COVID-19 Small Business Resources
November 16-22, 2020
COVID-19 cases in Arkansas continue spike in the fall, new one-day high nears 2,000
Five days after COVID-19 cases to a new high on Nov. 6, Gov. Asa Hutchinson Arkansans to be more vigilant as the state’s one-day total for positive coronavirus tests was exceeded again and neared the 2,000 mark.
Topping the earlier one-day total 1,870 new cases of Nov. 6, the state Department of Health reported a new record of 1,962 new cases on Wednesday (Nov. 1). Last week, Hutchinson warned all Arkansans to take this virus seriously and to take necessary precautions entering the holiday season and colder months as the number of new cases outpace hospital capacity.
“Today we saw another record number of reported new cases. There was a small decline in hospitalizations, but the high number of cases is a profoundly serious reminder of the emergency that continues,” said the governor. “Susan (Hutchinson) and I just spoke about our holiday plans and we are taking extra precautions and limiting the number. Plan safely.”
Besides COVID-19 cases touching a new high, also reported 13,691 active cases; 801 hospitalized, which is down 9 from Tuesday; 116 on ventilators, which is down 11 from Tuesday; deaths added today, 14, for a total of 2,126; a total of 126,197 cases; 101,583 recoveries; PCR tests, 9,390; antigen tests, 2,247.
Health Department officials reported that the top counties for new cases are Pulaski, 172; Benton, 144; Garland, 136; Washington, 121; and Sebastian, 116.
NIH: Hydroxychloroquine does not benefit adults hospitalized with COVID-19
A National Institutes of Health clinical trial evaluating the safety and effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of adults with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has formally concluded that the drug provides no clinical benefit to hospitalized patients.
Though found not to cause harm, early findings in June when the trial was stopped indicated that the drug was not improving outcomes in COVID-19 patients. Final data and analyses of the trial, which was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of NIH, appeared online Nov. 9 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The trial, called Outcomes Related to COVID-19 treated with Hydroxychloroquine among Inpatients with symptomatic Disease (ORCHID), began after lab studies and preliminary reports suggested that hydroxychloroquine — commonly used to treat malaria and rheumatic conditions like arthritis — might have promise in treating SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The Prevention and Early Treatment of Acute Lung Injury (PETAL) Clinical Trials Network of NHLBI started the trial in April at 34 hospitals across the United States and enrolled 479 of the expected 510 patients. By June, preliminary evidence indicated hydroxychloroquine was unlikely to offer any benefit. NIH officials said the careful design, implementation, and oversight of the study was key to its results, as well as the recommendation by a data and safety monitoring board (DSMB) to stop the trial early.
“Having a rigorously designed clinical trial that captured patient-centered, clinically meaningful outcomes was critical to reaching the unequivocal conclusions about the use of hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19. ORCHID shows that hydroxychloroquine does not improve clinical outcomes in hospitalized COVID-19 patients,” said James Kiley, Ph.D., director of Division of Lung Diseases at NHLBI. “We hope this clear result will help practitioners make informed treatment decisions and researchers continue their efforts pursuing other possible safe and effective treatments for patients suffering with this disease.”
The ORCHID trial enrolled participants between April 2 and June 19 who were a median age of 57. They included 290 Hispanic and Black participants and 212 female participants. All participants received clinical care as indicated for their condition. Participants were randomly assigned to a treatment group and received 10 doses of either hydroxychloroquine or a placebo over five days.
Researchers then assessed each patient’s clinical status 14 days after being assigned to a treatment group. They used a seven-category scale ranging from one death to seven discharged from the hospital and able to perform normal activities. Researchers also measured 12 additional outcomes, including death that occurred 28 days after the participants’ assignment to a treatment group.
At day 14, those who received hydroxychloroquine and those who received a placebo had a similar health status, with most participants in both groups discharged from the hospital and able to perform a range of activities. The number of participants in both treatment groups who died at day 14 was also similar. At day 28, 25 of 241 patients in the hydroxychloroquine group and 25 of 236 patients in the placebo group had died.
“The finding that hydroxychloroquine is not effective for the treatment of COVID-19 was consistent across patient subgroups and for all evaluated outcomes, including clinical status, mortality, organ failures, duration of oxygen use, and hospital length of stay,” said Dr. Wesley Self, emergency medicine physician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and PETAL Clinical Trials Network investigator who led the ORCHID trial. He also noted that the finding was consistent with similar trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil.
As of Nov. 2, the CDC has reported more than 9.1 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 230,000 deaths in the U.S. Many other randomized clinical trials are currently evaluating the effectiveness and safety of other agents versus a placebo in the urgent race for effective therapies to treat COVID-19.
CDC issues order to resume phased-in approach for U.S. cruise ship operations
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a phased approach for the safe and responsible resumption of passenger cruises. The Framework for Conditional Sailing Order that introduces establishes actionable items for the cruise line industry to resume passenger operations with an emphasis on preventing the further spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships and from cruise ships into communities, and to protect public health and safety.
The Oct. 30 order applies to passenger operations on cruise ships with the capacity to carry at least 250 passengers in waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction. CDC officials said outbreaks on cruise ships overseas provide current evidence that such travel facilitates and amplifies transmission of COVID-19—even at reduced passenger capacities. Without oversight, COVID-19 would likely spread the disease into U.S. communities if passenger operations were to resume, officials said.
“This framework provides a pathway to resume safe and responsible sailing. It will mitigate the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks on ships and prevent passengers and crew from seeding outbreaks at ports and in the communities where they live,” says CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. “CDC and the cruise industry have a shared goal to protect crew, passengers, and communities and will continue to work together to ensure that all necessary public health procedures are in place before cruise ships begin sailing with passengers.”
The CDC order requires a phased approach to resuming passenger operations. A phased approach is necessary because of the continued spread of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, risk of resurgence in countries that have suppressed transmission, ongoing concerns related to restarting of cruising internationally, and need for additional time for the cruise industry to test the effectiveness of measures to control potential COVID-19 transmission on board cruise ships with passengers without burdening public health.
Under the CDC order, cruise lines have been given a pathway to systematically demonstrate their ability to sail while keeping passengers, crew and their destination ports safe and healthy, said former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, co-chair of the Healthy Sail Panel.
During the initial phases, cruise ship operators must demonstrate adherence to testing, quarantine and isolation, and social distancing requirements to protect crew members while they build the laboratory capacity needed to test crew and future passengers. Subsequent phases will include simulated (mock) voyages with volunteers playing the role of passengers to test cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk, certification for ships that meet specific requirements, and return to passenger voyages in a manner that mitigates COVID-19 risk among passengers, crew members, and communities.
CDC will help ships prepare and protect crew members during the initial phases by:
• establishing a laboratory team dedicated to cruise ships to provide information and oversight for COVID-19 testing,
• updating its color-coding system to indicate ship status,
• updating its technical instructions, as needed, and
• updating the “Enhanced Data Collection (EDC) During COVID-19 Pandemic Form” to prepare for surveillance for COVID-19 among passengers.
CDC will continue to update its guidance and recommendations to specify basic safety standards and public health interventions based on the best scientific evidence available. For more information about COVID-19 and cruise ships, please visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/cruise-ship/what-cdc-is-doing.html
Only nearly half of employers to increase worker salaries in 2021 amid pandemic, report says
As business leaders around the U.S. develop their 2021 operating budgets, the shadow of COVID-19 has forced nearly half of organizations (45%) to reevaluate salary-increase plans, according to Gallagher’s 2020/2021 Salary Planning Survey.
The Gallagher study, which collected data from 1,283 organizations during July and August 2020, paints a picture of the stark contrast employers currently find themselves in compared to the beginning of 2020. When the year began, organizations felt primed for growth with a robust economy and record-high employment. As a result, two-thirds (66%) of employers implemented pay raises prior to the pandemic.
Toward the end of the first quarter, however, the reality of COVID-19 set in, forcing many organizations to put the brakes on wage hikes. This trend will continue into 2021, according to the employers surveyed. Among the segment of employers that indicated COVID-19 is forcing them to reevaluate 2021 salary-increase plans, more than half (51%) expect to reduce salary increases and 45 percent plan to suspend salary increases altogether.
The 2020/2021 Salary Planning Survey findings align with Gallagher’s 2020 Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey, which found a significant number of employers planned salary freezes for management and executives (43%) and non-management personnel (42%) to preserve jobs in 2021.
“Revenue streams and budgets will be unpredictable in 2021 and for these reasons, many employers are pausing across-the-board salary increases,” said William Ziebell, CEO of Arthur Gallagher’s Benefits & HR Consulting Division. “However, the data shows more employers are leaning into variable pay models because this allows them to provide employees with a pay increase based on performance.”
The yearly report is compiled by Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., a publicly traded global insurance brokerage, risk management and consulting services firm with operations in 49 countries. With the continued economic uncertainty, the annual survey is designed to be a tool for employers to evaluate the array of salary-budgeting tactics their peers are utilizing to maintain headcounts and balance budgets.
“Employers of all sizes are beginning to realize pay increases aren’t the only levers they can pull to attract and retain employees,” said Ziebell. “Oftentimes, customized benefits and compensation strategies can reduce operating expenses and, at the same time, better cater to employees’ physical, emotional, career and financial wellbeing.”