Covid Updates: France to Reopen Borders to UK Travelers, CDC Says New Covid Strain Could Be in U.S.

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Congress passed a mammoth coronavirus relief package late Monday that provides $900 billion in long-delayed pandemic aid. The package includes additional jobless benefits, more small business loans, direct payments of $600 and funds to distribute Covid-19 vaccines, among other provisions. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming days.

France activated a 48-hour border closure on Monday amid continent-wide fear over a new coronavirus strain identified in the U.K. French and British officials are working to lift a ban on freight movement that left 1,500 trucks stuck in Kent by Tuesday morning as they were unable to leave the U.K.

The U.S. is recording at least 215,400 new Covid-19 cases and at least 2,600 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 77.8 million 
  • Global deaths: At least 1.71 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 18.16 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 322,611

Biden says vaccine won't stop deaths of 'tens of thousands' in coming months

President-elect Joe Biden speaks about the recent massive cyber attack against the U.S. and also other Biden administration goals in Wilmington, Delaware, December 22, 2020.
Leah Millis | Reuters
President-elect Joe Biden speaks about the recent massive cyber attack against the U.S. and also other Biden administration goals in Wilmington, Delaware, December 22, 2020.

President-elect Joe Biden urged Americans to remain "vigilant" over the holidays, adding the short supply of coronavirus vaccines likely won't stop the deaths of "tens of thousands" people from the pandemic in the months to come.

"Taking the vaccine from a vial into the arm of millions of Americans is one of the biggest operational challenges the United States has ever faced," Biden said during remarks in Wilmington, Delaware. "In the meantime, the pandemic rages on. Experts think it could get worse before it gets better."

U.S. health officials have repeatedly said they hope to vaccinate at least 20 million Americans by the end of the year. As of Monday, more than 4.6 million vaccine doses have been distributed across the U.S. and at least 614,117 people have gotten their first shots, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Every West Virginia nursing home will have vaccines by year-end, governor says

West Virginia intends to have Covid-19 vaccines administered at all of its long-term care facilities by the end of this year, Republican Gov. Jim Justice told CNBC.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a federal program to administer vaccines at long-term facilities across the U.S., which is beginning in earnest this week. However, West Virginia has leaned heavily on its local pharmacies and National Guard to accelerate the process, Justice said on "Squawk on the Street."

Because of that, Justice said West Virginia may have delivered the first vaccine dose at every one of its 214 long-term care facilities "before a lot of states get started."

Kevin Stankiewicz

Chipotle won't require employees to get the Covid vaccine

Some restaurants, like Chipotle Mexican Grill, are wary about the legal implications of requiring their workers to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, reports CNBC's Amelia Lucas.

Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol said the company will "strongly encourage" employees to receive a vaccine, but "As of right now, we're not going to mandate it," he said on CNBC's "Closing Bell."

Niccol added that the company will cover the costs for employees to receive the vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended foodservice workers receive the inoculation during phase 1c of vaccine distribution, behind the elderly and essential workers like mail carriers and bus drivers.

Other chains that won't require a vaccination include Cousins Subs, a Wisconsin-based sandwich restaurant. The company cited concerns about infringing employees' medical rights.

—Melodie Warner 

Biden says he will push for more Covid stimulus checks

President-Elect Joe Biden delivers remarks before the holiday at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware on December 22, 2020.
Alex Edelman | AFP | Getty Images
President-Elect Joe Biden delivers remarks before the holiday at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware on December 22, 2020.

President-elect Joe Biden told reporters that his Covid-19 economic relief plan will include a proposal for more direct payments to Americans.

Speaking at an event in Delaware, the former vice president confirmed that he would push for a third round of stimulus checks but declined to say the size he would be asking for, saying that was a matter for negotiation.

Biden, who will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, said he will present his plan to lawmakers early next year.

The $900 billion stimulus package agreed to by Congress on Monday provides for $600 payments to most Americans. The first Covid-19 stimulus deal, passed in March, called for $1,200 checks.

Tucker Higgins

Punch Bowl Social files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Punch Bowl Social filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday after the pandemic caused its customer base to evaporate and investor Cracker Barrel opted to focus on its own business instead of helping Punch Bowl to stay afloat.

As recently as February, the once-buzzy "eatertainment" chain looked to be the future of the restaurant industry, offering arcade games and karaoke along with food and drinks.

The company owes more than $10 million for a Payment Protection Program loan to JPMorgan Chase, its top creditor. The majority of its other creditors are leaseholders from its locations scattered across the country.

Amelia Lucas

NBA starts new season while positioning for post-Covid sports world

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver
Stacy Revere | Getty Images
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

The NBA will start its 2020-21 campaign on Tuesday night. Though bumps in the road are expected, the league's future post-Covid-19 appears bright.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league is confident its extensive protocols will be enough to get through a 72-game schedule and league personnel wouldn't jump the line for vaccine treatments.

"We're confident that we can do it," said Silver of restarting after the NBA's bubble postseason in October.  "And if we weren't, we wouldn't have started. I will say, though, that we do anticipate that there will be bumps in the road along the way."

The NBA hopes to have fans back in arenas by the postseason in May and to be done with its year before the Tokyo Olympics. To make up for additional revenue losses the league has discussed expansion but Silver noted those discussions are still early.

Markets including Seattle and Las Vegas are being mentioned as potential landing spots via expansion or relocation. Both options provide fees that would be divided among owners.

Jabari Young

France to reopen border to passengers from England on Wednesday

Police manage freight lorry drivers as the French border closures due to a new strain of COVID-19 at the entrance into the port of Dover in the Eastern Dock where the cross channel port is situated with ferries departing to go to Calais in France on the 21st of December 2020, Dover, Kent, United Kingdom.
Andrew Aitchison | In Pictures | Getty Images
Police manage freight lorry drivers as the French border closures due to a new strain of COVID-19 at the entrance into the port of Dover in the Eastern Dock where the cross channel port is situated with ferries departing to go to Calais in France on the 21st of December 2020, Dover, Kent, United Kingdom.

France agreed to reopen its borders to passengers from England on Wednesday, providing they have a negative Covid test that is less than 72 hours old, Reuters reported.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also reached a deal with French President Emmanuel Macron to lift a ban on freight from Britain. Britain said further details would be provided later on Tuesday, but still advised trucks not to travel to the Kent region where the most heavily used rail and ferry links are.

Earlier, about 1,500 trucks were stuck in Kent after France activated a 48-hour border closure on Monday.

—Melodie Warner 

What you need to know about the new Covid strain spreading in the U.K.

A new variant of the coronavirus in the U.K. is sparking fears that the pandemic may continue to accelerate even as governments begin administering the first vaccine shots. Here's what you need to know.

Scientists and infectious disease experts are still piecing together what they know about the new strain, called SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01, which is shorthand for the first variant under investigation in December 2020, according to the CDC. It hasn't yet been detected in the U.S., but the CDC said it could already be circulating across the country unnoticed.

While the virus may transmit more easily, there is "no evidence" that this variant causes more severe illness or increased risk of death, the CDC said.

Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Live Video: Discussing vaccine adoption with Wharton Prof. Katy Milkman

What role can behavioral science play in COVID vaccine adoption? We're going live with Wharton professor Dr. Katy Milkman to discuss the role of behavioral science in the quest to vaccinate the world. She'll answer our questions about President Trump, health messaging, and talk about her own research. Tune in on CNBC's Facebook page at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Katie Koontz

CDC says new Covid strain could already be in U.S.

The new coronavirus strain that was first detected in the United Kingdom could already be circulating in the United States without notice, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

"Ongoing travel between the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the high prevalence of this variant among current UK infections, increase the likelihood of importation," CDC said in a statement. "Given the small fraction of US infections that have been sequenced, the variant could already be in the United States without having been detected."

The new variant is currently being referred to as "SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01," CDC said. It became prevalent across southeast England in November and reportedly accounts for 60% of recent infections in London, the agency said. CDC said it doesn't know why the new strain of the virus emerged, but it could have been "by chance alone."

"Alternatively, it may be emerging because it is better fit to spread in humans," CDC said. "This rapid change from being a rare strain to becoming a common strain has concerned scientists in the UK, who are urgently evaluating the characteristics of the variant strain and of the illness that it causes."

—Will Feuer

U.S. reportedly will not impose screenings for flights from Britain

For now, the U.S. government won't impose Covid-19 screenings for passengers traveling from the United Kingdom after a highly infectious new coronavirus variant was discovered there, Reuters reported, citing people briefed on the decision.

Coronavirus task force members at the White House supported requiring negative pre-flight tests, but the Trump administration has decided not to take any action for the time being, according to Reuters.

In the wake of the discovery of a mutated variant of the novel coronavirus, much of the world closed their borders to Britain, though the European Union has recommended that its members roll back sweeping closures to allow freight to resume and people to return home for Christmas, Reuters said.

Despite the Trump administration's lack of action, several airlines are now requiring New York-arriving passengers from the U.K. to get negative Covid-19 tests within 72 hours of departure following a request from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Terri Cullen

U.S. consumer confidence stumbles as economic momentum slows

A cashier handles money in Macy's Herald Square in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 23, 2017.
Andrew Kelly | Reuters
A cashier handles money in Macy's Herald Square in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 23, 2017.

U.S. consumer confidence dropped for a second straight month in December as softness in the labor market offset optimism over the rolling out of a Covid vaccine, Reuters reports.

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index fell to a reading of 88.6 this month — the lowest level since August — from 92.9 in November, according to the wire service.

Economists interviewed by Reuters said the deterioration of confidence is the latest sign that the economic recovery from the pandemic was losing steam, and that the decline was exacerbated by the delays by congressional lawmakers to approve another relief package.

"The storm clouds are growing darker and the worst may be yet to come," said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York. "The new coronavirus outbreak means the economy will be flirting with disaster in the first quarter of 2021 where a downturn is possible despite Congress throwing more money our way."

Terri Cullen

Mayo Clinic CEO says take the first Covid vaccine available

Mayo Clinic CEO Dr. Gianrico Farrugia told CNBC that Americans should be eager to receive either Covid-19 vaccine that has so far been granted regulatory clearance by the Food and Drug Administration.

"My message is very simple: Don't wait for a particular vaccine," he said on "Squawk Box." "Get the first vaccine that is offered because their benefits far outweigh any potential risk."

Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines are both "medical marvels," Farrugia said, pointing to the strong efficacy data demonstrated in clinical trials.

"It is essential that people get educated and then they get vaccinated. It's the only way we're going to get out of this pandemic," he said.

Kevin Stankiewicz

U.S. stocks open flat after Congress passes Covid relief bill

U.S. stocks opened along the flatline after Congress approved a long-delayed coronavirus relief package, reports CNBC's Yun Li and Jesse Pound.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped just 40 points, while the S&P 500 was little changed. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 0.3%.

—Melodie Warner 

Concerns of shipment delays rise amid new UK travel restrictions

CNBC's Joumanna Bercetche reports up to 40 countries have slapped a travel ban on the United Kingdom, which is fighting the spread of a new strain of Covid-19. In the United States, some are calling for mandatory testing before passengers can arrive from Britain.

—Melodie Warner 

U.S. third-quarter GDP growth revised slightly higher

The U.S. economy grew at a record pace in the third quarter, helped by more than $3 trillion in pandemic relief, but it appears to have lost momentum amid raging new Covid-19 cases and dwindling fiscal stimulus, Reuters reported.

U.S. gross domestic product rebounded at a 33.4% annualized rate last quarter, revised slightly up from the 33.1% pace reported last month, the Commerce Department said in its third estimate of GDP. Economists polled by Reuters had expected third-quarter GDP would be unrevised at a 33.1% rate.

It followed a 31.4% rate of contraction in the April-June quarter, the deepest since the government started keeping records in 1947. The economy remains 3.5% below its 2019 level.

—Melodie Warner 

Scientists warn economic recovery must also tackle climate change

Scientists warn that global carbon emissions will rebound next year and continue to surge unless governments prioritize climate change in their Covid economic recovery plans, CNBC's Emma Newburger reports.

Global greenhouse gas emissions plunged by roughly 7% from 2019 as lockdown measures contributed to people traveling less by car and plane. The dip translates to a roughly 0.01 degree Celsius reduction of global warming by 2050 — a negligible impact, according to scientists.

The world's biggest economies have already committed more than $12 trillion in restarting economies, according to the International Monetary Fund. Researchers argue the stimulus packages must incorporate climate-resilient projects like increasing green public transportation, renewable energy and smart electricity grids.

"These stimulus packages are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to kickstart a green recovery, one that locks us into an equitable and sustainable future," said Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme.

"The science is clear. Time is running out," Andersen said. "We have one decade to transform our economies and avoid climate catastrophe."

—Melodie Warner 

BioNTech CEO is confident its vaccine will work on UK variant

A healthcare worker holds a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine vial at Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center in Glendale, California, U.S., December 17, 2020.
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters
A healthcare worker holds a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine vial at Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center in Glendale, California, U.S., December 17, 2020.

BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said he's confident that the drugmaker's Covid-19 vaccine works against the viral new variant in the U.K., but he believes further studies are needed to be completely sure, Reuters reports.

"We don't know at the moment if our vaccine is also able to provide protection against this new variant," Sahin said at a news conference. "But scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variants."

Sahin said that the proteins on the variant are 99% the same as on the prevailing strains, the wire service reported. Therefore, he said, BioNTech has "scientific confidence" its vaccine will be effective.

"But we will know it only if the experiment is done and we will need about two weeks from now to get the data," Sahin said. "The likelihood that our vaccine works ... is relatively high."

Terri Cullen

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

Covid updates: U.S. surpasses 18 million cases; WHO says Covid mutates slower than seasonal flu

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