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J&J’s Chief Scientific Officer predicts vaccinations against coronavirus within 12 months

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Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Paul Stoffels says the pharmaceutical giant is making good progress on development of a vaccine against COVID-19 “and we are now close to selecting a candidate vaccine which we can bring forward for pre-clinical and clinical testing.”

Dr. Stoffels told Yahoo Finance large scale testing is scheduled to start in November. J&J is working with U.S. regulators to finish pre-clinical work before testing begins.

“It has to be very safe and effective and that’s why we need some time to test,” Stoffels said.

“I am pretty comfortable that within 12 months we will be in a different situation and probably will be able to start vaccinating people,” Stoffels predicted.

In the meantime he says prevention and social distancing are the best precautions to keep people from becoming ill.

No quick fix even after vaccine developed

Johnson & Johnson is the world’s third largest pharmaceutical company and has previously worked with the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, BARDA, to develop vaccines against different diseases like EBOLA and FLU. Dr. Stoffels says J&J kicked off its coordinated research with BARDA six weeks ago.

Even after a vaccine is developed and proven to be safe and effective, Stoffels says it will be difficult to produce enough vaccine to inoculate the entire population at once.

Digital generated image of macro view of the corona virus from the 2020.
Digital generated image of macro view of the corona virus from the 2020.

“So, what needs to be done is first vaccinating the high risk people, the people at highest risk, like health care workers and like the elderly people and those people who are most at risk to get very sick and even die from the disease,” he says.

Stoffels says it will be up to health care professionals in the United States and other countries to determine who should be vaccinated first. He says the technology exists to produce large quantities of vaccine, “and we will activate that system very quickly as we have a vaccine which we are going to develop.”

Drastic measures to stop the outbreak

India this week ordered its 1.3 billion citizens to stay home for the next three weeks joining countries around the world taking historic steps to stop the COVID-19 outbreak. “The likelihood that this will be under control soon is low,” Dr. Stoffels said.

Without a vaccine, Stoffels says there is the possibility that the coronavirus could become a seasonal outbreak, “It will come in waves until a large majority of people get infected and get antibodies,” he said.

Stoffels says he worries about the COVID-19 virus mutating on a seasonal basis. That would require updated vaccines on a regular basis to protect people from new variations of the virus. “But up to now I think… it doesn’t look like that,” Stoffels said.

“Hopefully it stays with one virus going around the world and making sure we get this under control as soon as possible.” If not, Stoffels says a vaccine at a certain point, “will put a stop to this.”

Follow the news here.
Follow the news here.

Adam Shapiro is co-anchor of Yahoo Finance’s On the Move.

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Hong Kong Stocks See Relief Gains; Dollar Slips: Markets Wrap

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(Bloomberg) — Stocks in Asia nudged higher, with Hong Kong jumping at the open after U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday stopped short of specifying tough sanctions over China’s new national security law for Hong Kong.

The dollar retreated. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng saw early gains of over 3%, while Tokyo, Seoul, Sydney and Shanghai saw more modest moves. U.S. stock futures erased earlier declines as investors weighed the violent protests in some American cities that have stoked concerns about a reacceleration in infection rates and a damper on the economic recovery. Crude oil fell.

The escalation in tensions between the U.S. and China last month had threatened to derail a recovery in global equities. While the U.S. president’s speech Friday was heated in rhetoric, it lacked specifics around measures that would directly affect Beijing.

“President Trump’s response on Friday was pretty muted and far less disruptive than markets had feared,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors Ltd. in Sydney.

The U.S. president also promised sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials “directly or indirectly involved” in eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy but didn’t identify individuals. The administration hasn’t yet decided under what authority it would implement that action, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“The impact is likely to be limited and more symbolic while the financial sector is unlikely to be affected,” Sean Darby, Jefferies’ global equity strategist in Hong Kong, wrote in a research note. “We are not too surprised by the move and don’t expect the Hong Kong financial markets to be either.”

Here are some key events coming up:

Australia’s central bank is expected to keep its main policy programs unchanged on Tuesday. So too is the case for Canada, which has options to add stimulus but will probably stand pat on Wednesday to allow more time to evaluate the progress of policy action.In Europe, the ECB is expected to top up its rescue program with an additional 500 billion euros of asset purchases. Anything less than an expansion at Thursday’s meeting would be a big shock, Bloomberg Economics said.The U.S. labor market report on Friday will probably show American unemployment soared to 19.6% in May, the highest since the 1930s.

These are the main moves in markets:

Stocks

Futures on the S&P 500 Index rose 0.1% as of 10:50 a.m. in Tokyo. The index climbed 0.5% on Friday.Japan’s Topix index rose 0.5%.Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 3.4%.South Korea’s Kospi index rose 1.3%.Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 0.7%.Euro Stoxx 50 futures advanced 1.3%.

Currencies

The yen rose 0.1% to 107.68 per dollar.The euro bought $1.1135, up 0.3%.The offshore yuan rose 0.1% to 7.1263 per dollar.The Australian dollar climbed 0.9% to 67.27 U.S. cents.

Bonds

The yield on 10-year Treasuries rose one basis point to 0.66%.Australia’s 10-year yield was at 0.90%, up about one basis point.

Commodities

West Texas Intermediate crude fell 0.6% to $35.27 a barrel.Gold rose 0.4% to $1,737.21.

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The Villages’ policy on face masks presents a financial risk

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Scott Fenstermaker

Villages-news.com has reported on the new Recreation Department policy of not requiring masks for situations in recreation centers where social distancing is not feasible. In fact, the new policy has just turned the task of checking Villager ID’s into a potential suicide mission for employees.

Furthermore, if the staff, themselves, don’t wear masks, a sick, maskless ID checker could infect hundreds, and indirectly, thousands of Villagers. While this potential death and suffering has been discussed, at length, on this site, what has not appeared here is a discussion of the financial risk of the new policy.

In addition to the death and suffering that the new policy will likely cause, the new policy could jeopardize the financial solvency of our amenity system. Sick employees (or their survivors) will be filing worker compensation claims. Even more costly, sick Villagers (or their survivors) will be filing lawsuits against the amenity system for negligently not following the recommendation of both the CDC and virtually every other expert in the field.

I won’t get into the merit of such lawsuits (which will depend on the facts), the intricacies of the ownership and administration of the amenity system, or the effectiveness of masks. But do not think for a moment that such worker compensation claims and lawsuits will have no chance of succeeding. For people interested in learning more, here is a link to one of many articles that have appeared on the general subject: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/28/business/businesses-coronavirus-liability.html For more, Google: “COVID-19 business liability”.

Scott Fenstermaker is a resident of the Village of Winifred.

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Pandemic-related restaurant closures take an emotional and financial toll

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Michael Raviele agonized for hours over how to break the news to his loyal customers before finally announcing at 4:30 a.m. on May 15 that he was closing Il Gatto Nero, the Italian restaurant his father first opened some six decades prior.

“I did that road for 18 years — up and down, every single day,” said the man with a tattoo of the restaurant’s logo on his arm. “I worked there every single day.”

Restaurants across Canada — from local institutions to newer spots hustling to establish themselves — have closed permanently in recent weeks as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged an industry already plagued by razor-thin margins. Their owners face not only the emotional loss of their business, but also often large debt, little savings and an uncertain future.

Il Gatto Nero started as an Italian social club featuring pool tables and espresso more than 60 years ago. Raviele joined the business in the early 90s and slowly added to the club’s repertoire with a pizza oven, sandwiches and other tweaks.

The club moved to Toronto’s College Street about 18 years ago. At the new location, they saw a lot of success — like when Italy won the FIFA World Cup in 2006 — as well as some down times — like the 2008 recession — that prompted Raviele and his father to dip into personal savings to keep the restaurant afloat. Raviele invested more money into the business in 2014 for a renovation and expanded to a second location, a small cafe in Etobicoke, in October 2019.

When COVID-19 hit and government ordered dining rooms to close, Raviele attempted to shift to take away, but eventually stopped. Bills piled up from utility companies.

“I obviously incurred some debt and debt that wasn’t there,” he said.

But uncertainty over the future of dining was the final nail in Il Gatto Nero’s coffin.

Raviele speculated he might be required to remove the restaurant’s 10 bar seats and slash his 65-seat capacity in half to comply with pending physical distancing rules, which would cripple his business.

“I don’t see a future for my business or for my family,” he said. “The model for opening any restaurant is based on feeding capacity versus space, and how many people can you do over the course of a night… I mean, if you have one bad weekend, it could be disastrous for many small business.”

He plans to focus on the small espresso bar, add a pizza oven and hustle to keep that business going, which he said he invested his second life into.

“I’m angry because I wanted to do something good and now the possibility of losing both is always there.”

Mohammed Bin Yahya, co-founder and chief executive at Plentea, found the coronavirus to be “just like the knock out punch” for his Toronto tea bar.

Before the pandemic, the company was struggling to pay some $5,000 in rent. When they shifted to takeaway to abide by health regulations amid the pandemic, foot traffic dropped dramatically.

The tea shop, which Bin Yahya opened in 2015 with dreams of growing to multiple locations, will close at the end of the month.

“The numbers. Straight up, the numbers don’t lie,” he said.

The company had to pay penalties when closing some of their accounts with cleaning companies, internet and phone providers, and others, he said.

“We are in debt,” he said, estimating they’ll owe some $40,000 in the end.

For now, he’s trying to minimize his expenses, and said he may have to find a side job and move in with family to help pay back the loans.

But he’s keeping the dream alive. Plentea will continue selling tea online, he said, and — for now — he’ll keep the equipment in storage with the hopes of opening again.

With nearly four decades in the food industry, 77-year-old Frances Wood’s retirement plan relied heavily on the Cajun-and-Creole food restaurant she co-owns, Southern Accent in Toronto. 

After 34 years in one location, Wood dipped into her nest egg to help cover a move to a new spot about three years ago. It took some time to build up a new customer base and Wood noticed in recent years, lucky restaurants made 10 per cent in profit.

Still, at the start of this year, she started seeing “the light at the end of the tunnel” in making the new location work.

She debated selling the restaurant after her five-year lease ended. But with about one-and-a-half years to go, COVID-19 hit.

Southern Accent also attempted take-away and delivery, but found with high delivery app fees, it was losing money each day it stayed open.

Wood and her co-owner decided to close permanently in April and have about $60,000 in loans and bills to pay back between them.

In what Wood called “a miracle,” their landlord released them from their roughly $10,000 monthly lease early, Wood said.

“I don’t know what we would have done. We would have to go personally bankrupt, I guess” had that not happened, she said.

The next phase of the septuagenarian’s life “doesn’t look very good.” Wood didn’t draw a salary for the past several years, but the restaurant did pay some of her expenses. She collects Old Age Security, the Canada Pension Plan and has some personal savings, but that hardly covers her monthly expenses.

“My livelihood, what I was expecting to have at the end of 37 years in the restaurant business was some money from the restaurant when I sold it to help with my senior years.”

She planned to sell the name and recipes, and help set the buyer up for success. She even kept the restaurant’s 1940s bar in case a buyer emerges. It’s tucked away in the garage.

Still, she considers herself lucky all things considered.

“I think, ‘Okay, I’m lucky. I have my health.’”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2020.

Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press



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