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Covid updates: Global cases top 100 million as mutations add to spread

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Minnesota on Monday confirmed the first U.S. case of the more contagious Covid variant originally found in Brazil. With new strains of the coronavirus being identified, President Joe Biden on Monday banned entry for most non-U.S. citizens traveling from South Africa and extended travel restrictions for Europe, the U.K. and Brazil.

Some health officials are concerned that current Covid-19 vaccines may not be as effective against the new, more contagious strains of Covid. Moderna on Monday said company research found its vaccine appears to work against the highly transmissible strain found in the U.K. and it is accelerating work on a booster shot to guard against the South Africa variant.

Here are some of the biggest developments Tuesday:

The U.S. is recording at least 170,700 new Covid-19 cases and at least 3,100 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 100.09 million 
  • Global deaths: At least 2.15 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 25.40 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 424,164

Wisconsin pharmacist charged with trying to spoil Covid vaccines to plead guilty

Steven Brandenburg, a 46-year-old pharmacist from Wisconsin, will plead guilty to charges related to him attempting to defrost and spoil dozens of Covid-19 vaccine doses, the Associated Press reported.

Brandenburg was arrested on Dec. 31 as part of an investigation into how 57 Moderna vaccine vials were left outside a refrigerator for hours.

"Tampering with vaccine doses in the midst of a global health crisis calls for a strong response, as reflected by the serious charges the United States has brought today," acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton said in a statement to AP.

Fred Imbert

Biden administration acquiring 200 million more coronavirus vaccine doses

A senior Biden administration official told NBC News that the White House is buying 200 million additional doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

As part of the deal, the federal government will purchase 100 million doses manufactured by Pfizer and an extra 100 million made by Moderna. These additional vaccines will be available over the summer, the report said. They also add to the 400 million doses that vaccine manufacturers have already committed to providing to the U.S.

"We can't speak to the Trump administration, but what we can say is it is our philosophy, given the nature of this emergency and the speed with which the virus needs to be addressed, to procure enough supply as we need to vaccine Americans and to give Americans the confidence we can do that," the official told NBC News.

Fred Imbert

U.S. officials weigh Covid testing for domestic travel, more country restrictions

U.S. officials are weighing whether to add Covid testing or other measures to domestic travel to curb the spread of the virus.

President Joe Biden called last week for health and transportation officials to recommend potential "additional public health measures for domestic travel." Biden's push came in an order that mandated face masks for interstate travel, including on airplanes.

"We are actively looking at it," Dr. Martin Cetron, director for the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at the CDC, said on a call with reporters.

The U.S. government on Tuesday started requiring U.S.-bound air travelers to show proof of a recent, negative Covid test before boarding flights to the United States. Officials had considered temporary waivers for some destinations due to a lack of tests but reconsidered as new strains spread. "There really isn't time to waste," said Dr. Cetron.

On Monday, Biden barred most non-citizens who have recently been in South Africa, expanding travel restrictions that include much of Europe, the U.K. and Brazil. The State Department will consider additions on a country-by-country basis, Ian Brownlee, acting assistant secretary for the department's Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Brownlee warned travelers to consider trips abroad because if they test positive for Covid they could be stuck there for several weeks.

—Leslie Josephs

Researches find that two masks are better than one

Virginia Tech researchers found that wearing two masks can increase mask efficacy from 50% to 75%, and wearing three masks can increase efficacy to 90%.

CNBC's Contessa Brewer demonstrates how to properly layer your masks.

VIDEO2:2002:20
Is a double mask really better than a single?

Rich Mendez

Global Covid cases top 100 million

The coronavirus has now infected more than 100 million people worldwide in just about 13 months, according to the latest tally from John Hopkins University.

The milestone comes as new, more contagious virus mutations circulate and send infection rates surging.

The United States accounts for a quarter of all confirmed cases, according to JHU. India has reported the second-highest case load with 10.6 million confirmed infections to date, followed by Brazil with 8.8 million.

—Sara Salinas

EU says vaccine makers must make good on dose commitments

Health care workers give out injections of the Pfizer vaccine at a coronavirus vaccination centre set up at Cwmbran Stadium, south Wales, Tuesday January 26, 2021.
Ben Birchall | PA Images | Getty Images

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday that coronavirus vaccine makers must make good on commitments to supply the bloc with millions of promised doses, according to a report from CNBC's Holly Ellyatt.

"Europe is determined to contribute to this global common good, but it also means business," she said at the virtual Davos Agenda summit as she demanded a return for Europe's investments.

The EU, home to 27 member states, got a later start on its vaccine rollout than the U.K. or United States. The bloc is also experiencing a surge in infections resulting from new variants of the virus, adding further complications.

The EU is set to talk with at least one drugmaker on Wednesday, with hopes to further develop distribution plans.

Rich Mendez

Germany considers entry restrictions to stop mutant viruses

German Chancellor Angela Merkel adjusts her protective mask on her way to a Bavarian state cabinet meeting at Herrenchiemsee Island, Germany.
Peter Kneffel | Pool via Reuters

Germany is considering drastically reducing travel into the country, hoping to prevent more virulent strains of the coronavirus from invading the country, Reuters reports.

Chancellor Angela Merkel told government lawmakers that she didn't want a complete travel ban, but argued that there should be no tourism, sources told Reuters.

Measures under consideration to contain the virus included closing borders with regions where the new variants were more prevalent and cutting the number of flights to almost zero, the wire service reported.

Terri Cullen

Covid test becomes new resort amenity as U.S. travel rules kick in

Hyatt Hotels became the latest hotel chain to offer free Covid testing at its resorts in Latin America, an effort to hold onto bookings as the U.S. issues new Covid testing requirements.

The U.S. on Tuesday started requiring international air travelers over the age of 2, including U.S. citizens, to show proof of a recent, negative Covid test before boarding flights to the U.S.

Hyatt will offer free tests for up to two guests per room while more tests are available for purchase. Spanish hotel chain Melia is also offering complementary Covid tests at 10 resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean. Marriott and Hilton said several of their hotels in Latin America and the Caribbean are offering onsite tests or helping travelers access them.

—Leslie Josephs

Biden economic advisor signals eligibility for stimulus checks could be tightened

The Biden White House could be open to adjusting eligibility levels for the next round of coronavirus stimulus checks to make sure the funds only go to families who need them.

Brian Deese, who joined CNBC's "Squawk Box" from the White House, said he has welcomed GOP input and the party's focus on targeting President Joe Biden's relief plan to those in dire financial straits.

"When it comes to the checks, we put forward a proposal that ... passed the House with 275 votes — 44 Republicans voted for it," Deese, director of the National Economic Council, said, referring to the bill the House approved in December that included $2,000 direct payments as proposed by then-President Donald Trump.

"Certainly, if there are ways to make that provision, and other provisions, more effective, that's something that we're open to, that we'll have conversations about," he added.

Thomas Franck

Cici's files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as pandemic batters buffet-style restaurants

A Cici's Pizza restaurant in Buena Vista, Florida.
John Greim | LightRocket | Getty Images

Pizza chain Cici's has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and announced its sale to D&G Investors, its primary lender.

While the coronavirus pandemic has lifted sales for pizza chains like Papa John's, Domino's Pizza and Yum Brands' Pizza Hut, buffet-style restaurants like Cici's saw their sales plunge. All-you-can-eat buffets were already struggling before the crisis, but dining restrictions and consumers' heightened concern over cleanliness accelerated their decline.

—Amelia Lucas

South African President Ramaphosa tells rich countries to stop hoarding vaccines

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visits the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment facilities at the NASREC Expo Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa April 24, 2020.
Jerome Delay | Reuters

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa called on Tuesday for an end to "vaccine nationalism" and urged the richest countries to stop hoarding vaccines, according to a report from CNBC's Elliot Smith. The comments were made at the World Economic Forum's virtual Davos Agenda event.

South Africa is the country worst hit by the coronavirus in Africa. As of Tuesday morning, the country had recorded more than 1.4 million cases with 41,117 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Ramaphosa said some countries orders more vaccines that they need, and warned that this was counterproductive to the world's recovery effort.

"That was aimed at hoarding these vaccines and now this is being done to the exclusion of other countries in the world that most need this," he said.

Rich Mendez

Vaccine distributors cite last-mile delivery problems in hampered vaccine rollout

People without appointments wait in line for the potential chance to receive a Covid-19 vaccination that would have otherwise been discarded at the Kedren Community Health Center on January 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
Patrick T. Fallon | AFP | Getty Images

Two executives at companies helping to distribute vaccines said logistical problems associated with last-mile delivery have hampered the pace of vaccine rollouts, according to reporting by CNBC's Sam Meredith.

"You don't only need the vaccine, but you also have to have the patient, the doctor, additional material like syringes. So, it is a big, big logistical effort to get everything in place, and also keeping the cold chain at the same time for the vaccines," Dorothea von Boxberg, member of the executive board and chief commercial officer at Lufthansa Cargo said.

Meanwhile, Deutsche Post DHL CEO Frank Appel told CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" said the vaccine distribution "will not be a problem of global logistics, it will be a problem of last-mile (delivery) from our warehouses to doctors or whoever because it is difficult to transport minus 70 degrees products."

Vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNTech must be kept at a temperature of about minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit) and require special storage equipment and transportation.

The distribution of the inoculations has been a challenge for policymakers worldwide as they grapple with questions over cost, transportation, distribution and equitable access.

Rich Mendez

IMF more upbeat on global economy, raises U.S. GDP growth forecast

Gita Gopinath, chief economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), speaks during a panel session on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.
Bloomberg

The International Monetary Fund is worried about the risk of new Covid variants to the economic recovery, but it has become more upbeat about the global economy as coronavirus vaccinations are administered across the world.

In its latest World Economic Outlook, the IMF now expects the global economy to grow 5.5% this year — a 0.3 percentage point increase from October's forecast.

The United States is also set to grow more than expected this year.

The IMF revised its U.S. global gross domestic product forecast upward by 2 percentage points on the strong momentum in the second part of 2020 and additional fiscal support.

—Silvia Amaro

Demand for health-care products boosts J&J and 3M earnings

Increased demand for health-care products during the Covid-19 pandemic bolstered fourth-quarter earnings for Johnson & Johnson and 3M.

J&J's quarterly earnings and revenue beat Wall Street's expectations and the company forecast an adjusted profit of $9.40 to $9.60 per share on sales of $90.5 billion to $91.7 billion for 2021, reports CNBC's Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

J&J also expects to release data from the phase three trial of its Covid-19 vaccine as early as this week.

3M, which makes N95 face masks, said fourth-quarter net income rose 43% to $1.40 million, or $2.38 per share, and net sales increased 5.8% to $8.6 billion. 3M's health-care unit has been the best performer among its four divisions, with 2020 sales growing by 12.3% on robust demand for its products, such as hand sanitizers, Reuters reported.

—Melodie Warner 

Travelers now have to show negative Covid tests before flying to the U.S.

Passengers arrive on a flight from London amid new restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at JFK International Airport in New York, December 21, 2020.
Eduardo Munoz | Reuters

The U.S. will require travelers — including U.S. citizens — over the age of 2 years to show proof of a recent, negative Covid-19 test before flying to the United States.

Tests will have to be taken within three days of U.S.-bound flights and are required from all international destinations. Travelers that have been vaccinated or have proof of antibodies must still get a Covid test before their flight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Beach resorts throughout Mexico and the Caribbean are scrambling to secure Covid tests for travelers. Marriott and Hilton say some of their properties are offering testing at the hotel. Mexico had been a relative bright spot for international vacations because it lacks the quarantine and testing requirements that some other destinations have.

Leslie Josephs

Regeneron's antibody cocktail is effective in preventing Covid infection, study shows

VIDEO3:0803:08
Regeneron antibody drug shown to prevent symptomatic Covid-19

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals said its antibody cocktail was effective in preventing Covid-19 in people exposed to those infected with the new coronavirus, based on initial data from a late-stage study, Reuters reports.

The two-antibody cocktail, called REGEN-COV, caused a 100% reduction in symptomatic infection and about 50% fewer overall rates of infection, according to Reuters. About 400 individuals who had a household member with Covid-19 participated in the trial.

The drugmaker said it would discuss the interim results with U.S. regulators to potentially expand the antibody cocktail's current emergency use authorization. Complete data from the trial is expected early in the second quarter, Reuters said.

Terri Cullen

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