Robert T Babbitt PLLC

Issue 12, Article 1

August 7, 2020

COVID 19,   VACCINES MAKE THE NEWS, BUT WHAT ABOUT LATEST THERAPEUTICS DEVELOPMENTS?

Astra Zeneca, Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax are racing to the important large-scale clinical test results. From the preliminary steps of testing, the promise for more than one successful vaccine is encouraging.

But the chase for a therapeutic that fights the last stages of Covid-19 is likely to show the most vital immediate success.

ANTIVIRALS

Many readers have followed the Remdesivir progress. This and all antivirals work by halting the replication of the virus rather than destroying it. This broad-spectrum antiviral was designed for Ebola, but not proven in that case. It has demonstrated efficacy in several Covid-19 trials. The most important was the July 10, 2020 news that the drug reduced death rates among advanced cases by 62%. At present it is only safely administered intravenously. A nasal spray version is under development.

CORTICOSTEROIDS

The often-fatal cytokine storm is a target of many research efforts. The corticosteroids fight this problem by suppressing the immune system. This is vital at the late stage “storm” when the immune system goes out of control. It is also why corticosteroids are avoided during the early phases in which the immune system should not be suppressed.

Dexamethasone is the drug that proved in a clinical trial in British hospitals to reduce fatality rates by roughly one-third. Japan and Taiwan have approved its use conditionally. Both countries have approved Remdesivir, but supplies are low.  

MONOCLONAL ANTIBODIES

Perhaps the simplest solution is the category of monoclonal antibodies. Research labs take the natural protective antibodies that have been generated by survivors of Covid-19 and clone the most potent antibodies.

This process avoids many of the concerns of efficacy and safety due to the origins, though the clinical trials measure the results to be certain. EliLilly, Regeneron and AstraZeneca are the current leaders in this process.

There are researchers currently evaluating the potential for combining antivirals and monoclonal antibodies to gain the quickest combination of effective therapeutic treatment.

Issue 12, Article 2

August 7, 2020

COVID 19,  WE HAVE SEEN THE IMPACT ON TRANSIT RIDERSHIP BUT WHAT ABOUT THE COMPETITION?

Transit ridership in the United States dropped a great deal in March and more in April. At the low point almost 95% of daily trips were erased. Since late April, customers have returned or been added at a slow and steady pace.

In large cities a clear pattern has been documented, the routes that were the busiest all-day routes are returning at stronger percentage load factors than average. Routes that served express freeway trips are recovering ridership more slowly.  The longer express routes are more likely to include a larger percentage of customers with access to a vehicle, if needed. The busy all-day routes are more likely to serve employment, school, medical and shopping trips that cannot delayed. These riders are more likely to not have an alternative vehicle available for the trip. These essential trips are critical to the rider and the transit systems are finding that they are the quickest to recover.

The fear of using transit is easing. It is clear in the cities that are taking the facial coverings seriously, the prevalence of the virus transmission on transit is low.

But what about the competitive mode: the auto. New vehicle sales slumped quickly from 1.4 million in February to 0.6 million in April; then bounced to 1.2 million in May. The major car companies closed their factories for over two months. That led to a shortage of inventory for new car dealers. The stimulus payments led many to the auto sales lots to find the price of used cars increasing. In “normal” recessions, auto and housing sales slump. Both types of large sales have been unique during the current recession that some have called a medical recession. Auto sales had a brief severe slump followed by brisk sales.

Edmunds is one of the most thorough sources for vehicle sales data. In July 2020 prices spiked significantly. Those used cars from the 2017 model year included Large Trucks which increased the most at 7% and Minivans which increased the least at 2%:

                                                                                   Increase from

Type                                 July 2020                         June 2020             

Large Truck                      $33,264                           $2,301               7%

Midsize SUV                    $24,766                           $   803               3%

Midsize Car                     $16,709                           $   520               3%

Sports Car                        $24,867                           $1,369               6%

Minivan                           $21,727                           $   415               2%

The rapidly increasing prices combined with the reduction of federal and state benefits may have an impact on auto sales in the third quarter. The rapid sales increase pace will be expected to fade.

If our systems continue to avoid the viral infection concerns it is reasonable to anticipate the number of trips will increase steadily through the summer on all but the express routes. These will be a challenge for months to go.

For more details see: United States Bureau of Economic Analysis, Monthly New Auto Sales by Month

Issue 12, Article 3

COVID 19,   MUCH LIKE AUTO SALES, SUBURBAN AND EXURBAN HOUSING SALES FIND NEW LIFE

Record sales of recreational vehicles and boats during this “recession” remind us that some tendencies have been turned upside down in this unusual period.

There have been prognosticators claiming that transit will never recover to pre-covid ridership levels.

There have also been similar predictions for urban office real estate sales and rentals. Many companies found that the emergency need to become “work from home” companies has worked well. Google announced plans to extend the remote work approach for another year; Facebook and Twitter announced plans to transition to work from home on a permanent basis.

Landlords of skyscrapers are facing the most challenging scenario: how to rent the offices at the top while workers are avoiding the use of crowded elevators.

Perhaps the most logical predictions are that the tables will turn on the concentration of residential developments in the heart of cities. New York City faced the most severe impacts this spring.

The number of contracts for Manhattan condos and coops dropped 57% in July compared to the same month a year ago. The number of unsold apartments there is at the highest level in over 5 years.

This led to a rapid surge in sales and rentals of the suburban markets in Westchester County NY, Bergen County NJ and Southeast Connecticut.

But the press often focuses on the largest cities. The national data on suburban listings for ZILLOW indicated 64% of home shoppers searching suburban listings compared with 66% in April of 2019.

The balanced perspective suggests that when therapeutics and vaccines are readily available, the “work form home” blitz will moderate.

Transit riders will return, though handling fares and passes may change permanently. Transit ridership will return steadily, with express routes returning more slowly. The tallest office buildings may need to offer discounted term concessions for many months. And most importantly, many employers may learn which jobs were essential; which were essential but flexible as to location; and which jobs require the daily team processes that are not quite the same on a ZOOM call.

For more details see: Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2020

                                       www.cnbc.com, August 6, 2020

Issue 12, Article 4

COVID 19,   RECOVERY VENDOR LIST FOR PUBLIC TRANSIT

Both APTA and CTAA are promoting the vendors that have services and products to eliminate or mitigate the safety risks of transit operation during the pandemic.

The vendor list is found on the websites of both organizations and the Federal Transit Administration is providing a link to promote the effort.

The vendors are categorized by topics:

PPE – Barriers, Shields Guards

Cleaning – Disinfectants

Testing – COVID 19 Test Kits

Facial – Shields

Facial – Coverings, Dispensers

Hands – Gloves, Dispensers

Hands – Sanitizers, Wipes, Dispensers

Signs – Wall signs, Floor signs, Window stickers

Thermometers – Infrared no touch, Disposable

Most importantly there are many providers listed for each category; the CDC, FDA and EPA official guidance on each category is noted in each section.

 The listings are not official endorsements of the products by either APTA or CTAA. The listings are designed to be updated often.

All Federal Transit Administration recipients are reminded that CARES Act funding was increased for multiple reasons including provision of many new solutions for cleaning vehicle and passenger touch surfaces and offering/installing barriers or shields to reduce the possibility of transmission of the virus.

For more details see: APTA, CTAA COVID-19 VENDOR LIST, July 2020

Issue 12, Article 5

COVID 19,   WILL CONGRESS PASS THE AUGUST 2020 STIMULUS – WILL IT INCLUDE TRANSIT AID

Each transit system in the FTA recipient group gained much needed survival funding in the last bill, the CARES Act.

The Senate version of the next stimulus, the HEALS Act, has no additional transit relief.

The House version of the net stimulus, the HEROES Act, has significant additional funding. New York has explained the dire situation in 2021 if the solution escapes the Congress. Chair Pat Foye of MTA indicated that the budget deficit forecast is $12 billion for the nation’s largest transit system. The current CARES Act funding provided the system $3.8 billion that will be completely used in the current fiscal year.

The two houses are over $2 billion apart on paper. The odds of an overall solution remain promising since the voters around the nation are watching and elections are weeks away.

Thursday afternoon press reports suggest that there is tentative agreement to include a repeat of the $1,200 per person stimulus payment (subject to income limits); to extend the freeze on evictions (for federal loan property); and to include the $600 per week unemployment extension.

In a legislative funding bill of $1 billion versus over $3 billion, the remaining details that are not agreed yet are large.

The transit funding and relief to states and local governments will be among the more difficult issues to resolve.

The White House is working on several potential Executive Orders for temporary relief of the more urgent issues. Both congressional bodies claim that an agreement will be reached. Both parties are throwing barbs at each other. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, Chief of Staff Meadows, Senate Minority Leader Schumer and House Speaker Pelosi have made progress this week. Senate Majority Leader McConnell announced that the Senate would not recess until a deal is reached.

For more details see: CBS News Digital, August 6, 2020

Weekly Updates: Issue 12, Article 1 Week August 7th-14th, 2020: COVID 19, VACCINES MAKE THE NEWS, BUT WHAT ABOUT LATEST THERAPEUTICS DEVELOPMENTS?

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