Covid updates: Virus kills 100,000 in the U.S. in just 36 days, as death toll tops 400,000

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The global Covid-19 vaccine rollout is still gaining steam. Meanwhile, new variants of the virus are beginning to pile up. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Friday that a Covid mutation first detected in the U.K. could become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March. Ohio researchers say they have detected a separate new virus strain in Columbus, and mutations detected in South Africa, Brazil and now Germany, are also circulating. There's not much data yet on how effective known vaccines and treatments are against the various mutations, but experts say it's likely the drugs will work just as well.

Here are some of the biggest developments Tuesday:

The U.S. is recording at least 207,300 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 95.91 million
  • Global deaths: At least 2.04 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 24.16 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 400,022

NJ hospital CEO says unreliable Covid vaccine supply has challenged rollout

Supply is our biggest challenge: Holy Name Medical CEO on vaccine
Supply is our biggest challenge: Holy Name Medical CEO on vaccine

The CEO of Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey, told CNBC the hospital's Covid vaccination efforts have been hurt by inconsistency in the number of doses it receives.

"The biggest challenge we face right now here is supply of the vaccine. We just can't get it, and we can't get it on any reliable path. It's very difficult," Michael Maron said on "Power Lunch."

"One week we'll have Pfizer, the next week we'll have Moderna," added Maron. "We never quite know how much of that is coming, whether it's a thousand doses ... or two thousand or more."

Kevin Stankiewicz

WHO regional director for the Americas: 'Our region, and our world, is failing to control coronavirus'

Countries in North and South America must ramp up public health measures intended to slow the spread of Covid-19, like social distancing and mask wearing, as the virus surges out of control in the region, the Pan American Health Organization's top health official said.

"Our region, and our world, is failing to control coronavirus. In far too many places public policies are not congruent with the severity of the situation," Carissa Etienne, director of PAHO and World Health Organization regional director for the Americas, said in a statement.

Etienne said she's "particularly concerned for the next few weeks." Many countries are facing stressed hospital capacity and shortages of supplemental oxygen, the statement said.

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

'I'm currently optimistic' vaccines will work against new variants: Incoming CDC director

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the incoming director for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said current coronavirus vaccines should work against the new, more-infectious variants that have been discovered in recent months, though they may not be as effective.

While it's no surprise the virus is mutating, researchers are quickly trying to determine what the changes might mean for recently developed vaccines against the disease. The deployed drugs from Pfizer and Moderna have proven to be highly effective in clinical trials, though the new variants might cause a dip in how well the vaccines perform outside of those trials.

"I'm really optimistic about how these variants are going to go," Walensky told the JAMA Network. "I could be wrong. It could be that we'll find variants and variants may emerge ... where the vaccine is less potent, but I'm still currently optimistic."

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

Incoming CDC director: Trump administration ‘muzzled’ scientists

Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who were sidelined by the Trump administration during the Covid-19 pandemic will "get heard again," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, President-elect Joe Biden's pick to lead the agency, said Tuesday.

"They have been diminished. I think they've been muzzled. That science hasn't been heard," she told The Journal of the American Medical Association's Dr. Howard Bauchner on Tuesday. "This top-tier agency, world renowned, hasn't really been appreciated over the last four years and really markedly over the last year, so I have to fix that."

President Donald Trump has continually clashed with the nation's top scientists, including current CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. Walensky vowed to restore the public voice of the CDC and its scientists.

—Will Feuer

U.S. surpasses 400,000 Covid-19 deaths

Bodies wrapped in plastic line the walls inside a refrigerated trailer used as a mobile morgue by the El Paso County Medical Examiner's office in El Paso, Texas on November 13, 2020.
Justin Hamel | AFP | Getty Images

More than 400,000 people have now died from Covid-19 in the U.S. in less than a year, according to data from John Hopkins University.

The grim number represents a continued struggle to keep infections and death rates low. The country reached 300,000 deaths just over a month ago.

The milestone also comes amid a slow start to a national vaccine rollout. Vaccine eligibility differs by state as wait times for the shot grow longer. Some states have already reported running low on vaccine doses.

Rich Mendez

Teachers are next in line for the Covid vaccine, paving the way for schools to reopen

President-elect Joe Biden has said reopening schools is an immediate priority. However, it's not just a matter of federal funding.

Vaccinating teachers remains one of the biggest hurdles to returning to the classroom.

For example, in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced that teachers, police, firefighters, public transit workers and other first responders can now get vaccinated, along with people 65 or older.

Yet, under current federal guidelines, New York State is only allocated 300,000 vaccine doses a week.

"The limits on the state's supply will mean that not everyone who wants the vaccine will be able to get it immediately," said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, New York City's teachers union.

New York City, the country's largest school system, has struggled to reopen since shutting down in November due to the city's rising positivity rate. There, teachers and school staff have already started receiving the Covid vaccine.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said more students will be able to return to classrooms this spring once teachers are vaccinated.

—Jessica Dickler

Chewy's customers have inspired new services during pandemic

Panicked calls from pet owners inspired Chewy to accelerate the launch of a virtual vet service during the pandemic.

The e-commerce retailer's CEO Sumit Singh said they were calling its customer service line with urgent questions when they couldn't reach their vet.

He pointed to that new service as an example of the company staying nimble and innovative, despite attracting many new customers and seeing its share price more than triple during the pandemic. He said he reads customer reviews on weekend mornings.

"A healthy level of anxiety is actually good because it keeps you paranoid," he said when speaking at a National Retail Federation virtual conference. "It keeps you on your toes and it keeps you anticipating."

UBS downgraded the company's stock to sell on Tuesday, saying it may not be able to keep up the pace of its growth. It also downgraded Peloton, another beneficiary of pandemic trends.

—Melissa Repko

Opening car windows provides increased air flow that protects from Covid transmission

A new study suggests that opening the front right and back left windows of a car increases airflow and potentially reduces Covid transmission between a passenger and driver who are sitting diagonally from one another.

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Brown University used a computer model to simulate a Toyota Prius driving 50 miles per hour, with a driver in the front left-hand seat and a passenger sitting in the rear right-hand seat. (The Centers for Disease Control recommends that passengers in a taxi or rideshare sit in the rear seat diagonally across from the driver to facilitate social distance.)

Opening the windows farthest from the people seated provided optimal airflow that creates an "air curtain" that separates the passenger and driver. Leaving all windows open provided the most airflow, but may not be practical in cold weather.

Rideshare platforms Uber and Lyft encourage passengers to roll down the windows as a precaution. 

—Cory Stieg

New rules let states forgive jobless benefits paid in error

The $900 billion Covid relief package passed last month gives states the power to forgive unemployment benefits paid in error during the pandemic. But some fear states will opt not to implement those worker protections.

The CARES Act created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for self-employed, gig, and other workers who didn't qualify for state unemployment benefits. States, in a rush to put the new program in place and issue aid, accidentally paid PUA benefits to thousands of people. But the law didn't offer a safety valve for states to forgive such "overpayments."

States may now choose to waive overpayments in certain cases, but worker advocates are concerned they won't. Many states, like New York, Texas, Delaware and Kentucky, are weighing the new rule but haven't yet decided what they'll do. — Greg Iacurci

Why Biden's Covid relief plan may need to be more targeted

Why Biden's Covid relief plan may need to be more targeted
Why Biden's Covid relief plan may need to be more targeted

President-elect Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion rescue plan is following on Biden's campaign promises of higher minimum wage and more aid for those struggling during the pandemic.

Austan Goolsbee, professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, and Michael Strain, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, joined CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Tuesday to discuss.

Gottlieb worries lack of demand for Covid vaccines will eventually slow rollout

Former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb worries Covid vaccine hesitancy will slow down rollout
Former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb worries Covid vaccine hesitancy will slow down rollout

Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC the slower-than-expected Covid vaccine rollout in the U.S. will eventually hit another hurdle: a lack of Americans who want to take the vaccine.

"I think we need to also .... work on the demand side of this equation. We can't lose sight of that and just take for granted that everyone wants this vaccine," the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner said on "Squawk Box."

Gottlieb said the number of U.S. adults who would be interested in taking the Covid vaccine is probably similar to those who were vaccinated against seasonal influenza this year.

"I think once we get to 100 million, maybe 120 million vaccines, the demand is going to get soft," Gottlieb said. "Those were people who were worried about getting Covid going out and getting flu vaccines. That may be the universe of people who really have significant demand for a Covid vaccine," he added.

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." 

Some countries' pandemic response is threatening global resilience, suggests World Economic Forum risk report panelist

One of the panelists behind the World Economic Forum's annual report on the biggest global threats has warned that the "inward-looking national agenda" of some countries' response to the coronavirus pandemic is threatening global resilience in the wake of the crisis.

Carolina Klint, risk management leader for Continental Europe at Marsh & McLennan, told CNBC's Geoff Cutmore on Monday that there were lessons to be learned in the collaboration required to get coronavirus vaccines developed at an "unprecedented speed."

Klint said the "substantial" stimulus packages that governments injected into their respective economies in the immediate response to the pandemic also dovetailed into the "ongoing trend towards self-sufficiency which has been accelerated by Covid-19."

She also warned of the risk of "business zombification," if stimulus packages were not "properly structured."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, infectious diseases were found to be considered the highest impact threat over the next decade, in WEF's 2021 risk report, published Tuesday.

Vicky McKeever

Dow opens higher on stimulus hopes

U.S. stocks opened higher amid optimism for another big stimulus plan and a faster pace for vaccine distribution, reports CNBC's Yun Li and Jesse Pound.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 220 points, or 0.7% at the open. The S&P 500 gained 0.7%, while the Nasdaq Composite jumped 0.9%.

—Melodie Warner 

Biden team confident it can vaccinate 100 million people in 100 days

Can the Biden team help vaccinate 100 million people in 100 days?
Can the Biden team help vaccinate 100 million people in 100 days?

CNBC's Meg Tirrell reports President-elect Joe Biden's top health officials are confident the U.S. will have enough vaccines to meet his goal of inoculating 1 million people per day during his first 100 days in office.

—Melodie Warner 

Biden to block Trump's plan to lift Europe, Brazil travel ban

President-elect Joe Biden will block an effort by outgoing President Donald Trump to rescind travel restrictions for most non-U.S. citizens visiting from Europe, the U.K. and Brazil. Airlines, devastated by the pandemic, have repeatedly asked the Trump administration to replace travel bans with pre-flight Covid testing.

Trump issued a proclamation late Monday that would lift the rules he put in place early in the pandemic, which were an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Less than an hour later, Biden's incoming press secretary tweeted: "With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel."

Trump's proclamation came less than a week after the U.S. said it would require travelers, including U.S. citizens, flying to the U.S. from abroad, to test negative for Covid-19 before flying. That requirement takes effect on Jan. 26 — the same day the travel restrictions would be lifted.

--Leslie Josephs

UK hospitals use blockchain to track temperature of coronavirus vaccines

Two hospitals in the U.K. are using blockchain technology to help maintain the temperature of coronavirus vaccines before administering them to patients.

The National Health Service facilities are working with tech firms Everyware and Hedera Hashgraph on the initiative, which aims to keep a tamper-proof digital record of temperature-sensitive vaccines, like the ones developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. The hospitals would, in theory, be able to pick up on any irregularities in the storage of the vaccines before administering them to patients.

Blockchain saw much hype back in 2017, as the value of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin skyrocketed. It led to several projects from major companies including IBM and Walmart, as well as governments, lured in by the promise of replacing various old, paper-based processes for record keeping. Now, it appears to have found a purpose in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

—Ryan Browne

Germany identifies new Covid variant among 35 hospital patients

An ambulance stands behind snow in front of the entrance to the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Clinic's emergency aid. A new variant of the coronavirus may have been discovered at the Garmisch-Partenkirchen hospital. Currently, samples are being examined at the Charite in Berlin, the hospital announced on Monday.
Angelika Warmuth | picture alliance | Getty Images

Germany is the latest country to discover a new mutation of the coronavirus, with a new variant identified among a group of hospital patients in an alpine town in Bavaria.

On Monday, hospital officials reported that an unknown variant of the coronavirus had been discovered among 35 patients at a hospital in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, southeast Germany.

The altered virus was found in 35 of 73 newly-infected people in the hospital, Bavarian news outlet BR24 reported Monday. Samples are now reportedly being examined at the Charité university hospital in Berlin.

Officials said the variant is different from recently discovered variants in the U.K. and South Africa and they do not know yet whether the variant makes the virus more transmissible, or more deadly. Variants found in Britain and South Africa are known to make the virus spread more easily but are not more dangerous.

Holly Ellyatt

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