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The election might be top of mind but 234,000 people are dead, with many in swing states

November 5, 2020, 10:42 PM UTC

Good afternoon, readers.

I imagine that there’s a significant amount of readers who are focused on a certain election going on right now.

That’s fine (and I’m not immune to that anxiety.) But we’ll still do our job and report on what’s actually happening, right now, in the reality of Americans’ lives as a pandemic continues to rage. And there are currently more than 234,000 people who have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins.

And things are getting worse. The Associated Press reported on Thursday that coronavirus cases are climbing to some 86,000 more instances on average. That’s a surge of some 45% compared to a few weeks ago.

As has been the case over the course of this year, certain people, and certain states, have been disproportionately affected.

Let’s look at some of the most afflicted. Arizona authorities reported more than 2,800 cases and 28 new deaths on Thursday alone. Georgia? A 34% surge in the past two weeks. Pennsylvania is absolutely wild with a total case load of more than 220,000 and a massive spike in daily cases in the past few weeks.

These states are echoing increases all across the country. The vote numbers are critical. And they could change how the country deals with this unprecedented pandemic. But let’s not lose track of the very real human tragedy underway as many of us are glued to our screens.

Read on for the day’s news, and see you next week.

Sy Mukherjee
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com
@the_sy_guy

DIGITAL HEALTH

How MIT researchers are using A.I. to fight COVID. Can a computer predict COVID via cough? Well, if you believe initial (emphasis on the initial) results from an MIT study... Yeah, maybe. A study published in the journal IEEE Open Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology suggests that, by using a voice model, recording a cough can distinguish between a "forced cough" and a not-so-forced cough via cell phone recordings. The study authors claims a sensitivity and specificity (those are the false positive and false negative rates) of more than 90% each. (Fortune)

INDICATIONS

The promise and peril of Biogen's Alzheimer's candidate. Biogen stock spiked more than 40 percent yesterday on news that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would make aducanumab, its experimental Alzheimer's drug, one of the first to actually have a serious chance of regulatory approval. This would have wide-reaching implications for how the FDA actually works given that there are worries that an approval for, what some critics say is a relatively unproven treatment, could shift the agency's priorities. The flip side is that there isn't a single approved treatment for the underlying causes of dementia and something is better than nothing. Much more on this in the coming weeks.

The science of COVID vaccines. As COVID vaccines potentially reach the beginning of the regulatory end, I have a writeup for readers on where the science stands. You can traverse through all sorts of fun terms like mRNA vaccines, biological elements targeting spike proteins, and much, much more right here.

THE BIG PICTURE

A.I. is changing drug discovery. Here's how. I really want to highlight this because it's, frankly awesome. This week on Fortune’s Brainstorm podcast, we explored the technology that’s helping fight COVID-19.

The number of people infected with coronavirus continues to mount - as does the pressure on scientists and researchers to find a vaccine. Today, Brainstorm (the awesome podcast I'm referring to) is talking about the technology that’s enabling this important work.

Fortune's Brian O’Keefe speaks with Nvidia’s VP and General Manager of Healthcare. The company’s A.I. platforms are driving not only the search for a vaccine, but also developing therapeutics, COVID-19 testing, and more.

Then, Michal Lev-Ram points out that even once a vaccine is discovered, governments have to figure out the logistics of distribution. Plus, there’s an added challenge of public skepticism around even receiving the vaccine. Tech companies are tackling these problems too. Lev-Ram speaks with Qualtrics President Zig Serafin. Listen to the episode here. No, seriously, go do that. You won't be disappointed.

 
https://link.chtbl.com/FortuneBrainstormPodcast?sid=Newsletter

REQUIRED READING

Who won the election? Putin and Xiby Jeremy Kahn

Stocks historically performed under a divided Congressby Anne Sraders

Americans rally in protests and rallies during the electionby Danielle Abril