Coronavirus: NYC can resume indoor dining; Dems say Trump interferes with vaccine approvals

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AstraZeneca, one of the frontrunners in the global race for a Covid-19 vaccine, announced Tuesday that it was pausing its late-stage trial to review safety data. The company said the pause is a "routine action" and that it is trying to expedite the review to "minimize any potential impact on the trial timeline." 

Here are some of the biggest developments of the day:

The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

  • Global cases: More than 27.6 million
  • Global deaths: At least 898,200
  • U.S. cases: More than 6.32 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 189,600

AstraZeneca should know by the end of 2020 whether vaccine trial can restart

A pedestrian walks past signage outside an AstraZeneca Plc research and development facility in Shanghai, China, on Monday, June 8, 2020.
Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said the drugmaker should know before the end of the year whether its vaccine protects people from the coronavirus, as long as it is able to resume trials that were suspended this week.

According to a Reuters report, Soriot made the comments on a call about the vaccine, saying that it was common for a trial to suspended.

AstraZeneca's late-stage vaccine trials were suspended after an illness in a participant in Britain. Soriot reportedly said the company did not yet know the diagnosis for the trial subject.

He added it was not clear if the participant was suffering from transverse myelitis or if more tests were needed. — Vicky McKeever

Indonesian stocks fall after capital city plans to reinstate partial lockdown

The Jakarta Composite Index, Indonesia's main stock index, fell by around 5% after the capital city announced plans to reinstate partial lockdown measures starting next Monday. 

Jakarta, the epicenter of the country's coronavirus outbreak, will reintroduce measures such as temporarily closing most offices, limiting public transport services and forbidding dining in restaurants, reported Reuters.

Those measures were previously imposed on the city in April, but were eased starting in June. 

Indonesia has been struggling to contain the virus. It has reported more than 200,000 of cumulative infections — the second highest in Southeast Asia behind the Philippines, according to Johns Hopkins University data. But Indonesia's death toll of over 8,000 is the region's largest, the data showed. — Yen Nee Lee

Economist says $3 trillion of fiscal stimulus required to support U.S. economy

Around $3 trillion worth of fiscal stimulus may be needed to support the U.S. economy which has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, said William Lee, chief economist at Milken Institute.

He told CNBC's "Squawk Box Asia" that those funds should be used to incentivize companies to upgrade their remote working capabilities and help unemployed people to find jobs. 

Lee's comments echoed that of many economists who have said that the U.S. economy urgently needs further stimulus after contracting by a record 31.7% on an annualized basis in the second quarter. But Democrats and Republications remain in a stalemate as they fail to agree on what to include in the next coronavirus relief package.

"Every penny helps and the danger is that these guys will fiddle around to try to redesign the program to really meet some perfectionist criteria that shouldn't be," said Lee. — Yen Nee Lee

Air New Zealand grounds Boeing 777 fleet until September 2021

Air New Zealand said it has grounded its Boeing 777 fleet until at least September 2021, an indication that international long-haul travel is not expected to return anytime soon.

Demand for flights plunged this year due to the pandemic, forcing airlines to slash many of their regular flying routes. 

New Zealand's flag carrier in May had grounded most of its seven 777-300 aircraft until the end of the current calendar year. It also signaled that it was unlikely to fly its eight 777-200 aircraft in the foreseeable future and prepared to send them into long-term storage abroad. 

Four of the 777-300 aircraft will be stored in Victorville in the Californian desert while the remaining three will stay in Auckland. The 777-200 aircraft will be put into long-term storage in facilities at New Mexico and California. 

Other airlines have also announced similar decisions: Delta Air Lines, for example, said in May it will retire its fleet of Boeing 777s while Australia's Qantas has more than 100 aircraft in storage. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

Dr. Fauci says he’ll never be ‘muzzled’ in discussing virus

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, said that he won't be "muzzled" when discussing the science and facts about the coronavirus.

The comment by Fauci came after Politico reported a Trump administration appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services is trying to prevent Fauci from speaking about the risks that the coronavirus poses to children.

Fauci's comments on the pandemic have often been at odds with President Donald Trump and other U.S. officials who have frequently downplayed the virus. For instance, on Tuesday, Fauci said a coronavirus vaccine probably won't be ready by the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 3, even after Trump suggested Monday that one could be ready before then. –Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

MLB set to finalize postseason bubble plans; World Series to be played in Texas

Major League Baseball and its players union are close to finalizing a plan to move games to bubble formats for the 2020 postseason, people familiar with discussions told CNBC.

The plan would move teams to neutral sites in California and Texas, with ballparks including the Houston Astros' Minute Maid Park and Dodger Stadium in the Los Angeles area as preferred sites. The Rangers' new stadium in Arlington would be used to host of the World Series, the individuals said.   

The people who spoke to CNBC requested to remain anonymous due to ongoing discussions to finalize the plan.

Minor concerns do remain before plans are set.

Though club owners have the right to switch to a bubble format per the March 26 pandemic agreement, the MLBPA would still need to approve additional health and safety protocols and work with MLB to determine eligibility of guests. Those problems should not prevent a deal but will need to be addressed.

The regular-season is scheduled to conclude on Sept 27. —Jabari Young

NYC restaurants to resume indoor dining Sept. 30 at 25% capacity

People dine on the sidewalk on the first day of the phase two re-opening of businesses following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., June 22, 2020.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters

New York City restaurants that have stayed afloat over the summer through takeout and outdoor dining services will be allowed to offer indoor dining at 25% capacity beginning Sept. 30, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. In order to reopen, they will be required to take customers' temperatures at the door, and enforce mask wearing and social distancing rules, among other health precautions, he said. 

"I understand the economic pressure they've been under. A restaurant is not just the restaurant owner, a restaurant is the kitchen staff, the wait staff, there's a whole industry around restaurants," he said. 

In recent weeks, the governor has allowed the city's malls, gyms and museums to reopen with limited capacity but has held back on reopening restaurants for indoor dining services, even though other parts of the state were allowed to serve customers inside. Cuomo has repeatedly criticized city officials for not enforcing social distancing rules for outdoor dining, citing those shortcomings as part of the reason for the delay.

"We have seen clusters outbreak from restaurants, so that was the reason for caution," Cuomo said at a press conference. —Noah Higgins-Dunn 

Trump admitted downplaying coronavirus dangers, new Bob Woodward book says

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks after attending a closed Senate Republican policy lunch meeting on the response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 19, 2020.
Yuri Gripas | Reuters

President Donald Trump admitted that he wanted to publicly downplay the threat of the coronavirus despite being warned by his advisors about the dangers of the disease, according to audio of the president released by multiple outlets.

"I wanted to always play it down," Trump told veteran journalist Bob Woodward in mid-March, CNN reported. "I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic." 

CNN reported Woodward writes in his upcoming book "Rage" that Trump had been informed in late January – weeks before Covid-19 claimed its first lives in the U.S. – that the virus was dangerous and highly contagious.

Trump reportedly told Woodward in a Feb. 7 phone call that he understood the virus was "more deadly than even your strenuous flu."

Despite his private remarks to Woodward about the severity of the disease, the president publicly continued to insist that it would "disappear" and "go away." —Kevin Breuninger

Stay-at-home-inspired DIY projects could be here to stay

As more Americans move to the suburbs and rural areas because of the pandemic, doing DIY projects, redecorating rooms and landscaping the yard home improvement projects could become lasting habits.

A research note by Wells Fargo Securities predicted that Home DepotLowe's and other retailers that sell home improvement items, furniture and decor will see strong sales into the future because of de-urbanization. The shift to the suburbs could also benefit auto-focused retailers, such as Carvana and AutoZone, according to the note.

Many of those retailers have already seen gains during the pandemic as people spend more time at home and avoid crowds.

In the note, Wells Fargo senior equity analyst Zachary Fadem pointed to factors that have driven some people out of cities. Among them, he said, is data that suggests about 65% of early Covid-19 cases were concentrated in dense cities. People have sought out more space as they work and learn at home and as aspects of city life from public transit to high-end restaurants are unavailable or unappealing. —Melissa Repko

Amazon is on a hiring spree amid widespread layoffs and record unemployment

Amazon plans to hire 33,000 corporate and technology workers across the U.S. in the coming months. 

The company has continued to aggressively hire new employees despite the broader economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The economic downturn has been marked by widespread joblessness, hiring slowdowns and layoffs. 

Amazon has been on a hiring spree since the pandemic began. It hired 36,400 people in the three months ended June 30, bringing its headcount to 876,800, an increase of 34% year over year. That number is expected to reach 1 million employees around the world, a major milestone, once Amazon permanently hires some of the temporary workers it brought on during the pandemic. It also plans to add 3,500 jobs in a handful of U.S. cities, while it continues to staff up its U.S. and international campuses

Not everyone has fared as well as Amazon during the pandemic. Tech companies big and small have pulled back on hiring and announced layoffs. As of Wednesday, more than 560 tech start-ups have cut roughly 78,900 jobs since March 11, according to Layoffs.fyi, which tracks job cuts in the tech start-up industry. —Annie Palmer

Amtrak CEO tells Congress the company needs about $4.9 billion as furloughs and service cuts loom

Amtrak CEO William Flynn told a U.S. House subcommittee that the rail company needs about $4.9 billion to avoid looming cuts to staff and service, Reuters reports. 

The company got $1 billion from Congress in April and asked for an additional $1.475 billion in May, the news service said.

With revenue down 95% from last year, Amtrak said last week it would furlough about 10% of its staff on Oct. 1, with cuts to both union jobs and management, according to Reuters. The company previously said it has a workforce of about 20,000.

The company is temporarily reducing service starting in October on many long-distance routes, moving back from daily routes to three times per week, Reuters reports. —Chris Eudaily

United Airlines, pilots reach deal to avoid furloughs

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United, pilots reach tentative pact to avoid Oct. 1 furloughs

United Airlines says it's reached an agreement in principle with its pilots union that could avoid planned furloughs of close to 3,000 aviators.

The details weren't immediately available and union members would still have to approve the cost-cutting plan. United follows Southwest, JetBlue and Spirit in striking deals to avoid involuntary cuts. 

Airlines and labor unions have been scrambling to secure additional federal aid as a $25 billion package prohibiting job cuts is set to expire on Oct. 1. That proposal has gained bipartisan support, but Congress and the White House have so far failed to agree on the terms of another national coronavirus aid package that could include additional airline aid.

In the meantime, airlines have urged workers to take unpaid or partially paid time off, buyouts and other options to reduce payroll expenses. —Leslie Josephs

Democrats grill health officials on Trump interference in vaccine process

Dr. Anthony Fauci (R), director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, looks on as U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks about coronavirus vaccine development in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 15, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Democratic senators grilled two top health officials about whether President Donald Trump is interfering in the development of potential coronavirus vaccines.

National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams testified before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on vaccine safety. The hearing came as Trump has suggested a Covid-19 vaccine could be ready before Election Day on Nov. 3, a much more optimistic estimate than his own health officials have offered.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., accused Trump of overruling scientists and pressuring the Food and Drug Administration into approving products based on "weak evidence." Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash, said Trump exerted "political pressure" on the FDA to issue an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma.

"When it comes to a Covid-19 vaccine, we cannot allow President Trump to repeat his alarming pattern of putting politics ahead of science and public health," she said. –Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

AstraZeneca trial participant had serious neurological symptoms

The AstraZeneca vaccine trial participant who triggered a global pause in the trials experienced severe neurological symptoms after being injected with the drug, STAT News reports

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot told investors on a private phone call that the U.K. woman demonstrated symptoms consistent with transverse myelitis, a rare and serious spinal inflammatory disorder, according to the STAT report. The woman's condition is improving and she is expected to be discharged from the hospital as early as Wednesday. 

It's not uncommon to pause drug trials to review safety data, but the high-profile nature of the Covid-19 vaccines under development has shined a spotlight on this reported adverse reaction.

The company has offered little information to the public on the pause — the latest update on the trial participant's condition was relayed to STAT News by people familiar with the investor call. —Sara Salinas

In addition to AstraZeneca, UK science advisor warns other vaccine trials likely to be paused

The U.K. government's chief scientific advisor has said other coronavirus vaccine trials are likely to be paused in the coming months, following AstraZeneca and Oxford University's decision to put its study on hold due to safety concerns.

"The Oxford vaccine in many ways is right at the front because it has been into more people than anyone else," Patrick Vallance said during a press briefing. It was not an unusual step to take during late-stage trials, he continued, adding "that is precisely why Phase 3 clinical trials happen."

Vallance said it is inevitable to some side effects and "it is sensible to look at that very seriously and understand what's going on." 

"So, I think you should expect in some of the other trials that you will see situations where things are paused and then restarted," Vallance said. —Sam Meredith

NIH chief says the U.S. won't skip any vaccine safety steps

National Institutes of Health Dr. Francis Collins told a Senate committee that health officials will not skimp on safety assessments in the development of a coronavirus vaccine.

Collins said studying the safety and effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccine candidates is now the NIH's "top priority." An independent data and safety monitoring board is reviewing the integrity of clinical trials and continues to monitor results to ensure participants are safe, Collins told the U.S. lawmakers.

"The critical final steps in clinical trials will be well-coordinated and done in parallel with manufacturing, but with NIH and industry providing the FDA with all of the critical safety and efficacy data necessary for sound scientific decision-making," he told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

The comment came a day after AstraZeneca announced that it was pausing its late-stage trial after a "suspected serious adverse reaction" in a participant in the United Kingdom. —Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Home Depot turns Black Friday into two months of deals

An artificial Christmas tree sits on display inside a Home Depot store in New York.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Home Depot will be open on Black Friday, but shoppers will have less of a reason to rush to stores.

The home improvement retailer said it's turning the one-day event into nearly two months of deals to discourage lines and crowds during the pandemic. The company is also nudging customers towards its app by launching sales there first.

As customers decorate for the holidays, they may be interested in another shopping option: Getting a fresh Christmas tree or other decorations delivered to their door.

Other retailers have said they will adapt their approach to the holidays, too. Best Buy and Target plan to start promotions earlier than in previous years. Walmart developed a new online tool that allows kids to try toys virtually since the spread of Covid-19 has canceled in-store demos and events. Kohl's is preparing for potentially dampened holiday sales, and Tapestry-owned Coach will cut in half the variety of handbags and other items shoppers can choose from. —Melissa Repko

U.S. stocks opened higher as tech rebounds after massive sell-off

U.S. stocks opened higher as tech shares recovered some of the steep losses that pushed the Nasdaq Composite into correction territory, reports CNBC's Fred Imbert and Maggie Fitzgerald. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded 240 points higher, or 0.8%. The S&P 500 jumped 1.3% and the Nasdaq Composite rose 1.9%. —Melodie Warner 

Latest hot spots of new U.S. cases

Dr. Fauci says vaccine trial pause is 'not uncommon'

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies during the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in Washington, D.C.
Kevin Dietsch | Pool via Reuters

White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said it's "not uncommon" to pause large human trials as AstraZeneca, one of the leading Covid-19 vaccine developers, did with its phase three trial.

"It's really one of the safety valves that you have on clinical trials such as this, so it's unfortunate that it happened," he said in an interview with CBS' Gayle King. "Hopefully, they'll work it out and be able to proceed along with the remainder of the trial, but you don't know. They need to investigate it further."

AstraZeneca announced on Tuesday that it was pausing its late-stage trial because "there is a potentially unexplained illness." The company added that pausing the trial is a "routine action" and that it is trying to expedite the review to "minimize any potential impact on the trial timeline." —Will Feuer

WHO stresses safety after major vaccine trial paused

The safety of coronavirus vaccines currently in development is "first and foremost," the World Health Organization's chief scientist said, according to Reuters, after vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca paused its late-stage trial due to safety concerns. 

"Just because we talk about speed...it doesn't mean we start compromising or cutting corners on what would normally be assessed," Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said at an event streamed on social media, Reuters reported. "The process still has to follow through rules of the game. For drugs and vaccines which are given to people, you have to test their safety, first and foremost."

The AstraZeneca trial was paused so that an independent board can review a "potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials." The company said it is a "routine action" and that "in large trials illnesses will happen by chance but must be independently reviewed to check this carefully." —Will Feuer

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