While the U.S. awaits election results, the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the country, with a record more than 100,000 cases reported Wednesday.
The eastern half of the country is engulfed in rising cases, with some pockets of the western half rapidly growing, Arizona among them.
“As Arizona counts votes, they are also counting COVID cases and deaths,” Yale professor and public health policy expert Dr. Howard Forman said on Twitter Thursday.
“Largest number of new cases since August 1. Deaths are increasing again; Positive rate is 12% and increasing,” he added.
The U.S. is rapidly approaching 10 million cases, while the death rate continues to climb after slowing in recent months. Hospitals around the country are once again facing tough decisions on which patients to tend to, based on age and likelihood of survival.
Meanwhile, globally, Europe has implemented greater restrictions or gone back under lockdown in some areas.
The U.S. election is also a key factor in the U.S. strategy going forward.
In an analyst note Thursday, UBS said that with a Republican-controlled Senate and Biden in the White House, there is a 50-50 chance of a meaningful stimulus bill that would include greater funding, about $75 billion, for COVID-19 testing, with a focus on expansion of lower-cost antigen tests.
The move is viewed as positive for medical diagnostic makers like Abbott (ABT), Becton-Dickinson (BDX), Roche (RHHBY) and Quidel (QDEL).
UBS also noted that, “While Mr. Biden would likely prefer more Federal involvement in testing, it may be easier to just distribute tests to states. Our expert expects expansion of testing will mostly be through lower-cost/faster antigen tests, which could come at the expense of some PCR volumes.”
Vaccines in waiting
Yet another item on the wish list pending action from the government is an effective vaccine.
Pfizer (PFE) and Moderna (MRNA) anticipate having the first look at efficacy by the end of this month, while AstraZeneca (AZN) — which saw its trials stalled in the U.S. and U.K. — is eyeing some revelation by the end of the year.
In an earnings call Thursday, CEO Pascal Soriot said the company anticipates the first reading from trials globally by the end of the year. Recent reports of a delayed delivery timetable are a result of the trial delays in the U.S. and U.K., compounded by the slowdown in the virus over the summer, Soriot said. As a result, the company is waiting to meet the benchmark for infections incurred during the trial, and will have to see if a majority of them are in the placebo group in order to move forward with seeking authorization.
With the delay in the U.S. pushing out potential trial results into next year, AstraZeneca is hoping results from other global trials will be accepted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in consideration of any emergency use authorization.
If indications point to yes, the company can then jumpstart production of the vaccine to meet the commitments to governments by the end of the year, Soriot said. Until now, the drug substance has been produced, but putting it into vial form has been delayed since that is when the clock on the shelf life of a vaccine begins.
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