statement.

Pride Amsterdam’s annual highlight, an 80-boat parade along the city’s famous canals, has been postponed to August 2021.

PGA Golf to Resume Without Fans (10:20 a.m. NY)

Golf is scheduled to resume in the U.S. on June 8 with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, which will be played without fans, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said Thursday in a statement. The first four events of the year will be closed to the public, Monahan said. Other events will be rescheduled through the end of the tour on Sept. 7. The PGA suspended its events on March 12 after canceling the $15 million Players Championship.

BP Joins Tech Giants on Virus Research (10:09 a.m. NY)

BP Plc will give Covid-19 researchers access to the supercomputer it uses to process geological data. The London-based oil giant is pooling resources and expertise with companies including Microsoft Corp., Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc., aiming to “significantly advance the pace of scientific discovery in the fight to stop the virus.”

It will provide access to its Center for High-Performance Computing in Houston, which can process more than 16 trillion calculations per second. BP will also make dozens of scientists available to help at its San Diego Biosciences Center.

Researchers who want to tap the consortium’s computing power must submit proposals to through an online portal.

Drivers’ Speeds Climb on Emptier Streets (10:09 a.m. NY)

Traffic speeds are rising and drivers may be getting more reckless in some U.S. states as stay-home orders keep cars and trucks off roads and streets, the Governors Highway Safety Association said in a statement.

In New York City, automated speed cameras issued 24,765 speeding tickets on March 27, or nearly double the 12,672 of a month earlier. In Massachusetts, the fatality rate in crashes is up, and in Nevada and Rhode Island, state officials note pedestrian fatalities are rising, the group said. Police in Colorado, Indiana, Nebraska and Utah clocked highway speeds of over 100 miles per hour.

FDA Allows Hospitals to Make Own Drugs (10:07 a.m. NY)

U.S. regulators are allowing hospitals to make their own versions of drugs that Covid-19 patients on ventilators need but that have become scarce. The Food and Drug Administration issued temporary guidelines Thursday permitting hospitals to make medications, including painkillers, sedatives and potent muscle relaxers.

Those drugs have fallen into shortage in the last few weeks as more patients need intensive care. The agency usually tries to boost supplies by increasing pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity, some of which it has done.

But “in light of unprecedented disruptions to, and demands on, the global pharmaceutical supply chain as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in order to respond to evolving regional conditions, additional flexibility is temporarily needed to ensure that treatment options are available,” FDA said in the guidelines.

U.K. Total Cases Cross 100,000 (9:50 a.m. NY)

The number of cases in the U.K. rose to 103,093 from 98,476. The country reported 861 new deaths, taking the total to 13,729.

Airbus CEO Says Aviation Faces Gravest Crisis Ever (9:38 a.m. NY)

The global aerospace sector is facing its greatest challenge ever, according to the chief executive officer of Airbus SE. The world’s biggest planemaker has seen demand slump as its airline customers, riding high on record demand before the virus hit, ground planes and suddenly seek to slash orders and delay jet handovers.

Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury, addressing investors in a virtual annual meeting, called the situation “unprecedented.”

Switzerland to Allow Businesses to Open Gradually (9:36 a.m. NY)

Switzerland’s businesses and schools will be allowed to reopen in three stages starting April 27.

The first cohort will be establishments like hair dressers, tattoo studios, beauty salons, hardware stores, garden centers and flower shops, where people can keep a safe distance. Hospitals will also be once again allowed offer a full range of medical services, the government said on Thursday.

Portugal Reports Biggest Case Increase in Six Days (9:10 a.m. NY)

Portugal reported 750 new cases, the most in six days, taking the total to 18,841. The total number of deaths rose to 629 from 599, and hospitalized cases climbed to 1,302 from 1,200.

Facebook Put Warnings on 40 Million Misleading Posts (9:04 a.m. NY)

Facebook Inc. added warnings to 40 million pieces of misinformation about the coronavirus on its main social network in March, part of an effort to stem the spread of bad advice and misleading articles.

Hundreds of thousands of posts deemed harmful were removed entirely, according to a blog post on Thursday by Guy Rosen, the company’s vice president for integrity. In the next few weeks, users who liked, commented or reacted to misleading posts that were later taken down will be shown messages in their news feeds linking to factual information about Covid-19, the company said.

U.K. Will Reject Any EU Request to Extend Transition (8:25 a.m. NY)

“Extending the transition would prolong business uncertainty,” government spokesman James Slack said on a conference call with reporters on Thursday. “U.K. business needs to know what its future trading arrangements will be and how to adapt to them.”

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva earlier told the BBC that the U.K. and EU would be “wise not to add more” to the uncertainty from the virus by refusing to extend the Dec. 31 deadline for Brexit trade deal negotiations.

Japan’s Abe Declares State of Emergency (7:35 a.m. NY)

Prime Minister Abe declared a nationwide state of emergency, expanding it from seven prefectures, as the infection spreads and his support rate sags. Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is leading government efforts on the virus emergency had said earlier that the period will last to May 6 and is designed to limit people’s movements during a peak travel period of several national holidays in late April and early May known as “Golden Week.”

Morgan Stanley Equities Trading Beats Estimates (7:30 a.m. NY)

Morgan Stanley rounded out Wall Street’s banner week for trading desks with a 24% first-quarter revenue surge, pushing the industry’s tally to the highest in eight years. The firm, which owns the world’s biggest stock-trading shop, said that business posted a 20% jump in the first quarter, while its fixed-income revenue topped $2 billion for the first time since 2012. The bank didn’t fully sidestep the market volatility as firmwide revenue dropped 8%, driven by more than $1 billion of provisions and writedowns on loans and the markdown of an energy-related investment.

“Over the past two months, we have witnessed more market volatility, uncertainty and anxiety as a result of the devastating COVID-19 than at any time since the financial crisis,” Chief Executive Officer James Gorman said in a statement Thursday.

South African Mines to Resume Work at 50% Capacity (7:15 a.m. NY)

Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced the easing of lockdown restrictions in a televised media briefing. The state will ease sanitation requirements for imported goods and Dlamini-Zuma said fuel refineries must ramp up output. The government plans to loosen curbs gradually and will retain some restrictions when the lockdown ends on April 30.

VW Pulls Guidance (7 a.m. NY)

Volkswagen AG abandoned its full-year outlook after the coronavirus pandemic brought vehicle production and sales to a halt at factories in key markets including China and Germany.

“It is currently not possible to determine when a new outlook can be made for the full year,” the world’s biggest carmaker said Thursday in a statement. “The impacts resulting from the pandemic on customer demand, the supply chain and production cannot currently be accurately forecasted.”

Men Die of Covid-19 at Twice the Rate of Women (6:40 a.m. NY)

The rate of death among men due to Covid-19 was double that of women in England and Wales last month, according to an analysis from the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics. Overall, there were 3,912 deaths involving the coronavirus in March, with 86% having Covid-19 as the underlying cause. The pandemic was the third most frequent underlying reason for death during the month.

About 91% of people who died from issues related to Covid-19 had at least one pre-existing health condition, the statistics agency said. The most common one was chronic ischaemic heart disease, which was involved about 14% of the time. The mortality rate increased with age, with the highest among people at least 90 years old. One person who was between 15 to 19 years old died. Males had a higher age-specific mortality rate than females overall.

EU Targets Super-Charged Crisis Budget (6:31 a.m. NY)

The heads of the European Union’s main institutions said the bloc must increase its budget firepower to repair its devastated economy as they seek a way around the gridlock over joint bond issuance.

An expanded budget should be “the mothership” of efforts to revive growth after the coronavirus pandemic, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told EU lawmakers in Brussels on Thursday. The bloc’s leaders will have a “strategic discussion” about the spending plan during a conference call next week, said European Council President, Charles Michel, who leads their meetings.

Siemens Is Said to Seek New Credit Line (6:31 a.m. NY)

Siemens AG is seeking about $3.3 billion from a new credit line to help the German engineering giant navigate the impact from the coronavirus pandemic, people with knowledge of the matter said. The company is discussions with banks including BNP Paribas SA. With the fresh financing, Siemens would join a growing list of major European companies seeking to bolster their liquidity as the health crisis halts economic activity across the region. Earlier, ArcelorMittal lined up a new $3 billion credit facility to tap if needed.

Amazon’s Bezos Wants to Test All Employees (6:30 a.m. NY)

Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said the online retail giant is developing Covid-19 testing capabilities as a first step toward a system of regular checks on its employees globally.

In an annual letter to shareholders, the billionaire founder outlined other steps the e-commerce giant has taken to curb the coronavirus, from shutting down non-essential services like Amazon Books to overhauling processes at Whole Foods. The next step was regular testing for all staff — including those who showed no symptoms, he said. On Thursday, Bezos said his company had assembled a team comprising scientists, managers and software engineers to build internal testing capacity, and hoped to build its first testing lab soon.

Spain New Cases Rise Most in a Week (6:10 a.m. NY)

Spain confirmed 5,183 new cases, the most in a week, taking the total to 182,816. There were 551 deaths in past 24 hours, for a total of 19,130 since outbreak began. The government said this week that the country has already overcome the peak of the virus, in what is the world’s second-most extensive outbreak. It’s starting to focus more on how to relax restrictions imposed under a national state of emergency.

BlackRock Saw Long-Term Net Outflows of $19 Billion (6:05 a.m. NY)

BlackRock Inc. saw net outflows from its long-term investment products for the first time in five years, as panicked investors fled the first-quarter’s market turmoil. Institutional investors withdrew about $31 billion from offerings including mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, BlackRock said Thursday. Total net outflows from such long-term investment products was $19 billion in the quarter.

WHO Concerned by Spread in U.K., Turkey, Ukraine (6 a.m. NY)

“The storm clouds of this pandemic still hang heavily over the European region,” said Hans Kluge, European regional director of the World Health Organization at a press briefing. The number of cases in Europe doubled within 10 days to 1 million. “The next few weeks will be critical for Europe.”

While there have been “small positive signals” in countries such as Spain, Italy, Germany, France and Switzerland, that’s tempered by sustained or increased levels of incidents in the U.K., Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus and the Russian Federation. Lifting lockdowns isn’t necessarily a one-way process, and Kluge urged countries to rethink their plans to ease measures if they aren’t fully prepared to step up testing and boost medical capacity.

“We think of ourselves in a period of new normal until such a time that a vaccine may be available,” WHO officer Katie Smallwood said, adding that researchers aim to do that within 18 months though it can’t be predicted because it usually takes years. Healthcare workers represent 1 in 13 reported cases in Europe, though there’s a bias in that statistic because healthcare workers are more likely to get tested, she said.

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