Coronavirus updates: Asymptomatic coronavirus cases prevalent, study finds; Fed concerned over stimulus

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A second coronavirus relief bill seems more uncertain than ever after President Donald Trump said he called off negotiations with Democrats but then went on to push for piecemeal, standalone bills in a series of tweets Tuesday night. At stake are second relief checks for Americans, additional unemployment benefits, another round of Paycheck Protection loans and billions in airline aid. The U.S. economy has been waging a slow recovery after the virus shutdown in March. 

Here are some of the biggest developments Wednesday:

The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

  • Global cases: More than 36.1 million
  • Global deaths: At least 1.05 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 7.5 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 211,834

UK study finds 86% of positive coronavirus cases had no symptoms

A U.K. study has found that more than two thirds of people who tested positive for the coronavirus were asymptomatic on the day they took a test.

University College London researchers studied data collected by the U.K.'s Office for National Statistics, which has been regularly collecting coronavirus testing data from thousands of British households (whether they have symptoms or not) during the pandemic.

The study, which was peer reviewed, looked at 36,061 individuals who took a coronavirus test as part of the infection survey between April and June and found that 86.1% of those who tested positive for the virus did not report symptoms associated with the virus (a cough, fever or a loss of taste and/or smell) on the day they took a test.

Out of the 115 people that received a positive coronavirus result, only 16 reported the main symptoms that we associate with the virus.

Researchers Irene Petersen and Andrew Phillips concluded in the study, published in the Clinical Epidemiology journal on Thursday, that "Covid-19 symptoms are poor markers of SARS-CoV-2 (the new coronavirus)." — Holly Ellyatt

Unemployed workers unlikely to get a boost in benefits

Millions of workers collecting unemployment are unlikely to get a boost in benefits before the November election, after President Donald Trump directed White House officials on Tuesday to stand down from negotiations with Democrats on another round of coronavirus relief. 

The situation likely leaves workers with just a fraction of their lost wages for an extended period, when the number of unemployed exceed job openings by 2:1.

The average worker got $305 a week (about $1,220 a month) in unemployment insurance from states in August, according to the Labor Department. Some, like Louisiana and Mississippi, paid just over $180 a week, the lowest average among all states.

Some workers get even less, though. States pay benefits within a minimum and maximum range. Hawaii, for example, pays a minimum benefit of $5 a week.

Millions are poised to lose benefits altogether by the end of the year, absent an extension from Congress. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for self-employed, gig and other workers ends after December. — Greg Iacurci

Stalled stimulus talks could spell 'disaster' for retailers

As retailers prepare for the start of the holiday season, they have another reason to worry: A breakdown in stimulus talks could dampen consumers' appetite for a shopping spree.

President Donald Trump cast doubt about the timing of economic stimulus payments to consumers in a tweet on Tuesday afternoon. He said the White House was halting talks with Democrats, and the news turned major stock averages sharply lower. But stocks were rising again by Wednesday morning, after Trump seemingly changed course, tweeting support for aid to airlines and other stimulus measures, stoking hopes that a smaller aid package could be passed by lawmakers. 

Retailers are already bracing for a chaotic and complex holiday season when they must convince Americans to shop, despite a recession, a global health crisis and the distraction of a presidential election. 

The retail industry's leading trade group, the National Retail Federation, is among those pushing for Congress and the president to approve additional stimulus as part of the solution.

"The pandemic isn't over and neither is the economic crisis it has created," NRF President and CEO Matt Shay said in a statement. —Melissa Repko and Lauren Thomas

Plexiglass barriers at Pence-Harris debate ‘are a joke,’ experts say

Plexiglass protections between the debaters are seen on the stage of the debate hall ahead of the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall of the University of Utah October 6, 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Eric Baradat | AFP | Getty Images

Wednesday night's Vice Presidential debate will see plenty of extra coronavirus precautions, but pictures of two curved plexiglass barriers have some epidemiologists and airborne pathogen specialists scratching their heads.

Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris will be seated more than 12 feet apart and separated by two plexiglass barriers. But those barriers are "entirely symbolic," according to Dr. Bill Schaffner, an epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University.

Kimberly Prather, a distinguished professor of atmospheric chemistry at the University of California at San Diego, said of the barriers: "When I saw it I laughed, but it's not funny."

Jose-Luis Jimenez, a chemistry professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder who studies how aerosols spread the virus, said the barriers "are a joke. It is just theater, to make it look like they are taking some precautions." —Will Feuer

Failure to pass stimulus will hurt minority communities, Fed says

Fed: Path of rates will depend on evolution of the economic outlook
Fed: Path of rates will depend on evolution of the economic outlook

Federal Reserve officials expressed concern during their September meeting that the U.S. economic recovery could stall if Congress didn't pass more fiscal stimulus. 

While the central bankers described the economic recovery as "rapid," this was largely due to massive fiscal support provided by the federal government. 

"Many participants noted that their economic outlook assumed additional fiscal support and that if future fiscal support was significantly smaller or arrived significantly later than they expected, the pace of the recovery could be slower than anticipated," according to the minutes from the meeting. 

Minority and lower-income communities in particular will face financial hardship if more relief doesn't arrive, according to Fed officials. 

—Spencer Kimball

Delta shuffles middle managers, offers more buyouts

Delta Air Lines is shuffling dozens of middle managers as it rethinks its needs as a smaller carrier in the midst of the pandemic.

Delta's goal isn't to cut headcount, a spokesman said, but to add staffing in areas more tied to the daily operation of the airline and reduce in other areas. More than 17,000 Delta employees, about a fifth of its pre-pandemic staff, have accepted buyouts or early retirement. Employees affected by the changes could apply for new jobs or take buyout offers.

American and United which shrunk their top executive ranks earlier this year. Late last month Delta shifted responsibilities of top executives after its COO retired. —Leslie Josephs

Travel recovery will be slower without more airline aid, says Booking Holdings CEO

Bookings Holdings CEO: Industry needs more stimulus to come back
Bookings Holdings CEO: Industry needs more stimulus to come back

Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel told CNBC the travel industry will experience a slower recovery from the coronavirus pandemic if Congress does not soon provide relief to airlines. 

"As soon as it's safe to travel, people will start traveling," he said on "Squawk Alley." "It's really a function of how fast it will come back and how much damage to the industry. I see no reason that we should have to wait extra years because we took time putting money to work now." 

Fogel, whose company provides online travel services, including flight booking, expressed concerns that widespread layoffs at airlines would be tough to rollback. 

"When you start letting go your people, bringing them back is not easy. They may be elsewhere, so by not bringing that money to work now, we are damaging that industry. It makes no sense to me," he said. "We need to have a great air business. Why do we want to wreck it?" - Kevin Stankiewicz 

Trump symptom free for more than 24 hours

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures on the Truman Balcony after returning to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Oct. 5, 2020.
Win McNamee | Getty Images

President Donald Trump has been symptom free for over 24 hours and fever free for more than 4 days, White House physician Sean Conley said. 

Trump's vital signs, including his oxygen saturation and his respiratory rate, are within normal ranges and he hasn't needed supplemental oxygen since his hospitalization, Conley said.  

Fed's Kashkari sees 'enormous consequences' from stimulus impasse

'I don't see any moral hazards here'—Fed's Kashkari on more aid for airlines
'I don't see any moral hazards here'—Fed's Kashkari on more aid for airlines

Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari became the latest central banker to warn about the stimulus impasse in Washington.

The central bank official told CNBC's "Squawk Box" in a Wednesday interview that failing to provide more aid to businesses, workers and local and state governments could have "enormous consequences."

"If we don't support people who have lost their jobs, then they can't pay their bills and then it ripples through the economy and the downturn is much worse than it needs to be," Kashkari said. His comments echo sentiment expressed Tuesday from Chairman Jerome Powell and Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester.

– Jeff Cox

Roughly 37 million Americans aren't making student loan payments

Millions of Americans with federal student loans have stopped paying down that debt during the coronavirus pandemic.

Less than 11% of people with such loans have continued repaying them in recent months, according to data analyzed by higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz.

That means about 37 million borrowers are taking advantage of a federal measure that has allowed borrowers to pause payments through the end of the year without the accrual of interest. For many, the situation has freed up money for basic essentials and offered a window into what life would be like without education debt.

The average balance is around $30,000, up from $10,000 in the early 1990s, but many borrowers owe $100,000 or more. The typical monthly payment is $400. —Annie Nova

What Zoom fatigue? Business travelers expect tech to replace many trips

A United Airlines Boeing 737-800 and United Airlines A320 Airbus on seen approach to San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco.
Louis Nastro | Reuters

Many business travelers expect their companies to lift corporate travel restrictions by the first half of next year, but some routine trips could be lost for good, a new survey shows.

Between 24% and 34% of business travelers surveyed by Barclays say technology like video conferencing could permanently replace work trips. 

That's bad news for airlines and hotels, which relied heavily on business travel revenue before the pandemic. Barclays estimates business travel generated about half of sales at big network carriers Delta, United and American before Covid-19 spread around the world.

Airlines are already adapting to this new reality, courting leisure travelers, typically the most price-sensitive customer base, with vacation destinations and more flexible ticket policies. —Leslie Josephs

Conflicting accounts over whether Trump has returned to the Oval Office

White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow on probability of a piecemeal stimulus bill
White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow on probability of a piecemeal stimulus bill

In a confusing turn of events, President Donald Trump's top economic advisor Larry Kudlow told CNBC that the president had returned to the Oval Office on Tuesday. Kudlow was quickly contradicted by the White House, however, tweeting that Trump had not yet visited the Oval Office after leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

"While the President wanted to be in the Oval Office yesterday, he was not there—he stayed back in the residence working from there," Ben Williamson, a White House spokesman, said in a tweet.

The comments from Trump's top economic advisor came less than 48 hours after Trump was discharged from Walter Reed hospital, where the president spent the weekend being treated for the coronavirus. The remarks also rekindled concerns that Trump could pose a risk to others in the White House if he's still contagious. —Thomas Franck

Lowe's gives another round of bonuses to hourly workers

Shoppers wearing protective masks wait in line to enter a Lowe's Cos. store in San Bruno, California, U.S., on Wednesday, May 20, 2020.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Lowe's will pay an additional $100 million in bonuses to hourly workers later this month, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to drive demand for home improvement.

It's the sixth time the retailer has given extra pay to workers at its stores, distribution centers and support centers during the pandemic. It gave bonuses to part-time, full-time and seasonal employees in March, May, July and August. It also increased pay by $2 an hour for the month of April.

Lowe's is one of the retailers that's seen sales gains during the pandemic. More Americans have fixed up their homes and yards — and sought out supplies or new kitchen appliances for those projects. Analysts have predicted that the wave of people moving out of cities and into homes in suburban and rural areas will fuel long-term sales for home improvement retailers, too.

The company has spent more than $675 million on additional pay to employees this year, including the latest round. Full-time hourly employees will receive $300, and part-time and seasonal hourly employees will receive $150 on Oct. 16. —Melissa Repko

Movie theaters remain in panic mode seven months into the pandemic

Deckchairs sit stacked outside a closed movie theater during the global outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Santa Monica, California, U.S., March 16, 2020.
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

Movie theater chains across the U.S. and the United Kingdom are shutting down for the second time after the latest James Bond film, "No Time to Die" was delayed until spring 2021.

Cineworld, the parent company of Regal Cinemas, is closing all of its theaters in the U.S. with no new movies to show. Since Christopher Nolan's "Tenet," there's been a lack of blockbuster movies.

Warner Brothers' "Wonder Woman 1984," which was originally scheduled for October, was pushed back to Christmas. Marvel's "Black Widow" originally on schedule to hit theaters in November, was pushed back six months to May 2021. The studio also postponed a full year release for the remake of "West Side Story" to December 2021.

AMC Entertainment's stock plummeted 10% after news its rival Cineworld said it's closing nearly 700 of its movie theaters. —Sunny Kim

Students and experts wonder if the pandemic could lower college costs

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the college experience, with most schools completely or partially teaching online. Now, undergraduate enrollment is down 2.5%, causing students and experts — such as Edwin Koc, director of research for the National Association of Colleges and Employers — to wonder if colleges and universities will lower costs. 

"Even though the advantages of going to college are probably not going to diminish," he says, referencing  NACE data that suggest the pandemic has negatively impacted college graduates the least, "there'll be financial pressure on the schools to find ways to bring down costs simply because they are having to attract students that don't have the financial wherewithal to pay, to get in."

Others, such as Ted Rounsaville, associate partner for McKinsey's higher education group, say it is too soon to tell if college costs will decrease after decades of steady increases

"If there truly are many more students who are not able to pay, or pay the previous levels that they were before, that could force colleges and universities' hands," says Rounsaville. "But the tale is not yet told as to whether the economic impacts of Covid and an associated recession are really going to force that hand." —Abigail Hess

Here are the Plexiglass dividers that will separate Pence and Harris at tonight's debate

Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris are set to engage in a debate Wednesday night while abiding by a spate of coronavirus-related modifications to the traditional format.

The most visible change: big sheets of Plexiglass wedged between the two candidates.

Harris' camp pushed to erect the see-through barrier after President Donald Trump revealed on Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for Covid-19. In the wake of that revelation, more than a dozen people who work in the White House, including press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and several members of the press corps, have also tested positive.

Pence's team had reportedly fought against the addition of Plexiglass, saying there was no need for it. The vice president's objections were apparently overruled, however, with photos of the debate stage Tuesday night showing sheets of Plexiglass had been installed by each of the candidates' desks.

Stand-ins for the candidates sit between freshly installed protective Plexiglas panels put in place as a coronavirus disease precaution between the candidates seats for the 2020 vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., October 6, 2020.
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

Other virus-prevention measures are also in effect. Pence and Harris sit more than 12 feet apart, and there will be no handshakes. A small live audience will be present for the debate, but everyone in the hall will be tested for Covid-19 and, with the exceptions of Pence, Harris and moderator Susan Page, all will be required to wear masks throughout the debate.

In the first presidential debate between Trump and Joe Biden, members of Trump's family took off their masks once they sat down. This time around, If audience members refuse to wear masks, they will be kicked out, the debate commission said.

The Harris campaign on Wednesday said she had tested negative for the coronavirus, NBC News reported.

The 90-minute debate will be held in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah, starting at 9 p.m. ET. The event will be live-streamed on and will air on White House pool networks. —Kevin Breuninger

Dow opens higher as Trump urges airline aid

U.S. stocks open higher after President Donald Trump tweeted support for aid to airlines and other stimulus measures, reports CNBC's Fred Imbert, Maggie Fitzgerald and Eustance Huang. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded up 319 points, or 1.2%. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite advanced 1.2% each. —Melodie Warner 

Eli Lilly seeks FDA emergency use authorization for its antibody treatment

Eli Lilly submitted a request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use of its experimental Covid-19 antibody treatment, LY-CoV555,  Reuters reports.

The U.S. drugmaker has said an interim analysis of the BLAZE-1 clinical trial showed a reduced rate of hospitalization for coronavirus patients treated with its neutralizing antibody drug, CNBC's Meg Tirrell reported. 

The company said it would seek the FDA's nod for emergency use of the combination therapy in November, once additional safety data is available and enough doses are made, according to Reuters. —Melodie Warner 

Breakdown of U.S. cases by state

Major European economies forecast dire declines

Major European economies have been downgrading already dire economic forecasts as a second wave of coronavirus infections continues to rage through the continent, prompting governments across the region to impose more restrictions on businesses and the public.

The Bank of Spain warned Tuesday that strict measures to contain the spike in virus cases could push the country into a worse-than-expected economic crisis. In its worst-case scenario, the bank said gross domestic product could contract 12.6% in 2020. In a less pessimistic forecast, GDP is forecast to contract 10.5%.

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