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Covid updates: U.S. adds 1 million cases in just four days, now above 15 million

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More than 200,000 Americans are testing positive for the coronavirus every day on average, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data, as the national infection total now tops 15 million. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, warned Monday that the country is likely to see a Thanksgiving-related spike in Covid cases and hospitalizations in another week or so, in the middle of Hanukkah and just ahead of Christmas.

Here are the biggest developments Tuesday:

The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

  • Global cases: More than 68.25 million
  • Global deaths: At least 1.55 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 15.17 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 286,307

Singapore's 'cruise to nowhere' forced to return early after passenger tests positive

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Passenger tests positive for Covid on Singapore's 'cruise to nowhere'

Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas cruise ship set sail from Singapore on a four-day "cruise to nowhere" but was forced to return to port early after a passenger tested positive for Covid-19.

"One guest aboard Quantum of the Seas tested positive for coronavirus after checking in with our medical team," the cruise operator said in a statement.

Guests and crew who came into close contact were identified and isolated, and they had tested negative thus far, according to the company.

"Cruise to nowhere" is a concept that is being tested by Singapore, which allows cruise ships to make round trips to the city-state with no port of call in between.

Saheli Roy Choudhury

White House task force warns vaccine won't substantially reduce hospitalizations, deaths until late spring

The White House coronavirus task force warned in its weekly report to states that the coronavirus vaccine will "not substantially reduce" the virus' spread, Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths until the late spring.

"The current vaccine implementation will not substantially reduce viral spread, hospitalizations, or fatalities until the 100 million Americans with comorbidities can be fully immunized, which will take until the late spring," the report, which was obtained by CNBC, said.

"Behavioral change and aggressive mitigation policies are the only widespread prevention tools that we have to address this winter surge," the report read.

The task force instructs all public health officials to make it clear that anyone over the age of 65 or anyone with significant health conditions "should not enter any indoor public spaces where anyone is unmasked due to the immediate risk" to their health.

If someone is under the age of 40, they should assume they were infected with the virus during Thanksgiving if they gathered with people outside their household, the report said.

"Begin warning about any gathering during December holidays," the report read.

"... This current fall to winter surge continues to spread to every corner of the US, from small towns to large cities, from farms to beach communities. This surge is the most rapid increase in cases; the widest spread of intense transmission, with more than 2,000 counties in COVID red zones; and the longest duration of rapid increase, now entering its 8th week, that we have experienced."

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

Privacy concerns challenge federal effort to track vaccinations

The Trump administration's plan to coordinate existing vaccine registries into a national database for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout is raising privacy concerns among some immunization officials who say the data should remain only with states.

As part of the federal effort, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked states and jurisdictions to sign data use agreements that would share personally identifiable information from existing registries with the federal government.

Deacon Maddox, who runs Operation Warp Speed's data and analysis programs, said Monday on a conference call with reporters that the number of states that have not yet signed are in "low single digits" and he added that "all of them [are] on track to be signed here in the first half of this week."

"Due diligence was done on the part of all the jurisdictions to make sure they understood what was in that agreement," he said, explaining the delay. "And it's important to understand that the CDC took a lot of time to understand what those data elements were. They are truly the minimum data requirements of what would be asked for in a pandemic response."

Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, said recently in a phone interview with CNBC that there are "legitimate legal issues with sharing identifiable data."

—Will Feuer

JetBlue outlines cost cuts for 2021 with challenging year ahead

JetBlue Airways will pause employee raises, company events and paid parental leave in 2021 to help cut further cut costs, according to a company memo. Reduced executive pay will also continue into 2021, the company says.

The airline and its rivals are struggling to slow their cash burn as bookings decline and Covid-19 infections spike.

--Leslie Josephs

U.S. hasn’t seen full Covid brunt from Thanksgiving, Fauci warns

As the U.S. approaches Christmas season, the country has yet to see the worst from the Covid-19 outbreaks driven by people traveling and congregating for Thanksgiving, White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

Fauci, during a session with the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council summit, said the U.S. could expect the full brunt of the virus coming off the Thanksgiving season "sometime probably next week or a week and a half."

"And then we're going to enter into the Christmas season, again with more traveling and with more congregating at family and social gatherings. So we're in for a very challenging period," Fauci said.

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

Covid could be under control in ‘back half of 2021’ if people are vaccinated, Fauci says

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases who has been nominated by President-elect Joe Biden to serve as Biden's chief medical adviser on Covid-19, speaks on screen after Biden announced his team tasked with dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware on December 8, 2020.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the U.S. could get the coronavirus pandemic under control by the "back half of 2021" if enough people are vaccinated against the disease in the spring once doses are widely available.

Fauci told the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council summit that there should be enough doses of vaccine available for all Americans beginning in late March and early April if all goes to plan. The challenge will be convincing the overwhelming majority of people in the U.S. to get vaccinated, he said.

In order to get an "umbrella of herd immunity" in the nation, roughly 75% or more of the population will need to be vaccinated against the virus, Fauci said.

If the U.S. is able to implement the vaccine program aggressively, however, businesses could likely welcome employees back to the office, restaurants could open indoor at full capacity and sporting events and theater performances could resume safely toward the second half of 2021, he said.

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

Scammers are pushing fake Covid immunizations

A nurse prepares to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy's Hospital in London, Britain December 8, 2020.
Frank Augstein | Reuters

Scammers are pushing fake Covid immunizations, preying on people's desperation to protect themselves from a virus that has sickened more than 15 million Americans and left over 200,000 dead.

"Obviously, in the context of Covid, demand for vaccines will far outweigh initial supply, and we can anticipate that bad actors will rush to fill that gap," said Karen Gardner, chief marketing officer at SIPCA North America, a global security company.

Caitlin Donovan, a spokeswoman for the Patient Advocate Foundation, a nonprofit that helps patients access and pay for health care, recommends people try to get the vaccine through their primary doctor.

"Ask if there's a waiting list you can sign up for, and if there's a plan for how it's distributed," Donovan said.

Keep in mind that most people aren't going to get a vaccine in the U.S. until the summer, she said.

"If someone tells you it's available right now, that's a scam," Donovan said.

–Annie Nova

U.S. case total surpasses 15 million

The U.S. coronavirus case tally surpassed 15 million on Tuesday, adding another 1 million confirmed infections in just four days. It's the highest cumulative case total in the world by a margin of more than 5 million.

Infections are on the rise across the country, as many Americans travel for holidays gatherings and resist public safety measures designed to slow the spread. Health experts warn the full effect of a Thanksgiving-related bump in cases and hospitalizations won't be realized for another 7-10 days.

—Sara Salinas

Saturday's Michigan-Ohio State game canceled amid Covid outbreak

Ohio State Buckeyes running back J.K. Dobbins (2) runs with the ball while trying to avoid being tackled by Michigan Wolverines defensive back Daxton Hill (30) during a regular season Big 10 Conference game between the Ohio State Buckeyes (2) and the Michigan Wolverines.
Scott W. Grau | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images

Saturday's Big Ten rivalry game between The University of Michigan and Ohio State University has been canceled amid a Covid-19 outbreak among Michigan student-athletes, the Athletic Department announced.

"The number of positive tests has continued to trend in an upward direction over the last seven days," Michigan's Athletic Director Warde Manuel said in a statement. "We have not been cleared to participate in practice at this time. Unfortunately, we will not be able to field a team due to COVID-19 positives and the associated quarantining required of close-contact individuals. This decision is disappointing for our team and coaches but their health and safety is paramount, and it will always come first in our decision-making."

The game was slated to be held at Ohio State. The Buckeyes hyped the game on the team's Twitter account as recently as an hour before the announcement.

—Sara Salinas

Congress aims to reach elusive Covid relief agreement

Congress aims to pass new coronavirus relief before lifelines for struggling Americans expire at the end of the year.

A handful of sticking points are preventing a deal.

Republicans and Democrats broadly agree on the need for more small business loans, an extension of provisions that expand unemployment insurance eligibility and money for Covid-19 vaccine distribution and schools. However, lawmakers have not resolved disputes over protections against coronavirus-related lawsuits, aid for state and local governments that may have to consider job cuts and direct payments to American families.

Congress plans to buy itself more time to strike a deal on both stimulus and federal spending by passing a continuing resolution to fund the government through Dec. 18. Failure to pass new pandemic aid could leave millions facing the loss of unemployment benefits and their homes.

—Jacob Pramuk

US economy primed for a swift recovery in 2021, Wells Fargo CEO says

Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf said Tuesday that the U.S. economy will probably rebound quickly from the coronavirus next year after vaccines are widely distributed.

Now that effective vaccines are coming, Scharf is "far more confident" that the economy will recover from the current difficult period as Covid-19 cases hit record levels.

"The world that we're experiencing today is certainly far, far better economically than we thought it could've been sitting here three months or six months ago," Scharf said. "It's certainly quite possible that you'll see a very quick recovery as the vaccines get rolled out, given all the pent-up demand that exists."

Hugh Son

Independent review confirms safety and effectiveness of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

Researchers have confirmed that the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective. It is the first Covid-19 vaccine to have its late-stage trial data peer-reviewed and published in a medical journal.

The study, published Tuesday in the medical journal the Lancet, reiterated the findings shared a few weeks ago that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine had average effectiveness of 70% in protecting against Covid-19.

The published study also shared that of the 23,745 participants in the vaccine trials, only 3 experienced "serious adverse events that were possibly related to a vaccine," one of which was in the control group. All three have since recovered or are recovering and continue to be part of the trial.

Victoria McKeever

Pandemic is leaving students of color behind, creating long-term impact on their earnings and health

Students are falling behind as the pandemic continues to disrupt their learning, but Black and Hispanic children are being hurt the worst, a new report by McKinsey & Company found.

At schools that had student bodies made up of more than 50% people of color, kindergartners and fifth graders started the school year only learned 59% of the math and 77% of the reading that their peers would have typically learned by fall, the authors wrote, citing Curriculum Associates data. Schools with more than 50% White students learned 69% of the math and 90% of the reading.

The increase in Covid-19 cases means the remainder of the school year is uncertain. However, if it remained status quo, students of color will end the school year 11 months to 12 months behind, compared to seven to eight months for Whites, according to the report.

The impact will be felt for years and can affect their earnings and their health, said report co-author Emma Dorn, global education practice manager at McKinsey.

Over a 40-year working life, White students would earn $1,348 a year less, Hispanic students bring in $1.809 less and Black students would earn $2,186 less, the firm's June report found.

—Michelle Fox

UK begins inoculating people with Pfizer vaccine — here's how they are doing it

The United Kingdom started vaccinating the public Tuesday, beginning rollout of the vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech.

The U.K. is initially sending the vaccine out to 50 hospitals, which act as "hubs" for the public to get shots, CNBC's Holly Ellyatt reports. The first people in line to get inoculated are front-line health workers, care home workers and people over 80 years old.

The U.K. is the only country to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine so far, but the U.S. is taking it up for potential approval this week and the European Medicines Agency will wrap up its review by Dec. 29.

Chris Eudaily

When infections are projected to peak in a worst-case scenario

According to the latest projection from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), Covid-19 cases in a "worst-case scenario" could peak around Jan. 20 — the same day as President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C.

IHME estimates the number of daily Covid-19 infections could reach over 1 million, "if states do not re-impose any social distancing mandates," according to an IHME spokesperson. The number does include a vaccine rollout — in this case: a 90-day rollout with 3 million doses delivered per day, starting on Dec. 15, for Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine; Dec. 22 for the Moderna vaccine; and Jan. 7 for the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine. 

If states were to re-impose social distancing mandates, however, the projected number of daily infections is reduced to about 448,000 on Jan. 20, according to the model.

IHME estimates are total infections, meaning whether or not they are confirmed by tests.

Jade Scipioni

Pfizer board member Gottlieb says U.S. declined offer for more Covid vaccine doses

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Gottlieb: White House declined Pfizer's offer to secure more Covid vaccine doses

The Trump administration declined multiple offers from drugmaker Pfizer to obtain additional doses of its Covid-19 vaccine for the second quarter of 2021, according to board member Dr. Scott Gottlieb.

The U.S. government struck a deal for 100 million vaccine doses this summer, with an option to obtain 500 million more. The former Food and Drug Administration chief in the Trump administration said the government chose not exercise that option, however.

As a result, Gottlieb said Pfizer reached agreements with other countries to provide some of the vaccine it produces in its Michigan manufacturing plant during the second quarter.

"Pfizer did offer up an additional allotment coming out of that plant, basically the second-quarter allotment, to the United States government multiple times and as recently as after the interim data came out and we knew this vaccine looked to be effective," said Gottlieb, who previously led the FDA from 2017 to 2019. His remarks confirm reporting Monday from The New York Times.

Kevin Stankiewicz

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus and biotech company Illumina. Gottlieb also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings′ and Royal Caribbean's "Healthy Sail Panel." 

Cramer says he was recruited for Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine trial

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Cramer says he was recruited for Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine trial last week

CNBC's Jim Cramer said on "Squawk on the Street" he was recruited for Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine trial last week. He discussed with Carl Quintanilla and David Faber whether the company's vaccine will be as effective as the other vaccines that will be available to the public.

—Melodie Warner 

U.S. stocks open lower as traders weigh stimulus and surging Covid cases

U.S. stocks opened lower as traders await updates on negotiations for additional fiscal stimulus and watch the U.S. coronavirus caseload continue to rise, reports CNBC's Fred Imbert.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 81 points, a 0.2% dip. The S&P 500 slipped 0.2%, and the Nasdaq Composite pulled back by 0.1%.

—Melodie Warner

American Airlines offers Covid testing before domestic flights

Travelers at the American Airlines check-in counter at Los Angeles International Airport on October 1, 2020.
Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

Phone. ID. Covid test results.

Starting Wednesday American Airlines will offer customers a $129 at-home Covid test to help avoid lengthy quarantines in several states, including New York and Massachusetts. The tests will be applicable for travel on or after Dec. 12.

LetsGetChecked, the company providing the tests, recommends that travelers order their tests at least five days before their flight. 

The effort is the latest from a U.S. carrier to use at-home testing or other methods to encourage customers to book travel as demand slumps because of a spike in cases and a host of travel restrictions that deter bookings.

Leslie Josephs

FDA finds no safety concerns in Pfizer vaccine

An NHS pharmacy technician at the Royal Free Hospital, London, simulates the preparation of the Pfizer vaccine to support staff training ahead of the rollout, on December 5, 2020 in London, England.
Yui Mok | Getty Images

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found no safety concerns with Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine, according to a briefing document circulated ahead of a Thursday advisory meeting to discuss the drug, CNBC's Berkeley Lovelace reports.

The document also said the data submitted for review was consistent with agency guidelines, potentially clearing the way for an emergency use approval in a matter of days.

The U.K. began administering the first shots of Pfizer's two-dose vaccine on Tuesday, after approving the drug for use last week.

—Sara Salinas

Strong housing market can get even stronger, says Redfin CEO

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Home sales continue to surge, but inventory remains constrained, says Redfin CEO

Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman told CNBC the strong U.S. housing market could get even stronger in the coming months if more homes go up for sale.

"Today, we are definitely inventory-constrained. There aren't enough homes for people to buy," Kelman said Monday on "Closing Bell."

However, Kelman said, "if we see people get more comfortable letting others into their home, we're going to see more inventory on the market, and that's what will drive sales volume."

While Kelman acknowledged the housing market can't stay this hot forever, he said he continues to be surprised by the pandemic boom. "Every week I think it can't get crazier, it gets crazier," he said.

—Kevin Stankiewicz

Dr. Vin Gupta says U.S. needs 'all hands on deck' in response to rising Covid cases

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'The next two months will be a disaster without all hands on deck', says Dr. Vin Gupta

Everyone in the U.S. should have a "disaster mindset" over the next two months in response to rising coronavirus cases, according to Dr. Vin Gupta, an intensive-care unit and lung doctor.

"Doctors in the reserves, U.S. Air Force Reserves, we haven't leveraged all of our capabilities, we should be deploying those resources — military, national guard, you name it, disaster credentials for anybody who's trained appropriately in ICU medicine," Gupta said Monday on CNBC's "The News with Shepard Smith," CNBC's Emily DeCiccio reports.

 "We need all hands on deck here," added the professor at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said Monday evening.

Gupta, who also serves as an NBC medical contributor, said additional measures need to be taken to reduce coronavirus spread, such as minimizing travel and forgoing indoor dining.

"I think these are, unfortunately, the parameters we have to abide by," Gupta said. "Do I think they're Draconian? I think they're common sense, and I think if we can keep to those things, we'll be able to mitigate transmission until vaccines get deployed in the near-term horizon."

Kevin Stankiewicz

Florida authorities raid home of ex-official who said she was ousted over Covid data

Florida authorities on Monday raided the home of Rebekah Jones, a former state official who claims she was ousted this year for refusing to censor the state's coronavirus numbers, NBC News reports.

In a search warrant, an investigator said someone at Jones' home, using her email address, illegally gained access to a state-run communications system and sent a group text telling people that it was "time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead," according to NBC News.

"You know this is wrong," the text said, according to the warrant. "You don't have to be part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it's too late."

Jones posted a video of the raid and said state police "pointed a gun in my face" and "they pointed guns at my kids."

Terri Cullen

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