Coronavirus: Notre Dame to move classes online for 2 weeks; Yale saliva test may miss some infections

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U.S. coronavirus cases appear to be ticking lower, with the seven-day average of newly reported infections falling below 50,000 for the first time in nearly a month. The U.S. reported 35,112 new cases of the virus on Monday, bringing the average over the past seven days to 49,132, down nearly 10% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. New cases regularly drop early in the week as labs and local government offices reopen after the weekend.

Here are some of the biggest developments:

The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

  • Global cases: More than 22 million
  • Global deaths: At least 779,443
  • Top five countries: United States (over 5.48 million), Brazil (over 3.4 million), India (over 2.7 million), Russia (over 930,000), South Africa (over 592,000)

Recovery for Chinese airlines looking better than their peers

With China's domestic travel rebounding faster from the pandemic compared to other countries, the recovery prospects of Chinese airlines look better than their peers, investors said. 

Chinese airlines, like most carriers globally, recorded losses in the first half of this year after authorities around the world closed borders and limited movements of people to stem the virus' spread.

But those losses would likely narrow in the coming quarters as domestic passenger traffic continues to recover, HSBC said in a note. Chinese airlines earn most of their profits on domestic routes, the bank said.

The British bank has a "buy" rating on the Hong Kong-listed shares of China's three largest carriers: China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Air China— Yen Nee Lee

South Korea's daily confirmed cases jump by the most in five months

South Korea recorded its sixth straight day of triple-digit increases in confirmed coronavirus cases, reported Reuters. 

The country added 297 confirmed infections in the last day, with most of the new cases detected in capital city Seoul and surrounding areas, according to the report. That brought total cases in South Korea to 16,058 with 306 deaths since the outbreak, said Reuters. 

The South Korean government tightened social-distancing measures earlier this week. That include ordering nightclubs, karaoke bars, buffets and cyber cafes to close, as well as forbidding in-person church services, the report said.

Authorities could impose stricter measures if the outbreak worsens, which would include closing schools and workplaces, reported Reuters. — Yen Nee Lee

Australia signs deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine as new cases ease

Australia has signed a deal with drugmaker AstraZeneca to produce and distribute enough doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine to its population of 25 million people, Reuters reported. 

The priority list of vaccine recipients would be determined by a medical panel but all Australians will be offered doses, according to Health Minister Greg Hunt, the news wire said. 

The vaccine called AZD1222 was developed by the University of Oxford and licensed to AstraZeneca. It is said to be one of the most promising candidates undergoing large-scale human trials. 

Australia recently saw a flare-up of infection cases in the state of Victoria, which prompted the state government to reintroduce strict lockdown measures. But the number of new reported cases appears to be slowing down, easing some of the concerns over a second wave of infections spreading throughout Australia. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

Group of House Democrats urge Pelosi to pass unemployment benefit bill

A group of House Democrats is urging party leaders to pass a bill to reinstate the extra $600 per week federal unemployment insurance until the coronavirus public health emergency ends. 

Three lawmakers on Tuesday wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to bring up a bill to sustain jobless benefits when it votes on a plan to boost the U.S. Postal Service on Saturday. The legislation would continue the $600 weekly payment and then phase it out as state unemployment rates fall. 

The letter underscores lawmakers' urgency to pass coronavirus aid as the Trump administration and Democrats fail to strike a deal to try to boost an economy and health-care system ravaged by the pandemic. Measures to lift the U.S. economy — the $600 per week benefit, a federal moratorium on evictions and Paycheck Protection Program small business loans — have expired, leaving millions of people struggling to pay bills and threatening the economic recovery. 

Pelosi reiterated Tuesday that she wants Republicans to double the price tag of their roughly $1 trillion aid plan. Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin contended that Democrats have not offered a "reasonable deal." —Jacob Pramuk

Regulators allow more flights between the U.S. and China

U.S. and Chinese airlines can increase service between the two countries to eight round-trip flights a week, the Department of Transportation says.

In early June, amid heightened tensions between the two countries, the Trump administration had briefly threatened to ban Chinese passenger airlines from flights to the U.S. as Chinese authorities hadn't yet allowed U.S. airlines to resume service there. Limited flights were permitted at first.

The Department of Transportation on Tuesday said Chinese carriers can operate a total of eight round-trip flights to the U.S. each week, equal to the number U.S. airlines are allowed to fly to and from China. Currently, the only U.S. airlines offering China service are Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. U.S. carriers in late January said they were suspending China after demand fell and new travel restrictions were put in place as coronavirus was spreading.

The permission for China carriers relates to Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, Hainan Airlines, Sichuan Airlines and Xiamen airlines. —Leslie Josephs

Notre Dame will move instruction online for two weeks, president says

The University of Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins announced the university will move its undergraduate instruction online for two weeks to try to curb a coronavirus outbreak on campus, warning that it may send students home if cases don't fall. The order takes effect on Wednesday. 

"If these steps are not successful, we'll have to send students home as we did last spring," Jenkins warned during a conference call. "The virus is a formidable foe. For the past week it has been winning."

Notre Dame has reported a steady increase in Covid-19 cases since welcoming students back to campus. The university is now reporting more than 140 total cases since the school started tracking them about two weeks ago, according to its coronavirus dashboard last updated Tuesday.

Jenkins said contact tracing efforts have linked many cases to off-campus gatherings. "Students infected at those gatherings passed it on to others who in turn passed the virus on to a further group, resulting in the positive cases we have seen," Jenkins said. — Noah Higgins-Dunn

University of Tennessee reports cluster of cases after party, chancellor threatens expulsion

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has identified its first cluster of coronavirus cases traced to an off-campus party, Chancellor Donde Plowman said. 

The university reported 66 students and 9 employees testing positive as of Monday, according to its dashboard. Dr. Spencer Gregg, director of the UT Student Health Center, said the university defines a cluster as either five positive cases connected with an event or 20 connected close contacts of at least one Covid-19 case. 

Plowman said that the growth in case counts were to be expected as more students returned to campus for the fall semester and added that cases "will continue to go up for a while." She added the university will take stringent measures against large gatherings to prevent further spread of the virus, warning students that they could face expulsion if they break the rules. 

"If you host a party, that's a large gathering and it doesn't meet the mask or social distancing requirements, you are endangering the health and well-being of the campus and the Knoxville community. We will hold the party host accountable... We will hold you responsible and it's possible you could be expelled from school and I will not hesitate to do that if students are irresponsible," Plowman said during a conference call. — Noah Higgins-Dunn

Coronavirus pandemic continues to turbocharge online sales, Census data shows

A man stacks packages for delivery during the coronavirus pandemic on April 12, 2020 in New York City. COVID-19 has spread to most countries around the world, claiming over 110,000 lives with infections at over 1.8 million people.
Cindy Ord | Getty Images

U.S. e-commerce sales continue to be on the rise amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to quarterly figures released by the U.S. Department of Commerce on Tuesday.

Consumers spent $211.5 billion online during the second quarter, up 31.8% from the previous quarter. E-commerce now accounts for 16.1% of all U.S. sales compared to 11.8% in the first quarter. 

The coronavirus has pushed many consumers to spending online as many brick-and-mortar stores remain closed. Early on in the pandemic, consumers turned to online retailers for essential goods, but demand has since shifted to other categories like office supplies and electronics. Online grocery delivery has also experienced a sustained bump in demand.

Meanwhile, total retail sales continued to decline in the second quarter, shrinking 3.9% from the first quarter of 2020, when total retail sales decelerated 1.3% from the fourth quarter of 2019, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

— Annie Palmer

TSA chief says 'entirely possible' air travel will reach a 1 million people a day over Labor Day weekend

VIDEO5:2405:24
TSA administrator: Traffic has returned to the highest level since March

Labor Day weekend is likely to attract even more travelers than in recent weeks, according to the head of the Transportation Security Administration. It's "entirely possible" that TSA screenings will reach a daily total of 1 million, TSA Administrator David Pekoske told CNBC's "Power Lunch." On Sunday, the TSA screened 862,949 people, the most since March 17.

That's welcome news for airlines that have struggled to convince many travelers to fly this summer — typically carriers' busiest season — as Covid-19 concerns, closures and related travel restrictions keep many would-be customers away.

Travel demand has increased from more than five-decade lows hit in April but still remains weak compared with last summer. A million travelers in a single day is about 60% lower than the number of people TSA screened a year ago.

Airlines could be even more challenged in September since travel generally slows down when children go back to school. —Leslie Josephs

New U.S. cases by state

7 states approved to offer $300 unemployment boost

Seven states — Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico and Utah — have received federal approval to offer a $300-a-week boost to unemployment benefits as pandemic-fueled shutdowns persist. 

The states are the first to get the go-ahead from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is overseeing funding for the "low wages assistance" program.

They may be able to start issuing the funds as soon as this week. However, experts question how quickly states will be able to set up the administrative framework to deliver the assistance.

President Trump earlier this month signed an executive measure to enhance unemployment benefits, after a $600-a-week federal subsidy lapsed at the end of July. —Greg Iacurci

Walmart teases launch of membership service as e-commerce gains popularity in pandemic

As e-commerce gains popularity during the pandemic, Walmart teased the launch of a membership program that will compete with Amazon Prime.

The big-box retailer confirmed in February that it's developing a subscription-based service called Walmart+. Since then, investors and analysts have been waiting for its launch and for more details. 

On a Tuesday earnings call, CEO Doug McMillon said the service will emphasize speedy deliveries and low prices. He said customers will get unique perks. And he said the company will benefit from increased customer loyalty and more data about shoppers' preferences.

He did not speak to the program's perks, price or launch date. It's expected to cost $98 per year, according to a Recode report that cites anonymous sources. —Melissa Repko

WHO says young people are driving the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic is now being driven by people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who don't know they are infected, according to the World Health Organization. 

Most of the young people either never developed symptoms or had mild symptoms, Dr. Takeshi Kasai, WHO's regional director for the Western Pacific, said during a news briefing. "This increases the risk of spillovers to the most vulnerable: the elderly, the sick, people in long-term care, people who live in densely populated urban areas" and rural areas with limited health care.

Scientists are still learning why the disease develops into a severe illness in some individuals but not others, like some young people. In the U.S., state health officials say more young people are ignoring social distancing measures and contracting the virus at a higher rate. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, has previously urged young Americans to not take the coronavirus lightly, saying doing so could propagate the pandemic. –Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Delta Air Lines taps CVS to test flight crews for Covid-19

CVS Health Corp will test Delta Air Lines flight crews for Covid-19 before trips, the latest effort to rebuild confidence in air travel, which plummeted during the pandemic.

CVS will administer the rapid-response nasal swab tests in airport crew lounges and results are expected within 15 minutes, the Atlanta-based airline said. Delta has said it would test its entire staff or Covid-19, which numbers around 75,000 after recent buyouts and retirements.

Delta and other airlines are looking for ways to calm travelers worried about flying during the pandemic. Earlier this month it said it would pilot passenger temperature checks at Los Angeles International Airport.

CVS has pitched its Return Ready testing program to employers and colleges as a way around diagnostic delays. —Leslie Josephs

How the pandemic is affecting college tuition refunds

As students get ready to go back to school, the very real risk of getting sick has sparked a sudden interest in college refund policies and tuition insurance.

Colleges typically offer refunds on a sliding scale and most schools don't give any money back at all after the fifth week of classes.

However, many schools also offer third-party tuition protection, which generally covers families for medical or psychological reasons.

Typical School Refund Policy
Source: GradGuard

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, "we are busier than we've ever been," said John Fees, co-founder of GradGuard, one of the largest providers of tuition insurance.

"The number of policies has doubled since last year — more schools are offering tuition insurance and twice as many families are buying it," he said. —Jessica Dickler

Notre Dame reports more than 50 cases, many linked to an off-campus party

The University of Notre Dame reported 58 Covid-19 cases as of Sunday, a sudden uptick in infections since students returned to campus for the fall semester, according to its coronavirus dashboard last updated on Monday. Cases have ballooned since the university reported its first positive case on Aug. 6 with more than 11.5% of the roughly 500 tests conducted so far returning positive.

Paul Browne, a university spokesman, told the South Bend Tribune on Friday that many of the growing cases were traced to an off-campus party. He said party-goers didn't social distance or wear face coverings. He said that university officials believe they can continue in-person classes.

"What it reinforces is our concern that it only takes a weak link," Browne told the Tribune. —Noah Higgins-Dunn

Walmart looks to Congress for guidance as it tries to predict sales

One of the decisions that will drive Walmart's sales in the coming months will be made in Washington, D.C., rather than its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.

The big-box retailer's bottom line was boosted during the fiscal second quarter as shoppers spent their stimulus checks. Same-store sales in the U.S. grew by 9.3% during the period. Sales dropped off in July as the stimulus funds began to run out, but was still up more than 4% — higher than many quarters before the pandemic began.

Now, Walmart Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs said the company is waiting to see if lawmakers will put more cash in customers' pockets.

"Stimulus was definitely impactful to the consumer in the second quarter, and we're watching what's going on in Washington, and how we're going to progress with a new stimulus package," Biggs said in an interview with CNBC. "I think certainly it would be helpful for consumers." —Melissa Repko and Bertha Coombs

Yale researcher says its saliva test may miss people with low infection levels

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Yale researcher on Covid-19 saliva test that was granted FDA approval

Yale University's new saliva-based test for the coronavirus "might miss" people who have very low infection levels, according to researcher Anne Wyllie. But Wyllie told CNBC that is why Yale's test was created with frequent testing in mind. 

"So if you're being tested twice a week — even better if you can be tested more — you might get missed one day if you've got very, very low amounts of the virus in you," she said on "Squawk Box."

"But if that viral load starts to increase, because you're having frequent testing, we'll quickly pick that up the next time," added Wyllie, an associate research scientist in epidemiology.

Wyllie said Yale's test, which received an emergency approval Saturday from the Food and Drug Administration, also was created to be cheaper and more simple than nasal-swab tests. That could make it easier for approved labs to run more saliva samples, expediting turnaround time for results. —Kevin Stankiewicz 

Cramer says the pace of Walmart's future growth depends on new stimulus

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Cramer: Walmart needs to be cautious going forward despite blowout Q2 earnings

Walmart needs to be a "little cautious" because unless there's another coronavirus relief deal "they won't be able to maintain" the sizzling growth seen in the second quarter, CNBC's Jim Cramer said.

Earlier in the day, Walmart blew away earnings and revenue expectations, nearly doubling online sales during the pandemic. The company partly credited shoppers spending their government stimulus checks.

Cramer, also a small business restaurant co-owner, called Walmart a "great American company," but said the government can't ignore the plight of smaller companies struggling to compete and implement expensive Covid-19 mitigation measures. —Matthew J. Belvedere

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says Democrats aren't willing to discuss 'reasonable' relief bill

Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Treasury secretary, speaks during a House Small Business Committee hearing in Washington, DC, July 17, 2020.
Erin Scott | Reuters

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin dampened early hopes that top lawmakers are inching closer to a new coronavirus bill after he swiped at Democratic leaders as being unwilling to discuss a smaller relief package. Mnuchin, who joined CNBC's "Squawk on the Street," said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., "aren't willing to sit down and strike a reasonable deal."

Wall Street investors had hoped that Mnuchin would express optimism over recent reports that Senate Republicans are planning a $1 trillion coronavirus relief bill to support consumers and businesses still struggling with the fallouts from the disease. —Thomas Franck

VIDEO1:1801:18
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin: Democrats are unwilling to make a 'reasonable' relief deal

S&P 500 inches closer to a record closing high

U.S. stocks rose at the open as the S&P 500 tried once again to exceed its previous record close set in February, reports CNBC's Fred Imbert and Yun Li. 

The S&P 500 gained 0.2%, trading just a few points above its record close of 3,386.15 set on Feb. 19, before businesses began shutdowns to slow the spread of Covid-19. The index was also just below its intraday all-time high of 3,393.52.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 9 points, or less than 0.1%, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.4%. —Melodie Warner 

The latest on U.S. spread

Finland temporarily restricts sale of some medicines amid fears of winter Covid-19 peak

Finland has announced it will ration the sale and release of commonly-used medicines in a bid to ensure enough availability during the winter months and a potential coronavirus peak.

The Nordic country's ministry of social affairs and health said, effective immediately, the sale and release of paracetamol and dexamethasone would be temporarily restricted through to January 15.

Health experts have previously cautioned cooler weather conditions in the winter could trigger a more intense transmission of the Covid-19 infection.

To date, 7,752 people have contracted the virus in Finland, with 334 related deaths, according to data compiled by John Hopkins University. —Sam Meredith

Retailers weather a quarter marred by shutdowns

Another slate of retailers reported quarterly results Tuesday and made clear the impact of coronavirus storefront shutdowns on sales growth.

Walmart and Home Depot each reported strong quarters — Walmart boosted by huge growth in digital sales, and Home Depot helped by "essential" status that meant many of its brick-and-mortar locations never had to close. Kohl's, likewise, saw a big jump in e-commerce, but declined to report same-store sales growth for a quarter plagued by widespread closures. 

Here's how each retailer fared: 

—Sara Salinas

Quest Diagnostics cuts testing turnaround time

Dr. Glenn Lopez administers a free COVID-19 test to Jesus Pineda at a St. John’s Well Child & Family Center mobile clinic set up outside Walker Temple AME Church in South Los Angeles amid the coronavirus pandemic on in Los Angeles, California.
Mario Tama | Getty Images

Coronavirus test manufacturer Quest Diagnostics announced that it has cut its turnaround time for coronavirus diagnostic tests to 1 to 2 days for all patients, down from more than 7 days a month ago. 

The company and other commercial laboratory operators previously faced backlash for returning test results days after sample collection. Critics said slow turnaround times rendered the tests clinically useless because they didn't return test results in time for infected people to isolate. Quest and other companies said at the time that their testing capacity was overwhelmed by the surge in cases across the U.S.

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration authorized a new laboratory technique for Quest that the company said would help cut the testing turnaround time. Now, Quest said it has "completed testing and reporting results of outstanding test specimens associated with the prior, recent surge."

"We now have ample capacity to accommodate incoming orders," the company said in a statement. —Will Feuer

WHO says world remains far from herd immunity

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO's emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said more than 100 seroprevalence studies, which seek to determine how much of a given community has been infected by the virus, are being conducted around the world. These studies indicate generally that about 10% of the population has developed antibodies against the virus, she said. 

"That means that a large proportion of the population remains susceptible," she said. "What we are looking at right now are the sero-epidemiology studies being conducted and these tell us consistently, across all regions, that a large proportion of the population remains susceptible to infection. That means the virus has an opportunity to spread."

Van Kerkhove added that scientists are still exploring the role of antibodies and the human immune response to a Covid-19 infection. She said it remains unclear how strong different immune responses are and how long they last. 

"There is a lot up in the air. There is a lot to be discussed. There is a lot to be worked out between the scientists," Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO's emergencies program, said. "I think what we can say right now, as a global population, we are nowhere close to the levels of immunity required to stop this disease transmitting." —Will Feuer

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