Covid updates: 'Gilligan's Island' star Dawn Wells dies at 82 from Covid complications

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The coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford was approved for emergency use in the U.K. and is expected to be rolled out next week. The authorization is welcome news for Britain as cases have surged in London and southern England, pressuring hospitals' capacity. People wanting to leave the U.K. have faced travel restrictions because a new coronavirus variant found in the U.K. is reportedly more transmissible. The U.S. confirmed on Tuesday the first case of the new Covid-19 strain was found in Colorado.

The U.S. is recording at least 188,167 new Covid-19 cases and at least 2,257 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 Wednesday:

The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

  • Global cases: More than 82.45 million 
  • Global deaths: At least 1.79 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 19.65 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 340,956

California has identified first case of new strain initially found in the UK, governor says

California Gov. Gavin Newsom told White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci during a live Q&A event that the state has identified its first case of the new and more infectious strain of Covid-19.

Newsom said the case was detected in the southern part of the state, though Fauci told the governor that the news didn't come as much of a surprise.

"I don't think that the Californians should feel that this is something odd. This is something that's expected," Fauci told Newsom, adding that he predicts other states will soon identify cases with the new strain. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health, as well as a number of laboratories across the U.S., are examining the new variant, Fauci said.

The patient is a 30-year-old man in San Diego county who began showing symptoms on Sunday, county officials confirmed after Newsom's Q&A. San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said the patient was tested for Covid-19 Tuesday morning. Because the patient hadn't traveled, state officials believe there are other cases in the county with the new strain, Fletcher said at a press briefing.

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

Adequately vaccinating America will take 10 years at current pace

Seniors and first responders wait in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at the Lakes Regional Library on December 30, 2020 in Fort Myers, Florida.
Octavio Jones | Getty Images

A new NBC News analysis showed it would take almost 10 years to inoculate enough Americans to get the pandemic under control, based on the current rate of the Trump administration's Covid-19 vaccine distribution program.

The goal of Operation Warp Speed is to ensure that 80% of the country's 330.7 million people get the shots by late June. To meet that goal, a little more than 3 million people would have to get the shots each day, NBC News reports.

Only about 2 million people have gotten their first shots of the 11.5 million doses that were delivered in the last two weeks, a review by NBC News of data from federal and state agencies showed.

—Melodie Warner 

U.S. may require Covid testing for more international travelers

Passengers arrive on a flight from London amid new restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at JFK International Airport in New York, December 21, 2020.
Eduardo Munoz | Reuters

The U.S. government may require a negative Covid test for more international travelers as early as next week, Reuters reports, citing sources.

The U.S. government on Monday began requiring all airline passengers arriving from the United Kingdom - including U.S. citizens - to test negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours of departure.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement that "efforts are currently ongoing in the U.S. to assess the risk reduction associated with testing and other recommended preventative measures, determine what a feasible testing regime for air travel may look like, and gain some level of agreement on standards for a harmonized approach to testing for international air travel."

—Melodie Warner 

New York to pilot test and trace plan at Buffalo Bills' NFL playoff game

Devin Singletary #26 of the Buffalo Bills avoids the tackle by Zach Cunningham #41 of the Houston Texans and Justin Reid #20 in the second half of the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at NRG Stadium on January 04, 2020 in Houston, Texas.
Tim Warner | Getty Images

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York has reached an agreement with the Buffalo Bills and the National Football League to allow up to 6,700 fans to attend the Bills' playoff game next month.

Cuomo said social distancing will be enforced and masks will be required in the stands at the game. He added that every fan will be tested before the game and there's a plan to conduct contact tracing after the game, "so we'll find out exactly what happened, was there any spread at the game, etc."

The state has partnered with BioReference Laboratories to conduct testing before the game, Cuomo said.

"This is a pilot to find ways where we can smartly and safely reopen businesses," he said at a news briefing, adding that tailgating will be banned. "We really have to take this seriously."

Teams have taken a varied approach to hosting fans throughout the NFL season. Some, like the New England Patriots and the New York Jets, have not allowed fans at home games throughout the season, according to ESPN, while others like the Dolphins have allowed fans at limited capacity.

—Will Feuer

'Gilligan's Island' star Dawn Wells dies at 82 from Covid complications

Actress Dawn Wells poses during the "Gilligan's Island: The Complete First Season" DVD launch party on February 3, 2004 in Marina Del Rey, California.
Frazer Harrison | Getty Images

Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on the 1960s sitcom "Gilligan's Island," died Wednesday at 82 of causes related to Covid, the Associated Press reports, citing her publicist.

Wells died at a living facility in Los Angeles, publicist Harlan Boll said. Born in Reno, Nevada, Wells represented her state in the 1959 Miss America pageant. Her early TV roles included "77 Sunset Strip," "Maverick" and "Bonanza."

—Melodie Warner 

Trump’s Covid vaccine czar says distribution 'should be better’

President Donald Trump's Covid-19 vaccine czar said the United States won't inoculate as many people against the coronavirus by the year's end as federal officials originally estimated.

"We agree that that number is lower than what we had hoped for," said Moncef Slaoui, chief advisor of Operation Warp Speed, during a press briefing. "We know that it should be better, and we're working hard to make it better," he added.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 11.4 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna's two-dose vaccines have been distributed in the U.S. as of Monday morning. Roughly 2.1 million shots have been given to people, which is far short of U.S. health officials' original goal of injecting at least 20 million Americans with their first shots before the end of the year.

—Melodie Warner 

CDC says new Covid strain could stress hospitals

Paramedics escort a patient from the ambulance entrance to the emergency room at LAC + USC Medical Center during a surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Los Angeles, California, December 27, 2020.
Bing Guan | Reuters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the new strain of Covid-19 now circulating in the U.S. could further stress already burdened hospitals.

Dr. Henry Walke, the agency's Covid incident manager, said the available data indicates that the new variant, which was discovered in the U.K., spreads "more easily and quickly than other strains," but it does not appear to cause more severe disease or increased risk of death.

"Because the variants spread more rapidly, they could lead to more cases and put even more strain on our already heavily burdened health-care systems," Walke said on a conference call with reporters.

Will Feuer

Stimulus package boosts food stamps by 15%.

Volunteers from Forgotten Harvest food bank help sort goods to distribute during a mobile food pantry ahead of Christmas, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Warren, Michigan, U.S., December 21, 2020.
Emily Elconin | Reuters

The latest Covid relief package will increase SNAP benefits for families by 15%, meaning a family of four could receive as much as $782 a month.

Under the new rules, an individual could get up to $234 a month.

In addition, the bill earmarks millions of dollars to support food banks and programs such as Meals on Wheels. It also makes changes to the eligibility requirements for SNAP that will help Americans in need take advantage of the program.

Food insecurity has become a widespread issue amid the crisis. At the end of September, nearly 20% of all adults and 40% of those in a family where at least one adult lost a job reported food insecurity, according to the Urban Institute.

Do you qualify? How do you apply? Here are the details.

–Annie Nova and Carmen Reinicke

$2,000 stimulus checks hit roadblock in the Senate

A plan to increase stimulus checks in the year-end coronavirus relief bill to $2,000 faces major obstacles to getting through the Senate and becoming law.

The measure to boost direct payments to $2,000 from $600 passed the Democratic-held House with a two-thirds majority. While President Donald Trump, all Senate Democrats and some Republicans in the chamber back the bigger cash deposits, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not scheduled a vote on the bill.

He blocked efforts by Democrats to pass the legislation unanimously on Tuesday. He then introduced a bill that tied the $2,000 checks to provisions related to internet legal liability and a commission on elections, Trump priorities that Democrats will not support.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., has also said he will delay efforts to vote on a bill to increase the payments.

The Treasury Department has started to send out the direct payments of up to $600 for individuals included in the $900 billion relief package. If lawmakers would approve the increase, the government would then add to the payments it already sent.

— Jacob Pramuk

27% of child-care providers still haven’t reopened amid Covid-19 pandemic

It will take $50 billion to stabilize the child care industry, according to advocates, far more than the $15 billion Senate Republicans have allocated in their latest relief package released Monday.
THEPALMER | E+ | Getty Images

Although most child-care facilities have reopened since stay-at-home orders lapsed over the summer, about 27% remained shuttered as of early December, according to a recent report from Procare Solutions. 

Using data from its 30,000 clients nationwide, Procare, which provides child-care management software, found that only about 73% of day cares, child-care centers, preschools, enrichment programs, in-home day cares and before/after-school care programs that closed earlier this year are back online. 

In many cases where providers are still closed, it likely comes down to rising operating costs amid continued lower rates of attendance. As of Dec. 7, child-care centers nationwide are only operating at 49% of their full capacity.

Meanwhile, child-care providers are shouldering increased costs for cleaning supplies, sanitation protocols and personal protective equipment for staff and children, as well as additional staffing. About 56% of child-care providers surveyed in November report losing money by staying open, according to the latest survey from the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

The $900 billion Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 Congress passed last week provides about $10 billion for the child-care industry, but advocates say that's not enough funding to get providers fully back on their feet. 

—Megan Leonhardt

How the pandemic drove the 2020 stock market

The pandemic drove stocks sharply lower, then higher at a record pace, even as the economy still lags and millions are unemployed.

Stock strategists point to several changes that came with the pandemic stock market. The the old rules of investing didn't apply when it came to the virus-induced recession. Investors didn't buy utilities and consumer staples, as safety plays.

They bought tech and other stocks that would do well when people work from home and schools are shut. As the vaccines became a reality, they shifted their interest to cyclicals and stocks that do well when the economy rebounds.

But as 2020 fades, some strategists say the stock market should face a pullback in the first part of 2021 because market prices have gotten frothy. The average strategist still sees gains ahead, and 2021's market is expected to be higher.

Patti Domm

Trump blames states amid vaccine rollout criticism

President Donald Trump tried on Wednesday to deflect criticism for a slower-than-expected rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine, saying the U.S. has distributed the lifesaving shots but it's on states to administer them.

More than 11.4 million doses of Pfizer's and Moderna's two-dose vaccines have been distributed across the country as of Monday morning, but just about 2.1 million shots have been given to people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That data is scheduled to be updated Wednesday.

"The Federal Government has distributed the vaccines to the states," the president said in a tweet Wednesday morning. "Now it is up to the states to administer. Get moving!"

—Will Feuer

U.K. tightens restrictions as cases soar

The U.K. is tightening restrictions on millions of Britons as cases soar in the country amid a highly contagious new virus strain, CNBC's Sam Shead reports.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said more regions would enter the Tier 4 restrictions, the toughest category in the bloc's tiered measure system. Tier 4 imposes a stay-at-home order and shutters nonessential businesses including shops, gyms and hairdressers.

The U.K. is reporting record levels of new Covid-19 cases, with more than 53,000 new infections recorded Tuesday.

—Sara Salinas

More colleges plan to reopen, despite spike in coronavirus cases

College students eat dinner outside at the University of South Carolina on August 10, 2020 in Columbia, South Carolina. Students began moving back to campus housing August 9 with classes to start August 20.
Sean Rayford | Getty Images

Even as Covid-19 infections hit record levels, a growing number of colleges and universities is determined to bring students back for the spring semester.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Georgetown University, Morehouse College, Smith College, the University of Florida and Princeton University, are among the schools that are inviting undergraduates to live on campus come January after being largely virtual in the fall.

For some schools, reopening is a matter of financial necessity rather than public health.

If colleges continue to operate remotely, a significant number of would-be undergraduates will opt out entirely, which is putting an economic stranglehold on higher education.  

"Students are waiting to see if their schools open up before determining whether to go back or not," said Allen Koh, CEO of Cardinal Education, a California-based tutoring, test-prep and college admissions firm. "They need to find value."

Roughly two-thirds of higher education leaders said revenue shortfalls from tuition and student housing are the biggest challenges they now face, according to a recent poll.

Already, universities have furloughed thousands of employees and announced losses in the hundreds of millions. Some have even cut academic programs that were once central to a liberal arts education in order to stay afloat. 

Jessica Dickler

U.S. stocks open slightly higher as market tries to reclaim record highs

U.S. stocks edged higher at the open as investors weigh the prospects of additional fiscal stimulus and a British regulator's approval of a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, reports CNBC's Fred Imbert and Pippa Stevens.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 100 points, or 0.4%. The S&P 500 climbed 0.4% and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.6%.

—Melodie Warner 

Congressman-elect Luke Letlow dies after Covid diagnosis

Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow dies from Covid complications
Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow dies from Covid complications

Luke Letlow, a Republican congressman-elect from Louisiana, has died after a battle with Covid-19, according to NBC News. He was 41.

Letlow was elected in a runoff this month to represent for Louisiana's 5th Congressional District. He announced on Dec. 18 that he tested positive for Covid and days later tweeted that he was being treated at a hospital.

Letlow spokesman Andrew Bautsch said on the congressman-elect's Facebook page that Letlow died at Ochsner-LSU Health Shreveport.

—Melodie Warner 

U.S. needs to vaccinate 3 million people per day to hit vaccination goal

First case of highly infectious Covid variant detected in Colorado
First case of highly infectious Covid variant detected in Colorado

The U.S. needs to vaccinate about 3 million people a day in order to meet its vaccination goal, said Dr. Carlos del Rio on CNBC's "The News with Shepard Smith."

Del Rio, a vaccination specialist at Emory University, said reaching the vaccination goal also will require recruiting more people to administer vaccines, especially as health-care personnel remains busier than ever, reports CNBC's Emily DeCiccio.

"If we're going to get to have every single American who needs a vaccine and wants the vaccine, vaccinated by July, we need to start vaccinating about 3 million people a day," said Dr. del Rio, who is a professor of medicine at Emory University. "That is a huge effort and it's going to require a major coordinating effort and it's going to require funding."

—Melodie Warner 

Correction: This blog post has been updated to correct the estimated date for when the U.S. could meet its vaccination goal.

Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine approved for use in the U.K.

Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine approved by UK regulator
Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine approved by UK regulator

The coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca has been authorized for emergency use in the U.K., marking another step in the global battle against the pandemic.

The shot is expected to be rolled out next week and will be added to a Covid-19 immunization program started by Britain in December.

AstraZeneca said the first doses of the vaccine were being released Wednesday "so that vaccinations may begin early in the New Year."

It added that it "aims to supply millions of doses in the first quarter" as part of its deal with the U.K. government to supply up to 100 million doses in total. As a two-dose vaccine, the agreement means up to 50 million people in the U.K., which has a population of around 66 million, could be inoculated.

Holly Ellyatt

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