EU secures deal with AstraZeneca to buy at least 300 million doses of potential coronavirus vaccine
European Union flags flutter in the breeze during the second day of a special European Council summit in Brussels on February 21, 2020, held to discuss the next long-term budget of the European Union (EU).
Ludovic Marin | AFP | Getty Images
The European Commission announced it has reached an agreement with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca to buy at least 300 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine.
The European Union’s executive arm said the deal included the option to purchase 100 million more doses of the vaccine in the event it is proven to be safe and effective.
“Today’s agreement is the first cornerstone in implementing the European Commission’s Vaccines Strategy,” Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said in a statement.
“This strategy will enable us to provide future vaccines to Europeans, as well as our partners elsewhere in the world,” she added. — Sam Meredith
New Zealand set to announce if it will extend lockdown, as new cases rise
New Zealand is set to announce today whether it will extend its lockdown in Auckland, which was put in place after a new cluster of coronavirus cases was discovered in the city. That’s after the country declared itself virus-free for more than 100 days.
On Friday, it also announced another 12 cases that’s linked to the now 30-strong cluster that was first confirmed in Auckland this week, according to Reuters. The country was lauded for its managing of the pandemic, which saw reported cases drop to zero after a strict countrywide lockdown it imposed earlier in the year. — Weizhen Tan
Fauci warns against herd immunity: ‘The death toll would be enormous’
White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told actor Matthew McConaughey during a live discussion on Instagram that the “death toll would be enormous” if the U.S. allowed the coronavirus to spread unchecked in an attempt to try to achieve so-called herd immunity.
“If everyone contracted it, even with the relatively high percentage of people without symptoms … a lot of people are going to die,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said.
The coronavirus has infected less than 2% of the U.S. population and has already killed at least 166,970 people, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Letting the virus spread uncontrollably to achieve herd immunity would bring the death toll to a level that’s “totally unacceptable,” Fauci said.
“If you look at the United States of America with our epidemic of obesity as it were, with the number of people with hypertension, with the number of people with diabetes, if everyone got infected, the death toll would be enormous and totally unacceptable,” Fauci told McConaughey. — Noah Higgins-Dunn
Trump attacks Biden’s coronavirus plan as unscientific, claims the presidential candidate wants to ‘grind society to a halt’
President Donald Trump accused former Vice President Joe Biden for politicizing the coronavirus outbreak and rejected his call for a national mask mandate to combat the pandemic. Trump, who resisted calls to wear masks for months, now endorses the idea, although he favors allowing governors to decide on whether to require them at the state level.
“It’s a shameful situation for anybody to try and score political points while we’re working to save lives and defeat the pandemic,” Trump said during a White House press briefing.
Governors from both Democrat- and Republican-led states across the country have mandated the use of masks or have rolled back reopening plans as cases have surged primarily in the Midwest and Sun Belt. However, Trump claimed that Biden “wants to shut down our economy, and close our schools and grind society to a halt.” —Noah Higgins-Dunn
NIH director says some call Putin’s coronavirus vaccine ‘Russian roulette’
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health, said Russia’s coronavirus vaccine skipped “fundamental parts” of the approval process and said some have even called it “Russian roulette.”
Collins, on a conference call with reporters, said Russia only conducted a phase one clinical trial of its vaccine, administering it to around 100 people, and decided “that was good enough.”
“I think virtually every vaccine expert in the world looking at this has been quite concerned whether this was a wise decision. Some have called this Russian roulette,” Collins said on the call. Other medical experts have warned that it’s unknown whether a vaccine would work and what the potential side effects would be without a large-scale phase three clinical trial. — Noah Higgins-Dunn
Congress leaves town without passing a coronavirus aid bill
Both chambers of Congress have wrapped up their work for the month, unless negotiators can reach an elusive deal on another round of coronavirus relief.
An agreement looked far away as the Senate ended its session Thursday afternoon, six days since Democrats and the White House last held talks. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats and Republicans are “miles apart in our values.”
The speaker has said she will not restart discussions until the Trump administration agrees to double the $1 trillion cost of its coronavirus relief proposal. She spoke to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday, and he again said the White House would not put a $2 trillion proposal on the table.
It could take weeks for the sides to strike an aid agreement, let alone pass a bill. At stake are enhanced unemployment benefits for millions of jobless Americans, protections to keep people in their homes, another round of direct payments to individuals and money for schools, food assistance and state and local governments.
— Jacob Pramuk
Georgia governor withdraws lawsuit against Atlanta mayor
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp listens to a question from the press during a tour of a massive temporary hospital at the Georgia World Congress Center on Thursday, April 16, 2020, in Atlanta.
Ron Harris | AP
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement that he would withdraw his lawsuit against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the Atlanta City Council for their mask requirements and other restrictions intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Kemp first announced the lawsuit in July and reprimanded the local leaders for using the pandemic for “political gain.”
In a statement issued Thursday, Kemp said the state’s Attorney General’s Office filed to withdraw the pending lawsuit after Bottoms’ “concession regarding the city’s Phase One roll-back plan” and negotiations with the Atlanta mayor reached a “stalemate,” according to a statement. Kemp said he would address the ongoing issue in his next executive order after his current order expires Saturday.
“For weeks, we have worked in good faith with Mayor Bottoms, and she agreed to abandon the city’s Phase One roll-back plan, which included business closures and a shelter in place order. Unfortunately, the Mayor has made it clear that she will not agree to a settlement that safeguards the rights of private property owners in Georgia,” Kemp said in the statement. — Noah Higgins-Dunn
Dr. Fauci isn’t ‘pleased’ with U.S. outbreak
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, prepares to testify during a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in Washington, D.C., July 31, 2020.
Kevin Dietsch | Pool | Reuters
White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said he isn’t happy with the current state of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States.
The nation’s leading infectious disease expert said U.S. public health officials are beginning to see a “disturbing” uptick in the rate of coronavirus tests that come back positive in some regions of the nation. Fauci has previously warned about a potential increase in Covid-19 cases brewing in states like Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana, which have reported an uptick in the percentage of positive tests.
“Bottom line is, I’m not pleased with how things are going,” Fauci said during a National Geographic panel moderated by ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts. –Berkeley Lovelace Jr.
No evidence of infection through food: WHO
People should not fear coronavirus infection through contact with food, according to the World Health Organization, which is following researchers in China who are studying the issue.
“There is no evidence that food or the food chain is participating in the transmission of this virus,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program, said during a press conference at the organization’s Geneva headquarters.
Three cities in China have found the virus on the surface of imported frozen food in recent days, according to NBC News. However, positive cases are exceedingly rare, according to Chinese researchers.
Chinese health authorities have tested hundreds of thousands of frozen food samples and “very, very few” tests come back positive for the virus, WHO officials said. — Spencer Kimball
WHO tells governments to begin building trust for vaccine now
Top officials from the World Health Organization during a press briefing urged governments around the world to begin building trust for coronavirus vaccines under development, saying the health organization has already intensified its work with social media companies to combat misinformation.
“We’re engaging with a lot of different groups right now to discuss vaccine understanding: What a vaccine is, what a vaccine does, what it’s meant to do, what it can’t do. How these are being developed to be as safe and effective vaccine, even though it’s a rapid development steps are not being skipped in terms of safety and in terms of efficacy,” said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit.
Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program, added that governments and health experts “need to invest now” in dialogues with communities who might doubt a potential coronavirus vaccine.
“It’s not a one-way street, it’s not about shoving things down people’s throats, it’s about having a proper discussion, good information, a good discussion on this, and people will make up their own minds. And I think science and government have a job to do, and that is to make the case,” he said. — Noah Higgins-Dunn
Investors rally behind AMC ahead of theater chain’s reopening next week
Shares of AMC Entertainment spiked as much as 17% on Thursday, one week ahead of the movie theater chain’s planned reopening.
The largest cinema chain in the U.S. has had its locations shuttered since mid-March and has been eager to get its business going again.
Prior to the pandemic, AMC had amassed more than $4.75 billion in debt outfitting its theaters with luxury seating and buying competitors such as Carmike and Odeon. The outbreak threatened to push the company into bankruptcy. In July, however, AMC was able to come to a debt agreement that would keep it solvent through 2021.
Starting Aug. 21, movie theaters will have access to a steady stream of new films. The first is Russell Crowe’s “Unhinged” and the 10th anniversary re-release of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception.”
Then, “The New Mutants” is set to debut the week after, followed by “Tenet” over Labor Day weekend. — Sarah Whitten
Covid-19 rivals the 1918 flu pandemic, scientists say
Members of the American Red Cross remove influenza victims in 1918.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Tribune News Service via Getty Images
The coronavirus is at least as deadly as the 1918 flu pandemic and the death toll could even be worse if world leaders and public health officials fail to adequately contain it, researchers warned in a new study.
“What we want people to know is that this has 1918 potential,” lead author Dr. Jeremy Faust said in an interview with CNBC, adding the outbreak in New York was at least 70% as bad as the one in 1918 when doctors didn’t have ventilators or other advances to help save lives like they do today. “This is not something to just shrug off like the flu.”
Public health officials and infectious disease experts have often compared Covid-19 to the 1918 flu, which is estimated to have killed 50 million people worldwide from 1918 through 1919, including 675,000 Americans, according to the CDC. More than 20 million people died in World War I, by comparison.
The study, published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, compared excess deaths in New York City during the peak of the 1918 pandemic with those during the first few months of the Covid-19 outbreak. They used public data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the U.S. Census Bureau to conduct their analysis. –Berkeley Lovelace Jr.
American Airlines prepares to cut service to small cities
Congress in March set aside $25 billion for airlines to weather the coronavirus pandemic, which drove demand down to the lowest levels in decades. Airlines like American, which accepted the aid, are prohibited from laying off workers through Sept. 30 and must also maintain minimum service levels.
An American Airlines executive told CNBC that the carrier could make the service cuts as early as next week for flights scheduled in the fall after the aid expires. The changes haven’t been finalized.
Airline labor unions and executives are pushing for another $25 billion in federal payroll support under the same terms as the first round. The proposal that has gained bipartisan support in Congress and from President Donald Trump but lawmakers and the White House haven’t reached a deal for a new national coronavirus relief package that could include the airline aid. —Leslie Josephs
NFL may need to seek government permission to broadcast Saturday games
The National Football League was said to be exploring moving games to Saturday or perhaps Friday with the Big Ten and Pac-12 college conferences postponing their football seasons due to Covid-19, reports CNBC’s Jabari Young.
But a U.S. law prohibits the NFL from airing its content on Friday evenings starting at 6 p.m. or on any Saturday as high school and college football games typically occupy those days and time slots in the fall.
The Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 was passed to allow sports organizations, including the NFL, exemption from the Sherman Antitrust Act, allowing leagues to bundle their teams’ content rights into one package and to sell those rights to TV networks.
The NFL also would need approval from the National Football League Players Association, and preliminary discussions have not taken place. —Melodie Warner
NCAA’s top medical officer warns “very narrow path” to restart sports
Players during an NCAA March Madness basketball game.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s top medical officer, while appearing alongside two of the association’s medical advisors, said that “it’s a very narrow path” to restart sports in the fall and warned that the association is moving into “very troubled waters right now.”
Dr. Brian Hainline, senior vice president and chief medical officer for the NCAA, said when the NCAA was considering resuming sports in the fall, it “envisioned” that the U.S. would have a national strategy for testing and contact tracing and Covid-19 cases would be on a downward trajectory.
“That hasn’t happened,” Hainline said on an Infectious Disease Society of America conference call. “And it’s made it very challenging to make decisions as we approach fall sport.” —Noah Higgins-Dunn
Telehealth expansions in Medicare could be here to stay
Federal lawmakers and regulators are exploring how to make coronavirus-related expansions in telehealth a more permanent part of Medicare.
Since early March, about 10 million beneficiaries have used telemedicine for various doctor’s appointments, whether by video chat, phone or other technology. Prior to the pandemic, there were about 13,000 telehealth appointments weekly, and restrictions were placed on where they could occur and which providers could offer care remotely.
While experts and advocates say the current waivers enabling broad use have been an important part of keeping beneficiaries safe and healthy, there also are aspects of telehealth that would need to be worked out. Among them: which healthcare services are appropriate for remote care, the cost and quality of the services, and Medicare beneficiaries’ access and mastery of the technology needed for telemedicine appointments.
Beneficiary feedback on the use of telehealth has been largely positive: One survey showed 91% had a positive experience and 78% would use it again. —Sarah O’Brien
Empty apartments in Manhattan reach record high as tenants flee
With the Empire State Building in the background, apartment buildings stand in the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan in New York City.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images
Rental inventory in Manhattan hit its highest level in recent history, with more than 13,000 apartments empty as New Yorkers flee the virus and would-be-tenants avoid dense urban areas.
That listing inventory is more than double last year’s levels, according to a report from Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel.
July, typically one of the busiest months for Manhattan apartment rentals, saw new leases fall by 23% and rental rates drop 10%. And brokers warn August is already off to a slow start.
Read more about the Manhattan rental slump from CNBC’s Robert Frank. —Sara Salinas
Kroger, CVS pitch testing solutions to employers, colleges
Testing delays have made it harder for schools, colleges and employers to figure out how to reopen and operate safely during the pandemic. Kroger and CVS Health say they’ve got a solution: Their own testing programs.
Employers can buy Kroger’s at-home testing kits and distribute them to their workers. Colleges or corporations can hire CVS to set up Covid-19 test sites at their office or on their campus, track people’s test results at a drive-thru location or handle related services, such as contact tracing.
In some parts of the country, people have to wait for a week or more to find out if they have Covid-19. But Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health, said results from the company’s at-home test kits typically take about three days — including shipping.
“That’s honestly a key differentiator for us right now,” she said.
CVS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Troyen Brennan said he sees rapid diagnostic tests as a key part of the solution. Instead of sending samples to a lab, he said, the company can do a nasal swab of a person, run the sample through a device and have results within minutes. —Melissa Repko
Coach owner Tapestry reports triple-digit online sales growth
The company returned to positive year-over-year sales growth in Mainland China for the fourth quarter, which ended June 27. It reopened the majority of the stores it operates across the globe. And its e-commerce sales shot up by triple digits versus the prior year.
Tapestry said it will speed along a turnaround plan aimed at reducing expenses, focusing on its online business and finding new ways for its brands to resonate with consumers. It estimated it will reduce expenses by about $300 million, including $200 million projected in fiscal 2021.
“Looking forward, Tapestry’s next chapter of growth is ours to write,” the company’s interim CEO Joanne Crevoiserat said in a news release. “While the backdrop remains volatile, it has not changed our long-term objectives. Rather, it has been a catalyst to accelerate our strategic agenda. —Melissa Repko
Weekly jobless claims come in below 1 million for the first time since March
Weekly jobless claims came in below 1 million last week for the first time since mid-March, totaling 963,000, as U.S. businesses stage a slow recovery from coronavirus shutdowns.
That’s below economists’ estimates of 1.1 million for the week and considerably lower than the March peak of more than 6 million claims in a single week. Continuing claims, representing those who have filed for benefits for at least two consecutive weeks, fell to nearly 15.5 million.
The numbers are still well above pre-pandemic levels. The last time reported jobless claims were below 1 million was March 14, at 282,000 claims, CNBC’s Jeff Cox reports. —Sara Salinas
Critics of Sweden’s coronavirus strategy call for more restrictions
Critics of Sweden’s coronavirus strategy have called for more protective measures to be put in place ahead of a potential second wave of the virus once the summer is over.
Writing in Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, Goran K. Hansson, the general-secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and Economist Lars Calmfors called for a change in the country’s strategy towards the virus, one that has seen it shun a lockdown in favor of largely voluntary measures.
“It is now time to review the corona strategy,” Hansson and Calmfors wrote in an op-ed Tuesday. “The beginning of autumn may be crucial for the corona pandemic’s continued development in the country. A real retake is needed for the continued infection control strategy so that the spread of infection is kept down while waiting for both better treatment methods and vaccines,” they said.
Sweden has seen a far higher death toll than its neighbors, with almost 5,800 deaths. The critics said the number of fatalities represented a “national catastrophe” for Sweden and called for more cost-effective measures, including quarantines for travelers from countries with a large number of infections, and face masks in public environments. —Holly Ellyatt
UN warns pandemic could create new conflicts
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned in a virtual meeting of the Security Council that the coronavirus pandemic threatens to exacerbate conflicts and potentially create new ones as the pandemic threatens long-standing peace-building efforts.
“The pandemic threatens not only hard-won development and peacebuilding gains, but also risks exacerbating conflicts or fomenting new ones,” he said. “Questions are growing about the effectiveness of health systems, social services, trust in institutions and systems of governance.”
Gutterres added that the pandemic might “undermine faith in governments and public institutions,” disrupt the global economy and weaken civic life, which could all engender new conflicts. He added that at least 23 countries have postponed national elections or referenda, “and almost twice as many have postponed subnational votes.”
Guterres repeated his prior calls for countries to commit to a global ceasefire during the pandemic. He then outlined a number of steps leaders can take to mitigate violence.
“First, our responses to the pandemic must be conflict-sensitive, starting with a multidimensional analysis that looks at how the pandemic affects underlying risks that drive conflict,” he said. “Second, inclusion is critical in the design of humanitarian and development responses to pandemics.” —Will Feuer
U.S. records over 1,500 deaths, for the deadliest day since May
The United States recorded more than 1,500 deaths caused by Covid-19 on Wednesday, marking the deadliest day for the country since the end of May, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The number of newly reported deaths may include people who died before Wednesday, but had not been reported.
While the daily number of new Covid-19 deaths is far below the 2,000-plus daily new deaths that the country saw in March and April, the daily death toll remains stubbornly high.
Daily new deaths are rising rapidly in Georgia, according to a CNBC analysis of Hopkins data. Georgia reported 105 new deaths on Wednesday, pushing the state’s seven-day average past 67 deaths per day, more than 38% higher than a week ago, according to CNBC’s analysis. —Will Feuer