Regeneron awarded $450 million US government contract for investigational antibody therapy
From CNN Health’s Gisela Crespo
Biotechnology company Regeneron has been awarded a $450 million contract to manufacture and supply REGN-COV2, a combination antibody treatment for Covid-19 that is now in late-stage clinical trials. The funding is part of the federal government's Covid-19 vaccine program, "Operation Warp Speed."
The agreement with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and US Department of Defense supports manufacturing of the drug so that it can be made available immediately in the United States if clinical trials are successful and it receives emergency use authorization or approval from the US Food and Drug Administration.
The company started scaling up production of the treatment in the spring and said that if OK'd by the FDA, it would be available in the United States at no cost.
"This manufacturing and supply agreement with BARDA and the Department of Defense could help REGN-COV2 reach many people quickly, hopefully helping to change the course of this deadly and still-raging pandemic," Dr. Leonard S. Schleifer, Regeneron co-founder and chief executive officer, said in a statement.
The Higher Administrative Court in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia ruled the lockdown measures lifted Monday as it stated that they are likely to be unlawful.
Germany has been relatively successful in fighting the coronavirus, but there have been several outbreaks at slaughterhouses in the past month that threaten to undermine the gradual reopening of its economy.
"Brides" protest against virus restrictions in Rome
From CNN's Valentina Di Donato in Rome
A group of women dressed as brides carried out a flash mob in Rome on Tuesday to protest against the coronavirus safety measures that prohibit large religious ceremonies like a big wedding.
The event, organized by an Italian wedding association, was called the "flash mob of the singles or unmarried ones."
Some 15 women held signs and posed in front of Rome's famous sites like the Trevi Fountain. They were also pictured outside the Italian Parliament, where they were joined by members of the country’s hard-hit wedding industry.
Protestor Francesca Del Vechio, who is from Naples, told CNN that she was supposed to "get married in September but because of government restrictions we had to postpone the date for at least one year."
She said that while the change of date was not an issue, she would like to get married next year "without restrictions."
7:27 a.m. ET, July 7, 2020
UK PM criticized for saying "too many care homes didn't really follow the procedures" in pandemic
From Sharon Braithwaite in London
British social care institutions have criticized Boris Johnson’s latest comments on the Covid-19 deaths in the country's care homes. The UK Prime Minister said Monday that during the coronavirus outbreak, "too many care homes didn't really follow the procedures in a way that they could have, but we are learning lessons the whole time."
Joyce Pinfield from the UK National Care Association told BBC Radio 5 Tuesday that she was “absolutely appalled” by Johnson's remarks. “It's a slap in the face to the care sector,” she said, adding that there was no “protective ring” thrown by the government on care homes.
Mark Adams, CEO of the charity Community Integrated Care, told BBC Today Radio 4 he was “unbelievably disappointed” by the PM’s comments.
“If this is genuinely his view, I think we're almost entering a Kafkaesque alternative reality where the government sets the rules, we follow them, they don't like the results, they then deny setting the rules and blame the people that were trying to do their best. it is hugely frustrating,” Adams said.
Adams then mentioned the “brave” social care workers, “often on minimum wage, no sickness cover at all, going to work to protect our parents, our grandparents... to get perhaps the most senior man in the country turning around and naming them of what has been an absolute travesty of leadership from the government I think it’s appalling.”
Business Secretary Alok Sharma told BBC Breakfast that the right procedures were “not known” and that “no one is suggesting that care homes haven't done a great job in in really difficult circumstances.”
“What the Prime Minister was pointing out is that nobody knew what the correct procedures were because we know that the extent of asymptomatic cases was not known at the time,” Sharma said.
He added that the government provided “very detailed guidance” during the outbreak as well as extra funding and a testing regime for care homes from April.
"So we have done our best to put our arms around the care home sector,” Sharma said
7:19 a.m. ET, July 7, 2020
US commits $1.6 billion to Covid-19 vaccine maker Novavax
From CNN's Elizabeth Cohen, John Bonifield and Dana Vigue
The federal government's "Operation Warp Speed" Covid-19 vaccine program has given a $1.6 billion contract to Maryland biotech company Novavax. It is the largest federal contract yet awarded to any Covid-19 vaccine company.
"It speaks to the confidence that they have in our platform to be able to develop a vaccine," Stanley Erck, Novavax's CEO, said Monday in an interview with CNN.
It is the fourth company to receive federal funds to conduct large-scale Phase 3 clinical trials and manufacturing of the Covid-19 vaccine.
In May, the government awarded more than $1.2 billion to pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca for vaccine development. The other two companies that received Phase 3 contracts are Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
Phase 1 clinical trial data from Novavax on 131 study subjects is expected by the end of the month, Erck said.
He added that Novavax’s Phase 3 trial could begin in the late third quarter of 2020.
Moderna is expected to start its Phase 3 trial later this month. It will involve 30,000 study subjects, some of whom will get the vaccine and some of whom will get a placebo, or an injection that does nothing.
Novavax’s $1.6 billion will allow the company to scale up production of the vaccine in advance of its potential approval, with the aim of delivering 100 million doses by February, Erck said.
7:07 a.m. ET, July 7, 2020
Aircrew staff will have take Covid-19 tests in Hong Kong as city records jump in virus cases
From Eric Cheung in Hong Kong
Hong Kong will require aircrew members to submit Covid-19 testing samples upon their arrival in the city, the government told a daily coronavirus press conference on Tuesday.
This comes as Hong Kong reported 14 new infections, including nine local cases, on Tuesday, the highest number of local cases recorded since April 8.
While flight crew members are currently exempted from 14-day mandatory quarantine, starting on Wednesday, they will be required to submit deep throat saliva samples when they arrive at the Hong Kong International Airport.
"Since last weekend, the epidemic situation in Hong Kong has changed rapidly, and the situation has become very critical," said Wong Ka-hing, controller of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP).
Authorities are still tracing the origins of five of the nine new local cases, according to Cheung Chuk-kwan, director of communicable diseases of the CHP.
8:17 a.m. ET, July 7, 2020
Hospitalizations continue to rise in Miami-Dade
From CNN’s Rosa Flores and Sara Weisfeldt
Miami-Dade County has seen a 90% increase in the number of Covid-19 patients being hospitalized in the past 13 days, according to the latest data released by Miami-Dade County Government.
It has also seen a staggering increase in the number of ICU beds being used (86%) and in the use of ventilators (127%).
Meanwhile, Miami's Jackson Health System has seen an 120% percent increase in Covid-19 patients in the past two weeks, according to data posted by the hospital system on Twitter.
On June 20, Jackson Health reported 157 Covid-19 patients. By Monday, they reported 345. Jackson Health System is a nonprofit academic medical system.
As for ICU beds available in Florida, the state reports there are currently 1,265 available, which is 21%.
The 14-day average positivity rate in Miami-Dade County is 23%, according to data released by county government.
8:17 a.m. ET, July 7, 2020
EU forecasts deeper recession than previously expected
From CNN's Chris Liakos
The European Union's economy will experience an even deeper recession than previously anticipated in 2020 due to the pandemic, according to the European Commission’s latest economic forecast.
Its economy is now expected to contract by 8.3% this year, compared to the previous forecast of a 7.4% contraction. The Commission anticipates the economy to grow 5.8% in 2021 -- a weaker rate than its previous forecast.
“The economic impact of the lockdown is more severe than we initially expected. We continue to navigate in stormy waters and face many risks, including another major wave of infections," Valdis Dombrovskis, EU Commission Vice President, said in a press release on Tuesday.
6:10 a.m. ET, July 7, 2020
Contact tracing is no longer possible across the US South due to virus surges, health expert says
From CNN's Madeline Holcombe
Despite hopes for relief this summer, the US is battling the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic -- so much so that across the South and Southwest contact tracing is no longer possible, according to a health expert.
"The cases are rising so rapidly, that we cannot even do contact tracing anymore. I don't see how it's possible to even do that," Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN on Monday.
The rapid rise in cases is considered a surge, not a second wave, because the infection numbers never lowered to where officials hoped they would, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a livestream on Monday.