President Donald Trump on Thursday continued his push for schools to reopen as fall approaches regardless of the state of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, adding that keeping schools closed “is causing death also.”
Trump called on Democrats to work with Republicans to pass the latest coronavirus relief bill, which currently includes $105 billion to help schools reopen for in-person learning in the fall. Democratic leadership has criticized the bill for leaving out key aid measures Democrats included in the $3 trillion relief package they passed in May.
In his call to reopen schools, Trump reiterated that the risk of Covid-19 patients becoming severely sick and dying from the disease falls with age. However, an underlying illness such as diabetes and obesity increases the risk of dying from Covid-19 in patients of all ages, including the very young, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has warned. Children in the U.S. have previously been infected with Covid-19 and some have been hospitalized and even died.
“The lower they are in age, the lower the risk,” Trump said Thursday at a news briefing in the White House. “We have to remember that there’s another side to this. Keeping them out of school and keeping work closed is causing death also. Economic harm, but it’s causing death for different reasons, but death. Probably more death.”
The president also indicated that if some state or local officials decide not to reopen schools, he thinks the school funding should be reallocated to parents. Earlier this month, Trump made a similar threat that he may withhold federal funding from schools that do not resume in-person classes this fall.
“We say if a school doesn’t want to open or if a governor doesn’t want to open, maybe for political reasons and maybe not but there is some of that going on, the money should go to the parents, so they can send their children to the school of their choice,” Trump said Thursday. “If schools stay closed, the money should follow the students so families are in control of decisions about their sons and daughters, about their children.”
The matter of whether and how to reopen schools in the U.S. this fall has become a hotbed issue in recent weeks. Some epidemiologists, including Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, have noted that if even one child dies of Covid-19 as a result of reopening schools, it would be a tragedy that should shape policy. Others have warned that even if the risk of severe sickness and death are relatively low for children, the role young people play in spreading the virus is not yet clearly understood and they may act as a carrier that sparks fresh outbreaks.
In an article published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, professor of education at Harvard, Meira Levinson, along with infectious diseases scientist Dr. Muge Cevik and epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch, writes that reopening schools, especially for elementary students, in the U.S. is both crucial and feasible. However, they add that to do so safely, communities should make every effort to bring outbreaks under control before the reopening of schools.
“Any region experiencing moderate, high, or increasing levels of community transmission should do everything possible to lower transmission,” they wrote, adding that other countries have closed nonessential indoor businesses and recreational spaces to bring the outbreak under control. “Such measures along with universal mask wearing must be implemented now in the United States if we are to bring case numbers down to safe levels for elementary schools to reopen this fall nationwide.”
Moderna in Cambridge, MA is pictured on Feb. 28, 2020.
David L. Ryan | The Boston Globe via Getty Images
A member of Moderna’s board of directors resigned to avoid any “potential or even apparent conflict of interest” during the company’s phase three trial for its potential coronavirus vaccine, the company announced Thursday.
Dr. Elizabeth “Betsy” Nabel is leaving effective immediately after sitting on the company’s board of director for five years, Moderna said in a statement. Nabel is president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which is one of 89 clinical trial sites participating in the phase three trial of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate.
“In the context of the start of the 30,000 participant Phase 3 trial for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s final preparation as a site for enrolling up to 300-500 trial participants, we have accepted Betsy’s resignation out of an abundance of caution to avoid any potential or even apparent conflict of interest on her part or Moderna’s part,” the company said in a statement.
Moderna began its late-stage human trials on Monday.
This is a developing story. Please check back later for updates.
A lab technician visually inspects a filled vial of investigational coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment drug remdesivir at a Gilead Sciences facility in La Verne, California.
Gilead Sciences | via REUTERS
Gilead Sciences‘ sales fell 10% in the second quarter from a year earlier as demand fell for some of its drugs because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Gilead’s total product sales slid 10% to $5.1 billion in the second quarter, down from $5.6 billion a year ago and less than the $5.31 billion analysts expected. The company reported adjusted earnings of $1.11 per share, lower than the $1.45 per share projected by analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.
“The impact of COVID-19 on Gilead’s business continues to be subject to a high degree of uncertainty given unpredictable dynamics related to the incidence, spread and efforts to treat COVID-19 around the world,” the company wrote in its earnings release.
The company’s stock was essentially flat in after-hours trading Thursday.
In May, the FDA granted Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir an emergency use authorization, allowing hospitals and doctors to use the drug on patients hospitalized with the disease even though the drug has not been formally approved by the agency.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
Ford reports earnings after the bell, and analysts expect billions in losses from the coronavirus pandemic
Jim Hackett of Ford Motor speaks at an event during the 2018 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., on Jan. 14, 2018.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Ford CFO Tim Stone warned investors in April that the company expected to lose more than $5 billion, on an adjusted pretax basis, during the second quarter as the pandemic shuttered factories and severely hampered auto sales.
Analysts and investors are watching to see if Ford was able to pare back those expected losses since consumer demand in the U.S. was stronger than anticipated, especially for rugged trucks and SUVs. The company also resumed normal shift operations at domestic plants a month ahead of schedule.
Here’s what Wall Street is expecting, based on average analysts’ estimates compiled by Refinitive.
- Adjusted loss per share: $1.17 per share.
- Automotive revenue: $15.95 billion.
Wall Street also is watching how much cash Ford burned in the quarter as well as any guidance on paying off debt or updates to an $11 billion restructuring plan led by Ford CEO and President Jim Hackett.
“They’ve got a ton of cash. They’re certainly not going to run out of money this year,” Morningstar analyst David Whiston told CNBC. “Ford’s problem, as they’ve said in their own words, they’re not physically fit.”
General Motors, which reported its second-quarter earnings Wednesday, said it lost $536 million on an adjusted basis, which was better than Wall Street expected. On an unadjusted basis, the company lost $806 million and it burned through $7.8 billion in cash during the quarter.
During the first quarter, Ford lost $2 billion and burned through $2.2 billion in cash.
Both Ford and GM roughly doubled their automotive debt to $30 billion during the first quarter to help bolster their balance sheets and get through the Covid crisis.
GM said Wednesday it expects to repay a $16 billion revolving credit line it drew down in March by the end of the year.
This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.
People wearing face masks as a preventive measure walk at Lake Eola Park, Florida, July 25, 2020.
Paul Hennessy | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images
The Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday they are seeing “signs of progress” in southern states fighting the coronavirus pandemic, though the number of deaths remains high.
“No one’s declaring victory,” Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary at HHS, told reporters on a conference call. “Very consistent with what we’ve said over the last few weeks, we continue to see signs of progress across the Sun Belt and diffusely throughout the country.”
Giroir said the number of coronavirus tests that come back positive is beginning to level off in some parts of the U.S. and “starting to drop in some places precipitously because of the actions that we’re taking.” He cited “really great compliance with mask-wearing, avoiding indoor crowded areas and good hygiene” as the reason for the decline in positive tests.
“I’m the testing guy and testing is important,” he said. “The testing will not control an outbreak when you have 70,000 new infections documented today. What will control the outbreak is the personal responsibility that we have been talking about for months.”
On Wednesday, daily new cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. topped 70,000 again for the first time in almost a week, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Still, new cases have dropped in recent days, driving the seven-day average of new cases down more than 3% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of the data from Hopkins.
Roughly half of all new cases are still coming from three states: Florida, Texas and California, which accounted for nearly 34,100 new cases on Wednesday, according to data from Hopkins. This week, the United States surpassed the grim milestone of 150,000 deaths from the coronavirus.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
The space economy has grown to over $420 billion and is ‘weathering’ the current crisis, report says
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launches carrying the Es’hail-2 communications satellite for the country of Qatar on November 15, 2018 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NurPhoto | NurPhoto | Getty Images
The global space economy continued to grow last year and reached $432.8 billion, according to a report by the Space Foundation set to be released on Thursday, although the industry’s past decade of growth is now threatened by the coronavirus pandemic.
Total output by the world’s governments and corporations in the realm of rockets, satellites and more has climbed steadily, with the space economy expanding more than 70% since 2010. But like any industry, the recent expansion in space, which has seen record private investment, has been put at risk due to this year’s crisis.
“Our industry has experienced somewhat of a downturn but I think as a whole we are weathering Covid-19 pretty darn well,” Space Foundation CEO Tom Zelibor told CNBC. “The space industry is adapting in a difficult environment.”
Zelibor said he recently toured a SpaceX facility, the industry’s leading rocket builder, and highlighted how companies are adapting to keep production and launches going.
“Adaptation to hostile or challenging environments is really at the heart of the space community,” Zelibor said.
Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft Unity glides in for a landing after a flight test in New Mexico on June 25, 2020.
A big driver for last year’s growth was from the commercial side. By Space Foundation’s definition, commercial is essentially any revenue or sales that doesn’t stem from a government organization such as the military or NASA. For the U.S., Zelibor noted that non-government spending in space rose 7.7% last year.
“That’s really continuing to be the dominant part of the space economy,” Zelibor said.
What brought down the U.S. space economy’s growth last year was noted declines on the government side, according to the Space Foundation. While NASA’s spending increased 3.7%, the Department of Defense’s fell 9% and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s dropped 19%.
Outside the U.S., the global space industry is getting increasingly competitive. The Space Foundation found that international government space budgets grew 9.5% last year to nearly $40 billion.
Governments with the greatest year-over-year increases in space spending last year:
- Russia – 38.8%
- Germany – 32.4%
- Australia – 29.5%
- India – 17.4%
Source: Space Foundation
“Overall, what this really tells you is that countries are paying attention. There are over 80 countries in the world that now have space programs,” Zelibor said.
Rebounding US work force
Planet engineers in a cleanroom with a SkySat satellite.
The U.S. now has about 183,000 people employed by the space industry, the report said. While the U.S. workforce grew just 2% in 2019, that is a notable bounce back from recent declines over the past decade.
“If you look at the last four years, from 2016 till now, it’s actually rebounded,” Zelibor said. “We’re launching astronauts from U.S. soil again, we’re putting satellites up there, we’re going to Mars. I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be involved in the space community.”
Overall, the space economy continues to benefit from what Zelibor described as a “renewed interest” in the industry, in no small part due to recent investment by several entrepreneurs. Zelibor highlighted the work being done by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Chamath Palihapitiya’s Virgin Galactic and Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit.
“You have billionaires throwing billions of dollars at it and they want to really turn this market almost on its ear, by challenging all the old assumptions” about space, Zelibor said. “People are paying attention.”
Subscribe to CNBC PRO for exclusive insights and analysis, and live business day programming from around the world.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday, March 2, 2020.
Stefan Wermuth | Bloomberg via Getty Images
World Health Organization officials said Thursday that young people “letting down their guard” appear to be causing coronavirus cases to surge in some countries, and while their risk of death is generally low, they may suffer from long-term symptoms even after they recover.
“We have said it before and we will say it again, young people are not invincible,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press conference at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva. “Young people can be infected, young people can die and young people can transmit the virus to others.”
Convincing younger people across the globe that the virus could pose a serious risk for their health remains a challenge for WHO, Tedros said.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said the majority of younger people tend to have milder forms of Covid-19, but that’s not always the case. Some younger people have gotten seriously sick and died.
“Even people who have mild disease, some of them will go on to recover just fine. But some of them have longer-term effects, and we are just starting to really learn about this,” she said, adding that some suffer from extreme fatigue, shortness of breath or difficulty resuming normal activities like going back to work or the gym — even after they recover.
“We are learning what that means,” she said.
Kerkhove said there are a number of things young people can do to prevent spreading the virus, including washing their hands, practicing social distancing, wearing a mask and avoiding crowded places like bars.
“We are consistently seeing night clubs as amplifyers of transmission,” she said. “This is very unfortunate because know that young people want to resume normal activities. But there are situations where the virus, if it’s present, can take hold and transmit efficiently.”
Officials in the U.S. have warned that more young people have been infected with Covid-19 in recent weeks. White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci previously noted on July 16, as cases were surging across the American South and West, that the average age of a new Covid-19 patient had dropped by 15 years since the beginning of the pandemic.
Those outbreaks have since shown signs of slowing down, although states like California, Texas and Florida are now reporting record daily coronavirus deaths, based on a seven-day moving average, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Covid-19 deaths typically lag reported cases because it can take weeks for someone to fall seriously ill and potentially die from the virus, experts say.
“You have to have responsibility for yourself but also a societal responsibility that you’re getting infected is not just you in a vacuum. You’re propagating the pandemic,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in an interview.
Commissioner of U.S. Food and Drug Administration Dr. Stephen M. Hahn testifies before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on the Trump Administration’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, June 23, 2020.
Kevin Dietsch | Pool via Reuters
The Food and Drug Administration would authorize a coronavirus vaccine so long as it is safe and at least 50% effective, Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said Thursday.
“We all want a vaccine tomorrow. That’s unrealistic. And we all want a vaccine that’s 100% effective. Again, unrealistic,” Hahn said in an interview with Dr. Howard Bauchner of the The Journal of the American Medical Association. “But we said 50%, and the reason was because we felt that that was a reasonable floor given the pandemic.”
He added that the minimum requirement of 50% effectiveness also helped give vaccine manufacturers guidance on how to design their clinical trials. Moderna and Pfizer, sent their vaccine candidates to phase three trials earlier this week, aiming to enroll about 30,000 participants to prove the vaccines are both safe and effective in a large population.
Hopefully, Hahn said, the vaccine or vaccines that end up getting authorized will prove to be more than 50% effective, but it’s possible that the U.S. could end up with a vaccine that, on average, reduces a person’s risk of a Covid-19 infection by just 50%.
“We really felt strongly that that had to be the floor,” he said, adding that it’s “been batted around among medical groups.” “But for the most part, I think, infectious disease experts have agreed that that’s a reasonable floor, of course hoping that the actual effectiveness will be higher.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he hopes the vaccine will have an efficacy rate of at least 60%, meaning on average the vaccine reduces a person’s risk of a Covid-19 infection by 60%.
“Obviously, we would like to see it much, much higher. But 60% is the standard that you do for the cutoff. That’s not unusual,” he said Monday. “I would like to see the highest percentage that we could possibly get.”
Hahn added on Thursday that if a vaccine isn’t safe, the FDA will not authorize it, regardless of how effective it appears to be.
“If we get to 50% but it’s not safe, to me, it’s not a vaccine that we can authorize,” he said. “We’re going to be very, very, very carefully looking at those safety data and we’re going to be transparent, Howard, about what we’ve seen.”
He said the FDA is using new strategies and technology to streamline data collection from clinical trial participants in order to more quickly and frequently collect data on safety. The FDA will also continue to monitor the safety of the vaccines after they are authorized and administered to the public, he said.
“We cannot have a situation where people lose trust in the FDA and in the clinical trial process,” he said. “That would be a mistake for all of us.”
Mark Peterson | Corbis | Getty Images
The medical center will offer McDonald’s advice on best practices to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and review the company’s environmental health and safety precautions and some of its global standards. McDonald’s did not disclose financial terms of the partnership, which was announced this week at its virtual Worldwide Connection event for all of its franchisees.
McDonald’s and some of its franchisees face lawsuits from employees related to its response to the pandemic. A Chicago judge, for example, found that McDonald’s had taken steps to mitigate the risk of contracting the virus, but some locations weren’t enforcing mask policies and training on social distancing fell short.
The fast-food chain also shared with its franchisees more on its commitment to diversity and inclusion. It joins a number of companies, from Restaurant Brands International to Microsoft, in addressing those issues in the wake of worldwide protests against police brutality and racism. In June, McDonald’s handed over most of its media time for the BET Awards to Black activists and business owners.
McDonald’s said it will commit to addressing hiring bias and reducing barriers so its leadership becomes more diverse and better resembles the communities it serves. The company plans to enhance its efforts to attract and recruit diverse franchisees and reduce barriers to entry for diverse suppliers.
“We also have to acknowledge that some people in our system feel like they haven’t been given a fair opportunity. We’ve got to face up to that fact and do better,” CEO Chris Kempczinski said in prerecorded remarks to franchisees for the event.
The company also will audit its advertising and restaurant experiences to make sure they “reflect the needs” of all customers.
McDonald’s did not define what characteristics make someone “diverse” or disclose internal diversity numbers. The company said it would share more time-bound commitments in the coming weeks.
McDonald’s plans to have another virtual event in November.