Covid updates: Cuomo to make skipping the vaccine line a crime; Moderna increasing vaccine production

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The United States is averaging more than 2,600 deaths each day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. December was the most deadly and infectious month of the pandemic for the nation, yet U.S. air travel hit its highest level since mid-March on Sunday with more than 1.3 million people passing through airport security checkpoints. Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday said the pandemic could likely get worse in the next couple of weeks as the U.S. deals with the delayed impact of post-Christmas holiday travel.

Here are some of the biggest headlines Thursday:

The U.S. is recording at least 213,437 new Covid-19 cases and at least 2,637 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 85.49 million 
  • Global deaths: At least 1.84 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 20.73 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 352,620

Dallas flights delayed for a second time in a week after air traffic controller tests positive for Covid

The Federal Aviation Administration briefly halted departures at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Monday to clean a facility after an air traffic controller tested positive for Covid-19.

The FAA routinely shuts certain facilities to clean if staff test positive. DFW, the busiest hub for American Airlines, was experiencing flight delays of up to an hour the FAA said.

Last week, a mix of bad weather and a closure for a high-altitude traffic management facility delayed flights at DFW and Dallas Love Field.

The FAA said it has reduced the time its facilities are closed for cleaning to as little as an hour from as much as eight hours several months ago.

— Leslie Josephs

Prosecutor says pharmacist accused of intentionally spoiling vaccine doses 'formed this belief they were unsafe'

The Wisconsin pharmacists who police say admitted to intentionally leaving out 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine, enough to innoculate more than 500 people, believed they were unsafe and would alter people's DNA, the Associated Press reported, citing court documents.

Steven Brandenburg, 46, who was a pharmacist at Advocate Aurora Health, was arrested last week.

Brandenburg, according to court documents, told investigators that he intentionally left out the vaccine vials to spoil because he believed the shot would change people's DNA, the AP reported.

Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said Brandenburg is involved in recent divorce proceedings with his wife of eight years.

Chris Eudaily

U.S. stocks begin 2021 with a sell-off

U.S. stocks dropped on the first trading day of 2021 amid concerns about global coronavirus cases and the Georgia runoff elections, reports CNBC's Fred Imbert.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 382.59 points lower, or 1.3%, at 30,223.89. At one point, the Dow was down more than 700 points. The S&P 500 dipped 1.5% to 3,700.65 and the Nasdaq Composite also slid 1.5%, ending the day at 12,698.45.

Both the Dow and S&P 500 hit record highs at the open before turning lower.

—Melodie Warner 

New York confirms state’s first case of new Covid strain initially found in UK

Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed New York's first case of a new, more contagious variant of Covid that was initially discovered in the United Kingdom, CNBC's Noah Higgins-Dunn reports.

The strain, which has also been found in California, Florida and Colorado, is thought to be more transmissible but doesn't appear to make people more ill or increase the risk of death from Covid-19, experts have said.

—Melodie Warner 

British PM Johnson imposes national lockdown on England

England is adopting a national lockdown that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes will be tough enough to contain a new, highly contagious variant of Covid-19, reports CNBC's Vicky McKeever and Noah Higgins-Dunn.

Johnson announced people can only leave their homes to shop for essentials, to work if they can't from home, exercise, go to the doctor's and escape domestic abuse. Primary schools, secondary schools and colleges will also move to remote learning Tuesday, except in rare cases, he said.

"I completely understand the inconvenience and distress this change will cause millions of people and parents up and down the country," Johnson said. "The problem isn't that schools are unsafe for children ... the problem is that schools may act as vectors of transmission, causing the virus to spread between households."

—Melodie Warner 

Colorado governor hopes to have people at least 70 years old vaccinated within 6 weeks

Colorado governor on the slow start to the vaccine rollout
Colorado governor on the slow start to the vaccine rollout

Gov. Jared Polis told CNBC the state hopes to have residents who are 70 years of age and older vaccinated against Covid within six weeks. In an interview on "Power Lunch," the Democrat cautioned that the timeline could change depending on available vaccine doses.

Polis announced late last month that Colorado residents 70 and older were being moved into the state's second priority group for the vaccine. People in that age category accounted for 78% of the state's deaths from Covid-19, according to the governor's office.

"We expect we'll be able to get through our age 70 and up population in about four to six weeks, given the supplies that we think we're going to get, but it all depends on the reliability of that supply, and it has been a little bit elusive to this point, " Polis said. "There have been weeks where we've got 20% less