Covid updates: NY to ease some restrictions after post-holiday spike; California lifts stay-at-home

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The U.S. has now recorded more than 25 million Covid infections since the first confirmed case on American soil just over a year ago. That tally accounts for more than a quarter of all coronavirus cases worldwide. Daily new cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. have all eased in recent weeks, even as new and highly transmissible virus strains circulate. One of those virus mutations has shown some evidence that it could be more deadly as well.

Here are some of the biggest developments Monday:

The U.S. is recording at least 170,000 new Covid-19 cases and at least 3,080 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 99.51 million
  • Global deaths: At least 2.13 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 25.21 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 420,267

Biden hopeful U.S. can reach 1.5 million inoculations per day

With the U.S. topping a seven-day average of 1.1 million vaccinations per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President Joe Biden said he is hopeful that the country can exceed his goal of 1 million doses per day.

"I think with the grace of God and the goodwill of the neighbor and the crick not rising, as the old saying goes, I think we may be able to get that to 1.5 million a day, rather than 1 million a day, but we have to meet that goal of a million a day," Biden said.

Biden pledged to get 100 million shots in the arms of Americans in his first 100 days in office.

Biden's goal, which some public health experts have criticized as being too low, would require a daily pace of 1 million doses, a daily number the Trump administration nearly reached, CNBC's Will Feuer reports.

Chris Eudaily

Telecoms magnate Carlos Slim recovering from Covid

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim gestures as he speaks during a news conference in Mexico City, Mexico October 16, 2019.
Luis Cortes | Reuters

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim is recovering from a mild case of the coronavirus, his son said on Monday according to Reuters.

Slim, 80, is the richest man in Mexico and one of the wealthiest people in the world. His family controls America Movil, the largest Mexican telecommunications provider.

"He's very well and has had a very favorable development after more than a week of minor symptoms," his son, Carlos Slim Domit said on twitter.

Rich Mendez

Biden adds South Africa to travel ban list, extends Europe, Brazil rules

President Joe Biden banned most non-U.S. citizens from entering the United States from South Africa and extended travel restrictions for Europe, the U.K. and Brazil, in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19 and new strains.

Former President Donald Trump had lifted similar rules last week, but Biden's spokeswoman criticized that decision and said the incoming administration would reverse it.

The Trump order was set to begin on Tuesday, when the U.S. starts requiring travelers to show proof of a recent negative Covid test before boarding U.S.-bound flights. Airlines had urged the Trump administration to replace travel bans with testing requirements.

Leslie Josephs

Restaurants are set to expand access to Covid vaccine but are unlikely to force workers to get it

Wyomissing Restaurant and Bakery Food Specialist Megan Catarious, prepares a crepe at the crepe bar at the Wyomissing Restaurant and Bakery on Penn Ave in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, January 22, 2021.
Ben Hasty | MediaNews Group | Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Restaurants are weighing options to encourage their employees to get the Covid vaccine, but they're unlikely to force workers to receive the shots, according to a report from CNBC's Kate Rogers.

Starbucks is assisting with its home state of Washington's vaccine rollout, but has still not made a decision on whether to mandate vaccines for its workers. Chipotle and Yum! Brands told CNBC they don't plan to make vaccines mandatory for employees. McDonald'sRestaurant Brands International, Dunkin' Brands and Papa John's — all large franchisee networks — have yet to take a public stance on mandatory shots.

It's unlikely that a franchised business will go further than merely suggesting that restaurant owners follow specific guidelines, due to ongoing litigation around employment rights.

Rich Mendez

New York is at the end of its 'holiday spike period,' Gov. Cuomo says

New York is at the end of its "post-holiday spike" and could begin rolling back restrictions on some businesses as early as this week if the trends continue, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

The state is now reporting a positivity rate, or the percent of all tests that return positive, of 5.85% — down from a peak of 7.94% on Jan. 4, Cuomo said at a press briefing. The state is gearing up for more reopening announcements that could come as soon as Wednesday, Cuomo said, though he added that they aren't yet planning to resume indoor dining in New York City.

"We believe that we're at the end of the holiday spike period," Cuomo said during a press briefing. "From the increased celebrations we believe that it went up, we believe it came down, and we believe we're seeing a flattening and a reduction."

The Democratic governor warned that residents can't become complacent as new, highly contagious variants of the virus threaten to reverse the state's progress. So far, New York has identified 22 Covid-19 cases with the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the U.K., according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

What to know if you are still waiting for your stimulus check

Miami Herald | Tribune News Service | Getty Images

Millions of Americans are still in stimulus check limbo after a confusing first effort to distribute the $600 direct payments, CNBC's Lorie Konish reports.

Individuals who received a "Payment status not available message" from the IRS or who are unsure of their check status should review their eligibility with the agency and file their taxes as soon as possible.

—Sara Salinas

Centrist senators push Biden to scale back coronavirus relief package

Multiple centrist senators who met with White House officials about President Joe Biden's coronavirus relief plan are pushing the administration to scale back its proposal.

The president put forward a $1.9 trillion aid package to boost the economy and health-care system while the U.S. tries to vaccinate a significant share of its population. Several senators who spoke to Biden advisors are pushing the president to reduce the scope of his plan, calling instead for a smaller bill based around money to streamline Covid-19 vaccine distribution.

—Jacob Pramuk

Nearly 20% of U.S. renters are behind on payments

New York City housing advocates and tenants march to demand Gov. Andrew Cuomo cancel rent amid the pandemic on Oct. 10, 2020.
Andrew Lichtenstein | Corbis News | Getty Images

About 10 million people are behind on their rent payments this month as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take an economic toll, according to a report from CNBC's Diana Olick.

The typical delinquent renter is now nearly four months behind on their rent payment, owing about $5,600 including utilities and late fees, according to an analysis by Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, and Jim Parrott, a fellow at the Urban Institute. More than $53 billion is owed in total when including all delinquent renters.

President Joe Biden extended the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's eviction moratorium through the end of March with one of his first executive orders, but that is unlikely to be enough.

The $900 billion relief package passed in December provides $25 billion for both renters and landlords, but in order to qualify, renters must prove that they suffered financial hardship due to the pandemic, have incomes below 80% of their area's median income and are at risk of becoming homeless.

"Eviction is a serious possibility. Lawmakers deserve credit for ensuring that these households did not lose their homes. But they need to do more. Soon," Zandi and Parrott wrote in their report.

Rich Mendez

White House to begin holding regular Covid briefings

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks to reporters at the White House in Washington, January 25, 2021.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Beginning Wednesday, the White House will hold regular briefings "for the foreseeable future" to update the public on the federal response to the coronavirus, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

"These will be science-led briefings featuring our public health officials and members of our Covid-19 response team," she said. "These briefings will typically happen three times a week to provide the American people with key updates on the virus and our government's response."

Previewing the kind of information that will be discussed at the briefings, Psaki said President Joe Biden over the weekend deployed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help staff a vaccination site in West Virginia.

—Will Feuer

California lifts stay-at-home order statewide, paving way for outdoor dining to reopen

The California Department of Public Health announced that the state will lift its stay-at-home order in every region beginning Monday, paving the way for restaurants and gyms to reopen with modified outdoor services.

Gov. Gavin Newsom first announced the order on Dec. 3, which split California into five regions and was based on an area's intensive-care unit capacity. Three of those regions — San Joaquin Valley, Bay Area and Southern California — were still under the order before it was lifted.

California will move back to its county-by-county tiered reopening system, allowing businesses to reopen depending on the level of Covid-19 spread in their area. Nearly every county will start off in the most widespread, restrictive reopening tier. Many businesses will be allowed to reopen for outdoor services only, and retailers can reopen their businesses at a quarter of their capacity under the most widespread tier.

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

U.S. toy sales jump 16% in 2020 fueled by stay-at-home trends amid the pandemic

A child holds a Walt Disney Co. Pixar Cars brand toy at a Target Corp. store in Chicago.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

U.S. toy sales surged 16% last year, amounting to a $25.1 billion increase, said The NPD Group in a statement.

Families have been looking for new ways to entertain kids during Covid-19 with everyone locked indoors. With the distribution of federal stimulus checks and disposable income shifting from other forms of entertainment like movie theaters and amusement parks to toys, families could afford to purchase toys in order to entertain their children.

In mid-March, toy sales were flat, the market researcher said. However, May brought the largest spike at 38%, one month after the distribution of federal stimulus checks. Toy sales rose again in October, coinciding with Amazon Prime Day early holiday deals from other retailers.

The most popular categories were sports toys, fashion dolls and accessories and building sets like Lego. The best-selling toy brands of the year included L.O.L. Surprise!, Barbie, Star Wars, Pokemon and Marvel Universe.

—Katie Tsai

Pfizer defends move to six-dose vials: 'We need to make sure every dose gets used'

Pfizer knew in summer Covid vaccine vials held six doses but filed as five doses to speed release, board member says
Pfizer knew in summer Covid vaccine vials held six doses but filed as five doses to speed release, board member says

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a Pfizer board member, defended the company's move to ship fewer vials of its Covid-19 vaccine and count six doses per vial, instead of five, saying that it's the best way to ensure the extra dose gets used.

When the company began shipping vials of its vaccine last month, pharmacists discovered that they could often extract an extra dose from each vial that, on paper, only contained five doses. That discovery meant that the United States might actually get more doses of the vaccine than the 200 million the Department of Defense purchased under its contract with Pfizer.

But The New York Times reported Friday that Pfizer executives successfully pushed officials at the Food and Drug Administration in recent weeks to revise the wording of the vaccine's emergency use authorization to formally count the sixth dose toward its federal contract.

"The bottom line here is that this is a very scarce resource. We need to make sure every dose gets used," he said on CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Monday. "The only way to do that is to market this as a vial that has six doses and provide the proper equipment to extract that sixth dose, which, in fact, Pfizer is doing."

—Will Feuer

Delta seeks to bring back some 400 pilots in bet on travel rebound

Delta Air Lines is seeking to bring back 400 of its pilots as it tries to position itself for a rebound in travel demand.

On the back of a more than $12 billion net loss in 2020 — it's largest ever — Delta is now setting the groundwork needed to train hundreds of pilots. Because of pilot and aircraft retirements, as well as reduced flying altogether, many aviators need additional training before they can fly again, a process that can take an airline months.

Airline executives have repeatedly said the first part of 2021 will be difficult with demand still depressed because of the pandemic. However, they expressed optimism about air travel in the months and years ahead as more people are vaccinated against Covid-19.

"As we looked at ways to better position ourselves to support the projected recovery, we saw an opportunity to build back additional pilot staffing in advance of summer 2022 by bringing 400 affected pilots back to active flying status by this summer," John Laughter, Delta's senior vice president of flight operations said in a staff memo last week.

--Leslie Josephs

Airbnb offers to help new administration with Covid vaccine distribution

NurPhoto | Getty Images

Airbnb offered help to the Biden administration identify homes that could be used as vaccine distribution centers in communities that are lacking in pharmacies or medical facilities.

"These Airbnb 'vaccine depots' could be available in locations where there are limited or no health care facilities or pharmacies, so-called 'health care deserts,'" Airbnb said in a letter to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

The announcement comes as the U.S. government struggles to distribute the virus vaccines across the country. Last year, Airbnb launched the Frontline Stays program last year, which allowed hosts to open their homes to frontline and health-care workers.

Rich Mendez

Wearing two masks makes ‘common sense’ and is likely more effective, Dr. Fauci says

NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci addresses the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, January 21, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Dr. Anthony Fauci addressed the trend of wearing two masks to protect from Covid during an interview with NBC News' TODAY.

"So if you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective," Fauci told TODAY. "That's the reason why you see people either double masking or doing a version of an N95."

Attendees at President Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday, including poet Amanda Gorman and Pete Buttigieg, were seen wearing surgical masks underneath cloth masks.

Wearing a combination of a surgical mask made from a plastic-derived material called polypropylene and a cloth mask would provide maximal protection, because the surgical mask acts as a filter and the cloth adds an additional layer and helps with fit, according to commentary on mask-wearing published on Jan. 15.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear masks that have at least two layers of tightly woven cotton fabric, such as quilting fabric or cotton sheets. 

Cory Stieg

Target gives employee bonuses after strong holiday season

Target said it will spend $200 million in employee bonuses after it reported strong holiday season sales during the pandemic.

Hourly workers will get $500 and employees in leadership roles will get between $1,000 and 2,000, the company said in a corporate blog post. The company said it has spent $1 billion more on employee pay and benefits in fiscal 2020 than the year prior.

The big-box retailer has gained market share during the global health crisis as consumers have turned to its stores and website for a wide range of merchandise, from pajamas to cereal, and used its online offerings like curbside pickup.

Target's shares have risen 66% over the past year, bringing its market value to $96.1 billion. Analysts expect the company in early March to report fiscal 2020 earnings of $9.22 per share on sales of $92.71 billion, according to a survey by Refinitiv.

—Melissa Repko

Lack of specialty syringes may hamper U.S. from squeezing more vaccine doses from vials

A syringe is filled from a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine as it is prepared to be administered to front-line health care workers in Reno, Nevada on Dec. 17, 2020.
Patrick T. Fallon | AFP | Getty Images

The U.S. government has started to give healthcare providers new syringe kits to extract six shots from each Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine vial. Yet, syringe maker Becton Dickinson does not have the capacity to boost production of the specialty syringes needed to squeeze more doses from the vaccine vials in the coming weeks, according to a Reuters report citing an executive.

Becton Dickinson has a contract to provide the U.S. government with 286 million syringes for use with Covid-19 vaccines, including around 40 million low dead space syringes that can minimize the amount of vaccine left in the syringe after use.

Low dead space syringes are a niche product and Becton Dickinson didn't discuss plans with the U.S. government to substantially boost their output when they began preparing for the vaccine rollout last year, Troy Kirkpatrick, the company's senior director of public relations, said to Reuters.

The federal government has contracts with other manufacturers, and it was not immediately clear whether they could supply more of the specialty syringes, Reuters reported.

—Melodie Warner 

Moderna working on Covid booster shot for variant in South Africa

Moderna said it is working on a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot to help protect people against a virus variant recently discovered in South Africa, reports CNBC's Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

"Out of an abundance of caution and leveraging the flexibility of our mRNA platform, we are advancing an emerging variant booster candidate against the variant first identified in the Republic of South Africa into the clinic to determine if it will be more effective to boost titers against this and potentially future variants," Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said in a statement.

The biopharmaceutical company also said its current vaccine offers some protection against the newly found strain.

Fred Imbert

CVS completes first round of vaccination at 8,000 U.S. nursing homes

CVS says it has completed first Covid vaccine round at nursing facilities
CVS says it has completed first Covid vaccine round at nursing facilities

CVS Health completed administering the first round of Covid-19 vaccination at roughly 8,000 U.S. nursing facilities, Reuters reports.

Administration of second doses was underway and expected to be completed within four weeks.

CVS Pharmacy has administered nearly 2 million doses to date but has a capacity for 20 million to 25 million shots a month, the company told Reuters, adding that its long-term care vaccination effort remains on track.

Terri Cullen

U.S. doesn't know how much Covid vaccine it has, says CDC chief

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Sunday that the federal government doesn't know how much coronavirus vaccine there is available to the country, adding yet another complication to the new administration's efforts to mitigate the crisis, reports CNBC's Amanda Macias.

"I can't tell you how much vaccine we have, and if I can't tell it to you then I can't tell it to the governors and I can't tell it to the state health officials," CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told "Fox News Sunday."

"If they don't know how much vaccine they're getting not just this week but next week and the week after they can't plan. They can't figure out how many sites to roll out, they can't figure out how many vaccinators that they need, and they can't figure out how many appointments to make for the public," Walensky said.

President Joe Biden has set a goal for the country to administer 100 million vaccines in the president's first 100 days.

Fred Imbert

Merck ends its Covid vaccine program, citing inferior immune responses

Merck ends Covid vaccine program but continues work on treatments
Merck ends Covid vaccine program but continues work on treatments

Merck said it will end development of its two Covid-19 vaccines, Reuters reports.

In early trials, two of the company's vaccines generated immune responses that were inferior to those seen in people who had recovered from Covid-19, as well as those reported for other Covid-19 vaccines, according to Reuters.

The drugmaker said it plans to focus its pandemic research on treatments, with initial efficacy data on an experimental oral antiviral expected by the end of March, the wire service said.

Terri Cullen

Google to open vaccine sites at its U.S. offices

American multinational technology company Google logo seen at Googleplex, the corporate headquarters complex of Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc.
Alex Tai | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

Google will make some of its own facilities available to open new coronavirus vaccination sites in the U.S.

The company said it has partnered with health clinic chain One Medical and public health authorities to open vaccine sites in Los Angeles; San Francisco; Kirkland, Washington; and New York City. The tech giant also plans to open vaccine centers abroad.

Google also committed $100 million in advertising grants to the CDC Foundation, World Health Organization and nonprofits, as well as a $50 million investment aimed at helping public health agencies reach underserved communities with vaccine information.

Google said it will start including Covid-19 vaccination locations in Google Search and Maps in the coming weeks, starting with Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The information will include details like whether an appointment or referral is required and if the location has a drive-thru.

—Ryan Browne

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