Covid updates: U.S. death toll tops 375,000; President-elect Biden receives second vaccine dose

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The U.S. continues to report record numbers of Covid-19 deaths, as a seven-day average of Johns Hopkins University data, even as the vaccine rollout begins to pick up some steam. The country is now recording an average of 3,239 virus deaths each day. The number of virus patients currently receiving treatment in U.S. hospitals ticked slightly lower in recent days, according to The Atlantic's COVID Tracking Project, though that number still stands at 129,000 patients.

Here are the biggest developments Monday:

The U.S. is recording at least 244,300 new Covid-19 cases and at least 3,230 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 90.69 million 
  • Global deaths: At least 1.94 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 22.52 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 375,350

Governor of West Virginia explains its vaccine distribution strategy

Here's why West Virginia leads the nation in Covid-19 vaccine distribution
Here's why West Virginia leads the nation in Covid-19 vaccine distribution

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice told CNBC the state's coronavirus vaccination distribution plan has emphasized elderly residents and leaned heavily on its National Guard to carry out tasks.

West Virginia ranks second behind only South Dakota in vaccine doses administered per 100,000 residents, as of midday Monday, according to data compiled by the CDC.

"We don't have vaccines in a warehouse sitting on a shelf," Justice said on "Squawk on the Street." "Today, we have 100% of the vaccines that we've received ... either in people's arms or have a name tagged to the vaccination that they're going to get and they're going to get in the next couple of days. Now, what we need in West Virginia, we need more vaccines."

Kevin Stankiewicz

Moderna doesn't expect Covid vaccine data for young children until 2022

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said the company doesn't expect to have clinical trial data on its coronavirus vaccine in young children until 2022.

The company has already begun a study testing the vaccine in adolescents as young as 12, and Bancel expects that study will be done by the time the fall semester starts in September. It expects to start a study for young children between ages 1 and 11 "soon," but Bancel said that study will take "much longer."

"We have to start a lower dose, so we should not see clinical data in 2021 but more [likely] in 2022," he said during a presentation at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference.

Moderna's vaccine has been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for use in people who are 18 years old and older. The vaccine, like Pfizer's, uses messenger RNA, or mRNA, technology. It's a new approach to vaccines that uses genetic material to provoke an immune response.

–Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Top LA County health official: Covid kills someone every 8 minutes

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and healthcare workers treat patients outside the emergency room at the Community Hospital of Huntington Park during a surge in positive coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Huntington Park, California, December 29, 2020.
Bing Guan | Reuters

The coronavirus kills someone in Los Angeles County every eight minutes, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during a press briefing. In just the past seven days, the county has reported more than 1,500 Covid-19 deaths, she said.

Coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County have increased nearly 900% since Nov. 1, prior to the holiday season, Ferrer said. The county is now reporting roughly 10 positive Covid-19 cases every minute, and at least 10% of all infections end up in the hospital, she said.

"Now is the time to stay home as much as possible," Ferrer said. "Now is the time to avoid, as much as possible, contact with others that aren't in your household."

Noah Higgins-Dunn

Senate Democrats demand Trump administration fix ‘failed’ vaccine rollout

Senate Democrats, led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, demanded the Trump administration make changes to its Covid-19 vaccine rollout strategy, saying it has "failed" states by not providing detailed guidance on how to effectively distribute the doses.

The U.S. "cannot afford this vaccination campaign to continue to be hindered by the lack of planning, communication, and leadership we have seen so far," Democrats wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. "The metric that matters, and where we are clearly moving too slowly, is vaccines in arms."

States blame insufficient funding and inconsistent communication from the federal government for the slowdown in the number of doses administered.

Trump administration officials have acknowledged vaccine distribution has been slower than they had hoped. In an attempt to pick up the pace of vaccinations, Azar and FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn last week urged states to begin vaccinating lower-priority groups against Covid-19. The CDC recommends prioritizing health-care workers and nursing homes first, but states can distribute the vaccine as they see fit. 

–Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

More than 375,000 people in the U.S. have died from Covid

More than 375,000 people have now died from Covid-19 in the U.S., according to the latest tally from Johns Hopkins University.

The national death toll continues to rise rapidly, with more than 3,200 people succumbing to the virus each day on average.

Only one other country, Brazil, has reported a death toll north of 200,000 people, according to JHU.

—Sara Salinas

Rite Aid CEO says retailers could get tapped for vaccine rollout sooner than expected

Rite Aid CEO, Heyward Donigan speaks during a news conference with US President Donald Trump on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on April 27, 2020.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

Rite Aid CEO Heyward Donigan said Monday she thinks retailers could get tapped to help with the U.S. vaccine effort sooner than expected, CNBC's Melissa Repko reports.

The drugstore chain originally expected to be part of phase two, when shots become available to the broader public, Donigan said. Rite Aid is one of at least 19 drugstores and grocers that have partnered with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to administer the shots at their stores.

"I believe this is going to be ramped up more expeditiously and faster than that," she said.

—Sara Salinas

WHO warns new Covid variants are 'highly problematic'

World Health Organization's top official warned that new Covid-19 variants that appear to be more infectious than previous strains are "highly problematic" and could burden hospitals already under intense pressure.

WHO officials were notified over the weekend of a new Covid-19 strain discovered in Japan, joining other variants first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press briefing.

Professional healthcare workers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) make their way inside a temporary ward dedicated to the treatment of possible COVID-19 coronavirus patients at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria on January 11, 2021.
Phill Magakoe | AFP | Getty Images

The more the virus is allowed to spread, the greater chance it has to mutate, Tedros said. While the variants don't appear to cause more severe illness so far, a more contagious strain means more people could be infected and hospitalized with Covid-19.

"This can drive a surge of cases and hospitalizations, which is highly problematic for health workers and hospitals already close to breaking point," he said.

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

President-elect Biden receives second dose of coronavirus vaccine

President-elect Joe Biden (L) receives the second dose of a COVID-19 Vaccination from Chief Nurse Executive Ric Cuming (R) at ChristianaCare Christiana Hospital on January 11, 2021 in Newark, Delaware.
Alex Wong | Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden received his second course of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware. The vaccine was administered by Chief Nurse Executive Ric Cuming. 

After receiving his injection, the pool asked Biden if he had confidence in his coronavirus task force given reports that he was disappointed in their progress. "Number one, my number one priority is getting vaccine into peoples' arms like we just did today as rapidly as we can. And we're working on that program now. I'll be meeting on a Zoom call with my team a little later this afternoon," Biden said.

When asked if he feels confident taking the oath of office outside in light of the recent violent riots at the U.S. Capitol that killed 5 people, including a Capitol Police officer who died from his injuries, Biden said yes. "I'm not afraid of taking the oath outside and we've been getting briefed. But I think it's critically important that there be a real, serious focus on holding those folks who engaged in sedition and threatened peoples' lives, defaced public property, caused great damage, that they be held accountable."

Asked by reporters if he feared impeachment could delay consideration of the stimulus bill, Biden said he's talking to senators about whether they could still consider his cabinet nominees and stimulus proposals.
"I had a discussion today with some folks in the House -- in the Senate. And the question is whether or not for example if the House moves forward which, as they obviously are, with the impeachment and send it over to the Senate whether or not [inaudible] can bifurcate this." He has not heard back from the parliamentarian yet. 

Riya Bhattacharjee, NBC News

More than 32,000 hospitalized with Covid in the UK

Medics wearing PPE transport a patient into the emergency department of the Royal London Hospital in London, England, on January 11, 2021.
David Cliff | NurPhoto | Getty Images

There are 32,294 people hospitalized with Covid-19 in the United Kingdom, the health minister said Monday, according to Reuters.

Health Minister Matt Hancock said the country is "at the worst point of this pandemic" but was optimistic about hitting vaccination goals, saying the UK had an average of 210,000 shots a day from Thursday to Sunday, Reuters reported.

"We've got a continued increase in the rate of vaccination. This is happening right across all four nations of the UK," Hancock said.

The government is trying to get 15 million elderly, vulnerable and frontline workers vaccinated by mid-February.

Chris Eudaily

Richard Branson reveals his mom — who helped him start Virgin — has died from Covid

Sir Richard Branson and his mother, Eve Branson, at the AltaMed Health Services' Power Up, We Are The Future Gala at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on May 12, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California.
Greg Doherty | Getty Images

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson revealed in a tribute blog post on Monday that his mother, Eve, has died from the coronavirus.

Branson described his mother, who was 96 years old when she died, as a "force of nature" that had lived "many remarkable lives." Branson said he owed his career to her, explaining how after the police let his mother keep an unclaimed necklace she found in the sixties, that she sold it and gave him the funds.

"Without that £100 ($135), I could never have started Virgin," Branson said, who founded the now multibillion-dollar conglomerate in 1970. He said his mother was "inventive, fearless, relentless — an entrepreneur before the word existed."

Vicky McKeever

Gottlieb expects vaccine eligibility to expand soon due to weak demand

Former FDA chief Gottlieb: It will be difficult for Biden administration to fix vaccine rollout issues
Gottlieb: It will be difficult for Biden administration to fix vaccine rollout issues

Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC that he expects a larger percentage of the U.S. population to become eligible to receive a Covid vaccine ahead of schedule. The former Food and Drug Administration commissioner cited hesitancy to receive the vaccine among Americans, which he believes will remain in place as the number of available doses increases.

"We're living in this sort of belief that the demand here is endless, and it's not," Gottlieb said on "Squawk Box." "I think by the end of February, we're going to find that we have to open up eligibility pretty wide to get people to come in to get inoculated. We're not going to be in this rationing situation. I think it's going to end sooner than we think."

Kevin Stankiewicz

Remdesivir should be effective against new Covid strains, Gilead CEO says

Gilead Sciences CEO on raising full-year guidance due to remdesivir sales
Gilead Sciences CEO on raising full-year guidance due to remdesivir sales

Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O'Day expects the company's coronavirus treatment remdesivir to be effective against new virus strains that first were identified in the U.K. and South Africa. Gilead is currently conducting tests against the variants to make sure, he told CNBC.

"Remdesivir works at the source in the cell where the virus replicates, and what we know is in these new variants, that part of the cell is not changing at all in fact," O'Day said on "Squawk Box." He noted that Gilead studied the antiviral's efficacy against more than 2,000 virus strains.

 "So, we fully expect remdesivir to be effective against these new strains," he said.

Kevin Stankiewicz

Dodgers Stadium to turn into mass vaccination site, Los Angeles mayor says

In an aerial view from a drone, cars are lined up at Dodger Stadium for COVID-19 testing on the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend on November 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
Mario Tama | Getty Images

Los Angeles will turn Dodgers Stadium into a mass Covid-19 vaccination site by the end of this week, aiming to give up to 12,000 shots per day, according to a statement from Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The stadium, which has been conducting coronavirus testing for eight months, will no longer offer the tests after Monday.

"In this moment of darkness where cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are skyrocketing, this bold step of offering both Covid-19 testing and vaccines in the heart of Los Angeles, reflects the dual nature of this moment – it is dark, but simultaneously hopeful," L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis said in the statement.

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

BioNTech CEO says he's confident vaccine is effective against variants in UK, South Africa

BioNTech CEO: Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine effective against strains in UK, South Africa
BioNTech CEO: Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine effective against strains in UK, South Africa

The chief executive officer of BioNTech told CNBC that he remains confident the firm's coronavirus vaccine, developed in partnership with Pfizer, is effective against highly contagious variants of the virus discovered in the U.K. and South Africa.

"We are confident that based on the mechanism of our vaccine, even though there are mutations, we believe that the immune response which is induced by our vaccine could also deal with [a] mutated virus," said Dr. Ugur Sahin, co-founder and CEO of BioNTech.

When asked how quickly BioNTech could pivot if it turned out the existing Covid vaccine was found to be ineffective against new variants, Sahin said "one key advantage" of the mRNA technology is that it would allow the company to adapt the vaccine "relatively quickly."

"We could deliver a new vaccine within six weeks in principle. This is technically possible, and if this is needed, we would go for that," Sahin said.

—Sam Meredith

Japan says it has found a new variant of the virus

A woman wearing a face mask walks under a row of gates at Hie Shrine in Tokyo on January 7, 2021.
PHILIP FONG | AFP | Getty Images

Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) said it has recorded the first cases of a new variant of the coronavirus.

The new mutant strain of Covid-19 was detected in four passengers arriving in the country on Jan. 6 from Brazil.

The institute said that any information about the new variant is limited to its genetic make-up at this time, adding it is difficult to determine how infectious the new strain is and how effective established vaccines will be against it.

The NIID said the newly discovered variant of the virus was found to share some mutations in common with highly infectious strains recently discovered in the U.K. and South Africa.

— Sam Meredith

BioNTech ups vaccine production estimates, now aims to produce 2 billion doses this year

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

BioNTech now aims to produce 2 billion doses of its Covid-19 vaccine with Pfizer this year, according to slides published ahead of the company's presentation at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference.

"This is based on continuous process improvements and expansion at our current facilities, and contingent upon adding more suppliers as well as contract manufacturers," BioNTech wrote.

BioNTech previously said it aimed to produce 1.3 billion doses in 2021. The update comes as U.S. officials race to distribute as many vaccine doses as possible. As of Friday, the U.S. has distributed more than 22.1 million doses of vaccine, but just over 6.6 million have been administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During the company's presentation, BioNTech CEO Dr. Ugur Sahin said there was an "extremely high likelihood" that Covid-19 would become an endemic disease, meaning it will become present in communities at all times, though likely at lower levels.

He also said the company's vaccine appears to be effective against the variants of the virus discovered in the U.K. and South Africa. BioNTech will have data in 7 days and 10 days on vaccine efficacy against the U.K. and South Africa variants, respectively, he said.

—Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

U.S. air travel lull returns after holidays

U.S. air travel demand has dropped after the holidays, another sign that airlines have a difficult winter ahead of them.

The Transportation Security Administration screened 886,536 people at U.S. airports on Sunday, about 40% of last year's levels. After New Year's Day, screenings hit a pandemic high of more than 1.3 million people, about 55% of the screenings a year ago.

Airlines will detail the financial damage from the pandemic when Delta Air Lines kicks off fourth-quarter reporting on Thursday before the market opens, followed by United Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines in the coming weeks. Analysts expect losses to top $35 billion and that demand won't return in earnest until at least the second half of the year.

Leslie Josephs

An ER doctor tried desperately to get vaccine doses in arms. The vials were thrown out instead.

Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of Brown University's School of Public Health, tweeted an account of one ER doctor, whose identity was intentionally obscured to avoid repercussions for speaking out, who tried desperately to get vaccine doses in arms of anyone willing. The vials were thrown out instead.

The account isn't unique, Jha says.

Read the full account on Twitter.

—Sara Salinas

The state of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in the U.S.

The state of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in the United States
The state of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in the United States

Dr. Carlos Del Rio, executive associate dean at Emory University School of Medicine, discusses where the U.S. stands in the rollout of a vaccine to fight Covid-19.

—Terri Cullen

Gilead boosts 2020 profit forecast on higher sales of antiviral treatment remdesivir

A lab technicians shows the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment drug "Remdesivir".
Amr Abdallah Dalsh | Reuters

Gilead Sciences raised its full-year profit forecast as a new surge in Covid-19 cases boosted demand for the drugmaker's treatment, remdesivir, Reuters reports.

Gilead said it was boosting its total product sales forecast to the range of $24.30 billion to $24.35 billion, reflecting increased sales of the antiviral treatment, according to the wire service.

The U.S. drugmaker now expects adjusted earnings for 2020 in the range of $6.98 to $7.08 per share, up from its previous forecast of $6.25 to $6.60 per share, Reuters said.

Terri Cullen

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