Coronavirus Updates: U.S. Testing Vaccine Distribution Plans, Surgeon General Urges People to ‘Hold On'

Ivan Pierre Aguirre | Reuters

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New Covid-19 infection levels in the U.S. are showing the earliest signs of improvement. The national seven-day average of daily new infections now stands at 172,118 as of Monday, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. That's an all-time record, but only 11% higher than the prior week. Average daily new infections had been posting roughly 30% weekly growth before beginning to taper off late last week. It's possible rising demand for Covid tests ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday is slowing turnaround and reporting, but for the moment new case tallies appear to be slowing.

Here are some of the biggest developments Tuesday:

The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

  • Global cases: More than 59.37 million
  • Global deaths: At least 1.39 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 12.43 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 257,991

U.S. to test run vaccine distribution networks as it awaits FDA clearance

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that the U.S. federal government is conducting a practice run this week of its coronavirus vaccine distribution networks with some test shipments as the drugs await emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in "just a few weeks."

The shipments, which won't contain the actual vaccine vials, will test the systems used by state health departments to order vaccine doses to "ensure that all goes smoothly," Azar said. The test is part of a series of field exercises under the Trump administration's vaccine program Operation Warp Speed.

"If all goes well, we could be distributing vaccine soon after Dec. 10," Azar said during a press briefing. "We believe we can distribute vaccine to all 64 jurisdictions within 24 hours of FDA authorization. Then we hope administration can begin as soon as the product arrives."

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

YouTube suspends OANN for violating its coronavirus misinformation policy

YouTube has temporarily blocked One America News Network from posting new videos and livestreaming for one week, after the right-leaning media organization violated the company's misinformation policy.

"After careful review, we removed a video from OANN and issued a strike on the channel for violating our COVID-19 misinformation policy, which prohibits content claiming there's a guaranteed cure," a YouTube spokesperson told CNBC. "Additionally, due to repeated violations of our Covid-19 misinformation policy and other channel monetization policies, we've suspended the channel from the YouTube Partner Program and as a result, its monetization on YouTube.

The organization will have to reapply to YouTube's Partner Program, which connects large YouTube channels with advertisers, if it wants the ability to make money off of its existing content again.

The move marks YouTube's largest crackdown against OANN.

-- Jessica Bursztynsky

With Covid vaccine in sight, investors wonder if retail's stay-at-home trends will last

Retailers from Home Depot to Best Buy have soared past Wall Street's expectations for the third quarter.

Instead of cheering, however, investors are trying to gauge whether the stay-at-home trends that have fueled their sales growth can last — particularly now with a Covid-19 vaccine in sight. Some of them are selling off stock.

Best Buy's shares were down nearly 6% and Dick's Sporting Goods shares fell more than 2% Tuesday, despite reporting strong third-quarter performances in the morning.

On the other hand, some investors are buying shares of companies hard-hit by the pandemic like movie theater chain AMC Entertainment and Macy's as they bet consumers will return to pre-pandemic habits like going to the movies and buying new clothes when they get the vaccine.

Best Buy CEO Corie Barry acknowledged uncertainty due to the pandemic, but said the global health crisis has permanently changed how Americans live, shop and spend their money.

"There is still this amazing amount of opportunity for people to use technology to make their life better," she said. "And I don't see that just going away at the end of the pandemic."

—Melissa Repko

U.K. set to relax Covid restrictions for five days around Christmas

The U.K. is set to relax Covid-19 restrictions for Christmas, with all four nations agreeing to allow up to three households to meet at home between Dec. 23 and Dec. 27, Reuters reports.

It's a rare specific, coordinated effort between the nations, which have largely taken differing approaches to the pandemic so far. A national lockdown in England is due to expire next week and be replaced by a tiered system of public safety measures, with little word yet on where different areas will land after the lifting.

—Sara Salinas

Ford orders 12 ultra-cold freezers to distribute vaccines

A worker passes a line of freezers holding coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine candidate BNT162b2 at a Pfizer facility in Puurs, Belgium in an undated photograph.
Pfizer | via Reuters
A worker passes a line of freezers holding coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine candidate BNT162b2 at a Pfizer facility in Puurs, Belgium in an undated photograph.

Ford Motor is ordering a dozen ultra-cold freezers that can safely store Pfizer's experimental coronavirus vaccine with an eye toward making sure the U.S. automaker's workers have access to the drugs when they are distributed nationally, Reuters reports.

"We're doing this so that we can make the vaccine available to our employees on a voluntary basis," Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker told Reuters.

Terri Cullen

With U.S. hospitals overrun, surgeon general urges Americans to 'hold on'

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams is pleading with Americans to grasp "the severity of the moment" and to stay vigilant against Coid-19, as a record number of hospitalizations has pushed health-care professionals to the brink, Reuters reported.

"We are almost to a vaccine. ... We've got new remedies out there. We just need you, the American people, to hold on a little bit longer," Adams, a White House Coronavirus Task Force member, told Fox News in an interview. U.S. health officials last week strongly recommended that Americans avoid travel for the holiday, according to the wire service.

The U.S. is currently on pace to surpass 85,000 hospitalizations for Covid-19 on Wednesday, a record, as 30 of the 50 states reported record numbers of patients this month, Reuters said. That has taxed already exhausted health-care providers.

Terri Cullen

Cook-at-home trend continues, boosting food producers' bottom line

A number of food producers are benefitting from the surge in supermarket sales as people cook more at home during the pandemic.

McCormick said it plans to buy hot-sauce maker Cholula's parent from private-equity firm L Catterton for $800 million. The spice maker is hoping to build on robust demand for its packaged foods, Reuters reported.

Separately, J.M. Smucker — the maker of Jif peanut butter and Folgers coffee — raised its full-year earnings forecast as the company continues to profit from more cooking by consumers forced to spend more time at home due to the pandemic.

Terri Cullen

Dick’s Sporting Goods sales surge on increased at-home-fitness demand

Nike athletic wear is seen on mannequins displayed at a Dick's Sporting Goods store in Daly City, California.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Nike athletic wear is seen on mannequins displayed at a Dick's Sporting Goods store in Daly City, California.

Dick's Sporting Goods saw quarterly same-store sales growth of more than 23% as the retailer continued to benefit from consumers buying more workout gear, sporting goods and outdoor equipment, reports CNBC's Lauren Thomas.

Dick's Sporting Goods has focused on driving sales online and encouraging shoppers to use its in-store pickup option for e-commerce purchases. Its e-commerce sales surged 95% during the third quarter and online sales accounted for roughly 21% of the quarter's total net sales, up from 13% a year earlier.

The company also has seen its costs boosted by the pandemic. In the latest period, it incurred $48 million in costs for safety measures and additional employee compensation.

—Melodie Warner 

Russia to produce 1 billion doses of its ‘cheaper’ Covid vaccine

Russia has said that its Covid vaccine will be cheaper than its rivals and that it aims to produce 1 billion doses in 2021.

"The cost of one dose of the Sputnik V vaccine for international markets will be less than $10," Russia's sovereign wealth fund (RDIF) said. Russia's coronavirus vaccine requires two doses.

"Thus, Sputnik V will be two or more times cheaper than foreign vaccines based on mRNA technology with similar efficacy rates. For Russian citizens, vaccination with Sputnik V will be free of charge," RDIF added.

The statement appears to be referring to vaccine candidates from Pfizer and BioNTech, and Moderna, which are made from messenger RNA, or mRNA. Both have reported high efficacy rates of their vaccines in late-stage trials over the last couple of weeks.

Holly Ellyatt

U.S. Covid testing turnaround times little improved

As Covid cases spike in the United States, CNBC's Meg Tirrell reports Covid-19 testing turnaround times have shown little improvement since the summer.

"We've gone from atrocious to just plain mediocre. So I guess that's an improvement," said Dr. Ashish Jia, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, about test turnaround times.

—Melodie Warner 

U.S. average daily deaths top 1,500

U.S. daily Covid deaths, as a seven-day average, topped 1,500 on Sunday and Monday each for the first time since May. It's a dramatic resurgence from the country's relative pandemic lows of roughly 500 average daily deaths in early July.

Cases have been spiking across most of the country as pandemic fatigue takes hold and major holidays approach. Hospitalizations and deaths typically lag behind cases by two weeks because of the virus's 14-day incubation period, meaning deaths could continue to rise, even if states successfully slow the spread through revamped public safety measures.

—Sara Salinas

UK cuts strict quarantine policy to five days, if travelers get a negative Covid test

Heathrow Airport is said to be exploring preflight testing trials on additional routes from the U.S.
Warren Little | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Heathrow Airport is said to be exploring preflight testing trials on additional routes from the U.S.

Travelers arriving in the U.K. will be able to cut their quarantine period from 14 to five days starting next month if they test negative for the coronavirus.

The U.K.'s compulsory quarantine of 14 days upon arrival has been harshly criticized by airlines and airport operators since the first lockdown was lifted back in May.

Passengers will have to book the test from a provider on a government's list before arriving in the U.K. and they will have to pay for their own test. The tests could cost between £65 and £120 (between $86 and $160). The results could take up to 48 hours, according to the BBC.

—Silvia Amaro

Read CNBC's previous live coverage here:

Coronavirus updates: Health-care workers under pressure with surge in U.S. cases; air travel picking up

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