Coronavirus updates: U.S. cases top 7 million; Florida lifts restaurant restrictions

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The U.S. recorded 44,110 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the national seven-day average of new infections to 43,321 — up nearly 9% from the week prior, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Daily new infections in the U.S. have been growing, on a weekly basis, for nine days at this point. Seven states hit record highs in average daily new cases on Thursday, including Montana and Wisconsin which both new infections spike more than 62% on a weekly basis.  

Here are some of Friday's biggest developments:

The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

  • Global cases: More than 32.36 million 
  • Global deaths: At least 984,906
  • U.S. cases: More than 7 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 203,329

U.S. cases top 7 million

Total U.S. confirmed cases of the virus now top 7 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

That infection count is more than 1 million above India's second-highest tally and marks a dramatic benchmark ahead of the colder fall and winter seasons.

The U.S. has been expanding testing and improving turnaround times for results, but has nonetheless resisted nationwide restrictions and lockdowns that have proven to slow transmission elsewhere in the world. —Sara Salinas

College students applying for financial aid this fall might come up short

aywan88 | E+ | Getty Images

Students whose parents have lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic might wind up with smaller-than-expected financial aid packages next year.

Oct.1 is the first day that students can begin filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for the 2021-2022 school year.

The financial aid package they'll receive – a combination of loans, grants and other aid – will be based on their family's 2019 income tax return, which may not reflect the new reality of applicants' finances, as millions of people have lost their jobs amid the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, families may wind up with less aid than they actually need for next year.

However, families do have a chance to appeal the package and push for more money. Applicants will need to contact their school's financial aid office and present copies of relevant document to prove their families have experienced hardship this year. —Darla Mercado

Tailgating goes high-tech in the age of coronavirus

Renderings showing the potential future of sports stadiums and arenas.
Source: Populous

Sports fans may not be welcome back inside stadiums and arenas anytime soon, with fears building of another Covid-19 spike in the fall and winter months. Sports executives hope revamped tailgating could be a good contingency. 

The Milwaukee Bucks are working with sports design and architecture firm Populous, to create a tailgate unlike anything we've seen before. It includes utilizing their parking garage for "opera house" like seating and tailgating. They are looking to bring in stacked shipping containers for other suites. The area will include multiple jumbo LED screens, a stage and an area for food trucks. There is also a "drive-in" theater component, where more than 200 cars will be able to watch games from the comfort of their vehicles. Some of these options include food and drink catering options as well. 

Prices will vary by experience, but we're already seeing the success of tailgating watch parties during the pandemic with other teams. The Miami Dolphins and Las Vegas Raiders have introduced the concept to their fans this season as a way to make up for lost ticket revenue. 

Experts say, if done right, this new investment in outdoor spaces could stick around even after the pandemic fades. —Jessica Golden 

Companies are reinstating dividends and buybacks after laying off workers

Foot Locker, Darden Restaurants and Guess are among the companies that have plans to return more cash to shareholders after laying off workers or cutting jobs permanently amid coronavirus cutbacks.

Dividends and buyback programs are charting a slow comeback after many companies suspended theirs in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. It's a welcome sign for investors that companies are growing more confident in their own businesses and the broader economy.

But critics of the practices say that these decisions keep a company from investing long-term in its own business, fattens the pockets of executives and causes wage stagnation for its workers. —Amelia Lucas

WHO says 2 million death toll 'not impossible'

It's "not impossible" to consider the global coronavirus death toll climbing to 2 million people before a vaccine is widely available, World Health Organization officials said during a press briefing, as the world approaches 1 million total deaths.

"The time for action is now on every single aspect of this strategic approach," Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO's health emergencies program, said. "Not just test and trace, not just clinical care, not just social distancing, not just hygiene, not just masks, not just vaccines. Do it all, and unless we do it all, (2 million deaths) are not only imaginable but unfortunately and sadly very likely."

The global health officials warned that a number of countries in Europe are reporting an "increasing trend in cases" and a "worrying" rise in Covid-19 hospitalizations and intensive-care unit admissions. —Noah Higgins-Dunn 

Hilton, Levi Strauss brace for second wave of employee duress during pandemic

The myth of work-from-home productivity has been busted: Levi Strauss CFO
The myth of work-from-home productivity has been busted: Levi Strauss CFO

The top executives at major U.S. corporations are bracing for a big wave of employee burnout due to stress caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

"The first wave was when the crisis first hit us in the spring, and the second is settling in ... and it will be longer term," Matthew Schuyler, Hilton's top human resources executive, told CNBC at its @Work virtual event.

With schools back in session and parents having to balance many needs of school-age children, "the second wave of duress is gonna hit and it is causing lower productivity," the Hilton executive said. "With the isolation from work from home, we can expect to see more of it," he added. "Keeping the workforce connected remotely was sustainable for a period of time, but it is harder as it goes on."

Levi Strauss CFO Harmit Singh says while a hybrid model of in-house and remote work will be the new norm, companies need to do more to relieve stress on employees, including more days off.  Some companies are changing work scheduling to address this issue. Levi Strauss now mandates that meetings be shorter, that no meetings be scheduled on Fridays, and that the last Friday of every month be offered as a day off. —Lori Ioannou

Florida lifting all restaurant restrictions, Gov. DeSantis says

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the state is lifting all restrictions on restaurants that were implemented in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus. He said he will issue an executive order on Friday to lift the restrictions.

"There will not be limitations from the state of Florida," he said, adding that local officials can implement restrictions, but they can't be too burdensome and they must justify the restrictions to the state. "The order that I'm signing today will guarantee restaurants can operate, will not allow closures."

He added that Florida has followed federal guidance on how to limit the spread of the virus since the beginning of the pandemic, but that the goalposts have changed.

"Now people are saying, 'hey, even if there's a vaccine, it's still going to take another year before you can operate appropriately,'" he said. "I don't think that's viable. I don't think that that's acceptable." —Will Feuer

U.S. cases up slightly, testing expanding, Giroir says

New cases of the coronavirus across the U.S. have "plateaued or actually increased a bit over the past two weeks," said Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services who is in charge of the government's testing efforts.

Cases remain down about 35% from the peak earlier this summer, he added, and hospitalizations, the number of patients in intensive care units and Covid-19 deaths all "continue to decrease."

Giroir said that about 4.32% of all tests across the country are coming back positive, and that figure continues to decline. That figure's important, epidemiologists say, because it gives an indication of whether the country's testing enough and if the virus' spread is truly slowing.

Giroir added that the federal government is prioritizing "shielding the elderly" by marshaling testing resources to nursing homes, along with communities experiencing outbreaks. —Will Feuer

Outdoor dining will become permanent, yearlong New York City fixture, mayor says

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that outdoor dining will continue permanently, without any interruptions as the seasons change.

De Blasio said on WYNC's Brian Lehrer Show that officials will work on outdoor heating for the winter. As colder temperatures arrive, restaurants will have the choice to continue with open-air seating or build heated, enclosed spaces, although those will be bound by the 25% capacity limit imposed on indoor dining rooms.

Expanded outdoor dining was previously slated to expire in October. Indoor dining will resume with restrictions on Wednesday for the first time since March in the city. —Amelia Lucas

HHS pushing to test U.S. sewage for virus as 'early warning system' for outbreaks

The Department of Health and Human Services is seeking bids from contractors that can carry out a plan to test up to 30% of the country's wastewater to act as an "early warning system" for coronavirus outbreaks, according to a notice posted to the federal procurement database.

Wastewater surveillance has long been used by epidemiologists to detect other infectious diseases such as polio. Because infected people, including those without symptoms, shed the virus in stool, it can then be detected in wastewater, offering another indication of how the coronavirus is spreading in a given community.

The contract notice from HHS represents a potentially massive expansion of such efforts coordinated on a national level. And the intention to hand over responsibility for the initiative to a contractor is another privatization of a public health initiative by the Trump administration. 

"Data and analysis provided by the contractor's wastewater surveillance will illustrate a more complete picture of local, community level COVID19 trends, where clinical cases had been dangerously underreported, leading to unchecked spread," the request-for-quotation notice says. —Will Feuer

Virus postpones Rio de Janeiro's Carnival for the first time in a century

Alexandre Garnize, musician, historian, candomblecist and founder of the group "Tambores do Olokun" poses for a photo at his home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on May 23, 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Bruna Prado | Getty Images

The annual Rio de Janeiro Carnival parade of samba schools won't be held in February due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Associated Press reported. The last year Rio's Carnival was postponed was 1912, following the death of the foreign relations minister.

While the decision is being called a postponement of the event by officials, no new date has been set.  Rio's tourism promotion agency told AP that without a vaccine, it is uncertain when large public events can resume.

Rio's metropolitan region, home to 13 million people, has suffered more than 15,000 deaths from the virus, according to the wire service. —Terri Cullen

Virginia governor, first lady test positive, office says

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and first lady Pamela Northam tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, his office said in a statement. The pair were tested after one of the governor's residence staff developed symptoms and tested positive for Covid-19. 

"Governor Northam is experiencing no symptoms. First Lady Pamela Northam is currently experiencing mild symptoms. Both remain in good spirits," the governor's office said in a statement. 

The Northams will remain isolated in the governor's mansion for the next 10 days where the governor will continue working, the statement said. Ralph Northam, 61, is the second U.S. governor to test positive for the coronavirus this week, following Missouri Gov. Mike Parson. — Noah Higgins-Dunn

Wall Street heads for fourth straight weekly loss

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 opened lower as Wall Street headed for its fourth consecutive week of losses, reports CNBC's Fred Imbert and Jesse Pound. 

The 30-stock average dipped 118 points, or 0.4%, while the S&P 500 slid 0.3%. The Nasdaq Composite outperformed, rising 0.2%. —Melodie Warner 

Why so many people are hopeful about an mRNA coronavirus vaccine

How mRNA vaccines work
How mRNA vaccines work

Pfizer and biotech Moderna are two of the companies attempting to use messenger RNA, or mRNA, to produce their vaccines, a technology that has never before received regulatory approval. —Melodie Warner 

Uber announces mask-verification feature for passengers

The Uber logo displayed on a smartphone on top of surgical masks.
Beata Zawrzel | NurPhoto via Getty Images

Uber passengers who forego a face mask will now have to verify that their face is covered before taking their next trip, the company announced.

Earlier this year, Uber introduced mask-verification technology for drivers. Now, the company has expanded the feature to riders.

"If a driver reports to us that a rider wasn't wearing a mask, the rider will be required to take a selfie with their face covered before they're able to take another trip with Uber," the ride-hailing service said.

According to Uber, the tool does not save the passenger's selfie but rather "detects the mask as an object in the photo."

Uber plans to roll out the mask-verification feature to passengers in the U.S. and Canada by the end of September. —Hannah Miao

British tech workers moving to work remotely from warmer countries

Semir Jahic, sales engineering lead for EMEA at software firm Clari, and his wife plan to spend some time in Spain.
Semir Jahic

British tech workers who are now able to work remotely are moving to warmer countries, leading some to speculate that London's "Tech City" may never be the same again, reports CNBC's Sam Shead. 

Semir Jahic, a Swiss entrepreneur who lives in London, said he and his wife plan to take a six-month break from London. "The plan now is to spend two to three months in Switzerland and then spring in Airbnbs in Spain (e.g. Valencia) before coming back to London," he told CNBC.

Some countries are doing their best to attract people that would normally be in an office. Barbados, for example, is planning to let people stay and work remotely for a year.

With a second wave of coronavirus on the way in parts of Europe, some companies are rethinking their policies. Rotacloud, a Yorkshire-based firm that makes staff management software, has allowed some employees to work from Italy and Switzerland recently. —Melodie Warner 

AstraZeneca wins partial immunity in EU vaccine deal

Laboratory technicians handle capped vials as part of filling and packaging tests for the large-scale production and supply of the University of Oxford's Covid-19 vaccine candidate, AZD1222, conducted on a high-performance aseptic vial filling line on September 11, 2020 at the Italian biologics manufacturing facility of multinational corporation Catalent in Anagni.
Vincenzo Pinto | AFP via Getty Images

AstraZeneca will receive partial immunity against claims related to side effects of its potential coronavirus vaccine, as part of a deal struck with the European Union, an EU official told Reuters. 

European governments will pay those claims, above an agreed-upon limit, and in return AstraZeneca guarantees a lower price for its experimental drug, Reuters reports.

The deal leaves the drugmaker with reduced liability and could lower some hurdles to putting a potential vaccine on the market. —Sara Salinas

Pace of virus mortgage bailouts improves

Pace of mortgage bailouts improve as 3.6 million still delay payments
Pace of mortgage bailouts improve as 3.6 million still delay payments

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