Covid updates: U.S. reports more than 4,000 deaths in one day; FDA pushes states to vaccinate more people

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The U.S. recorded more than 4,000 Covid-19 deaths in a single day on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University data, the highest one-day death toll of the pandemic and a dramatic warning that the nation's Covid crisis is still trending in the wrong direction. Cases and hospitalizations continue to rise, even as millions of vaccine doses ship out across the country. Health networks and emergency services have been drained, and hospitals overcrowded, with more than 132,000 people currently hospitalized across the country, according to The Atlantic's COVID Tracking Project.

Here are some of the biggest developments Friday:

The U.S. is recording at least 228,400 new Covid-19 cases and at least 2,760 virus-related deaths each day, based on a seven-day average calculated by CNBC using Johns Hopkins University data. calculated by CNBC using Johns Hopkins University data.

The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

  • Global cases: More than 88.5 million
  • Global deaths: At least 1.90 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 21.71 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 367,143

White House task force warns of possible new ‘USA variant’

The White House coronavirus task force warned states there could be a new variant of the virus that evolved in the United States, according to a document obtained by NBC News.

The new "USA variant," in addition to the variant found in the U.K., is already spreading in communities and appears to be more transmissible, according to the report that was issued to states on Jan. 3. The task force provided few details on the new strain, including how long it has been circulating.

"Aggressive mitigation must be used to match a more aggressive virus; without uniform implementation of effective face masking (two or three ply and well-fitting) and strict social distancing, epidemics could quickly worsen as these variants spread and become predominant," officials warned in the report.

Public health officials were already worried about the arrival of a new strain of the virus found in the U.K., known as B.1.1.7.

So far the CDC only shows California, Florida, New York, Colorado and Georgia with cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, but other states like Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Texas announced the arrival of the strain in their states on Thursday.

–Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Older Americans are scrambling for Covid shots

Older Americans are scrambling for Covid-19 vaccine shots as states set their own rules for eligibility and a slow rollout causes concern, Reuters reports.

U.S. states have received 21 million doses to date, but have administered only about 6 million, according to data from the CDC. Health care workers and first responders were recommended to be the first in line for the shots, but some states are setting their own processes as inoculation delays build.

Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Mississippi, Colorado, West Virginia, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Indiana, Wyoming and Tennessee have either begun or will allow the vulnerable older generation to get shots this week or next in some or all counties, Reuters reports.

—Sara Salinas

WHO chief warns inequitable vaccine distribution could help virus thrive

The head of the World Health Organizations said that the inequitable distribution of vaccines could help the coronavirus thrive, especially as new, more contagious mutations of the virus emerge.

Forty-two countries are now rolling out their initial doses of Covid-19 vaccines, and a majority of them are high-income nations, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press briefing. Only six of those countries are considered middle-income, and no low-income countries have started their vaccination programs yet, he said.

"The current variants show that the virus is doing its best to make itself more suitable to ongoing circulation within the human population," Tedros said. "This is normal of every virus, but at present we're helping it thrive if we don't reduce transmission and vaccinate equitably."

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

Pandemic helped fuel retirement moves out of New Jersey and New York

fotog | Tetra images | Getty Images

Many residents fled New Jersey, New York and other locales in 2020, as the pandemic spurred individuals to take the leap.

Last year, the Garden State was the top "outbound" state, according to United Van Lines.

The company analyzed its 2020 moving data and found that 70% of the shipments it had processed in New Jersey were heading out of the state.

New York, California, Connecticut and Illinois, respectively, rounded out the top five states facing an exodus of residents, United Van Lines found.

Households leaving those states cited "retirement" as the primary factor in their decision to move, said Eily Cummings, director of corporate communications for United Van Lines.

Remote work in light of the pandemic could have spurred near-retirees to pack up for their retirement destination earlier than they had planned, she said.

Darla Mercado

2.74 million mortgages are still in Covid-related bailouts, down 3% from the week before

The number of government or private sector Covid-related mortgage bailouts is down 92,000 week over week, leaving 2.74 million mortgages still under forbearance plans, CNBC's Diana Olick reports.

The 3% weekly drop is the largest in over a month, however, a large number of plans expired at the end of December with the conclusion of another three-month plan period.

The drop in the number of mortgages still on a bailout plan means more homeowners are getting current again after payment struggles during the pandemic, but the 3% drop is the smallest improvement at the end of a quarter since the plans began in April.

After the first quarter, in July, the numbers dropped 9% and after the second quarter, in October, they fell by 18%.

Chris Eudaily

Biden to release more available vaccine doses

President-elect Joe Biden plans to release more doses of the Covid vaccines once he takes office, breaking from the Trump administration's policy of holding reserve doses to ensure there's enough for second shots and to account for manufacturing issues.

The Pfizer vaccine requires two shots 21 days apart and the Moderna vaccine requires two shots 28 days apart. Officials from President Donald Trump's vaccine program Operation Warp Speed have withheld half of the available doses to ensure they can administer second doses in a timely fashion.

"The President-elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible," TJ Ducklo, a spokesman for Biden's transition team, told NBC News. "He supports releasing available doses immediately, and believes the government should stop holding back vaccine supply so we can get more shots in Americans' arms now."

But the initially slow rollout of the vaccines appears to have less to do with distribution of the doses to states and more to do with actual administration of the shots. As of Thursday, the U.S. had administered less than 30% of the doses that have already been distributed to states, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

—Will Feuer

FDA chief encourages states to open vaccine doses to more people

Commissioner of U.S. Food and Drug Administration Dr. Stephen M. Hahn speaks during a news conference about the latest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) developments, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, U.S. August 23, 2020.
Erin Scott | Reuters

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn urged states to begin vaccinating lower-priority groups against Covid-19 as U.S. officials try to pick up the pace after a slower-than-expected initial rollout.

Hahn did not advise opening vaccinations to all Americans. He told reporters that states should give shots to groups that "make sense," such as the elderly, people with preexisting conditions, police, firefighters and other essential workers.

"We've heard in the press that some folks have said, 'OK, I'm waiting to get all of my health-care workers vaccinated. We have about 35% uptake of the vaccine.' I think it reasonable to expand that" to other groups, Hahn said during an event hosted by the Alliance for Health Policy. "I would strongly encourage that we move forward with giving states the opportunity to be more expansive in who they can give the vaccine to."

–Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Gottlieb says 30% of Americans could have been infected with Covid by end of January

Fall 2021 could look like a new normal, says former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb
Fall 2021 could look like a new normal, says former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb

Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC that by the end of January, nearly one-third of Americans could have become infected by the coronavirus. The former Food and Drug Administration chief also said he believes that about 10% of the population could be vaccinated against Covid-19 in that same timeline.

Both developments would have implications on how fast the coronavirus would continue spreading across the country, Gottlieb said on "Squawk Box." "You're starting to get to levels of prior exposure in the population where the virus isn't going to spread as readily," he said. Gottlieb added, "It won't go away, but prevalence will decline."

Kevin Stankiewicz

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus and biotech company Illumina. He also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings' and Royal Caribbean's "Healthy Sail Panel." 

Pfizer study shows its vaccine appears to neutralize a key mutation of Covid variants

A healthcare worker draws the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine from a vial at Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center in Glendale, California, December 17, 2020.
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

A study conducted by Pfizer suggests the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine appears to be effective against a key mutation in the more infectious virus variants discovered in the U.K. and South Africa, CNBC's Sam Meredith reports.

The not yet peer-reviewed research indicated the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine worked to neutralize the so-called N501Y mutation. The N501Y mutation is altering an amino acid within six key residues in the receptor-binding domain — a key part of the spike protein that the virus uses to gain entry into cells within the body.

Pfizer and researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch conducted the study on blood taken from people who had been given the Covid-19 vaccine. However, the findings are limited because the study didn't look at the full set of mutations found in either of the new rapidly spreading variants.

—Melodie Warner 

U.S. stocks open higher despite disappointing jobs report

U.S. stocks opened higher despite the U.S. economy unexpectedly losing jobs last month, reports CNBC's Fred Imbert and Jesse Pound.

The S&P 500 gained 0.4%, hitting a fresh intraday record. The Nasdaq Composite also traded at an all-time high, climbing 0.8%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 91 points, or 0.3%.

—Melodie Warner 

U.S. reports more than 4,000 daily Covid deaths

Artists posing in front of the finished memorial in Brooklyn. Artists and volunteer organizers across New York City put up physical memorials throughout the five boroughs in connection with Naming the Lost to honor the lives lost to COVID-19 in solidarity with Americans across the country holding a national online vigil to come together in mourning to recognize and grieve for the thousands of lives lost during the pandemic.
Erik McGregor | Getty Images

More than 4,000 people died of Covid-19 in the United States on Thursday, a new one-day record, indicating the country's outbreak grows more severe by the day.

The U.S. has reported a record-high daily death toll on five of the past 10 days, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Top health officials — including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — are warning that the outbreak is likely to get worse before it gets better.

"We believe things will get worse as we get into January," Fauci said Thursday in an interview with NPR. He said Americans can still "blunt that acceleration" if they strictly adhere to public health measures like mask wearing and social distancing.

—Will Feuer

London mayor declares a major incident as Covid overwhelms health services

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has declared a major incident because the National Health Service is on the cusp of being overwhelmed by the rapid spread of Covid, reports CNBC's Sam Meredith.

"One in 30 Londoners now has COVID-19. If we do not take immediate action now, our NHS could be overwhelmed and more people will die," Khan said via Twitter.

—Melodie Warner 

U.S. lost 140,000 jobs in December as surging virus takes toll

The U.S. lost 140,000 jobs in December as restrictions brought on by surging Covid-19 cases slowed job creation, CNBC's Jeff Cox reports.

Nonfarm payrolls were expected to increase by 50,000 in December, according to economists surveyed by Dow Jones.

The Labor Department also reported the unemployment rate was 6.7%, compared with the 6.8% estimate.

—Melodie Warner 

UK approves Moderna vaccine, its third to get the OK

U.K. regulators have approved Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine for use in the country. It's the third vaccine to get the greenlight for use in the bloc, CNBC's Katrina Bishop reports.

The U.K. has also ordered an extra 10 million doses of the drug, bringing its total purchase to 17 million doses that are expected to become available in the spring.

Moderna's vaccine was previously approved in the U.S. and the European Union and was found in clinical trials to be 94% effective.

—Sara Salinas

EU agrees to double its purchase of Pfizer vaccine doses

A healthcare worker prepares a Pfizer coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination in Los Angeles, California, January 7, 2021.
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

The European Union is doubling its purchase of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech