Coronavirus: New York City delays in-person classes again; Texas starts reopening after summer surge

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Weekly jobless claims, though better than expected, remain staggeringly high at 860,000 as concerns grow that mass layoffs are on the horizon as relief funds dry up for major industries and small businesses alike.

The situation is particularly dire for the major airlines. Executives from the big carriers were meeting with Trump administration officials at the White House to lobby for billions more in assistance to avoid sacking or furloughing more than 30,000 employees come October. 

The path to reopening the U.S. remains rocky with New York City postponing in-person classes, again, for the nation's largest school district. Texas is now attempting to reopen businesses, despite leading the nation in new cases, after a false start in the spring led to a summer surge that forced a second round of closures.

Here are some of the biggest developments Thursday:

The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

  • Global cases: More than 30.1 million
  • Global deaths: At least 946,490
  • U.S. cases: More than 6.67 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 197,644

Italians to vote in regional elections in key test for coalition government

Tourists wearing a surgical face mask walk by the Trevi fountain in downtown Rome on August 19, 2020.
VINCENZO PINTO | AFP | Getty Images

Italian citizens will cast their votes in seven regional elections and a long-awaited constitutional referendum over the weekend. It marks the first major electoral test for the fragile national government since the coronavirus pandemic.

The regional elections take place on Sept. 20-21 for the presidency of Tuscany, Valle d'Aosta, Liguria, Marche, Apulia, Veneto and Campania. A vote on whether to reduce the number of members of parliament from 945 to 600 will also be held.

To date, Italy has recorded more than 293,000 cases of the coronavirus, with 35,658 related deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. — Sam Meredith

Competition for white-collar jobs will become 'tougher' as a result of the pandemic

The pandemic has shown that many white-collar jobs can be done over the internet — and that will cause competition for such jobs to become "tougher," Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said at the virtual Singapore Summit

He noted that many people have started working from home as countries around the world temporarily closed offices to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Soon, "people will be asking what's the difference between working from home in one place versus working from home in another country," said the minister. 

"The jobs that be done over the internet can be done anywhere in the world and because of this, the white-collar jobs will no longer have the geographical insulation it used to have," he added. 

The Singapore government has made protecting jobs one of its biggest priorities, especially in industries with good growth prospects, said Chan. — Yen Nee Lee

California Gov. Newsom signs bills expanding worker's compensation, requiring employers to disclose Covid-19 outbreaks

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an assembly bill mandating that employers alert workers and local public health agencies of worksite coronavirus exposures.

Gov. Newsom also signed a senate bill that expands workers' compensation in the era of Covid-19. 

SB 1159 expands access to "workers' compensation and makes it easier for first responders, health care workers and people who test positive due to an outbreak at work to get the support they need, including necessary medical care and wage replacement benefits," while AB 685 "ensures timely notification to employees and local and state public health officials of Covid-19 cases at workplaces."

"Protecting workers is critical to slowing the spread of this virus," Newsom said. "These two laws will help California workers stay safe at work and get the support they need if they are exposed to COVID-19." —Hannah Miao

$1,200 stimulus checks could reach Americans in weeks if Congress agrees

Image Source | DigitalVision | Getty Images

There's good news and bad news for Americans who are still hoping to receive a second $1,200 stimulus check.

If Congress comes up with a plan in the coming days, more money could reach Americans in October.

But the big obstacle will be getting Washington leadership to agree to a deal this late in the election season, according to Howard Gleckman, senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.

Congressional leaders on both the House and Senate sides will want majority support from their respective parties on any deal. But reaching that consensus and coming up with a compromise that satisfies the other party will be a challenge.

"We're in a place where a lot of it is going to depend on the polls right now," Gleckman said.

One thing that could help move a stimulus deal to completion: President Donald Trump's insistence.

"The question is will he be willing to do something he has rarely done, perhaps never done, in his administration, which is really take the lead on something and stand up and say, 'This is my legislative priority,'" Gleckman said.

Once a deal is finalized, another round of stimulus checks could reach Americans within a "matter of weeks," he said. Enhanced federal unemployment benefits could take more time due to the administrative issues some states are already facing.— Lorie Konish

White House reportedly cancelled plan to send 650 million masks to Americans in April

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a protective face mask with a presidential seal on it that he said he had been wearing earlier in his tour at the Ford Rawsonville Components Plant that is manufacturing ventilators, masks and other medical supplies during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Ypsilanti, Michigan, May 21, 2020.
Leah Millis | Reuters

The U.S. Postal Service had plans to distribute 650 million masks across the U.S. early in the coronavirus pandemic, but the White House ultimately cancelled the program, The Washington Post reported.

In a drafted press release obtained by watchdog group American Oversight, Postal Service leaders outlined a plan to deliver five reusable masks to every residence and PO Box in the country starting in April, beginning with Covid-19 hot spots.

The White House ultimately abandoned the program, senior administration officials told the Post. One official told the newspaper that the White House worried "households receiving masks might create concern or panic."

The newly revealed documents suggest the government had initially intended to utilize the USPS in early coronavirus response plans. At the time, President Donald Trump largely resisted wearing a mask.

Schumer, Warren urge Trump to forgive student loan debt due to coronavirus

What it's like to go back to college during a pandemic

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.,  and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., announced a resolution Thursday that would forgive up to $50,000 in college debt for borrowers during the pandemic.  

The resolution calls on President Donald Trump to use executive action to broadly cancel federal student loans. Currently, about 43 million adults carry a federal student loan, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The economic shock from the coronavirus crisis, which caused unemployment to spike and wages to fall, has made it nearly impossible for many borrowers to repay their college loans, the resolution said.

The U.S. Department of Education has already offered some relief by pausing payments on federal student loans until the end of the year. — Jessica Dickler

Texas to move forward with reopenings

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is giving more businesses the green light to forge ahead with their reopening plans after coronavirus cases and hospitalizations that surged over the summer have started to decline.

The state has been divided into 22 regions where officials will monitor hospital capacity and coronavirus cases. In 19 of the 22 regions where hospitalizations related to Covid-19 are now less than 15% of all hospitalizations, more businesses that have been allowed to reopen at 50% capacity will be allowed to increase to 75% capacity beginning Monday, Abbott said. 

That includes "all retail stores, all restaurants, all office buildings, all manufacturing, all museums and libraries and all gyms." Effective immediately, hospitals in those regions are allowed to resume elective procedures. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities will be allowed to reopen for visitations beginning Sept. 24 as long as they don't have a coronavirus outbreak, he said. — Noah Higgins-Dunn

House lawmakers question findings of Kodak’s internal review

Signage is displayed outside Kodak Tower at the Eastman Kodak Co. headquarters complex in Rochester, New York, U.S., on Saturday, Aug.1, 2020.
Mike Bradley | Bloomberg | Getty Images

House lawmakers on Thursday questioned the findings of an internal review commissioned by a special committee at Kodak, which found no violations committed by company executives with regards to a halted $765 million deal with the federal government that sent the company's stock price soaring.

The D.C. law firm hired by Kodak's special committee, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, said in a report that Kodak CEO Jim Continenza's transactions did not violate company policy or securities laws. However, the investigators did note "several flaws in the process."

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis; Rep. Maxine Waters,  D-Calif., Chairwoman of the Committee on Financial Services; and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, however, said their committees will continue to investigate the contract.

"The report from Kodak's lawyers raises more questions than it answers about the Trump Administration's efforts to provide the company a $765 million loan to produce pharmaceutical ingredients despite Kodak's lack of experience in the field," they said in a joint statement. "Let's be clear: this report does not represent the findings of any regulator; it is a report generated by a law firm hired by Kodak." —Will Feuer

Trump may back a larger relief plan; top aide, Dem leaders are optimistic

White House Acting Chief of Staff Mark Meadows listens during the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., April 18, 2020.
Al Drago | Reuters

President Donald Trump is encouraging Republicans to embrace more coronavirus stimulus spending, CNBC's Jacob Pramuk reports. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told CNBC that he is now more optimistic about the likelihood of a deal. 

The House Problem Solvers Caucus released a relief plan on Tuesday, which Democratic leaders rejected.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, said in a statement Wednesday they were "encouraged" by Trump's tweet.

Meadows said he did not completely support the bipartisan House bill, but called it a "serious thought for consideration" and wanted to see a deal happen within "a week to 10 days." —Hannah Miao

New York City delays in-person learning in classrooms again, mayor says

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city's public schools will adopt a phased reopening plan to return students to the classroom for in-person learning this fall. High school and middle school students will now be allowed to return to the classroom in October, according to the reopening plan. Kindergarten through fifth grade and K-8 schools will begin in-person instruction on Sept. 29, he said. 

All of the city's public school students were scheduled to return to the classroom on Monday. This is the second time the mayor has pushed back reopening classrooms for in-person instruction, which was supposed to begin on Sept. 10.

"We are doing this to make sure that all the standards we've set can be achieved," de Blasio said while making the announcement. —Noah Higgins-Dunn

U.S., Americas and Europe see uptick in cases

BlackRock may never be 100% back in the office, CEO Fink says

Larry Fink
Cameron Costa | CNBC

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said he doesn't envision the firm's entire workforce ever returning to the office.

"I don't believe BlackRock will be ever 100% back in office," he said at the Morningstar Investment Conference. "I actually believe maybe 60% or 70%, and maybe that's a rotation of people. But I don't believe we'll ever have a full, you know, cadre of people in office," he said.

BlackRock is the world's largest money manager, with more than $7.4 trillion in assets under management. —Pippa Stevens

Dow drops 300 points at open amid questions on vaccine rollout

U.S. stocks opened lower as plays related to a successful coronavirus vaccine rollout declined, reports CNBC's Fred Imbert.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 320 points, or 0.9%. The S&P 500 fell 1.5%, while the Nasdaq Composite dropped 2%.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Wednesday said the U.S. should have enough Covid-19 vaccine doses for Americans to return to "regular life" by the third quarter of next year. —Melodie Warner 

Texas leads in reports of new U.S. cases

Over 170 nations join WHO's Covid-19 vaccine distribution plan

More than 170 countries joined the World Health Organization's global plan to distribute vaccines fairly around the world, Reuters reported.

The WHO and the GAVI vaccine alliance are leading the COVAX scheme, which aims to procure and deliver 2 billion doses of approved vaccines by the end of 2021. 

Some countries that have secured their own supplies through bilateral deals, including the United States, have said they will not join COVAX. —Melodie Warner 

Airline CEOs head to White House to seek additional federal aid

Airline CEOs are set to meet with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows this morning as they urge the Trump administration and lawmakers to provide more aid to the ailing industry.

Congress approved $25 billion for airlines' payroll costs in March as they reeled from a collapse in travel demand. The aid, which prohibits job cuts, is set to expire after Sept. 30, opening the door to more than 30,000 furloughs and layoffs as early as next month.

Airline executives and labor unions want another $25 billion that would preserve sector jobs until the end of next March. Congress and the White House haven't yet reached a deal on a new, national coronavirus stimulus package but Meadows expressed optimism about a new aid package on Wednesday. —Leslie Josephs

U.S. weekly jobless claims total 860,000, vs 875,000 expected

First-time claims for unemployment insurance were slightly better than estimates last week as the U.S. economy enters a critical new stage, reports CNBC's Jeff Cox.

The U.S. Labor Department said filings totaled 860,000 for the week ended Sept. 12,r, while economists surveyed by Dow Jones had expected 875,000, against the previous week's 893,000. —Melodie Warner 

Moderna expects to know if its vaccine works by November

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Moderna CEO: We expect to know if Covid-19 vaccine works by November

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC that the company should have enough data to know whether its coronavirus vaccine works by November.

It's conceivable that the company could know by October, but "unlikely," Bancel said. "If the infection rate in the country were to slow down in the next weeks, it could potentially be pushed out in a worst-case scenario in December," he added.

The comment came a day after President Donald Trump said the U.S. government could start distributing a coronavirus vaccine as early as October. In recent weeks, infectious disease experts and scientists have voiced concerns that the White House may be pressuring the Food and Drug Administration to approve a vaccine before it's been adequately tested. —Berkeley Lovelace Jr. 

Eli Lilly and Amgen partner to manufacture potential treatments

Eli Lilly and Amgen have joined together to boost the capacity of Lilly's experimental Covid-19 antibody treatments, Reuters reported.

Through the collaboration, the companies will be able to scale up production should one or more of Lilly's therapies receive federal regulatory approval, the companies said in a statement.

The announcement comes one day after one of Lilly's coronavirus drugs was shown to reduce the need for hospitalization and emergency room visits for clinical trial patients with moderate Covid-19, the wire service reported. —Terri Cullen

'Serious situation unfolding in Europe,' top WHO official warns as targeted lockdowns return

A delivery person passes near St. Peter's Basilica, as Italy tightens measures to try and contain the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Rome, Italy.
Remo Casilli | Reuters

A rapid rise in new coronavirus cases in Europe is being called a "wake up call" by the World Health Organization's top official in Europe.

"We have a very serious situation unfolding before us," Hans Kluge, WHO's regional director for Europe, said Thursday in a press briefing. "Weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March."  He said that, last week, the region's weekly tally exceeded 300,000 patients.

While lockdown measures imposed in the spring and early summer pushed the number of new cases in June to an all-time low, the number of cases in September "should serve as a wake-up call for all of us," he warned. Targeted lockdowns are now returning to some countries in an effort to reverse the trend. 

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control warned Wednesday that the 14-day case notification rate (the number of newly reported infections) for the EU, European Economic Area and the U.K. "has been increasing for more than 50 days, with over half of all EU countries currently experiencing an increase in cases." —Holly Ellyatt

BioNTech buys German site from Novartis to boost vaccine output

BioNTech is buying a German biotech production site from Swiss drugmaker Novartis, Reuters reported. The acquisition is expected to boost the production of the Covid-19 vaccine BioNTech is developing with Pfizer.

The deal is part of a push to prepare for a global roll-out of an experimental vaccine that could be reviewed by regulators as early as next month, according to the wire service.

Separately, BioNTech's CEO Ugur Sahin said he expects that the experimental vaccine in development will eventually be able to be stored at refrigerator temperatures for at least two weeks, Reuters reported. There had been concerns that the vaccine may need to be deep-frozen. —Terri Cullen

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