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Covid updates: Operation Warp Speed chief resigns; U.S. lowers age for vaccine eligibility

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The U.S. vaccine rollout is beginning to pick up steam. Nearly 9 million doses have been administered across the country as of Monday morning, according to CDC data. That's an increase of more than 2 million from the previous update. Though the pace appears to be improving, administered vaccine doses still represent only about a third of total doses distributed to states so far.

Here are the biggest developments Tuesday:

The U.S. is recording at least 248,650 new Covid-19 cases and at least 3,223 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 91.04 million 
  • Global deaths: At least 1.94 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 22.62 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 376,695

Operation Warp Speed chief resigns at Biden team's request

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Operation Warp Speed chief to resign, Trump administration releases vaccines on hold

Moncef Slaoui, chief advisor of Operation Warp Speed under the Trump administration, has submitted his resignation at the request of the Biden team, two sources tell CNBC's Meg Tirrell.

Slaoui will stay 30 days through the transition, though his role will be significantly diminished on Jan. 20, when President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated.

The Trump administration on Tuesday issued new guidelines that expand coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone age 65 and older as well as to those with comorbid conditions, like diabetes.

The states' focus on vaccinating health-care workers and nursing homes has created a bottleneck, a senior administration official told CNBC, speaking on condition of anonymity in advance of the formal announcement. —Riya Bhattacharjee, Meg Tirrell

Regeneron to supply U.S. with 1.25 million additional doses of Covid antibody drug

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Regeneron inks deal with government to supply Covid antibody drug

Shares of Regeneron were moving higher in after-hours trading after the pharmaceutical company announced a deal to supply the U.S. government with an additional 1.25 million doses of its Covid antibody therapy.

The Food and Drug Administration granted the treatment emergency use authorization last fall, which followed President Donald Trump receiving the drug after he contracted Covid-19. Tarrytown, New York-based Regeneron already had an agreement with Washington to supply about 300,000 doses.

The deal announced Tuesday is worth up to $2.6 billion.

"We think this is very important. At the end of the day, if you're going to fight this terrible pandemic, you're going to have public health measures. You're going to have to use vaccines, but you're also going to have to use therapeutics," Regeneron CEO Dr. Leonard Schleifer said on CNBC's "Fast Money."

The rollout of antibody drugs has faced challenges around administration, in part because the therapies have to be given through intravenous infusion to patients who have not yet been hospitalized with Covid-19.

"It is a shame that it's been somewhat of a difficult launch," Schleifer said. "That's true with the vaccines as well. We're operating in real-time in a pandemic, not a lot of time to prepare, but things are improving."

Kevin Stankiewicz

2 gorillas contract coronavirus at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Gorillas sit after two of their troop tested positive for COVID-19 after falling ill, and a third gorilla appears also to be symptomatic, at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in San Diego, California, U.S. January 10, 2021.
Ken Bohn | San Diego Zoo Global | Reuters

At least two members of the Gorilla Troop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for coronavirus, according to the park's officials.

"Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well," said Lisa Peterson, executive director, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. "The troop remains quarantined together and are eating and drinking. We are hopeful for a full recovery."

Zoo officials suspect that the gorillas caught the virus from an asymptomatic staff member. Research studies have shown that some non-human primates are susceptible to get infected with Covid-19. This is the first known case of natural transmission to great apes, the zoo said.

Riya Bhattacharjee

Walmart customers don't expect speedy economic recovery, exec says

Walmart customers are nervous about their finances and don't think the economy will bounce back quickly from the pandemic.

Almost half of customers surveyed in November told Walmart that they were worried about the current health of the economy, Walmart Chief Customer Officer Janey Whiteside said at the virtual National Retail Federation conference. She said 40% said they didn't expect a speedy recovery.

"Our core Walmart customer is absolutely not immune to the economic slowdown, in fact may even be disproportionately impacted," she said.

She said customers are looking for ways to save money "whether that is looking to switch from national brand to private brand, look for small pack sizes, cherry-picking deals when they're available." —Melissa Repko

Dr. Fauci: Covid variant found in South Africa could pose threat to antibody drugs

The new and highly infectious coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa could pose a threat to monoclonal antibodies that are used to prevent people from falling seriously ill from Covid-19, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

So far, health experts have said there's no evidence the mutations alter the effectiveness of current vaccines. However, there's some concern that the variant found in South Africa, known as 501Y.V2, might be more resistant to the antibody treatments.

"It could be having some impact on protection for the monoclonal antibodies and perhaps even for the vaccine. We don't know that," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a Q&A session at Schmidt Futures' Forum on Preparedness. — Noah Higgins-Dunn

U.S. to require negative Covid tests from all inbound international travelers

The U.S. will start requiring inbound international travelers to present proof of a negative Covid test before flying, CNBC's Leslie Josephs reports.

The new effort could take effect as soon as Jan. 26, according to a person familiar with the plans, and would extend current testing protocols for the U.K. to all international travel.

—Sara Salinas

Hospitality industry sees big drop in job openings, surge in layoffs

Job openings dipped slightly overall in November, but the hospitality industry took a large hit both in terms of employment openings and layoffs. Tuesday's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey showed a 1.6% in vacancies from the previous month and only a slight gain in separations. However, leisure and hospitality saw a 17.6% jump in layoffs and a level of job openings that was 17% lower than the same time in 2020.

–Jeff Cox

Southwest still overstaffed but not for flight attendants

Southwest Airlines says cabin crew staffing will be tight in early 2021 after about 4,600 flight attendants — around one-third of the workgroup — opted for unpaid leave.

The airline is offering some employees like pilots more time off at reduced pay, but says it won't extend that to flight attendants

"As Flight Attendants are returning from [extended time off] in March, our operational needs are increasing as well," the company said Monday in a staff note, which was seen by CNBC. "Our published flight schedule reflects an increased flying level to what we're operating today. Our published flight schedule for March represents approximately 3,300 flights per day, which is a large increase from recent months when we have been flying between 1,800 and 3,000 flights per day."

Leslie Josephs

U.S. to change vaccine allocation to favor states that quickly administer shots

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the U.S. government is changing the way it allocates Covid-19 vaccine doses, now basing it on how quickly states can administer shots and size of their elderly population.

Vaccine doses were previously allocated based on the number of adults in each state. But U.S. officials are complaining the pace of vaccinations has been too slow as the supply of vaccine doses exceeds demand.

States will be given two weeks to prepare for the change, Azar said. That should give states enough time to improve their data reporting and ensure all vaccinations are being "promptly" documented to the government, he added.

The announcement comes as the CDC issues new guidelines that expand vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older as well as to those with comorbid conditions, like diabetes.

–Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

New York City will turn Citi Field into a 'mega' vaccination site, mayor says

Citi field baseball stadium, home of the New York Mets Major League Baseball team on September 7th, 2019 in Flushing, Queens, New York City.
Tim Clayton | Corbis Sport | Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Citi Field  — home to the New York Mets — will be turned into a "mega" Covid-19 vaccination site by the end of January.

NYC Health and Hospitals will operate the vaccination site with the aim of providing between 5,000 and 7,000 shots a day, de Blasio said in a joint announcement with Mets owner Steve Cohen. The news comes a day after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said his city would set up a vaccination site at Dodger Stadium.

"This is going to help so many people to get vaccinated," de Blasio said during a press briefing. "We welcome all New Yorkers. We even welcome Yankees fans, there's no discrimination."

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

New York to broaden vaccine eligibility, Cuomo says

New York state will accept new federal guidance to open up Covid vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older as well as younger people who are immunocompromised, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

In accepting the new guidance, which Cuomo said came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the governor also criticized the move by saying demand will quickly outstrip supply. The state had been prioritizing health-care workers and recently expanded eligibility to include individuals 75 years and older.

Cuomo said further expanding to those 65 years and older will open the eligibility to about 7 million people, but the state is only receiving about 300,000 doses per week. The governor said the state is still dealing with a "drip, drip, drip from the faucet of federal dosage availability," which is inhibiting the state's ability to vaccinate people. 

—Will Feuer

Pfizer CEO says expanding vaccine eligibility is the right decision

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Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Covid vaccine manufacturing outlook

Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla supports expanding coronavirus vaccine eligibility, telling CNBC the company has adequate supply to support that decision.

"I think this is exactly what needs to be done," Bourla said on "Squawk Box," in response to reports that the Trump administration intended to urge states to make anyone 65 years old and up eligible to receive a Covid vaccine.

Despite initial supply concerns, Bourla said that has not ended up being the key limiting factor to getting more Americans vaccinated. "We have much more than [governments] can use right now, so I think the main bottleneck right now is to make sure we ramp up our prioritization so we can administer more vaccines," he said.

Kevin Stankiewicz

Party city Dubai, a lockdown-free haven for tourists, kicked off UK travel corridor amid spike in cases

Woman sunbathers sit along a beach in the Gulf emirate of Dubai on July 24, 2020, while behind is seen the Burj al-Arab hotel. After a painful four-month tourism shutdown that ended earlier in July, Dubai is billing itself as a safe destination with the resources to ward off coronavirus.
KARIM SAHIB | AFP via Getty Images

The Gulf's leisure and commercial capital Dubai, a popular vacation spot for travelers seeking a sense of normal life during the pandemic, has been taken off the U.K.'s "safe travel corridor" — along with the rest of the UAE — in the wake of daily Covid cases tripling within the span of two weeks in the small desert sheikhdom. This means that arrivals coming into the U.K. from the UAE are required, starting Tuesday, to self-isolate for 10 days.

After a strict spring lockdown, Dubai gradually fully reopened all of its businesses, receiving a "Safe Travel" certification. Its long stretch of low coronavirus case numbers incentivized tourists and remote workers to visit the emirate's bustling beaches, malls, restaurants and resorts.

Travelers from the U.K., one of the top sources of UAE tourism, flooded Dubai resorts last month to escape the harsh England winter lockdown, triggered by the discovery of a rapidly spreading new coronavirus strain. Some UAE residents describe what they see as irony over the U.K., the world's fifth hardest-hit country in terms of both virus cases and deaths, demoting the UAE for safety after its citizens flocked to the emirate in droves.

To date, the UAE has registered roughly 233,000 Covid cases and 711 deaths since the pandemic began.

—Natasha Turak

Eli Lilly CEO says Covid variant from South Africa may 'evade' its antibody drug

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Eli Lilly CEO on Covid antibody treatment's effectiveness against mutations

Eli Lilly CEO Dave Ricks told CNBC the company is not sure whether its Covid-19 antibody drugs will be effective against a coronavirus strain initially found in South Africa. However, he expressed confidence that the treatment would work on the variant found in the U.K.

"The South African variant ... is the one of concern. It has more dramatic mutations to that spike protein, which is the target" of these antibody drugs, Ricks said on "Squawk Box." "Theoretically, it could evade our medicines."

He said the company wants to work with the Food and Drug Administration on a plan to adapt antibody therapies to virus variants, including the one first discovered in South Africa.

"We actually have a large library of these antibodies now that are sitting pre-clinically," said Ricks. "We could think about a very expedited path to study them in maybe a month or two, and then authorize their use. That would seem to be a smart thing to do as this virus mutates."

Kevin Stankiewicz

NBA is not pausing season despite outbreaks impacting teams

Enes Kanter #11 of the Portland Trail Blazers rebounds against the Chicago Bulls in the second quarter at Moda Center on January 05, 2021 in Portland, Oregon.
Steph Chambers | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

Despite Covid-19 outbreaks impacting its clubs, the National Basketball Association is not considering taking a pause to calm its pandemic troubles.

The NBA already postponed two games this week, including Tuesday's Boston Celtics contest against the Chicago Bulls due to recent outbreaks and multiple teams have halted activates, too.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver will spend Tuesday addressing the league's pandemic protocols and could tighten its guidelines to restrict players from pre and postgame contact. The NBA could also issue more mandates around wearing masks.

Pausing their 72-game season isn't being discussed at the moment, however, league spokesman Mike Bass reiterated to CNBC via email on Tuesday.

"We anticipated that there would be game postponements this season and planned the schedule accordingly," he said. "There are no plans to pause the season, and we will continue to be guided by our medical experts and health and safety protocols."

As of Jan. 7, the NBA listed four new players who tested positive for Covid-19. None of the 495 players tested positive in its Dec. 30 report. The NBA is expected to release its most recent testing results this week.

—Jabari Young

Abbott Labs rolls out rapid Covid antigen test to schools and workplaces

An Abbott Labs employee gets the BinaxNOW rapid Covid-19 antigen test at her workplace.
Abbott Labs

Abbott Labs announced the nationwide rollout of its BinaxNow rapid Covid-19 antigen test to schools and workplaces that require frequent and affordable testing.

Abbott's $5 BinaxNOW Covid tests provide results in 15 minutes. A simple nasal swap is used to collect specimens from people and a no-charge NAVICA app allows people who test negative to display a temporary health certificate and a QR code that is renewed every time they are tested.

"Our intention is that BinaxNOW and NAVICA will have a greater impact on the country returning to some sense of normalcy in places where people need it most, such as schools, universities, workplaces and pharmacies," said Abbott Labs President and CEO Robert B. Ford.

Since being introduced in August, Abbott has distributed 150 million BinaxNOW Covid-19 antigen tests through the Department of Health and Human Services to states, territories, and targeted entities such as nursing homes. Abbott will continue to supply HHS with a total of 30 million tests between now and March 2021.

—Lori Ioannou

2nd congresswoman tests positive for Covid after Capitol lockdown

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, (D-WA), looks on during a hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law on "Online Platforms and Market Power", in the Rayburn House office Building on Capitol Hill, in Washington, U.S., July 29, 2020.
Graeme Jennings | Reuters

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., announced that she has tested positive for Covid-19 after sheltering during the Capitol riot with GOP lawmakers who refused to wear masks. She is the second lawmaker to contract the virus after the lockdown, following Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J.

"Only hours after President Trump incited a deadly assault on our Capitol, our country, and our democracy, many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic — creating a superspreader event on top of a domestic terrorist attack," Jayapal said in a statement.

The Washington Democrat had been quarantining since the lockdown. She called for fines against the members of Congress who refused to wear masks in the Capitol.

Jayapal is 55 and Watson Coleman is 75. Older people are more susceptible to severe illness from the coronavirus. Both Democrats had received the first of two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Tucker Higgins

Trump administration to expand vaccination guidelines to everyone 65 and older

People wait in a line on New Year's Eve to receive a COVID-19 vaccination at a site for seniors in an unoccupied store at the Oviedo Mall. Governor Ron DeSantis ordered that Florida residents 65 and older be included in the first group to be offered coronavirus vaccinations, against the federal CDC recommendations.
Paul Hennessy | LightRocket | Getty Images

The Trump administration plans to issue new guidelines Tuesday that expand Covid-19 vaccine eligibility to everyone age 65 and older, according to a senior administration official.

"The states are being told immediately they need to expand to 65-plus as well as those under 65 with comorbid conditions," the official said, asking not to be named because it hasn't been formally announced yet.

The administration will also stop holding back millions of doses reserved for the second round of shots of Pfizer and Moderna's two-dose vaccines, the official said, adding they released doses that had been held in reserve on Sunday.

The CDC recommends immunizing health-care workers and nursing homes first, but states can distribute the vaccine as they see fit. U.S. officials are trying to pick up the pace of vaccinations after a slower-than-expected initial rollout.

Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Vaccine may not reach most people in low- to middle-income countries this year, estimates show

Just 20% of populations across low-income and many middle-income countries will likely be vaccinated against Covid-19 before the end of this year, though that figure could end up "much lower," according to estimates from the International Rescue Committee.

Part of the reason behind the shortfall is the limited supply of available vaccine doses, and wealthier countries have already claimed the initial supply, IRE said. This is a problem because the pandemic won't end until everyone's vaccinated, regardless of their nationality, the committee said.

So far, 42 countries have started rolling out Covid-19 vaccines to high-risk populations, but all of them are in high or upper-middle-income countries, World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the Schmidt's Future Forum on Preparedness.

"This is a problem that's getting worse as some countries pursue new deals offering higher prices to manufacturers," he said. "This is not only a betrayal of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people, it's also self-defeating."

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

U.S. stocks open flat as Wall Street tries to rebound from Monday’s losses

U.S. stocks opened along the flatline as the major averages shrugged off House Democrats introducing an article of impeachment on Monday against President Donald Trump for inciting riots at the U.S. Capitol, CNBC's Fred Imbert and Maggie Fitzgerald report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 18 points, or 0.1%. The S&P 500 advanced just 0.1% and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.3%.

—Melodie Warner 

NHL commissioner doesn't expect in-person fans at most arenas

A general view of the arena bowl prior to NHL action between the Winnipeg Jets and the St. Louis Blues in Game One of the Western Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bell MTS Place on April 10, 2019 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Jonathan Kozub | NHLI | Getty Images

National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman forecast a revenue shortfall of at least $1 billion because he doesn't expect Covid restrictions will allow fans to attend the majority of arenas this season, Newsday reports.

"It would be cheaper for us to shut the door and not play," Bettman said Monday on a Zoom teleconference with the media. "It's just what we have to deal with and what clubs have decided they have to do. Everyone thought it was important to play our game and deliver what people expect from us, and that's what everyone signed on to do."

The NHL's shortened season of 56 games will begin on Wednesday.

—Melodie Warner 

Colleges scrap plans to reopen for in-person leaning

A student at Stanford University, uses a laptop.
REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

Increasingly, colleges and universities were making plans to reopen for in-person learning this spring, despite the ongoing public health crisis. But a recent spike in new Covid cases is causing some to reconsider.

Stanford University had said it would bring students back for the upcoming semester with a delayed in-person start date. Yet, the university recently announced it will not be able to have the freshmen and sophomore classes return to campus after all.

"The worsening Covid-19 circumstances have now eroded our expectations about the experience we could deliver to undergraduates," President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell said in a letter to the community. 

Goucher College in Maryland also recently announced it will remain online for the spring, while other institutions, including Syracuse, Michigan State, Mississippi State, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Nazareth College in New York, said they are delaying the start of the spring term.

— Jessica Dickler

Stadiums and empty stores are being used as mass vaccination sites

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Stadiums and empty stores are being used as mass vaccination sites

The Covid vaccination rollout has been slow. According to the CDC, more than 25 million doses have been distributed around the United States with nearly 9 million people having received their first dose. To help speed things up, mass vaccination sites are popping up across the country. CNBC's Contessa Brewer reports.

First EU delivery of AstraZeneca vaccine could happen in mid-February, official says

A European Union official said AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine could be available across the EU in mid-February.

The pharmaceutical company applied for distribution approval in the 27-member bloc on Monday and the European Medicines Agency on Tuesday said it could issue its opinion of the AstraZeneca and Oxford University vaccine as early as January 29.

"If we were to have a successful authorization for the AstraZeneca contract… we hope that two weeks after that authorization, AstraZeneca would be able to give the first delivery," Sandra Gallina, director-general for health and food safety at the European Commission said.

—Silvia Amaro

Primary care doctor on how the U.S. can ramp up vaccine distribution process

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Physician on how the U.S. can ramp up vaccine distribution process

Dr. Kavita Patel, a primary care physician and fellow at the Brookings Institution, joined "Squawk Box" on Tuesday to discuss how the United States can ramp up coronavirus vaccine distribution.

—Terri Cullen

Coronavirus mutations keep emerging, here are the ones we know about so far

Viruses constantly mutate, so it's not surprising that the coronavirus that emerged in China in late 2019 has gone through multiple minor variations. But it has also undergone several major mutations and keeping scientists on their toes.

Most recently, strains have emerged in South Africa and the U.K. that have prompted some concerns about the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines. There is also a suspected new strain in the U.S., with the White House coronavirus task force warning early in the new year that there could be a new, more transmissible variant of the virus that evolved in the U.S. and is driving spread, according to a document obtained by NBC News.

And on Sunday, Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases said it had detected a new variant of the coronavirus in four travelers arriving from Brazil. CNBC has taken a look at the major variants we've discovered so far.

Holly Ellyatt

Eli Lilly CEO on the company's Covid antibody drug and its effectiveness against mutations

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Eli Lilly CEO on Covid antibody treatment's effectiveness against mutations

More parts of China are locking down amid new virus cases

A medical worker wearing a protective suit collects a throat swab from a local resident for Covid-19 antigen rapid test at a temporary testing center on Jan. 6, 2021 in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province of China.
Visual China Group | Getty Images

Local officials in regions near Beijing are ramping up Covid-19 restrictions amid new virus cases, locking down millions of Chinese citizens, CNBC's Evelyn Cheng reports.

Shijiazhuang and Langfang, which have issued sheltered residents in place, reported 39 new cases and one new confirmed case for Monday, respectively. Two other regions in China's northernmost province of Heilongjiang announced lockdowns. The province on Monday recorded one new confirmed case and 36 asymptomatic cases.

—Sara Salinas

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