Coronavirus news for Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020

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India reports more than 48,000 new cases and over 500 more deaths

India reported at least 48,648 new cases of coronavirus pandemic over a 24-hour period, according to data from the Indian health ministry.

The number of active cases of Covid-19 fell by 9,301 patients to 594,386, the data showed. Another 57,386 people were said to have been cured or discharged, bringing the total number of people India claims to have recovered from the illness to over 7.37 million. Another 563 people died, which brought the total death toll to 121,090.

Cumulatively, India has reported more than 8 million cases as it remains the country reporting the second-highest number of infections in the world, behind the United States. Hospitals overwhelmed and many parts of the country under lockdown. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

Carnegie Hall will remain closed through April 5

Carnegie Hall announced that it will cancel all events through April 5 because of the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The venue has been closed since March 13.

“It is heartbreaking to all of us to have to extend the closure of the Hall due to the COVID crisis, however we do so with the health of our public, artists, and staff front of mind,” said Clive Gillinson, Executive and Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall. “We will continue our close consultation with medical and health professionals as well as government officials to determine whether there is any possibility for live music to return in some capacity next spring. We know that everyone is eager for the performing arts to return to New York City and we are committed to exploring all avenues to bringing music back as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Carnegie Hall has shifted some of its programming online. —Riya Bhattacharjee

HHS paid contractor to vet political views of celebrities for botched ad campaign

The Department of Health and Human Services paid a contractor to vet 274 celebrities for their views on everything from gay marriage to abortion rights as part of a $265 million public service campaign on the coronavirus, top House Democrats said in a new letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

The “PSA Celebrity Tracker” used by HHS details the political views of more than 200 celebrities considered for the campaign, according to an internal HHS document dated Oct. 23 that was produced by contractor Atlas Research.

The document lists the political leanings of various artists, their arrest history, drinking or drug problems, sexual misconduct or sex tapes as well as which segment of the population they appealed to.

Singer Adam Levine is a “Liberal democrat who supported Obama and fights for gay rights,” but he appealed to the general population as well as to “super spreaders.” Also popular with “super spreaders,” singer Lady Gaga hasn’t “specifically claimed any political side,” although she voally supported Hillary in 2016, according to the list. Actor and singer Neil Patrick Harris was popular among the LGBTQ community as well as the general populace. He also “Performed at the Republican National Convention in 2016,” the document notes, “but appears to be a liberal Democrat.” —Will Feuer

Budget airlines soar as bookings hold up in pandemic

Life’s not exactly a beach for U.S. airlines. Losses in the third quarter jumped above $11 billion and they’re still burning through cash. But discount airlines that cater to sun-seeking vacationers and other price-sensitive customers are reporting better-than-expected sales and outlooks, providing a rare piece of good news for the sector.

Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Travel Company, the parent of Allegiant Air, were each up more than 9% in afternoon trading on Thursday. Executives said they were encouraged by bookings and pointed to resilience despite the recent increase in coronavirus cases around the U.S.

Unlike big network airlines, these budget airlines don’t rely on business and international travel, two areas of the business that have been especially hurt by the pandemic and will likely recover later than domestic leisure trips. —Leslie Josephs

Exxon announces additional employee reduction efforts amid ongoing Covid-19 impacts

Exxon on Thursday announced that it will reduce its U.S. workforce by around 1,900 employees as the oil giant continues to feel the impacts of Covid-19.

“The impact of COVID-19 on the demand for ExxonMobil’s products has increased the urgency of the ongoing efficiency work,” the company said in a statement.

The layoffs will be both voluntary and involuntary. Earlier in October Exxon said it will cut around 1,600 employees from its European operations by the end of 2021. —Pippa Stevens

ServiceNow CEO says firms are preparing for remote work through 2021

ServiceNow CEO Bill McDermott told CNBC he is hearing business leaders are preparing to continue having employees work remotely through 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

McDermott, whose company offers cloud-based software that automates IT and employee workflow, said that is “because even if you do get a vaccine, it’s obviously not going to get through the global population for somewhere upwards of a year, probably a year and a half from now.”

More long term, he said he expects a “hybrid world” where employees routinely split time between the office and remote work. “This is the new reality we’re living with, and distributed workforces are a thing of not only the present but also the future,” he said on “Squawk on the Street.” —Kevin Stankiewicz

GDP report underscores divisions in stalled stimulus talks

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks about the need for additional coronavirus relief during her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters in Washington, Oct. 22, 2020.

Hannah McKay | Reuters

An already jumbled coronavirus stimulus picture grew murkier following the third-quarter U.S. GDP report.

The Trump campaign and the president’s Republican allies in Congress cited the record 33.1% economic growth as evidence of the GOP bringing the country back from virus-fueled economic ruin. Democrats, meanwhile, noted that the U.S. had not come close to recovering the lost output from the worst-ever U.S. GDP decline earlier this year. They warned failure to inject more federal aid into the economy will cause more damage as the outbreak rages around the country.

“We had lost ground in the second quarter, this barely makes up for that. And the Cares Act [relief bill passed earlier this year] deserves credit for injecting resources into the economy,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters, warning of “dire circumstances” if Congress does not approve more stimulus.

Aid talks between Democrats and the Trump administration have stalled, meaning any deal will likely come after the 2020 election. Pelosi sent Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin a letter asking for responses to Democratic proposals on key areas of disagreement, including Covid-19 testing, state and local government aid and unemployment insurance.

Pelosi said she still hoped to reach an agreement during the so-called lame duck session before presidential and congressional election winners take office in January. —Jacob Pramuk

Early Covid-19 vaccine will be free for Medicare beneficiaries

Medicare beneficiaries will now be able to get a Covid-19 vaccine for free if one ends up approved by the Food and Drug Administration through emergency-use authorization. 

Due to a rule change announced late Wednesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, an early vaccine will be available with no cost-sharing. Without the change, only vaccines that undergo the standard approval process for new biologics would be eligible for free coverage.

There are roughly 62.7 million individuals on Medicare, the majority of whom are age 65 or older — a group identified as being at higher risk for developing complications from Covid. If all of those beneficiaries were to get vaccinated, the cost would be an estimated $2.6 billion. —Sarah O’Brien

Vast migration of Americans due to pandemic and rise of remote work

Over 14 million Americans are planning to relocate throughout the U.S. during the pandemic, and the rise of remote work policies are making this all possible, a study released by Upwork revealed.

The Remote Workers on the Move report, which surveyed 20,490 Americans over the age of 18, was conducted Oct. 1 to Oct. 15.

Some 20.6% of residents of major cities are planning to move beyond normal commuting distances, the study found. The majority, 54.7%, want to relocate over two hours away or more from their current location, indicating they expect remote work to be a permanent option for them in the long term.

“As our survey shows, many people see remote work as an opportunity to relocate to where they want and where they can afford to live,” Upwork’s chief economist Adam Ozimek, said. This is an early indicator of the much larger impacts that remote work could have in increasing economic efficiency and spreading opportunity.” —Lori Ioannou

Walmart turns four stores into e-commerce labs as online sales surge

Like most major retailers, Walmart has seen an increasing number of sales shift online during the pandemic. The retailer’s e-commerce sales nearly doubled in the quarter ended July 31.

To keep up with rising demand, Walmart is turning four of its stores into laboratories that will test ways to turn its huge physical footprint into a more powerful edge for e-commerce, CNBC’s Melissa Repko reports.

The company is designating two stores near its Bentonville, Arkansas, headquarters, and two more that are to be announced. The labs will try out various approaches to help streamline digital sales while improving the experience for customers. —Terri Cullen

Merck CEO says vaccine won’t be a ‘silver bullet’

Drugs to treat or prevent Covid-19 aren’t a “silver bullet” solution to the pandemic and people will likely need to wear masks and practice social distancing measures well into 2021, Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier said.

“I don’t see the therapeutics that we have — or the vaccines that are coming — as a silver bullet,” Frazier told CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” saying that people will still have to practice mask-wearing and social distancing “for the foreseeable future.”

“I think that’s with us for a while, and I would say certainly well into 2021 we’ll still be trying to observe these public health measures,” he said.

While Frazier said “he’s very optimistic that in the near future” there will be positive results coming from late-stage clinical trials for coronavirus vaccines and therapeutics, a potential vaccine likely won’t be widely available for people until mid-2021. —Noah Higgins-Dunn

Comcast beats earnings estimates as theme park closures continue to be a ‘drag’

Comcast beat earnings estimates for its third quarter of 2020 on the top and bottom lines.

The company had a record quarter for high-speed internet subscriber growth with 633,000 net additions. Its new streaming service, Peacock, now has nearly 22 million sign-ups, the company announced.

Still, CEO Brian Roberts said that theme parks continue to be “the single biggest drag on the quarter.” Revenue for the segment was down nearly 81% as parks in Flordia and Japan have reopened with limited capacity and Universal Studios Hollywood has been forced to remain closed under California’s Covid-19 guidelines for Los Angeles County.

But Chief Financial Officer Michael Cavanaugh said he expects the theme park business to break even in 2021, regardless of what happens with Universal Studios Hollywood. —Lauren Feiner

U.S. Covid cases unlikely to peak until after Thanksgiving, Gottlieb says

New coronavirus cases in the United States are unlikely to peak until after Thanksgiving, according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb. The former Food and Drug Administration chief said he believes it will take higher rates of transmission before Americans act more cautiously and help tamp down the spread of the virus.

“I think after Thanksgiving, that’s going to be a turning point when the infection levels get high enough in many parts of the country that we start to see a policy reaction and also consumer behavior start to change,” Gottlieb said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Gottlieb added that his family is forgoing a large Thanksgiving gathering this year, due to the potential for such events to spread the virus. “I have older parents. I’m not going to be bringing together a large group of people and risking older individuals who we have so far been able to protect through this virus,” he said. “We can’t give up our guard right now. I think we need to continue to be vigilant.” —Kevin Stankiewicz

Disclosure: Dr. 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.

Doctors worry pandemic may hit LGBTQ people harder than most

A protester holds an American flag and rainbow flag during a demonstration in Miami.

Getty Images

Doctors are concerned the pandemic, which has shuttered businesses and schools and left people without jobs, may hit the LGBTQ community harder than most others.

The LGBTQ community tends to face higher rates of cardiovascular diseases, obesity and other health problems that research suggests can make a Covid-19 infection more severe. They also experience higher rates of illicit drug use, homelessness, isolation, anxiety, depression and suicide, and often face barriers to health care.

“All the issues that existed prior to the pandemic still exist but are even worse. They’ve been amplified by the pandemic,” said Dr. Scott Nass, GLMA’s president.

Doctors are still unsure how severe the impact on the LGBTQ community is because data is limited. Most state health officials responsible for collecting data on coronavirus cases often report information such as race, age and sex but not other details like sexual orientation and gender identity. –Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

International markets drag down same-store sales for KFC and Pizza Hut

KFC and Pizza Hut both reported same-store sales declines in their latest quarter, despite strong growth in the United States.

Outside of the U.S., KFC’s same-store sales fell by 7% as demand for its fried chicken shrank in China, its largest market, and Latin America. Pizza Hut’s international same-store sales dropped 9%.

The two chains are owned by Yum Brands, which reported third-quarter results. Yum’s global same-store sales fell 2% in the quarter. Shares of the company were little changed in early trading after it topped analysts’ estimates for earnings and revenue. —Amelia Lucas

S&P 500 rises slightly amid GDP rebound

U.S. stocks opened slightly higher as stronger-than-expected U.S. economic data mitigated concerns about the number of coronavirus cases continuing to rise, reports CNBC’s Jesse Pound and Yun Li.

The S&P 500 traded 0.4% higher and the tech-heavy Nasdaq advanced 0.8%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded around the flatline. —Melodie Warner 

Germany and France impose second national lockdowns

France and Germany are imposing a second national lockdown in the coming days as they grapple with a rapid number of Covid-19 infections.

Other governments in Europe have also been tightening restrictions over the past days as the second wave keeps taking its toll on the region.

The latest measures to contain the virus could lead to higher unemployment, the permanent closure of many businesses and even more national debt.

“Scarring will occur with each iteration,” analysts at High Frequency Economics said in a note on Wednesday about the new lockdowns. —Silvia Amaro 

United Airlines to trial first free Covid-19 tests for London-bound travelers

United Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner landing in London Heathrow International airport in England, UK.

Nicolas Economou | NurPhoto | Getty Images

United Airlines next month plans to offer free Covid-19 tests for passengers on some London-bound flights, a pilot program it hopes will get around travel bans and quarantine requirements that have devastated international travel.

United and other large airlines have particularly suffered during the pandemic because international travel bans and the virus have forced carriers to cancel many flights abroad after demand plunged.

The airline and its rivals have urged government officials on both sides of the Atlantic to consider pre-flight Covid-19 tests in lieu of quarantine requirements or outright entry bans.

The rapid tests, which produce results in less than 15 minutes, will be given in a United Club lounge at Newark ahead of some flights to London Heathrow. —Leslie Josephs

Disneyland Paris to close Oct. 29 as France fights new rise in coronavirus cases

Disney character Mickey Mouse is seen above the entrance at Disneyland Paris during the 25th anniversary of the park, in Marne-la-Vallee, near Paris, France.

Benoit Tessier | Reuters

Disney will be shuttering its Paris-based theme park at the end of day Oct. 29 after authorities in France imposed a four-week national lockdown to combat coronavirus.

The company will be taking reservations for the holiday season in anticipation that Disneyland Paris will be able to reopen after that lockdown. Reservations will be available between December 19 through January 3.

The park will be closed between January 4 and February 12, the company said. — Sarah Whitten

Tennessee and Idaho set record highs of average daily deaths

Tennessee on Wednesday reported a record high of 39 daily deaths, on a seven-day-average, a 91% jump from the prior week, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. The number of average daily deaths in Idaho rose about 77% to eight, the JHU data showed.

Some 16 states saw record-high average current hospitalizations Wednesday. Wyoming’s average hospitalizations rose 62% from last week, New Mexico saw a 50% increase and Nebraska’s week-over-week growth was 24%.

This data provided by JHU is collected from dozens of state and local agencies that have varying reporting methodologies and levels of accuracy. Comparisons of the seven-day average help to smooth out inconsistencies in state reporting procedures. —Melodie Warner 

U.S. weekly jobless claims declined for a second straight week

U.S. weekly jobless claims for the week of Oct. 24 declined for a second straight week and hit its lowest level since March, reports CNBC’s Fred Imbert.

The number of first-time unemployment-benefits filers totaled 751,000, less than the 778,000 claims expected by economists polled by Dow Jones. —Melodie Warner 

U.S. GDP grew 33.1% in the third quarter, better than expected

The U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace ever in the third quarter as a nation battered by an unprecedented pandemic saw a resurgence in consumer activity, reports CNBC’s Jeff Cox.

Third-quarter gross domestic product, a measure of the total goods and services produced in the July-to-September period, expanded at a 33.1% annualized pace, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. —Melodie Warner 

Gottlieb says U.S. Covid cases are unlikely to peak until after Thanksgiving

“We’re really not going to see this sort of start to peak until after Thanksgiving,” said Dr. Scott Gottlieb on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“I think after Thanksgiving, that’s going to be a turning point when the infection levels get high enough in many parts of the country that we start to see a policy reaction and also consumer behavior start to change,” he added. —Melodie Warner 

Disclosure: Dr. 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.

Moderna ‘actively preparing’ for launch of its vaccine

A sign marks the headquarters of Moderna Therapeutics, which is developing a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Brian Snyder | Reuters

Moderna is “actively preparing” for the global launch of its potential coronavirus vaccine, the biotech firm said in its third-quarter earnings report.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company has already taken in $1.1 billion in deposits from governments awaiting the potentially lifesaving vaccine. The company also said it was in ongoing talks with the World Health Organization-backed COVAX initiative on a tiered pricing proposal for its potential vaccine.

Moderna, a frontrunner in the Covid-19 vaccine race, announced last week it had completed enrollment for its 30,000 participants late-stage trial. As of last week, more than 25,650 participants had received the second of the company’s two-dose Covid-19 vaccine. –Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Rise in at-home cooking boosts Kraft Heinz third-quarter sales

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Heinz Tomato Ketchup

Getty Images

Kraft Heinz’s third-quarter revenue topped analysts’ expectations, as consumers who are cooking at home amid the pandemic purchased more packaged foods and condiments, Reuters reports.

As more countries began to move to restrict movement to try and curb the spread of Covid-19, people around the world turned to eating at home during the period, propelling the company to record sales growth across all its businesses, the wire service reported.

Kraft, known for brands like Heinz ketchup and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, said quarterly sales jumped 6% to $6.44 billion, topping analysts’ expectations, according to Refinitiv. —Terri Cullen

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