Coronavirus updates: CDC warns vaccine supply could be limited at first; Dow recovers 2020 losses

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The Trump administration announced the acquisition of 150 million new rapid coronavirus tests manufactured by Abbott Labs as part of a roughly $750 million deal, cornering nearly all of the supply the company expects to produce through 2020. The new test is cheap, produces results quickly and can be administered without the use of scarce and technical lab equipment. The Department of Health and Human Services said the tests will "potentially" be deployed to schools and "special needs populations."

Here are some of the day's important headlines:

The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

  • Global cases: More than 24.56 million
  • Global deaths: At least 833,508
  • U.S. cases: More than 5.9 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 181,435

Abbott Labs is doing trials of its rapid coronavirus test on people without symptoms

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Abbott Labs CEO on new five dollar, 15 minute coronavirus tests

Abbott Laboratories CEO Robert Ford told CNBC that the company is conducting trials of its rapid coronavirus test to determine its efficacy for people without symptoms. 

Earlier this week, the Illinois-based firm announced it had received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration to use the test on people within seven days of symptom onset. The antigen test, which sells for $5 and can produce results in 15 minutes, is a notable development in the United States' efforts to broaden its screening capabilities for Covid-19. 

"We are working on developing data for asymptomatic claims so we are running our clinical trial and we'll eventually have data to be able to support that," Ford said in an interview with CNBC's Meg Tirrell on "Power Lunch." - Kevin Stankiewicz 

CDC director says vaccine supply will be constrained at first

Once a coronavirus vaccine proves safe and effective, and is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for public distribution, it will still likely be in scarce supply, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Robert Redfield said.

The U.S. has so far invested more than $10 billion in six vaccine candidates through Operation Warp Speed, the Trump Administration's effort to accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of vaccines and treatments to fight the coronavirus. The goal of the initiative is to provide 300 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine by January 2021. Drug manufacturers have made "hundreds of thousands" of doses for the U.S. so far, U.S. officials said Friday.

"At first, there will likely be a limited supply of one or more of the Covid-19 vaccines, because limited doses will be available," Redfield said on a conference call with reporters. "It's important that the early vaccines are distributed in a fair, ethical and transparent way."

The federal government is now considering how to prioritize different groups of the population for distribution of a vaccine. On Wednesday, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices discussed one strategy, which would prioritize health-care workers, essential personnel and vulnerable Americans, such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. —Will Feuer

California deploys new reopening framework with most counties under strict orders

California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined a new four-tiered approach to reopening, in which the state's counties can move between phases of operation based on on positivity rate and case rate. Each tier — minimal, moderate, substantial and widespread — allows for more or less non-essential indoor businesses to reopen with modifications. 

The new framework replaces what California previously called its "monitoring list." 

Newsom said 38 counties, or roughly 87% of the state's population, will begin on the "widespread" tier, which orders most non-essential indoor business operations to remain closed. Counties on the widespread tier have a positivity rate above 8% and more than seven daily new cases per 100,000 people. 

Schools will only be allowed to reopen for in-person instruction if a county is able to move out of the widespread tier, though they would still be required to wait two weeks before discussing whether to return students, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said. —Noah Higgins-Dunn

Dow claws back virus-fueled losses to turn positive for 2020

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained roughly 160 points Friday, clawing back the last of the index's virus-fueled losses and pushing the average into positive territory for the year. The Dow is now up 0.4% in 2020.

The Dow started a devastating plunge in late February when the coronavirus took hold on global economies. At its low for the year, the index was off more than 10,000 points from the February high. 

The S&P 500 gained 0.7%. The Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.6%. —Sara Salinas

Small businesses face mass closures as assistance dries up

A placard states "ALL SMALL BUSINESS IS ESSENTIAL" as demonstrators, employees, and patrons gather outside the Atilis Gym on May 20, 2020 in Bellmawr, New Jersey.
Mark Makela | Getty Images

One in five U.S. small businesses fear they will have to close their doors if economic conditions do not improve in the next six months as the coronavirus pandemic drags on and federal aid dries up, according the National Federation of Independent Businesses. 

The overwhelming majority of small businesses surveyed, 84%, have already used up their Paycheck Protection Program loans. Nearly half of respondents, 47%, anticipate they will need additional financial aid over the next 12 months.  

It's unclear when additional assistance might come. Negotiations between Republicans and Democrats over another coronavirus relief bill have been at an impasse for weeks with little hope of a breakthrough. — Spencer Kimball

Louisiana is 'blind' to coronavirus as Hurricane Laura shutters testing sites

Michael and Darlene Taylor sort through a freezer damaged by Hurricane Laura August 27, 2020 in Grand Lake, Louisiana. Hurricane Laura came ashore bringing rain and high winds to the southeast region of the state, reaching wind speeds of 150 mph and a 9-12 feet storm surge.
Eric Thayer | Getty Images

Hurricane Laura is hampering Louisiana's ability to respond to the coronavirus as it closes testing sites and forces thousands to flee, potentially spreading the virus to new communities across the state.

"The challenge is we're basically going to be blind for this week because we're having to discontinue much of our community-based testing," Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday, adding that federally funded "surge testing sites" are also closed. "This comes at a particularly bad time for us because it's two to three weeks since we resumed K-12 education and since we started moving young people back on to college campuses." 

The storm prompted tens of thousands of people from Southwest Louisiana, which is the part of the state where the highest share of Covid-19 tests are currently coming back positive, to flee across Louisiana, Edwards said. He added that a mass movement of people like that could spread the virus to new communities across the state. —Will Feuer

University of Illinois president says key to stopping coronavirus spread is rapid testing

University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen told CNBC that the university expects to see coronavirus outbreaks as they return students to campus for the fall semester, but the key to preventing further spread is rapid testing. 

"We will face outbreaks, there's no question. What we're going to do is have actionable tests so that we quickly squelch down the outbreak," Killeen said. "Once you know where the virus is, you can deal with it. If you don't know where it is, it's very tricky. It will develop." 

Students and staff on campus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign must be tested for Covid-19 at least twice a week, Killeen said. The university developed its own rapid, saliva-based coronavirus test that received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration shortly before students returned to class earlier this week. 

Officials have so far tested 121,000 people and found 248 unique positive cases, Killeen said. The university's so-called positivity rate, or the percentage of tests that are positive, remains below 1%. 

"It's going really well," Killeen said. "We don't like this virus, we want to crush it, and that's what we're doing and we're doing it on a massive scale." —Noah Higgins-Dunn

MGM Resorts lays off 25% of U.S. workforce

People walk in front of the MGM Resorts International Bellagio Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
Joe Buglewicz | Bloomberg via Getty Images

MGM Resorts International is laying off 18,000 furloughed employees, a quarter of its U.S. workforce, as major casino properties remain closed while those open suffer from reduced tourism and limited indoor capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Nothing pains me more than delivering news like this," CEO Bill Hornbuckle wrote in the separation letter to employees. "The heart of this company is our employees and the world-class service you provide. Please know that your leadership team is working around the clock to find ways to grow our business and welcome back more of our colleagues."

The employees receiving pink slips have been furloughed for half a year as of Aug. 31. Under federal law, workers furloughed more than six months must be given a separation date. At the start of the year, MGM Resorts had 70,000 employees in the U.S. —Spencer Kimball

FDA appears to ease a key at-home coronavirus test requirement, Gottlieb says

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Former FDA chief Gottlieb on what it would take for more at-home Covid-19 tests

Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC that the Food and Drug Administration appears to have softened a key stance on at-home coronavirus tests, potentially clearing the way for more to come onto the market.

Gottlieb, who led the FDA under President Donald Trump until 2019, said a barrier for the tests had been an agency requirement that results get reported to public-health authorities. However, it adds cost and complexity to tests that would optimally be cheap, he said. 

"But FDA seems to have backed off that mandate," Gottlieb said in a "Squawk Box" interview. "What they said on a call last week with stakeholders is, as long as the test is reliable and accurate, the FDA is not going to use the requirement to have to report the test result to a public health authority as a way to keep the product off the market, as an absolute condition."

Gottlieb said it is better for the results to be reported to public health authorities, explaining that in the long run it will be important to have. for at-home tests. "But I think in the near term we want as many people to get tested as possible and get a result if they're positive so they can know they're positive and take the proper steps." —Kevin Stankiewicz 

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic-testing start-up Tempus and biotech company Illumina. He also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Lines' and Royal Caribbean's "Healthy Sail Panel." 

 

Improvement in virus mortgage bailout stalls

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Nearly four million homeowners in Covid-19 mortgage bailout

The number of U.S. homeowners struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments essentially flatlined this month. That metric was improving in July, with fewer borrowers seeking forbearance as the U.S. economy waged a comeback from coronavirus shutdowns. 

As of August 25, nearly 4 million homeowners were enrolled in mortgage forbearance programs, according to Black Knight, a mortgage technology and analytics firm. That's 7.4% of all active mortgages and is unchanged from the week earlier, CNBC's Diana Olick reports. Those numbers haven't improved in the past two weeks. —Sara Salinas


The latest on U.S. spread

Economic recovery from the coronavirus will be 'a slow one,' says Cleveland Fed's Mester

Loretta Mester, president of the Cleveland Federal Reserve, told CNBC that more economic support is needed as the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic will be "a slow one."

"There's more pain out there that we're going to have to support the economy through," Mester said. What that looks like, we're going to have to take our time to evaluate that, but I think accommodative monetary policy is going to be very important throughout this recovery."

Mester also pointed out that high-frequency data examined by the Fed shows economic activity has slowed down a bit since the country started to reopen. —Fred Imbert

J&J to begin phase two vaccine trials in Europe next week

Johnson & Johnson's Janssen unit is expected to launch phase two trials for its Covid-19 vaccine in Spain, the Netherlands and Germany as soon as next week, Spanish health minister Salvador Illa announced, according to Reuters.

The trial is expected to last two months and include 590 participants across the three countries, Illa said. The company has previously said it plans to start its late-stage human trials in September with up to 60,000 participants from "places with high incidence rates."

The company announced earlier this month that it will develop and deliver 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine for the U.S. in a deal totaling more than $1 billion. The Department of Health and Human Services said when the deal was announced the acquired doses could be used in clinical trials or as part of a "vaccination campaign." —Will Feuer

Germany's Merkel warns of difficult winter

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the coronavirus situation in Germany is likely to worsen in the months ahead and that the German government will prioritize children, vulnerable people and the economy, Reuters reported.

"It will probably get more difficult," Merkel told reporters at a news briefing, according to Reuters. The government will be "doing everything so that our children are not the losers of the pandemic. School and daycare need to be the most important things."

She added that Germany will seek to jump start the economy in segments that have been stunted by the virus, Reuters reported, and try to protect elderly and low-income families. Germany managed to keep the number of cases in the country relatively low early in the outbreak, but cases have risen rapidly in recent weeks with the country reporting about 1,500 new cases per day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. —Will Feuer

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