Covid updates: New group could be eligible for stimulus payments; J&J details severe vaccine reactions

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A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel will review and vote on Johnson & Johnson's single-shot Covid-19 vaccine on Friday, potentially paving the way for an emergency use authorization in the coming days. If authorized, J&J's shot would be the third to be made available in the U.S. and would be distributed through a comparatively simple supply chain: The one-dose regimen eliminates the need to track return visits, and the drug can be stored at less extreme temperatures than vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna. The influx of supply and simplified logistics would likely mean an immediate boost to national vaccination rates when the vaccine hits the market as early as next week.

Here are some of the biggest developments Friday:

The U.S. is recording at least 73,300 new Covid-19 cases and at least 2,160 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 113.26 million
  • Global deaths: At least 2.51 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 28.46 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 509,710

‘20 million doses delivered by the end of March,’ says Johnson & Johnson board member

JNJ approval a huge step for saving lives and getting beyond the pandemic, says fmr. FDA commissioner
JNJ approval a huge step for saving lives and getting beyond the pandemic, says fmr. FDA commissioner

Johnson & Johnson board member Dr. Mark McClellan says the company expects 20 million doses delivered by the end of March as the U.S. becomes one step away from adding a third safe and effective vaccine to its arsenal.

"There is going to be a ramp-up period, so 4 million doses expected next week, going higher during the month of March with 20 million doses delivered by the end of March," said the former FDA Commissioner in a Friday evening interview on "The News with Shepard Smith." "So that's 20 million people fully vaccinated since it's just one dose for the vaccine."

A panel of Food and Drug Administration advisors late Friday voted unanimously to recommend Johnson & Johnson's single-dose shot for emergency use authorization. The FDA will decide as early as Saturday whether to approve the vaccine.

Emily DeCiccio

FDA panel recommends J&J's single-shot coronavirus vaccine for emergency use

FDA advisory committee recommends J&J vaccine for emergency use
FDA advisory committee recommends J&J vaccine for emergency use

A Food and Drug Administration panel voted unanimously to recommend a single-shot Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, CNBC's Berkeley Lovelace Jr. reports.

The vote, which puts the vaccine closer to receiving emergency use authorization, comes as the Biden administration tries ramp up the coronavirus vaccination process in the U.S. It also comes amid the emergence of new coronavirus variants, particularly the B.1.351 strain from South Africa.

Adam MacNeil, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said before the panel's vote that scaling up vaccinations could mitigate the impact of the new strains. He also said the U.S. "nowhere close" to herd immunity, but vaccinations could help in "moving us closer to filling the herd immunity gap."

Fred Imbert

Here’s who could be eligible for stimulus checks for the first time under the current plan

Congressional Democrats are inching closer to passing a $1.9 trillion stimulus package that includes a direct payment of $1,400 to most Americans. If signed, the bill would make dependents 17 and older eligible to receive these payments for the first time, reports CNBC's Lorie Konish.

This would be positive news for people like Austin Goergen, a 20-year-old student at Oregon State University. Goergen started a petition after he realized the first $1,200 would exclude him and others claimed as dependents.

"It just seemed like a really large oversight," Goergen said. "I think the current bill with regard to how it's approaching stimulus checks does a much better job," he said.

Fred Imbert

J&J says two people had severe allergic reactions after getting vaccine

Two people suffered severe allergic reactions shortly after getting Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine, a J&J scientist told an FDA panel.

One of the people was participating in an ongoing trial in South Africa and developed anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, after getting the vaccine, said Macaya Douoguih, head of clinical development and medical affairs for J&J's vaccines division Janssen.

There were previously no reports of anaphylaxis in J&J's clinical trials. The CDC is currently monitoring for such events as states and pharmacies roll out Pfizer's and Moderna's vaccines. To date, the occurrence of the reactions from those two vaccines is in the range of those reported for the influenza vaccine, according to the CDC.

If one has a severe allergic reaction after getting the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, the CDC recommends that they do not get a second dose, even if the allergic reaction was not severe enough to require emergency care.

–Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Formula One revenue falls 43% in 2020 as pandemic hamstrings racing

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, December 13, 2020.
Giuseppe Cacace | Reuters

Formula One revenue fell 43% in 2020, to $1.145 billion down from $2.022 billion the year before, Reuters reports, as the Covid-19 pandemic hamstrung the sport that typically sees thousands of staff and fans travelling from one country to another each weekend for races.

The sport posted an operating loss for the year, with Grand Prix weekends canceled and fans kept away, marking a smaller total haul to share among the racing teams.

"Due to the reduced number of races, the duration of the season and almost no fan attendance, unsurprisingly primary revenue declined," said new chief executive Stefano Domenicali, according to Reuters.

—Sara Salinas

CDC director warns recent decline in U.S. cases may have stalled

Tanna Ingraham places a sheet over the body of a patient who died inside the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, December 30, 2020.
Callaghan O'Hare | Reuters

Covid-19 cases in the U.S., which have been on the decline since early January, are now showing signs of stalling, a concerning trend as highly transmissible virus variants begin to take hold, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.

"Over the last few weeks, cases and hospital admissions in the United States have been coming down since early January and deaths have been declining in the past week," Walensky said during a press briefing. "But the latest data suggest that these declines may be stalling, potentially levelling off at still a very high number."

The nation is now reporting a daily average of roughly 73,300 new cases over the last week, a slight uptick compared with a week prior, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The recent shift may be a sign that new, highly transmissible variants of the coronavirus are beginning to take hold, Walensky said.

"I want to be clear: Cases, hospital admissions and deaths all remain very high, and the recent shift in the pandemic must be taken extremely seriously," Walensky said.

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

Achieving herd immunity is still far off in U.S., CDC scientist says

The U.S. has a ways to go before it can achieve herd immunity, CDC scientist Adam MacNeil said. The spread of new, more contagious virus strains requires even more people to get vaccinated to reach the benchmark.

Herd immunity happens when enough people in a given population have antibodies against a disease, either through vaccination or prior exposure to the virus. This prevents disease spread within a community, even to those who don't have immunity.

"Currently we know that the majority of the U.S. population is not immune to SARS-CoV-2 and variants may cause this portion of the population that is not immune to increase," MacNeil said.

Hannah Miao

White House asking business groups to help fight Covid, assist vaccine rollout

White House officials on Friday unveiled a new partnership between the administration and top business groups to help with the national Covid-19 response and vaccine rollout, Andy Slavitt, White House senior advisor for Covid response, announced.

The partnership includes the Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers as well as leaders in the Hispanic, African American, Asian American and other minority business organizations, Slavitt said.

Slavitt said administration officials will hold calls with business groups over the next few weeks urging them to help with the federal response to the pandemic. He said the White House will call on them to require employees to follow public health precautions and educate the public about the importance of getting vaccinated.

"First, require masking and social distancing to protect workers, customers and others on the premises," Slavitt said. "Second, reduce barriers to vaccinations. Make a plan to get employees vaccinated and make it easier for employees to get vaccinated by providing incentives like paid time off or compensation for employees to get vaccinated when it's their turn."

—Will Feuer

Bill Gates: By late spring and summer ‘you can look at changing your behavior in a significant way’

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has been fully vaccinated for Covid, but plans to continue wearing masks until the fall, adding that the practice isn't "a huge disastrous thing," he said during an interview on social media app Clubhouse Wednesday.

"I want to set a good example," Gates told Andrew Ross Sorkin, co-anchor of CNBC's "Squawk Box."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who have received both doses of the vaccine continue to follow public health protocol, such as social distancing, practicing good hand hygiene and wearing a mask when in public. It's not clear whether the vaccines for Covid can also prevent transmission.

"I'm not going to stop wearing masks or being careful, particularly around older people who haven't been vaccinated," Gates said.

The Microsoft co-founder said that if infection rates come down, people might be able to relax some prevention measures. "It's only by late spring or summer that we're going to get to numbers where you can look at changing your behavior in a significant way," Gates said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical advisor, said that it's possible Americans will need to continue wearing masks through 2022, during an interview with CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday. 

Cory Stieg

House is set to pass $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during her weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., February 18, 2021.
Kevin Lemarque | Reuters

The House of Representatives is set to approve its $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package later in the day as Democrats try to beat a March 14 deadline to extend unemployment aid.

The Senate is expected to start considering its version of the legislation next week.

The House bill includes payments of $400 per week to Americans receiving unemployment benefits, $1,400 stimulus checks to most households and their dependents, and assistance to families of up to $3,600 per child. The bill would put $20 billion into Covid-19 vaccinations, $50 billion into testing, and $350 billion into state, local and tribal government aid.

The Senate will likely approve a different version of the plan. The House bill includes a $15 per hour minimum wage — which the Senate parliamentarian said is not allowed in the chamber under budget reconciliation rules.

Democrats are trying to find a different way to boost compensation through the Senate bill, potentially by penalizing companies that do not pay a $15 per hour minimum wage. Democrats are expected to pass the legislation on their own through the special budget process, as Republicans have questioned the need for nearly $2 trillion more in spending.

—Jacob Pramuk

Israeli data suggest mass vaccinations prevent severe Covid, study shows

Israeli data suggest that mass vaccinations have prevented people from becoming severely sick from Covid-19, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Israel has vaccinated more than 80% of its 70 years and older citizens, offering insight into the vaccine's effects on a population level. While clinical trials have found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be 95% effective in preventing Covid-19, the Israeli data offer an early glimpse into how effective the vaccine is in an uncontrolled, real-world setting.

The study, which was published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found that among the part of the Israeli population that has been vaccinated the most, the percentage of patients requiring ventilation dropped drastically, suggesting a reduction in severe sickness.

—Will Feuer

Income surges 10% in January as stimulus payments roll in, but inflation remains tepid

Personal income jumps 10% in January due to stimulus checks
Personal income jumps 10% in January due to stimulus checks

Personal income soared 10% in January to its highest monthly level since April 2020 thanks to an injection of cash from government stimulus payments.

The increase was even higher than the Dow Jones estimate of 9.5% and came as millions of Americans received $600 Covid relief checks thanks to Congress.

Inflation, however, remained tame as spending rose just 2.4% and the personal savings rate jumped to 20.5%, its highest pace since May 2020. The personal consumption expenditures price index, which is the Federal Reserve's preferred inflation gauge, rose 0.3% on the month for a 1.5% year-over-year gain, still well below the central bank's 2% target.

Jeff Cox

American Heart Association crowdsources solutions in the fight against heart disease

American Heart Association crowdsources solutions in the fight against heart disease
American Heart Association crowdsources solutions in the fight against heart disease

Heart disease claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people per day last month. It is now the second leading cause of death in the U.S. after Covid-19. In response, the American Heart Association has taken a novel approach to encourage health-related startups to bring them solutions to promote health equity.

In its Empowered to Serve Business Accelerator program, entrepreneurs pitch ideas for products and services from outside the traditional health care system to help fight heart disease and stroke. Telling their stories in a virtual Shark Tank-like competition, this year's finalists vied to win the top prize of $40,000. 

The first place winner — ResusciTech CEO and co-founder Abigail Kohler — said her company will use some of that money to translate its mobile app for CPR training into several languages. AHA President Nancy Brown said the app will help build on the CPR training her organization already provides to millions of health care workers.

Sharon Epperson 

Cigna is buying telehealth firm MDLive amid pandemic push toward virtual healthcare

Health insurer Cigna is acquiring telehealth firm MDLive, after having invested in the virtual care provider in the private market. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but analysts put MDLive's valuation at $1 billion, following a $50 million capital raise last fall.

The telehealth company had been expected to go public this year.

The Covid pandemic has propelled telehealth usage and accelerated competition in the market for virtual care. Teladoc, CVS Health, UnitedHealth Group and Amazon are all pursuing new virtual primary care services for employers.

Cigna expects the deal to close in the second quarter of this year, and will offer greater detail on the merger at its March 8 investor day.

—Bertha Coombs

FDA panel votes on J&J's vaccine today

Vials of Johnson & Johnson's Janssen coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine candidate are seen during the Phase 3 ENSEMBLE trial in an undated photograph.
Johnson & Johnson | via Reuters

A key FDA advisory panel is voting Friday on whether to recommend approval of Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use. Here's what you need to know before they vote.

A favorable vote from the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will likely clear the path for the U.S. agency to approve J&J's vaccine for emergency use. If approved, J&J's vaccine would be the third authorized for use in the U.S., behind Pfizer's and Moderna's.

Initially, doses would be limited. Jeff Zients, President Joe Biden's Covid czar, told reporters on Wednesday that the federal government expects to ship 3 million to 4 million doses of J&J's vaccine next week to states, pharmacies and community health centers, pending FDA authorization.

–Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

EU leaders urge speeding up vaccinations

Elderly people who had just been inoculated against COVID-19 wait briefly in case of side effects before departing at the vaccine center at the Messe Berlin trade fair grounds on the center's opening day during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on January 18, 2021 in Berlin, Germany. The center is the third to open in Berlin. Three more are to open in coming weeks once shipments of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines pick up pace.
SEAN GALLUP | AFP | Getty Images

The European Union needs to be faster in its efforts to vaccinate people against the coronavirus, the 27 heads of state said on Thursday.

The EU has faced production, delivery and red tape issues in the deployment of Covid vaccines and has therefore struggled to catch up with the inoculation pace seen in other parts of the world.

The European Commission said Thursday it expects about 100 million doses of vaccine to be delivered to the region by the end of the first quarter and about 500 million doses delivered by the end of June.

The European Commission is working with pharmaceutical firms in an effort to avoid any further bottlenecks in the delivery process and is looking at having more production plants on the continent.

So far, the EU has vaccinated about 8% of the adult population. The bloc aims to increase that number to 70% by the end of the summer.

—Silvia Amaro

U.S. buys 100,000 courses of Eli Lilly's latest antibody treatment

The Eli Lilly logo is shown on one of the company's offices in San Diego, California, Sept. 17, 2020.
Mike Blake | Reuters

The United States has agreed to purchase 100,000 treatment courses of Eli Lilly's recently approved antibody treatment for Covid-19.

The agreement comes at an initial purchase price of $210 million and includes an option to buy additional supply as needed, up to 1.2 million total treatment courses.

The therapeutic from Eli Lilly combines two monoclonal antibodies, bamlanivimab and etesevimab, administered through an IV infusion to treat high-risk Covid patients who are displaying symptoms but have not yet developed severe disease.

It received an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration earlier this month.

—Sara Salinas

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