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More than 130,000 Americans have died of COVID and hospitalizations are mounting

July 6, 2020, 7:20 PM UTC

Good afternoon, readers. It doesn’t give me any joy (quite the opposite, in fact) to send depressing missives like this. I hope you enjoyed the Fourth of July holiday before returning to a bizarre and complicated world.

On July 1, America recorded nearly 51,000 new active COVID-19 cases in a single day. That was a record before going into a holiday weekend when, let’s face it, many people were probably loathe to wear a mask or socially distance after months of pandemic fatigue and hot weather.

It’s true that coronavirus is a strange pathogen that we still don’t fully understand. It’s true that many who get infected don’t present symptoms; It’s also true that hospitalizations and deaths keep racking up.

The number of COVID deaths in America crossed 130,000 people on July 6, according to Johns Hopkins. And the hospitalization numbers provide little comfort, either, and continue to overwhelm local medical capacity.

On Sunday, Texas reported a record high of 8,181 COVID hospitalizations. The mayor of Austin, Texas said that its own city of nearly one million could face a hospital bed shortage within the next two weeks if cases keep swelling. Nearly 30% of the beds allocated for coronavirus patients are already occupied in the city.

People tend to focus on death rates when it comes to a strange new disease. But the suffering endured by those who don’t die is also an important consideration.

We’ll be discussing such health care issues, coronavirus and beyond, during our first-ever virtual Brainstorm Health conference on July 7 and July 8 (i.e., tomorrow and Wednesday). We’ll have industry leaders from across the health care space, including from our founding partner IBM, hosting vigorous discussions on the most important medical issues of the day. Check out the agenda here, and look to this space and Fortune.com for coverage if you’re not digitally attending.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com
@the_sy_guy

DIGITAL HEALTH

IBM AI deployed as a virtual assistant during COVID crisis. IBM Watson AI technology is giving a virtual boost to U.K. physicians during the coronavirus pandemic. A British hospital system created a virtual hospital assistant tech called "Ask Maisie" with IBM's technology. It's tailored towards doctors rather than patients, providing tips about COVID testing, proper precautions for frontline workers, and life-work balance tasks such as child care during a time when health workers are particularly strained.

INDICATIONS

The price of generic remdesivir. With coronavirus treatments in high demand, companies making therapeutics will face a supply chain crunch that necessitates cooperation. To that end, generic drug manufacturer Mylan is one of a number of companies authorized to make a version of Gilead's COVID treatment—and it's named a price in India, a densely populated country grappling with the pandemic. Mylan will sell its product for $64 for a 100 mg vial of the drug, or about an 80% discount to the price in wealthier nations. Drug companies regularly strike licensing agreements for cheaper therapies in low-income countries, and the pressure to do so has only grown in the midst of a pandemic. (Reuters)

THE BIG PICTURE

Scientists urge more guidance on airborne COVID spread. The New York Times reports that nearly 240 health experts are urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to issue more direct information about how the coronavirus spreads. The WHO, an agency known for its general caution before making claims, has said that research showing that coronavirus spreads through the air, especially in enclosed spaces, is still inconclusive. But the experts point to mounting evidence in a call for clarity as countries grapple with reopening schools, nursing homes, and businesses at large. (New York Times)

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How realtors are giving virtual home tours during the pandemicby David Z. Morris

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