What you need to know about coronavirus on Friday, July 31

The economic toll of the pandemic is becoming clear. In just a few months, the virus has managed to wipe out years of gains and push millions of people around the world into new economic hardship.

Data released yesterday showed the US economy slumped by 9.5% in the second quarter compared to the same period last year. That’s an annual rate drop of 32.9%, the worst on record. However horrific, the number did not come as a huge surprise after the economy ground to a halt during the spring lockdown, when more than 20 million jobs vanished in April. More than half of adult Americans live in households that have lost income during the pandemic.

Across the ocean, the European Union saw an even bigger decline than the US, slumping a record 14.4% compared to the same quarter last year. Spain, France, Italy and Germany have all experienced historic slumps.

Economists say it will likely take years for the economy to return to pre-pandemic levels. There are some positive signs: China has avoided slumping into a recession, with its economy now growing again after contracting in the first quarter. Across Europe, mobility data, retail sales and manufacturing surveys offer other glimmers of hope.

A second wave of shutdowns remains by far the biggest threat to the economy. And as at least 29 US states roll back their reopening plans because of high infection rates, there are signs already that the resurgence of the economy is teetering. The number of Americans filing first-time unemployment claims rose for the second week in a row.

To prevent a second lockdown, and its dire economic consequences, America needs to get the virus under control. We don’t yet know how to beat the virus. But we do know how to limit its spread: Masks and social distancing work.

Unfortunately, the message doesn’t seem to be cutting through. A model from the University of Washington now forecasts 230,822 US deaths by November, 11,000 more compared to the same projection last week. The university’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said the increase is down to more infections, and also the refusal by some to wear masks, practice social distancing and take other steps to limit the transmission of the virus.

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED

Q: Q: Is it safe to get a flu shot in the fall?

A: Yes. And please do so, doctors say.

This year, it’s “more important than ever to get a flu shot because we will almost certainly face the double whammy of flu season coinciding the same time as surging cases of Covid-19,” emergency room physician Dr. Leana Wen said.

That double whammy could be disastrous if it overwhelms the health care system. An estimated 410,000 to 740,000 Americans were hospitalized with the flu this past flu season, from October to April, according to the CDC.

Wen said the flu shot is about 40% to 60% effective. But even if you do get the flu after having been vaccinated, the flu shot “still reduces your chance of having severe effects from the flu.”

You also want to avoid having a personal double whammy of getting both the flu and Covid-19. And yes, it is possible to have both at the same time.

Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.

WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY

The coronavirus has only made Big Tech more dominant

As the US reported the worst economic slump ever, a whole different story was emerging from Silicon Valley. The world’s biggest tech companies posted results that showed they are only getting more dominant amid the pandemic.

Facebook’s stock has jumped 7% after it said its apps had more than 3 billion monthly active users in the past quarter. The company said that number reflected “increased engagement as people around the world sheltered in place.”

Amazon posted quarterly revenue of $88.9 billion, a 40% increase from the last year. Apple, which has dealt with flat or even declining revenue in recent years, reported an 11% increase in sales for the quarter. Apple CEO Tim Cook called the results a “testament to the important role our products play in our customers’ lives” even “in uncertain times.”

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, was the lone exception. It posted the first revenue decline in its history during the second quarter, a sign of just how much the global pandemic and economic downturn is straining its core advertising business.

Young kids have higher viral load

Children younger than five have between 10 and 100 times more genetic material from the coronavirus in their noses compared to older children and adults, according to a small study published yesterday.

While the study didn’t measure transmissibility, it raises questions — just as schools start to reopen — about how easily the new coronavirus may be spread by the youngest kids.

Most children don’t get as sick as adults. But they can still become dangerously ill. A rare but serious inflammatory syndrome has been linked to coronavirus in children across the world.

Why some people who haven’t had Covid-19 might already have some immunity

The immune systems of some people who have not been exposed to the novel coronavirus could have some familiarity with the pathogen — possibly helping to reduce the severity of illness if that person does get Covid-19, a new study suggests.

The study found that among a sample of 68 healthy adults in Germany who had not been exposed to the coronavirus, 35% had T cells in their blood that were reactive to the virus. T cells are part of the immune system and help protect the body from infection. T cell reactivity suggests that the immune system might have had some previous experience fighting a similar infection and may use that memory to help fight a new infection.

The cells were “probably acquired in previous infections with endemic” coronaviruses, the researchers wrote.

Australian state of Victoria surpasses 10,000 Covid-19 cases

The second-most populous state in Australia reported 672 new coronavirus cases and eight deaths today, surpassing the 10,000 mark. “Aged care, healthcare settings, warehouse settings, food distribution settings — these places are where we’re seeing new cases,” Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said during Friday’s news briefing.

Melbourne has been under a strict lockdown since earlier this month. Residents cannot leave their homes unless it’s for grocery shopping, caregiving, exercise or work. And while the state’s premier Daniel Andrews said he doesn’t expect harsher measures to come into force, he did not rule out more frequent door knocking to check if people are staying at home.

More than 130 people — one in four of those who’ve tested positive — were caught defying stay-at-home orders. Authorities have increased manpower to crack down on isolation dodgers, with 34 teams of officers deployed to knock on the doors of infected individuals.

ON OUR RADAR

  • Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday that he felt weak and might have “mold in the lung” after catching Covid-19. His wife has now tested positive too.
  • The Middle East is grappling with a heatwave during Eid and as coronavirus cases rise in a number of countries.
  • Herman Cain, a onetime Republican presidential candidate and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has died after contracting the coronavirus.
  • The entire Rutgers University football program is under quarantine and has temporarily halted all in-person activities, all the result of individuals attending a gathering.
  • Bill Gates says other nations had better coronavirus responses than America.
  • Canada is cracking down on those traveling through the country to get to Alaska.
  • Her mission to help vulnerable elders has found a new urgency after the Navajo Nation’s struggle with Covid-19.
  • “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston has appealed to his fans to “keep wearing the damn mask,” after revealing that he contracted Covid-19.
  • Serena Williams has helped to donate 4.25 million face masks to schools in need.

TOP TIPS

Consider it the Challenge of 2020: It’s likely easier to put lipstick on a ferret than it is to get some kids to wear face coverings. So here are five tips on how to get your children to wear one.

  • Explain what’s happening with words and concepts that your kids can understand.
  • Consider their individual needs. What is important to them? How aware of the outside world are they?
  • Make them part of the process. Let them select (or make) their own masks.
  • Practice makes perfect: have your kids wear their masks in the house for short increments to get them more comfortable with wearing them.
  • Repetition is key — you may have to sound like a broken record in order for your children to take face coverings seriously.

TODAY’S PODCAST

Be sure to set a good example by wearing your own mask — make sure it’s on correctly and that you actually wear it every time you go out the door. — Laura Jarrett, CNN anchor

We’re kicking off a week of episodes dedicated to how kids and teachers may return to school safely, in-person or remotely. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta hands things over to CNN anchor Laura Jarrett to answer some of your most pressing questions. Listen Now.

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