WASHINGTON — The U.S. government will start Wednesday to distribute the limited supplies of a newly authorized antibody drug for those with mild or moderate COVID-19 in hardest-hit states.
On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration agreed to allow emergency use of Eli Lilly’s experimental drug in non-hospitalized patients while studies continue to determine its safety and effectiveness. The treatment aims to help the immune system clear the virus and is given once through an IV.
The government has spent $375 million to buy 300,000 vials, each containing 700 milligrams of the drug, and says each vial is a treatment course. However, only a dose four times higher proved effective in results revealed so far. Federal scientist Dr. Janet Woodcock said she believes the lower dose still does some good.
The drug is prioritized for people 65 and older or with certain chronic health problems who are at high risk of worsening and requiring hospitalization. At first, the drug will be sent to hospitals and hospital-affiliated locations that are set up to give the infusion.
The drug itself will be free, but the infusion fee is around $300, so Medicare patients will pay 20% of that, or $60, unless they have other insurance covering it. Medicaid will cover the entire cost, along with some other programs.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— President-elect Joe Biden, stressing health care as he prepares to take office in a pandemic, champions Affordable Care Act as it goes before the Supreme Court
— Intensive care space is dwindling across Europe as beds fill again with coronavirus patients
— Brazil’s health regulator has halted clinical trials of the potential coronavirus vaccine CoronaVac, citing an “adverse, serious event″
— US allows 1st emergency use of an experimental antibody drug for mild to moderate COVID-19
— A safe Thanksgiving is possible, though health experts know their advice about avoiding the risks are tough to swallow
— Peruvian lawmakers vote to remove president over handling of the pandemic and alleged corruption
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
BUDAPEST — Hungary will extend a state of emergency for 90 days.
The nation of 10 million is witnessing a surge of new coronavirus cases. The rate of positive tests is nearly 32%, well above the 5% recommended by the World Health Organization.
New restrictions in Hungary include a nighttime curfew and business closures. There will be limits on sports events, family gatherings to 10 people and remote learning for high school and university students.
Hungary’s foreign minister says a Hungarian vaccine manufacturer is in negotiations with Russia’s Ministry of Health and Direct Investment Fund on domestic production of a Russian vaccine.
Hungary’s daily deaths surpassed 100 for the second time on Tuesday with 103, bringing the confirmed total to 2,596. Nearly 119,000 people have tested positive since the start of the pandemic.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norway is granting an exemption from the two-week quarantine rules so the Nobel Peace Prize winners can attend on Dec. 10.
The decision came Tuesday after Norwegian health authorities had recommended the exemption. The delegation of the winner — the World Food Program — will attend the ceremony on Dec. 10 in Oslo.
Health Minister Bent Hoeie says the U.N. agency, which won for its efforts to combat hunger, will send a delegation “as small as possible, an estimated 15-20 people.”
The award ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize, traditionally held at the Oslo city hall, will be held at the city’s university because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The prize comes with a 10-milion krona ($1.1 million) cash award and a gold medal.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The University at Albany switched to remote learning on Tuesday, and Syracuse University will do the same next week.
University at Albany president Havidán Rodríguez says the school will switch to remote learning for the rest of the semester because of a spike in coronavirus cases.
Syracuse University says it will suspend all in-person events sponsored by the school and move classes online next week. Sports teams still will compete this fall.
They are the latest colleges to switch to online classes as coronavirus cases increase in New York.
OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and first lady Susanne Shore have gone into quarantine after both were exposed to a person with the coronavirus.
Ricketts spokesman Taylor Gage says Ricketts and Shore had dinner outside with three other people on Sunday night. One of the people who was with them tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday.
Gage says Ricketts and Shore will quarantine for 14 days. Neither is showing any symptoms, and both will get tested. The Republican governor plans to remotely host his scheduled Tuesday and Thursday coronavirus news briefings.
Nebraska had the sixth-highest rate of new cases in the nation on Monday. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases increased over the past two weeks from 818 on Oct. 26 to 1,757 on Monday.
Nebraska reported 1,582 new cases and seven more deaths Monday, increasing the totals to 85,551 confirmed cases and 710 deaths.
LONDON — Britain’s health secretary says officials will conduct mass testing for the coronavirus at 66 local areas in England.
Matt Hancock says local public health authorities have expressed interest in asking everyone to be tested, whether or not they have coronavirus symptoms, to find “hidden” infection cases. He told Sky News the tests, which can give results in 15 minutes, can be made available to health authorities across the U.K.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged all of Liverpool’s residents to take part in the mass testing trial to help curb the virus spread. About half of Liverpool’s 500,000 residents have been tested since Friday, according to the city’s mayor. The mass trial showed that 154 or about 0.7%, tested positive.
Meanwhile the BBC reported university students will be offered a week of mass testing in the first week of December so that they can return home safely for Christmas.
Johnson said Monday the number of COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital increased to 13,000 last, nearing the level in the previous peak.
MOSCOW — Moscow authorities announced two-month restrictions in the Russian capital as coronavirus infections soar across the country.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has ordered cafes, restaurants, bars and night clubs to close between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., and college and university students to move to online classes. Theaters and cinemas are limited to 25% capacity and all mass cultural and entertainment events are halted. The restrictions start Friday and run through Jan. 15.
Russia has been swept by a resurgence of coronavirus cases since September, with daily infections spiking to more than 20,000 this week.
On Tuesday, Russian authorities reported 20,977 new cases, with 5,902 in Moscow, bringing the country’s total to over 1.8 million. The government’s coronavirus task force has registered more than 31,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
MADRID — Spain’s top health official says the government wants to inoculate against COVID-19 at least 10 million of the country’s 47 million using a new vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech.
Pfizer Inc. says its COVID-19 vaccine may be 90% effective, based on early and incomplete test results that nevertheless brought widespread optimism.
Health Minister Salvador Illa said Tuesday the vaccination would be free. He expects enough people in Spain will be inoculated, together with purchases of other vaccines, by May 2021.
The country expects to receive the first doses from Pfizer in early 2021, the minister told public broadcaster TVE. He vowed to counter with scientific arguments people who are against vaccinating. The country’s polling institute, CIS, says 43% of Spaniards are wary of receiving the vaccine.
“We are going to be very clear and convincing against people who tell lies and who play with anti-science,” Illa said.
Spain has recorded more than 39,000 virus-related deaths and more than 1.38 million cases.
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal’s prime minister says more than half of the country’s intensive care beds earmarked for COVID-19 patients are occupied.
Prime Minister Antonio Costa says the public health service currently has 704 ICU beds to cope with the new coronavirus pandemic and 433 are taken.
Costa told broadcaster TVI that the number of ICU beds can be increased to 944, but that would affect the care of other patients.
The number of COVID-19 hospital admissions in Portugal has surged from 350 on Sept. 1 to more than 2,650.
Portugal has a 14-day cumulative number of 590 cases COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population, placing it 12th highest in the ranking of 31 European countries by the European Centre for Disease Control.
SAO PAULO — Brazil’s health regulator has halted clinical trials of the potential coronavirus vaccine CoronaVac, citing an “adverse, serious event.”
The decision posted on Anvisa’s website Monday night elicited immediate surprise from parties involved in producing the vaccine.
The potential vaccine is being developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac and in Brazil would be mostly produced by Sao Paulo’s state-run Butantan Institute. Sao Paulo state’s government says it “regrets being informed by the press and not directly by Anvisa, as normally occurs in clinical trials of this nature.”
Butantan says it was surprised by Anvisa’s decision and it would hold a news conference Tuesday.
Sinovac issued a short statement in China on Tuesday saying it was in touch with Brazilian authorities. “The clinical study in Brazil is strictly carried out in accordance with GCP requirements and we are confident in the safety of the vaccine,” it said, referring to Good Clinical Practice standards.