The U.S. Senate passed a bill funding the battle against the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. The vote, taken Thursday afternoon, passed overwhelmingly by a count of 96 in favor and one against, with three abstentions. The previous day, the House of Representatives passed the measure in a similarly lopsided vote. The bill now goes to president Donald Trump; he is expected to sign it.
The bill, technically titled the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, allocates a total of $8.3 billion in emergency funding. The bulk of this goes to the Department of Health and Human Services. Other arms of the government receiving monies will be the Small Business Administration, the State Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
The funds will be put to many uses. Among the activities that will receive them are laboratory testing, infection control, and research support for potential vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics.
According to the latest information as of mid-afternoon Thursday, there were 205 confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in the U.S. and 11 people have died so far.
The encouraging news about the quick passing of the bill didn't soothe investor nerves; all major stock indexes closed down sharply on Thursday.
Some pharmaceutical companies and biotechs developing vaccines and drugs to fight the coronavirus and COVID-19 didn't fare as badly, however. Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) closed up marginally, while Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) shares rose by nearly 2%.
Gilead's efforts focus on repurposing its antiviral drug remdesivir to effectively attack the disease. Moderna is leading the charge in vaccines with its mRNA-1273. Both Gilead's and Moderna's candidates are in the clinical trial stage of development.