As of this afternoon, Tropical Storm Arthur is moving away from southeastern North Carolina and by morning it will have moved away from North Carolina shores completely.  Here’s today’s COVID-19 update:

  • First, some encouraging news: Drug company Moderna announced this morning that it has seen positive interim Phase 1 clinical data from its vaccine candidate against the coronavirus.  The data from Phase 1 showed that participants in the trial received antibodies to COVID-19 and as a result Moderna said it plans to proceed to Phase 3 of its testing by July.  More from Moderna here.

  • More good news:  The FDA has approved the use of a standalone at-home test sample collection kit made by Everlywell, Inc. It will allow testing of a sample collected from inside a patient’s nose using a self-collection kit that contains nasal swabs to collect a sample and a tube filled with saline to transport the sample back to a lab.  Once patients self-swab to collect their nasal sample, they will ship the sample overnight to a specific lab that is running one of the tests authorized for use with the at-home sample collection kit.  It’s just one of many ways the FDA is working with the private sector to expand access to testing as fast as possible.

  • President Trump spoke on Friday about Operation Warp Speed, the historic effort the Administration is leading to develop a vaccine in record time.  He’s appointed two highly-respected leaders to oversee the effort:
    • Moncef Slaoui will serve as Chief Scientist, having previously served Chairman of Global Research and Development and Chairman of Global Vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline, where he led the development of 5 major novel vaccines.
    • Gen. Gustave Perna will serve as Chief Operating Officer, a 4-star general in charge of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

  • The latest info on the Paycheck Protection Program:  
    • As of 5pm on Saturday, the SBA had approved more than 2.76 million loans for small businesses for a total of over $195.17 billion during the second round of funding for the PPP.
    • As I mentioned over the weekend, on Friday the Small Business Administration released information about the application that will allow borrowers to apply for forgiveness of their PPP loans.  SBA says more guidance for borrowers and lenders on loan forgiveness will soon be forthcoming.  The full application and instructions about applying can be found here. 

  • North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services has announced a series of steps to further prevent and respond to COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities.  The steps include expanded distribution of Personal Protective Equipment and revised guidance on testing individuals who have contact with long-term care facilities.  More information here.

  • An update on testing: Nearly 11.5 million tests for COVID-19 have been performed in the United States.  According to The COVID Tracking Project, 422,024 tests were reported yesterday in the United States, the most ever reported in a single day.  The United States has seen a 28% increase in the number of tests it has conducted over the past seven days. 

  • Wal-Mart has opened a COVID-19 testing site in the parking lot of its store in Whiteville (200 Columbus Corners Drive, Whiteville, NC 28742).  It is open to any adult who meets the CDC and state and local guidelines on who should be tested.  To be tested, individuals must schedule an appointment through eTrueNorth at www.DoINeedaCOVID19test.com.

For today’s good news, I’m highlighting Ocean Cure of Carolina Beach, which is laying down wheelchair-friendly flooring in front of the beach’s boardwalk to make the beach accessible to individuals in wheelchairs.  It’s another great example of our community coming together for the benefit of others. 

As always, stay tuned to Coronavirus.gov and the NC Department of Health and Human Services’ website for the latest on the outbreak.