Coronavirus: 30 states approved for extra unemployment money; American Airlines plans major cuts

India set to hold national college exams despite student backlash

Students seen in the college premises after appearing for the Uttar Pradesh B.Ed entrance exam, at Sector 39 Degree College, on August 9, 2020 in Noida, India.

Sunil Ghosh | Hindustan Times via Getty Images

India’s National Testing Agency has confirmed students will sit for admission tests to medical and engineering schools from next week, despite calls for the exams to be postponed once again due to the coronavirus crisis. 

The major entrance exams, already twice postponed this year, are now scheduled to be held in early September. India’s National Testing Agency said on Tuesday that the decision had been made “in view of the academic interest of the students.”

The All-India Students’ Union, a leftist group representing university students nationwide, has criticized the decision, saying many students will not be able to reach their exam centers and there was a risk it could fuel a jump in Covid-19 infections.

To date, India has reported more than 3.2 million cases of the coronavirus, with 59,449 related deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. — Sam Meredith

Coronavirus antibody therapy in Australia aims for trial in early 2021

Australian researchers are hoping to start human trials of an antibody therapy early next year, Reuters reported.

Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute is said to have made good progress identifying the most potent antibodies that can stop the virus causing Covid-19 from entering human cells, according to the news wire. A large-scale trial of a vaccine could also start by the end of 2020, Reuters added. 

Australia in recent weeks experienced a surge in infection cases in Victoria state, which now accounts for the majority of the country’s total reported cases. More than 25,000 people have now been infected in Australia and about 525 people have died, a large number of them in Victoria. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

Coronavirus reinfection cases look like ‘outliers’ right now, WHO official says

The three reported cases of Covid-19 reinfection currently look like outliers compared to the millions who have been infected by the coronavirus, a World Health Organization official said on Wednesday. 

Two patients in Europe and one in Hong Kong were confirmed to have been infected with a different strain of the virus, according to Reuters. That raised concerns over the long-term efficacy of any potential vaccine that is currently in development. 

“At this point, they do look like outliers. We’ve got (about) 24 million cases that have been reported globally and these are the first three that have been confirmed to be reinfections,” Matthew Griffith, a member of the World Health Organization’s regional office of the Western Pacific, said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.

“We’ve seen reports in the past about what looked like could’ve been reinfections, but there have been studies on those cases, and what it turned out to be was a viral shedding,” Griffith said. He added, “Those people were not likely to have been infectious, not likely to have been reinfected.” — Saheli Roy Choudhury

South Korea reports over 300 cases

A pedestrian walks through an empty street in the Itaewon district of Seoul, South Korea, on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.

Jean Chung | Bloomberg | Getty Images

South Korea reported 320 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, 307 of which were local, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Once considered a model for other countries in fighting the pandemic through mass testing and aggressive contact tracing, South Korea is facing a resurgence in infection numbers. The country has reported more than 3,300 new cases in the last two weeks, many of them traced to a church in Seoul and the Aug. 15 Liberation Day rally, according to Yonhap News Agency

Authorities have already started to implement stricter social distancing measures. For example, people not wearing masks in Seoul are not allowed to take public transportation while rallies of 10 or more people are restricted, Yonhap reported. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

Some Indonesian students may never catch up as schools remain closed

Indonesia’s education quality is considered “low and stagnant,” and its 69 million students may be held back even more as most schools remain closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a report published by Singaporean think tank ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

Some students may never catch up in their learning, the report said. That’s especially so for “low achieving” students whose teachers failed to adapt the curriculum for remote learning, and those living in rural Indonesia with little internet availability, it added. 

The report, released last week, came as the Indonesian government’s plan to reopen some schools faced opposition from teachers and health experts. They argued that allowing students to return to schools could worsen the coronavirus spread in the country — which has Southeast Asia’s largest death toll and the second-highest number of infections behind the Philippines.

As of Tuesday, Indonesia has reported more than 157,800 cases and over 6,800 deaths. — Yen Nee Lee

The pandemic brings new challenge as Texas evacuates residents for Hurricane Laura

Texas officials are preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Laura as the coronavirus pandemic throws new challenges on the state’s emergency response plans. 

The state is trying to evacuate residents in high-risk areas in a socially distanced manner, Gov. Greg Abbott said at a news briefing. Officials are encouraging evacuees to head for hotels, where they can self isolate, instead of potentially crowded evacuation centers. Abbott said the state is also providing protective equipment, such as masks, at shelter locations, as well as Covid-19 testing services.

“We are responding to Hurricane Laura while also responding to a pandemic,” Abbott said. “And we are not taking our eye off of what needs to be done to adequately respond to the pandemic, so several things are being done as we assist those who are evacuating that’s different from what has been done in the past.” —Will Feuer

GM using salaried workers amid high absenteeism

General Motors is taking unconventional steps to keep a truck and van plant in Missouri running amid high worker absenteeism due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Detroit automaker is using paid volunteer salaried employees to fill positions of absent hourly union workers at the company’s Wentzville Assembly plant as it attempts to refill deliver inventories following plants nationwide being shut down for about two months this spring due to Covid-19.

The use of salaried employees has drawn the ire of the local United Auto Workers chapter, which has filed grievances about the practice. The UAW argues the automaker is violating its contract with the union.

Such a practice is uncommon – particularly for a unionized workforce – but not unprecedented. Honda Motor last month confirmed to CNBC that it was using salaried employees to fill positions in its manufacturing operations.

– Michael Wayland

Spirit Airlines’ pilots agree to cut hours to avoid furloughs

Spirit Airlines pilots’ union says half of its 2,500 members will work fewer hours to avoid involuntary furloughs of some 600 pilots at the low-cost carrier this fall.

Furloughs have been looming for some 75,000 U.S. airline workers as the end of federal aid that prohibit job cuts until Oct. 1 nears an end.

Earlier, American said it plans to cut 19,000 jobs in October unless the industry gets another round of federal aid.–Leslie Josephs

The U.S. box office’s recovery won’t be as swift as China’s

China’s box office has flourished, proving that with time and ample safety guidelines, audiences will return to theaters in droves. However, the outlook for the box office recovery in the U.S. is less optimistic, industry analysts say.

The first weekend that major movie theaters were open, the U.S. tallied $10 million in ticket sales. Still, there is a fear that coronavirus cases could continue to surge, preventing social distancing regulations from relaxing and even forcing theaters to reclose.

So far, China has been able to reopen around 82% of its 10,800 theaters while the U.S. has reopened less than 30% of its 5,400 theaters. —Sarah Whitten

New York Fashion Week cleared to return with safety precautions

New York Fashion Week has been cleared to return this fall, but the runways will be subject to numerous health precautions to protect against the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. 

The annual fashion show, scheduled for Sept. 13 to 17, will have to cap attendance at 50 people if a show is held outside. No spectators will be allowed for indoor runway showswhich will also be limited to 50% capacity, Cuomo said. This year’s NYFW will also feature more virtual events, including “live-streamed runway shows, exclusive designer-related content and cultural programming,” according to a press release. 

“When Covid-19 hit New York, so many of our cherished events were forced to cancel or be postponed. The pandemic is far from over, but we’re proud to support event organizer IMG in moving forward with NYFW, in adherence with strict state public health guidance,” Cuomo said in a press release. — Noah Higgins-Dunn

U.S. needs more rapid coronavirus testing to reopen offices, says ex-Google CEO

The U.S. needs to increase its investment in fast tests for the coronavirus so offices can reopen with more capacity, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt told CNBC. 

“There’s plenty of technology that allows for rapid testing, and with rapid testing corporations could open. People could go to work,” Schmidt said on “Squawk Box.”

Schmidt said Washington politicians should have made rapid testing more of a priority during the earlier coronavirus relief packages. He called it a “tragedy” that quick-turnaround testing for Covid-19 is not more widely available months into the pandemic. —Kevin Stankiewicz

Remote workers are suffering isolationism as pandemic drags on

Millions are socially distant yet more digitally connected than ever before, and it’s an environment giving rise to loneliness and isolationism for many remote workers.

At least one expert says this pandemic is adversely affecting the youngest members of the workforce: “Young adults haven’t worked through the same adversary as their older colleagues and therefore don’t that the same trial and error experience to figure out ways to cope. Compared to their older colleagues younger workers are more likely to seek ‘peer-counseling’ than professional help,” said Terri Patterson, a principal at Control Risks’ Crisis and Security Consulting, based in Washington, D.C.

Remote work creates barriers and distorts coworkers’ natural cadence, according to a report by the Harvard Business Review. Experts recommend workers who feeling isolated should be proactive and schedule time to talk to peers, whether professionally or personally. Managers can also do more by fostering collaboration among teams, even if it seems forced at first. —AJ Horch

Restaurant bankruptcies poised to balloon in coming months, bringing more pain for landlords

Another wave of restaurant bankruptcies is likely on the horizon, spelling trouble for eatery landlords. 

The National Restaurant Association estimates it lost $165 billion in sales between March and July due to the coronavirus pandemic. Government funds and expanded outdoor dining have kept many restaurants afloat through the summer months, but both of those are reaching their expiration dates. 

Some restaurant landlords have responded to the Covid-19 crisis by striking short-term deals with their tenants, dramatically slashing base rent and asking for a percentage of sales instead. If property owners can’t strike a deal, they risk losing rent until a new tenant moves in. Chains like McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin’ and Yum Brands’ Pizza Hut are forecasting higher-than-usual closures of their restaurants this year.

“Chains are going to close their underperforming locations,” said Michael Jerbich, president of B. Riley Real Estate, a division within B. Riley Financial. “The bigger companies with the stronger balance sheets will be the ones to survive.” —Amelia Lucas

As more customers shop online, Best Buy designates some stores as shipping hubs

With more customers shopping online, Best Buy is turning about a quarter of its stores into fulfillment hubs

Starting next month, CEO Corie Barry said it will start testing a ship-from-store hub model. About 250 stores will be part of the pilot, though all of its stores ship online orders. She said the retailer chose the hubs based on space, proximity to shipping carriers and ability to support a high volume of same-day and next-day deliveries. 

She said Best Buy expects the shift toward e-commerce to continue, even after the coronavirus pandemic ends, and said the company’s stores are a “unique and powerful asset.” About 60% of Best Buy’s online orders are either picked up at a store or shipped from them.

“It’s not about less stores,” she said. “It’s probably about using stores differently and meeting the customer where they want to be met.” —Melissa Repko

J.Crew says it plans to emerge from bankruptcy next month

People walk into the J.Crew store the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets Mall on October 21, 2017 in Central Valley, NY.

Gary Hershorn | Getty Images

The beloved apparel brand J.Crew, known for its preppy looks, said Tuesday it plans to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy early next month as its reorganization plan won approval from the court. 

It said in a press release its plans would equitize more than $1.6 billion in debt, and also provide $400 million in an exit asset-based lending facility, as well as $400 million in new term loans. J.Crew filed for bankruptcy protection in May, as the coronavirus pandemic took a toll on its business and its debts became too much of a burden. 

“The confirmation of our plan of reorganization is another significant milestone in our path to transforming our business to drive long-term, sustainable growth for J.Crew and further advance Madewell’s growth momentum,” Chief Executive Jan Singer said in a statement. 

Forty-four retailers have filed for bankruptcy so far this year, including J.Crew, J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus and Brooks Brothers, according to Coresight Research. —Lauren Thomas 

American Airlines says it will shrink by 40,000 workers without more aid

American Airlines says it plans to cut 19,000 jobs in October when federal aid runs out, unless Congress approves another $25 billion for the struggling sector.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline expects its workforce — which numbered more than 140,000 in March — to shrink by 40,000 in October, taking into account voluntary leaves of absence, buyouts and early retirements.

Airlines are prohibited from cutting jobs until Oct. 1 under the terms of the $25 billion aid package. 

“The only problem with the legislation is that when it was enacted in March, it was assumed that by Sept. 30, the virus would be under control and demand for air travel would have returned,” wrote CEO Doug Parker and the airline’s president, Robert Isom, in a staff memo. “That is obviously not the case. Based on current demand levels, we at American now plan to fly less than 50% of our airline in the fourth quarter, with long-haul international particularly reduced to only 25% of 2019 levels.”

Federal data show airport screenings are down about 70% from a year ago, as the pandemic deprives airlines of revenue during what is usually the peak travel season.

Labor unions and airline executives have urged Congress for an extension of the aid but Congress has failed to reach a deal on the broader coronavirus aid package that would include the additional airline relief. —Leslie Josephs

College students prepare to head back home as cases mount

Olivia Amos, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was eating dinner on Polk Place Quad last week when Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz told students in an email that the coronavirus was tearing through campus and created an “untenable situation.” Now, Amos and her friends are preparing to move out of their on-campus housing after classes were moved online only. 

“I knew that there was a big possibility for us to move out sometime this semester, so I tried to pack as light as possible,” she said. “I just didn’t anticipate moving out this early.” 

Universities reopening across the country have struggled to contain climbing Covid-19 infections, spoiling carefully designed plans to safely bring students back to the classroom. School officials have urged students to maintain social distancing practices as health officials trace clusters of cases to off-campus gatherings. Infectious disease experts say the situation isn’t surprising. 

“If we had done a better job controlling the epidemic, I think we would be in a very different position,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, a professor at the Emory University School of Medicine who specializes in infectious diseases. —Noah Higgins-Dunn

FDA chief walks back comments on benefits of plasma treatment

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn walked back comments he made on the benefits of convalescent plasma after authorizing it for emergency use over the weekend.

Hahn came under intense criticism from the scientific community after he said at a press briefing that a study found the treatment resulted in a 35% improvement in survival. While the data suggested a higher dose of the plasma may be more beneficial than a lower dose, the study did not have a group of people who did not receive the treatment, making it difficult to determine whether it was any better than a placebo.

“I have been criticized for remarks I made Sunday night about the benefits of convalescent plasma. The criticism is entirely justified,” Hahn said in a series of tweets. “What I should have said better is that the data show a relative risk reduction, not an absolute risk reduction.”

He also denied the authorization was politically motivated. “I can assure the American people that this decision was made based upon sound science and data,” he told CBS in an interview. –Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

JPMorgan Chase traders and bankers will keep ability to work remotely, exec says

Workers in JPMorgan Chase‘s corporate and investment bank will cycle between days at the office and at home as the industry heavyweight with 60,950 employees keeps the ability to work remotely on a part-time basis.

With Wall Street preparing for more of its traders and bankers to return to offices next month,  the announcement by JPMorgan could pressure other financial firms to offer similar arrangements. Banks are in constant warfare with each other over talent, and the industry often moves in lockstep when it comes to perks and salary.

“We are going to start implementing the model that I believe will be more or less permanent, which is this rotational model,” said Daniel Pinto, head of the massive division and co-president of the banking giant. “Depending on the type of business, you may be working one week a month from home, or two days a week from home, or two weeks a month,” Pinto told CNBC in a Zoom call from London, where he is based.

The coronavirus pandemic forced Wall Street to send most of its employees home in March, and apart from skeleton crews that never left the trading floor, that is where most of them stayed. At Citigroup, some managers have begun sign-up sheets to gauge demand for a September return, according to people with knowledge of the situation. —Hugh Son

Another coronavirus spike in the fall won’t derail Wall Street’s rally, says Jeremy Siegel

Wharton School professor Jeremy Siegel told CNBC on Tuesday that he believes Wall Street’s rally would not be derailed by a Fall spike in coronavirus cases, stressing that stocks are forward-looking assets. 

“A little pause if we get that wave, but I don’t think it’s going to really stop the longer-term momentum upward,” the longtime market bull said on “Squawk Box.” 

Siegel expressed confidence in scientists and doctors who are working to create treatments and vaccines, saying even delays on their development would not offset the Federal Reserve’s policy interventions. “Even if it takes another six months more than we hope to get an effective vaccine, when you come back with the liquidity that’s provided by the Fed, that’s a really powerful force.” —Kevin Stankiewicz

30 states approved to offer an extra $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits

Workers in Philadelphia took to the streets to demand Congress return and come to a deal on unemployment and other financial relief.

Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Thirty states have received federal approval to offer “lost wages assistance,” under an executive measure that President Donald Trump signed Aug. 8, following the lapse of a $600-a-week federal supplement, reports CNBC’s Greg Iacurci

Unemployed workers may soon get a bump of $300 or more in their weekly jobless benefits, and it seems they won’t have to apply for that extra pay — it will come automatically. 

However, to be eligible for the assistance, many workers must take an additional step and self-certify in their online portals that they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by Covid-19.

Workers must have also received at least $100 in unemployment benefits during the weeks covered by the lost-wages program. —Melodie Warner 

S&P 500 rises to another record, Dow gains 80 points

The S&P 500 hit another record high at the open after China and the U.S. resumed trade talks, reports CNBC’s Fred Imbert.

The broader market index climbed 0.2%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 80 points, or 0.3%. The Nasdaq Composite slid 0.2%, however. —Melodie Warner 

Best Buy gets a sales bump from stay-at-home trends

People wearing masks walk past a large face mask sign in front of a Best Buy near Columbus Circle that as the city enters Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus in New York City.

Alexi Rosenfeld | Getty Images

As Americans cook, learn and work at home during the pandemic, Best Buy said its sales surged on its website and in stores in the fiscal second quarter. 

The national retailer said online sales grew by 242% in the U.S. during the three-month period. That’s the best quarter for online sales in company history.

Sales at stores open at least a year grew by 5.8%, higher than the 2.3% that Wall Street expected. The latest same-store sales growth was Best Buy’s highest in two years, even though stores were open by appointment only for the first six weeks of the quarter.

Yet, Chief Financial Officer Matt Bilunas declined to provide a financial outlook for the year. He cautioned in a news release that growth isn’t likely to continue at the same pace and the retailer will have higher expenses as its stores are fully reopened. —Melissa Repko

Papa John’s same-store sales continue to surge in August

Papa John’s International Inc. signage is displayed on top of a delivery vehicle outside of the company’s restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee.

Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images

U.S. consumers’ appetite for Papa John’s pizza cooled slightly in August, but the chain continues to report surging same-store sales growth. 

The company estimates that its same-store sales soared 23% between July 27 and August 23. Included in those estimates are the roughly 150 locations worldwide that are temporarily closed due to the pandemic. Papa John’s home market reported even higher same-store sales growth of 24% for the month.

In early August, the pizza chain said sales at North American locations open at least a year climbed 30% during July. —Amelia Lucas

Demand for infrared technology is at an all-time high as Covid-19 detection tool

As the Covid-19 outbreak continues, demand for infrared technology is at an all-time high. It’s being deployed in more places like schools, workplaces and restaurants to test whether or not someone has a fever, CNBC’s Andrew Evers reports. Temperature alone doesn’t determine if someone has Covid-19, but it can help determine if they have one of the main symptoms.

Thermal cameras have been used before, for the MERS, SARS and swine flu outbreaks. Now, the market is expected to grow to $10 billion from 2026, a $6 billion bump from 2019, according to Global Market Insights.

“If we look at SARS, H1N1, Ebola, all of those together don’t compare to the demand we’ve seen now. And from customers you wouldn’t have expected,” FLIR Systems, a company that makes thermal monitors, told CNBC. —Todd Haselton

CEOs are speeding up digital push and downsizing offices, according to KPMG

Companies around the world are prioritizing digital operations and downsizing office space as the pandemic leaves traditional workplaces in flux, according to a survey from accounting firm KPMG.

The survey showed 80% of business leaders had accelerated digital expansions and 69% were cutting office space in the near term, according to Reuters. CEOs also reported a larger candidate pool for hiring and a greater emphasis on retaining top staff. —Sara Salinas

Fauci warns against rushing a vaccine

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies during the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in Washington, D.C.

Kevin Dietsch | Pool via Reuters

AstraZeneca vaccine data could be ready for review this year, leading scientist says

Data on a vaccine candidate from AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford could be ready for regulatory review as soon as this year, Andrew Pollard, a scientist leading the trials, said, according to Reuters. 

“It is just possible that if the cases accrue rapidly in the clinical trials, that we could have that data before regulators this year, and then there would be a process that they go through in order to make a full assessment of the data,” Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, told BBC Radio, Reuters reported.

Over the weekend, the Financial Times reported that President Donald Trump’s administration is considering fast-tracking AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine before the November elections. The FT report cited three people briefed on the plan. —Will Feuer

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