Missouri Gov. Mike Parson tests positive for coronavirus; Disney postpones movie release dates

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Johnson & Johnson on Wednesday became the fourth drugmaker backed by the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed program to announce phase three trials on a vaccine candidate. Health experts maintain that a vaccine isn't likely to be proven safe and effective and made ready for distribution before the general election on Nov. 3, despite President Donald Trump's claims that it would be. Most voters across the U.S., and in six swing states, worry that Trump is pushing for a potentially risky and early approval of a vaccine to help boost his reelection chances, according to new CNBC/Change Research polls

Here are some of the biggest developments Wednesday: 

The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

  • Global cases: More than 31.7 million 
  • Global deaths: At least 975,038
  • U.S. cases: More than 6.94 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 201,930

Survey finds not all of China is recovering from the coronavirus economic hit

China's economic recovery from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic is only happening in certain segments of the country, according to an independent survey by the China Beige Book.

More than 3,300 businesses in the country participated in the survey which took place between Aug. 13 and Sept.12. Results show that the Chinese growth story is intact — in the wealthier, coastal regions, according to an early look brief.

"Geographically, labor market conditions were better than Q2 in every region," said Shehzad Qazi, managing director at China Beige Book.

However, the broad recovery masks remaining challenges in sectors such as services, which has employed a growing portion of Chinese over the last several years as Beijing seeks to boost domestic consumption. — Evelyn Cheng

Experts debate whether health-care workers should get a Covid-19 vaccine first

A health worker wearing a protective mask works in a lab during clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine at Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida, U.S.
Eva Marie Uzcategui | Bloomberg | Getty Images

In theory, health-care workers should be at the top of the list to receive a Covid-19 vaccine once one is approved, given their exposure to the virus. But it might not be that simple, bio-ethicists say. 

The National Vaccine Advisory Committee met Wednesday for the first of a two-day public meeting on vaccine developments and a distribution plan, including which groups should get priority.

"The question is, how at risk are health-care workers, especially in the United States, especially in the era of adequate PPE," Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, said at the meeting. "Because at least in our hospital, transmission from patient to doctor with PPE [is] zero."

In other words, if medical staff are protected with personal protective equipment, it's not clear that they should receive the vaccine ahead of other at-risk groups including essential workers at grocery stores and meat processing plants. Whatever happens, the bioethicists agree that the issue is "very, very complex." —Christina Farr

Missouri governor, wife test positive, office says

In this June 1, 2018 file photo, Gov. Mike Parson, right, smiles along side his wife, Teresa, after being sworn in as Missouri's 57th governor in Jefferson City, Mo.
Jeff Roberson | AP

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson tested positive for the coronavirus and has canceled all official and campaign events until further notice, his office said in a statement.

Earlier on Wednesday, Missouri's first lady Teresa Parson tested positive after reporting mild symptoms. The governor, however, has reported no symptoms and plans "to conduct and fulfill all roles of business" from the governor's mansion, his office said. 

"As a precautionary measure, the Governor's staff has been tested and is awaiting results. At this time, the Governor feels healthy and is displaying no symptoms, and the First Lady has mild symptoms," the statement said. —Noah Higgins-Dunn

Google's creating new work models because employees don't want to return to the office full-time in the future

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, on January 22, 2020.
Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

Google is re-thinking the work model it uses for its employees as a new survey showed most employees don't want to come back in a full-time capacity in the future.

CEO Sundar Pichai said the company, which has long been a Silicon Valley bellwether for company culture, is working on a 'hybrid' model so that employees can have more flexibility for future work options post-pandemic.  

62% of employees said they want to come back to the office at some point, but not every day, according to a recent survey the company released this week. Meanwhile, 10 percent said they don't want to come back to the office at all.

Employees who did want to return, noted reasons including face time with colleagues, socializing, and more collaboration.

Medicare may not cover early Covid vaccine without a legal fix

Congress may need to change the law for Medicare to cover a coronavirus vaccine if one is made available under emergency-use authorization.

While the CARES Act, passed in March, calls for beneficiaries to receive a Covid-19 vaccine without cost-sharing, existing Medicare rules don't allow coverage for one approved via an emergency order, which is what the Trump administration is pursuing to make the vaccine available quickly during the public health crisis. Such usage falls short of the requirements involved in typical new-drug approval process. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services did not directly respond to questions from CNBC about when and how the issue would be fixed. However, in a statement, the agency said, in part, that it is committed to ensuring access to a vaccine without cost sharing. —Sarah O'Brien

Trump’s vaccine czar says has had ‘enough’ after call for his firing

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who was appointed to run the Trump administration's Covid-19 vaccine program Operation Warp Speed, told CNBC that he's had enough of accusations that his former work in the pharmaceutical industry creates a conflict of interest.

Slaoui is a former executive at GlaxoSmithKline as well as a former board member of Lonza Group and Moderna. All three companies are involved in the development of Covid-19 vaccines and House Democrats have previously said he had equity in all three until recently. On Wednesday, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren called for Slaoui's resignation, accusing the White House of using a "loophole" in federal ethics law to hire him and keep his stock holdings private.

Slaoui said in a phone interview that he still holds shares in GSK, where he worked for nearly 30 years and will use as part of his retirement, but said he's "never owned shares in Lonza." He also said that he has divested all shares in companies that have interests in Covid-19 except for GSK. –Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

‘You are not listening,’ Fauci tells Sen. Rand Paul

Dr. Fauci pushes back on Sen. Rand Paul's claim that New York has achieved herd immunity
Dr. Fauci pushes back on Sen. Rand Paul's claim that New York has achieved herd immunity

White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci pushed back against Republican Sen. Rand Paul's claim that New York has overcome the coronavirus pandemic because it achieved herd immunity, telling the Republican lawmaker he's "not listening." 

Paul said that despite shuttering businesses and schools earlier this year, New York has reported one of the highest death rates and argued the efforts didn't help curb the spread of Covid-19. The Kentucky senator suggested that New York has achieved enough herd immunity from the coronavirus and is "no longer having the pandemic" and accused Fauci of being a "big fan" of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York's "shutdown."

"You misconstrued that senator, and you've done that repeatedly in the past," Fauci responded at the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing. —Noah Higgins-Dunn

Walt Disney postpones movie release dates, including much-anticipated 'Black Widow'

Scarlett Johansson stars as Natasha Romanoff, AKA Black Widow, in Marvel's "Black Widow."
Disney | Marvel

Walt Disney said it plans to move the release of a number of its coming slate of movies into late 2020 and 2021 as Americans continue to shun indoor movie theaters amid the pandemic.

Walt Disney Studios pushed the release of the much-anticipated Marvel superhero blockbuster "Black Widow" back by six months to May 2021. The studio also postponed for a full year the release for the remake of "West Side Story" to December 2021 from its previous December 2020 date.

Shares of AMC Entertainment and other movie theater stocks were hard hit by the postponement of "Black Widow." Many had been counting on the movie to coax more people to the theaters. Even though theaters reopened in late August, box office sales have been dismal.

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