Covid updates: Novavax nears U.S. vaccine clearance; CDC worried about states easing restrictions

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Johnson & Johnson has begun shipping out nearly 4 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine after the drug was granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration late Saturday. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walesnky signed off on the single-shot vaccine on Sunday, writing on Twitter that the milestone "an encouraging step toward an end to the #COVID19 pandemic."

J&J CEO: Our science is well-positioned to deal with variants
J&J CEO: Our science is well-positioned to deal with variants

Here are some of the biggest developments Monday:

The U.S. is recording at least 67,300 new Covid-19 cases and at least 2,010 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 114.30 million
  • Global deaths: At least 2.53 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 28.61 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 513,510

It's 'too soon' to pull back on Covid restrictions, warns surgeon

Surgeon Dr. Atul Gawande warned on CNBC's "The News with Shepard Smith" that it's "too soon" to roll back Covid restrictions, with a number of states easing social distancing rules.

"We continue to have 2,000 deaths a day, so this is not the level that we're in a good shape to just plateau at, we've got to push further downward," said the Harvard professor.

Gawande's concern for recent Covid trends echoed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky.

"Our recent declines appear to be stalling — stalling at over 70,000 cases a day," Walensky said during a Monday briefing. "With these new statistics, I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from Covid-19."

Emily DeCiccio

Novavax expects FDA clearance for vaccine as early as May, CEO says

The FDA could authorize Novavax's Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use as early as May, the company's CEO, Stanley Erck, told CNBC on Monday.

Novavax's phase three trial in the U.S. is still ongoing, with 30,000 participants, Erck said. The company hopes the FDA will allow it to use data from its clinical trial conducted in the U.K. when it files its emergency use application later this year, he added.

U.K. health regulators will likely review the vaccine in April, followed by the FDA "probably a month after that," he told CNBC's "Closing Bell" in an interview. He added the timeline could get pushed back by one or two months if the FDA chooses to wait for the U.S.-based trial data.

–Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

President Trump, first lady Melania Trump vaccinated for Covid at the White House in January

Republicans unite around Trump at CPAC
Republicans unite around Trump at CPAC

Former President Donald Trump and former first lady Melania Trump received coronavirus vaccinations in January at the White House, a person who works for Trump told CNBC.

Trump, who left office on Jan. 20, did not announce at the time that he and the first lady had been vaccinated.

It's unclear which vaccine the president and the first lady received. At the time they were inoculated, two vaccines had been authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Trump, in a speech Sunday at CPAC, encouraged "everybody" to get vaccinated.

Kevin Breuninger

All U.S. Apple stores open for first time since March

A customer exits after picking up Apple's new 5G iPhone 12 that went on sale, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues, at an Apple Store in Brooklyn, New York, October 23, 2020.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

All 270 Apple stores in the United States are open for business after the last closed locations reopened in Texas on Monday.

Not all stores are fully open for walk-in customers to go inside and browse, however. Many Apple locations are still open by appointment only or for pickups and drop-offs.

It's the first time that all U.S. stores are open since Apple started closing stores in response to the Covid-19 pandemic last spring.

Apple announced on March 13 it was closing all its stores outside China as the coronavirus pandemic started to pick up around the world. At the time, the closings were only scheduled through March 27, although it soon became clear that the lockdowns would stretch for months.

Twelve Apple stores in France and two in Brazil are still closed. Two stores in Mexico are scheduled to reopen on Tuesday.

—Kif Leswing

How soon new $1,400 stimulus checks arrive depends on Congress

A banner reading "Yo Congress - Real People, Real Relief" is displayed over North Capitol Street near the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021.
Sarah Silbiger | Bloomberg | Getty Images

This week the Senate is expected to take up the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill that contains $1,400 stimulus checks.

That has many Americans asking: When will I receive the money?

The timing of the direct payments depends on how soon the legislation is approved. Currently, that is expected to be mid-March, when extra federal unemployment benefits are due to expire.

From there, direct deposits could start arriving within two weeks for those individuals who have their bank information on file with the IRS, according to Garrett Watson, senior policy analyst at the Tax Foundation.

The rest will arrive later as paper check or debit card payments, potentially into April or even May, Watson said.

One thing that could complicate the process is the fact that the IRS will be in the middle of tax season. However, the tax agency will be able to draw from its experience with the two previous rounds of checks, Watson said.

Senate Republicans could push back on the size of the overall package this week, said Bill Hoagland, senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

However, they will likely focus on recurring payments, he said. Therefore, the one-time $1,400 payments could stay unchanged.

—Lorie Konish

Delta hands out bonuses to managers after pandemic pay cuts

Delta Air Lines is paying managers bonuses from a few thousand dollars to above six figures, to help make up for pay cuts the carrier implemented at the start of the pandemic last year.

Frontline employees, like pilots and flight attendants, and other office workers are not receiving bonuses. Delta's pilots' union criticized the measure.

Delta cut managers' pay and cut workers' hours by 25% to slash costs after travel demand plummeted. The carrier avoided involuntary furloughs and job cuts, in part thanks to the 18,000 employees, roughly 20% of Delta's pre-pandemic workforce, that accepted buyouts and early retirement packages last year.

Delta lost a record $12.4 billion in 2020.

Leslie Josephs

Fauci says Biden administration is taking New York Covid variant 'very seriously'

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci speaks during the daily briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, on January 21, 2021.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

The Biden administration is taking the emergence of a new coronavirus strain in New York "very seriously," White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

The new strain, which researchers are calling B.1.526, is rapidly spreading in New York City and carries a mutation that could weaken the effectiveness of vaccines, according to the New York Times. The variant first appeared in November and now accounts for about one in four viral sequences, the Times reports.

Fauci said the strain likely originated in Washington Heights, a neighborhood in the uppermost area of Manhattan, before spreading to other boroughs. He said U.S. officials need to "keep an eye" on the strain, including the possibility that it could evade the protection of antibody treatments and vaccines.

–Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

CDC director 'really worried' about states rolling back Covid safety measures

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said she is "really worried" about states rolling back Covid-19 restrictions as U.S. cases appear to be leveling off at a "very high number."

The declines in Covid-19 cases seen since early January now appear to be stalling at around 70,000 new cases per day, Walensky said during a White House news briefing. "Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained."

Top U.S. health officials have warned in recent weeks that the rise of more contagious variants could reverse the downward trajectory in infections in the U.S. and delay the nation's recovery from the pandemic.

Officials say viruses cannot mutate if they cannot infect hosts and replicate. They are also pushing Americans to get vaccinated as quickly as possible before potentially new and even more dangerous variants continue to take hold.

–Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Senate Democrats to abandon minimum wage plan in Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus

Senate Democrats will scrap plans to help raise workers' pay by taxing companies that refused to pay a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

A handful of lawmakers last week floated a backup plan to President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus bill that would have punished corporations that paid workers below a certain threshold.

Senators had floated the so-called "plan B" after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that a proposed federal minimum wage increase to $15 per hour in Biden's original stimulus package didn't meet the requirements under budget reconciliation.

Thomas Franck

Vaccines appear to reduce virus spread but question is by how much, Gottlieb says

Former FDA chief Gottlieb: Covid vaccine reduces transmission, but question is how much
Former FDA chief Gottlieb: Covid vaccine reduces transmission, but question is how much

Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC that early studies suggest Covid vaccines are effective in preventing person-to-person of the virus. However, a definitive answer on the level of impact is likely to arrive in the next month or two, Gottlieb added on "Squawk Box."

"The accumulating evidence is very convincing that there's a reduction in transmission," said Gottlieb, pointing to real-world studies involving Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine in Israel and data released from Johnson & Johnson's clinical trial regarding asymptomatic infections.

"I think most people agree ... people who are vaccinated are less likely to transmit the infection if they do become infected themselves," added Gottlieb, a Pfizer board member and former Food and Drug Administration commissioner.

J&J's CEO, Alex Gorsky, told CNBC earlier in the day that more data is needed but said those initial findings would represent a "major dent" in efforts to fight the pandemic.

Kevin Stankiewicz

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus, health-care tech company Aetion and biotech company Illumina. He also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings' and Royal Caribbean's "Healthy Sail Panel." 

Covid relief lifts 1.6 million out of poverty

A volunteer carries food as he loads up cars of people who line up to receive food assistance amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Wayne County area at Second Ebenezer Church in Detroit, Michigan, January 29, 2021.
Emily Elconin | Reuters

A $900 billion Covid relief bill helped lift about 1.6 million Americans out of poverty in January, according to economists at the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame.

The legislation, passed in December, offered $600 stimulus checks and extra unemployment benefits, including a $300 weekly boost in jobless aid.

That cash infusion led the poverty rate to fall to 11.3% in January, from 11.8% the month prior. It was the first reduction in poverty since June. Americans had steadily joined the ranks of the poor after CARES Act relief expired.

The federal poverty line is $12,880 in annual income for a single adult and $26,500 for a family of four in 2021.

Greg Iacurci

Dem accuses DeSantis of favoritism in vaccine rollout

A top Florida Democrat has accused Gov. Ron DeSantis of "political favoritism" in his state's distribution of Covid-19 vaccine doses.

Nikki Fried, the state's Democratic agriculture commissioner, said that at least three "pop-up" vaccination sites have been "organized in wealthy communities affiliated with donors to the governor's political campaigns."

Fried, who's long been a staunch critic of DeSantis, asked Congress to investigate in a letter sent to Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., chairman of the committee on the coronavirus crisis, and Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., its ranking Republican member. 

It's the second time a Florida Democrat has called for a federal investigation into DeSantis' handling of the vaccine rollout. On Feb. 21, Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., sent a letter to the Department of Justice, asking it to investigate reports that DeSantis has established vaccination sites "in select locations to benefit political allies and donors, over the needs of higher-risk communities and existing county waitlists."

—Will Feuer

Two former lawmakers debate long-term spending consequences of $1.9 trillion relief bill

Two former lawmakers debate long-term spending consequences of $1.9 trillion relief bill
Two former lawmakers debate spending consequences of $1.9 trillion relief bill

The Senate will debate President Joe Biden's stimulus bill this week, where divisions among some Democrats will be front and center. While the country is still suffering from the impact of Covid-19, there are concerns over the long-term impact of the trillions of dollars spent on the recovery.

Heidi Heitkamp, former senator of North Dakota and founding board member of The One Country Project, and Judd Gregg, former U.S. senator and governor from New Hampshire, joined CNBC's "Squawk Box" to discuss the bill.

First COVAX doses administered in Africa

The first Covid-19 vaccine doses that arrived in Africa as part of the World Health Organization-backed COVAX facility have been administered, the WHO announced Monday.

The first doses were administered to health-care workers in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire, the WHO said. About 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Ghana last week and more than 500,000 doses arrived in Cote d'Ivoire.

COVAX is a global plan co-led by the WHO, an international vaccine alliance called Gavi, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. The goal is to acquire doses of Covid-19 vaccines and distribute them to participating companies with an emphasis on equity so that low-income countries are not left out of the vaccination effort. It plans to deliver at least 2 billion doses of vaccines by the end of the year.

—Will Feuer

Lost jobs, less pay, no childcare: A year into the pandemic, women are not OK

Brothers91 | E+ | Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic is having a devastating effect on women.

Women are falling further behind in the workforce, reaching labor participation rates not seen since 1988, according to the National Women's Law Center. They are losing jobs at a higher rate than men: In December alone they accounted for 100% of the jobs lost. With schools closed, others have made the decision to downsize or quit their jobs.

The immediate impact is on their personal finances, leaving many families struggling to make ends meet. Yet there are also long-term implications. Experts worry the pay gap, currently at 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, could widen.

—Michelle Fox

J&J CEO says vaccine will keep people out of the hospital, prevent deaths

Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky told CNBC that the company's newly authorized Covid-19 vaccine will be an important tool in the fight against the coronavirus because it prevents hospitalizations and deaths.

Some people have questioned whether they should get J&J's vaccine due to the lower efficacy rate. Clinical trial data show J&J's vaccine is 66% effective overall at protecting against Covid-19, compared with about 95% for Pfizer's and Moderna's vaccine.

But Gorsky said the most important finding of the J&J vaccine is that it prevented 100% of virus-related hospitalizations and deaths.

"There's a lot of different ways to try and do comparisons," he told CNBC's "Squawk Box." But when you really look at what's the objective here? Keeping people out of the hospital. Keeping people from dying. We believe this is an incredibly important tool to be added, to healthcare systems let alone for patients around the world."

Watch CNBC's full interview with J&J CEO Alex Gorsky on the single-shot Covid vaccine rollout
CNBC's full interview with J&J CEO on the company's Covid vaccine approval

—Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

America's teachers reach a breaking point

A teacher wearing a protective mask walks around the classroom during a lesson at an elementary school in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, Oct. 5, 2020.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

After nearly a year of struggling to meet the demands of teaching in-person or online during the coronavirus crisis, many educators say they are ready to switch careers or retire.

Overall, K-12 employees reported their general satisfaction with their employers sank to 44% in October from 69% in March 2020, according to a report from the Center for State and Local Government Excellence. More than one-third of respondents said that working during the pandemic has made them consider changing jobs.

At the college level, even more faculty say they are considering changing careers or retiring early, according to a separate report from Fidelity Investments and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

"Teachers have been feeling the brunt of how drastically this pandemic has changed our world," said Colin Sharkey, executive director of the Association of American Educators, a national professional association.

"The demands that are put on them are off the charts."

—Jessica Dickler

The latest on U.S. Covid trends

Work-from-home hacks that are still vital a year into lockdowns

Roy James Shakespeare | Getty

A year into working from home during the pandemic, many employees are still seeking day-to-day solutions to maintain productivity.

Keeping good posture, instead of spending the entire working day slumped over a laptop, for example, is particularly difficult for workers without a dedicated workspace at home. One tip from an Instagram user is to use a resistance band to help keep shoulders back.

Getting back the lost commute time, which would typically be used by many to catch up on reading or emails, is another challenge. Grace Marshall, a productivity coach at Think Productive, suggested sticking post-it notes nearby and using points in the working day when we feel tired to tackle this "life admin."

Vicky McKeever

UK searches for mystery person infected with Covid variant first detected in Brazil

Commuters cross London Bridge at sunrise on March 1, 2021 in London, England.
Hollie Adams | Getty Images

U.K. health officials are keen to trace one of six individuals infected with a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, initially identified in Brazil.

Up to six cases of the new strain — dubbed P.1 and considered a "variant of concern" by global health experts — have been detected in the U.K., with three cases in Scotland and three in England.

What's troubling to British officials is that one of the three cases found in England has not been traced. The government issued a statement Sunday noting that two of the cases in England are from one household in South Gloucestershire with a history of travel to Brazil, and "there is a third, currently unlinked case."

Holly Ellyatt

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