The U.S. tally of confirmed cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 rose above 9.38 million on Wednesday with infections climbing in 47 states, as hospitalizations set records in seven states and Nebraska was resorting to asking for nurses from other states to come and help address the surge.
Missouri, Oklahoma, Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota and New Mexico all set records for number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals, the Associated Press reported.
With the presidential race still undecided in key swing states after Tuesday’s vote, AP Votecast, a nationwide survey of more than 133,000 voters and nonvoters, found more voters said Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden would do a better job handling the pandemic than incumbent President Donald Trump, but Trump was deemed better able to rebuild the economy, which has shed nearly 11 million jobs during the crisis.
Public health experts contend that the economy will only recover fully once the virus has been contained, making it more urgent than ever that Americans follow the recommended safety measures of social distancing, wearing face masks in public and washing hands frequently. With the winter months expected to force people back indoors, and the holiday season fast approaching, there are growing fears that gatherings will become spreading events.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, urged Americans to get “fully engaged with the public health recommendations.” In a blog post published on Tuesday, Collins cited a recent study in Nature Medicine that found face masks alone could save 130,000 Americans from dying of COVID-19 by March.
“Under any scenario, this pandemic is far from over, and, together, we have it within our power to shape what happens next,” Collins wrote. “If more people make the decision to wear masks in public today, it could help to delay—or possibly even prevent—the need for future shutdowns. As such, the widespread use of face coverings has the potential to protect lives while also minimizing further damage to the economy and American livelihoods.”
Regardless of who wins, Trump will remain in charge until Jan. 20 and is expected to continue to downplay the crisis, and insist that the U.S. has “rounded the corner,” a claim he repeatedly made during his recent campaign rallies and made again at an Election Day event at his campaign’s headquarters in suburban Virginia. Trump has also told his supporters the virus would “disappear” or “vanish” as if by “miracle.”
“What happens over the next two to three months in this period after the election is everything for how many tens to hundreds of thousands of people die over the winter season, and what happens to vaccines,” Dr. Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and founder of Ariadne Labs, told MarketWatch this week.
The U.S. counted 92,660 new cases on Tuesday, according to a New York Times tracker, and at least 1,130 fatalities. In the past week, the U.S. has averaged 88,168 cases a day, up 46% from the average two weeks ago.
The U.S. continues to lead the world by case tally at 9.4 million and deaths at 232,638, or about a fifth of the global totals, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
There are currently 50,340 COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals, the highest number since Aug. 7, according to the COVID Tracking Project and a roughly 57% increase from a month ago.
Cases are climbing in the Northeast again, too, in states that were early hot spots in spring but appeared to contain the worst of the spread through lockdowns, and requiring safety measures.
New York added 2,317 new cases on Tuesday and at least 11 people died. The Empire State has averaged 2,149 cases a day in the last week, up 54% from the average two weeks ago, the tracker shows.
Data released this week by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that cases of COVID-19 in children in the U.S. rose by a record amount in the week ending Oct. 29, its most recent reporting period. There were 61,447 new cases in children that week, the most since the start of the outbreak. In the month of October, there were about 200,000 new cases involving children.
“The data show 111,744 new child cases reported from Oct. 15-Oct. 29,” the AAP wrote. “That adds up to 853,635 cumulative child COVID-19 cases as of Oct. 29, a rate of 1,134 cases per 100,000 children. There were 792,188 total cases in children as of Oct. 22.”
“We are entering a heightened wave of infections around the country,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, professor of pediatrics and epidemiology and population health, and chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stanford University School of Medicine. “We would encourage family holiday gatherings to be avoided if possible, especially if there are high-risk individuals in the household.”
In other news:
• India, which is second to the U.S. by case numbers, counted 38,310 new cases on Tuesday, a ninth straight day in which cases were below 50,000, Reuters reported. Deaths rose by 490 to bring the total to 123,097, according to health ministry data. Cases have come down from a September peak, but officials are concerned of another surge if people gather in large numbers during the coming festival season.
• The U.K. counted its biggest one-day increase in COVID-19 fatalities in five months, with 397 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, government data shows. The U.K. has suffered 47,250 deaths from COVID-19, the data show, the highest in Europe and fifth highest in the world.
• Denmark is planning to cull its entire mink herd because of the risk of coronavirus mutations, the Guardian reported. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told reporters that officials have registered a mutation of the new coronavirus in minks, which has spread to humans. “The mutated virus in mink may pose a risk to the effectiveness of a future vaccine,” she said. Denmark has had repeated outbreaks of the virus at mink farms, the paper reported. Denmark is the biggest producer of mink skins in the world.
• A private gauge of China’s services-sector activity rose at a faster pace in October, signaling a further recovery of business activity at the start of the fourth quarter. The Caixin China services purchasing managers index rose to 56.8 in October from 54.8 in September, Caixin Media Co. and research firm Markit said Wednesday. It was the sixth straight month the index stayed above the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction. The rate of growth was the second fastest since August 2010, Caixin said. Total new order growth accelerated, while orders from overseas clients dipped for the fourth month in a row, according to respondents surveyed by Caixin. The gauge for new export orders remained in contractionary territory as a resurgence of the virus across a number of export markets dampened foreign sales, Caixin said.
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide now stands at 47.6 million, the Johns Hopkins data show, and the death toll is 1.2 million. At least 31.7 million people have recovered from COVID-19.
Brazil has the second highest death toll at 160,496 and is third by cases at 5.6 million.
India is second in cases and third in deaths (See above).
Mexico has the fourth highest death toll at 92,593 and 10th highest case tally at 938,405.
China, where the disease was first reported late last year, has had 91,481 cases and 4,739 fatalities, according to its official numbers.
What’s the economy saying?
U.S. companies added 365,000 jobs to their payrolls in October, Automatic Data Processing Inc. reported Wednesday. The gain was well below forecasts from economists surveyed by Econoday who expected a gain of 600,000 jobs, as MarketWatch’s Greg Robb reported.
In September, the private sector added a revised 753,000 jobs to their payrolls.
Small businesses added 114,000 jobs to their payrolls in October, ADP said. Medium-sized businesses added 135,000 jobs and large companies added 116,000. Manufacturing only added 7,000 jobs in October. The service producing sector had most of the gains, with 348,000 jobs added.
Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expect job gains to slow to a gain of 530,000 jobs in October, down from 661,000 in September. The unemployment rate is expected to fall to 7.6% from 7.9% in the prior month.
Behind the numbers, there are still about 10 million workers who are unemployed as a result of the pandemic.
Separately, data showed the large service side of the U.S. economy was thrown slightly off kilter in October by a record increase in coronavirus cases, but most companies expanded for the fifth month in a row and were “cautiously optimistic” about the fourth quarter, as MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash reported.
A survey of executives at non-manufacturing companies slipped to 56.6% from 57.8% in September, the Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday. Readings above 50% signal that businesses are expanding.
The relatively strong reading in October suggests most service-oriented businesses encountered few disruptions from the record surge in coronavirus cases in the United States.
“Given COVID-19, the adjustments we have made across the company has allowed us to reach previous employment levels, and those furloughed are back to work, said an executive at a financial company.
Finally, the U.S. international trade deficit fell 4.7% in September as exports of farm crops such as soybeans increased, but trade is likely to remain a sore spot for the economy as long as the coronavirus pandemic persists.
The trade gap slid to $63.9 billion from $67 billion in August, the U.S. Census Bureau said Wednesday, matching the forecast of economists polled by MarketWatch.
The trade gap exploded during the summer to a near record high, reflecting a rapid recovery in U.S. imports of autos, consumer electronics and other goods. Yet exports have lagged amid a slump in global demand.
“New restrictions and shutdowns for virus containment will likely weigh on demand and growth going forward,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.
What are companies saying?
• Cedar Fair Entertainment Co.
recorded a third-quarter loss as admissions revenue declined to below one-tenth of last year’s level amid fewer operating days during the pandemic. The Sandusky, Ohio-based theme-park operator’s revenue, which includes admissions, food, merchandise, games and accommodations, declined to $87.5 million from $714.5 million in the same quarter last year. Admissions revenue fell to $33.4 million from $382.8 million in the year-ago period. After an initial closure in mid-March due to the pandemic, Cedar Fair resumed partial operations at its parks on a staggered basis over the summer. The third quarter had a total of 314 operating days, compared with more than 1,000 in the same period last year. In-park per-person spending decreased by 5% year over year, mostly due to people spending less on tickets that give permission to bypass lines. After recording a cash-burn rate of about $25 million per month in the third quarter, Cedar Fair said it finished the period with $225 million of cash on hand.
• Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc.
reported a surprise third-quarter adjusted profit but revenue that fell more than expected as the pandemic curbed travel. Revenue dropped 61.0% to $933 million, below the FactSet consensus of $963.5 million, as comparable revenue per available room (RevPAR) fell 59.9% to $44.95, missing expectations of $47.50. “The vast majority of our properties around the world are now open and have gradually begun to recover from the limitations that the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed on the travel industry, with occupancy increasing more than 20 percentage points from the second quarter,” said Chief Executive Christopher Nassetta. “While a full recovery will take time, we are well positioned to capture rising demand and execute on growth opportunities.”
• J.Jill Inc.shares
tumbled, after the struggling women’s apparel retailer said it approved a one-for-five reverse stock split, aimed at lifting the trading price of the stock, which has languished as the company’s sales shrank during the pandemic. When the reverse split becomes effective, which is expected on or about Nov. 9, shareholders will receive one new share of J.Jill common stock for every five shares of they currently own. That would effectively lift multiply the price of the stock by five; based on Tuesday’s closing price of 75 cents, the reverse split would lift the trading price to $3.75. “The reverse stock split is intended to, among other things, increase the per share trading price of the company’s common stock in order to regain compliance with the NYSE’s continued listing standards,” J.Jill said in statement. The stock hasn’t closed above $1.00 since Feb. 24. The company had staved off filing for bankruptcy in after its lenders and shareholders agreed to support a restructuring deal.
• Wendy’s Co.
reported third-quarter revenue that missed expectations during the pandemic. Revenue of $452.2 million was up from $437.9 million last year but below the FactSet consensus for $454.0 million. Global same-restaurant growth of 6.1% was ahead of the FactSet consensus of 5.4% growth and was the highest rate of growth in 15 years, according to a statement from Chief Executive Todd Penegor. U.S. same-restaurant growth of 7% also beat the FactSet consensus for a 6.8% rise. Nearly all Wendy’s restaurants, 99%, were operating as of Sept. 27. Wendy’s increased its quarterly dividend by 40% to 7 cents per share, payable on Dec. 15 to shareholders of record as of Dec. 1. Wendy’s repurchased 100,000 shares in the third quarter and has repurchased the same amount thus far in the fourth quarter. Wendy’s did not give guidance due to the uncertainty from the coronavirus pandemic.