Coronavirus Live Updates: Vaccine Tests Show Early Promise, Drugmaker Says, Rallying Wall Street

Stocks climbed after encouraging data about the first coronavirus vaccine tested in people.

The drugmaker Moderna said Monday that the first coronavirus vaccine to be tested in people appears to be safe and able to stimulate an immune response against the virus.

The findings, which quickly prompted a rally on Wall Street, are based on results from the first eight people who each received two doses of the experimental vaccine, starting in March.

Those people, healthy volunteers, made antibodies that were then tested in human cells in the lab, and were able to stop the virus from replicating — the key requirement for an effective vaccine. The levels of those so-called neutralizing antibodies matched the levels found in patients who had recovered after contracting the virus in the community.

Limited data from the early phase, however leaves much uncertainty around the vaccine’s potential success.

If those trials go well, a vaccine could become available for widespread use by the end of this year or early 2021, Dr. Tal Zaks, Moderna’s chief medical officer, said in an interview. How many doses might be ready is not clear, but Dr. Zaks said, “We’re doing our best to make it as many millions as possible.”

Despite the uncertainties, the company’s announcement rapidly encouraged investors, who also welcomed a pledge from Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, that there was “really no limit” to what the central bank could do with its emergency lending facilities.

The S&P 500 rose nearly 3 percent in early trading, recouping an entire week’s worth of losses, and Moderna’s shares surged about 20 percent. Stocks in Europe were 3 to 4 percent higher.

Monday’s rally had all the characteristics of one focused on the prospects for a return to normal. Travel stocks, like United Airlines, Expedia Group and Marriott International, were among the best performers in the S&P 500, rising as much as 10 percent.

The World Health Organization is holding its first global assembly since the start of the pandemic on Monday, an extraordinary virtual meeting of heads of state and health experts from around the world to try to coordinate an effective international response to a crisis that is far from over.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the W.H.O., said the gathering was perhaps the most important for the world body since it was founded in 1948.

President Xi Jinping of China addressed the assembly Monday morning and defended his nation’s handling of the outbreak, saying that officials had acted with transparency.

When big companies got loans backed by the federal government’s $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program, outrage ensued. Many people expressed anger that the government’s main vehicle for helping mom-and-pop shops struggling during the pandemic was being undermined.

Escalade returned the funds, hoping to avoid running afoul of new federal guidelines for the loans and betting states would loosen stay-at-home restrictions enough to restart operations. RealNetworks kept its loan and says it will use it to bring workers back this week.

The report is the first in what will be a monthly review of how the funds are being used. The money, which was allocated as part of the $2 trillion CARES Act, is being used to provide grants and loans to airlines and companies that are vital to national security and to backstop lending programs designed by the Fed.

The programs are just getting up and running. The report says that Treasury has yet to disburse the $46 billion in grant and loan money to airlines or businesses critical to national security. Thus far, it has only used $37.5 billion for the Fed’s Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility, which purchases outstanding corporate bonds through a special purpose vehicle. The Fed’s other facilities, which are intended to keep credit flowing to businesses and state and local governments, are expected to be operational in the coming weeks, though the timeline remains highly uncertain.

The bipartisan commission is comprised of two Republicans, Senator Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania and Representative French Hill of Arkansas, and two Democrats — Bharat Ramamurti, a former economic adviser to Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Representative Donna Shalala of Florida.

The commission questioned how the Fed and Treasury will measure the success of the programs. Signaling its areas of concern, it questioned if the Fed facilities will favor large companies over smaller ones and if the agencies believe that the loan money will help stabilize the economy regardless of how it is used.

The next report is due in late June.

The Paycheck Protection Program has largely neglected minority-owned businesses, a survey finds.

By comparison, in a survey of small businesses by the Census Bureau from April 26 to May 2, three-quarters said they had asked for a loan and 38 percent of them said they had received one.

The program was the first time some black and Latino business owners had ever sought a bank loan. Two-thirds of the respondents sought loans of under $50,000 through the government’s aid program. Nearly half said they had to lay off at least some employees.

Rashad Robinson, the president of Color of Change, said the survey showed that “if we don’t get policies to protect these communities, we will lose a generation of black and brown businesses, which will have deep impacts on our entire country’s economy.”

Across the country, governors are engaging in a precarious balancing act, weighing the risks of reopening their states with the acute need to minimize economic harm. The pendulum will move further toward the economy this week, when several more states, including Connecticut, Kentucky and Minnesota, move to reopen.

A stay-at-home advisory is also scheduled to expire in hard-hit Massachusetts, where Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, is expected to announce reopening plans on Monday.

But even governors who have allowed certain returns to business have expressed hesitance, and public health officials have been warning for weeks that reopening too soon could lead to a devastating second outbreak.

“This is really the most crucial time,” Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, said Sunday on CNN. “And the most dangerous time.”

Similarly, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, a Democrat, said on CNN that he understood “the stress and anxiety that people have,” citing upended dreams and depleted savings. “The question is,” he added, “how do you toggle back and make meaningful modifications to the stay-at-home order?”

Mr. Trump has continued to express his eagerness to see a resumption of some activities. In telephone comments during a golf broadcast on Sunday, he said he missed sports and wanted “big, big stadiums loaded with people.”

The changes this week will include more modest shifts, including the reopening of stores and malls in Minnesota on Monday. On Wednesday, hard-hit Connecticut is expected to reopen salons, museums and office buildings. By Friday, stores and restaurants are expected to open back up in Kentucky.

Even in lower-risk counties, a significant proportion of the population is living with these conditions.

Public health experts warn that these areas may not be adequately prepared for new waves of infection, even as some have lifted restrictions meant to curb the spread of the virus.

“Places that have not seen a lot of infection yet should be thinking about what infection is going to mean once they have an outbreak there,” said Micaela E. Martinez, a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

“This infection is highly contagious and we have no vaccine, so it will inevitably sweep through our populations unless we have very tight measures in place to prevent that from happening,” Dr. Martinez said. Once it does, the overall health of a community will matter, she added.

“This economy will recover; it may take a while,” Mr. Powell said in an interview on the CBS program “60 Minutes.” “It may take a period of time, it could stretch through the end of next year, we don’t really know.”

Asked whether the economy could recover without an effective vaccine, Mr. Powell suggested that it could make a start, but not get all the way there.

“Assuming that there’s not a second wave of the coronavirus, I think you’ll see the economy recover steadily through the second half of this year,” he said. “For the economy to fully recover, people will have to be fully confident, and that may have to await the arrival of a vaccine.”

Major markets were up less than 1 percent. Oil prices also rose on futures markets, while prices of the longer-term U.S. Treasury bonds fell, both signs of investor optimism. Futures markets were predicting that Wall Street would open about 1 percent higher.

Investors were looking for silver linings as the world grapples with lockdowns and other restrictions.

In his 20 years in and out of homelessness, Ollie Harris has seen a lot of things. But what happened on a recent Friday near his tent in Oakland, Calif., was new.

“Would you like to be tested today?” asked a woman who was wearing a surgical mask.

“I might as well,” Mr. Harris replied. A nurse quickly swabbed Mr. Harris’s nostrils and throat and then jotted down his information.

So far, their work has raised as many questions as it has answered. But there have also been intriguing, if still tentative, findings.

The experts leading these efforts said they acted to fill a void. Eva Harris, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, Berkeley, said that watching the virus spread around the world while bickering government leaders hesitated to act was like witnessing the Titanic speeding toward the iceberg.

“We finally just said, ‘OK, it hit,’ and still nothing happened, so we need to get involved,” she said.

He would run from crashing patient to crashing patient, always at the bedside where it was most dangerous.

“One of the sad stories of this pandemic is that we’re losing people that we couldn’t afford to lose,” Dr. Robert F. Foronjy, Dr. Mahoney’s boss, said.

A late morning drive down Fifth Avenue, starting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the lanes are normally choked with inching traffic, now passes by almost impossibly quickly.

The notorious F.D.R. Drive along the East River, prone to random standstills throughout its long stretch, now feels more like a Grand Theft Auto game.

In Brooklyn, turn a corner and see a line of people standing six feet apart and still as stone, masked, awaiting permission to enter Whole Foods.

It cannot last, of course; drivers are already seeing an increase in traffic from a month ago, with much more to follow as people venture out of quarantine, wary of public transportation.

But for now, an emptiness remains. No gridlock, no rush hour. Just numbers rolling over on the odometer, the spring afternoon flitting past the window, the smartphone map showing very little yellow or red.

It’s a very pleasant surprise, until you remember what brought it about, at what cost.

“Post-apocalyptic,” one van driver said of the experience. “You’re flying down 278 and there’s no one there and it’s four o’clock in the afternoon.”

“The auto industry is America’s economic engine,” Jim Farley, Ford Motor’s chief operating officer, said in a recent conference call on the company’s reopening plans. “Restarting the entire auto ecosystem is how we restart the economy.”

Production will not bounce back quickly. The revival will unfold as dozens of auto plants and hundreds of factories owned by parts suppliers gear up and start making and shipping products.

It will also depend on how quickly stay-at-home orders are loosened in the United States, Canada and Mexico, because the industry’s supply chains are closely intertwined across North America.

Using the crisis to help your children grow.

Parents can help children use the stress of coronavirus shutdowns as an opportunity for growth, experts say.

Updates from Times correspondents around the globe.

Japan’s economy becomes the largest to officially enter a recession. A Canadian military jet crashes during a flyover for coronavirus workers.

Reporting was contributed by Alan Blinder, Eileen Sullivan, Sarah Mervosh, Nadja Popovich, Anjali Singhvi, Matthew Conlen, Michael Schwirtz, Jeanna Smialek, Alan Rappeport, Neal E. Boudette, Denise Grady, Emily Flitter, Kaly Soto, Marc Santora, Melina Delkic, Jane E. Brody, Abby Goodnough, Adam Liptak, Max Brimelow, Julie Chang, Pedro Cota, Kristen Hwang, Alex Matthews, David McCabe, Sharon Otterman, Rick Rojas, Neil Vigdor and Michael Wilson.

Source link