Coronavirus: Universities scramble to respond to outbreak, schools likely years away from 'normal'

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The University of Notre Dame abruptly paused in-person learning for undergraduate students for at least two weeks after more than 100 students tested positive for Covid-19 just over a week into classes. The announcement comes after the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill earlier this week reversed its decision to hold undergraduate in-person classes for the semester due to a rise in cases on its campus. 

Here are some of today's major developments: 

The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

  • Global cases: More than 22.4 million
  • Global deaths: At least 787,682
  • Top five countries: United States (over 5.5 million), Brazil (over 3.4 million), India (over 2.8 million), Russia (over 935,000), South Africa (over 596,000)

Indonesia reportedly postpones plan to relocate capital city

Traffic congestion in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Bay Ismoyo | AFP | Getty Images

Indonesia has put on hold a $33 billion plan to move its capital city from Jakarta to the island of Borneo as the country prioritizes its fight against the coronavirus outbreak, reported Reuters. 

The report, which cited Indonesia's minister for national development planning, said groundbreaking for the new capital city could be postponed until 2022 or 2023. Construction for a state palace and other government buildings was initially scheduled to start by next year, according to the report. 

The project to relocate the capital city was announced by President Joko Widodo last year. The move is supposed to relieve the burden on Jakarta, the current capital city that has been suffering traffic gridlock, regular floods and is sinking due to over-extraction of ground water, reported Reuters. 

Indonesia has reported more than 144,900 confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 6,346 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Some experts had said that the country's low testing rate could be masking the true extent of its outbreak. — Yen Nee Lee

Qantas expects 50% of international operations to return by fiscal 2022

Australia's flag carrier Qantas expects half of its international operations to return by fiscal 2022, CEO Alan Joyce told CNBC

Air travel demand has suffered a near-total collapse this year due to the coronavirus pandemic as passengers stopped traveling and countries shut down their borders and restricted social movements. Airlines have been forced to cut costs by suspending flight routes, cutting jobs and furloughing workers. 

Qantas can deliver on 'aggressive' cost-cutting plan, says CEO
Qantas can deliver on 'aggressive' cost-cutting plan, says CEO

Qantas' international operations "will take a bit of time to recover. In financial year 2022, we are only expecting to get 50% of our international operation back and we're thinking it will take three years before we can get our A380s back in the air," Joyce said Thursday on "Squawk Box Asia." 

He added that Qantas research indicates that there's customer interest in domestic travel but that the easing of border restrictions between Australian states have not been consistent. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

Pandemic has changed the way people use real estate, developer says

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated some trends in the real estate industry, such as the need for spaces that can be used flexibly for live, work and play, according to a Singapore developer.

"What Covid has done is really to fast forward all that trend into the present," Cheng Hsing Yao, the group managing director of GuocoLand Singapore, told CNBC's "Squawk Box Asia."

The spread of the virus globally has forced many companies to allow employees to work remotely, with a Morgan Stanley report predicting that some businesses may cut down their office space.

Cheng said that in the future, offices may be used more for "socialization" and "collaboration" — that's a reason why GuocoLand has included a "network hub" in a mixed-use project that it's developing in central Singapore. The development, Guoco Midtown, consists of condominiums, offices and retail space. — Yen Nee Lee

Trump says hold on blood treatment therapy 'could be a political decision'

President Donald Trump said during a White House press briefing that he was "surprised" to learn about the Food and Drug Administration's hold on granting convalescent blood therapy emergency use for coronavirus patients, indicating that the decision may have been politically motivated. The New York Times first reported the FDA's hold on an emergency use authorization. 

The experimental treatment uses the blood from recovered coronavirus patients who have built antibodies against the diseases and infuses it into people with Covid-19 to prevent severe disease, according to the Mayo Clinic, which is conducting studies on the treatment.

"I hear great things about it ... that's all I can tell you," Trump said referring to convalescent plasma therapy. "It could be a political decision because you have a lot of people over there who don't want to rush things because they want to do it after November 3, and you've heard that one before." — Noah Higgins-Dunn, Christina Farr

Trump pushes for universities to reopen

During a White House press briefing, President Donald Trump urged universities to continue reopening their campuses to students amid a recent climb in Covid-19 cases among students at a number of institutions across the U.S. 

"We have learned one thing, there's nothing like campus there's nothing like being with a teacher as opposed to being on a computer board," Trump said during a White House press briefing. "The iPads are wonderful but you're not going to learn the same way as being there." 

The president's remarks come as some universities have reported hundreds of new Covid-19 cases as students return to campus for the fall semester, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame. Both universities moved undergraduate instruction online after reported outbreaks. 

"Instead of saving lives the decision to close universities could cost lives. It is significantly safer for  students to live with other young people than to go home and spread the virus to older Americans," Trump said. — Noah Higgins-Dunn, Christina Farr

California governor removes counties from watch list, says San Francisco could be next

San Diego County and Placer County have been removed from California's "monitoring list" and San Francisco County could come off as early as Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a press briefing. Newsom ordered a slew of businesses on the list, including fitness centers and salons, to close their indoor operations in July after a resurgence of Covid-19 cases.

If counties are able to remain off the monitoring list for at least two weeks, the state will grant them the opportunity to reopen schools for in-person instructions. There are now 40 counties on the monitoring list out of the state's 58 counties, Newsom said. 

"We want to see this list go down to zero," Newsom said. "This is not a permanent state. We will see a decrease in the transmission, we are seeing a decrease in the transmission of Covid-19."  — Noah Higgins-Dunn

Supreme Court sets Nov. 10 argument date for Obamacare showdown

The Supreme Court said it will hear arguments once again over the constitutionality of former President Barack Obama's signature health care overhaul on Nov. 10, just a week after President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden face off at the polls. 

The Trump administration is supporting the challenge to the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which was brought by Republican attorneys general led by Texas. Criticism from Democrats over the effort, which could leave tens of millions more Americans without health care coverage, has escalated as the Covid-19 pandemic has intensified.

The Supreme Court upheld Obamacare in a 2012 ruling that found the law permissible under Congress's power to tax. Republicans are arguing that, given that justification, the law's individual mandate provision became unconstitutional when its penalty was set to $0 in 2017, and that the whole law must be scrapped as a result. 

A decision in the case is expected around June of 2021.— Tucker Higgins

Fed says pandemic will 'weigh heavily' on economy and poses 'considerable risks'

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, wearing a face mask, testifies before the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee during a hearing on oversight of the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve response to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 30, 2020.
Tasos Katopodis | Reuters

The Federal Reserve laid out its rationale for keeping interest rates near zero in minutes released Wednesday that detailed the central bank's July policy meeting. 

The Federal Open Market Committee, the central bank's top policymaking body, agreed during its July 28-29 session that "the ongoing public health crisis would weigh heavily on economic activity, employment, and inflation in the near term and was posing considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term."

As a consequence, Fed officials expect to keep the overnight borrowing rate basically at zero until they're "confident that the economy had weathered recent events and was on track to achieve the Committee's maximum employment and price stability goals." —Spencer Kimball, Jeff Cox

Cuomo warns indoor dining might not return to NYC during cold months

Customers dine outside at Via Carota restaurant in the West Village, New York City, June 26, 2020.
Noam Galai | Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that New York City's struggling bars and restaurants might not be allowed to reopen for indoor service when the weather turns cold because compliance with social distancing orders has been too lax.

"We have a much, a much bigger problem in New York City today than any of the surrounding suburbs with a lack of compliance," Cuomo told reporters on a conference call when asked why the state allows indoor dining in other regions and not New York City. 

The city's restaurants have been staying afloat with outdoor patios and takeout service this summer, but it's unclear how they will remain viable financially when it's too cold to sit outside during fall and winter. 

Cuomo has recently laid the groundwork for some indoor businesses to return in the coming weeks with limited capacity, including gyms and museums, but has yet to make a decision on restaurants and bars. Though New York City has moved into the final stage of its reopening process, bars and restaurants have remained closed as coronavirus cases have spiked elsewhere in the nation. 

The governor indicated that a decision could come later as the weather turns cold and added that "in this environment, two weeks is what a year used to be. Something changes every two weeks." — Noah Higgins-Dunn, Berkeley Lovelace Jr. 

Colleges and universities scramble to respond to campus outbreaks

A student studies in an open-air seating area on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on August 18, 2020 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Melissa Sue Gerrits | Getty Images

Colleges and universities that had plans to bring students back to campus for an in-person fall semester are scrambling to shift to remote classes as the coronavirus infects students and spreads rapidly on some campuses.

The University of Notre Dame on Tuesday announced it will pause in-person undergraduate classes for at least two weeks. Less than an hour later, Michigan State University said it was pivoting to an online-only fall for undergrads, telling students who planned to live in dorms to now stay home. 

The changes came just one day after the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill halted in-person classes for the fall, only a week after they began, citing a spike in coronavirus cases. 

The abrupt changes underscore the perils of bringing students back to campus and cast doubt on other schools' plans to bring students back to campus. —Will Feuer and Kevin Stankiewicz

How to get your money back if your summer trips and concerts were canceled

doble.d | Moment | Getty Images

Consumers whose long-awaited summer getaways were scuttled due to coronavirus might be in for more disappointment: They'll have a hard time getting all of their cash back.

Indeed, 54% of individuals who bought tickets in advance for travel or for an event that was ultimately called off due to Covid-19 have lost money, according to a new survey from The personal finance site took an online poll of 2,624 adults in July.

Chase down your refund by first contacting the merchant that originally sold you the tickets, said Ted Rossman, industry analyst at

If that doesn't produce results, consider contacting your credit card provider to help undo the transaction. Just be aware that this process, known as filing a chargeback, can carry negative consequences for customers and merchants.

Finally, if all else fails, reach out to your airline or hotel directly. Be sure to read up on the policies in place for coronavirus-related cancellations before you act. —Darla Mercado

The CDC wants to test sewage systems for the virus

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other federal government agencies will begin working with state, local, territorial and tribal health departments to collect data on the sewage samples, an effort they call the National Wastewater Surveillance System, or NWSS, according to CDC guidance updated on Monday. 

The goal is to find traces of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, that shed from people and traveled through the sewage system. While wastewater testing is not intended to replace clinical testing, it can help communities where Covid-19 tests are "underutilized or unavailable," the CDC said. Wastewater testing can also be a leading indicator of a worsening outbreak depending on the level of virus in the sewage. 

The CDC is not currently taking samples for testing but is searching for local partners to test and report the data to the agency's NWSS portal. —Noah Higgins-Dunn

It may be years before students can return to school without masks

Teachers demonstrate a plexiglass reading corner in a classroom at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, U.S. As virtual learning has started in school districts across the state, parents, educators, doctors and the government all disagree on the best way to move forward for the sake of Arizona's students.
Cheney Orr | Bloomberg | Getty Images

As schools consider whether it's safe to reopen this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic, scientists warn it could take years before students and teachers can return to in-person education safely without masks, social distancing and other measures intended to curb the spread of the virus.

They say a combination of herd immunity, a coronavirus vaccine and hygienic practices are needed to bring the virus down to low enough levels that allow schools to safely return to "normal." Public health officials say herd immunity is "some time off." At least one vaccine is expected in the first half of next year, though scientists say it won't be a "magical cure."

"You're really going to need all three moving forward," said Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia who was a member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adding social distancing measures are difficult in some school settings. —Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Stocks open flat after the S&P 500 notches new record

U.S. stocks opened nearly unchanged, a day after the S&P 500 hit its highest level ever and wiped out all the losses from the coronavirus sell-off, reports CNBC's Fred Imbert and Maggie Fitzgerald. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 42 points, or 0.15%. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite were also marginally higher. —Melodie Warner 

Southwest turns down government loan, plans more flight cuts

Southwest Airlines is turning down a $2.8 billion government loan from part of $25 billion in government funds set aside for the ailing airline industry.

The Dallas-based carrier says it "can secure additional financing at favorable terms if needed" and that it has already raised close to $19 billion this year in debt and stock sales, as well as $3.3 billion in government payroll support.

The airline reported "modest" improvement in bookings for August and September and slightly better-than-expected cash burn this quarter of $20 million a day compared with a forecast of $23 million.

But Southwest is cautious. It's planning for September capacity to be about 40% less than last year, down from a previous estimate for a drop of no more than 25% year-over-year. For the third quarter, capacity will fall by an estimated 30% to 35%, lower than the 20% to 30% Southwest previously forecast. Southwest also estimates its October capacity will be at about 40% to 50% of last year. —Leslie Josephs

Target reports monster quarter, bolstered by Americans' shifted spending habits

Target CEO Brian Cornell on what drove the blowout second quarter results
Target CEO Brian Cornell on what drove the blowout second quarter results

Target posted a stellar fiscal second quarter, blowing past every estimate on Wall Street and setting a record for same-store sales growth. The strong results were bolstered in part by what CEO Brian Cornell said amounted to shifted spending habits by many Americans as they cancel vacations and other summer plans.

On CNBC's "Squawk Box," Cornell attributed the retailer's eye-popping 24% same-store sales growth to those discretionary dollars rather than government stimulus.

"In the pandemic, we're not going to restaurants, we're not going to movies," he said. "Those traditional summer trips have been canceled. We're not on planes. We're not spending dollars on lodging, so many of those dollars have been redirected into retail."

Target attracted 10 million new digital customers and $5 billion in market share in the first half of the year. Its stores stayed open as an essential retailer as some of its competitors were forced to close. And it saw huge gains with e-commerce, such as curbside pickup growth of more than 700% in the second quarter. —Melissa Repko, Sara Salinas

Lowe's profits and sales surge as consumers spend more on home improvement

Oppenheimer's Brian Nagel breaks down Lowe's Q2 earnings beat
Oppenheimer's Brian Nagel breaks down Lowe's Q2 earnings beat

Lowe's reported a 30% surge in sales and 69% jump in profits during its second quarter, crushing Wall Street estimates.

A day after rival Home Depot reported U.S. same-store sales growth of 25%, Lowe's said that its U.S. business saw same-store sales surge 35% during the quarter ended July 31. Even the U.S. regions hardest hit by the pandemic saw same-store sales growth of more than 30%. And sales on its website soared 135% as consumers shifted to shopping online rather than in stores.  

CEO Marvin Ellison chalked the blow-out quarter up to consumers shifting spending toward home improvement and away from other kinds of discretionary spending, like restaurants and travel. —Amelia Lucas

Australian PM says vaccine should be mandatory, then walks back comments

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison backtracked on comments that he expected to make a coronavirus vaccine "as mandatory as you can possibly make it."

"Can I be really clear to everyone? It's not going to be compulsory to have the vaccine, OK?" Morrison said Wednesday in a radio interview following his comments earlier that day on another station.

Morrison said that there were no mechanisms in place to ensure vaccinations are compulsory for Australian citizens. "We can't hold someone down and make them take it," he added. —Vicky McKeever

Roche and Regeneron team up on antibody cocktail

Regeneron and Roche are partnering on an investigational antibody cocktail to combat Covid-19, with U.S.-based Regeneron set to distribute it in the U.S. and Roche to distribute it elsewhere if the drug is authorized, the companies announced. 

The cocktail is being investigated both as a potential treatment for Covid-19 patients and as a preventative against infection for people exposed to the virus, Regeneron said. The drug, called REGN-COV2, is currently being studied in two late-stage trials as a potential treatment against Covid-19 and in a phase three trial for the prevention of infection in certain people, Regeneron said.

The partnership with Roche will help to boost overall production capacity of the drug by at least 3½ times, Regeneron said. The announcement comes after Roche's own drug, Actemra, failed in a trial investigating whether it could effectively treat Covid-19.

"We are excited about the potential for one medicine to serve both as a treatment for those infected as well as protection for people exposed to the virus, Roche CEO Bill Anderson said in a statement. "REGN-COV2 could be a critical line of defense against the COVID-19 pandemic." —Will Feuer

Britain to conduct mass testing

Britain will conduct mass coronavirus testing in a new attempt to bring the outbreak under greater control, health minister Matt Hancock said, according to Reuters.

"This is a really, really important drive that we have across government to bring in mass testing, population-wide testing," Hancock told BBC radio, Reuters reported. "We'll ramp it up, certainly over the remainder of this year."

Some public health specialists in the U.S. have called for a similar ramp-up in the U.S., even if it means relying on less accurate but more accessible surveillance tests instead of the molecular diagnostic tests. However, the Department of Health and Human Services has repeatedly defended the current U.S. testing strategy as adequate.

"We are doing the appropriate amount of testing now to reduce the spread, flatten the curve, save lives," Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health and the Trump administration's virus testing czar, said on a conference call with reporters Thursday. "You do not beat the virus by shotgun testing everyone all the time." —Will Feuer

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