Covid updates: France to reopen borders to UK travelers, CDC says new Covid strain could be in U.S.

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Congress passed a mammoth coronavirus relief package late Monday that provides $900 billion in long-delayed pandemic aid. The package includes additional jobless benefits, more small business loans, direct payments of $600 and funds to distribute Covid-19 vaccines, among other provisions. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming days.

France activated a 48-hour border closure on Monday amid continent-wide fear over a new coronavirus strain identified in the U.K. French and British officials are working to lift a ban on freight movement that left 1,500 trucks stuck in Kent by Tuesday morning as they were unable to leave the U.K.

The U.S. is recording at least 215,400 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.

The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

  • Global cases: More than 77.8 million 
  • Global deaths: At least 1.71 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 18.16 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 322,611

Biden says vaccine won't stop deaths of 'tens of thousands' in coming months

President-elect Joe Biden speaks about the recent massive cyber attack against the U.S. and also other Biden administration goals in Wilmington, Delaware, December 22, 2020.
Leah Millis | Reuters

President-elect Joe Biden urged Americans to remain "vigilant" over the holidays, adding the short supply of coronavirus vaccines likely won't stop the deaths of "tens of thousands" people from the pandemic in the months to come.

"Taking the vaccine from a vial into the arm of millions of Americans is one of the biggest operational challenges the United States has ever faced," Biden said during remarks in Wilmington, Delaware. "In the meantime, the pandemic rages on. Experts think it could get worse before it gets better."

U.S. health officials have repeatedly said they hope to vaccinate at least 20 million Americans by the end of the year. As of Monday, more than 4.6 million vaccine doses have been distributed across the U.S. and at least 614,117 people have gotten their first shots, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Every West Virginia nursing home will have vaccines by year-end, governor says

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on leading the nation with 91.3% vaccine administration rate
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on leading the nation with 91.3% vaccine administration rate

West Virginia intends to have Covid-19 vaccines administered at all of its long-term care facilities by the end of this year, Republican Gov. Jim Justice told CNBC.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a federal program to administer vaccines at long-term facilities across the U.S., which is beginning in earnest this week. However, West Virginia has leaned heavily on its local pharmacies and National Guard to accelerate the process, Justice said on "Squawk on the Street."

Because of that, Justice said West Virginia may have delivered the first vaccine dose at every one of its 214 long-term care facilities "before a lot of states get started."

Kevin Stankiewicz

Chipotle won't require employees to get the Covid vaccine

We've navigated the pandemic due to the strength of digital business: Chipotle CEO
We've navigated the pandemic due to the strength of digital business: Chipotle CEO

Some restaurants, like Chipotle Mexican Grill, are wary about the legal implications of requiring their workers to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, reports CNBC's Amelia Lucas.

Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol said the company will "strongly encourage" employees to receive a vaccine, but "As of right now, we're not going to mandate it," he said on CNBC's "Closing Bell."

Niccol added that the company will cover the costs for employees to receive the vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended foodservice workers receive the inoculation during phase 1c of vaccine distribution, behind the elderly and essential workers like mail carriers and bus drivers.

Other chains that won't require a vaccination include Cousins Subs, a Wisconsin-based sandwich restaurant. The company cited concerns about infringing employees' medical rights.

—Melodie Warner 

Biden says he will push for more Covid stimulus checks

President-Elect Joe Biden delivers remarks before the holiday at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware on December 22, 2020.
Alex Edelman | AFP | Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden told reporters that his Covid-19 economic relief plan will include a proposal for more direct payments to Americans.

Speaking at an event in Delaware, the former vice president confirmed that he would push for a third round of stimulus checks but declined to say the size he would be asking for, saying that was a matter for negotiation.

Biden, who will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, said he will present his plan to lawmakers early next year.

The $900 billion stimulus package agreed to by Congress on Monday provides for $600 payments to most Americans. The first Covid-19 stimulus deal, passed in March, called for $1,200 checks.

Tucker Higgins

Punch Bowl Social files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Punch Bowl Social filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday after the pandemic caused its customer base to evaporate and investor Cracker Barrel opted to focus on its own business instead of helping Punch Bowl to stay afloat.

As recently as February, the once-buzzy "eatertainment" chain looked to be the future of the restaurant industry, offering arcade games and karaoke along with food and drinks.

The company owes more than $10 million for a Payment Protection Program loan to JPMorgan Chase, its top creditor. The majority of its other creditors are leaseholders from its locations scattered across the country.

Amelia Lucas

NBA starts new season while positioning for post-Covid sports world

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver
Stacy Revere | Getty Images

The NBA will start its 2020-21 campaign on Tuesday night. Though bumps in the road are expected, the league's future post-Covid-19 appears bright.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league is confident its extensive protocols will be enough to get through a 72-game schedule and league personnel wouldn't jump the line for vaccine treatments.

"We're confident that we can do it," said Silver of restarting after the NBA's bubble postseason in October.  "And if we weren't, we wouldn't have started. I will say, though, that we do anticipate that there will be bumps in the road along the way."

The NBA hopes to have fans back in arenas by the postseason in May and to be done with its year before the Tokyo Olympics. To make up for additional revenue losses the league has discussed expansion but Silver noted those discussions are still early.

Markets including Seattle and Las Vegas are being mentioned as potential landing spots via expansion or relocation. Both options provide fees that would be divided among owners.

Jabari Young

France to reopen border to passengers from England on Wednesday

Police manage freight lorry drivers as the French border closures due to a new strain of COVID-19 at the entrance into the port of Dover in the Eastern Dock where the cross channel port is situated with ferries departing to go to Calais in France on the 21st of December 2020, Dover, Kent, United Kingdom.
Andrew Aitchison | In Pictures | Getty Images

France agreed to reopen its borders to passengers from England on Wednesday, providing they have a negative Covid test that is less than 72 hours old, Reuters reported.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also reached a deal with French President Emmanuel Macron to lift a ban on freight from Britain. Britain said further details would be provided later on Tuesday, but still advised trucks not to travel to the Kent region where the most heavily used rail and ferry links are.

Earlier, about 1,500 trucks were stuck in Kent after France activated a 48-hour border closure on Monday.

—Melodie Warner 

What you need to know about the new Covid strain spreading in the U.K.

Physician on how concerned we should be about the U.K. Covid mutation
Physician on how concerned we should be about the U.K. Covid mutation

A new variant of the coronavirus in the U.K. is sparking fears that the pandemic may continue to accelerate even as governments begin administering the first vaccine shots. Here's what you need to know.

Scientists and infectious disease experts are still piecing together what they know about the new strain, called SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01, which is shorthand for the first variant under investigation in December 2020, according to the CDC. It hasn't yet been detected in the U.S., but the CDC said it could already be circulating across the country unnoticed.

While the virus may transmit more easily, there is "no evidence" that this variant causes more severe illness or increased risk of death, the CDC said.

Berkeley Lovelace Jr.