Latest news on coronavirus cases and vaccines

Pfizer’s vaccine blocks most asymptomatic and symptomatic cases in Israel

Pfizer said its Covid-19 vaccine blocked 94% of asymptomatic infections in an Israeli study.

The study also found the vaccine was at least 97% effective against symptomatic Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths, according to Pfizer, which developed the shot with BioNTech.

“This is extremely important … for society,” Bourla said in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “The asymptomatic carriers and patients are the ones spreading the disease mainly. We were expecting something good in terms of symptomatic,” he said, adding the company was not expecting such a “high number” against asymptomatic cases.

Researchers measured results two weeks after the second dose. The analysis used data collected between Jan. 17 and March 6, when Pfizer’s vaccine was the only available shot in the country and when the more transmissible B.1.1.7 variant from the U.K. was the dominant strain.

–Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Some states lift capacity restrictions, end mask mandates and reopen their economies

A waiter at Raku, an Asian restaurant in Bethesda, wears a protective face mask as serve customers outdoors amid the coronavirus pandemic on June 12, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland.

Sarah Silbiger | Getty Images

Despite warnings from top U.S. health officials, state leaders have moved in recent days to end capacity restrictions, drop mask mandates and largely reopen their economies as new cases decline and more vaccines become available.

Maryland became the latest state to restart its economy when Gov. Larry Hogan announced that restaurants, retailers and other businesses will be allowed to reopen without capacity restrictions beginning Friday.

Texas, Mississippi, Connecticut, Arizona, West Virginia and Wyoming have announced similar plans in recent days as the pace of inoculations accelerates and Covid-19 cases and deaths recede.

Those moves come despite warnings from the Biden administration, which asked states in late February to temporarily halt reopenings after the nation’s decline in Covid-19 infections started to plateau.

—Noah Higgins-Dunn

Weekly jobless claims total 712,000

Weekly jobless claims totaled 712,000 last week, ticking up slightly but coming in below the 725,000 that economists surveyed by Dow Jones had expected, CNBC’s Thomas Franck reports.

Continuing claims, representing those filers applying for unemployment benefits for at least two weeks, fell by 193,000 filers to 4.1 million.

The labor market looks ready to stage a rebound with several states lifting capacity restrictions on nonessential businesses and with President Joe Biden expected to sign a $1.9 trillion stimulus package later this week.

—Sara Salinas

How Covid tanked the U.S. economy — in charts

It’s been about a year since much of the U.S. economy suddenly shut down amid coronavirus fears.

The first shoe to drop was transportation. On March 12, nearly 1.8 million people passed through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints in airports, according to U.S. Homeland Security data. A week later, that number had fallen to about 620,000, a drop of 66%.

A few days later, in-person service industries effectively collapsed. According to data from Open Table, March 8’s seated diners from online, phone and walk-in reservations were off just 1% from a year earlier. By March 13, it was down 36%. By March 20, it was down 99.35%.

U.S. box office revenue the weekend of March 6 was on par with pre-virus forecasts. The next weekend, box-office revenue fell by nearly 50% to $54 million. One week later, total box office revenue was a stunningly low $195,952.

Here are five charts that show how Covid-19 stopped the U.S. economy in its tracks.

—Alex Sherman

Here’s why remote work is here to stay

In just one year, office culture has changed for good.

Already, employers, particularly tech companies like Microsoft, Twitter, Square, Spotify, Shopify and Amazon, have announced extended, if not permanent, work from home policies.

For the most part, workers applaud this new approach. Vaccinated or not, more than half of employees said that, given the option, they would want to keep working from home even after the coronavirus crisis subsides, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.

But telecommuting has also been especially challenging and for younger workers just starting out, there is another cost.

It’s nearly impossible to cultivate relationships or connect with a mentor — something that has proven to be especially beneficial over the course a career, according to Kevin Davis, the founder and executive director of First Workings, a nonprofit that helps students secure paid internships and mentorships in the business community.

“That’s the sort of social capital that money can’t buy,” he said. “If and when those companies do go back, I suggest they get into the office as fast as they can.”

— Jessica Dickler

Denmark suspends use of AstraZeneca Covid vaccine over reports of blood clots

A photo illustration of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at Copes pharmacy in Streatham on February 04, 2021 in London, England.

Dan Kitwood | Getty Images

Denmark announced Thursday it will temporarily suspend the use of the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

The Danish Health Authority said it would temporarily stop using the shot in its vaccination program as a precaution “after reports of severe cases of blood clots in people who have been vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca.”

“Against this background, the European Medicines Agency has launched an investigation into the AstraZeneca vaccine. One report relates to a death in Denmark. At present, it cannot be concluded whether there is a link between the vaccine and the blood clots,” the health authority said in a statement. It did not specify how many reports of blood clots there had been, or where they originated.

A spokesperson for AstraZeneca told CNBC in a statement that “patient safety is the highest priority for AstraZeneca.”

“Regulators have clear and stringent efficacy and safety standards for the approval of any new medicine, and that includes COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca. The safety of the vaccine has been extensively studied in Phase III clinical trials and Peer-reviewed data confirms the vaccine is generally well tolerated.”

Holly Ellyatt

Singapore has not given up on air travel bubble with Hong Kong after postponement

Singapore’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said his country has not given up on establishing an “air travel bubble” with Hong Kong — a plan that was postponed from last November.

Such an arrangement would allow travelers to skip quarantine and restore some travel volume for the two major Asian business hubs, which don’t have domestic air travel markets.

A resurgence in Covid-19 infections in Hong Kong late last year halted the “travel bubble” plan. Ong said both sides are still cautious following last month’s Lunar New Year celebrations.

“We want to watch if there’s any impact due to Chinese New Year on community transmission,” the minister told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia,” adding that there appears to be no jump in cases following the festivities.

—Yen Nee Lee

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