Coronavirus: FDA approves Gilead’s remdesivir as a treatment; stimulus talks drag on

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Wall Street is getting another look Thursday at the wide-reaching economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, with a slew of earnings reports and a readout on weekly jobless claims. Retailers and airlines continue to struggle with lower demand and are warning of a slow recovery. U.S. unemployment numbers are essentially stuck at roughly four times pre-pandemic levels.

In the final presidential debate, Democratic nominee Joe Biden warned that the U.S. is headed for a "dark winter" as it continues to grapple with the coronavirus, but President Donald Trump maintained that he had taken quick action to respond to the pandemic.

Here are some of the biggest developments on Thursday:

The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

  • Global cases: More than 41.5 million
  • Global deaths: At least 1.13 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 8.4 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 223,000

Trump and Biden spar over coronavirus shutdowns

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Trump and Biden debate coronavirus shutdowns and economic costs

President Donald Trump and Joe Biden sparred over the benefits of slowing down reopening during coronavirus spikes. Trump accused Biden of being too hasty to shut down businesses, and Biden clarified that he's not talking about blanket shutdowns but properly funding reopening so it can be done safely.

"We need standards. The standard is if you have a reproduction rate in a community above a certain level, everybody says slow up. More social distancing. Do not open bars and gymnasiums, do not open until you get this under more control. When you do open, give people the capacity to open, and do it safely," said Biden.

"Schools need a lot of money, they need to deal with ventilation systems and smaller classes, they need more teachers. [Trump] has refused to support that money — up until now," Biden said.

"All he does is talk about shutdowns," Trump shot back. "Forget about him, his Democratic governors, Cuomo in New York, look at California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Democrats have shut down so tight — and they are dying. He supports all these people, and all he talks about is shutdowns. We will not shut down. We have to open our schools."

— Christina Wilkie

Trump denies there will be a 'dark winter' from Covid

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the final 2020 U.S. presidential campaign debate in the Curb Event Center at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, October 22, 2020.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Biden warned that the U.S. is headed for a "dark winter" as it continues to grapple with the coronavirus, but Trump maintained that he had taken quick action to respond to the pandemic.

Asked how he could boost Americans' confidence to take a vaccine if and when it arrives, Biden said he would "make sure it's totally transparent."

He added: "And by the way, this is the same fellow who told you this is going to end by Easter, last time. This is the same fellow who told you that, 'Don't worry, this is going to end by the summer.'"

"We're about to go into a dark winter," Biden said. "And he has no clear plan and there's no prospect that there's going to be a vaccine available for a majority of the people until the middle of next year."

Trump pushed back: "I don't think we're going to have a dark winter at all. We're opening up our country, we've learned and studied and understand the disease which we didn't at the beginning."

The president also took his first shot of the night at Biden, noting that the former vice president criticized him in January when he put restrictions on travel from China.

"Now he's saying, 'Oh I should have moved quicker.' But he didn't move quicker, he was months behind me," Trump said.

—Kevin Breuninger

Plexiglass barriers removed after Trump and Biden test negative

A worker claens newly installed plexiglass shields on the debate stage inside the Curb Event Center ahead of the Presidential Debate at Belmont University on October 21, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

The plexiglass barriers that were originally installed to separate President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden on the debate stage have been removed after both men tested negative for coronavirus.

Commission on Presidential Debates co-chairman Frank Fahrenkopf told NBC News that the commission's medical advisor changed their recommendation to use the barriers after learning about Trump and Biden's negative test results and consulting with White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The Biden and the Trump campaigns agreed to the decision to remove the barriers, Fahrenkopf said.

Trump tested negative for the virus on the flight to Nashville, according to White House officials. Biden's campaign said the former vice president also tested negative today. Health experts, however, have warned that even regular testing is not enough to prevent transmission of the virus.

The Commission on Presidential Debates has taken greater precautions after the virus infected at least 27 people in and around the White House including President Trump, who was hospitalized for several days early this month. First lady Melania Trump was recently still suffering from a cough weeks after her diagnosis and cancelled her return to the campaign trail Tuesday.

Trump's coronavirus diagnosis led to the cancellation of the second presidential debate, which was scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami, after he dismissed the Commission's decision to hold the event virtually. Trump and Biden were questioned at separate town halls on network television instead.

The plexiglass barriers were first used at the request of Sen. Kamala Harris during the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City, despite initial resistance from Vice President Mike Pence. Some health experts have said the barriers offer little in the way of protection.

— Spencer Kimball

Voters await coronavirus relief as election nears

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Pelosi: We're 'just about there' on a stimulus deal

It looks all but certain American voters will cast their ballots in the 2020 election without having received another round of coronavirus relief.

Democrats and the Trump administration have said they made progress this week in their scramble to reach a stimulus deal before Election Day on Nov. 3. Even so, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged it will take "a while" to write and pass a bill even if the sides can resolve their differences in the coming days.

After calling off negotiations earlier this month, Trump has looked increasingly desperate to send aid to Americans before the election — or blame Democrats for Washington's failure to do so. His renewed focus on policies including direct payments and small business loans comes as his struggle to contain the pandemic and the accompanying economic damage appear to harm his reelection prospects.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has supported a range of economic recovery proposals, from expanded unemployment insurance, child care and hazard pay to relief for state and local governments. Even so, he has faced skepticism over his proposals to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations, which he said he would do even during the economic crisis.

A CNBC/Change Research poll this week found two-thirds of voters in six swing states believe the economy is struggling and needs more relief from the federal government.

Trump and Biden could face questions about coronavirus aid at the presidential debate during a segment focused on fighting Covid-19.

— Jacob Pramuk

'Absolutely insane' housing demand will last into 2021, says Redfin chief

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People are buying vacation homes, then taking a permanent vacation: Redfin CEO

Glenn Kelman, CEO of real estate brokerage Redfin, told CNBC he expects the pandemic-driven surge in home sales to persist into next year. However, he cautioned, "there's no way it can last forever."

"This level of demand is absolutely insane. I would expect it to last into 2021, at least," Kelman said on "Power Lunch." "There are so many people now who have decided they're not going to be able to buy a home by year-end, who expect to do so going into 2021, especially as their kids shift school districts. I do think we're going to see this for some time."

Kelman also stressed that low interest rates are fueling the hot housing market, in addition to the greater geographic flexibility ushered in for many affluent professionals who can work remotely.

"There's just another group of Americans who are still struggling, who can't access the credit because we've raised credit standards, and you have high unemployment. I just think those two trends, at some point, have to collide," he said. - Kevin Stankiewicz

FDA approves Gilead's remdesivir as a coronavirus treatment

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FDA approves Gilead's Remdesivir as Covid-19 treatment

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Gilead Sciences' remdesivir as a coronavirus treatment, CNBC's Berkeley Lovelace reports, making it the first drug to receive the blanket green light.

The treatment had previously received emergency use authorization, and was among the earliest to be put in use in hospitalized patients.

"Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gilead has worked relentlessly to help find solutions to this global health crisis," Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day said in a statement. "It is incredible to be in the position today, less than one year since the earliest case reports of the disease now known as COVID-19, of having an FDA-approved treatment in the U.S. that is available for all appropriate patients in need." —Sara Salinas

White House says Trump tests negative for Covid before debate with Biden

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures to reporters as he walks from Marine One with first lady Melania Trump to board Air Force One as they depart Washington on campaign travel to Nashville, Tennessee to attend his second and final debate with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., October 22, 2020.
Tom Brenner | Reuters

President Donald Trump tested negative for the coronavirus ahead of his final debate with former Vice President Joe Biden, the White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.

McEnany told reporters Trump was tested for Covid-19 on Air Force One as he traveled to the debate hall in Nashville, where he will face off against Biden for the second and final time before Election Day.

The debate is set to kick off at 9 p.m. ET. It will be moderated by NBC News' Kristen Welker.

Like in the recent debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris, the president and the Democratic nominee will be separated by sheets of plexiglass on stage. —Kevin Breuninger

Gap pivots brands, closes stores as it weathers pandemic

Gap will tweak its fashion brands, shrink its footprint of stores and emphasize e-commerce as it weathers the pandemic.

The company, which includes Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta, shared its plans to return to profitable growth next year at an investor day. It said it expects to close about 350 Gap and Banana Republic stores in North America by the end of fiscal 2023. By that time, it said, it plans to bring in about 80% of revenue from e-commerce and off-mall locations.

As the retailer looks to stay relevant during the global health crisis, Gap executives said they are switching up assortment. For example, Banana Republic, known for selling work wear like dresses and suits, will have more activewear, sleepwear and knits — with plans to return to its typical apparel when more people return to the office.

The company has also added face masks to its merchandise during the pandemic, a new business that's already racked up $130 million in sales. —Melissa Repko

CDC updates guidelines on definition of Covid-19 'close contact'

The Centers for Disease Control expanded its definition of what constitutes "close contact" with someone who has tested positive for Covid-1. Now, the agency considers situations "close contact" if someone has spent a cumulative total of 15 minutes within six feet of an infected person over a 24-hour period, beginning two days before the onset of illness.

Previously, the CDC said that "close contact" meant being within six feet of a person infected with Covid-19 for 15 consecutive minutes.

The change comes after a case report was published Wednesday, in which a corrections officer in Vermont contracted the virus after 22 brief interactions with people who had Covid-19 over the course of an eight-hour shift.

This new change "highlights again the importance of wearing face masks to prevent transmission," a CDC spokesperson said in a statement. Anyone who has had close contact with an infected person should self-quarantine for 14 days and monitor symptoms, according to the CDC. —Cory Stieg

New Jersey issues travel advisory for residents to 'avoid any unnecessary interstate travel'

New Jersey Gov. Phil Muphy issued a travel advisory for the state, asking people to "avoid any unnecessary interstate travel," citing rising coronavirus numbers in the region.

New Jersey has 223,223 total confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 16,245 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The state has reported two consecutive days with new cases over 1,000, after keeping daily infections below that threshold for several months. —Chris Eudaily

It could be a decade before business travel returns to pre-pandemic levels, says Southwest CEO

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Southwest CEO: It could take 10 years for business travel to bounce back

It may take a decade before business travel begins to expand after its coronavirus-driven slowdown, according to Southwest CEO Gary Kelly. Due to that uncertainty, Kelly told CNBC the airline is instead focusing its operations on appealing to leisure fliers.

"I do think there is a need for business people to travel and I think that that will get back to 'normal' at some point. I'll bet you it's a long time from now," he said on "Squawk on the Street."

"But that's just my opinion. What we have to plan for is different. ... We've got to manage this risk, and so we have to assume we'll be more dependent on consumers in terms of our demand in the future," he added. —Kevin Stankiewicz

A stimulus bill could take 'a while,' House Speaker Pelosi says

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks about the need for additional coronavirus relief during her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters in Washington, U.S., October 22, 2020.
Hannah McKay | Reuters

Even if Democrats and the Trump administration reach a coronavirus stimulus deal in the coming days, relief could take a long time to get to Americans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin still have several thorny issues to resolve as they continue their pandemic relief talks. While Pelosi said Democrats and the White House are "just about there" on a deal, actually passing legislation will be another huge task entirely.

"If we can resolve some of these things in the next few days, it'll take a while to write the bill," the House speaker said.

The negotiators still need to find agreement on topics including state and local government aid and liability protections for businesses. Plus, they need to find a way to get the Republican-held Senate on board.

At this point, it appears almost impossible for Congress to pass more stimulus before the Nov. 3 election. —Jacob Pramuk

Desperate for revenue, airlines explore new destinations

U.S. airlines are getting adventurous, exploring new destinations as they desperately seek revenue to stem mounting losses. The four largest U.S. airlines together lost $10 billion in the third quarter.

JetBlue AirwaysUnited Airlines, Southwest Airlines and others are trying more markets to chase leisure travelers, with business travel expected to be minimal for months if not years because of the pandemic. Airlines have drastically reduced their international flying so they are now competing for a smaller pool of travelers.

Despite a recent uptick in demand, federal data show airport screenings are down 65% on the year so far this year. —Leslie Josephs

Santa Claus won’t be coming to Macy’s this year

Santa Claus waves to the crowd during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
Getty Images

Macy's said Santa Claus won't greet kids at its flagship New York store this year due to the pandemic, the Associated Press reports. The holiday tradition started dates back to nearly 160 years ago.

Each year, over a quarter of a million people come to see Santa at Macy's in New York each year, making it hard to create a safe health environment, the wire service reported.

Santa also won't appear at its Chicago and San Francisco stores, the retailer told AP, but will still show up at the end of the televised Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. —Terri Cullen

Warner Bros. is ‘not optimistic’ about movie theaters rebounding

Studios and movie theaters have had a difficult time navigating through the coronavirus pandemic. Audiences have been hesitant to return to cinemas and constant flux in the number of open movie theaters has lead filmmakers to move major blockbusters into 2021.

AT&T chief John Stankey, the company that runs Warner Bros., said he foresees a "choppy" recovery ahead for the film industry.

Stankey said during an earnings call that the company is "not optimistic" and is not "expecting a huge recovery in theatrical moving into the early part of next year."

Warner Bros. released "Tenet" to domestic audiences back in September, but its lackluster ticket sales have led the company to postpone "Wonder Woman 1984" until Christmas. Still, that film could move into 2021 as well if coronavirus cases remain high and theaters remain closed.

"I'd say the holiday season is going to be the next big checkpoint to see what occurs and whether or not we can actually move some content back into theatrical exhibition," Stankey said. "And we're going to have to maybe make a game-time decision on that based on what's happening in different geographies and what's happening effectively with infection counts in the country." —Sarah Whitten

Common mouthwashes may have the potential to reduce Covid-19 viral load in the mouth

Listerine, a Johnson & Johnson product.
Jodi Gralnick | CNBC

Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine said certain oral antiseptics, mouthwashes and a baby shampoo "may have the ability to inactive human coronaviruses" when talking, sneezing or coughing, though further testing is needed, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Medical Virology.

Researchers tested products such as Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo, Orajel Antiseptic Rinse, Listerine Antiseptic and Peroxide Sore Mouth.

The study did not specifically test the SARS-CoV-2 strain of coronavirus but rather a strain of coronavirus structurally similar to SARS-CoV-2.

"The researchers found that several of the nasal and oral rinses had a strong ability to neutralize human coronavirus, which suggests that these products may have the potential to reduce the amount of virus spread by people who are Covid-19-positive," Penn State said in a release.

Other experts are skeptical about the usefulness or relevance of these findings, however, as the study did not specifically test the SARS-CoV-2 strain of coronavirus, and it did not test the usefulness of the products in people. —Jade Scipioni

Pandemic attracts new customers to Arby's restaurants

U.S. consumers are trying Arby's sandwiches for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic.

Arby's President Jim Taylor said in an interview that the chain has seen 16 million new customers so far, lured to its restaurants by a new 2 for $6 value menu and a greater emphasis on its kids' meals.

"We're outperforming the QSR industry by 5 to 10 points on a weekly basis, all transaction-driven," he said, referring to quick-service restaurants.

Arby's is opening its first restaurant in Mexico today, marking its entry into Latin America. —Amelia Lucas

Hamptons real estate prices break records as the NYC wealthy flee to the beach

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Hamptons real estate market sales smash records as wealthy flee New York City

The average home sales price in the Hamptons soared 46% in the third quarter as wealthy New Yorkers fled the city and continued to buy real estate on the beach, CNBC's Robert Frank reports.

Prices in the Hamptons hit new records of just over $2 million, according to a report from Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel. The median sales price jumped 40% to $1.2 million, which is now higher than Manhattan's median sales price of $1.1 million.

Jonathan Miller, CEO of Miller Samuel, said an enduring trend of the pandemic will be the rise of the "co-primary residence," where families spend equal time in the city and at their rural or resort homes since they can now work and attend school remotely. —Melodie Warner 

Moderna completes enrollment for late-stage vaccine trial

A sign marks the headquarters of Moderna Therapeutics, which is developing a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Brian Snyder | Reuters

Moderna announced it has completed enrollment for its late-stage trial testing a potential coronavirus vaccine.

Moderna, a frontrunner in the Covid-19 vaccine race, has enrolled 30,000 participants. As of Thursday, more than 25,650 participants have received their second dose of the vaccine, the company said.

"Completing enrollment of the Phase 3 COVE study is an important milestone for the clinical development of mRNA-1273, our vaccine candidate against COVID-19," Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said in a statement. "We are indebted to all of the participants in the study."

Bancel told the Wall Street Journal earlier this month that the company expects the vaccine could get authorized by the Food and Drug Administration in December if it gets positive early results in November from the trial. –Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

U.S. stocks open flat as traders weigh stimulus uncertainty

U.S. stocks opened flat as uncertainty around fiscal stimulus talks and the election offered investors some incremental room for optimism, reports CNBC's Fred Imbert and Thomas Franck.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 46 points, or 0.2%. The S&P 500 was up 0.2% and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.5%. —Melodie Warner

Sen. Rubio: I'm willing to be 'flexible' on Covid stimulus cost

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Sen. Rubio on stimulus deal: We run the risk of structural damage to economy if we don't do something

GOP Sen. Marco Rubio said on "Squawk Box" he's willing to support a more expensive coronavirus stimulus package than his ideal preference because the American economy needs fiscal support.

"I think the price of not doing something is even higher. So as long as it's limited in some way, as long as it's not crazy, yes I'm willing to be flexible about it because I think it's that important," the Florida Republican said.

Democrats have passed a bill worth around $2.2 trillion, while the Trump administration has put forward a nearly $1.9 trillion proposal. Rubio acknowledged there are some GOP senators who would not be willing to support a relief package that costs around $1.8 trillion.

He said he was not "happy" with that level of spending, either. But he said he worries about structural damage to the U.S. economy without more relief. "I'm willing to vote for things I'm not in favor of in order to pass the things I think are essential and important for our country, within reason," Rubio said. —Kevin Stankiewicz

Physicians warn Covid-19 may become endemic even with a vaccine

Small bottles labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken taken April 10, 2020.
Dado Ruvic | Reuters

The development of a safe and effective vaccine against Covid-19 may not be enough to prevent the coronavirus from becoming endemic, health experts have warned.

Instead, physicians believe a better way for governments and people around the world to proceed could be to learn to live with the pandemic.

"I think the answer is that, yes, this will become endemic," Dr. David Heymann, who led the WHO's infectious disease unit at the time of the SARS epidemic in 2002-2003, said during a webinar for think-tank Chatham House on Wednesday.

"We know now that we are going to have to start living with this virus in a more chronic way — really, in the long term," Dr. Olivia Tulloch, CEO of Anthrologica, a leading research-based specialist in applied anthropology in global health, said during the same event. — Sam Meredith

Southwest will start selling middle seats again in December

Southwest Airlines will stop blocking middle seats on its planes in December, ending the policy that aimed to provide more physical distance on board and calm travelers nervous about flying during the pandemic.

The Dallas-based airline cites recent studies that conclude there is a low risk of Covid-19 transmission on planes. The airline posted its largest-ever loss for the quarter and is trying to drum up more revenue.

"This practice of effectively keeping middle seats open bridged us from the early days of the pandemic, when we had little knowledge about the behavior of the virus, to now," the company said. "Today, aligned with science-based findings from trusted medical and aviation organizations, we will resume selling all available seats for travel beginning December 1, 2020." —Leslie Josephs

Weekly U.S. jobless claims at lowest level since March

New jobless claims in the U.S. totaled 787,000 last week, nearly the lowest total since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, reports CNBC's Jeff Cox.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones were expecting 875,000 for the week ended Oct. 17. The total reflected a decline of 55,000 from the downwardly revised 842,000 in the previous week.

It's the lowest total since Oct. 3 and the second-lowest mark since March 14. —Melodie Warner

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that weekly jobless claims came in below 800,000 for the second time since March.

Pandemic continues to dent corporate earnings

Passengers pass in front of an American Airlines Group Inc. airplane at Tulsa International Airport (TUL) in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020. Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic continues to hit corporate earnings, as third quarter reports pick up steam. Travel remains stymied, businesses are looking at higher costs headed into surging virus cases, and consumers are settling in for the long haul.

—Sara Salinas

Target CEO says company is 'doubling down on safety' this holiday season

Shoppers wear protective masks inside a Target Corp. store in New York, U.S., on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020. Target is scheduled to release earnings figures on August 19.
Jeenah Moon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Target will hold your spot in line this holiday season. It will also dedicate twice as many parking spots to curbside pickup and give employees mobile devices that allow them to check out customers in different parts of the store.

Target CEO Brian Cornell said the retailer's new features aim to make it the safest and more convenient place to shop as the holiday shopping season and coronavirus pandemic coincide.

"We anticipate that our guests will visit our stores frequently this holiday season," Cornell said on a call with reporters. "Many will do so to pick up their online orders from the comfort of their cars and many more will come to browse our aisles for holiday inspiration."

In its holiday plan, Target is "doubling down on safety," he said.

Shoppers surveyed by consulting firm Deloitte said they plan to visit fewer stores this holiday season. On average, shoppers said they plan to go to 5.2 retail stores, down from seven last year, according to the firm's survey. That makes it even more crucial for retailers to prove to customers that they will find stores stocked, sanitized and full of people complying with mask wearing and social distancing. —Melissa Repko

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