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Fauci says findings will be known by early December

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(Photo by Alex Edelman-Pool/Getty Images)

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LONDON — Hopes are rising that a Covid-19 vaccine could be approved by the end of the year, with drugmakers and research centers scrambling to help bring an end to the pandemic.

Dozens of candidate vaccines are in clinical evaluation, according to the World Health Organization, with some already conducting late-stage tests before seeking formal approval.

The outcome of the trials is being closely monitored around the world.

The U.S.’s leading expert on infectious disease believes it will only be a matter of weeks before the findings of a potential vaccine will be known.

“We will know whether a vaccine is safe and effective by the end of November, the beginning of December,” White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a BBC interview on Sunday.

“The question is: Once you have a safe and effective vaccine, or more than one, how can you get it to the people who need it as quickly as possible?”

Fauci said a vaccine deemed safe and effective would be rolled out according to a set prioritization, with individuals such as health care workers and those in a higher risk category likely to receive the first doses. He said it would be “several months into 2021” before a vaccine becomes more widely available.

The development of a vaccine, Fauci warned, would not replace the need for public health measures to help protect people from the disease for some time.

To date, more than 43 million people have contracted the coronavirus worldwide, with 1.15 million related deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Vaccine race

The race for a Covid vaccine has seen governments step in to try to help the process along by providing funds to allow companies to scale up manufacturing even before drugs have been approved.

Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, has said he is hopeful an inoculation against the coronavirus could be approved before the end of the year.

“I’m increasingly optimistic, as is government, that we will see a vaccine approved in the next couple of months and that in the first half or first quarter of next year it’ll be possible to start vaccinating those most at risk,” Varadkar, who is a qualified doctor, told RTE radio on Sunday.

A Rehab Support worker checks on patient notes as the first patients are admitted to the NHS Seacole Centre at Headley Court, Surrey, a disused military hospital, which has been converted during the coronavirus pandemic.

Victoria Jones | PA Images via Getty Images

Not all public health experts share the same level of optimism about the development of a Covid vaccine before year-end, however.

The Mail on Sunday reported plans had been drawn up for frontline National Health Service staff to receive a coronavirus vaccine within weeks, citing an email sent by an NHS Trust chief to his staff.

In response to the report, U.K. Health Minister Matt Hancock said on Monday that it was not the government’s expectation for NHS staff to receive access to a potential vaccine this year.

He did rule out the possibility of a Covid vaccine being delivered to hospital staff in 2020 but said the bulk of the rollout would likely take place in the first half of next year.

The U.K.’s chief scientific advisor, Patrick Vallance, has said he doesn’t believe a Covid vaccine will be available for widespread use in the community until at least the spring.

He also told the National Security Strategy Committee in London last week that the coronavirus was likely to become as endemic as the annual flu.

This means the infection rate of the coronavirus, like other coronaviruses, will eventually stabilize at a constant level so that the virus becomes present in communities at all times.

Vallance said creating a vaccine from scratch took approximately 10 years on average. The fastest vaccine ever developed was for mumps, and it took more than four years.

Small bottles labeled with a “Vaccine COVID-19” sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken taken April 10, 2020.

Dado Ruvic | Reuters

Separately, Dr. David Heymann, who led the WHO’s infectious disease unit during the SARS epidemic in 2002-2003, believes some governments may be over-reliant on the development of a vaccine at a time when effective communication, diagnostic testing and outbreak containment activities are all critically important tools.

“The difficulty right now is that in many countries, they are looking forward to a vaccine which may or may not come, which may or may not be effective in the short or long term, and they are looking at possible therapeutic (options) which could solve many of the problems,” Heymann said during a webinar for think tank Chatham House last week.

“But, that’s not a good way to proceed at present. … We have to learn to live with the pandemic.”


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Nordstrom shares rise as retailer’s earnings top estimates

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Pedestrians pass in front of a Nordstrom Inc. store in the Midtown neighborhood of New York, on March 20, 2020.

Gabby Jones | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Nordstrom shares got a lift Tuesday after the department store reported that its third-quarter sales picked up more than analysts had anticipated, suggesting it might have a stronger holiday season than some investors expected if trends continue.

Nordstrom shares were up more than 4% in extended trading Tuesday.

Nordstrom CEO Erik Nordstrom said the retailer has made strides with its online business, especially since its stores were temporarily shuttered. Digital sales in the three-month period were $1.6 billion and represented 54% of the retailer’s business.

He said the company is “continuing to amplify categories that are relevant with customers during the pandemic, such as activewear and wellness products. Yet he said it’s also looking toward the future with the Covid-19 vaccine and anticipates “pent-up customer demand, particularly around occasions like travel or in-person social events.”

He said the retailer’s off-price store, Nordstrom Rack, could be a major growth driver because it’s one of the few in this category with a large online presence. The company will expand its inventory, particularly at the lower price point, he said.

Here’s how the company did in the fiscal third quarter ended October 31, compared to what analysts were expecting, based on Refinitiv data:

  • Earnings per share: 34 cents vs. a loss of 6 cents expected
  • Revenue: $3.09 billion vs. $3.10 billion expected

Nordstrom said its net income fell to $53 million, or 34 cents per share, from $126 million, or 81 cents per share, a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Refinitiv on average had expected the company to post a loss of 6 cents per share.

Total revenue for the company fell to $3.09 billion from $3.67 billion a year ago, and was lower than the $3.10 billion that analysts were expecting.

Nordstrom was among the retailers that were forced to close their doors in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Total sales were down 40% in the first quarter and 53% in the second quarter compared with the same period a year earlier.

In the third quarter, total sales were down only 16%. That includes an approximately 10-percentage point impact from the Anniversary Sale.

“Our Anniversary Sale serves as a strong proof point in our ability to amplify relevant categories, brands and trends to meet shifting customer preferences,” Chief Financial Officer Anne Bramman said during a conference call.

During the quarter, the company said its top performing merchandise categories were activewear, home, beauty and designer.

On the conference call, Bramman said the company expects sales to decrease in the low 20-percentage range in the fourth quarter. But the company expects to deliver positive operating cash flow, she said.

Yet she acknowledged the outlook is uncertain because of the pandemic and said that its expectations are based on stores remaining open.

Read the full earnings release here.


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Gap, Nordstrom, Dell Technologies & more

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Check out the companies making headlines after hours on Tuesday:

HP Inc. — Shares of the computer hardware builder jumped more than 7% in after-hours trading on the back of stronger-than-expected quarterly results. HP Inc. posted earnings of 62 cents per share on revenue of $15.26 billion. Analysts expected a profit of 52 cents per share on revenue of $14.72 billion, according to Refinitiv. The company also issued better-than-expected earnings guidance for its fiscal first quarter.

Gap — Gap reported disappointing quarterly earnings after the bell, sending the retailer’s stock down more than 6%. The company earned 25 cents per share in the previous quarter, while analysts polled by Refinitiv had forecast a profit of 32 cents per share.

Nordstrom — Nordstrom shares gained 4.4% even after the company posted a disappointing revenue number for the third quarter. Nordstrom said its revenue for the quarter came in at $3.09 billion, just shy of a Refinitiv estimate of $3.1 billion. Nordstrom also reported earnings per share of 34 cents, but CNBC could not determine if that number was comparable to a Refinitiv forecast.

Dell Technologies — Dell Technologies reported third-quarter earnings and revenue figures that topped analyst expectations, sending the computer builder’s stock up nearly 2%. Dell earned $2.03 per share on revenue of $23.48 billion. Analysts had forecast earnings per share of $1.40 on revenue of $21.85 billion, according to Refinitiv. The company also posted sales for its subscription and “software as a service (SaaS)” that surpassed estimates.

American Eagle Outfitters — American Eagle Outfitters saw its stock fall more than 3% on the back of mixed third-quarter results. The retailer earned 35 cents per share, topping a forecast of 34 cents per share. Revenue for the company came in at $1.03 billion, in line with expectations.


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Texas food bank doubles amount of people it serves amid Covid

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Eric Cooper, CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank, told CNBC that his Texas food bank now feeds double the amount of people it used to compared to before the coronavirus pandemic gripped the United States. 

“Pre-pandemic we fed about 60,00 people a week and now we’re seeing about 120,000 per week, and most of those are new to the food bank, and have never had to ask for help before,” Cooper said during a Tuesday evening interview on “The News with Shepard Smith.”

Cooper’s food bank serves eight semi-truck loads of food per day to people in need. The numbers are so high, they have to ration food. Organizers at the Rhode Island Community Food Bank say that one in four people can’t meet their basic food needs. That’s the highest since the Great Depression. 

According to Feeding America, 54 million people in the United States don’t have access to sufficient food. That’s approximately 13 million more than last year and more than the combined populations of Texas and Florida.

“Today we had a distribution that fed 2,000, and we have these distributions all the time,” Cooper said. “Food banks around the country have seen this unprecedented demand, and we’re just working as hard as we can to balance the private donations we get, with the public assistance to try to make sure people are fed.” 

In the South, the positivity rate is at 11% and the region accounts for about one-third of all coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations nationwide, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins data. On Tuesday, Texas reported an all-time high with nearly 14,000 new cases. Cooper told host Shepard Smith that distance learning has been putting extra stress on parents when it comes to providing food for their kids. 

“A child would miss 10 meals in a week, and if a mom has two to three kids in school, she’s now feeling the impact of the cost of that food at home, and without employment, kids are going hungry,” Cooper explained. “We’re hearing from schools that kids are struggling with their education, because they don’t have access to good nutrition.” 

As food insecurity rises, federal funding has been critical with the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which provided $850 million to food banks this year. Cooper said that he hopes Congress acts swiftly to support families to get them out of lines for food banks and into grocery stores. 

“We just hope that Congress acts quickly, the stimulus package needs to support families to put food on their table,” Cooper said.

Cooper said that if someone wanted to help, they should visit FeedingAmerica.org, find their local food bank, and get involved through donating food, volunteering or making a financial contribution.


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