Coronavirus: Australia’s second quarter GDP contracts at record pace; San Francisco unveils plan for reopening businesses, schools

Japan reportedly considering plan to offer free Covid-19 vaccinations to all citizens

Pedestrins read an extra edition of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s resignation in fornt of an electronic quotation board displaying share prices from the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on August 28, 2020.

KAZUHIRO NOGI | AFP via Getty Images

The Japanese government is considering whether to offer free Covid-19 vaccinations to all residents, Kyoto News reported, citing unnamed sources close to the matter. 

Under a plan that is currently being discussed, Japan’s government is debating whether to prioritize vaccinations for the elderly, medical workers, and those with underlying health conditions. CNBC was not able to independently verify this report.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who abruptly announced he would soon step down on Friday, said recently that the government planned to secure enough Covid-19 vaccines for every citizen by the middle of next year. — Sam Meredith

Australia posts worst quarterly economic downturn on record

A man wearing a face mask walks before the Harbour Bridge in Sydney, Australia on July 22, 2020.

Saeed Khan | AFP | Getty Images

Australia’s GDP fell at a record pace in the second quarter of 2020, shrinking 7% in the April to June period, compare to the previous quarter.

It came as coronavirus restrictions battered the economy. This is the largest fall in quarterly GDP since records began in 1959 and a sharper decline than the 5.9% economists polled by Reuters had expected. GDP fell 6.3% from a year ago, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In the first quarter, the Australia posted a 0.3% quarterly decline in GDP.

The data comes as the state of Victoria — Australia’s second most populous state — remains in a lockdown as authorities strive to contain the spread of the virus. International borders are also closed. — Huileng Tan

Coronavirus antibodies last for at least four months in 30,000-person study

A study done with more than 30,000 people in Iceland showed coronavirus antibodies last for at least four months and did not fade quickly, the Associated Press reports.

Previously, some smaller studies suggested that antibodies were quick to disappear, according to the AP.

The new study was done with several hospitals, universities and health officials by deCODE Genetics, a subsidiary of the U.S. biotech company Amgen, AP reported. —Chris Eudaily

CDC will halt evictions through the end of the year

The Trump administration announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will invoke its authority to halt evictions through the end of the year in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The moratorium is the most significant step taken so far by the White House to fend off a predicted flood of evictions across the country.

The move followed President Donald Trump’s Aug. 8 executive order, which asked the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services to consider whether eviction-halting measures were necessary to help quell the Covid-19 crisis.

Those who are eligible under the eviction moratorium must meet several criteria before presenting their landlords with a declaration, which will be made available on the CDC website.

They have to show that they have made efforts to seek government help and cannot pay their rent due to the impact of the pandemic, and they must demonstrate that they are likely to become homeless or move into congregate housing if evicted. –Christina Wilkie, Kevin Breuninger

NIH panel says there is ‘insufficient data’ to show convalescent plasma works against coronavirus

A panel of experts convened by the National Institutes of Health said there is “insufficient data” to show convalescent plasma works against the coronavirus, refuting claims made by President Donald Trump and the head of the Food and Drug Administration.

The panel said it reviewed available data on the treatment and found no data from “well-controlled, adequately powered randomized clinical trials that demonstrate the efficacy and safety of convalescent plasma” for the treatment of Covid-19. It also said “there was no difference in 7-day survival” for patients, contradicting FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, who said the treatment resulted in a 35% improvement in survival.

The FDA’s decision to authorize emergency use came a day after Trump accused the FDA of delaying enrollment in clinical trials for Covid-19 vaccines or therapeutics. The criticism from Trump and action from the FDA led some scientists to say the emergency use was politically motivated, especially since it was announced on the eve of the Republican National Convention. –Berkeley Lovelace Jr. 

U.S. health advisors predict four vaccine trials could fail

A top group advising U.S. health officials predicted that four late-stage coronavirus vaccine trials backed by the United States could fail to provide positive results.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a draft report that lays out a federal plan for distributing a coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. if and when one is approved for public use. The vaccine would be distributed in four phases with health-care workers and vulnerable Americans, such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, getting it first.

The group said it expects all volunteers participating in U.S. vaccine trials to get an approved vaccination early on regardless of its phased guidelines as “doing so is a typical standard of vaccine trial protocol.” It said the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed expects to support up to seven 30,000-person phase three trials and it assumes four of them will fail. –Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Roche to launch new test in Europe later this month

Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche announced Tuesday that it will launch its new rapid coronavirus test in Europe at the end of the month, as more companies roll out rapid antigen tests heading into the fall.

“This can help healthcare professionals identify a SARS-CoV-2 infection in people suspected to carry the virus with results typically ready in 15 minutes,” Roche said in a release. “In addition, it serves as a valuable initial screening test for individuals that have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 infected patients or a high risk environment.”

Roche called the test “affordable,” but did not disclose pricing details. It does not depend on technical lab equipment, the company said, which means it can be used in settings where rapid and large-scale testing may be needed. —Will Feuer

HHS deploys Abbott’s new tests to states hit by wildfires, hurricanes

The U.S. is deploying extra coronavirus tests, including Abbott’s new rapid test kits, to areas of the country recently hit hard by natural disasters, Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir said.

“We will be working with Abbott on training, communication and numerous other implementation details, but we are prioritizing, as early as today, the very first shipments to areas of natural disasters, including Louisiana with the hurricanes and wildfires in the West, to support care for those who are displaced,” Giroir said on a conference call with reporters. 

Officials in Louisiana and Texas acknowledged last week that responding to an emergency during the pandemic presents new challenges. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned last week that the state is “blind” to the size of the coronavirus outbreak there because it had to shutter many testing sites as it battened down for Hurricane Laura. —Will Feuer

San Francisco unveils plan for reopening businesses, schools

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a plan to reopen indoor businesses, including hotels, museums and salons, by the end of September after San Francisco County was granted permission to do so by the governor’s new four-tiered reopening plan.

Starting Tuesday, indoor malls can reopen with limited capacity along with outdoor pools, non-contact recreational activities and outdoor personal services. Breed said the city plans to reopen hotels and indoor museums, along with other businesses and places of worship, in the coming weeks.

By the end of the month, the city hopes to open personal services for indoor operations, including hair and nail salons, barbers and massage parlors, according to a tweet from the mayor. 

San Francisco County was moved into the “red” tier after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new framework last week that allows individual counties to reopen more businesses depending on the level of virus transmission in the area. By moving into this tier, Breed said the K-6 schools can discuss returning students to school “with safety wavers” though the state is being more cautious with high school students. —Noah Higgins-Dunn

U.S. economy needs more fiscal stimulus, says co-CIO of world’s largest hedge fund

The U.S. economy needs between $1.3 trillion and $1.7 trillion to sustain its recovery from the coronavirus-induced devastation, according to the co-CIO of the world’s largest hedge fund.

“And it depends what it’s used for. … The policy that gets directly spent in the economy is much more effective per dollar than the dollar that’s preventing more bad things from happening,” Greg Jensen of Bridgewater Associates said on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” 

For example, government dollars spent on stimulus checks to Americans will be “direct positives” while “money for states is going to prevent negatives,” Jensen contended. 

Jensen said the U.S. economy is doing OK now, but pushed back on the idea that the economic recovery would persist on its own. That’s because he said the fiscal support has been a key driver in getting the recovery to where it is now. “If you take away the reason it got there, if you take away the supports to income, you’re going to start to see a downturn at the worst possible time,” he said. —Kevin Stankiewicz

‘The stakes could not be higher’ for the film industry this Labor Day weekend

Labor Day weekend usually signals the end of the summer box office. This year it takes on a new meaning.

“Tenet” arrives in theaters this Friday, the first true blockbuster to debut since March as the coronavirus pandemic kept theaters shuttered. Its performance at the box office will indicate if consumers truly have confidence in returning to movie theaters in the U.S.

The hope is that the Christopher Nolan film will be able to garner between $25 million and $35 million this weekend, about half of what the film could have made without the pandemic.

Also arriving this weekend is “Mulan,” which ditched a theatrical release in order to go straight to Disney+ as a $30 premium add-on. The expectation is that the Disney film will be a one-off, the first and last of its kind to follow this strategy.

Still, if moviegoers don’t flock back to theaters to see “Tenet” it could force studios to delay more films into 2021 or push more titles to streaming. —Sarah Whitten

Labor Day weekend will be essential leading into the fall, top health officials warn

If the U.S. wants to control the coronavirus this fall, it needs to start with the upcoming Labor Day weekend, top U.S. health officials are warning. 

Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday that the U.S. has seen success with decreasing Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations since they peaked in July. However, he warned that seven states still have a so-called positivity rate, or the percentage of tests that are positive, above 10%.

“Labor Day is coming up, and we need to stress personal responsibility,” Giroir said. “We have to go into the fall with decreasing cases like we’re doing now. We can’t risk a lack of personal responsibility.”

Giroir’s concerns about the Labor Day weekend echo those from White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, who reportedly said on a White House conference call with governors Monday that the holiday will help determine whether the U.S. is able to get a “running start” this fall, according to the Associated Press. —Noah Higgins-Dunn

U.S. advisors recommend four phases for distributing vaccine

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a draft proposal for distributing a coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. if and when one is approved for public use.

The vaccine would be distributed in four phases, with health-care workers and vulnerable Americans, like the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, getting it first. Phase two would include essential workers, teachers, homeless shelters as well as people in prisons, jails and detention centers. Phase three would include young adults, children and workers in industries “essential to the functioning of society” and who are at risk of exposure to the virus.

Phase four would include everyone not vaccinated yet. –Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Apple and Google build exposure notifications directly into phones to improve adoption

Apple and Google announced on Tuesday that updates to iOS and Android will include software to help trace the coronavirus, meaning that users will no longer have to seek out apps from public health authorities.

Instead, users will get a notification saying that exposure notification is available in their region and an option to opt-in. Exposure notification uses Bluetooth signals from smartphones that have opted-in to determine how closely and for how long two phones were nearby, without collecting the location or identify of the users, allowing users to receive notifications that they may have been exposed to Covid-19.

The systems require significant public adoption in order to work most efficiently, and Apple and Google hope that the new system can help improve adoption by reducing barriers to opting in. —Kif Leswing

Fauci debunks theories of low coronavirus death toll from CDC

White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the U.S. has reported more than 180,000 Covid-19 deaths, debunking theories that said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidance to show only a fraction of fatalities. 

Twitter removed a post retweeted by President Donald Trump that claimed the CDC had “quietly” updated its guidance to indicate only 6% of the country’s coronavirus death toll — roughly 9,000 deaths —  was actually caused by the virus, according to a CNN report. The tweet said the remaining 94% had “other serious illnesses.” 

Fauci said the guidance indicates that of the people who have died from the virus, “a certain percentage of them had nothing else but just Covid.” That doesn’t mean someone with an underlying illness didn’t die of Covid-19, Fauci noted. 

“That does not mean that someone who has hypertension or diabetes who dies of Covid didn’t die of Covid-19. They did,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told GMA. “So the numbers you’ve been hearing — there are 180,000-plus deaths — are real deaths from Covid-19. Let (there) not be any confusion about that.” —Noah Higgins-Dunn

Small-business relief program may have wasted billions, House Democratic panel says

A federal coronavirus small-business relief program may have sunk billions of dollars on “fraud, waste, and abuse,” a new report from staff on the Democrat-led House coronavirus subcommittee said.

The report said that “a lack of oversight and accountability” may have diverted large chunks of the funding away from those who needed it most.

The preliminary analysis of the program found that more than $1 billion went to companies that received multiple loans, and that more than 600 loans totaling $96.3 million went to companies barred from dealing with the federal government. Another $195 million went to government contractors who had previously been flagged for “significant performance and integrity issues,” the report said.

An analysis of a government database of the loans also raised thousands of red flags – such as mismatched addresses – when compared with the information companies used to obtain the funds: The flags were connected to more than 11,000 borrowers and totaled $2.98 billion, according to the report.

Earlier Tuesday, Republicans on the Covid-19 subcommittee released their own report on the program, declaring it a “resounding success.” —Kevin Breuninger

New York City public schools to delay start of classes under safety deal with unions

An entrance to Public School 159 is seen locked in Queens, New York, July 8, 2020.

Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

The largest U.S. school system in the country, New York City public schools, will delay the start of classes to Sept. 21 under a deal between the city and education unions, which had pushed for better coronavirus safety measures, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, according to a Reuters report.

The unions, which were led by the United Federation of Teachers, had voiced concerns that in the city’s rush top open schools by the Sept. 10 scheduled start of the school year, they were not taking the proper steps to protect teachers, students and staff from the virus.

After announcing the delay, Mayor de Blasio was joined by union leaders who said their health and safety concerns had been met, the wire service reported. —Terri Cullen

White House to resume tours with precautions

The White House will resume its public tours on Sept. 12 with limited capacity and health precautions, according to a statement from First Lady Melania Trump’s office.

“In order to ensure the safety and health of all visitors, there have been new policies implemented that align with the guidance issued by federal, state, and local officials,” the statement said. 

The tours will only be held two days a week instead of five, and guests over the age of 2 will be required to wear a face covering. The number of guests will be limited to 18% capacity and must practice social distancing. —Noah Higgins-Dunn

White House chief of staff says aid to states is holding up stimulus negotiations

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, left, and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows speak to reporters in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. July 29, 2020.

Erin Scott | Reuters

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told CNBC that aid to state and local governments is the biggest sticking point holding up talks between Republicans and Democrats as they wrestle over the details of a potential new Covid-19 relief measure.

“As we look at the number of things that we actually agree to, and the amounts of money allocated to those areas, probably the biggest stumbling block that remains is the amount of money that would go to state and local help,” Meadows said on “Squawk on the Street.”

The two sides agree on a range of issues, such as direct payments to Americans and new money for small businesses. But they remain hundreds of millions of dollars apart on aid to municipalities, with Democrats pressing for more than $900 million and Republicans calling for $150 million. 

Meadows said that he expected Senate Republicans to put forward a bill next week that would include just the areas where there is agreement. Democrats have rejected such a maneuver, however, so there is little likelihood such a bill will pass into law. —Tucker Higgins

Millions of Americans wiped out emergency savings during the pandemic

While some Americans are, in fact, saving more than ever before, a greater number of people are experiencing financial hardship as a result of the economic downturn prompted by Covid-19.

Since the virus was declared a pandemic, 14% of Americans — roughly 46 million people — said they’ve used up all of their emergency savings, according to a new CNBC and Acorns Invest In You Savings Survey.

When broken down by age, older millennials fared the worst: Roughly a quarter, or 26%, of those ages 25 to 34 said they had completely depleted their emergency fund, compared with just 6% of boomers ages 65 or older, according to the survey of more than 5,400 adults in August.

These extreme economic circumstances are exactly what emergency funds are there for, according to Greg McBride, the chief financial analyst at But it may be a long time before Americans are able to replenish their savings. —Jessica Dickler

Dow falls at open as Wall Street takes a breather after best August since 1980s

The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened lower on the first trading day of the month, as the market took a breath following its best August performance since the 1980s, reports CNBC’s Fred Imbert and Yun Li. 

The 30-stock average dropped 84 points, or 0.3%. The S&P hovered just above the flatline and the Nasdaq Composite outperformed with a 0.5% gain. —Melodie Warner 

1-in-5 parents reducing work hours because of remote school: survey

A mother instructs her children in their homeschool learning curriculum. Either a normal education routine, or a new way of doing things for those practicing social distancing during Covid-19 lockdown.


As more schools pivot to remote schedules, the number of parents in a bind is also increasing.

Not only do many children need assistance with virtual learning, but at the very least, they need basic supervision, which means an adult must be at home to help.

Already, 21% of parents said they had to change or reduce their work hours because of remote school and limitations on childcare due to Covid-19, according to a new report from Country Financial.

Another 7% of parents had to leave a job altogether.

Having children home every day also costs more, with parents estimating they’ll spend up to $500 a month to cover added expenses, such as groceries and new computers or other technology upgrades, the report found. Country Financial polled over 1,300 adults in August.

“That double whammy is certainly real,” said Troy Frerichs, a vice president at Country Financial. —Jessica Dickler

GM completes ventilator production for national stockpile

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and CEO of General Motors Mary Barra visit the General Motors Components Holding Plant that is manufacturing ventilators for use during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Kokomo, Indiana.

Chris Bergin | Reuters

General Motors announced it fulfilled its $489.4 million government contract to build 30,000 critical-care ventilators for the national stockpile.

GM partnered with Washington-based Ventec Life Systems to build the ventilators at the automaker’s former facility in Indiana as the first wave of Covid-19 cases surged in the U.S. this spring.

Ventilators have been critical in saving lives during the coronavirus pandemic. While their need has waned in recent months, the health-care industry is bracing for a second surge of Covid-19.

The full federal order was completed in just 154 days, with one ventilator completed about every seven minutes, according to GM. The contract, which was announced in late-March, was to be completed by the end of August.

With the contract completed, GM has formally turned over operational control of the Kokomo ventilator manufacturing operation to Ventec. The automaker will lease the facility to the healthcare supplier for undisclosed terms. —Michael Wayland

Trump talking less about the pandemic as election nears

U.S. President Donald Trump responds to questions from members of the news media during a news conference at the White House in Washington.

Leah Millis | Reuters

President Donald Trump spoke about the coronavirus for roughly 70 seconds Monday at one of his daily press briefings, which were originally intended to update the public on the pandemic. He spent the other 25 minutes discussing other matters, including street violence in some cities and the police response. 

Political communications experts and strategists say his pivot away from the outbreak is likely intentional, reports CNBC’s Christina Farr. 

“I think the president is trying to return the focus to topics he’s more comfortable talking about, where he believes he has a policy advantage,” said Lanhee J. Chen, a fellow at the Hoover Institute and policy director for Mitt Romney during his presidential run. —Will Feuer

Germany expects V-shaped recovery

A waitress wears a protective face mask while serving customers on a restaurant terrace near the Deutsche Bank AG twin tower skyscraper headquarters, center, in the financial district in Frankfurt, Germany.

Alex Kraus | Bloomberg via Getty Images

Germany expects a quick economic rebound from the coronavirus pandemic as the country hopes to avoid future lockdown measures, German economy minister Peter Altmaier said, according to Reuters.

“Overall, we can say that at least for now, we are dealing with a V-shaped development,” Altmaier told reporters as he provided updates on the country’s economic growth forecasts, Reuters reported.

Germany now expects the economy to contract 5.8% in 2020 rather than a decline of 6.3% previously forecasted, Reuters reported, and the country expects the economy to rise 4.4% in 2021, down from a previous projection of 5.2%. —Will Feuer

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