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Coronavirus Update: China closes Tibet’s Potala Palace over COVID outbreak, and Novavax stock is slammed by weak earnings and halving of sales guidance

Chinese authorities have closed Tibet’s Potala Palace after a small outbreak of COVID cases in the Himalayan autonomous region, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The action underscores China’s continued adherence to its “zero-COVID” policy, mandating lockdowns, routine testing, quarantines and travel restrictions, even while most other countries have reopened.

China says its hardline policy has been successful in preventing large-scale hospitalizations and deaths, while critics, including the World Health Organization, have decried its impact on the economy and society and said it is out of step with the changing nature of the virus and new methods of prevention and treatment.

China announced 828 new cases of domestic transmission on Tuesday, 22 of them in Tibet. The majority of those cases reportedly were asymptomatic.

Meanwhile, more than 80,000 travelers remain stranded on the southern resort island of Hainan under requirements that they consistently test negative for the virus in coming days before being allowed to leave.

About 80,000 tourists are stranded on the Chinese island of Hainan, which local authorities call “the Hawaii of China,” after a surge in Covid-19 cases triggered a lockdown. All flights leaving the city of Sanya have been canceled since Saturday. Photo: Guo Cheng/Zuma Press

In the U.S., the daily average of new cases continued a recent decline, but not all data are being captured with many people testing at home. The average stood at 108,261 on Monday, according to a New York Times tracker, down 16% from two weeks ago.

The daily average for hospitalizations was down 1% at 43,070, while the daily average for deaths was up 10% to 483.

There was disappointing news from Novavax
NVAX,
-29.28%

when it reported second-quarter earnings that showed a loss of more than half a billion dollars and sales of less than $200 million. The numbers, which lagged consensus estimates by a wide margin, were bad enough, but the company also cut its full-year sales guidance in half.

Novavax is the developer of a protein-based vaccine that was authorized by U.S. health authorities in July, raising hopes it would appeal to the vaccine-hesitant, or those who could not or hesitated to take the mRNA vaccines
PFE,
+0.56%

BNTX,
-4.91%

MRNA,
-4.47%
,
or the Johnson & Johnson
JNJ,
+0.32%

viral vector vaccine, that were first to win authorization in the U.S.

“If you have been waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine built on a different technology than those previously available, now is the time to join the millions of Americans who have been vaccinated,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC’s director, said at the time, endorsing an earlier decision from an influential advisory panel, as the Associated Press reported.

Novavax said it is confident its vaccine is a strong addition to the U.S. vaccine program and said it expects it to cope well with current and future strains of the virus.

But the disappointing earnings numbers sent the stock down 32% in premarket trades Tuesday.

Coronavirus Update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement by her office. “Thankfully, I am only experiencing mild symptoms after being fully vaccinated and twice boosted,” Whitmer said. “After speaking with a state doctor, I will follow the proper guidance and protocols, while maintaining a remote schedule to continue getting things done for the people of Michigan.”

• COVID was the equal leading cause of death in New Zealand for the first time in July, overtaking stroke and drawing even with ischemic heart disease as the country’s biggest killer, the Guardian reported. Michael Baker, an epidemiologist and public health professor, said that for a period in July through early August COVID appeared to be causing at least as many deaths as heart disease.

• A group of 23 state attorneys general led by Florida told a federal court on Monday that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lacks the legal authority to impose a nationwide transportation mask mandate to address COVID, Reuters reported. The CDC sought “an unprecedented masking mandate regulating every breath of millions of Americans,” said the brief in support of the group that sued to overturn the mask mandate. The group, which included Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Texas and Virginia officials, urged the appeals court to reject the CDC “overreach.”

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 585.4 million on Tuesday, while the death toll rose above 6.42 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 92.2 million cases and 1,034.021 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 223 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 67.2% of the total population. But just 107.5 million have had a first booster, equal to 48.2% of the vaccinated population.

Just 20.6 million of the people 50 years old and over who are eligible for a second booster have had one, equal to 32% of those who had a first booster.

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