biotechnology

Covid Updates: Virginia Reports 1st Case of South African Variant; NY Broadens Vaccine Eligibility

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

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Johnson & Johnson has asked the Food and Drug Administration to approve its single-shot Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use in the U.S. If approved, J&J's shot would be the third vaccine available for emergency use in the U.S., joining those developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. J&J has said its vaccine was 66% effective overall in protecting against Covid. The FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet on Feb. 26 to discuss the application, and authorization could happen as early as this month.

Here are some of the biggest developments Friday:

The U.S. is recording at least 130,400 new Covid-19 cases and at least 3,200 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 105.29 million 
  • Global deaths: At least 2.29 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 26.76 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 458,105

Iowa rolls back all public health measures starting Sunday

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation on Friday that effectively rolls back all public health measures enacted to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

Starting Sunday, there will be no limit on the number of people attending public gatherings within the state, masks will not be required and bars can reopen. The proclamation will stay in effect until March 7 at 11:59 p.m. CST.

To be sure, Reynolds also encouraged the state's residents and businesses to take "reasonable public health measures consistent with guidance from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Fred Imbert

Kroger will pay employees $100 plus other bonuses to get vaccinated

Kroger announced Friday it will give employees a one-time payment of $100 if they get the "full manufacturer-recommended doses" of the coronavirus vaccine. The company will also give its workers $100 in store credit and 1,000 points towards its fuel rewards program.

"Through the unknowns of this pandemic, our associates have risen to the challenge," Tim Massa, a company executive, said in a statement. "As we move into a new phase of the pandemic, we're increasing our investment to not only recognize our associates' contributions, but also encourage them to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as it becomes available to them."

The rapid coronavirus vaccine development has led to skepticism about how effective the drugs are, even among workers in the health-care industry. In the U.S., vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna have been approved for emergency use. Johnson & Johnson applied this week for emergency use approval of its vaccine.

Fred Imbert

Virginia health officials find Covid case with variant first identified in South Africa

Health officials at the Virginia Department of Health said they've found a Covid-19 case with the new, highly contagious variant first identified in South Africa, known as B.1.351.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first identified the case at a commercial laboratory as part of its efforts to expand the nation's surveillance for the mutated strains, Virginia health officials said in a statement. The department said the person testing positive for the new strain was an adult resident in the eastern part of Virginia.

Only two other states — South Carolina and Maryland — have found Covid-19 cases with the B.1.351 strain. However, the CDC has found more than 600 cases of the similar B.1.1.7 strain that first emerged in the U.K., according to recent data from the agency.

"With the combined state and national surveillance efforts, it is likely that additional cases with SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern will be identified," the Virginia Department of Health said in a statement.

— Noah Higgins-Dunn

Black restaurant workers are receiving less in tips than others during pandemic, according to a report

A waiter wears a face mask at a restaurant on the Upper West Side as the city continues the re-opening efforts following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on November 10, 2020 in New York City.
Noam Galai | Getty Images
A waiter wears a face mask at a restaurant on the Upper West Side as the city continues the re-opening efforts following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on November 10, 2020 in New York City.

Since the start of the pandemic, the restaurant industry has been struggling to support its businesses and employees, many of whom rely on tips.

According to a report by labor advocacy group One Fair Wage, Black restaurant workers have been disproportionately affected with nearly 90% of them saying their tips have decreased by half or more, while 78% of all workers reported the same.

More Black than White employees report knowing someone who contracted or died of Covid-19 complications, putting them at even more risk for the disease at work and home.

Many employees feel that working in a restaurant during the pandemic is dangerous, with eight in 10 workers experiencing harassment for enforcing health protocols. Black employees report receiving racial attacks as well.

—Katie Tsai

NFL offers Biden administration all 30 football stadiums for Covid vaccine rollout

An aerial view of Raymond James Stadium ahead of Super Bowl LV on January 31, 2021 in Tampa, Florida.
Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images
An aerial view of Raymond James Stadium ahead of Super Bowl LV on January 31, 2021 in Tampa, Florida.

The National Football League is preparing to make all 30 of its football stadiums available to the Biden administration as mass vaccination sites for the general public, CNBC's Dan Mangan reports.

Seven NFL teams currently host vaccinations at or near their stadiums.

"The NFL and our 32 member clubs are committed to doing our part to ensure that vaccines are as widely available in our communities as possible," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a letter Thursday to Biden.

Rich Mendez

Correction: The NFL has 30 stadiums. A previous version of this post misstated the number.

Weak January jobs report shows how strong Covid's grip is on the economy

January's jobs report, with an increase of just 49,000 payrolls, highlights just how severe the impact of Covid has been on some sectors of the economy.

The leisure and hospitality industry lost another 61,000 jobs last month, after losing a staggering 536,000 positions in December. That sector includes industries most hurt by social distancing, like restaurants, bars, hotels and casinos.

Economists had expected the U.S. to add 50,000 jobs for January in a consensus survey by Dow Jones, but some firms expected much more. NatWest, for example, expected 300,000 nonfarm payrolls, and Citigroup forecast 250,000.

—Patti Domm

New York will start offering vaccines to people with underlying health conditions in mid-February

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state plans to move some unused Covid-19 vaccine doses from hospitals and will distribute them to local health departments to be offered to people with underlying health conditions beginning Feb. 15.

So far, New York has focused on vaccinating its health-care workers and residents of long-term care facilities, as well as people age 65 and older and workers in certain essential industries.

The governor didn't specify which health conditions would qualify residents for a vaccine, though he said New York officials are working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create a "comorbidities list." The federal agency lists a number of conditions, like cancer, heart failure, obesity and pregnancy, that place people at higher risk of serious illness.

"Hospitals, you have one more week to get your hospital staff to accept the vaccine, and then we'll focus on the comorbidities," Cuomo said at a press briefing.

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

Levi’s Stadium to open as California's largest vaccination site, 49ers say

People stand in line at the mass vaccination site at San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center that opened today for healthcare workers and people over 65 on February 5, 2021 in San Francisco, California.
Amy Osborne | AFP | Getty Images
People stand in line at the mass vaccination site at San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center that opened today for healthcare workers and people over 65 on February 5, 2021 in San Francisco, California.

Levi's Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, will open as California's largest Covid vaccination site next week, according to Santa Clara County officials and the 49ers.

The stadium will initially have the capacity to vaccinate 5,000 people per day, officials said, with plans to ramp it up to 15,000 people per day when there is an increase in vaccination supplies.

"We recognize the urgent need for an effective and equitable vaccination effort for our community and are proud to partner with the County of Santa Clara to bring this vaccination site online as quickly and efficiently as possible," 49ers President Al Guido said in a statement.

San Francisco's Moscone Center opened as a mass vaccination site last week and Oakland city officials announced plans to turn the Oakland Coliseum into another mass vaccination site.

Riya Bhattacharjee

Millions of low-income Americans could miss out on free tax filing help due to Covid

Low-income Americans who rely on the Volunteer Income Assistance Program, or VITA, to file taxes may have a harder time getting the help they need to submit a return this year.

The Internal Revenue Service has run the VITA program, which helps Americans that make $57,000 or less, are disabled or limited English-speakers file a tax return for free, for 50 years. The program helps millions of Americans file taxes each year – in 2019, more than 80,000 volunteers prepared 3.5 million federal tax returns, according to the agency.

This year, however, many VITA sites aren't open for face-to-face meetings due to the coronavirus pandemic. And many more will operate either with an in-person and online hybrid or will be completely virtual, posing an issue to Americans who don't have access to high speed internet or a computer.

During the 2020 tax season, amid Covid lockdowns, the program had 10,000 fewer volunteers and only filed 2.5 million returns.

—Carmen Reinicke

Grocers playing key role in Florida's vaccine rollout, leaving food deserts as vaccine deserts

A Publix Food & Pharmacy store where COVID-19 vaccinations were being administered on January 29, 2021 in Delray Beach, Florida.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
A Publix Food & Pharmacy store where COVID-19 vaccinations were being administered on January 29, 2021 in Delray Beach, Florida.

Grocery stores are playing a big part in Florida's vaccine rollout, with hundreds of thousands of people already trying to register for appointments at Publix, CNBC's Melissa Repko reports.

Publix has pharmacists trained to give shots and the store is familiar to Floridians, but the state push to utilize private companies in the rollout is being criticized for leaving poorer minority and rural communities without easy access.

"One of the positives of using private companies is more locations, but one of the disadvantages is they're profit maximizing," said Emma Boswell Dean, an assistant professor of health management and policy at University of Miami's Herbert Business School. "They're going to be in the neighborhoods where they can make money. So you have communities hit twice. You're a food desert. Now you're a vaccine desert."

Rich Mendez

Amazon Alexa can now tell you the nearest spot to get a Covid test

A medical worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) administers a Covid-19 test at a testing site at the Alemany Farmers Market in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A medical worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) administers a Covid-19 test at a testing site at the Alemany Farmers Market in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020.

Amazon's Alexa voice assistant can now tell you the nearest spot to get a Covid test.

The skill works on the Alexa app on your phone, through an Amazon Echo or in other places with Alexa, like your Fire TV. It's useful if you're somewhere away from home and don't know where to go, or if you've just never gotten a test before.

Just say, "Alexa, where can I get tested for Covid-19?" and Alexa will return results on your phone (or by voice) pulled from GISCorps and other sources, like Yelp.

—Todd Haselton

Biden administration sending military troops to California to help staff vaccine sites

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visits National Guard troops deployed at the U.S. Capitol and its perimeter on January 29, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Manuel Balce Ceneta | Getty Images
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visits National Guard troops deployed at the U.S. Capitol and its perimeter on January 29, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin approved the deployment of more than 1,000 active-duty troops to help deliver Covid-19 vaccines across the U.S., Andy Slavitt, a member of President Joe Biden's coronavirus response team, said.

Some of the 1,110 troops will arrive in California within the next ten days and begin operations by Feb. 15, with additional states to follow, he said. The Pentagon is also weighing a request to send up to 10,000 troops to support vaccination efforts across the U.S.

"The military's critical role in supporting sites will help vaccinate thousands of people per day and ensure that every American who wants a vaccine will receive them," he said during the White House press briefing on the pandemic.

Slavitt also said the U.S. is using the Defense Production Act to help Pfizer meet its manufacturing targets for its vaccine. The company said Tuesday that it planned to deliver 200 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine to the U.S. by May, earlier than its initial forecast of July.

–Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

New York allowing weddings this spring, but events still pose risks of Covid transmission

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced weddings can resume in the state in March at 50% capacity, or a maximum of 150 people. Other safety precautions include testing for all attendees and clearance from the state health department.

Current models suggest that infection rates will decrease by the spring and summer as people get vaccinated, Dr. Jennifer Lighter, infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at NYU Langone tells CNBC Make It. With more of the population fully vaccinated, people may feel safer going to weddings, but there is still a need to wear masks and maintain social distance, she says.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said that there's still not enough data to suggest that vaccines prevent transmission.

The cap on 150 guests proposed by Cuomo is not a precise calculation that's made based on science, Lighter says. The more people present at a gathering, the higher the risk of transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cory Stieg

Biden signs order providing more funding for food assistance

This week, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover all state and local government costs to partner with restaurants and nonprofits to prepare meals for those in need.

The order encompassed the bulk of the bipartisan FEED Act, which was originally part of the Biden administration's $1.9 trillion emergency relief proposal. Hunger advocates say the program is a win-win that allows restaurants to stay open and pay employees while providing struggling families the food they need. 

"This brings forward every single resource from the government to help address this national hunger," says Monica Gonzales, director of federal advocacy at No Kid Hungry.

In addition to increasing the federal cost-share for FEMA assistance, the Biden administration has proposed extending the 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through September 2021, allocating an additional $3 billion investment in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and another $1 billion to be directed toward U.S. territories to help fund additional nutrition assistance.

Megan Leonhardt

How the pandemic is changing Super Bowl advertising

This year's Super Bowl is going to look different for fans and advertisers alike. Major brands like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Anheuser Busch Inbev have decided not to run commercials this year. Andrew Robertson, president and CEO of BBDO Worldwide, joined CNBC's "Squawk Box" to discuss the changing advertising landscape.

People who have recovered from Covid should still be vaccinated

People who have had Covid and recovered can "afford to wait a little bit" to get the vaccine, but should ultimately get it, Dr. Saad B. Omer, a fellow and spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, tells CNBC Make It.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who have had Covid get the vaccine, "due to the severe health risks associated with Covid-19 and the fact that reinfection with Covid-19 is possible." People can wait three months after infection to be vaccinated, the CDC says.

Anecdotal reports suggest that some Covid survivors experience side effects from the first dose of the Covid vaccines. "That makes complete sense, and shows you that the immune system is really responding to [the virus] in a much more vigorous way," Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease physician at the University of North Carolina, tells CNBC Make It.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said vaccination remains safe in people who have had Covid, during a Twitter Q&A Thursday.

Cory Stieg

No mask at the airport? You could be fined $250, TSA says

Passengers enter a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint at O'Hare International Airport on October 19, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois.
Scott Olson | Getty Images
Passengers enter a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint at O'Hare International Airport on October 19, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois.

Travelers who try to flout the federal mask mandate could face fines of up to $250 the Transportation Security Administration said. The Biden administration this week started requiring travelers to wear masks at airports, on planes, on buses, ferries, trains and in rideshares.

Airlines have required that travelers over the age of 2 wear masks since last spring but labor unions pushed for federal rules to give the policies more weight.

The TSA says it would recommend fines of up to $1,500 for repeat offenders.

—Leslie Josephs

LVMH tells Tiffany employees to return to the office beginning March 1

Cindy Ord | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

French luxury goods giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has told employees of its newly acquired U.S. jeweler Tiffany that they must return to the office starting March 1, The Wall Street Journal reported.

LVMH said Tiffany's staff must return to the office two days a week, people familiar with the matter told the Journal.

The order to return to work isn't specific to Tiffany employees. LVMH has instituted a two-day-a-week policy for workers at its other brands, including Louis Vuitton and Dior, as well as its staff in France, according to the Journal.

Read the complete Journal story here.

Democrats move ahead with $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) holds a news conference to reintroduce a resolution to cancel up to $50,000 of student loan debt, at the Capitol in Washington, U.S., February 4, 2021.
Kevin Lemarque | Reuters
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) holds a news conference to reintroduce a resolution to cancel up to $50,000 of student loan debt, at the Capitol in Washington, U.S., February 4, 2021.

Democrats cleared a hurdle toward passing their $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package without Republican support.

The Senate passed a budget resolution to set up the reconciliation process, which enables Democrats to pass an aid bill with a simple majority in the chamber. Vice President Kamala Harris had to break a tie after a party-line vote in the evenly split Senate.

Once the House approves an identical budget measure, Democrats can move forward with writing the rescue legislation. They aim to pass a bill before March 14, when a $300 per week federal jobless benefit and programs expanding unemployment insurance expire.

President Joe Biden, who has negotiated with a group of Republican senators, hopes to win GOP votes for the package. Many Republicans are wary of more spending after Congress passed a $900 billion relief bill in December.

The Democratic proposal calls for $1,400 direct payments, a $400 per week unemployment benefit through September, $20 billion for Covid-19 vaccine distribution, $30 billion for rent and utility assistance and $350 billion in state, local and tribal support, among other provisions.

—Jacob Pramuk

U.S. added 49,000 jobs in January, slightly less than expected

Job growth returned to the U.S. as it added 49,000 to nonfarm payrolls in January and saw the unemployment rate fall to 6.3%, reports CNBC's Jeff Cox.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones were expecting 50,000 additions and for unemployment to be unchanged at 6.7%.

—Melodie Warner 

Oxford says AstraZeneca Covid vaccine works against UK variant

A nurse prepares the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine at Pontcae Medical Practice on January 4, 2021 in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.
Matthew Horwood | Getty Images News | Getty Images
A nurse prepares the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine at Pontcae Medical Practice on January 4, 2021 in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.

AstraZeneca and Oxford University's Covid-19 vaccine has the same level of efficiency against the Covid variant first discovered in the U.K. as it does with previous variants, CNBC's Matt Clinch reports.

The variant, known as B.1.1.7, has an unusually high number of mutations and is associated with a more efficient and rapid transmission. 

"Data from our trials of the ChAdOx1 vaccine in the United Kingdom indicate that the vaccine not only protects against the original pandemic virus, but also protects against the novel variant, B.1.1.7, which caused the surge in disease from the end of 2020 across the UK," Andrew Pollard, chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, said in an announcement Friday.

Oxford University earlier this week said a new analysis found a 67% reduction in transmission of Covid after the first dose of the vaccine, based on weekly swabs from volunteers in the U.K. study.

—Melodie Warner 

Regeneron's quarterly profit bolstered by strong Eylea sales

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals' quarterly profit beat analysts' estimates as the easing of lockdowns bolstered demand for its flagship eye drug, Reuters reported.

Sales of the macular degeneration drug Eylea were hurt during the height of the pandemic as patients put off visits to doctors' offices. U.S. sales of the drug rose nearly 10% to $1.34 billion for the fourth quarter, Reuters reported.

Regeneron earned $9.53 per share on an adjusted basis, beating estimates of $8.39 per share, according to Refinitiv IBES data, the wire service said.

—Melodie Warner 

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

Covid updates: Peloton and Pinterest get pandemic boost; domestic travel still uncertain

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