TSA screens record passengers around Christmas

Biden to use Defense Production Act for vaccine production

President-elect Joe Biden plans to invoke the Defense Production Act after he takes office next month to boost production of Covid vaccines, a member of his Covid-19 advisory team said Monday.

“You will see him invoking the Defense Production Act,” Dr. Celine Gounder said during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “The idea there is to make sure the personal protective equipment, the test capacity and the raw materials for the vaccines are produced in adequate supply.”

The wartime production law, which allows the president to compel companies to prioritize manufacturing for national security, could help the U.S. secure components and specialized products that manufacturers need to produce the Covid vaccines. Biden’s team has been weighing whether to invoke the law for vaccine production, NBC News reported last week.

The Trump administration has previously invoked the law to boost secure medical supplies and equipment, and components necessary for Covid testing. However, the current administration has not said it will do so to secure supplies necessary for vaccine production.

—Will Feuer

Novavax starts late-stage vaccine trial in U.S.

Novavax said it has started a large late-stage Covid-19 vaccine study in the U.S. after twice delaying the trial over issues in scaling up the manufacturing process, Reuters reports.

The study will enroll up to 30,000 volunteers across roughly 115 sites in the U.S. and Mexico. Two-thirds of those participants will receive the vaccine, the company said.

Vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna have already been authorized for emergency use in the U.S., but experts are counting on several successful vaccines to effectively end the pandemic.

—Sara Salinas

TSA screened a pandemic-record 1.28 million passengers on Sunday

Travelers wait in line to check in at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) amid a COVID-19 surge in Southern California on December 22, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.

Mario Tama | Getty Images

TSA screened 1.28 million passengers at U.S. airports on Sunday, the highest number since Covid halted travel in mid-March.

That number is still about half of traveler volume on the same day last year, Reuters reports, but it marks the sixth straight day that passenger screenings surpassed 1 million.

Health experts cautioned against travel and gatherings around the holidays as virus cases and deaths continue to climb.

—Sara Salinas

Consumer brands are reportedly betting remote working trends will stick around

Consumer brands like Kraft Heinz, Campbell Soup and Kimberly-Clark are adding manufacturing capacity to make more products that appeal to customers who are working remotely, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The investments demonstrate their belief that Americans will keep working from home post-pandemic. Many companies, including Twitter and Shopify, have already said that their workforce can be remote permanently. However, it’s a risky bet for food companies, which have already seen demand moderate compared to the surges in early lockdowns.

—Amelia Lucas

Southwest Airlines rescinds more than 7,000 furlough notices as airlines get more aid

Southwest Airlines is halting plans to furlough some 7,000 employees after President Donald Trump signed the coronavirus relief bill, which includes $15 billion in airline payroll support.

Southwest had asked unions to accept pay cuts and other concessions with revenue and travel demand at less than half of last year’s levels, or risk furloughs. The furloughs would have been the first in its nearly 50 years of flying.

“We’ve begun unwinding the official notifications you’ve received, so let me be clear—our efforts related to furloughs and pay cuts are stopped,” CEO Gary Kelly said late Sunday in an employee note, which was reviewed by CNBC. Southwest doesn’t “anticipate any furloughs for all of next year,” said Kelly, reiterating Southwest’s previously announced plan if the bill passed with more federal support for airlines.

Non-union employees that were on track to get 10% pay cuts next year will keep their current salaries.

The airline aid in the $900 billion coronavirus relief bill requires carriers to recall workers they might have furloughed earlier this year when the last package expired. United Airlines says the roughly 13,000 employees it furloughed in October can come back but warned it would likely be “temporary” because it doesn’t expect a significant improvement in travel demand in the first quarter.

Leslie Josephs

1 in 1,000 Americans has died of Covid-19

One out of every 1,000 Americans has died of Covid-19, according to the latest Census population figures and virus tallies from Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. death toll now stands above 333,000, well above the recorded fatalities of every other nation in the world. More than 2,200 people in the U.S. are dying of the virus every day, based on a seven-day average of JHU data.

Health experts have warned the national crisis is likely to get worse after the winter holidays, when many people gathered against public safety advice.

—Sara Salinas

Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could see UK approval this week

A medical syringe and vials in front of the AstraZeneca British biopharmaceutical company logo in this illustration photo taken on 18 November 2020.

STR | NurPhoto | Getty Images

The coronavirus vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford is expected to be approved for use in the U.K. in the coming days.

The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported that the approval could come as early as Monday as health-care workers prepare to administer the shots. The Financial Times reported Sunday that government officials confirmed that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency would imminently approve the vaccine.

The AstraZeneca shot would likely be rolled out next week and would be administered alongside the PfizerBioNTech vaccine, which has so far been given to 600,000 people in the U.K., according to government statistics.

—Matt Clinch

Trump teases a vote on $2,000 stimulus checks

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a ceremony to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retired football coach Lou Holtz in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 3, 2020.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

President Donald Trump on Sunday said Congress will “start the process for a vote” that would increase direct payments from $600 to $2,000 per adult, CNBC’s Jacob Pramuk reports.

Trump railed against the $600 amount for days after the Covid relief bill passed both chambers, demanding a hike to $2,000 and delaying the bill signing beyond a key deadline. He signed the legislation late Sunday and at the same time teased changes.

“As President, I have told Congress that I want far less wasteful spending and more money going to the American people in the form of $2,000 checks per adult and $600 per child,” the president said in a statement.

Larger checks have already passed a vote in the Democrat-held House, but failed in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cheered the bill signing on Sunday but did not mention a forthcoming vote.

—Sara Salinas

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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