Business Report: COVID-19 treatments, transportation spending, holiday shopping

Merck hopes a new drug will provide a better treatment option for severely ill COVID-19 patients

Kenilworth-based Merck is hoping a new drug will provide a better treatment option for severely ill COVID-19 patients. Merck is buying the Maryland company OncoImmune for $425 million. Recent late-stage clinical studies found OncoImmune’s medicine reduced the risk of death by 50% for those patients who are hospitalized and on oxygen. Meanwhile over the weekend, the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 antibody treatment made by Regeneron. This is the therapy given to President Donald Trump when he was hospitalized with COVID-19 in October.

The Murphy administration will ramp up spending on transportation projects this year. The administration quietly added about half a billion dollars for those projects, bringing the total spend from the Transportation Trust Fund to $2.6 billion. The administration says the money will pay for several construction projects, like bridge and road repairs. Some Republican lawmakers have raised concerns about the increase.

The American Dream mall is trying to entice visitors during the holiday week with Black Friday sales and special events. The big question, of course, is how many people will actually go out and shop this year. A new survey from the consulting firm Deloitte finds 57% of those polled plan to avoid shopping in stores during the Thanksgiving period in order to avoid crowds. Still, the National Retail Federation expects retail sales will increase for the season, thanks to a shift in online spending.