Moderna on track for large COVID-19 vaccine test in July
The first experimental COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. is on track to begin a huge study next month to prove if it really can fend off the coronavirus, its manufacturer announced Thursday — a long-awaited step in the global vaccine race.
The vaccine, developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., will be tested in 30,000 volunteers -- some given the real shot and some a dummy shot.
Moderna said it already has made enough doses for the pivotal late-stage testing. Still needed before those injections begin: results of how the shot has fared in smaller, earlier-stage studies.
But Moderna’s announcement suggests those studies are making enough progress for the company and the NIH to get ready to move ahead.
Moderna launched its vaccine test in mid-March with an initial 45 volunteers. The company said it has finished enrolling 300 younger adults in its second stage of testing, and has begun studying how older adults react to the vaccine. These initial studies check for side effects and how well people’s immune systems respond to different doses. But only the still-to-come huge trial can show if the vaccine works.
Worldwide, about a dozen COVID-19 potential vaccines are in early stages of testing. The NIH expects to help several additional shots move into those final, large-scale studies this summer, including one made by Oxford University.
There are no guarantees any of them will pan out.
But if all goes well, “there will be potential to get answers" on which vaccines work by the end of the year, Dr. John Mascola, who directs NIH’s vaccine research center, told a meeting of the National Academy of Medicine on Wednesday.
Governments are beginning to stockpile hundreds of millions of doses of different vaccine candidates so they can be ready to start vaccinating as soon as scientists learn that one works. In the U.S, a program called “Operation Warp Speed” aims to have 300 million doses on hand by January.
Just Eat swallows Grubhub creating restaurant delivery giant
Two pioneers in restaurant delivery — Just Eat Takeaway.com and Grubhub — are combining in a $7.3 billion deal that will create one of the world's largest delivery companies.
Amsterdam-based Just Eat Takeaway.com said late Wednesday that it was acquiring Chicago-based Grubhub, snatching it away from ride-hailing giant Uber, which had been reportedly seeking to team Grubhub with its Uber Eats business.
The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021. The combined company will be headquartered in Amsterdam, with its U.S. headquarters in Chicago.
Just Eat Takeaway.com and Grubhub processed 593 million restaurant orders in 2019 and have about 70 million users worldwide. Combined, they will be the largest restaurant delivery company outside China.
Just Eat Takeaway.com said it will acquire 100% of Grubhub's shares at an implied value of $75.15 per share. Grubhub shareholders will receive depository receipts representing a portion of shares in the new company.
Grubhub shares closed at $59.05 Wednesday.
If Uber had succeeded in buying Grubhub, it would have given the companies control over a majority of the U.S. food delivery business, but could have run into snags with regulators. Just Eat Takeaway.com doesn’t operate in the U.S.
Arizona hospitals at 83% capacity, elective surgery may stop
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona hospitals that are expected to be able to treat new cases of coronavirus without going into crisis mode were above 80% capacity, a milestone that should trigger an automatic stop to elective surgeries at affected hospitals as the state becomes a hotspot.
The report showing statewide bed capacity of 83%, released Wednesday by the Department of Health Services, comes as the state deals with a surge in virus cases and hospitalizations that experts say is likely tied to Gov. Doug Ducey's ending of statewide closure orders in mid-May.
Ducey has been criticized for not adding requirements that could prevent a surge, and some say the time to put those measures in place has come.
“If we don’t do some things right now we’re going to end up either at a stay-at-home order or over-capacity or both,” former state health director Will Humble said. “But the things that we can do now, they’re going to take time to work.”
They include better infection control in nursing homes, masks in public and allowing cities to crack down on bar districts where social distancing has been ignored, Humble said. Ducey did none of those things when he lifted his orders last month.
Halting elective surgeries would greatly affect patients, since surgical procedures affect their quality of life in measurable ways and are needed. And it would be a major financial blow for hospitals who get a major portion of their revenue from procedures. Many hospitals instituted furloughs, pay cuts or other savings measures during the first ban on elective surgeries.
Disney plans to reopen California theme parks in July
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Disney is proposing to reopen its Southern California theme parks in mid-July after a four-month closure due to the coronavirus, the company said on Wednesday.
Disney Parks, Experiences and Products said in a statement that the goal is to reopen Disneyland and Disney California Adventure on July 17. A nearby Disney-themed shopping area would reopen on July 9.
Advance reservations will be required for theme park visitors and capacity will be limited, the statement said. Events that draw large crowds, such as parades and nighttime spectaculars, won't return immediately and Disney characters will be in the parks but not available to meet with visitors, the statement said.
The plan to reopen the parks, which have been closed since March 14, is still pending government approval.
Disneyland fans normally can bank on the park being open regardless of what’s going on in the world around it. The park closed only a handful of times in 65 years and never for more than a day, according to Jason Schultz, supervisory archivist at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum and unofficial Disneyland historian who wrote “Jason’s Disneyland Almanac.” The last closure was after the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
The proposed reopening date is 65 years after Disneyland first opened its gates in 1955.
Oakland district moves closer to eliminating school police
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Oakland's school superintendent is backing a proposal to eliminate the school police force, which critics have long argued contributes to the criminalization of young black people.
Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammel and a majority of the school board support the proposal introduced at Wednesday's meeting. A final vote is expected in two weeks.
“It has become clear that the District can no longer sit quietly and employ its own police force amid countless acts of violence, particularly against black men and boys,” according to the proposed resolution. “The perpetuation of the school-to-prison pipeline is incompatible with our goal of creating safe, healthy, and equitable schools for all district students.”
The measure was named for George Floyd, the black man who died in Minneapolis after a white officer pressed a knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd gasped that he couldn't breathe. His death last month sparked worldwide protests against racism and police brutality and raised calls to reduce funding for or eliminate police departments.
More and more districts are also reconsidering school resource officers amid protests over Floyd's death. The largest school district in Oregon, Portland Public Schools, cut ties with the Portland Police Bureau. The future of these programs were also being debated in a handful of other urban districts from Minneapolis to Denver, and Seattle schools are kicking officers off campus for a year to evaluate the partnership with police.
Oakland's district has about a dozen officers that patrol 118 schools. The district spends about $2.5 million a year on the force — money that would be put to other uses.
Hawaii extends 14-day quarantine for all incoming travelers
HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii Gov. David Ige extended the state's mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arriving travelers on Wednesday in a bid to keep coronavirus cases in the islands low.
Ige said the rule is being extended to the end of July as the state works to solidify a screening process that could soon allow travelers to return in some capacity.
Officials said they are planning to install thermal screening stations and facial recognition technology at the airports by the end of the year. Ige said the technology would be used only to track people within the airport during the screening process.
Hawaii has among the lowest COVID-19 infection and mortality rates in the nation. Ige enacted a mandatory self-quarantine for all arriving tourists and residents in March.
Some violators of the quarantine rules have been charged including a resident who was arrested this week after she was found to have left her home in Waikiki.
Officials said the state's inter-island quarantine rules will be lifted next week, but anyone with a temperature over 100.4 degrees will not be allowed to fly.
Coronavirus survivor in US receives double lung transplant
Surgeons in Chicago have given a new set of lungs to a young woman with severe lung damage from the coronavirus.
Only a few other COVID-19 survivors, in China and Europe, have received lung transplants.
The patient, who is her 20s, was on a ventilator and heart-lung machine for almost two months before her operation last Friday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
The 10-hour procedure was challenging because the virus had left her lungs full of holes and almost fused to the chest wall, Dr. Ankit Bharat, who performed the operation, said Wednesday.
Doctors have kept her on both machines while her body heals but say her chances for a normal life are good.
“We are anticipating that she will have a full recovery,” said Dr. Rade Tomic, medical director of the hospital's lung transplant program.
The patient was not identified but Bharat said she had recently moved to Chicago from North Carolina to be with her boyfriend.
She was otherwise pretty healthy but her condition rapidly deteriorated after she was hospitalized in late April. Doctors waited six weeks for her body to clear the virus before considering a transplant.
Ohio State University soil professor gets World Food Prize
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A soil scientist whose research led to improved food production and a better understanding of how atmospheric carbon can be held in the soil to help combat climate change was named this year’s recipient of the World Food Prize on Thursday.
Rattan Lal is a professor of soil science at Ohio State University and founding director of the university's Carbon Management and Sequestration Center.
World Food Prize Foundation President Barbara Stinson announced Lal as the winner. The ceremony was held online rather than live in Washington due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
“Dr. Lal is a trailblazer in soil science with a prodigious passion for research that improves soil health, enhances agricultural production, improves the nutritional quality of food, restores the environment and mitigates climate change,” Stinson said.
Lal has developed and promoted the idea that healthy soil must not only have the usual nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but must have depleted carbon restored by leaving crop residue. This focus on soil’s physical properties diverged from the conventional soil fertility strategy in the 1970s, which relied heavily on replacing nutrients by applying fertilizer.
Lal’s research in the 1990s revealed that restoring degraded soils through increasing soil carbon and organic matter not only improved soil health, but helped combat rising carbon dioxide levels in the air by sequestering atmospheric carbon. His analysis showed that soils can sequester carbon at rates as high as 2.6 gigatons per year.
Mall of America reopens nearly 3 months after going dark
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) — The Mall of America was back in business on Wednesday, nearly three months after the Minnesota tourist attraction shut down because of the coronavirus.
About 150 of the 500 stores in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington reopened their doors to a new shopping experience that included signs encouraging social distancing, reduced seating, touchless hand sanitizer stations and plexiglass dividers at checkout areas.
The mall, which is the nation's largest, initially planned to reopen on June 1, but it pushed back the date because of protests in the Twin Cities over the death of George Floyd.
One of the early shoppers, Raekwon Martin, of Bloomington, told the Star Tribune that he wanted to be one of the first people in line.
“I’m used to coming here every week, but during the last few months, I grown used to disappointment," Martin said. "It feels good to be here again and beat the wave.”
Minnesota has recorded nearly 29,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 1,200 deaths from the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The state on Wednesday allowed the reopening of fitness centers, bowling alleys and some other activities, under social distancing rules and other restrictions.
Amazon bans police use of its face recognition for a year
NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon banned police use of its face-recognition technology for a year, making it the latest tech giant to step back from law-enforcement use of systems that have faced criticism for incorrectly identifying people with darker skin.
The Seattle-based company did not say why it took action now. Ongoing protests following the death of George Floyd have focused attention on racial injustice in the U.S. and how police use technology to track people. Floyd died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into the handcuffed black man’s neck for several minutes even after Floyd stopped moving and pleading for air.
Law enforcement agencies use facial recognition to identify suspects, but critics say it can be misused. A number of U.S. cities have banned its use by police and other government agencies, led by San Francisco last year. On Tuesday, IBM said it would get out of the facial recognition business, noting concerns about how the technology can be used for mass surveillance and racial profiling.
It’s not clear if the ban on police use includes federal law enforcement agencies. Amazon didn’t respond to questions about its announcement.
Civil rights groups and Amazon's own employees have pushed the company to stop selling its technology, called Rekognition, to government agencies, saying that it could be used to invade privacy and target people of color.
In a blog post Wednesday, Amazon said that it hoped Congress would put in place stronger regulations for facial recognition.
“Amazon’s decision is an important symbolic step, but this doesn’t really change the face recognition landscape in the United States since it’s not a major player,” said Clare Garvie, a researcher at Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy and Technology. Her public records research found only two U.S. agencies using or testing Rekognition.
Jaywalking arrest of 2 black teens in Oklahoma under review
Authorities in Oklahoma are investigating the arrest of two black teenagers who were accused by white police officers of jaywalking in a Tulsa neighborhood where some areas had patchy sidewalks or no visible footpaths.
Tulsa police on Tuesday released two body camera videos of the officers who handcuffed two black teenagers on June 4 around 5 p.m. for allegedly jaywalking after a video of their arrest went viral on social media.
In one video, an officer approaches the pair from behind who can be seen walking in the middle of the street in what appears to be a residential Tulsa neighborhood. Within seconds, an officer tries to restrain one of the teens who becomes visibly frustrated.
The other video shows both officers forcing the teen to the ground as he physically struggles with them. The other teen tells the teen who’s on the ground lying on his stomach to “chill out.” An officer handcuffed the teen on the ground as the other teen asked the officers why the teen was getting arrested.
“All he was doing was jaywalking,” one officer responds to the teen. “We just want to talk with him. Then he had to act a fool like that.”
The arrests come in the wake of the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd, who died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into the handcuffed black man’s neck for several minutes even after Floyd stopped moving and pleading for air.
The nearly 20-minute videos show an officer remaining on top of the teenager who lied on his stomach even after he was handcuffed.
“Get off me! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” the teen shouted.
“You can breathe just fine,” the officer replied. “You’re fine.”
“Sir, he has handcuffs on. What is he gonna do?” said the other teenager, who later got handcuffed but was sitting on the curb.
The officers repeated to the teenagers that they broke the law because they jaywalked. Body camera videos show that the area had patchy or no visible sidewalks.
Jefferson Davis statue torn down in Richmond, Virginia
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Protesters pulled down a more than century-old statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in the former capital of the Confederacy, adding it to the list of rebel monuments damaged as demonstrations continued following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.
The bronze statue, which stood before a colonnade along Richmond's fame Monument Avenue, lay on its back with dark paint on its face and an arm outstretched after demonstrators pulled it down late Wednesday.
Police were on the scene and videos on social media showed a crowd cheering as the statue, installed by a Confederate heritage group during the days of legalized segregation in the South, was towed away.
The Davis likeness, located a few blocks away from a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that the state is trying to remove, wasn't the only Confederate memorial to come down within a few hours in Virginia.
About 80 miles (130 kilometers) away, protesters in Portsmouth beheaded and then pulled down four statues that were part of a Confederate monument, according to news outlets.
Efforts to tear one of the statues down began around 8:20 p.m., but the rope they were using snapped, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
The crowd was frustrated by the Portsmouth City Council's decision to put off moving the monument. They switched to throwing bricks from the post that held the plaque they had pulled down as they initially worked to bring down the statue.
The Pilot reported that they then started to dismantle the monument one piece at a time as a brass band played in the streets and other protesters danced.
A protester in his 30s was hit in the head as the monument fell, causing him to lose consciousness, Portsmouth NAACP Vice President Louie Gibbs told the newspaper. The crowd quieted as the man was taken to a hospital. His condition was not immediately clear.
Fitness company apologizes for 'I can't breathe' workout
WAUWATOSA, Wis. (AP) — A health club company is apologizing on behalf of a franchisee who posted an “I can't breathe” workout at a gym in suburban Milwaukee.
Photos of the workout instructions drawn on a dry erase board at Anytime Fitness in Wauwatosa were shared widely on social media and generated critical comments.
The “I can't breathe” workout included burpees, or squat thrusts, and the instructions “don't you dare lay down.” It also showed a person in a kneeling position, the Journal Sentinel reported.
The words “I can’t breathe” have been chanted at hundreds of protests and rallies, echoing some of the final words of George Floyd, a black man who died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer held his knee against his neck as he was handcuffed face down in the street.
The Woodbury, Minnesota-based company said it was “profoundly sorry” that the workout was posted.
“No matter what the intent, we absolutely do not condone the words, illustrations or actions this represents. One of our publicly-state commitments to antiracism work is to bolster training efforts for our franchise owners to lead with empathy, love and respect. This incident makes it clear we have more work to do in this space,” a statement from the company read.
Cristobal remnants bring thunderstorms, flooding to Midwest
MILWAUKEE (AP) — The remnants of Tropical Storm Cristobal were moving out of the Midwest on Wednesday and into Canada, with gusty winds and heavy rain leaving behind flooding in Wisconsin, Missouri and Iowa.
High winds brought down trees and left thousands without power in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Nebraska. In rural Iroquois County, south of Chicago, a brief tornado was reported late Tuesday, the National Weather Service said. No injuries were reported.
In western Michigan, Hopkins Village President Terry Weik was taking down flower baskets from his porch Tuesday when the tree in front of his home started to fall toward him, WOOD-TV reported.
“The tree lifted up, it twisted, and it came at me so quick,” Weik said. It punched through the home’s roof, but no one was hurt.
The weather service issued a gale warning through Wednesday evening on Lake Michigan because of the possibility of strong winds creating waves of 6 to 10 feet (1.8 to 3.1 meters). Forecasters warned boaters, swimmers and paddlers to stay out of the water.
Scattered severe thunderstorms were possible Wednesday from Ohio and Michigan into parts of the Northeast, forecasters said.
Storms moving ahead of a cold front caused flash flooding in and around New Orleans and prompted the closure of a section of intestate highway. The state highway department said a portion of westbound Interstate 610 in New Orleans was shut down due to high water.
In western Wisconsin, the rain from remnants of Cristobal washed out portions of some roads. Heavy rain also hit Missouri and Iowa on Tuesday, filling creeks and causing scattered flooding. Some low-lying areas and streets in Iowa were under water Wednesday, following heavy rains.
In Nebraska, storms formed a weak tornado Tuesday evening that briefly razed farmland west of Fairbury in southeastern Nebraska, the weather service said. There were no reports of damage or injuries.
Cristobal's remnants moved into the Midwest after lashing the South. The storm weakened into a depression early Monday after inundating coastal Louisiana and ginning up dangerous weather along most of the U.S. Gulf Coast, sending waves crashing over Mississippi beaches, swamping parts of an Alabama island town and spawning a tornado in Florida.