Covid updates: Biden to get vaccinated on Monday; the latest on second stimulus checks

The coverage on this blog is now over.

Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine won a key vote on Thursday, clearing the path to an emergency use authorization and potential rollout in the coming days. A panel of FDA experts overwhelmingly recommended the drug for agency authorization. An official approval would make Moderna's the second vaccine to ship out across the country. Moderna's drug, like Pfizer's, is a two-dose vaccine and was found in clinical trials to be more than 94% effective.

The U.S. is recording at least 216,600 new Covid-19 cases and at least 2,600 virus-related deaths each day, based on a seven-day average calculated by CNBC using Johns Hopkins University data.

Here are some of the biggest developments Friday:

A leading vaccine researcher on the key differences between the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines
A leading vaccine researcher on the key differences between the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines

The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

  • Global cases: More than 75.33 million
  • Global deaths: At least 1.66 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 17.32 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 312,219

FDA approves Moderna's vaccine for emergency use

A vial and a medical syringe seen displayed in front of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Moderna biotechnology company's logos.
Pavlo Gonchar | LightRocket | Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration authorized Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, bolstering the U.S. supply of doses as states struggle to stem their coronavirus outbreaks.

The vaccine — the second approved for use in the U.S. behind Pfizer and BioNTech's — is Moderna's first-ever FDA authorized product. The agency's authorization kickstarts the federal government's plan to distribute roughly 5.9 million doses of Moderna's vaccine to 64 states, territories and major cities across the nation next week.

Initial doses will be limited as manufacturing ramps up, with officials predicting it will take months to immunize everyone in the U.S. who wants to be vaccinated. U.S. officials hope to vaccinate at least 20 million Americans — mostly front-line health-care workers and nursing home residents — by the end of the year.

–Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Google to roll out free Covid-19 tests for its employees

Google says it will give employees free weekly Covid-19 tests.

Contracting vendor BioIQ for the tests, the company says it will roll out at-home nasal swab tests available to all full-time U.S. employees and interns, which is around 90,000 people, the company told CNBC, confirming an initial report by the Wall Street Journal. Reportedly valued at $50 each, the tests will become available to international employees, starting in 2021.

A Google spokesperson said it's recommending employees take tests weekly, though it won't be mandatory. Employees will have the option to order two tests per week and tests arrive within three days of order. The company said its temporary employees and contract workers who work on-site in its U.S. offices or data centers, have access to similar free testing service.

The company spokesperson said that since asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 continue to spread the virus, it wanted to make testing more accessible for employees to avoid further spread. The company, which was the first major tech company to mobilize its workforce early in the pandemic, recently extended its work-from-home order to September 2021.

San Francisco public schools will not begin phased reopening in January as planned

The San Francisco Unified School District will not begin its phased reopening approach on Jan. 25 as planned after labor unions pushed for new Covid-19 precautions that left little time to negotiate, the school district said in a statement.

The labor groups said no staff or students should return for in-person learning until the city and county of San Francisco fall into California's orange reopening tier, meaning there's "moderate" viral spread, according to the school district. San Francisco currently falls in the "widespread" purple tier.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued a statement following the decision, saying it's "infuriating that our schools are not going to reopen for in-person learning in January."

"I can't imagine how hard this is for our families and for our young people who haven't been in the classroom since March and are falling further behind every single day," Breed said in a statement. "We should not be creating a false choice between education and a safe return to classrooms."

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

HHS claims states mixed up numbers on Pfizer vaccine allocations

The Department of Health and Human Services says U.S. states reporting cutbacks in their Pfizer Covid vaccine allocations have confused initial numbers provided last month with the actual allotments.

HHS provided states with vaccine numbers for planning and training purposes in mid-November, according to a spokesperson for the department. However, those initial numbers differ from the actual allocation figures which were locked in a week before distribution began, according to HHS.

"We are working on clearing up any misunderstanding up with the governors and jurisdictions," the spokesperson said. "Operation Warp Speed allocation numbers locked in with states have not been changed or adjusted."

New Jersey is one of the latest states to report a reduction. Gov. Phil Murphy said vaccine shipments for both Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines have been reduced by about 20%. Several other states, including Iowa, Florida and Washington state, have reported similar issues.

Moderna's vaccine is still pending approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

After states started to report issues, Pfizer said it has millions of doses in its warehouse waiting shipping instructions from the U.S. government. The Trump administration, however, said this is not the case. Admiral Brett Giroir, U.S. assistant secretary of health, said some doses need to be reserved to assure there is enough supply for the required second dose.

—Spencer Kimball, Meg Tirrell

GM and Ford won't require employees to get Covid vaccinations

General Motors and Ford Motor will not require employees to receive Covid-19 vaccinations despite a decision by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that employers can require workers to do so.

The Detroit automakers have each said they are making preparations for employee distribution but have declined to release specific plans.

Fiat Chrysler has not announced whether being vaccinated will be mandatory for employees. The Italian-American automaker said it has "assembled a cross-functional team, including medical professionals, that is studying the most effective approach to distributing vaccines."

United Auto Workers President Rory Gamble said Friday that he doesn't believe any of the union's 400,000 members should be forced to receive Covid-19 vaccinations, but he encourages them to do so.

—Michael Wayland

President-elect Joe Biden to receive vaccine on Monday

President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, will receive their first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in public on Monday, according to incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, will receive their first doses of the vaccine a week after the Bidens do, Psaki told reporters during a briefing Friday. The timeline is consistent with national security protocols designed to avoid a scenario in which both the president-elect and the vice president-elect experience side effects at the same time.

On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence became the highest-ranking U.S. officials to receive the vaccine so far.

Outgoing President Donald Trump has not yet indicated when he plans to be vaccinated, and has remained largely out of sight during the first week of the vaccine's nationwide rollout. Trump tested positive for the virus in October and would have natural antibodies as a result, but health experts have encouraged those previously infected to nonetheless get the vaccine because we don't yet know how long antibodies offer protection.

—Christina Wilkie

Washington Monument temporarily closed after Interior secretary tests positive

A lone Trump supporter rests on the National Mall in front of the Washington Monument at a sparsely attended rally demonstrating against the election results on December 12, 2020 in Washington, D.C.
Andrew Lichtenstein | Corbis News | Getty Images

The Washington Monument has temporarily closed as employees quarantine after Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who recently visited the monument, tested positive for coronavirus.

"The Secretary was recently at the Washington Monument. In working with our public officials and out of an abundance of caution, a couple of employees have quarantined resulting in a temporary workforce reduction at the monument and its temporary closure," spokesman Nicholas Goodwin said.

The Washington Monument will reopen on Dec. 21, according to Goodwin.

—Spencer Kimball

Dependents included in second round of stimulus checks

Negotiations are still ongoing for a $900 billion Covid-19 pandemic relief bill on Friday, but it does appear that stimulus payments will be part of the package

Although the checks were not part of the original bipartisan proposal released on Monday, several lawmakers, including Senators Bernie Sander (I-VT) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) pushed to include them. 

As of now, the pandemic rescue package includes provisions that would give Americans stimulus checks of up to $600-$700 per individual, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said Wednesday

And while that's about half the amount of the $1,200 maximum stimulus included in the initial Covid relief package earlier in the year, the second round of stimulus payments are set to also be available for dependents, including adult dependents, according to the Washington Post.

Lawmakers are reportedly using the same income standards established in the earlier CARES Act to determine who will receive a check. That legislative package, passed at the end of March, provided full $1,200 payments to individuals earning less than $75,000 and up to $2,400 to married couples making less than $150,000. 

Megan Leonhardt

McConnell, Pelosi receive Covid-19 vaccine as government immunizes U.S. officials

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi both received their first doses of Pfizer's Covid vaccine on Friday, as the federal government rolled out its plan to immunize senior U.S. officials and other essential personnel against the virus.

Dr. Brian Monahan, the attending physician for Congress and the Supreme Court, said his recommendation that lawmakers receive the vaccine was "absolutely unequivocal."

Senior government officials have already started to receive the vaccine, with Vice President Mike Pence taking the shot live on national television Friday. The vaccine will not be available to the general public for months as Pfizer ramps up production.

Vaccine doses are being set aside for Congress, the Supreme Court and executive branch agencies to ensure continuity of government during the pandemic. Monahan emphasized that the doses represent a fraction of the 2.9 million doses that have been sent to sites across the nation in the first phase of distribution.

—Spencer Kimball

COVAX global vaccine program secures nearly 2 billion doses, UNICEF prepares distribution

The COVAX facility, a global alliance aiming to provide poor nations with coronavirus vaccines, said it has supply agreements to provide nearly 2 billion doses and could begin shipping them out in the first quarter once approved.

The facility, which is co-led by the World Health Organization, said it was able to secure the doses through additional supply agreements with AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. There should be enough doses delivered in the first half of next year to protect health and social care workers in the participating economies, the alliance said.

UNICEF also announced that it could ship up to 850 tons of Covid-19 vaccines per month for middle- to-low income countries next year. The humanitarian organization said that the shots will likely be shipped primarily through existing passenger and cargo flights, though some charter flights or alternative transportation methods will be needed for hard-to-reach countries.

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

December on track to be the deadliest month of the pandemic in the U.S.

Following a reported 3,270 coronavirus deaths yesterday, the U.S. total in December is over 42,500, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That's more than any month other than April, and the final month of the year is on pace to become the deadliest month of the pandemic in the U.S.

Slightly more than halfway into the month, the December death toll is already at 70% of April's total of nearly 61,000 deaths, though that may be an undercount due to lower testing availability at the start of the outbreak. If the country reports an average of more than 1,300 daily deaths for the rest of the month, December's death count will surpass April's. The U.S. is currently reporting more than 2,600 deaths per day, based on a weekly average of Hopkins data, more than at any other point this year.

Large states like Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and California have each reported nearly 3,000 deaths or more this month, driving a significant portion of the national total. But many smaller states have been hit disproportionately hard by the virus, with the Dakotas, Iowa, New Mexico, and Kansas reporting the highest death tolls so far this month when adjusting for population. Despite some signs of slowing virus growth in the Midwest, new coronavirus case counts are still increasing nationwide, hitting a new peak of nearly 217,000 average cases per day as of the latest available data.

Nate Rattner

The FDA has not authorized Moderna's vaccine yet, despite Trump's suggestion

The Food and Drug Administration hasn't yet cleared Moderna's coronavirus vaccine, contrary to a tweet from President Donald Trump on Friday that said the agency had "overwhelmingly approved" it and would immediately distribute it.

An FDA spokesman pointed CNBC to a Thursday night statement from the agency's commissioner, Dr. Stephen Hahn, that said the agency would "rapidly work toward finalization and issuance of an emergency use authorization" for Moderna's vaccine.

The FDA's statement on Thursday "is current," agency spokesman Michael Felberbaum told CNBC.

The FDA is expected to authorize Moderna's vaccine as early as Friday. 

—Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Dr. Fauci hopes to get vaccinated next week

Fauci says hope is that by the time we're several months into 2021 we can start thinking about return to normality
Fauci says hope is that by the time we're several months into 2021 we can start thinking about return to normality

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's leading infectious diseases expert, hopes to get vaccinated against the coronavirus himself next week, CNBC's Will Feuer reports.

"I'm ready to go," he told the "TODAY" show's Savannah Guthrie. "I'm going to get vaccinated as soon as I can. I hope that's going to be within the next few days to the early part of next week."

—Sara Salinas

Vice President Pence receives Covid vaccine on live TV

Vice President Mike Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence receive Covid vaccine
Vice President Mike Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence receive Covid vaccine

Vice President Mike Pence received Pfizer's Covid vaccine on live TV Friday morning in a national show of confidence for the drug.

Second Lady Karen Pence and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams joined the Vice President and also received their first shots of the two-dose vaccine.

Medical professionals were seen asking the trio before the jab if they have histories of severe allergic reaction, and advising them to receive the second dose in 21 days.

—Sara Salinas

Hard-hit nursing home staff, residents begin to get Covid vaccines

Nursing home residents and staff across the country will begin receiving Covid-19 vaccinations on Friday morning. CVS Health said it will provide the shots at several long-term care facilities in Ohio and Connecticut, and Walgreens said it will administer them in Ohio, Connecticut and Florida.

It marks a significant milestone in the vaccine's rollout. State and public health officials have aimed to reach the most at-risk Americans as they get the first shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Health-care workers, including those who take care of people sick with Covid-19 in emergency rooms and intensive care units, got the first shots on Monday.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been prioritized, too, because they are home to older and sicker Americans who have been particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus.

Chris Cox, a senior vice president at CVS and the company's liaison to Operation Warp Speed, said the U.S. "can really put a dent" into the coronavirus's impact by quickly and safely vaccinating such a vulnerable population.

—Melissa Repko

Mandatory Covid-19 vaccine for co-workers? 57% of Americans support it

The return to workplaces is well underway with 60% of Americans saying in the new Q4 2020 CNBC|SurveyMonkey Workforce Happiness Survey that they are back at work full-time, SurveyMonkey researchers Laura Wronski and Jon Cohen report for CNBC.

As Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine rolls out across the country, and a second from Moderna receives a key FDA endorsement, a majority of workers also indicated in the survey that they would support a requirement for co-workers to be vaccinated.

Vaccine sentiment varies based on several factors, including age, and especially politics. Seventy-five percent of Democrats support a mandatory vaccine for co-workers, while only 41% of Republican are in favor of the requirement, and another 41% of Republicans "strongly oppose" it.

—Eric Rosenbaum

A Covid crisis among prisoners: One in five has caught the virus

One in every five prisoners in the U.S. has tested positive for Covid, a rate more than four times higher than the general population, according to data collected by The Associated Press and The Marshall Project.

In some states, more than half of all prisoners have been infected, according to AP.

As the pandemic enters its 10th month, more than 1,700 have died and the spread of the virus behind bars shows no sign of slowing. New cases in prisons this week hit their highest level since the spring, soaring above previous peaks in April and August.

Terri Cullen

J&J enrolls about 45,000 participants for late-stage vaccine trial

Johnson & Johnson Coronavirus vaccine illustration
Dado Ruvic | Reuters

Johnson & Johnson has enrolled about 45,000 participants for the first late-stage trial of its Covid-19 single-dose vaccine, Reuters reports.

The drugmaker said it expects to have the interim data from the trial by late-January, according to the wire service.

J&J also said it plans to submit an emergency use authorization application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by February if the data from the study show the vaccine is safe and effective, Reuters said.

Terri Cullen

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