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Covid updates: Fauci warns progress is slowing; Maryland reopens more businesses

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People who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can safely gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people — and some unvaccinated people — without wearing masks or social distancing, according to new guidance released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday. The CDC said everyone should still refrain from traveling, even if they're vaccinated. Travel industry groups and labor unions on Monday urged the Biden administration to issue guidelines for Covid-19 vaccine passports to create a uniform system that will help customers feel comfortable with booking trips again.

Here are the biggest developments Tuesday:

The U.S. is recording at least 58,100 new Covid-19 cases and at least 1,5600 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 117.42 million 
  • Global deaths: At least 2.60 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 29.08 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 527,482

Yellen says local aid will be distributed quickly after stimulus passes

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Tuesday that the money allotted for state and local governments in the latest U.S. stimulus package will be distributed quickly after the measure is signed into law, CNBC's Jeff Cox reports.

"The rescue plan will fund a massive immunization campaign. It will ensure people are able to keep a roof over their heads and that unemployment insurance checks still come in the mail," Yellen told a virtual National League of Cities conference.

The $1.9 trillion government aid bill was approved by the Senate, and House Democrats hope to pass it on Wednesday.

Fred Imbert

Fauci warns U.S. cases may plateau again at a high level

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on June 30, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Kevin Dietsch | AFP via Getty Images

White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Covid-19 cases in the U.S. may level off again at very high volume, even as the nation rapidly administers three vaccines.

The decline in cases seen since early January now appears to be "going down a little more slowly," Fauci told the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a D.C.-based think tank. That means the U.S. might "plateau again at an unacceptably high level," he added.

The U.S. has already experienced two cycles of surging cases, followed by falling infections and ultimately a plateau. Some health experts fear the U.S. could see a "fourth wave" of infections as new, highly contagious variants continue to spread and some states lift restrictions intended to contain the virus.

Fauci urged Americans to wear masks, social distance and get vaccinated, saying the virus cannot mutate if it can't infect hosts and replicate.

–Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Maryland governor lifts restrictions on gyms, restaurants and other businesses

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan lifted restrictions on gyms, restaurants and other nonessential businesses in the state, becoming the latest state to eliminate capacity limits as Covid cases slow.

Effective Friday at 5 p.m., capacity limits will be lifted for outdoor and indoor dining, retailers, religious facilities, hair and nail salons, casinos and other recreational businesses. Larger event spaces can reopen at 50% capacity.

Social distancing and public masking requirements will remain in place, but the state will no longer require or enforce travel quarantines.

"With the pace of vaccinations rapidly rising and our health metrics steadily improving, the lifting of these restrictions is a prudent, positive step in the right direction and an important part of our economic recovery" Hogan, a Republican, said at a media briefing.

—Sara Salinas

Next Covid bill will waive $20,400 of unemployment income for married couples

Some couples who both claimed unemployment insurance income in 2020 will get a tax break from the next Covid bill.

The $1.9 trillion stimulus package will waive taxes on the first $10,200 of unemployment income for individuals with adjusted gross income below $150,000 in 2020.

For married couples who file jointly, earned less than $150,000 in combined adjusted gross income, and both collected unemployment insurance benefits in 2020, the amount that won't be taxed is doubled — that means the first $20,400 of unemployment income is tax free.

The waiver is intended to avoid hitting families with a surprise tax bill following a year when millions lost work due to the pandemic.

—Carmen Reinicke

New stimulus package would help laid off workers with COBRA premiums

LifestyleVisuals | E+ | Getty Images

As part of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, the government would pay for former employees to maintain health coverage from their old job through COBRA, or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act.

COBRA typically allows people who leave a company with 20 or more employees to pay to continue their workplace insurance plan for as long as 18 months. But the option tends to be pricey because individuals are now shouldering the entire cost of the plan without any company support.

With the subsidy, "you may see dramatically more people sign up," said Caitlin Donovan, a spokeswoman for the National Patient Advocate Foundation.

Here's what you need to know.

—Annie Nova

Data center real estate to surge as more people work from home

Construction workers work on phase two of the Facebook data centre on March 1, 2021 in Eagle Mountain, Utah.
Gregory Frey | AFP | Getty Images

Data center real estate is set to surge as the coronavirus pandemic forces people to search for more power to fuel their online work lives, according to a new report from commercial real estate company CBRE, CNBC's Diana Olick reports.

In the data real estate industry, growth is measured in power, not square footage. The huddled real estate isn't meant for human quarters, but ideal for data centers.

"We know there's already 500 megawatts of new build coming online now, almost 70% of which is pre-leased. And so we do believe that 2021 might be the record year, and then we'll accelerate thereafter," said Spencer Levy, senior economic advisor for CBRE. 

Rich Mendez

House moves to pass $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill Wednesday

The House plans to pass Democrats' $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill on Wednesday morning.

The vote will allow President Joe Biden to sign the plan into law by this weekend. Washington will likely beat the Sunday deadline to extend key unemployment aid programs.

Biden expects the $1,400 direct payments in the bill will start to go into Americans' bank accounts later this month.

The rescue package includes the stimulus payments, a $300-per-week unemployment insurance boost through Sept. 6, an expansion of the child tax credit, state and local government relief and rental assistance. It also puts new funding into Covid-19 vaccine distribution and testing.

House Democratic leaders do not expect to have trouble approving the plan despite changes the Senate made to win over the most conservative members of the party. Democrats passed the bill through the Senate without a vote from Republicans, who questioned the need for more economic stimulus spending.

—Jacob Pramuk

The SBA's PPP priority application window for the smallest businesses closes Tuesday

The 14-day priority window for businesses with fewer than 20 employees to apply for forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans through the Small Business Administration closes Tuesday, March 9 at 5pm ET.

The special application period was announced last month by the Biden administration to ensure access to the program to the smallest firms, which are mostly led by women and people of color. The window began on Feb. 24.

Businesses that are eligible but were not able to take advantage of the priority window due to the timing of new eligibility rules and an updated loan calculation formula for sole proprietors will still be able to apply for funding. All eligible small businesses can still apply for PPP loans through the program deadline of March 31.

Lenders do not expect the program to run out of money ahead of the end date. This year, through March 7, the SBA had approved more than 2.4 million PPP loans totaling nearly $165 billion. That's about 58% of the $284 billion allocated for the program when it was reopened in January.

—Carmen Reinicke

Boeing aircraft orders outpace cancellations for first time since 2019

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Boeing orders see first positive monthly gain in orders since November 2019

For the first time since November 2019, Boeing's monthly aircraft sales outpaced canceled orders, CNBC's Leslie Josephs reports.

In February, the aerospace giant sold 82 aircraft and had just 51 orders scrapped.

The coronavirus crisis has devastated sales of new planes, as travelers opted to stay home and airlines struggled to stay financially stable. As the Covid-19 vaccine rollout gains steam, however, some airlines are prepping for a rebound in travel and have resumed ordering new planes.

Boeing now has a backlog of 4,041 aircraft.

Terri Cullen

Pfizer vaccine neutralizes Brazil and U.K. Covid variants, lab study finds

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Pfizer vaccine neutralizes Brazil and UK variants of Covid-19, lab study finds

There's new optimism surrounding Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine's ability to fight against the rapidly spreading new variants. CNBC's Meg Tirrell reports.

What employees miss most about the office while they're working from home

As much as workers have enjoyed the benefits of telecommuting during the pandemic, some things just aren't the same.

After a year of working from home, employees miss talking to other adults most of all, according to a recent report by management consultancy Seyfarth at Work.

Lunches and happy hours with colleagues, more daily structure and fewer interruptions by children also ranked high in the poll of more than 500 workers from companies of all sizes.

Even 16% of respondents said they missed their daily commute, noted Philippe Weiss, president of Seyfarth at Work. The commute allows workers to transition in and out of the workday, he said, underscoring the loss of boundaries between work and home over the last year.

Still, more than half of employees surveyed said that, given the option, they would want to keep working from home at least part of the time after the coronavirus crisis subsides, according to a separate survey by the Pew Research Center.

—Jessica Dickler

Everyone in Hong Kong will be able to get vaccine by year end, says health secretary

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Hong Kong health secretary discusses the city's Covid vaccine rollout

Sophia Chan, Hong Kong's secretary for food and health, said she is confident that everyone in Hong Kong will be able to get their Covid vaccination by the end of the year.

—Melodie Warner 

Antiviral drugs in development show promise in Covid fight

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Antiviral drugs show promise in fight against Covid

CNBC's Meg Tirrell reports on antiviral drugs that are also showing a lot of promise in the fight against Covid.

—Melodie Warner 

Former Spirit Airlines CEO questions why CDC cautions against travel

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Former Spirit Airlines CEO questions why the CDC is cautioning against traveling by plane

Former Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza questions why the CDC's new guidelines allow some indoor gatherings for fully vaccinated people but don't recommend people travel.

—Melodie Warner

Dick's Sporting Goods predicts slowing sales in year ahead

A Dick's Sporting Goods store on May 20, 2014, in Niles, Illinois.
Getty Images

As Americans hiked, played golf and worked out at home during the pandemic, those habits lifted Dick's Sporting Goods' sales.

The retailer topped Wall Street's estimates for fourth-quarter earnings, but it warned those dynamics and the pace of its sales growth may slow in the year ahead.

The company estimated that its same-store sales could decline as much as 2% or grow by as much as 2% in the year ahead, a significant drop from same-store sales growth of nearly 10% in fiscal 2020. It estimated net sales for the year ahead will range between $9.54 billion and $9.94 billion, roughly flat with its net sales of $9.58 billion in fiscal 2020.

Along with waning tailwinds from the pandemic, Dick's faces tougher competition in the activewear space as retailers, including TargetKohl'sGap-owned Athleta and Lululemon, all vie for more market share.

Dick's said it will increase investments in the year ahead to between $275 million and $300 million, higher than its total capital expenditures of $167 million and $180 million in fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2019, respectively.

—Melissa Repko

Women's employment disproportionately hurt by pandemic, says EY

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Covid pandemic has disproportionately hurt women, says EY

The pandemic exposed the structural vulnerability of women as many were employed in sectors — such as retail and hospitality — that were hit the hardest, said Nobuko Kobayashi of consulting firm EY.

—Melodie Warner

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