Millions of Americans lose jobless benefits

House eyes early February for Covid relief bill vote

An aide collects copies of the National Strategy for Covid-19 before US President Joe Biden addresses the response and signing executive orders in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 21, 2021.

Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

The U.S. House of Representatives plans to hold a vote on a Covid relief bill the first week of February, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said according to a report from Reuters.

“We will be doing our committee work all next week so that we will be completely ready to go to the floor when we come back,” Pelosi said.

The Biden administration has proposed a $1.9 trillion relief bill, which includes coveted direct stimulus payments and small business loans, among other aid efforts. Even with narrow Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, the bill will likely need bipartisan support to pass smoothly.

Rich Mendez

Slow vaccine rollout, new variants clash with Wall Street’s rosy outlook

Wall Street’s rosy outlook may be getting a reality check. The sluggish rollout of the Covid vaccine is jeopardizing a brisk recovery. 

Economists and industry-watchers say that some investors haven’t factored in other complexities, too. They point to the disproportionate impact of the recession on low-income families, new “homebody” routines that have become ingrained and steep losses among experience-based industries like movie theaters, hotels and restaurants.

R.A. Farrokhnia, professor at Columbia University’s business school, said pent-up demand won’t be enough to save some hard-hit companies.

“You haven’t been able to travel since March, but it’s not like as soon as the pandemic is over, you decide to take off and travel for a full year and go on 10 different trips and a bunch of cruises,” he said. “So that money that got saved up, it’s not like it will be deployed back into those industries that are being affected severely now.”

—Melissa Repko

Americans are more optimistic about Covid but blame federal government for slow vaccine rollout

A new NBC News poll found that American voters are slightly more optimistic about the crisis now than they were last fall, but a majority are not pleased with the country’s vaccine rollout so far. Of those who find fault with the rollout, a majority blame the federal government.

The poll findings showed that 38% of registered voters believe the worst of the health crisis is behind the country, while 44% believe the worst is yet to come. In a poll conducted shortly before the November election, those figures were 25% and 55%, respectively.

More than half of participants said the country’s sluggish vaccine rollout has been subpar: 30% said vaccine administration has gone poorly, while 25% said it has gone “not too well.” Among participants who were unhappy with the vaccine rollout, 4% primarily blamed the federal government, while 21% blamed state governments. Another 11% blamed both equally.

Hannah Miao

Millions of Americans lost jobless benefits after Christmas

Nearly 3 million Americans lost unemployment benefits after Christmas, according to Labor Department data issued Thursday, a scenario many had feared due to delays in issuing additional Covid relief.

Two temporary CARES Act programs had already lapsed by the time Congress and former President Donald Trump pushed through a $900 billion pandemic aid package, which extended jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed.

The resulting gap in aid is known as a so-called benefits cliff. Many who lost assistance can resume it due to the new funding. However, some states haven’t yet begun paying that assistance, meaning workers may go weeks without income support.

Greg Iacurci

United says U.S. Covid testing requirement hurting demand for beach vacations abroad

United Airlines said demand for Mexico and some Caribbean beach destinations has softened after the U.S. announced it will require international travelers to test negative for Covid-19 before flying to the United States.

The new rule goes into effect next Tuesday and requires all inbound travelers, including U.S. citizens, to show a negative result to a Covid test that was taken within three days of departure.

“We have seen a change, the change is very focused on Mexican beach resorts,” Andrew Nocella, United’s chief commercial officer, said during an earnings call.

The carrier is working to help increase the supply of tests and said while it expects a short-term hit to sales, more widespread testing will help bolster travel demand.

—Leslie Josephs

Biden will use his executive powers to reopen schools

A classroom is empty with the lights off on what would otherwise be a blended learning school day on November 19, 2020 at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 in New York City.

Michael Loccisano | Getty Images

On his first full day in office, President Joe Biden released a plan to reopen schools, which includes ramping up testing and contact tracing for the coronavirus, accelerating the pace of vaccinations and providing more funding for educational institutions.

Under Biden’s plan, schools could tap disaster relief funds for Covid-related expenses, including personal protective equipment, sanitation, improved ventilation, reconfigured classrooms and upgraded technology.

The president also called on Congress to provide at least $130 billion in dedicated funding to schools and $350 billion in state and local relief funds to help school districts close budget gaps and provide additional resources for reopening.  

In addition, Biden will roll out a national vaccination plan so that teachers can be vaccinated as quickly as possible and return to the classroom.

—Jessica Dickler

Portugal closes schools for 15 days as Covid cases, deaths surge

A woman wearing a face mask with a children walk a dog on the first day of the second national lockdown to combat the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic in Lisbon, Portugal on January 15, 2021.

Pedro Fiuza | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Portugal will close its schools and universities for at least 15 days, Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced Thursday as the country deals with its worst outbreak since the pandemic began.

“Despite the extraordinary effort of schools … in the face of this new variant and the velocity of its transmission, we must exercise precaution and interrupt all school activities for the next 15 days,” Costa said.

The new Covid variant first spotted in Britain has ravaged Portugal, setting records for one of the world’s worst virus surges as daily coronavirus cases in the country jumped to almost 15,000 on Wednesday.

Rich Mendez

Art Basel postpones 2021 Basel show

People post in front of Maurizio Cattelan’s “Comedian” presented by Perrotin Gallery and on view at Art Basel Miami 2019 at Miami Beach Convention Center on December 6, 2019 in Miami Beach, Florida.

Cindy Ord | Getty Images

Art Basel, an international art fair staged annually in Basel, Switzerland, has been postponed again from June to Sept. 23-26 and will now take place at Messe Basel.

The fair features over 250 leading galleries and more than 4,000 artists from five continents, according to the official website.

“Due to the ongoing impact of the global pandemic and travel restrictions worldwide, Art Basel has decided to postpone its June fair,” Art Basel said.

The art fair’s next initiative will be ‘OVR:Pioneers’, an edition of Online Viewing Rooms, and will run March 24-27.

Rich Mendez

England’s third pandemic lockdown sees ‘no evidence of decline’ in Covid rates

A man wearing a mask as a preventive measure against the spread of Covid-19 walks in London.

May James | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images

A study led by Imperial College London has found that a third national lockdown in England appears to have had little impact on the rising rate of coronavirus infections during the first 10 days of renewed restrictions.

The research, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, warned already stressed health services would remain under “extreme pressure” and the cumulative number of deaths would increase rapidly unless the prevalence of the virus in the community was reduced substantially.

The findings come shortly after the U.K. recorded another all-time high of coronavirus deaths.

Government figures released on Wednesday showed an additional 1,820 people had died within 28 days of a positive Covid test.

—Sam Meredith

American Eagle sees holiday-quarter sales dropping low-single digits amid weak mall traffic

American clothing and accessories retailer American Eagle store seen in Tokyo. (Photo by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Budrul Chukrut | SOPA Images | Light Rocket | Getty Images

American Eagle ahead of a virtual meeting with investors Thursday said it expects fourth-quarter revenue to decrease in the low-single digits, as weak mall traffic drives a drop in brick-and-mortar store sales. That comes in lower than analysts’ estimates, which were for a 0.14% dip, according to data from Refinitiv.

The apparel retailer said it expects digital sales at both of its brands to grow by double digits as more customers buy online. Its lingerie brand for teens, Aerie, is forecast to grow fourth-quarter revenue in the high-20% range, the company said, while its namesake American Eagle brand is forecast to see sales drop in the low double-digit range.

The retailer is expected to report its fourth-quarter and fiscal 2020 results on March 3.

A number of mall-based retailers including Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters have reported weak 2020 holiday sales, as many Americans have been staying put at home, shopping from the sofa, and buying less apparel and footwear for their closets. Retailers like American Eagle, which rely on apparel sales, have tried to stock their shelves with more comfortable clothing, such as leggings and pajama sets, that consumers have been looking to wear more of during the pandemic.

Separately Thursday, American Eagle laid out longer-term financial targets, aiming to grow its Aerie business to $2 billion while it works on improving profits at its namesake banner. Overall, American Eagle said it is targeting revenue of $5.5 billion, and operating income of $550 million, in fiscal 2023. In its latest reported fiscal year, it brought in revenue of $4.31 billion.

Lauren Thomas

It’s been one year since the U.S. confirmed its first Covid case

Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the first Covid-19 case confirmed in the U.S. by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since then, the country has struggled to contain the outbreak and to mitigate the economic damage dealt by the pandemic.

More than 24.44 million Covid cases have been confirmed in the U.S. and at least 406,162 virus-related deaths as of Thursday morning, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The country’s total caseload is slightly more than the combined totals of India, Brazil and Russia. The U.S. Covid death count is about twice as high as that of Brazil, the country with the second-highest virus deaths.

Millions of jobs have been lost due to the pandemic. Earlier on Thursday, the Labor Department said an additional 900,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week.

A slew of Covid vaccines have been approved globally for emergency use, but a myriad of supply and logistical issues have slowed their rollouts.

Fred Imbert

Correction: An earlier version of this blog post misstated Brazil’s global ranking for virus-related deaths reported.

U.S. weekly jobless claims total 900,000, slightly lower than expected

U.S. weekly jobless claims were slightly lower than expected as Americans continued to join the unemployment line amid rising Covid cases, reports CNBC’s Jeff Cox.

Initial unemployment claims totaled 900,000 for the week ended Jan. 16, slightly below the Dow Jones estimate of 925,000 and lower than the previous week’s total of 926,000.

—Melodie Warner 

Biden to sign 10 executive orders for pandemic response

President Joe Biden on Thursday released details on his administration’s plan to revitalize the nation’s response to the coronavirus and accelerate the vaccine rollout. He plans to sign 10 executive orders. Here’s what a few of them do:

  • Establish a new Covid-19 testing board to bring more diagnostic tests to market and make them more widespread
  • Direct federal agencies to invoke the Defense Production Act, a wartime law used to compel companies to prioritize manufacturing considered essential to national security
  • Provide more federal compensation to states for costs incurred by activating the National Guard and rolling out the vaccine
  • Establish a “COVID-19 Response Office” charged with coordinating the pandemic response across federal agencies and establishing clear lines of communication down to local officials
  • Direct the Department of Health and Human Services to collect data on school reopenings and the spread of Covid, allowing for more scientific research into the risk of putting kids back in schools
  • Stand up a “COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force” to ensure vaccines, treatments, masks and other resources reach everyone, including harder hit communities of color that have suffered from disproportionately high death rates in the U.S.

—Will Feuer

Coronavirus vaccine myths busted by experts

Vaccine skepticism and outright anti-vaccination sentiment has become rife in recent months, with more members of the public questioning the development, efficacy and aims of coronavirus vaccines. This has led to a number of vaccine “myths” circulating online.

Experts and public health officials say it’s crucial to combat misinformation and the more nefarious disinformation (that is, false information intended to mislead people) being spread about the jabs currently being deployed.

The World Health Organization cited vaccine hesitancy among its top 10 global health threats in 2019. Vaccination, it said, “prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved.”

—Holly Ellyatt

Dr. Fauci says U.S. to remain a WHO member, will join COVAX imitative for vaccine distribution

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, gestures after receiving the Moderna Inc. Covid-19 vaccine during an event at the NIH Clinical Center Masur Auditorium in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S., on Tuesday, Dec, 22, 2020.

Patrick Semansky | Bloomberg | Getty Images

U.S. Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday the U.S. will remain a member of the World Health Organization and intends to join a global coronavirus vaccine delivery scheme designed to support low-income countries.

“President Biden will issue a directive later today which will include the intent of the United States to join COVAX and support the ACT-Accelerator to advance multilateral efforts for Covid-19 vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostic distribution, equitable access, and research and development,” Fauci told the WHO’s executive board.

His comments came one day after President Joe Biden was sworn into office.

In response to Fauci’s remarks, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “This is a good day for WHO and a good day for global health.”

—Sam Meredith

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here: