Covid updates: Bill Gates gets the vaccine; Pfizer to provide 40 million doses for poorer countries

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President Joe Biden signed another round of executive orders on Friday in an effort to prop up American households during the Covid pandemic. The two new orders aim to reduce hunger and bolster workers' rights. They follow similar orders signed earlier this week to boost Covid testing and vaccines and impose more virus restrictions around masks and travel.

Here are some of the biggest developments Friday:

The U.S. is recording at least 187,500 new Covid-19 cases and at least 3,050 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 97.9 million
  • Global deaths: At least 2.09 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 24.73 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 412,239

Pfizer vaccine trial for kids ages 12-15 reaches enrollment benchmark

The Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine trial for ages 12-15 is fully enrolled at 2,259 individuals, the company told CNBC.

The trial for a younger age group is key in getting the correct dosage and ensuring safety and efficacy, CNBC's Meg Tirrell and Nick Wells report.

"Children can still get sick and die from Covid-19," said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center and an infectious diseases physician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "As many children this past year died from Covid-19 as died from influenza. And we recommend an influenza vaccine for children."

The Federal Drug Administration previously approved the vaccine for emergency use for ages 16 and up.

Chris Eudaily

Biden says nothing can change trajectory of pandemic over the next several months

Within his first few days in office, President Joe Biden has painted a bleak picture of the nation's Covid-19 outbreak, warning that it will take months to turn around the pandemic's trajectory.

"A lot of America is hurting. The virus is surging. We're 400,000 dead expected to reach well over 600,000," Biden said on Friday before signing additional executive orders aiming to reduce hunger and promote federal workers' rights.

Biden warned that as the outbreak continues, "there's nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months."

The U.S. has reported a decline in Covid-19 cases in recent days, reporting an average of roughly 187,593 new Covid-19 cases daily. That's a 22% decline compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. However, the nation is still "in a very serious situation," White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a White House press briefing on Thursday.

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

Some New Orleans residents turn their houses into Mardi Gras parade floats

With Mardi Gras parades canceled in New Orleans, some residents have brought the parade home by transforming their homes into extravagant parade floats, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In an FAQ, the New Orleans mayor's office said "The City of New Orleans cannot cancel Mardi Gras because it is a religious Holiday, however we will not be able to celebrate the Holiday this year as we have in the past."

This didn't stop creative residents from celebrating the holiday. New Orleans resident Megan Joy Boudreaux decided to transform her house into a parade float and plans to throw the shiny beaded Mardi Gras necklaces from her porch, remaining socially distanced.

After tweeting about her idea, Boudreaux now has almost 3,000 New Orleans residents and expats in a Facebook group dedicated to transforming their homes. Some households are doing the decorating themselves, and others are hiring artists.

"You can cancel the parades, but you can't cancel Mardi Gras," Boudreaux told the Journal.

Rich Mendez

New York state is looking for new Covid variants by running about 1,000 genome tests per week

New York state is running about 1,000 genome tests every week to identify any potential appearances of new, more infectious Covid strains, according to the state's chief physician Howard Zucker.

The state has run roughly 6,000 genome tests so far and has only found the variant originating from the U.K., Zucker said at a press conference.

According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York officials have identified 25 cases the new strain. None of those cases have resulted in fatalities, Zucker said.

Hannah Miao

Some Hollywood blockbusters delayed, others to appear on streaming services

A view of the Regal Loews Cinemas movie theater in Times Square in New York City.
Noam Galai | Getty Images

Some Hollywood blockbusters have been delayed such as "No Time to Die," "Morbius" and "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," CNBC's Sarah Whitten reported.

A few films have been kept on the February and March calendars, but will be released on streaming services such as HBO Max and Disney+. Those films include "Tom and Jerry," and "Raya and the Last Dragon" respectively. "Godzilla v. Kong" will also release on HBO Max and cinemas.

Studios are worried that a continued increase in Covid infections will dissuade moviegoers from visiting cinemas. Many of the movies have large production budgets and rely on strong ticket sales to break even.

The U.S. is recording at least 187,500 new Covid-19 cases and at least 3,050 virus-related deaths each day, based on a seven-day average calculated by CNBC using Johns Hopkins University data.

Rich Mendez

Democrats urge tech companies to crack down on vaccine misinformation

A group of Democrats led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., urged Facebook, Twitter, Google and subsidiary YouTube to crack down on vaccine-related misinformation on their platforms and be more transparent about their processes.

Klobuchar, along with Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., said it's "vital" to provide accurate information about the virus. While they acknowledged the policies the companies already have in place to combat misinformation, they said enforcement and transparency are critical.

The senators asked the platforms to provide answers on questions like how much misinformation related to the virus gets reported and removed from their platform each day and how they elevate accurate information about vaccines.

—Lauren Feiner

CDC says mixing Pfizer and Moderna shots is OK if necessary

CDC headquarters in Atlanta
Elijah Nouvelage | Bloomberg via Getty Images

The CDC quietly updated its guidelines on Covid-19 vaccines to allow for mixing of Moderna and Pfizer shots in "exceptional situations." The new guidelines also clarify that it's fine to wait up to six weeks to get the second dose of either vaccine, according to reporting from CNBC's Will Feuer.

Although every effort should be made to ensure a patient receives the same vaccine, in rare situations "any available mRNA COVID-19 vaccine may be administered at a minimum interval of 28 days between doses" if supplies are limited or the patient doesn't know which vaccine they originally received, the CDC's new guidance says.

The updated guidelines come as vaccine administrators around the country have been forced to cancel appointments because they don't have as many doses as they expected.

The CDC has not yet studied whether the mixing of the vaccines will have any effect on the safety or effectiveness of either drug.

Rich Mendez

Bill Gates receives Covid vaccine

Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist, received the first shot of a Covid vaccine this week, according to a post uploaded to his Twitter account.

"One of the benefits of being 65 is that I'm eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine," he wrote. He went on to thank scientists, regulators, participants and healthcare workers for their work.

The Microsoft founder has been outspoken throughout the pandemic in support of a vaccine. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed more than $400 million to the global response to Covid, which aimed to accelerate vaccine completion and provide equitable global distribution of tests, life-saving drugs and vaccines.

Rich Mendez

Biden issues executive order to ensure stimulus checks for millions of eligible Americans

President Joe Biden speaks during an event at the State Dining Room of the White House January 21, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong | Getty Images

President Joe Biden issued an executive order Friday that will have the Treasury Department re-evaluating its delivery structure to ensure every American who is eligible for stimulus checks receives them, according to reporting from CNBC's Lorie Konish.

An estimated 8 million eligible Americans still have not received $1,200 checks authorized by the CARES Act last year, according to Biden's order. Those Americans could have missed out on the most recent stimulus as well.

Rich Mendez

Pfizer to supply up to 40 million doses to WHO-backed vaccine program

Pfizer will provide up to 40 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine, which it developed alongside BioNTech, to a global alliance aiming to provide poor nations with coronavirus vaccines, the head of the World Health Organization said on Friday.

WHO's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the deal will allow Covax — co-led by the WHO — to begin delivering vaccine doses to participating countries in February. The program aims to provide 2 billion doses of vaccines to participating countries, which includes low- to-middle income nations, by the end of this year. 

Tedros has been critical of of wealthy nations that have signed supply agreements with drugmakers for their initial doses of Covid-19 vaccines, stockpiling supplies away from poorer nations.

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

President Biden to sign executive order expanding food benefits

President Joe Biden on Friday is expected to sign an executive order further expanding food benefits for millions of Americans. The order is one of a slew that Biden has signed in the earliest days of his presidency, sending aid to those hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.

The executive order will ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture to consider allowing states to expand access to enhanced benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and to examine increasing the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer program, or P-EBT, by 15%.

These actions will boost benefits for the more than 40 million Americans that use SNAP, and also provide further support to millions of families with kids - the P-EBT program replaces school meals for low-income children. Many families, especially those with children, have experienced food insecurity due to the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing recession.

Biden's executive order comes just after Congress expanded food benefits in the $900 billion stimulus package passed in December.

Carmen Reinicke

United Airlines CEO says Covid vaccines should be mandatory

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby wants to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for the carrier's more than 60,000 employees and says other companies should follow suit.

Kirby's stance differs from those of other airlines like Southwest Airlines and American Airlines and other sectors like retail.

"I don't think United will get away with — and can realistically be — the only company that requires vaccines and makes them mandatory," Kirby said in an employee town hall, a transcript of which was reviewed by CNBC. "We need some others. We need some others to show leadership. Particularly in the healthcare industry."

—Leslie Josephs

Evidence shows new Covid strain to be more deadly, says UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Dipesh Sonar and Nisha Gill speak with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit at the quality control laboratory of Oxford Biomedica, where batches of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are tested, in Oxford, Britain January 18, 2021.
Heathcliff O'Malley | Reuters

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday there is evidence that the new Covid-19 strain first spotted in the country is more deadly than the original strain of the virus, CNBC's Matt Clinch reports.

The variant in the UK, which was first identified in September, is associated with more efficient and rapid transmission and has an unusually high number of mutations.

"We've been informed today that in addition to spreading more quickly, it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant — the variant that was first discovered in London and the southeast (of England) — may be associated with a higher degree of mortality," Johnson told a press conference.

The evidence is still being reviewed by the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, which provides guidance to the UK government.

Rich Mendez

Astrazeneca says initial EU delivery volumes of Covid vaccine to fall short

Drugmaker AstraZeneca said initial deliveries to the European Union of the Covid-19 vaccine will fall short of the targeted volumes because of problems with the production, Reuters reported.

"Initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain," a spokesman said in a written statement.

"We will be supplying tens of millions of doses in February and March to the European Union, as we continue to ramp up production volumes," he added. He would not provide the initial volume target.

Terri Cullen

Countries look to acquire the intellectual property rights of Covid vaccines

A nurse prepares a syringe with the Moderna vaccine at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) in Boston, Massachusetts on December 24, 2020.
Joseph Prezioso | AFP | Getty Images

Soaring demand for the Covid-19 vaccine and limited supply have countries worldwide looking for ways to fast track vaccinating their citizens. Many have gone to the World Health Organization requesting compulsory licensing of Covid-19 patents from drugmakers. Such a license suspends the monopoly effect of a patent holder to produce and supply the product.

As the death toll from the coronavirus reaches nearly 2.1 million this crisis has made many argue that products like Covid-19 vaccines should be public goods. Countries such as Chile and Israel have used this practice as a defense during pandemics or serious illnesses.

Last October, Moderna Therapeutics, a pioneer in the development of messenger RNA vaccines and therapies announced it would not enforce patent rights related to its coronavirus vaccine during the pandemic.

This exemplifies an effort among public and private sector actors to collaborate global efforts to develop therapeutics, vaccines and other diagnostics. In May, the WHO launched a voluntary pool to collect patent rights, regulatory test data, and other information that could be shared for developing drugs and vaccines.

Elias Mossialos, a health policy professor at the London School of Economics and Greece's representative to international organizations dealing with pandemics, said "this has to be done in a way that does not discourage private investment in R&D. Countries could collaboratively buy patent rights to these technology. This will enable innovators to be rewarded fairly for their efforts."

Lori Ioannou

Even with widespread Covid vaccines, consumers may be slow to snap back to old habits

People enter the Path train station at the Oculus at Westfield World Trade Center transportation hub on December 18, 2020 in New York City.
Noam Galai | Getty Images

Americans and consumers across the globe will be slow to revert to pre-pandemic habits like flying internationally, commuting by public transit and eating at restaurants, even when Covid-19 vaccines are widely available, according to a new survey from Nielsen.

The survey's findings are at odds with some Wall Street investors, who have had a rosier outlook and a brisker timetable for consumers returning to their old routines.

The majority — 64% — of U.S. respondents said they will spend the same amount on groceries. Forty-one percent of those surveyed in the U.S. said they won't change the amount they spend out out-of-home dining. About the same amount said they will spend more dining out as those who said they will spend less — 24% and 22%, respectively.

Only 40% of U.S. respondents said they have confidence in using public transportation, even when they know they can receive a Covid vaccine. That sentiment could be a major challenge for retailers and restaurants that rely on commuters and heavier foot traffic in cities and commercial hubs.

Nielsen surveyed more than 11,000 consumers across 15 countries in December about how they plan to spend money as the vaccine rollout accelerates.

—Melissa Repko

Sweden gives 1,000 people vaccine shots kept at too low temperature

Around 1,000 health-care professionals in Sweden received doses of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine that were kept at the wrong temperature during transportation, Reuters reported.

Apoteket, the pharmacy delivering the shots, said 2,100 doses were kept at too low a temperature and the shots not yet administered have been set aside to determine if they have spoiled, Reuters said.

Sweden's health authority and pharmaceutical watchdog are investigating, Apoteket spokesman Magnus Frisk told Reuters, adding: "one other thing we need to know is whether the vaccine doses already given will work."

The remaining doses affected will not be used, he said.

—Melodie Warner 

American Airlines starts a wine club with surplus bottles it's not serving on board

An American Airlines flight attendant serves drinks to passengers after departing from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas.
Robert Alexander | Archive Photos | Getty Images

American Airlines is starting to sell the wines it's not serving on board, delivering them to customers' doors.

Airlines have stepped up their food and wine offerings on board in recent years, particularly for the premium cabins on long-haul international flights. Those long, international trips have been among the most impacted by Covid-19 as travelers forgo trips because of worries of catching the virus or travel restrictions that prevent them from entering other countries.

Customers can buy subscriptions for $99.99 a month, including delivery, which includes three bottles. They can use American's recommendations or select their own bottles from the collection, buying bottles a la carte. The bottles would have been served in premium cabins between six to nine months before they were included in the Flagship Cellars program. Customers can earn frequent-flyer miles for their purchases.

American plans to continue the program even when air travel demand recovers.

Leslie Josephs

Comedian Dave Chappelle cancels shows after testing positive for Covid

Dave Chappelle performs to a sold out crowd onstage at the Hollywood Palladium.
Lester Cohen | WireImage | Getty Images

Dave Chappelle has tested positive for Covid and was forced to cancel his upcoming shows, The Associated Press reported.

A representative for the 47-year-old comedian told the AP that Chappelle will not be performing this weekend at Stubb's Waller Creek Amphitheater in Austin, Texas, as expected.

Comedian Joe Rogan was supposed to join Chappelle for the show but notified followers of the cancellation and said the show would be rescheduled.

Refunds will be provided for ticketholders.

Rich Mendez

U.S. stocks open lower as outlook for Biden's stimulus plan faces pushback

U.S. stocks opened lower as the outlook for President Joe Biden's ambitious Covid stimulus plan faces hurdles in Congress, reports CNBC's Yun Li and Thomas Franck.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 200 points, or 0.6%, while the S&P 500 fell 0.5%. The Nasdaq Composite dipped 0.4%.

—Melodie Warner 

UK health experts urge U.S. to respond to new Covid variant immediately and aggressively

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Allyson Black, a registered nurse, cares for Covid-19 patients in a makeshift ICU (Intensive Care Unit) at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center on January 21, 2021 in Torrance, California.
Mario Tama | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Health experts have stressed the importance of taking public health measures immediately and aggressively when fighting a highly infectious new Covid variant discovered in the U.K.

The variant, B.1.1.7., has an unusually high number of mutations and is associated with more efficient and rapid transmission. As of Jan. 13, it had been detected in 12 U.S. states.

Dr. Deepti Gurdasani, clinical epidemiologist at Queen Mary University of London, stressed that it was clear from the U.K. response that unless aggressive measures are taken immediately, "the variant will rapidly spread geographically, as well as increase in frequency in places where it has established into the community."

—Sam Meredith

Managers must focus on workers' mental health while in lockdown, Adecco CEO says

Leaders must be 'emotionally intelligent' as staff mental health declines: CEO

The chief executive of staffing group Adecco warned that some office workers don't feel their mental health is being supported sufficiently during the pandemic.

Alain Dehaze said his firm's research of 8,000 office employees — in different companies, across eight countries — showed a need for more 'emotional intelligence' among managers.

"We have seen in our survey that 28% of employees … say their mental health got worse during the pandemic, and that only 1 in 10 managers exceeded employees' expectations in supporting them," he said. "Especially with … the second wave of lockdowns coming in, we need more emotionally intelligent leaders, because we see that many people are suffering."

Lockdowns in Europe have been reinstated as outbreaks of the coronavirus increased in recent months.

—Lucy Handley

U.S. virus hospitalizations fall to pre-Christmas levels

A healthcare worker checks on patients inside an oxygen tent outside the emergency room at the Community Hospital of Huntington Park during a surge in positive coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Huntington Park, California, December 29, 2020.
Bing Guan | Reuters

Fewer than 120,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized with Covid, the lowest level since Dec. 27 and in line with pre-Christmas data, according to The Atlantic's COVID Tracking Project.

That number has been consistently improving since Jan. 12 when hospitalization levels approached their all-time peak of 132,000 patients. Hospitalizations spiked in the fall alongside cases and deaths, straining hospital systems and overwhelming medical professionals.

—Sara Salinas

Walmart expands Covid vaccination program

Walmart is set to extend its Covid vaccination program to seven more states, as well as Chicago and Puerto Rico, Reuters reports.

This week and next, Walmart will begin offering the shots in Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, South Carolina and Texas, a company spokeswoman told Reuters. The retailer is already vaccinating health-care workers in New Mexico and its home state Arkansas.

—Sara Salinas

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