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Coronavirus updates: Health-care workers under pressure with surge in U.S. cases; air travel picking up

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The U.S. continues to notch record Covid-19 infections, with the national seven-day average of daily new cases hitting 170,855 on Sunday, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. It's possible the numbers will get a little more opaque heading into the holiday weekend. Local health outposts typically pause reporting for national holidays, which could lead to slight backlogs.

Here are some of the biggest developments Monday:

The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

  • Global cases: More than 58.79 million
  • Global deaths: At least 1.39 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 12.25 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 256,803

For grocery workers, the latest wave of Covid-19 brings feeling of deja vu

Lay Guzman stands behind a partial protective plastic screen and wears a mask and gloves as she works as a cashier at the Presidente Supermarket on April 13, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images

Grocery workers said as Covid-19 cases rise across the country, they have heightened anxiety and a terrible feeling of deja vu.

Hand sanitizer and masks are in short supply. Some shoppers walk through stores without wearing a mask. And pandemic-related policies, from extra store cleanings to limits on the number of customers, have largely faded away, according to members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union who spoke on a Monday conference call.

This time, however, the pandemic and holiday rush have collided. Shoppers are heading to stores for holiday items, such as turkeys and baking supplies, along with stocking up again on toilet paper. And extra hourly pay meant to show appreciation or compensate for additional health risks has ended.

"If you want to know one reason why this pandemic is getting worse, it's very simple: We haven't learned. We haven't changed," said Janet Wainwright, a five-year employee of Kroger who works in Virginia.

At least 350 of the grocery union's members have died since the start of the pandemic, including 109 grocery workers. More than 48,000 members have gotten sick or been exposed to Covid-19, according to UFCW. That total does not include workers who have gotten sick or died at nonunionized retailers like Walmart and Amazon.

—Melissa Repko

Doctors say vaccine shots won't be 'a walk in the park'

Doctors urged public health officials and drugmakers to be transparent about the side effects people may experience after getting their first Covid-19 vaccine shots from either Moderna or Pfizer.

During a meeting with the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, Dr. Sandra Fryhofer of the American Medical Association said U.S. officials "really need to make patients aware that this is not going to be a walk in the park."

"They are going to know they had a vaccine," she said during the meeting. "They are probably not going to feel wonderful. But they've got to come back for that second dose."

The committee meeting comes three days after Pfizer and its partner BioNTech applied for an emergency use authorization from the FDA for their vaccine. Moderna and Pfizer have acknowledged that their vaccines could induce side effects that are similar to symptoms associated with mild Covid-19, such as muscle pain, chills and headache.

–Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Covid precautions still needed, but vaccine data offers optimism for 2021, doctor says

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Covid antibody treatment needs to be scaled up: Doctor

Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency room doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told CNBC that the recent spate of optimistic Covid-19 vaccine data offers hope for 2021. But Faust also said it underscores the need for public-health precautions in the next few months.

"We have to acknowledge that there actually is a saving grace possibly coming here and it's not just flattening the curve now. It's saving lives," Faust said on "Power Lunch."

In the initial outbreak this spring, when vaccines seemed potentially a year away, people were told the health restrictions were critical to prevent hospitals from becoming overrun. Now, Pfizer has applied for emergency use authorization with the FDA, and Moderna and AstraZeneca appear to have promising vaccines as well.

"I never imagined we would have three products in three weeks with these kinds of data," Faust said, adding that there could still be challenges with rolling out the vaccines to Americans. Nonetheless, the promising developments mean the worst of the pandemic may be in sight, he said.

"We can't just say, 'Oh, it's just a matter of time before I get it and we'll see how it goes,'" Faust said. "No, now we know that sometime in 2021, there's going to be a vaccine likely that's safe and effective in your arm. Let's all get there together."

Kevin Stankiewicz

New York to reopen 100-bed field hospital on Staten Island, Cuomo says

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will reopen a field hospital on Staten Island following an influx of Covid-19 patients over the last three weeks.

The 100-bed facility was one of many New York opened in the spring as it fought back a wave of coronavirus infections that overwhelmed its hospital system and killed roughly 800 people every day. However, those emergency facilities largely went unused, Cuomo said.

"This was a planned emergency facility in the spring. We didn't use it; now we need it," Cuomo said during a press briefing. There were 91 people hospitalized with Covid-19 on Staten Island as of Sunday, a near threefold increase from three weeks ago, he said.

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

California Gov. Newsom in quarantine following potential Covid exposure

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a tweet that he and his family will quarantine for the next two weeks following a potential coronavirus exposure.

Newsom said he and first lady Jennifer Siebel Newsom learned on Friday evening that their three of their children had been exposed to a California Highway Patrol officer who tested positive for Covid-19. The Democratic governor was not directly exposed to the officer, he said, and so far the family has tested negative for the virus.

— Noah Higgins-Dunn

Hospital workers at risk due to 'unprecedented' Covid spread, CEO says

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Hospital CEOs on handling case surges, health-care employee protection

Dr. Penny Wheeler, the chief executive of Minneapolis-based Allina Health, told CNBC that the sharp uptick in coronavirus cases puts hospital workers at higher risk of becoming infected. While hospitals were able to improve supply of masks and ventilators since the spring outbreak, it's harder to have more nurses and doctors, she said.

"You cannot manufacture a talented and compassionate caregiver," Wheeler said in a "Squawk on the Street" interview. "And that's where we're having trouble with now, especially with so many of them being affected or their family members being affected by community spread in our organization and in the community."

As the Midwest, in particular, sees an "unprecedented" surge in cases, Wheeler said the general public should adhere to public health mitigations more stringently. "The need for masking, physical distancing and washing of hands, all those things — I know people are fatigued but so are the health-care workers, and you can keep our health-care workers healthier and able to care for you if you do those things," she said.

Kevin Stankiewicz

Amazon asking holiday shoppers to use pick up hubs amid surge of online orders

An Amazon fulfillment center in Frankenthal, Germany.
Thorsten Wagner | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Amazon is pushing shoppers to get their packages delivered to some of its brick-and-mortar retail locations and neighborhood "hubs," as it faces a pandemic-fueled surge of online orders, coupled with the holiday season.

The company now accepts deliveries at its physical bookstores, called Amazon Books, or Amazon 4-star stores. Amazon also highlighted its network of contactless pickup points, referred to as Amazon Hubs, as an "alternative delivery location."

By encouraging shoppers to have their orders sent to Hubs and brick-and-mortar stores, Amazon can cut down on the number of last-mile delivery trips that are necessary.

Amazon will likely need all the help it can get when it comes to deliveries this holiday season. For months, large shippers such as FedEx and UPS have been warning of a potential capacity shortfall, as the spike of e-commerce activity and holiday peak leaves them struggling to keep up.

—Annie Palmer

Regeneron will provide 300,000 doses of treatment for U.S. by early January, CEO says

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Regeneron CEO Dr. Leonard Schleifer on distribution of Covid-19 antibody cocktail

Regeneron CEO Dr. Leonard Schleifer told CNBC that the company will provide the U.S. 300,000 doses of its newly authorized coronavirus treatment by early January, and it has 80,000 doses ready to deploy immediately.

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday granted an emergency use authorization for the company's antibody treatment, called REGN-COV2, which was given to President Donald Trump when he contracted the coronavirus in October.

After January, Regeneron will have the ability to supply 100,000 doses every month, Schleifer said. The company is also conducting experiments to determine whether the dosage can be cut in half, which would eventually double the number of available doses to 200,000 every month if proven effective, he said.

"We hope to have millions of doses available," Schleifer told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

United launches preflight Covid-19 testing for Latin America, Caribbean flights

A healthcare worker wears personal protective equipment (PPE) during a United Airlines Covid-19 test pilot program at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, U.S., on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020.
Angus Mordant | Bloomberg | Getty Images

United Airlines customers traveling to Latin American and Caribbean destinations from its George Bush Intercontinental Airport hub in Houston could take a preflight Covid test starting next month to avoid quarantines or travel bans. The destinations include Belize City; Guatemala City; Lima, Peru; Nassau, Bahamas; San Salvador; and Panama City.

The self-collected tests will cost travelers $119 and be processed by Advanced Diagnostic Laboratory in San Antonio. United said it will reach out to customers with instructions two weeks before their flights.

United and other airlines have been scrambling to advance testing regimes to ease travel in the pandemic. Last week, United began a trial of free preflight Covid tests for some London-bound passengers and last month started a preflight testing program for travelers flying to Hawaii from San Francisco.

Leslie Josephs

Merck buys OncoImmune to boost supply of promising Covid drug

Pharmaceutical giant Merck said it plans to acquire OncoImmune, gaining rights to an under-the-radar drug that has shown promising results in patients hospitalized with Covid-19, CNBC's Meg Tirrell reports.

The drug, CD24Fc, was found in a late-stage clinical study to reduce the risk of respiratory failure or death by more than 50% in patients requiring oxygen, Merck said Monday. But OncoImmune was too small to reach scale, Merck's research chief, Dr. Roger Perlmutter, told CNBC.

"We realized that this small little company was in no position to make CD24Fc to try and treat all of the people who could potentially benefit from this drug," Perlmutter said. "We decided that the only way, seriously, that this could be brought to people who need it is for us to lean in with our capabilities."

—Sara Salinas

Retailers try to limit holiday crowds by trading doorbusters for weeks of deals

The Walmart+ home screen on a laptop computer in Brooklyn, New York on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020.
Gabby Jones | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Don't call it a "doorbuster." Many retailers are putting some of their deepest holiday discounts and popular gift items online this year.

At Best Buy and Walmart, for example, sought-after videogame consoles including Sony Playstation 5 and XBox Series X will be online only. Discounts on other gift items, like Apple Watches, will only be available on Walmart's website, too.

Retailers are stretching out the holiday sales season, featuring more digital deals and encouraging options like curbside pickup to limit crowds and minimize safety risks as coronavirus cases rise across the country during the holiday season.

Walmart, Target, Kohl's, Best Buy, J.C. Penney and several other major retailers will be shut on Thanksgiving Day, the typical kickoff to the holiday shopping season. And they have announced heightened safety measures for Black Friday for shoppers who do want to hit the store.

Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at The NPD Group, said the thrill of one-day events may fade because sales are a click away. Plus, he said, shoppers have heightened anxiety about Covid-19.

"With Covid, this really changed everything," he said. "Now, nobody even wants to be standing next to somebody, let alone fighting a crowd to get something."

—Melissa Repko

UK expected to lift lockdown in early December

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce that a nationwide lockdown in England will be lifted next week.

A second lockdown has seen leisure and hospitality venues close, as well as nonessential shops. Any lifting of restrictions, which could take place on Dec. 2, is expected to come with conditions.

Johnson is expected to announce to Parliament further details around a lifting of restrictions on Monday. It's likely that England will see a return to the "three-tier system," with differing rules imposed on areas of the country, based on their number of coronavirus infections.

The U.K. government has been under pressure to detail what might follow the month-long lockdown, and to set out measures to allow families to spend Christmas together.

Holly Ellyatt

Airline passengers top 1 million a day ahead of Thanksgiving, despite warnings

Passengers enter a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint at O'Hare International Airport on October 19, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois.
Scott Olson | Getty Images

Airport screenings climbed to an eight-month high over the weekend ahead of Thanksgiving, despite warnings from federal health officials to avoid travel for the holiday.

The Transportation Security Administration screened more than 1 million people each on Friday and Sunday, the highest number since mid-March. That's still down sharply from last year. Sunday's screening total of 1.05 million was down 55% from a year ago, but better than the average daily screenings so far this quarter, which are down more than 64% from the same period in 2019.

Record coronavirus cases, however, are proving a challenge for airlines, one of the hardest-hit industries in the pandemic. Airline executives over the past few weeks have warned that bookings are dropping and in some cases, cancellations are on the rise, as the virus spreads.

Leslie Josephs

Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine shows an average 70% effectiveness

Staff at CSL are seen working in the lab on Nov. 8 in Melbourne, Australia. CSL will begin manufacturing AstraZeneca-Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine from Monday.
Darrian Traynor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

AstraZeneca said an interim analysis of clinical trial data showed its coronavirus vaccine has an average efficacy of 70% in protecting against Covid-19, CNBC's Sam Meredith reports.

The vaccine candidate, developed in partnership with the University of Oxford, was reviewed across 23,000 trial participants at two different dosing regimens — one regimen was found to be 90% effective, and the other was found to be 62% effective.

U.K.-based AstraZeneca said it would immediately prepare data submissions for possible early approval from health regulators around the world.

—Sara Salinas

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