Search This Blog

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) imaging features overlap with SARS and MERS

Although the imaging features of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are variable and nonspecific, the findings reported thus far do show “significant overlap” with those of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), according to an ahead-of-print article in the American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR).
COVID-19 is diagnosed on the presence of pneumonia symptoms (e.g., dry cough, fatigue, myalgia, fever, dyspnea), as well as recent travel to China or known exposure, and chest imaging plays a vital role in both assessment of disease extent and follow-up.
As per her review of the present clinical literature concerning COVID-19, Melina Hosseiny of the University of California at Los Angeles concluded: “Early evidence suggests that initial chest imaging will show abnormality in at least 85% of patients, with 75% of patients having bilateral lung involvement initially that most often manifests as subpleural and peripheral areas of ground-glass opacity and consolidation.”
Furthermore, “older age and progressive consolidation” may imply an overall poorer prognosis.
Unlike SARS and MERS–where initial chest imaging abnormalities are more frequently unilateral–COVID-19 is more likely to involve both lungs on initial imaging.
“To our knowledge,” Hosseiny et al. continued, “pleural effusion, cavitation, pulmonary nodules, and lymphadenopathy have not been reported in patients with COVID-19.”
Ultimately, the authors of this AJR article recommended CT for follow-up in patients recovering from COVID-19 to evaluate long-term or even permanent pulmonary damage, including fibrosis–as seen in SARS and MERS infections.

Comparison of Clinical and Radiologic Features of SARS, MERS, and COVID-19 (image)

American Roentgen Ray Society

Quarantine on cruise ship resulted in more Corona patients

The cruise ship Diamond Princess was quarantined for over two weeks resulting in more coronavirus infected passengers than if they would have disembarked immediately. Rather the opposite to what was intended. This according to a study conducted at Umeå University in Sweden.
“The infection rate onboard the vessel was about four times higher than what can be seen on land in the worst infected areas of China. A probable cause is how close people stay to one another onboard a vessel,” says Joacim Rocklöv, Professor of epidemiology at Umeå University and principal author of the article.
After a person travelling with the cruise ship Diamond Princess disembarked in Hong Kong and was tested positive for the coronavirus, Japanese authorities decided to disallow the 3,700 passengers onboard to leave the ship when it reached Yokohama. The ship was hence put in quarantine until 19 February. Passengers who showed signs of illness were, as far as possible, separated from other passengers onboard. When the quarantine in Yokohama in the end was removed and passengers could finally disembark, a total of 619 passengers had been infected by the coronavirus.
“If the ship had been immediately evacuated upon arrival in Yokohama, and the passengers who tested positive for the coronavirus and potential others in the risk zone had been taken care of, the scenario would have looked quite different. Our calculations show that only around 70 passengers would have been infected. A number that greatly falls short of the over 600 passengers the quarantine resulted in. The precautionary measure of putting the entire ship under quarantine was understandable, but due to the high risk of transmission on the ship, the decision is now questionable,” says Joacim Rocklöv.
At the same time, the study also shows that if the precautionary measures of isolating potential carriers had not been carried out onboard, another 2,300 people would have been infected.

Google, Amazon and Microsoft give input to new health AI standard

The US-based Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has developed the first ever accredited standard for use of artificial intelligence in health care, with input from tech giants such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google.
More than 50 organisations, from tech giants to startups and healthcare industry leaders, have developed the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited quality mark.
The standard is part of the CTA’s new initiative on AI and is the first in a series that aims to set a foundation for implementing medical and health care solutions built on the technology.
One issue that the standard aims to resolve is the way that AI-related terms are used in different ways, leading to confusion, particularly in the healthcare industry.
The standard defines over 30 terms including machine learning, model bias, artificial neural network and trustworthiness.
The CTA has also created a working group to address this problem over the last year, which now includes a range of decision makers from 52 organisations and member companies.
It aims to create a standard based on 11 definitions and characteristics and provides a framework for better understanding AI technologies and common terminology.
The hope is that consumers, tech companies and care providers will be able to better communicate, develop and use AI-based health care technologies.
Other definitions include terms like de-identified data, synthetic data, remote patient monitoring and patient decision support system.
Among the definitions, the standard includes highly debated terms such as “assistive intelligence,” which the group defined as a category of AI software that “informs” or “drives” diagnosis or clinical management of a patient, however the health care provider makes the ultimate decisions before clinical action is taken.
Participating organisations include Amazon, which is well known to be moving into healthcare, AT&T, Eli Lilly’s Livongo Health, Microsoft, Mercedes-Benz, and Philips.
Pat Baird, regulatory head of global software standards at Philips and co-chair of the working group, said: “AI will be used for decision support and decision making, which stresses the need for professionals to be able to take ownership, apply judgement and empathy. Transparency and a common language will be key to enable the proper and safe functioning of AI.”
Google, Amazon and Microsoft give input to new health AI standard

Germany has means to respond if virus sparks economic crisis – finance minister

Germany would be in a position to enact a fiscal stimulus package should the coronavirus spark a global economic crisis, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said in remarks published on Sunday.

The spread of the virus has raised fears of a pandemic. In Germany there have been 66 confirmed cases, and a government crisis committee on Friday widened cross-border travel guidelines and cancelled major international events.
“Should it come to major turmoil in the global economy because world markets and production centres become affected, we have all the means to act fast and decisively,” Scholz told Welt am Sonntag newspaper. “Our fiscal policy is built on a solid footing so that we can deal with a major economic crisis with full force.”
The German economy, Europe’s biggest, has been weakening as its export-oriented manufacturers languish in a recession. There are fears the coronavirus outbreak could sink Germany into a recession, given the economy’s reliance on exports and Chinese supply chains.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s right-left government has resisted calls to take on new debt to finance a fiscal stiumuls to revive a stalling economy. Any decision to unleash a fiscal stimulus would need approval from both Merkel’s conservatives and their Social Democrat (SPD) junior coalition partners.
The SPD’s Scholz said: “If the situation demands that such a stimulus is necessary, we have the means to introduce a fiscal stimulus programme.”
Earlier this week, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said Germany may introduce tax breaks to cushion the effect of the coronavirus should the epidemic worsen.–30089615/

In virus-hit China, coat maker adapts to make hazmat suits

The coronavirus outbreak in China is preventing clothing manufacturer Ugly Duck Industry from resuming its normal production of winter coats, so it has pivoted to another in-demand product: hazmat suits.
The company in the eastern China export hub of Wenzhou hastily repurposed its assembly line, putting the few dozen workers it could muster to produce thousands of single-use protective suits daily.
Ugly Duck—referring to the proverbial duckling that becomes a swan—is among countless Chinese manufacturers heeding calls to address desperate shortages of face masks, , and other supplies to fight the new .
The contagion has killed more than 2,800 people and infected some 79,000 in China, sparking global fears and a run on supplies.
Wenzhou is one the hardest-hit areas, with 504 cases and one death as of Friday, compared with 337 infections in far larger Shanghai.
Along with other cities in Zhejiang province, Wenzhou adopted harsh restrictions on residents’ movements on February 2. Ugly Duck was asked by to do its part.
“As soon as we received this mission, we reorganised our within 60 hours,” company president Pan Yue told AFP.
The suits are sold to the government at cost and intended for local epidemic-control efforts.
But with the virus now hitting other countries, the company plans to continue hazmat production even after normal operations resume as expected in the coming weeks.
“We are considering export to Italy or wherever they are needed,” Pan said. “We want to contribute to society and to the world.”
Hazmat-clad workers
Major production areas in the five-story concrete factory are ghostly quiet expanses of idle sewing machines—testament to the paralysis inflicted on Chinese manufacturing.
But in one workshop nearly the size of a football pitch, the bright-white polypropylene material is first cut into basic shapes, then stitched together in stages, and finally folded and packaged on an by workers who are also clad in the head-to-toe suits to prevent contamination.
Each worker has a bottle of hand sanitiser at their work table.
Underlining China’s enduring ability to foster mass, collective efforts, companies across China—from iPhone maker Foxconn to car manufacturer BYD—have pitched in after news that doctors in front-line epidemic areas were treating patients without proper masks or suits, or were forced to reuse single-use equipment.
Wenzhou, with around three million people in its main urban core, is famed for its commercial prowess.
A trade entrepot for centuries, it was an early pioneer in China’s manufacturing-led economic transformation beginning in the 1970s and today produces a large portion of the world’s eyeglasses and shoes.
But the city remains subdued, its factories hobbled.
Much of Ugly Duck’s roughly 300-strong labour force are migrants from less-developed provinces like Yunnan and Guizhou in China’s southwest.
Only half of the workers have managed to navigate travel restrictions and reduced rail and bus traffic.
“The outbreak has impacted the company because (production) has been delayed for a month,” said Pan.
“But we will do everything to recoup the losses.”

Iran says ‘tens of thousands’ may get tested for coronavirus

Iran is preparing for the possibility of “tens of thousands” of people getting tested for the new coronavirus as the number of confirmed cases spiked again Saturday, an official said, underscoring the fear both at home and abroad over the outbreak in the Islamic Republic.
The virus and the COVID-19 illness it causes have killed 43 people out of 593 confirmed cases in Iran, Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said. He disputed a report by the BBC’s Persian service citing anonymous medical officials in Iran putting the at over four times as much.
But the number of known cases versus deaths would put the virus’ death rate in Iran at over 7%, much higher than other countries. That’s worried experts at the World Health Organization and elsewhere that Iran may be underreporting the number of cases now affecting it.
Yet even as Iran sends spray trucks and fumigators into the streets, officials still are trying to downplay the virus’ reach.
“During these 10 days that we are talking about the coronavirus in the country, more than 480 people of our country has been killed in traffic accidents, but no one noticed them,” Jahanpour said.
The virus has infected more than 85,000 people and caused more than 2,900 deaths since emerging in China. Iran, with 43 people dead, has the world’s highest death toll outside of China. Of the 730 confirmed cases scattered across the Mideast, the majority trace back to the Islamic Republic.
Saturday’s new toll of 593 confirmed cases represents a jump of 205 cases—a 52% increase from the 388 reported the day before. Jahanpour has warned that large increases in the number of confirmed cases would happen as Iran now has 15 laboratories testing for the virus.
Late Friday night, a BBC Persian report citing sources within Iran’s medical community put the death toll at at least 210. State television in Saudi Arabia and associated media, as well as Iranian exile groups, seized on the figure amid their wider political disputes with Tehran.
Jahanpour however disputed the report as being politically motivated, conflating other causes of deaths with the coronavirus and relying on sources without access to Iran’s coronavirus testing labs.
“The queen’s media, BBC Persian, is worried about staying behind Saudi and Albanian networks in the ‘lie competition.'” he said. Albania is home to the Iranian exile group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq.
However, at the same news conference, Jahanpour suggested “tens of thousands” could seek testing for the coronavirus. He also encouraged people to continue to avoid mass gatherings—even funerals for those who died of the virus. Authorities later banned the public from visiting patients at hospitals nationwide, state television reported.
“The safest place is our homes and our cities,” he said. “We have to reduce our visits, even attending to funerals, and of course those people who are mourning, will feel guilty if they find that their ceremony causes the disease to spread.”
Concerns continue to grow, however, as online videos showed an angry crowd setting fire to the courtyard of a medical clinic overnight in the southern city of Bandar Abbas. Semiofficial media reported those gathered wrongly believed the clinic housed people sick with the new coronavirus.
Earlier Saturday, Bahrain threatened legal prosecution against travelers who came from Iran and hadn’t been tested for the new coronavirus, and also barred public gatherings for two weeks.
The tiny island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia has been hard-hit with cases and shut down some flights to halt the spread of the virus.
All of Bahrain’s cases link back to Iran, where even top officials have contracted the virus.
Bahrain’s Interior Ministry said in a statement that 2,292 people had come to the kingdom from Iran before the announcement of the outbreak there. Of those, only “310 citizens” had called authorities and undergone testing, the ministry said, raising the possibility of the untested being arrested and charged if they refuse.
The ministry “affirmed that the required legal proceedings would be taken against anyone who returned from Iran in February and didn’t call to make appointments for the tests,” the Interior Ministry said. “It highlighted that preventing the outbreak of the infection is the responsibility of individuals and society as a whole.”
Sunni-ruled Bahrain has engaged in a yearslong crackdown on all dissent in the island kingdom since its 2011 Arab Spring protests, which saw its majority Shiite population demand greater political freedoms. Militants have launched small, sporadic attacks in the time since which Bahrain security forces blame on Iran, the Mideast’s Shiite power.
Qatar announced Saturday its first coronavirus case, a Qatari citizen who was on an earlier evacuation flight from Iran. The United Arab Emirates said it would indefinitely shut down all nurseries across the country, home to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, beginning Sunday.
Also Saturday, Saudi Arabia announced it would bar citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council from Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina over concerns about the virus’ spread. The GCC is a six-nation group including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Saudi Arabia on Thursday closed off the holy sites to foreign pilgrims over the , disrupting travel for thousands of Muslims already headed to the kingdom and potentially affecting plans later this year for millions more ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan and the annual hajj pilgrimage.
It represented an unprecedented move, one that wasn’t taken even during the 1918 flu epidemic that killed tens of millions worldwide.
Meanwhile, tiny, oil-rich Kuwait simply has told its citizens not to travel abroad anywhere.

Wuhan man details what it feels like to have coronavirus

A Wuhan man who came down with the coronavirus in mid-January said he spent three agonizing weeks with worsening symptoms that began when he woke up one day feeling “sore all over.”
The coronavirus had yet to sweep China when Tiger Ye began feeling ill on Jan. 17, and he suspected nothing more than the common cold or flu, he told the Guardian.
After four days of cold medication and no improvement, he admitted himself to Tongji hospital — where he was greeted by a chaotic scene and “realized something bad was happening.”
“On arrival I saw the hospital already overwhelmed with patients. Seeing doctors in their hazmat suits in real life for the first time, something I’d only seen in documentaries about SARS,” he said.
His parents rushed him to a second hospital that had yet to be hit with a rush of patients where a CT scan showed “patchy shadows on the lower sides of both of my lungs.”
Doctors prescribed him medication and sent him to quarantine at home, where his family stocked up on food and Ye retreated to his room.
A week later, he began to develop a cough and fever, and was re-admitted to the hospital. Tests showed the infection had spread throughout his lungs, but he had yet to be diagnosed with coronavirus.
Ye said that from Jan. 21-26 was “the worst time.”
“I coughed so bad my stomach was hurting and my back ached,” he said, adding, “I thought I may have to say goodbye to this life forever.”
On Jan. 29, his older brother and grandmother — who had been delivering him food to his room — came down with symptoms. On the same day, doctors officially diagnosed Ye with the virus, and prescribed him five days of anti-HIV medication.
By Feb. 4, a test showed improvements in Ye’s lungs. His family also began to feel better. Three days later, doctors declared him coronavirus-free.
Ye said his one regret is not visiting a hospital earlier, rather than dismissing his symptoms as a cold.
“Now that I think of it, I might have missed the best time for treatment, failing to contain the virus with antiviral drugs in its early stages,” he said.

New York will begin coronavirus testing ‘immediately,’ Cuomo says

New York State got the go-ahead from the feds to perform its own coronavirus testing “immediately,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday.
“I spoke to Vice President Pence, I urged him to approve New York State’s Coronavirus test — we just received word that our test has been approved by the FDA,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Testing for the deadly bug, officially called COVID-19, will begin at Wadsworth Lab in Albany.
“This approval will expedite wait time and improve New York’s ability to more effectively manage the Coronavirus situation as it unfolds,” Cuomo added.
New York City is currently monitoring one potential case of coronavirus, a person who recently traveled to Italy. The news comes as the first American death from coronavirus was confirmed Saturday in Washington state.

First Covid-19 outbreak in a U.S. nursing home raises concerns

Washington state reported on Saturday the first death in the U.S. from the new coronavirus, the first health care worker to be infected with the disease, and most worrying, the first known outbreak in a long-term care facility.
At a nursing facility in Kirkland, Wash, approximately 27 of the 108 residents and 25 of the 180 staff have some symptoms, health officials said during a teleconference with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Authorities report that some among them have pneumonia.
“We are very concerned about an outbreak in a setting where there are many older people, as we would be wherever people who are susceptible might be gathering,” said Jeff Duchin, health officer for public health for Seattle and King County. He added that older adults and people with underlying health conditions like diabetes, heart or lung disease should be especially careful to protect themselves by washing their hands, not touching their faces, and avoiding contact with people who are sick.
The deceased, a man in his 50s with underlying health conditions, was not a resident of the facility, and officials have not yet found a link between his case and the outbreak in the nursing facility. “At the present time, we do not see a connection between the two. But there are some evolving threads that are being investigated,” said Frank Riedo, the medical director of infection control at EvergreenHealth Hospital, where the death occurred. “I think … what we’re seeing is the tip of the iceberg,” he added. “We’re seeing the most critically ill individuals. Usually that means there’s a significant percentage of individuals with less severe illness floating around out there. So in all likelihood there is ongoing low level transmission.”
As of Saturday, the World Health Organization reported that there were more than 85,403 cases worldwide, from 46 countries. While most of the cases are still from China, cases elsewhere are on the rise.
The United States has reported more than 60 cases at this point. The bulk of the cases, 47, are people who were evacuated from China or from the Diamond Princess Cruise ship. There have been 15 previous cases in people who contracted the virus overseas.
So far, two people from the nursing facility outbreak have tested positive for Covid-19. One is a health worker in her 40s, who is currently in “satisfactory condition,” Duchin said, while the other is a resident in her 70s with significant underlying chronic health issues and is in “serious condition.”
“We haven’t been onsite yet,” he said, adding that a team from the CDC will be arriving Saturday evening to help investigate and control the situation.
Kathy Lofy, state health officer for the Washington State Department of Health, said that if Washington starts to see more spread, the state might consider social distancing measures, such as canceling large events.
“While there is some spread in some communities, there is not national spread of Covid-19,” said Nancy Messonier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “CDC and the federal government are working to keep it that way.” She emphasized that most people in the United States are at low immediate risk, but added that this was “an historic public health challenge.”
First Covid-19 outbreak in a U.S. nursing home raises concerns

Cuomo urges Mike Pence to let New York handle coronavirus testing

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday he is pushing Vice President Mike Pence to allow New York to perform its own coronavirus testing.
“The CDC has to do all the tests in Washington, how can they handle that volume? I told the vice president … ‘Look … we can do that test, we have the sophistication,’ ” Cuomo said.
The governor, speaking on Long Island Radio, said he talked with the White House’s point man on coronavirus Thursday and told him “this is not going to be a Health and Human Services agency function.
“People are coming into the airport at JFK, they’re coming from a place that may have the virus. You now have more countries that have the virus.”
“How do you test that volume? Which is an issue right now,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo said he wants permission from the feds to perform testing at the Wadsworth Center, the state Department of Health’s research lab in Albany. Right now the state only has the power to identify cases and refer them to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing.
The governor said he also plans to request an extra $40 million in state funds to go toward DOH coronavirus preparations.
“I want to make sure we have what we need and we have it now before you have a world scrambling to buy proper masks and gloves, etc. I want to make sure we can hire the staff now,” Cuomo added.
New York has one possible case — in New York City — in which tests are still pending. Another 27 people suspected of possibly having the virus were tested, but the results came back negative.

Honeywell sees surge in demand for face masks in North America, China

Industrial conglomerate Honeywell International Inc (HON.N) said on Friday it was seeing a surge in demand for its protective face masks in North America, Europe, India and China, following the coronavirus outbreak.
The company said it was increasing production at multiple facilities globally to address the growing demand.
“We are ready and willing to partner with the U.S. government to support national response efforts,” a Honeywell spokesman told Reuters.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Friday the United States will invoke special powers to boost production of masks, gloves, gowns and other items to protect against the new virus.

The number of confirmed U.S. cases of coronavirus is still relatively small at around 60, most of them repatriated American passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan, but there are growing fears that the country is on the cusp of wider outbreak.
U.S. and global stocks plummeted on Friday as rattled investors braced for the prospect that a pandemic could further dent an already slowing world economy, increasing the pressure on governments to quickly respond to the crisis.
The outbreak started in China late last year and the latest World Health Organization figures indicate over 82,000 people have been infected, with over 2,700 deaths in China and 57 deaths in 46 other countries.

FDA to allow some labs to use coronavirus tests prior to review

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Saturday said it will allow some laboratories to immediately use tests they have developed and validated to achieve more rapid testing capacity for the coronavirus in the country.
The policy cleared the way for state public health labs to immediately begin local testing and possibly get results within hours, which public health officials say will be critical to a rapid response to the fast-spreading virus that originated in China.
“Under this policy, we expect certain laboratories who develop validated tests for coronavirus would begin using them right away prior to FDA review,” Jeff Shuren, the director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a statement.
The World Health Organization on Friday said the virus, which causes a sometimes fatal respiratory illness and has spread to 46 countries, poses a “very high risk” at a global level.
On Saturday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state would immediately begin using its own test kit developed in-state. The state’s Department of Health on Friday filed an emergency application with the FDA to request permission to do so.
“We just received word that our test has been approved by the FDA. New York State will begin testing immediately at Wadsworth Lab,” the governor said in a statement, referring to the state’s lab in Albany.
New York’s public health lab was the first in the country to seek emergency authorization from the FDA to use its own testing kits after health officials said faulty tests from the federal government left them unable to diagnose people quickly in New York City, the nation’s most populous city.
There are 62 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in the United States. Most of the people infected fell sick while abroad and before they were repatriated. No cases have been detected in New York City, but Mayor Bill de Blasio and health officials have said its arrival in the city is inevitable.
The weeks-long struggle to expand local testing has been criticized as an early misstep in the response by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to the outbreak.
Trump, who earlier this week described the risk from the coronavirus as “very low” in the United States, said on Twitter he will hold a White House press conference about the virus at 1:30 pm EST (18:30 GMT) on Saturday.
Three weeks ago, the FDA gave the green light for state and local labs to start using a testing kit developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But most labs that received the kits complained they had faulty components and produced inconclusive results, which the CDC later acknowledged.

Meanwhile, the CDC has been working to manufacture new kits that produce more reliable results.
In a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said a newly manufactured CDC test could be sent to 93 public health labs as soon as Monday.

Biotech week ahead, March 2

Biotech stocks came under significant weakness along with the broader market in the week ended Feb. 28. Despite fears the COVID-19 epidemic will likely drag global growth, the viral outbreak proved advantageous for some biotechs that disclosed plans to work on therapies or vaccines for countering the viral attack.
The FDA approved Esperion Therapeutics Inc’s ESPR 3.46% LDL-cholesterol lowering combo therapy and Biohaven Pharmaceutical Holding Co Ltd’s BHVN 8.24% migraine drug.
The following are key catalysts that could move biotech stocks in the unfolding week.


Cowen 40th Annual Healthcare Conference: March 2-4 in Boston, Massachusetts


  • Albireo Pharma Inc ALBO 2.9% (before the market open)
  • Amicus Therapeutics, Inc. FOLD 2.25% (before the market open)
  • Intra-Cellular Therapies Inc ITCI 3.03% (before the market open)
  • Seres Therapeutics Inc MCRB 8.19% (before the market open)
  • Urogen Pharma Ltd URGN 1.83% (before the market open)
  • Wave Life Sciences Ltd WVE 7.52% (before the market open)
  • Fate Therapeutics Inc FATE 1.42% (after the close)
  • FibroGen Inc FGEN 3.06% (after the close)
  • GenMark Diagnostics, Inc GNMK 3.59% (after the close)
  • Omeros Corporation OMER 0.34% (after the close)
  • PTC Therapeutics, Inc. PTCT 2.43% (after the close)
  • Precigen Inc PGEN 1.88% (after the close)
  • ZIOPHARM Oncology Inc. ZIOP 3.34% (after the close)
  • Zogenix, Inc. ZGNX 5.87% (after the close)
  • Antares Pharma Inc ATRS 3.33% (before the market open)
  • Autolus Therapeutics Ltd – ADR AUTL 4.88% (before the market open)
  • Neuronetics Inc STIM 1.86% (before the market open)
  • TG Therapeutics Inc common stock TGTX 1.21% (before the market open)
  • Sierra Oncology Inc SRRA 7.2% (before the market open)
  • Infinity Pharmaceuticals Inc. INFI 3.31% (after the close)
  • Syndax Pharmaceuticals Inc SNDX 12.47% (after the close)
  • VIVUS, Inc. VVUS 3.21% (after the close)
  • Voyager Therapeutics Inc VYGR 2.83% (after the close)
  • DURECT Corporation DRRX 0.56% (after the close)
  • Cytokinetics, Inc. CYTK 0.04% (after the close)
  • Axonics Modulation Technologies Inc AXNX 0.98% (after the close)
  • Orthopediatrics Corp KIDS 4.74% (after the close)
  • Opiant Pharmaceuticals Inc OPNT 0.17% (after the close)
  • Arbutus Biopharma Corp ABUS 5.81% (before the market open)
  • BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, Inc. BCRX 9.29% (before the market open)
  • Eyepoint Pharmaceuticals Inc EYPT (before the market open)
  • Xtant Medical Holdings Inc XTNT 19.58% (before the market open)
  • Fulcrum Therapeutics Inc FULC 2.88% (before the market open)
  • Syros Pharmaceuticals Inc SYRS 12.03% (before the market open)
  • Obseva SA OBSV 0.98% (before the market open)
  • OptiNose Inc OPTN 6.2% (before the market open)
  • Caladrius Biosciences Inc CLBS 0.79% (after the close)
  • Eton Pharmaceuticals Inc ETON 0.74% (after the close)

IPO Quiet Period Expiry

Beam Therapeutics Inc BEAM 1.92%
PPD Inc PPD 2.38%
Apart from scheduled catalysts, any company updates on COVID-19 programs could be of interest for investors given the potential for big swings.

Iran says death toll from coronavirus much lower than reported 200 figure

At least 210 people have died of coronavirus in Iran, the BBC reported, citing sources in the country’s health system, far more than the figure maintained by the government in Tehran.
According to the network’s sources, most of the deaths have come from Tehran and the city of Qom, where the virus was first found in the country.
Iran’s Health Ministry on Saturday updated its death toll for the virus to 43, saying that 593 have been infected with the virus.
Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said that the government was being fully transparent and accused the BBC of lying about the figures.
“Unfortunately nine people died of the virus in the last 24 hours, increasing the death toll to 43,” he told state TV, according to Reuters.
Even that figure would mean Iran has suffered from the most coronavirus-related deaths outside mainland China, where the outbreak began.
The BBC’s report comes after a member of parliament for Qom accused the Iranian government of covering up the reality of the virus in Iran.
The U.S. has also been wary of the accuracy of the reports on the virus coming from the country and pledged on Friday to help support Iran amid the outbreak.
“The United States stands with the people of Iran during the public health crisis caused by the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). The U.S. Government is prepared to assist the Iranian people in their response efforts,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday.
“This offer of support to the Iranian people, which has been formally conveyed to Iran through the Government of Switzerland, underscores our ongoing commitment to address health crises and prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Supporting the Iranian people is and will remain among our top priorities,” he added.
Pompeo called on Iran to “cooperate fully and transparently with international aid and health organizations” as the virus continues to spread worldwide.
On Friday, the World Health Organization raised its coronavirus risk assessment to “very high” but said the outbreak has yet to become a global pandemic.
There are more than 85,000 reported cases of the virus worldwide and almost 3,000 deaths — the vast majority from mainland China, where the outbreak originated.

Pentagon races to counter coronavirus threat on military

The Pentagon is taking care to prevent a slip in national security and readiness following the steady global spread of the coronavirus that has the Department of Defense (DOD) holding off on a military exercise, quarantining fleets and curtailing troop movement.
As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise, DOD in the last week has canceled a joint military exercise with South Korea, restricted access to public areas at Army installations in Italy, and ordered all ships that have visited countries in the Pacific region to remain at sea for 14 days, essentially a self-quarantine.
U.S. Central Command has also ordered a stop to all non-essential travel in the Persian Gulf region.
Such moves seek to “minimize any kind of affect that this virus has on military preparedness,” a defense official told The Hill.
“What DOD is trying to do is take prudent precautionary measure to prevent those kinds of things from affecting the force,” the source said.
No deployments have yet been delayed due to concerns over the virus, but the postponement of military exercises raises the likelihood that troop readiness could suffer.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told lawmakers on Wednesday that Pentagon efforts to curtail the virus “continues to evolve rapidly.”
Leadership is “making sure it doesn’t escape us,” Esper said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
Pentagon heads are also looking into whether the building may need more dollars to handle the spread of the virus, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers at the same hearing.
“It is spreading and we can’t give you a definitive answer on whether we’re going to need additional resources or not,” Milley said alongside Esper. “We are taking all the appropriate measures right now, we’re doing estimates of the situation so we owe you some answers.”
The Pentagon since late January has sought to dampen the risk of spreading the deadly virus within the ranks. More than 84,000 people have been infected by the virus – the majority in China, where the virus originated – though it has spread to 55 countries, including the United States.
As of Saturday, at least 67 coronavirus cases have been recorded in the United States, with one death in Washington state. A U.S. service member in South Korea as well as their spouse also tested positive for the illness.
The department first issued guidance to its personnel and service members on Jan. 30 that informed forces on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of the illness.
Shortly thereafter, on Feb. 2, U.S. military officials in South Korea announced that a 14-day self-quarantine was imposed on U.S. troops who had recently traveled to China.
The Pentagon has since warned that the virus “in an increasing force health protection threat” to DOD personnel, according to a Feb. 25 memo from Acting Undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness Matthew Donovan.
At military installations around the world, DOD personnel and their families are finding themselves restricted by the new threat.
U.S. European Command head Gen. Tod Wolters told Senate lawmakers on Tuesday that in Germany – home to the largest U.S. military presence in Europe at more than 33,000 troops – an anticipated increase in coronavirus cases could lead to restricted troop movement.
In Vicenza, Italy, where 6,000 to 7,000 U.S. troops plus thousands of their family members live and work, the Army has closed on-base schools, childcare centers, churches and gyms as a precautionary measure as the disease spreads across country.
Meanwhile, U.S. Central Command on Thursday issued a memo to military personnel in Saudi Arabia banning all non-essential travel, including “going to the mall, movies, other crowded venues or recreational facilities/establishments.”
In addition, all “leave and liberty travel’ within the Centcom theater is suspended. For example, “personnel assigned to a unit in Riyadh [Saudi Arabia] cannot take a pass/leave/trip to United Arab Emirates (UAE) or Jeddah for the weekend,” the memo states.
And the Navy’s 7th Fleet, its largest fleet, has been directed to remain at sea for 14 days “to permit adequate time for surveillance and monitoring,” of possible cases of the virus.
“Out of an abundance of caution Pacific Fleet is implementing additional mitigations to prevent sailors from contracting COVID-19 and to monitor sailors who have traveled to higher risk areas,” a defense official told The Hill.
The 14-day requirement is waived if the ship is returning to the same port it most recently left from.
The official added that at this time there are no indications that any Navy personnel has contracted coronavirus.
Despite the efforts underway to curtail coronavirus, lawmakers are still concerned that the military’s response may fall short.
Several House lawmakers pressed Esper during Wednesday’s hearing on how the department is preparing for its role in a possible coronavirus pandemic.
And Senate Armed Services Committee member Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) on Friday implored the Pentagon chief on how DOD will protect members of the military and their families from the illness.
“I have questions about the current status of the [Defense Department] response and infection prevention efforts,” Tillis wrote in a letter to Esper. “This global outbreak is concerning and presents an enduring and uncertain threat. The anxieties and concerns I am hearing from our service members and their families are justified.”
The message from the Pentagon on the virus’s threat starkly contrasts that of the White House, which has insisted that the virus is under control, even as the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday labeled it as a high-level threat.
President Trump on Wednesday insisted that is not “inevitable” that the virus will spread across the United States, as health experts have warned, and later at a Friday rally in South Carolina said “the Democrats are politicizing” the virus, which is “their new hoax.”
White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney also downplayed the virus’s threat to the public, claiming on Friday that news media was stoking panic in order to damage the president’s reelection chances.

Trump: ‘very strongly’ eying closing south border amid coronavirus outbreak

President Trump said the administration is “very strongly” considering closing the southern border to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“We are looking also at [the] southern border,” Trump said when asked by a reporter at a White House press conference Saturday about the move. “We have received a lot of power on the southern border over the last couple years from the courts, but we are looking at that very strongly.”
At the press conference, Vice President Pence, who Trump announced on Wednesday would be leading the administration’s response to the virus, announced that the State Department would impose travel restrictions and advisories on Iran, South Korea and Italy, some of the countries hit hardest by the virus.
Hours before remarks to the press, Reuters reported that the administration was considering closing the southern border in an effort to contain the virus.
On Friday, a group of 11 Republicans led by Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) called on the administration to close the U.S. border with Mexico to prevent an outbreak.
“Given the porous nature of our border, and the continued lack of operational control due to the influence of dangerous cartels, it is foreseeable, indeed predictable, that any outbreak in Central America or Mexico could cause a rush to our border,” they wrote.
The letter came the same day a U.S. district court blocked the administration’s “remain in Mexico policy,” meaning asylum-seekers could again await their cases on U.S. soil.
“If today’s ruling is allowed to stand, these successes will be reversed, which threatens to flood the Nation’s immigration system, present unchecked coronavirus entry risk, deeply damage our positive relationship with the Government of Mexico and other regional partners, and reignite the humanitarian and security crisis at the border,” read a White House statement on the ruling.
Mexico’s government announced Friday it had detected three cases of the coronavirus infection in three men who had recently traveled to Italy, making the country the second in Latin America to register the proliferating virus.
Still, as of Saturday afternoon, there are more confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. than in all of Latin America combined.
The cases that exist in the U.S. are predominantly from American citizens who caught the disease while abroad and were repatriated and quarantined. None of those cases have been traced back to Mexico.
The administration was not asked about, nor did it announce, any potential restrictions on the country’s northern border with Canada, which has 16 confirmed cases of the virus.

Biotechnology trade group taps former Biogen CEO as its coronavirus czar

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), the biotechnology industry’s largest trade association, told Reuters on Friday that former Biogen Inc (BIIB.O) CEO George Scangos would coordinate its response to the global coronavirus outbreak.
Scangos, currently the chief executive of San Francisco-based start-up Vir Biotechnology, which is working on a coronavirus treatment, will lead BIO’s efforts to research therapeutics and diagnostics to stave off the spread of the virus.
“The role is still evolving but it is clear someone needs to pick up the reins. It is only natural for us here at Vir to take on a leadership role,” Scangos said in an interview.
A BIO spokesman said about 40 of its members have reached out to the organization to offer their expertise, while about 20 are researching therapeutics, vaccines or diagnostics that target the virus. BIO has spent the last few weeks tracking the programs already under way and helping firms coordinate with one another and government authorities, the spokesman said.
The initiative may have the most value for small biotechnology firms, which unlike their bigger peers are perennially low on cash. Some have never developed a therapy all the way through regulatory approval and have little experience working with agencies such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or the Department of Defense let alone international authorities.
Vir is one of the several companies working on a coronavirus treatment. On Tuesday, Vir announced it had discovered several antibodies that bind to the coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19, after studying patients who survived SARS, a related virus.
The company said it would continue its research in partnership with Chinese drug company WuXi Biologics. Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) and Gilead Sciences Inc (GILD.O) have also said they are researching treatments to combat the virus.

Experts have said that a vaccine would likely take at least between 12 and 18 months to develop.
The latest World Health Organization figures indicate over 82,000 people have been infected, with over 2,700 deaths in China and 57 deaths in 46 other countries.

New York scrambles to replace U.S. government’s faulty coronavirus test kits

New York health officials are trying to get their own coronavirus testing kits up and running after getting stuck with faulty tests from the federal government that they said left them unable to diagnose people quickly in the nation’s most populous city.
New York state’s Department of Health filed an emergency application on Friday with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be allowed to use a testing kit for the new coronavirus it has developed in-state, according to an official involved in the process.
“Upon FDA approval, which we believe is imminent, New York State’s public health laboratory, the Wadsworth Center, can immediately begin testing,” Jonah Bruno, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Health, wrote in an email.
Public health officials say the ability to test locally and get results within hours will be critical to a rapid response to the fast-spreading virus that originated in China, causing a sometimes fatal respiratory illness, and has spread to 46 countries.
The weeks-long struggle to expand local testing has been criticized as an early misstep in the response by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to the outbreak.
Three weeks ago, the FDA gave the green light for state and local labs to start using a testing kit developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But most labs that received the kits complained they had faulty components and produced inconclusive results, which the CDC later acknowledged.
And in New York City, the kit they received was even more faulty than most, meaning city officials could not use a workaround released by the CDC this week. Meanwhile, it has had to courier samples to CDC’s laboratories in Atlanta, adding a day or more to the process.
There are 63 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in the United States, most of whom fell sick while abroad then were repatriated. No cases have been detected in New York City, but Mayor Bill de Blasio and health officials have said its arrival here is inevitable.
Health officials in New York, impatient with the wait for replacement kits to be sent out, copied the CDC protocol in developing their own test kits.
The CDC kits were meant to work by comparing a sample swabbed from a patient’s nose or mouth against three distinctive stretches of the virus’ genetic material, which are in small tubes labeled N1, N2 and N3. Most labs only had issues with the kit’s third component, N3.
After reviewing their data, the FDA and CDC told labs this week that the tests would work fine if they only looked for the N1 and N2 bits of the virus, ignoring the faulty N3 component.
But in New York, both the state lab and the New York City lab said that in their kits the N1 component was also flawed, and that the workaround proposed by the CDC and FDA was of no use.
The CDC advised those labs also facing problems with N1 not to use those kits.
“That was unacceptable to New York,” said Scott Becker, chief executive officer of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, which represents state and local public health labs. “A handful of labs had this issue. It wasn’t very many. But in the case of New York, where they were following multiple people under investigation and with all the global air travel, they really have an urgent need to bring up testing.”
Becker said New York’s was the first public health lab in the country to seek the emergency authorization, and that the FDA said it would act fast after the application was filed.
“They’ve said it’s possible to do it in a day or two,” he said. The FDA declined to answer questions about the emergency approvals.
As of Wednesday, only seven state labs had the ability to test for the coronavirus locally.
Meanwhile, the CDC has been working to manufacture new kits that produce more reliable results.
In a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said a newly manufactured CDC test can be sent to 93 public health labs as soon as Monday.

Jennifer Rakeman, an assistant commissioner at New York City’s health department and the director of the city’s testing laboratory in Manhattan, said that even once the replacement CDC kits arrive it would take time to make sure they work.
“It could be a number of days, and could be on the order of a week or weeks,” she said.

Governor of northern Mexican state confirms new coronavirus case

The governor of the northern Mexican state of Coahuila said on Saturday that a new case of coronavirus had been confirmed in the state, which borders the United States, according to local media.
Governor Miguel Angel Riquelme said the patient, a 20-year-old woman who had traveled to Italy, has been isolated, according to local television station Milenio.
Mexico’s government said on Friday it had detected three cases of coronavirus infection in men who had all recently traveled to Italy, making the country the second in Latin America to register the fast-spreading flu-like illness.

Kim Jong Un warns of ‘serious consequences’ if virus hits N. Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is spearheading efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the isolated country, Reuters reported Friday.
The country does not have any cases on the virus so far, but its neighbors to the north and south — China and South Korea — are the two countries hit hardest by the outbreak.
“In case the infectious disease spreading beyond control finds its way into our country, it will entail serious consequences,” Kim was quoted as saying by the state-run news agency KCNA. “No special cases must be allowed within the state anti-epidemic system.”
He instructed officials to “seal off all the channels and space through which the infectious disease may find its way, and strengthen check-up, test and quarantine.”
In light of that quarantine, 60 diplomats from Germany, France and Switzerland living in North Korea are being evacuated, CNN reported Friday. Other countries are planning to reduce operations in the country but keeping diplomats there.
KCNA posted images and articles of Kim conducting military drills without a surgical mask. As Reuters noted, the aides who accompanied Kim on the military drills had identical black masks, though none of the participants at the meeting did.
“Kim’s activities appear to be intended to highlight to his people that his campaign to build a self-reliant economy is business as usual while boosting military morale and also showing they were not affected by the virus,” Kim Dong-yup, a professor at Kyungnam University in Seoul, told Reuters.

Washington state reports first coronavirus death in US

Officials in Washington state say a person has died of coronavirus, the first such death in the United States.
Health officials in California, Oregon and Washington state worried about the novel coronavirus spreading through West Coast communities after confirming three patients were infected by unknown means.
The patients — an older Northern California woman with chronic health conditions, a high school student in Everett, Washington and an employee at a Portland, Oregon-area school — hadn’t recently traveled overseas or had any known close contact with a traveler or an infected person, authorities said.
Earlier U.S. cases include three people who were evacuated from the central China city of Wuhan, epicenter of the outbreak; 14 people who returned from China, or their spouses; and 42 American passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, who were flown to U.S. military bases in California and Texas for quarantining.
Convinced that the number of cases will grow but determined to keep them from exploding, health agencies were ramping up efforts to identify patients.
The California Department of Public Health said Friday that the state will receive enough kits from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to test up to 1,200 people a day for the COVID-19 virus — a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom complained to federal health officials that the state had already exhausted its initial 200 test kits.
Santa Clara County in the San Francisco Bay Area reported two cases where the source of infection wasn’t known. The older woman was hospitalized for a respiratory illness, and rapid local testing confirmed in one day that she had the virus, health officials said.
“This case represents some degree of community spread, some degree of circulation,” said Dr. Sara Cody, health officer for Santa Clara County and director of the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department.
“But we don’t know to what extent,” Cody said. “It could be a little, it could be a lot.”
“We need to begin taking important additional measures to at least slow it down as much as possible,” she said.
Cody said the newly confirmed case in Santa Clara County is not linked to two previous cases in that county, nor to others in the state.
The Santa Clara County resident was treated at a local hospital and is not known to have traveled to Solano County, where another woman was identified Wednesday as having contracted the virus from an unknown source.
Dozens of people had close contact with the Solano County woman. They were urged to quarantine themselves at home, while a few who showed symptoms of illness were in isolation, officials said.
At UC Davis Medical Center, at least 124 registered nurses and other health care workers were sent home for “self-quarantine” after the Solano County woman with the virus was admitted, National Nurses United, a nationwide union representing RNs, said Friday.
The case “highlights the vulnerability of the nation’s hospitals to this virus,” the union said.
Earlier Friday, Oregon confirmed its first coronavirus case, a person who works at an elementary school in the Portland area, which will be temporarily closed.
The Lake Oswego School District sent a robocall to parents saying that Forest Hills Elementary will be closed until Wednesday so it can be deep-cleaned by maintenance workers.
Washington state health officials announced two new coronavirus cases Friday night, including a high school student who attends Jackson High School in Everett, said Dr. Chris Spitters of the Snohomish County Health District.
The other case in Washington was a woman in in King County in her 50s who had recently traveled to South Korea, authorities said.
Both patients weren’t seriously ill.
The number of coronavirus cases in the United States is considered small. Worldwide, the number of people sickened by the virus hovered Friday around 83,000, and there were more than 2,800 deaths, most of them in China.
But health officials aren’t taking any chances. Some communities, including San Francisco, already have declared local emergencies in case they need to obtain government funding.
The new coronavirus cases of unknown origin mark an escalation of the worldwide outbreak in the U.S. because it means the virus could spread beyond the reach of preventative measures including quarantines, though state health officials said that was inevitable and that the risk of widespread transmission remains low.
California public health officials said Friday that more than 9,380 people are self-monitoring after arriving on commercial flights from China through Los Angeles and San Francisco. That’s up from the 8,400 that Newsom cited Thursday, though officials said the number increases daily as more flights arrive.
Officials are not too worried, for now, about casual contact, because federal officials think the coronavirus is spread only through “close contact, being within six feet of somebody for what they’re calling a prolonged period of time,” said Dr. James Watt, interim state epidemiologist at the California Department of Public Health.
The virus can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. Health officials think it spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.

South Korea reports a record jump in coronavirus cases

South Korea has reported 813 new coronavirus cases, bringing the country’s total infections to 3,150, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday.
That’s a record daily increase in infections since South Korea confirmed its first patient, on January 20. South Korea is calling this a critical moment for containing the spread.
Large swathes of Seoul and other cities appear to be largely deserted.

4 new coronavirus cases in Pacific Northwest suggest community spread

The new coronavirus may to be spreading in parts of the Pacific Northwest, with California, Oregon, and Washington State reporting Friday that they have diagnosed cases with no travel history or known contact with another case.
Health officials in Santa Clara County reported a case of so-called community spread late Friday afternoon — the second in the northern part of the state in the past few days.
Later on Friday health officials in Oregon reported diagnosing a case of Covid-19 — the disease the virus causes — in a person from Washington County who had neither a history of travel to a country where the virus was circulating nor close contact with a confirmed case.
And a teenager from Snohomish County, north of Seattle, was diagnosed with the disease, Washington State health authorities announced late Friday. This individual had not traveled outside the country nor had contact with a known Covid-19 case, they said.
These cases raise the specter that the virus may be spreading stealthily  in the Pacific Northwest region of the country.
The discovery that the virus may be spreading in the country should not come as a surprise, said Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy.
“It just tells us where there is testing, there are cases. … There is no such thing as a barrier containment to keep these out.”
Michael Osterholm. University of Minnesota
“It just tells us where there is testing, there are cases. And that’s what we have to understand,” Osterholm said. “There is no such thing as a barrier containment to keep these out. It’s going to happen. And what we have to do now is get on with how we’re going to deal with them.”
Health officials in Oregon said the infected individual there had spent time in a school in the Lake Oswego school district and may have exposed students and staff there. An investigation is underway and employees and families of children are being contacted, a press release from the state said.
The findings come as more and more states are starting to test for the virus. Many state and local laboratories have been unable to test for the virus until recent days, because of a problem with a test developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The discovery that the virus may be spreading in the country should not come as a surprise, said Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy.
“It just tells us where there is testing, there are cases. And that’s what we have to understand,” Osterholm said. “There is no such thing as a barrier containment to keep these out. It’s going to happen. And what we have to do now is get on with how we’re going to deal with them.”
As of Friday, the World Health Organization reported that there were more than 82,000 cases worldwide, from 46 countries. While most of the cases are still from China, cases elsewhere are on the rise.
The new California patient is a 65-year-old with chronic conditions who had not recently traveled outside the country and who had had no known contact with a confirmed case, health officials in Santa Clara County said.
“This new case indicates that there is evidence of community transmission but the extent is still not clear,” Dr. Sara Cody, health officer for Santa Clara County said. “I understand this may be concerning to hear, but this is what we have been preparing for. Now we need to start taking additional actions to slow down the spread of the disease.”
Cody said individuals need to start practicing good hand hygiene and learn to stop touching their faces — people can infect themselves if they pick up viruses off a contaminated surface, then put a finger in their mouth or rub their eyes or nose.
Families should start working on emergency planning, and schools should make plans for dealing with high levels of absenteeism, she said, adding businesses should be thinking about allowing employees to telecommute, if needed.
Santa Clara is about 90 miles from Solano County, where earlier this week the first known case of a person who was infected in the community lives. The first case, a woman, is reportedly seriously ill and on a ventilator.
Cody said an infectious diseases physician contacted the health department Wednesday about a patient she was treating. The doctor was concerned the individual might have Covid-19 and wanted to submit a sample to be tested. That was done Thursday and an investigation into the individual’s possible source of infection began Thursday evening.
The United States has reported more than 60 cases at this point. The bulk of the cases, 47, are people who were evacuated from China or from the Diamond Princess Cruise ship. There have been 15 previous cases in people who contracted the virus overseas, and three cases where people were infected in the United States. Two of those were spouses of travelers infected abroad.
Problems with a coronavirus test developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have meant that little testing for the new virus has been done in the U.S.
Worried infectious diseases experts have warned that the lack of apparent cases in the country cannot be taken as a sign the virus isn’t spreading, undetected in some places. And CDC officials have been trying to prepare the public for the likelihood that there will be some transmission of the virus in the United States.
Four new coronavirus cases in Pacific Northwest suggest community spread of the disease

Health Care Stocks Aren’t Alone in Getting a Coronavirus Boost

As the coronavirus spread in China and then to more countries around the globe, dairy executive Geoff Babidge noticed a curious development: sales of his company’s infant formula were unexpectedly strong.
A2 Milk Co., the New Zealand-based company that Mr. Babidge leads, responded to the demand by ramping up production and using ships and planes to send more product to China, where he says customs officials give it a priority status similar to medical supplies.
The virus has infected more than 80,000 people globally and killed about 3,000, disrupting global supply lines and knocking stock markets off course. Aside from health-care firms researching possible treatments to the virus, a handful of other companies in sectors ranging from dairy to videoconferencing to online gaming could also benefit financially from the epidemic.
A2’s Australia-listed shares surged 5% on Thursday when the strong demand was disclosed and over the entire week, the stock fell just 1.3% as global markets had their worst run since 2008. Mr. Babidge said customers were buying the infant formula both in stores and online, an attractive option for parents worried about contracting the virus in crowds or while standing in long lines.
“We are here to really do whatever we can to support Chinese consumers,” Mr. Babidge said in an interview. “Our sales are reflecting the fact that we are responding to customer needs, and we’ll continue to do that.”
Elsewhere, shares in San Jose, Calif.-based Zoom Video Communications Inc., which offers videoconferencing services, rose 3.2% this week. The company is providing free services to mental health charities and medical institutions, Chinese universities are using a Zoom platform to keep classes going and doctors from more than 1,000 public hospitals in China are using its video meetings to remotely diagnose patients, Chief Executive Eric Yuan wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.
The company also scrapped its 40-minute time limit on meetings with more than two participants for users in China who aren’t paying a fee, Mr. Yuan said in the post. Zoom declined to comment beyond Mr. Yuan’s post.
Shares in Peloton Interactive Inc., which makes fitness bikes and also streams fitness classes online, rose nearly 5% for the week after an analyst suggested the epidemic could increase sales from fitness buffs who might be concerned about contracting the virus at the gym. Peloton declined to comment on the stock move.
Earlier in February, some online gaming and entertainment stocks in China jumped as investors bet that extended holidays would boost their earnings. Tencent Holdings Ltd. even hit a 20-month high at one point, given that Chinese consumers were using various news and social-networking platforms — including Tencent’s popular WeChat messaging app — to keep abreast of virus-related developments.
Tencent’s shares have given up some of those gains recently, however, and some Chinese tech companies have warned that the virus could have a negative impact on their businesses. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. has said its ability to deliver packages has been hampered by the many workers who are stranded at home while factories remain closed. And search giant Baidu Inc. warned on Friday that its first-quarter revenue could plunge 5% to 13% as the outbreak hurts many sectors that fuel its core advertising business.
Dermot Ryan, a portfolio manager at AMP Capital in Australia, said he could see the appeal of infrastructure stocks that tend to hold up better during downturns. He said his firm is also looking to add stocks that could help with the governmental pandemic preparations, like retirement-home operators.
Mr. Ryan also said companies that diversified their manufacturing and procurement operations out of China due to the trade war with the U.S. could benefit from the coronavirus epidemic.
Back at a2 Milk, Mr. Babidge said it isn’t clear whether the revenue boost during January and February will continue in the coming months. He also didn’t know if a2 Milk has attracted new Chinese consumers, or if it was repeat customers stockpiling product that they would normally have bought in March and April, a scenario which could mean falling sales in the next couple of months.
“This is not about us profiteering from what is a calamity in China,” said Mr. Babidge, adding that his company has donated cash and product in response to the coronavirus. “It’s about us being able to respond to consumer demand, be it people who know our product or people who can’t access other brands.”

Friday, February 28, 2020

Medical Device Company Pulmonx Files for IPO

Pulmonx Corp., a medical device company that provides the Zephyr valve system for severe emphysema, disclosed plans for an initial public offering.
Pulmonx previously filed confidentially for an IPO. The Redwood City, Calif., company is seeking a Nasdaq Global Market listing under the symbol LUNG.
Boston Scientific Corp. owns 30% of Pulmonx. Last May, Pulmonx closed $65 million of equity financing led by Ally Bridge Group.
Pulmonx had 2019 revenue of $32.6 million, compared with $20 million in 2018.

AbbVie Venclexta Combo Leukemia Study Didn’t Meet Primary Endpoint

AbbVie Inc. said a clinical trial of its Venclexta (venetoclax) drug in combination with low-dose cytarabine didn’t meet its primary endpoint of statistically significant improvement of overall survival for patients with acute myeloid leukemia.
Venclexta is being developed by AbbVie and Roche Holding AG.
AbbVie said results from the VIALE-C trial “are indicative of clinical activity” for the combination. The company said the VIALE-A trial evaluating the drug in combination with azacytidine is ongoing.

US schools start planning for possible spread of coronavirus

Schools across the United States are canceling trips abroad, preparing online lessons and even rethinking “perfect attendance” awards as they brace for the possibility that the new coronavirus could begin spreading in their communities.
Districts have been rushing to update emergency plans this week after warned that the , which started in China, is almost certain to begin spreading in the U.S. Many are preparing for possible school closures that could stretch weeks or longer, even as they work to tamp down panic among students, parents and teachers.
President Donald Trump has worked to minimize fears about the virus, but on Wednesday he and recommended that schools start planning for arrival of the COVID-19 virus “just in case.”
“It’s the perfect time for businesses, health care systems, universities and schools to look at their pandemic preparedness plans, dust them off, and make sure that they’re ready,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a Wednesday news conference.
School letters sent home from Florida to California this week sought to assure parents that, in most communities, the risk of exposure to the virus is still very low. Most suggested the same precautions used to combat the flu: Wash hands frequently, cover sneezes and coughs, and stay home if fever or other symptoms arise.
At schools, cleaning crews have been told to pay extra attention to door knobs, keyboards and other surfaces that students touch through the day. Some districts have invested in handheld disinfectant sprayers that are used in hospitals, Others are adding traditional hand sanitizers in schools and buses.
But even as they work on prevention, schools are also starting to prepare for the worst. Many are making plans to teach students online in case the virus spreads so widely that schools are forced to close. Officials are considering how they would handle large numbers of absences among students or teachers, and how to make up days that could be missed because of the virus.
At least one school temporarily closed Thursday over fears tied to the virus. Bothell High School, near Seattle, canceled classes after a staffer’s family member was placed in quarantine for showing symptoms of possibly contracting the virus. Officials said the school was being cleaned and disinfected “out of an abundance of caution.”
In Miami, public school leaders said they’re readying 200,000 laptops and tablets for students in case buildings close and force classes online. They’re also directing new international students to register at two reception centers instead of at school buildings, where students have typically registered.
“If there is one place where a contagion can actually spread, it could be the schoolhouse,” Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, said at a Wednesday news conference. “We are ready. We have protocols in place.”
The district is also among many halting or scaling back foreign travel over concerns about the virus. Miami officials opted to cancel upcoming field trips to Italy and Scotland, while Virginia’s Fairfax County announced it’s suspending all trips to countries where the virus has spread.
In Colorado, where state law requires schools to provide 160 days of instruction per year, education officials are promising flexibility. A Wednesday letter from the state’s education department says it will support schools that “experience a prolonged closure.”
Many districts say they’re awaiting instruction from their state health departments and the CDC. Dallas’ public school district said it’s “reviewing and modifying crisis response plans should an outbreak occur.” Public schools in San Francisco say they’re preparing for exposure of the virus in the district but have “no such cases at this time.”
Districts already have plans to deal with natural disasters, flu outbreaks and other emergencies, and many have planned for widespread infections before, most notably during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. But most have never faced the prospect of closing for weeks at a time, as has happened in China and other countries working to prevent the virus from spreading.
On Thursday, the virus prompted Japan’s prime minister to ask all of the nation’s schools to close for a month as officials work to control the spread of the new virus in the country.
Some U.S. districts say they already have online learning systems that could be used to provide classes online, but not all schools have that technology. Some have started preparing lessons that could be emailed to students instead or sent home in packets.
If schools are forced to close for long stretches, it could have a heavy impact on students who rely on school meals and for parents who use their schools’ child care programs, said Francisco Negrón, chief legal officer for the National School Boards Association. The group is urging school leaders to discuss those issues with local authorities and develop contingency plans.
The group is also asking districts to reconsider attendance awards that are sometimes given to students who don’t miss a day of class for an entire year or semester. Some schools have previously abandoned the practice amid fears that it encourages students to come to school sick, but some still award gift cards, cash or raffle prizes to students with perfect attendance.
“School districts may want to revisit what it means to have perfect attendance,” Negrón said. “We certainly wouldn’t want sick kids to come to school just because their parents are shooting for that perfect attendance award.”
In many districts, nurses are being asked to serve as the front line in combating the virus. Officials at Denver Public Schools said nurses have been trained on guidelines for managing an outbreak and will be respond to any cases and report to health authorities.
A national association of superintendents said it’s pressing the CDC for more detailed guidance for schools as they confront the virus. In the meantime, the American Association of School Administrators issued a letter on Thursday telling schools to use “common sense strategies” focusing on prevention.
The letter urged districts to focus on personal hygiene, to develop procedures for reporting cases and to consider canceling trips to any areas in the U.S. or abroad where there have been outbreaks.
“The classroom is a wonderful breeding ground for viruses,” said Dan Domenech, executive director of the group. “That’s why we need to plan what we’re going to do when we begin to see incidents of the in our schools and in our communities.”