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Covid Updates: Arizona, West Virginia Lift Capacity Limits on Businesses; FDA Greenlights At-Home Test

Cheney Orr | Bloomberg | Getty Images

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More U.S. states are lifting coronavirus restrictions on residents and nonessential businesses, despite warnings from health officials that premature easing could spur new outbreaks. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday announced restaurants, gyms, retailers and other non-essential businesses would be permitted to reopen at 100% capacity later this month. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said she would be lifting the state's mask mandate in early April, following similar shifts by Texas and Mississippi.

Here are some of the biggest developments Friday:

The U.S. is recording at least 62,900 new Covid-19 cases and at least 1,770 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 115.9 million
  • Global deaths: At least 2.57 million
  • U.S. cases: More than 28.88 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 522,325

CDC says nearly 29 million U.S. residents have received two Covid vaccine doses

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at least 28.7 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus after receiving both shots of the vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna. That's up from 27,795,980 on Thursday.

The CDC also said that 16.7% of the U.S. population, or more than 55.5 million people, have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

The news comes after President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the U.S. will have enough vaccine supply for every adult by the end of May. That would be two months earlier than the White House originally expected.

Fred Imbert

California to allow Major League Baseball and Disneyland to resume operations in April

California's public health department said Friday that Major League Baseball stadiums and Disneyland can reopen on a limited basis starting April 1.

"With case rates and hospitalizations significantly lower, the arrival of three highly effective vaccines and targeted efforts aimed at vaccinating the most vulnerable communities, California can begin gradually and safely bringing back more activities, especially those that occur outdoors and where consistent masking is possible," said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"Even with these changes, California retains some of the most robust public health protocols in the country," Ghaly added.

More than 3.5 million Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in California since the pandemic began. Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows that, in Los Angeles County alone, there have been more than 1.19 million cases reported.

Fred Imbert

FDA authorizes test used by NBA for at-home use

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the first at-home Covid-19 molecular test that doesn't require a doctor's prescription.

The test is made by California-based Cue Health and was used last year by the NBA to help create a so-called Covid-free bubble. The company did not disclose what the test will cost for at-home use.

Cue expects to produce more than 100,000 tests per day by the summer, the FDA said. The agency added that the test correctly diagnosed 96% of positive samples from people with symptoms and correctly identified all positive samples from people without symptoms. It provides test results in about 20 minutes and requires a nasal swab.

"This is the first molecular diagnostic test available without a prescription. For the first time, consumers can access laboratory-grade testing at home," Ayub Khattak, co-founder and CEO of Cue, said in a statement to CNBC. "This is an important milestone in the advancement of COVID-19 testing,"

—Will Feuer

West Virginia to allow restaurants, bars and other businesses to open at full capacity

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced that the state's restaurants and bars will be allowed to open at "100% of their seating capacity," though the governor will not lift the state's mask mandate.

Other businesses with capacity limits, like gyms, fitness centers and museums, will also be allowed to reopen at full capacity, he said at a press briefing. Justice said residents can now gather in groups of 100 people, up from 75.

"Our mandatory indoor face covering requirement is still in effect," Justice said. "We do continue to expect you to wear these masks. Again, I'm not a fan of the mask, but at the same time we know they've saved a lot of lives."

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

How the different Covid vaccines can be adjusted to handle variants

As new coronavirus variants emerge around the globe, drug makers are exploring booster shots and new versions of Covid vaccines that can target the strains. The three vaccines currently authorized for emergency use in the U.S. work differently, and so would address variants differently.

Messenger RNA vaccines, like those from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, can be easily adapted for variants. The process involves replacing one sequence of mRNA in the vaccine for another.

Johnson & Johnson's vaccine uses an adenovirus, a virus that causes the common cold, as a messenger to deliver instructions to the body's cells. J&J CEO Alex Gorsky said during an interview with CNBC's "Squawk Box" March 1 that the company is well-positioned to adapt the vaccine for variants, and is working on developing software that will "help address some of these new and emerging variants."

Cory Stieg

Arizona lifts capacity restrictions on businesses, keeps mask requirements in place

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said Friday he will lift coronavirus restrictions on the state's businesses following weeks of declining cases, according to a statement from the governor's office.

The new order, which will leave mask and social distancing rules in place, will eliminate capacity restrictions on "restaurants, gyms, theaters, water parks, bowling alleys and bars providing dine in services," the statement said.

Spring training and major league sports will be allowed to operate as long as they submit a form to the Arizona Department of Health Services that "demonstrates implementation of safety precautions and physical distancing."

Ducey's order follows similar announcements from Texas, Mississippi and Connecticut issued earlier this week, despite warnings from top U.S. health officials against reopening the nation's economy too soon.

"Today's announcement is a measured approach; we are not in the clear yet," Ducey said in a statement.

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

CDC study: Mask mandates and restaurant restrictions help limit Covid spread

A new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that local mask mandates and restrictions on indoor and outdoor dining at restaurants have helped prevent Covid-19 cases and deaths. The findings come as the federal agency urges states not to aggressively lift health restrictions.

The study, which examined county data between March and December last year, found that mask mandates implemented by local governments were able to slow the spread of the virus starting about 20 days after their implementation. Meanwhile, on-site dining at restaurants was associated with an increase in daily case growth more than 40 days after restrictions were lifted.

"This report is a critical reminder that with the current levels of Covid-19 in communities, and the continued spread of more transmissible virus variants, which have now been detected in 48 states, strictly followed prevention measures remain essential for putting an end to this pandemic," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a White House Covid-19 press briefing after the study published.

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

Senate Covid relief bill would make student debt forgiveness tax-free

The current Senate covid relief bill includes a provision that would make student loan forgiveness passed before Jan 1, 2026, tax-free. 

While many are skeptical student debt forgiveness will be enacted, some see the provision as a sign that debt forgiveness is a serious priority on the horizon. 

A recent Morning Consult survey found that 56% of all U.S. adults support $10,000 in federal student loan forgiveness.

—Abigail Johnson Hess

Live: How to encourage people to get vaccinated

Can a simple text message encourage people to get vaccinated?

Wharton professor and behavioral scientist Dr. Katy Milkman joins CNBC to discuss strategies to boost Covid vaccine adoption.

Tune in to CNBC's Facebook page for the session!

Katie Koontz

Detroit mayor declines initial J&J vaccine allotment

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan rejected an initial shipment of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, saying the city received enough Pfizer and Moderna doses to vaccinate eligible residents.

"Johnson and Johnson is a very good vaccine. Moderna and Pfizer are the best. And I am going to do everything I can to make sure that residents of the city of Detroit get the best," Duggan said at a Thursday press briefing.

The J&J vaccine is the third shot approved by the FDA. Clinical trial data shows J&J's vaccine is 66% effective overall at protecting against Covid, compared with about 95% for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but prevented 100% of virus-related hospitalizations and deaths.

In a new statement Friday, Duggan said he has "full confidence" in the safety and efficacy of the J&J vaccine and will open a second vaccination site for the J&J shots as eligibility expands.

Hannah Miao

WHO warns of pandemic's lasting mental-health toll

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused mass trauma on a larger scale than the second World War and the impact, particularly the mental health toll, will last "for many years to come," the World Health Organization's top official said Friday.

"After the second World War, the world has experienced mass trauma, because second World War affected many, many lives. And now, even with this Covid pandemic, with bigger magnitude, more lives have been affected," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference Friday. "Almost the whole world is affected, each and every individual on the surface of the world actually has been affected."

"And that means mass trauma, which is beyond proportion, even bigger than what the world experienced after the second World War," he added, noting the effect on mental health. "And when there is mass trauma, it affects communities for many years to come."

—Will Feuer

Democrats to cut unemployment boost to $300 per week in Covid aid bill

Senate Democrats plan to change the unemployment aid provisions in their $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill before its expected passage this weekend.

The party has agreed to cut the jobless benefit supplement to $300 per week from the previously proposed $400. It will also extend the aid through September, longer than through August as the House did in a bill passed Saturday.

The Senate plan would also make the first $10,200 in unemployment insurance tax-free so beneficiaries do not receive a surprise bill. Democrats will offer the provision as part of a marathon vote on an indefinite number of amendments, known as a vote-a-rama.

Senate Democrats aim to pass their rescue package, likely without any Republican votes, this weekend. Once the House approves the Senate version of the plan, lawmakers hope to get the bill to President Joe Biden before March 14, when the current $300 per week unemployment supplement expires.

The bill includes $1,400 direct payments to most Americans, an expansion of the child tax credit for a year and funding for Covid-19 vaccine distribution and testing, among a range of other provisions.

— Jacob Pramuk

Long-term unemployment nears Great Recession record

Long-term unemployment is edging toward a record set in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

About 4.1 million Americans have been unemployed for more than six months — the barometer for long-term joblessness, an especially risky period for household finances.

The long-term unemployed accounted for 41.5% of all jobless individuals in February, approaching the 45.5% record set in April 2010.

Meanwhile, unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless are set to expire March 14 — in about a week — unless Congress passes the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. While negotiations over the contents of the bill continue, Senate Democrats agreed to change the plan to cut additional federal unemployment insurance relief to $300 per week from $400 a week, but extend the payments by an additional month to September.

Greg Iacurci

SBA is now accepting PPP loan applications with new rules for self-employed, gig workers

Manager Pat Ryan stands at the counter at the Pig Pit BBQ in Cohoes, NY on December 09, 2020. The pandemic crushed businesses on Boston's Water Street.
Craig F. Walker | Boston Globe | Getty Images
Manager Pat Ryan stands at the counter at the Pig Pit BBQ in Cohoes, NY on December 09, 2020. The pandemic crushed businesses on Boston's Water Street.

The Small Business Administration said it is ready to accept and process updated applications for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) from sole proprietors looking to receive loans calculated under new guidelines.

Changes to PPP by the Biden administration were announced in late February, and included the calculation update for sole proprietors, new eligibility rules, and a 2-week priority application window for businesses with fewer than 20 employees. That period started Feb. 24 and continues until March 9.

The updated loan calculation formula, which will result in larger forgivable amounts for the smallest businesses, wasn't released by the SBA until March 3, leading to confusion for some who wanted to take advantage of the priority application window.

Then, lenders and the SBA needed time to update their systems to accept the two new application forms, making Friday, March 5, the first day a business could apply for a PPP loan under the new calculation. While the priority window for the smallest businesses closes March 9, people can still apply for PPP loans until the program expires at the end of the month.

—Carmen Reinicke

Canada approves Johnson & Johnson vaccine

People arrive to be vaccinated at the Palais Des Congres convention centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on Monday, March 1, 2021.
Christinne Muschi | Bloomberg | Getty Images
People arrive to be vaccinated at the Palais Des Congres convention centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on Monday, March 1, 2021.

Canada's drug regulator has approved its fourth Covid-19 vaccine, Reuters reported.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single-dose shot that has been shown to be 66% effective in preventing moderate and severe disease, Supriya Sharma, a senior health ministry official, said at a briefing to announce the approval.

"Assessing all the data, we concluded there was strong evidence that showed the benefits of this vaccine outweigh the potential risks," Sharma said.

The country also approved AstraZeneca's vaccine in February, with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines having been approved in December, according to Reuters.

Canada reported 22,151 Covid-19 deaths and 878,391 cases throughout the pandemic, the wire service said. The country is recording about 3,000 new infections each day, down from the 8,400 recorded in January.

Rich Mendez

1 in 10 Americans say they'll never financially recover from the pandemic, survey finds

One year into the pandemic, many things will never be the same.

Although the wealthiest Americans are faring even better than before, millions have faced financial setbacks.

Among respondents who said their financial situation has gotten worse, 44% said it will take three years or more to get back to where they were 12 months ago — and 1 in 10 said their finances will never entirely recover, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.

"There are certain groups that have not only experienced job loss in their household, but they are having to take on debt — those are things that have consequences for their future," said Juliana Horowitz, one of the authors of the report.

An overwhelming majority of upper-income adults, roughly 86%, said their finances are in good, or even excellent, shape. Alternatively, about three-quarters of lower-income adults said their personal finances are in fair or poor shape.

—Jessica Dickler

Oxford study reportedly suggests AstraZeneca vaccine is effective against the Brazil variant

A healthcare professional draws up a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at the vaccination centre set up inside Brighton Centre in Brighton, southern England, on January 26, 2021.
Ben Stensall | AFP | Getty Images
A healthcare professional draws up a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at the vaccination centre set up inside Brighton Centre in Brighton, southern England, on January 26, 2021.

Preliminary data from a University of Oxford study suggest the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective against the Brazilian variant of the Covid-19 virus, Reuters reported, citing a source.

The study indicates the Astrazeneca vaccine won't need to be modified in order to protect against the variant. The Brazilian variant is believed to have originated in the city of Manaus in the Amazon, according to the Reuters source.

The news was encouraging coming in the wake of a prior study, in which early data suggested the AstraZeneca vaccine wasn't as effective against the highly contagious South African variant.

Terri Cullen

Dr. Gottlieb says mask mandates should be last Covid measures lifted

Dr. Scott Gottlieb calls Democratic Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont's move to lift many Covid restrictions, while keeping the state's mask mandate, a good compromise.

Gottlieb, a resident of Connecticut who served on Lamont's pandemic advisory team, told CNBC Friday, "I think it's the kind of thing we need to be doing around the country ... at least providing a map of where we're heading if the situation continues to improve without taking our foot off the brake all at once."

"Leaving the masks in place, having that be the last thing we lift, I think that's prudent," added former Food and Drug Administration chief Gottlieb.

Earlier this week, the Republican governors of Mississippi and Texas went a step further than Connecticut, ending all Covid restrictions, including mask mandates.

Kevin Stankiewicz

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

European airlines are overhauling the business after pandemic demand shock

Airlines in Europe are looking to sunshine and beaches as their route to making money again.

Lufthansa said on Thursday that it registered a 75% drop in the number of passengers between 2019 and 2020 — highlighting the devastating impact experienced by many airlines since Covid hit.

As European economies look at easing restrictions, airlines expect people to take vacation as soon as possible, after about a year of being stuck at home. In contrast, business travel is seen as taking longer to recover.

—Silvia Amaro

Jobs growth surges in February

U.S. hiring surged in February as Covid cases declined amid a vaccine rollout and economic activity picked up, CNBC's Jeff Cox reports.

Nonfarm payrolls rose by 379,000 during the month, topping economists' forecasts of 210,000 jobs. Unemployment fell to 6.2%.

—Sara Salinas

Movie theaters in New York City can reopen at 25% capacity today

Joseph Masher, COO of Bow Tie Cinemas and president of the National Association of Theater Owners of New York, joins CNBC's "Worldwide Exchange" to discuss the reopening of theaters in New York City and how the industry can bounce back.

—Terri Cullen

Eventbrite CEO on getting involved with the vaccine rollout

Eventbrite is one company at the center of the vaccine rollout. The ticketing company is now helping schedule appointments, and the stock is at an all-time high on optimism of an economic recovery. Julia Hartz, Eventbrite CEO and co-founder, joined CNBC's "Squawk Box" to discuss.

—Terri Cullen

Czech Republic asks for neighbors' help with hospitalized Covid patients

A member of the medical staff treats a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Slany Hospital in Slany, Czech Republic, October 13, 2020.
David W. Cerny | Reuters
A member of the medical staff treats a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Slany Hospital in Slany, Czech Republic, October 13, 2020.

The Czech Republic is asking for help from Germany, Switzerland and Poland in treating hospitalized Covid-19 patients, Reuters reports.

"The large number of newly infected patients has intensified pressure on the healthcare system and the number of patients requiring hospitalisation is growing," Prague's Health Ministry said in a statement, according to the report.

—Sara Salinas

Fauci says troops who opt out of Covid vaccine are inadvertently 'part of the problem'

A Paratrooper assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, prepares for a Airborne Operation at Fort Bragg, N.C., on May 7.
Spc. Hubert Delany III | US Army
A Paratrooper assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, prepares for a Airborne Operation at Fort Bragg, N.C., on May 7.

White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Thursday that U.S. service members who are eligible to get the Covid-19 vaccine but opt out are inadvertently lengthening the pandemic.

"In reality, like it or not, you're propagating this outbreak. So instead of being part of the solution, you are innocently and inadvertently being part of the problem by not getting vaccinated," Fauci explained to a virtual audience during a town hall with military families.

"You've got to think of your own health, which is really very important, but you got to think about your societal obligation, including people close to you personally as well as other members of families of other individuals," Fauci added.

Last month, the Pentagon acknowledged that about one-third of U.S. military service members declined to take the voluntary coronavirus vaccine.

–Amanda Macias

Read CNBC's previous live coverage here:

Covid updates: U.S. mall owner files for bankruptcy; Connecticut lifts capacity limits on businesses

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