Carona Today (July 19th): Remdesivir costs 93 cents to make, but $520 to buy

The rate of new infections in North Carolina has been increasing ever since the state ended quarantine. Beginning May 8th (when Phase 1 of reopening began) and counting every 10 days, we’ve seen 3,481 new cases, 5,358, 7,551, 9,487, 12,680, 13,644, 15,865, and +18,609. By tomorrow (for 10 days of data) that should be an increase of 23,261 new cases. That’s an average of over 2,000 new cases per day. Our state continues to set new records for COVID-19 hospitalizations: 1,180, set yesterday. Deaths continue to rise as well.

 

* North Carolina again sets records for COVID-19 tests and new cases this week. The positive rate for tests (a key metric that accounts for increased testing finding more cases) was 9% on Friday. Health experts want this number to be 5% or lower. Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Durham, and Orange county schools will not open for in-person classes in August, but will resume education through remote learning. Wake County continues to be the worst hot zone in the state.

* I tried finding the News & Observer’s list of which schools will be open for in-person learning, and which will stay remote only, but their information is locked behind a paywall. During a devastating pandemic. In a state where new cases have been described as “uncontrolled spread”. I suppose worried parents will just have to randomly guess, and roll dice with their children’s lives.

* I wanted to link to another News & Observer story about UNC needing 50% budget cuts due to the pandemic, but I can’t read it without creating a free account. I tried using the “sign in with Twitter” option, but N&O wants the ability to: read all my tweets including private Direct Messages, follow and unfollow accounts without my permission, post and delete tweets from my timeline without my permission, create, manage, and delete lists for me without my permission, etc. It’s a stunning privacy violation and there’s no excuse for a news website needing this much control over my Twitter account.

* Childcare centers are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks now. Mecklenburg generally has a positive test rate of 11.4% and climbing.

Texas

* 85 babies have tested positive just in Texas’ Nueces County. The county director of health is literally begging Texans to wear masks: “These babies have not even had their first birthday yet. Please help us stop the spread of this disease.” Texas’ GOP Governor finally issued a mask wearing mandate for most counties but unlike parts of California, is not considering reissuing stay-at-home orders for the worst counties.

* Texas set another new record for new cases on Friday: 14,916. It was 10,291 new cases just the day before. One testing lab has a backlog of over 5,000 tests… just in San Antonio. As with North Carolina (a state not nearly as bad… yet) all metrics are increasing at the same time: tests, positive tests, hospitalizations, and deaths. Those numbers won’t level off or drop without a change in public behavior, and the question that should be asked of anyone opposing changes (like mask requirements in public) is: how many people have to die per day before you agree things need to change?

* Sometimes a story title really does sell itself: “I Was a Military COVID Planner. Trust Me: Texas Is Fucked

* 1,000 inmates in a single federal prison in Texas have tested positive. That’s more than half of the prison’s total population.

* 14% of all U.S. cases are coming from Texas. It was 20% on Tuesday.

National

* New York set a new low in hospitalizations since March 18th and has a state-wide positive test rate of just 1.08%. After being the worst state in the nation for COVID-19, New York has transitioned to being one of the best. Why? Aggressive contact tracing, social distancing, mask wearing, and not rushing to reopen.

* Carona is on track to become the world’s leading cause of death: “The United States has the highest number of fatalities and is the only country reporting more than 100,000 deaths.”

* Florida had 10,328 new cases yesterday, and four straight days of more than 100 deaths. The state is at 120% of ICU capacity.

* Remdesivir creator Gilead is charging $520 per vial for a drug estimated to cost juts 93 cents to manufacture. A week long course costs over $3,000 — if you have insurance. The U.S. government is paying $1.5 billion for the company’s entire stock (no attempt was made to negotiate this price.) It only cost Gilead about $30,000 to manufacture that, for a profit margin of 99.998%.

* Donald Trump wants to block federal spending for COVID-19 testing and cut spending for the Centers for Disease Control in the next Carona-related legislation, causing the White House to fight with Republicans in Congress. The price tag being fought over: about $25 billion. Democrats have been calling Mitch McConnell and other Congressional Republicans trying to get support for another economic stimulus bill as the economy continues to cater, but nobody on that side of the aisle is picking up the phone.

* The U.S. Senate is coming back from vacation, but it’ll go on another month long vacation in August in just two weeks. Your representatives working hard during this economic and health crisis.

* Republicans declared the previous economic impact bill as the last and final, but have recently caved and accepted that another is needed. They are again calling this the final attempt to help Americans through the crisis which by all metrics is getting worse by the day and has no end in sight. Democrats passed a $3 trillion bill in the House, but Senate Republicans only want $1 trillion (less than half the size of the last one.) The main reason for the difference: for the first time in the nearly four years since a Republican became president, Congressional Republicans are suddenly concerned about the national debt again. It does appear another economic impact payment will be come. Whether it will be $2,000 like Democrats want, $1,200 which Republicans may agree to, or less as some Republicans want, is up in the air. Some in the GOP want to tie payments to proof that people are unemployed and seeking work, a policy position they typically apply to unemployment specifically and welfare generally. As for unemployment itself, it’s 50/50 whether the $600 boost will be extended. Many Republicans (and only Republicans) want to end it right now.

* In news that should shock absolutely nobody: there are significant disparities in how quickly minorities and the poor got their economic impact payments. Whites and those with higher income levels got their payments significantly faster than blacks and the poor. One big hurdle: the IRS’s online tool for submitting banking information to speed up processing required access to a digital device (computer, smart phone) and the Internet, which many poor Americans don’t have. Many (45% of Americans in poverty) don’t even have bank accounts. More than ten million Americans still haven’t gotten their economic assistance (including myself.)

* A guy wrote into Marketwatch complaining that he didn’t get an economic impact payment because he has unpaid child support, saying “It’s not fair.” I agree, that’s not really fair. The government should have sent that money to the kids he abandoned instead.

* A teacher in Israel warned about how dangerous it was that parents at home being quarantined for Carona virus were sending their children into open public schools. She’s dead now. She died from Carona virus.

* A 17-year-old girl in Florida attended a huge church gathering without wearing a mask (nobody did) and there was no social distancing. She’s been immunocompromised since birth. When she became sick, her parents gave her hydroxychloroquine. She’s dead now. She died from Carona virus.

* Game show host Chuck Woolery got a lot of attention recently for tweeting “The most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid 19. Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust. I think it’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election. I’m sick of it.” Woolery’s son was diagnosed with COVID-19 a day later. President Donald Trump had earlier retweeted that crazed statement. Woolery has since deleted his Twitter account.

About Paul Tenny

I'm not a journalist but I do it anyway. I cover elections and have interviewed television writers and producers.