Sunday, February 28

Covid live updates: EU approves its second vaccine as strain found in South Africa worries experts – CNBC

Gottlieb says receiving a vaccine does not mean a return to pre-pandemic life

Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC that life will continue to be altered by the coronavirus, even after Americans become vaccinated against Covid-19. The former Food and Drug Administration chief in the Trump administration likened it to how the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks forever changed airline travel.

“It’s not going to be like it was in 2017 and 2018, when we didn’t worry at all about catching a respiratory pathogen,” Gottlieb said on “Squawk Box.” “We’re going to worry about it, even if we’re vaccinated. I think we’ll worry much less than we’re worrying right now, hopefully.”

For example, he said public venues may still want to take people’s temperature before allowing admittance. “I don’t think masks are going to be mandatory next fall and winter if we can get the vaccination rate up and if these new variants go away or don’t become prevalent. But I do think a lot of people will want to wear masks, and that’s OK.”

Kevin Stankiewicz

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

Phone scams are targeting isolated grandparents, New York AG warns

New York Attorney General Letitia James issued an alert to warn senior citizens of fraudsters posing as a grandchild calling to ask for money. 

The scammers often call in the middle of the night or early in the morning claiming to be the senior’s grandchild. The caller falsely claims that there is an emergency and asks the grandparent to immediately send money.

“Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many grandparents have not seen their grandchildren for months and may be especially susceptible to this common and despicable scam,” James said in a statement.

“We should all be speaking with elderly family members and warning them that scammers are ready to prey on their love of family in an effort to take their money,” she added.

—Melodie Warner 

CVS says it’s in talks to offer vaccine at pharmacies soon

CVS Pharmacy staff members prepare as COVID-19 vaccinations begin at Life Care Center of Kirkland, a long term seniors care facility which was the focus of attention at the start of the U.S. coronavirus disease outbreaks in March 2020, in Kirkland, Washington, U.S. December 28, 2020.

David Ryder | Reuters

CVS Health said Wednesday that it’s in talks with several states “to make a limited number of doses available in the coming weeks in advance of the broader rollout” of Covid vaccines.

The Department of Health and Human Resources has tapped CVS and other retail pharmacies to eventually offer vaccinations at sites across the country when the broader rollout begins. CVS’ comments come after Politico reported on Tuesday that a senior HHS official said that 3,000 to 6,000 pharmacies could begin administering Covid-19 shots in the next two weeks.

That could help drastically ramp up the rollout of the vaccine, which has been slower than expected. Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Tuesday at an event hosted by STAT News that she expects the rollout to speed up this month.

—Will Feuer

Sundance Film Festival moves drive-in screenings online amid Los Angeles outbreak

Sundance Film Festival


The Sundance Film Festival announced it will cancel its planned drive-in film screenings in Southern California and move them online because of the “overall public health situation in the Los Angeles area and the trajectory of the spread of the virus there, the health guidelines, and crisis the hospital systems are facing.”

The festival, which runs from Jan. 28 through Feb. 3, planned on hosting a number of drive-in screenings in cities throughout the country, though the Los Angeles-area screenings will no longer go ahead as planned as Covid cases and hospitalizations in the area surge.

“The safety and well-being of our audiences, community and staff is the most important thing to Sundance Institute and Sundance Film Festival,” the festival said in a statement.

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

IRS says some taxpayers won’t receive stimulus check before tax season

The IRS has started to send millions of stimulus checks, worth up to $600 for individuals and each of their child dependents.

But the agency on Tuesday said taxpayers who received the message “Payment Status #2 – Not Available” when using its IRS Get My Payment tool won’t receive a second stimulus check automatically.

Instead, they will need to claim a Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2020 tax return. This means it could take weeks or months for some people to receive the money.

The IRS did not clarify why this is the case or why the issue seemed to affect those who had filed their 2019 taxes through H&R Block and TurboTax in particular.

Alicia Adamczyk

U.S. stocks open mixed as traders await Georgia election results

U.S. stocks opened mixed as investors await the final call on two runoff elections in Georgia that will determine control of the Senate, reports CNBC’s Fred Imbert and Yun Li.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average started the session along the flatline. The S&P 500 dipped 0.4%, and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.2%.

—Melodie Warner 

Private payrolls fall for the first time since April

Private payrolls contracted in December for the first time since April, CNBC’s Jeff Cox reports.

The jobs number fell 123,000 during the month, a sharp decline compared with the 60,000 job gain economists expected. The national jobs market had been on the mend after widespread business shutdowns in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sara Salinas

EU approves Moderna’s vaccine

Dave Lacknauth, Pharm. D., Director of Pharmacy Services, Broward Health Medical Center shows off a bottle of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a press conference on December 23, 2020 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

Health regulators for the European Union approved Moderna’s Covid vaccine for use in the 27-nation bloc. It’s the second such drug to get approval from the European Medicines Agency, CNBC’s Silvia Amaro reports.

The greenlight could help jumpstart Europe’s vaccine rollout, which has faced criticism for a slow pace and occasional mishaps.

Moderna’s vaccine was previously approved in the U.K. and U.S., where it is currently being distributed and administered. The vaccine, similar to Pfizer’s, is a two-dose regimen and was found in clinical trials to be 94% effective.

—Sara Salinas

The Covid variant found in South Africa is worrying experts

A new strain of the virus that has emerged in South Africa is causing concern. Similar to a variant that has been discovered in the U.K. in recent months, the strain that has emerged in South Africa is proving to be far more transmissible.

So far, scientists do not believe either new variant is more deadly. But being more transmissible means more people can get infected and could mean more serious infections and more fatalities as a result.

Questions are now being raised over whether the coronavirus vaccines developed at breakneck speed in the last year will be effective against significant mutations of the virus, such as the one identified in South Africa. CNBC looks at what we know (and what we don’t) about this new strain.

Holly Ellyatt

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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