Covid updates: House fast-tracks passage of larger stimulus checks; TSA screens record passengers
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President Donald Trump signed a long-awaited Covid relief bill late Sunday night, triggering a second round of aid for Americans amid the ongoing pandemic. The bill includes $600 direct payments, more funding for small businesses and boosted unemployment benefits. Trump delayed signing the bill, insisting the stimulus check amount was too low and allowing unemployment benefits to briefly lapse for millions of Americans.
The U.S. is recording at least 184,000 new Covid-19 cases and at least 2,200 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 Monday:
The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:
- Global cases: More than 81.1 million
- Global deaths: At least 1.77 million
- U.S. cases: More than 19.22 million
- U.S. deaths: At least 334,025
Parts of California likely to have stay-at-home order extended
California officials are expected to extend the stay-at-home orders currently in place in central and Southern California as intensive-care units are increasingly overwhelmed.
The stay-at-home orders for the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California were first imposed about three weeks ago and are set to expire on Monday, but Gov. Gavin Newsom has signaled that he will extend them.
Newsom said Monday that State Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly will likely make an announcement Tuesday about the orders for those regions.
The coronavirus is spreading rapidly in California. The state is now reporting more daily new cases per capita, based on a seven-day average, than anywhere else in the country, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
New York investigating potential vaccine fraud, Cuomo says
The New York Attorney General is investigating whether a health-care clinic in the state fraudulently obtained Covid vaccine doses and distributed them to the public, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
It's among the first cases of alleged fraud associated with Covid vaccines, but it's unlikely to be the last, Cuomo said, adding that fraud involving a valuable commodity is "almost an inevitable function of human nature."
"We want to send a clear signal to the providers that if you violate the law on these vaccinations, we will find out and you will be prosecuted," Cuomo said Monday at a news briefing. "You're going to see more and more of this. The vaccine is a valuable commodity and you have many people who want the vaccine."
Workers may wait weeks for extra jobless benefits and receive less money
The $900 billion Covid relief package President Donald Trump signed Sunday offers extra unemployment benefits to millions of workers. That aid may take weeks to arrive and workers may get less money than originally thought.
The law provides 11 additional weeks of jobless benefits and a $300 boost in weekly assistance. States must wait for the U.S. Labor Department to issue guidance before accounting for these payments in their systems and disbursing funds — a process that will likely push well into January.
The president's delay in signing the relief measure may also reduce the duration of extended benefits to 10 weeks instead of 11 due to administrative rules.
House fast-tracks passage of $2,000 stimulus checks
In a 275-134 vote, the House passed $2,000 direct payments to most Americans after President Donald Trump threatened to oppose a year-end coronavirus relief and government funding package as he pushed for bigger cash deposits.
Democrats have seized on the president's calls to increase the stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000. While the party pushed for direct payments of at least $1,200 throughout pandemic aid talks this year, many Republicans opposed the provision. Congress settled on $600 deposits after the Trump administration supported checks of that size.
Though the Democratic-held House approved the bill to boost the payments to $2,000, the GOP-held Senate may not follow suit. Even so, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he will try to force a vote on the proposal.
Trump signed the massive year-end bill, which includes $900 billion in coronavirus relief and $1.4 trillion for regular government appropriations, on Sunday. In explaining his decision to approve the measure days after he called it a "disgrace," Trump noted that Congress could vote on $2,000 checks.
The president's delays in signing the bill made Washington miss a deadline to extend programs keeping an estimated 14 million people eligible for unemployment insurance. Those Americans are expected to lose a week of benefits.
What you need to know about next round of stimulus checks on the way
Another round of stimulus payments — this time for $600 per adult and child — is on the way for millions of Americans facing financial difficulties amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Who qualifies for the full payments? Individuals with up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income, heads of household earning up to $112,500 and married couples making up to $150,000.
Those with earnings above these levels will receive a partial payment that drops by $5 for every $100 in income.
If the IRS has your direct deposit information, expect to get a check within a few weeks. If it doesn't, you'll have to wait longer for the government to mail you a check or send you a prepaid debit card.
Streaming gets its first big test against theatrical releases
"Wonder Woman 1984" set a pandemic theatrical release record over the weekend, booking $16.7 million in box office sales in the U.S. and Canada, AT&T's WarnerMedia announced Sunday. The movie was also released on Christmas Day on the company's streaming platform, HBO Max.
WarnerMedia didn't provide exact streaming figures for the movie on HBO Max, but the data it did provide show that millions more likely watched the movie at home than they did in the theaters.
Still, the relatively successful theatrical release proved there's pent-up demand to head to the theaters for a major blockbuster film.
Logistics challenges Covid vaccine distribution in emerging markets
CNBC's Seema Mody reports on the vaccine distribution challenges in emerging markets like Brazil and India due in part to poor infrastructure and tropical temperatures.
Biden to use Defense Production Act for vaccine production
President-elect Joe Biden plans to invoke the Defense Production Act after he takes office next month to boost production of Covid vaccines, a member of his Covid-19 advisory team said Monday.
"You will see him invoking the Defense Production Act," Dr. Celine Gounder said during an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "The idea there is to make sure the personal protective equipment, the test capacity and the raw materials for the vaccines are produced in adequate supply."
The wartime production law, which allows the president to compel companies to prioritize manufacturing for national security, could help the U.S. secure components and specialized products that manufacturers need to produce the Covid vaccines. Biden's team has been weighing whether to invoke the law for vaccine production, NBC News reported last week.
The Trump administration has previously invoked the law to boost secure medical supplies and equipment, and components necessary for Covid testing. However, the current administration has not said it will do so to secure supplies necessary for vaccine production.
Novavax starts late-stage vaccine trial in U.S.
Novavax said it has started a large late-stage Covid-19 vaccine study in the U.S. after twice delaying the trial over issues in scaling up the manufacturing process, Reuters reports.
The study will enroll up to 30,000 volunteers across roughly 115 sites in the U.S. and Mexico. Two-thirds of those participants will receive the vaccine, the company said.
Vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna have already been authorized for emergency use in the U.S., but experts are counting on several successful vaccines to effectively end the pandemic.
TSA screened a pandemic-record 1.28 million passengers on Sunday
TSA screened 1.28 million passengers at U.S. airports on Sunday, the highest number since Covid halted travel in mid-March.
That number is still about half of traveler volume on the same day last year, Reuters reports, but it marks the sixth straight day that passenger screenings surpassed 1 million.
Health experts cautioned against travel and gatherings around the holidays as virus cases and deaths continue to climb.
Consumer brands are reportedly betting remote working trends will stick around
Consumer brands like Kraft Heinz, Campbell Soup and Kimberly-Clark are adding manufacturing capacity to make more products that appeal to customers who are working remotely, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The investments demonstrate their belief that Americans will keep working from home post-pandemic. Many companies, including Twitter and Shopify, have already said that their workforce can be remote permanently. However, it's a risky bet for food companies, which have already seen demand moderate compared to the surges in early lockdowns.
Southwest Airlines rescinds more than 7,000 furlough notices as airlines get more aid
Southwest Airlines is halting plans to furlough some 7,000 employees after President Donald Trump signed the coronavirus relief bill, which includes $15 billion in airline payroll support.
Southwest had asked unions to accept pay cuts and other concessions with revenue and travel demand at less than half of last year's levels, or risk furloughs. The furloughs would have been the first in its nearly 50 years of flying.
"We've begun unwinding the official notifications you've received, so let me be clear—our efforts related to furloughs and pay cuts are stopped," CEO Gary Kelly said late Sunday in an employee note, which was reviewed by CNBC. Southwest doesn't "anticipate any furloughs for all of next year," said Kelly, reiterating Southwest's previously announced plan if the bill passed with more federal support for airlines.
Non-union employees that were on track to get 10% pay cuts next year will keep their current salaries.
The airline aid in the $900 billion coronavirus relief bill requires carriers to recall workers they might have furloughed earlier this year when the last package expired. United Airlines says the roughly 13,000 employees it furloughed in October can come back but warned it would likely be "temporary" because it doesn't expect a significant improvement in travel demand in the first quarter.
1 in 1,000 Americans has died of Covid-19
One out of every 1,000 Americans has died of Covid-19, according to the latest Census population figures and virus tallies from Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. death toll now stands above 333,000, well above the recorded fatalities of every other nation in the world. More than 2,200 people in the U.S. are dying of the virus every day, based on a seven-day average of JHU data.
Health experts have warned the national crisis is likely to get worse after the winter holidays, when many people gathered against public safety advice.
Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could see UK approval this week
The coronavirus vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford is expected to be approved for use in the U.K. in the coming days.
The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported that the approval could come as early as Monday as health-care workers prepare to administer the shots. The Financial Times reported Sunday that government officials confirmed that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency would imminently approve the vaccine.
The AstraZeneca shot would likely be rolled out next week and would be administered alongside the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has so far been given to 600,000 people in the U.K., according to government statistics.
Trump teases a vote on $2,000 stimulus checks
President Donald Trump on Sunday said Congress will "start the process for a vote" that would increase direct payments from $600 to $2,000 per adult, CNBC's Jacob Pramuk reports.
Trump railed against the $600 amount for days after the Covid relief bill passed both chambers, demanding a hike to $2,000 and delaying the bill signing beyond a key deadline. He signed the legislation late Sunday and at the same time teased changes.
"As President, I have told Congress that I want far less wasteful spending and more money going to the American people in the form of $2,000 checks per adult and $600 per child," the president said in a statement.
Larger checks have already passed a vote in the Democrat-held House, but failed in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cheered the bill signing on Sunday but did not mention a forthcoming vote.