Gruma Benefiting From A COVID-19 Tailwind (OTCMKTS:GMKKY)


Defensive stocks typically do well in more economically challenging times, and with COVID-19 convincing more people to stay at home, Gruma (OTC:GMKKY) (OTC:GPAGF) (GRUMAB.MX) has definitely benefited in terms of volume and margins. While the tailwinds that are driving higher volumes and margins today will almost certainly abate, if not reverse, in a year or two as life goes back to normal, I do believe Gruma may be picking up some long-term market share that will drive improved long-term results as well.

I liked Gruma back at the start of the year, before COVID-19 was on the radar, and the illiquid U.S. ADRs have risen about 20% since then, while the much more liquid local shares have risen a little more than 25%. I would describe the opportunity here today as okay, but not compelling – with a few quarters of EBITDA beats in hand (including two straight double-digit beats), I think the word is out about Gruma’s qualities, but the shares aren’t really expensive on a mid-single-digit long-term growth outlook.

Strong Performance From Shifting Habits

The last two quarters have been good ones for Gruma, with revenue up 25% in the second quarter and 16% in the first quarter on volume improvements of 4% and 6%, respectively. In the two key geographies, the U.S. and Mexico, revenue has improved 14% and 10% in the second quarter, and 38% and 8%, as business lost to the foodservice chain as been more than recovered by improved at-home consumption. The U.S. business has also benefited from much better price realizations, with the company successfully passing through a mid-single-digit price increase and also seeing a mix shift towards more premium products (gluten-free, low-carb, et al).

That growth in the U.S. business has driven very strong margin leverage, with gross margins improving from the low 40%’s in 2019 to the mid-40%’s (44% in Q2). That may not sound like an especially large improvement, but when you have a business with high fixed costs, it’s meaningful. That stronger gross margin has driven 44% EBITDA growth in the first quarter and 15% growth in the second quarter, even as COVID-19 has created some new short-term cost headwinds in the business.

Will The Benefits Last?

Gruma has surprised the Street with its volume strength, moreso in the U.S. than in Mexico, but both regions have been stronger than expected (particularly in the second quarter). The real question is how durable these changes will prove to be.

Foodservice is a major market for Gruma in the U.S., with around 60% of sales coming from that channel. Thus far, increased at-home consumption has more than compensated for this, as Nielsen numbers indicate the company is picking up share within its category and from other competing products (flat breads, etc.). The shift from foodservice to retail has also boosted margins, as retail channel margins are typically stronger for the company.

I do expect the retail/foodservice mix to rebalance as the impact of COVID-19 fades over time and as dining habits renormalize. Maybe there will be a longer-lasting shift away from sit-down dining towards take-home, but I don’t believe where people choose to eat would impact Gruma’s product categories all that much.

The “healthy eating” trend is harder to predict, as it’s driven more by consumer whim than any real science. Low-carb is popular today, as is gluten-free, but that may reverse at some point. Gruma has shown itself to be adept at developing new products (flatbreads, wraps, chips, etc.), but at the end of the day there are only so many permutations of corn flour.

I’m more interested in the possibility of a longer-term shift in the Mexican market. While Gruma is far and away the leader in its category in Mexico, about two-thirds of the market for tortillas in Mexico still uses the “wet corn” method. That’s a more hands-on, time-intensive method, and I’m guardedly bullish on the idea that once tortillerias and home cooks switch to the dry corn method (which COVID-19 may be encouraging, as it is less labor-intensive), they’ll stick with it, expanding Gruma’s long-term addressable market.

The Outlook

I believe management is executing well in the U.S., or at least on the revenue side of the business. New product introductions have driven improved volumes and price mix, as well as margins. While there may still be some work that can be done on the margin side, the U.S. business already has above-average margins that are pretty healthy at close to 20% (EBITDA).

I believe execution in Mexico has also been relatively strong, though it remains to be seen if the company can hold on to these recent share/volume gains. While margin improvement is still a long-term possibility, the difference in consumption patterns in Mexico make it likely that they’ll never be as strong as in the U.S. – packaged tortillas aren’t very popular, and so Gruma will never have quite the same leverage to packaged retail product margins as they do in the U.S..

Given Gruma’s recent success in gaining share in the U.S., I’m a little more bullish about the long-term revenue growth prospects, and I’m now looking for long-term revenue growth a little north of 5%. I do expect some headwinds over the next couple of years as at least some of the benefits of changing consumer behaviors reverse, but I do think Gruma’s success in carving out more category market share will preserve a higher level of growth relative to my prior expectations.

I haven’t changed my margin expectations as much, as I want to see more evidence that recent improvements can last even when foodservice become a bigger part of the mix again. I’m guardedly bullish that margins can be higher (a richer mix of higher-margin retail products), but I don’t see the need to get ahead of the numbers, and I am still looking for long-term FCF growth on the higher side of the mid-single-digits.

The Bottom Line

Gruma’s share price is sandwiched between my DCF-based fair value, which suggests a total expected annualized return in the mid-to-high single-digits, and my EV/EBITDA-based fair value, which still suggests double-digit upside. I don’t think Gruma shares are clearly undervalued anymore, and the company is now well-appreciated and well-understood for its defensive traits, but I think there could still be some decent long-term potential for investors.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Editor’s Note: This article discusses one or more securities that do not trade on a major U.S. exchange. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.





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Some COVID-19 patients suffer lung and heart damage, but there’s encouraging news for these ‘long haulers’


Up until she fell ill with COVID-19, Yvonne Cassidy, a New York-based novelist, said she thought there were only three types of COVID: “The mild version, the version that put you in hospital and the version that killed you. I didn’t know there were others like me, stuck on a post-COVID plateau, not sick anymore, but not better either.”

Two months after being diagnosed with coronavirus, she found it difficult to even walk one block. “It turned out we were a group who had a name: We were COVID long-haulers. The Mayo Clinic and medical journals had published pieces about us,” she said. “We had support groups on social media. We even had a hashtag. We were frustrated and afraid.”

“With my doctor’s guidance I introduced a very slow five-minute jog into my already slow walking schedule. The first time I did it, my chest burned and I doubled over, hands on knees, gasping for breath,” Cassidy, who had toyed with training for a marathon, wrote in an essay for MarketWatch. And today? “The goal isn’t 26 miles. Today’s goal was 30 minutes.”

Cassidy was fortunate. Some younger COVID-19 patients who were otherwise healthy have had blood clots and strokes. Many “long-haulers” — COVID-19 patients who have continued showing symptoms for months after the initial infection — report neurological problems including confusion, difficulty concentrating, heart and lung issues, fatigue, insomnia, plus loss of taste and/or smell.

“There is evidence now that the virus can directly attack heart muscle cells, and there’s also evidence that the cytokine storm that the virus triggers in the body not only damages the lungs, but can damage the heart,” according to John Swartzberg, a clinical professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology in the the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program.

“One thing we didn’t anticipate was that the virus seems to accelerate a great deal of scarring in the lungs,” he said in an interview with the university. “What we really fear is long-term shortness of breath that could extend anywhere from being very mild to severely limiting.” He found it “disturbing” that one report of CT scans of asymptomatic patients were left with some scar tissue.

Some of these symptoms can persist for months, according to the Mayo Clinic. “The virus can damage the lungs, heart and brain, which increases the risk of long-term health problems.” Most people recover completely within a few weeks, “but some people — even those who had mild versions of the disease — continue to experience symptoms after their initial recovery,” it added.

“Older people and people with many serious medical conditions are the most likely to experience lingering COVID-19 symptoms,” the clinic added. “Although COVID-19 is seen as a disease that primarily affects the lungs, it can damage many other organs as well. This organ damage may increase the risk of long-term health problems.”

Also see:Johns Hopkins scientists examining weird side effects of COVID-19 suggest one way coronavirus ‘gains a foothold in the body’

Yvonne Cassidy: ‘My chest burned and I doubled over, hands on knees, gasping for breath.’

Although COVID-19 patients can suffer long-term lung and heart damage, there is some good news for these long haulers. There’s more evidence that such aftereffects improve over time, according to a paper by a team of researchers presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress, which studied patients in a COVID-19 “hot spot” in the Tyrolean region of Austria.

Some 86 patients out of a sample of 150 people were scheduled to return for evaluation 6, 12 and 24 weeks after their discharge from hospital. During these visits, clinical examinations, laboratory tests, arterial blood analysis of oxygen and carbon dioxide, lung function tests, computed tomography scans and echocardiograms (on the heart’s chambers and valves) were carried out.

At the time of their first visit, more than half of the patients had at least one persistent symptom, predominantly breathlessness and coughing, and computer tomography or CT scans showed lung damage in 88% of patients. However, by week 12 after discharge, symptoms improved and lung damage was reduced to 56%.


‘The good news is that the impairment tends to ameliorate over time, which suggests the lungs have a mechanism for repairing themselves.’


— Sabina Sahanic, a clinical Ph.D student at the University Clinic in Innsbruck, Austria

“The bad news is that people show lung impairment from COVID-19 weeks after discharge; the good news is that the impairment tends to ameliorate over time, which suggests the lungs have a mechanism for repairing themselves,” said Sabina Sahanic, a clinical Ph.D student at the University Clinic in Innsbruck and part of the team that carried out the study.

The average age of the 86 patients was 61 and 65% of them were male. Unlike Cassidy, nearly half of them were current or former smokers and 65% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients were overweight or obese. Eighteen (21%) had been in an intensive care unitÜ, 16 (19%) underwent invasive mechanical ventilation, and the average length of stay in hospital was 13 days.

The CT scans indicated that overall lung damage decreased from week 6 to week 12. Damage from inflammation and fluid in the lungs caused by COVID-19 was present in 74 patients (88%) at 6 weeks and 48 patients (56%) at 12 weeks. “We did not observe any severe coronavirus-associated heart dysfunction in the post-acute phase,” Sahanic said.

“The findings from this study show the importance of implementing structured follow-up care for patients with severe COVID-19 infection,” she added. “Importantly, CT unveiled lung damage in this patient group that was not identified by lung function tests. Knowing how patients have been affected long-term by the coronavirus might enable symptoms and lung damage to be treated much earlier.”

COVID-19 patients can suffer long-term lung and heart damage but, but there is some good news for these long haulers. (Photo: Getty Images)

This study is also supported by an article for primary-care physicians that was published last month in the British Medical Journal. It said that around 10% of patients who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 remain unwell beyond three weeks, and a smaller proportion for months. This was based on a study in which people log their ongoing symptoms on a smartphone app.

This percentage, however, is lower than that cited in many published observational studies. A recent U.S. study found that only 65% of people had returned to their previous level of health 14 to 21 days after a positive test, which has been the case with people who like Yvonne Cassidy who no longer have the virus, but have the antibodies.

Dr. Dixie Harris, a pulmonologist at the Intermountain Healthcare hospital system in Utah, told MarketWatch that coronavirus long haulers suffer shortness of breath, fatigue, memory issues, and even depression, but she too said there is “improvement over time.” She added, “Things such as prolonged symptoms — fatigue, that kind of thing — [have] been reported in MERS and SARS.”

In a second presentation to the European Respiratory Society International Congress on Monday, Yara Al Chikhanie, a Ph.D student at the Dieulefit Santé clinic for pulmonary rehabilitation and the Hp2 Lab at the Grenoble Alps University, France, said that the sooner COVID-19 patients started a pulmonary rehabilitation program after coming off ventilators, the better and faster their recovery.

She studied 19 patients who had spent an average of 3 weeks in intensive care and 2 weeks in a pulmonary ward before being transferred to the Dieulefit Santé clinic. The lack of physical movement in addition to severe infection and inflammation, lead to severe muscle loss, she said. The muscles for breathing are also affected. Most were unable to walk when they arrived at the clinic.

They underwent a test to see how far they could walk in six minutes. At the beginning, they were only able to walk barely a fifth of that distance on average, but after three weeks of pulmonary rehabilitation, this increased to an average of 43%. That is obviously still far from normal, but supervised rehabilitation helped to increase their lung capacity.


‘The sooner rehabilitation started and the longer it lasted, the faster and better was the improvement in patients’ walking and breathing capacities and muscle gain.’


— Yara Al Chikhanie, Ph.D student at Dieulefit Santé, a clinic for pulmonary rehabilitation

“The sooner rehabilitation started and the longer it lasted, the faster and better was the improvement in patients’ walking and breathing capacities and muscle gain,” Al Chikhanie said. “Patients who started rehabilitation in the week after coming off their ventilators progressed faster than those who were admitted after 2 weeks.”

COVID-19 has now killed at least 890,064 people worldwide, and 189,114 in the U.S., Johns Hopkins University says. As of Labor Day, the U.S. still has the world’s highest number of COVID-19 cases (6,292,206). Worldwide, there have been at least 27,208,206 confirmed cases, which mostly does not account for asymptomatic cases.

AstraZeneca
AZN,
-1.07%

, in combination with Oxford University; BioNTech SE
BNTX,
-1.19%

and partner Pfizer
PFE,
-0.11%

; Johnson & Johnson
JNJ,
-0.64%

; Merck & Co.
MERK,
-3.84%

; Moderna
MRNA,
-3.45%

; and Sanofi
SAN,
+5.09%

with GlaxoSmithKline
GSK,
-1.38%

are among those currently working toward COVID-19 vaccines.

The Dow Jones Industrial Index
DJIA,
-0.56%
,
the S&P 500
SPX,
-0.81%

and the Nasdaq Composite
COMP,
-1.26%

ended lower Friday. Doubts about traction for further fiscal stimulus from Washington may be one factor discouraging investors who have been betting on Republicans and Democrats striking a deal to offer additional relief to consumers and businesses.

India has reported 4,204,613 COVID-19 cases, surpassing Brazil (with 4,137,521) as the country with the second highest number of coronavirus cases in the world behind the U.S. India has a rate of COVID-related death per 100,000 people of 5.3 and a case-fatality rate of 1.7%. In contrast, the U.S. has a fatality rate of 57.7 per 100,000 people and a case-fatality rate of 3%.

‘The sooner rehabilitation started and the longer it lasted, the faster and better was the improvement in patients’ walking and breathing capacities and muscle gain.’ (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)




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Sanofi COVID-19 vaccine to cost below €10 and drug ingredients IPO planned within months, its France chief says


Sanofi’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine will cost less than €10 per shot, the pharma company’s France chief said Saturday.


Eric Piermont/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Sanofi
SAN,
+2.34%

stock rose 2.4% on Monday, after a senior executive said the French pharmaceutical giant’s COVID-19 vaccine will cost less than €10 and revealed plans to list its drugs ingredients unit in the next few months.

Olivier Bogillot, Sanofi’s chief in France, told France Inter radio on Saturday that the company’s coronavirus vaccine candidate, being developed in partnership with Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline
GSK,
-1.38%
,
was likely to be priced at less than €10 per shot but that a final price had not been set.

The potential vaccine, a slower effort than many of its peers, began human trials earlier this month, and it is hoped regulatory approval will be reached in the first half of next year.

Read: Sanofi looks to accelerate MS treatment with $3.68 billion Principia Biopharma acquisition

In the meantime, Sanofi is set to publicly list its active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) company, with an initial public offering planned in the coming months, Bogillot told France Inter radio. “The idea is to create a champion of active ingredients at the European level,” he said. The business could be valued at between €1 billion and €2 billion, sources told Reuters in July.

Sanofi announced plans in February to create a standalone company making API by combining its commercial and development activities with six of its production sites in Europe.

The French drugmaker said at the time it would decide whether to list the new company on Euronext Paris by 2022. It would be the world’s second largest API company, behind Switzerland’s Lonza
LONN,
+2.70%
,
with approximately €1 billion in expected sales by 2022, Sanofi said earlier this year.

The company said the spin off would help balance the industry’s “heavy reliance” on Asia for drug ingredients, which was highlighted through the disruption at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.



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Virology experts say the key is keeping Spain’s hospitals from becoming overwhelmed by COVID-19 this time


MADRID — Just days away from the start of a new school year, Spain’s capital city rolled out fresh restrictions on Monday to cope with what’s becoming a relentless second wave of cases.

But those measures — strict controls on the distance between seats rather than tables in food-service settings, reducing funeral attendance to 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors, and 10-person limits on social gatherings — seem modest as the country’s total infections close in on 500,000, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins. Official numbers indicate that threshold has already been reached. Spain’s is the highest infection total in Europe, though it pales against the 6 million–plus cases in the U.S., which has seven times Spain’s population.

Madrid’s new measures are cold comfort to parents, including this journalist, who will be sending at least one child to all-in-person classes of 21 children. More than 2,000 of 66,000 Madrid teachers recently tested positive for COVID-19 and will have to be retested. Elsewhere in the country, two schools have already had to close due to infections.

At the heart of the resurgence of Spain’s cases has been a rush to return to normal. Spain’s experience has also been impacted by government desperation to get the tourism industry and bars back in operation; overly relaxed family gatherings; insufficient safety protocols for field workers; and the behavior of idle youth with effectively nothing to do but party, and spread the virus.

Much as New York did, Spain climbed out of the depths of COVID-19 infections with the strictest measures possible, but Spain fell right back two months later. How the country pulls itself out this time may be a blueprint for other countries and municipalities to follow. MarketWatch spoke to these experts via email in hope of shedding light on where Spain stands now and what should be done.

Juan Jesús Gestal Otero, professor emeritus of preventative medicine and public health at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, was one of 20 experts who signed a letter in the British medical journal the Lancet asking for an independent review of Spain’s COVID-19 response.

MarketWatch: What key mistakes did Spain make after the lockdown in the spring, and what must it do now to fix the situation?

Otero: It took a long time to get contact tracing up and running. It should have started when the case curve began to decline. It would have helped to have the disease more controlled at the end of the de-escalation. Each autonomous community set up its own tracking system, many of them insufficiently staffed.

MarketWatch: Will Madrid’s new measures, such as cutting capacity at bars and restaurants, really help get the disease under control?


Johns Hopkins

Otero: I don’t think those measures help much to contain outbreaks. … To have the disease under control, the most important thing at this time is to strengthen the tracking capacity of the national health system. If this is not done soon, the continued increase in outbreaks can eventually overwhelm the tracking capacity of the system and lead to a loss of control and aggravate the situation. National coordination is also very important.

Don’t miss:To defeat COVID-19, ‘we need a unified national strategy,’ says public health expert Dr. Howard Koh

MarketWatch: What are the differences between now and March that are encouraging and discouraging?

Otero: Now there is epidemiological surveillance capacity, although it needs much improvement, for the early diagnosis of cases and contact tracing, and there is the capacity to perform many tests, which allows for detection of a large number of asymptomatic patients. Most of the current cases are young people in whom the disease is less severe, unlike in March-April, and the health system is not under pressure. It is discouraging to observe how certain social groups, mostly young people, are encouraging outbreaks with their behaviors.

MarketWatch: What should other countries learn from Spain?

Otero: Strongly strengthen the epidemiological surveillance system. As soon as possible, start tracking the contacts of the cases and carry out many, many tests, to locate the largest possible number of asymptomatic patients. Make the return to the “new normal” very carefully to avoid new outbreaks. Do not authorize activities that are incompatible with a respiratory pandemic, such as those that involve spending time in closed, poorly ventilated places with many people, parties, nightlife activities. … Raising awareness of the need to take protective measures in homes when they receive visitors, receive them in well-covered rooms, avoid family parties … as it is in homes where the greatest number of infections occurs.

Dr. Vicente Soriano is the director of the UNIR Medical Center in Madrid and a clinician and professor of infectious diseases at the UNIR Health Sciences School and Medical Center.

MarketWatch: What do you think of Madrid’s new measures to try to contain the virus?

Soriano: The confluence of crowding, the return to working activities for many, and easier access to testing — as compared with negligible in March — largely accounts for the new surge in cases. It will go up for the next couple of weeks. Despite, to date, that many new PCR+ diagnoses have been found in young and asymptomatic people, this second wave will soon expand to the whole population, including again the most vulnerable populations. Indeed, although so far the situation at most large Madrid hospitals has not collapsed, it reminds us slightly of what happened in February, when overwhelming began to occur.

MarketWatch: What about contact tracing and other efforts?

Soriano: The advent of rapid antigen tests will be helpful, although there is room for further improvement, testing saliva (instead of nasopharynx fluid), selling in pharmacies, and allowing for self-testing at home, like pregnancy tests, as many times as convenient.

MarketWatch: What else needs to be done?

Soriano: Regional governments need to work further on three areas: (1.) increase the role of primary-care physicians as a first barrier to assess nonseriously ill patients and manage them with the help of telemedicine, avoiding the collapse of hospital emergency departments; (2.) medicalization and ensure enough health-care workers and protective equipment for nursing homes for the elderly and other institutionalized patients — these places accounted for more than 60% of the death toll during the first COVID-19 tsunami wave in Spain; (3.) ensure stocks of diagnostic tests, protective equipment and enough doctors and nurses in clinics and hospitals for confronting the new COVID-19 surge. Acting upfront is always preferable to at the time of demand, when damage has already occurred.

MarketWatch: As a parent, how do you feel about sending your own children back to school?

Soriano: Reopening schools is a critical decision that is supported by the fact that youngsters very rarely become sick and allows parents to continue their jobs. So, I am in favor of reopening schools and therefore let my four children go to school, with the maximum guarantees they have established. I am aware that temporal closing of groups, classes and periodic cases will be reported. Inevitable. But working under this threat is preferable to paralyzing or closing the school.

Read on:Top coronavirus doctor in Spain has a message for revelers and tourists



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As schools reopen, scientists say some children could spread COVID-19 even if they already have the antibodies


As schools and colleges reopen across the country, scientists say social distancing remains a critical public-health response to COVID-19. New research released Thursday sheds more light on children who test positive for COVID-19, and the contagiousness of coronavirus. Children often remain asymptomatic or display very few symptoms, and the research also offers insights into the course of the disease at an important time for families and communities.

A study published in the latest edition of the Journal of Pediatrics finds that the virus and antibodies can coexist in young patients. “With most viruses, when you start to detect antibodies, you won’t detect the virus anymore. But with COVID-19, we’re seeing both,” says Burak Bahar, lead author of the study and director of Laboratory Informatics at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. “This means children still have the potential to transmit the virus even if antibodies are detected.”


‘Children still have the potential to transmit the virus even if antibodies are detected.’


— Burak Bahar, director of Laboratory Informatics at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C.

The researchers reviewed an analysis of 6,369 children tested for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and 215 patients who underwent antibody testing at Children’s National between March 2020 and June 2020. Out of these 215 young patients, 33 tested positive for both the virus and antibodies during the course of the disease. Nine of those 33 also showed presence of antibodies in their blood while also later testing positive for the virus.

What’s more, researchers found that patients aged 6 years through 15 years old took a longer time (a median time of 32 days) to clear the virus, meaning that it had left their systems, versus patients aged 16 years through 22 years old (a median of 18 days). Females in the 6 to 15 age group also took longer to clear the virus than males: A median of 44 days for females versus 25.5 days for males. “We can’t let our guard down just because a child has antibodies or is no longer showing symptoms,” Bahar said.

The study also found that 25 days was the median time from viral positivity to negativity — the moment when the virus can no longer be detected; it took 18 days to go from viral positivity to seropositivity — or the presence of antibodies in the blood — and it took 36 days to reach adequate levels of neutralizing antibodies. These “neutralizing antibodies” are important in potentially protecting a person from reinfection of the same virus, the researchers wrote.

Four important caveats: Firstly, the study looked at a relatively small number of children. Secondly, the next phase of research will be to test whether coronavirus that is present along with the antibodies for the disease can be transmitted to other people. Thirdly, scientists need to explore whether antibodies correlate with immunity and, fourthly, they need to establish how long antibodies and potential protection from reinfection actually lasts. As such, Bahar reiterates the need for social distancing.

Related:Dr. Fauci: It’s ‘conceivable’ we’ll know by November if a safe, effective vaccine is coming

A separate study published this week in JAMA Pediatrics suggests that children can spread SARS-CoV-2, even if they never develop symptoms or even long after symptoms have cleared. It found a significant variation in how long children continued to “shed” the virus through their respiratory tract and, therefore, could potentially remain infectious. The researchers also found that the duration of COVID-19 symptoms also varied widely, from three days to nearly three weeks.

A recent systematic review estimated that 16% of children with a SARS-CoV-2 infection are asymptomatic, but evidence suggests that as many as 45% of pediatric infections are asymptomatic, according to the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The signs and symptoms of COVID-19 in children are similar to other infections and noninfectious processes, including influenza, according to the CDC.


A separate study in JAMA Pediatrics said children may spread SARS-CoV-2, even if they never develop symptoms or even long after symptoms have cleared.

Under pressure from the teachers union to delay the start of the school year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that in-person classes will be pushed back until Sept. 21, 11 days later than planned. Remote learning, also originally slated to start on Sept. 10, will now commence on Sept. 16. Other countries have not fared so well with school reopenings. Israel, which also reopened schools this week, experienced outbreaks when it reopened schools on May 17.

Bahar also advised teachers and students to wear masks. To reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, it may be preferable to use high-quality cloth or surgical masks that are of a plain design instead of face shields and masks equipped with exhale valves, according to an experiment published Wednesday by Physics of Fluids, a monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal covering fluid dynamics that was first established by the American Institute of Physics in 1958.

As of Sunday, the U.S. still has the world’s highest number of COVID-19 cases (6,262,989), followed by Brazil (4,123,000), India (4,113,811) and Russia (1,022,228), according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. California became the first state in the country to surpass 700,000 confirmed cases. COVID has killed 188,711 people in the U.S. Worldwide, cases are near 27 million.

AstraZeneca
AZN,
-1.07%

, in combination with Oxford University; BioNTech SE
BNTX,
-1.19%

and partner Pfizer
PFE,
-0.11%

; GlaxoSmithKline
GSK,
-1.38%

; Johnson & Johnson
JNJ,
-0.64%

; Merck & Co.
MERK,
-0.95%

; Moderna
MRNA,
-3.45%

; and Sanofi
SAN,
+5.09%

are among those currently working toward COVID-19 vaccines.

The Dow Jones Industrial Index
DJIA,
-0.56%
,
the S&P 500
SPX,
-0.81%

and the Nasdaq Composite
COMP,
-1.26%

ended lower Friday. Doubts about traction for further fiscal stimulus from Washington may be one factor discouraging investors who have been betting on Republicans and Democrats striking a deal to offer additional relief to consumers and businesses.



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