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U.S. may face ‘substantial third wave’ of coronavirus cases, experts warn

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A patient arrives at the Emergency entrance to Maimonides Medical Center, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, U.S., October 14, 2020.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Colder temperatures are arriving in the Northern Hemisphere, and an insidious rise in new coronavirus cases in the U.S. and Europe is underway.

For months, health officials have warned against this possibility, and as these trends begin to materialize, countries are weighing whether to impose stricter measures to contain the virus’ spread.

“Our worry has been that we would see a fall wave, that we’d see a big resurgence in the fall,” said Justin Lessler, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “And that has really been something I think all of us in the public health community have been worried about for a while.”

In the U.S., coronavirus cases were growing by 5% or more in 38 states, as of Friday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University that uses a weekly average to smooth out the reporting. The nation is averaging roughly 55,000 new coronavirus cases every day, a more than 16% increase compared with a week ago.

“It’s still not too late to vigorously apply good public health measures, and again I emphasize without necessarily shutting down the country,” White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told Johns Hopkins University during a recorded Q&A on Thursday.

Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has warned the daily number of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. remains dangerously high, especially as the forthcoming flu season threatens to complicate the nation’s response to the pandemic.

When the U.S. descended from its first peak in April, where cases were largely driven by New York and other states in the Northeast, the number of new coronavirus cases “got stuck” around 20,000 per day, Fauci said. Ideally, the U.S. would’ve reported less than 10,000 cases every day, he said.

Then cases resurged in America’s Sun Belt over the summer as states tried to reopen their economies. The number of daily new Covid-19 cases swelled to a high of nearly 70,000 cases a day before subsiding once again. However, new cases have since hovered between 40,000 to 50,000 cases a day.

“You can’t enter into the cool months of the fall and the cold months of the winter with a high community infection baseline,” Fauci said. He added that the positivity rate, or the percentage of tests that are positive, is “going in the wrong direction” in more than 30 states.

“I’m pretty glum at the moment because it does look as though in the majority of states there’s an increasing number of cases,” Dr. William Schaffner, an epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University, said. “There’s a growing sense of coronavirus fatigue out there. People really want to get back to the old normal.”

Schaffner said he expects the U.S. to experience a “substantial third wave” of infections and that it will be further complicated this winter by the spread of seasonal influenza, which causes many similar symptoms to that of the coronavirus.

People will spend more time indoors and likely fail to follow public health guidance as the colder temperatures arrive, which creates a greater risk for the cornoavirus’ spread compared with outdoor activities, Schaffner said.

“During the summer, people went indoors for air conditioning, but they did spend more of their time outdoors. Nonetheless, it spread as people became lax in their attention to social distancing and mask wearing,” he said. “As far as I can tell, that’s growing.”

Cases, hospitalizations climb in America’s Great Plains

Unlike previous outbreaks across the U.S., the coronavirus is now widely circulating through many of America’s more rural communities.

North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wisconsin continue to report the highest number of cases per 100,000 residents in the country, according to Johns Hopkins data.

The outbreak has turned for the worst in some states. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers activated an alternative care facility that opened to overflow coronavirus patients this week at the Wisconsin State Fair Park.

In North Dakota, where cases have grown nearly 34% compared with a week ago, local officials are concerned that some hospitals may not have the staffing required to treat severely ill coronavirus patients.

“We have had a nursing shortage prior to the pandemic, and so the additional workload and additional hospital capacity that’s come with Covid has impacted and affected staffing,” said Renae Moch, director of Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health.

Moch said that at times, some residents of more rural parts of North Dakota have had to travel hours across state lines to Montana and South Dakota to seek care because hospital beds in Bismarck, the state’s capital, were full.

“For us, this is the worst that it’s been,” Moch said. “I think especially with the flu season coming up and the possible impacts of that as we move into the fall … we need to get a handle on this before it gets any worse, and I’m sure it can get worse.”

Dr. Allison Suttle, the chief medical officer at Sanford Health, which has hospitals located in North Dakota and South Dakota, said they’ve seen more Covid-19 patients and have added beds to help treat people.

Because the current surge of coronavirus patients is happening now versus earlier in the nation’s response to the pandemic, Sanford Health has had time to prepare and stock up on needed supplies, Suttle said, adding that she’s confident they can treat patients who seek medical care.

However, people in more rural states delayed their routine health-care visits in the spring after they were told to stay home as the coronavirus swept through the coasts. Now, those people are coming into the hospitals in worse condition amid the growing number of Covid-19 patients, Suttle said.

“What we’re seeing as the hospitalizations of Covid increase in direct correlation to the number of cases increasing in our communities, we’re also seeing sicker patients that have delayed care in March and April that are now coming in with problems,” she said. “They require more intense care, longer hospital stays, so that all compounds.”

Covid-19 spreads in Europe, Canada

The United States is not the only country reporting climbing new cases.

When adjusting for population, the number of new coronavirus infections in Europe has now overtaken the United States, with Europe reporting 187 new cases per million people, based on a seven-day average, compared with 162 new cases per million people in the U.S. as of Thursday.

Europe — which in CNBC’s analysis of Hopkins data includes the 27 European Union countries plus the United Kingdom — is reporting an average of roughly 97,000 new cases per day, up 44% from one week ago.

The World Health Organization warned on Friday that Europe’s outbreak is “concerning” as the number of intensive care unit beds in some regions decline. Maria van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead, said the organization knows “of a number of cities across Europe where ICU capacity will be reached in the coming weeks.”

The virus’ resurgence prompted France to declare a public health state of emergency. The U.K. placed tighter restrictions on gathering and indoor business operations in London, and threatened to take more action nationwide if necessary. Germany also imposed new measures to curb the virus’ spread.

Meanwhile, Canada is experiencing a second wave of coronavirus infections as the provinces of Quebec and Ontario report the bulk of the country’s Covid-19 death toll, Carissa Etienne, WHO’s regional director for the Americas, said on Wednesday.

— CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace Jr. contributed to this report.


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Procter & Gamble (PG) earnings Q1 2021 beat estimates

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Procter & Gamble’s products include Crest toothpaste.

Tiffany Hagler-Geard | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Procter & Gamble reported on Tuesday that fiscal first-quarter revenue rose 9%, fueled by demand for its cleaning and laundry products during the coronavirus pandemic.

On the heels of the strong quarter, P&G raised its sales outlook and expectations for core earnings growth for fiscal 2021.

Shares of the company rose nearly 2% in premarket trading.

Here’s what the company reported compared with what Wall Street was expecting, based on a survey of analysts by Refinitiv:

  • Earnings per share: $1.63 vs. $1.42 expected
  • Revenue: $19.32 billion vs. $18.38 billion expected

The company reported net income of $4.28 billion, or $1.63 per share, up from $3.59 billion, or $1.36 per share, a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Refinitiv were expecting earnings of $1.42 per share.

Net sales rose 9% to $19.32 billion, topping expectations of $18.38 billion. Organic revenue, which strips out the impact of acquisitions, divestitures and foreign currency, also climbed 9% in the quarter. Higher demand in North America, P&G’s largest market, helped drive sales growth.

All of P&G’s five business segments reported organic sales growth. CFO and COO Jon Moeller said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that the U.S. saw growth of 16% and China reported growth of 12%. He told reporters on a press call that the company has not seen U.S. consumers opting for cheaper brands, despite the impasse in another stimulus package from the federal government.

Fabric and home care, which includes Tide and Comet cleaning products, saw the highest jump, with organic sales rising 14% in the quarter.

The home care segment saw organic sales soar 30%, fueled by demand for home cleaning products, like Mr. Clean.

Health care, which includes Crest toothpaste, Vicks, Pepto-Bismol and Oral-B, also reported double-digit organic sales growth. More consumers bought its digestive and wellness products.

Its beauty segment saw organic sales growth of 7%. The launch of Safeguard hand soap and hand sanitizer and new products from Olay lifted North American sales for skin and personal care.

Organic sales for its grooming business rose 6% in the quarter, but its shaving business, which includes Gillette and Venus brands, reported flat organic sales. P&G said women’s razors and blades rose by single digits, but men aren’t shaving as much during the pandemic.

The company’s baby, health and family care segment reported organic sales growth of 4%. The category includes Pampers diapers, Bounty paper towels and Charmin toilet paper. 

As consumers spend more time watching television and checking social media, P&G is putting more money into advertising. Higher demand for cleaning products also pushed the company to spend more on advertising to put its brands front and center.

“This is not the time to step back,” Moeller said.

P&G now expects sales growth of 3% to 4% during fiscal 2021, up from its prior forecast of 1% to 3%. Organic revenue is now forecast to rise by 4% to 5%, higher than its previous expectations of 2% to 4%.

While the early retirement of debt will reduce its net income by 5 to 20 cents a share this fiscal year, core earnings per share will be higher than previously expected. The company is forecasting growth of 5% to 8%, up from its prior forecast of 3% to 7%. After-tax foreign exchange impacts and freight costs are expected to hit earnings by a combined $375 million.

P&G expects to buy back more stock as well during the fiscal year. The company previously said it would spend $6 billion to $8 billion on buying back shares but now plans on spending $7 billion to $9 billion.


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Covid-19 likely to become as ‘endemic’ as flu

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Health workers are dressing with protective suits and face maks. The collection of swab samples by medical staff in the drive-in testing center of San Filippo Neri hospital in Roma, Italy on October 19, 2020.

NurPhoto | NurPhoto | Getty Images

LONDON — Covid-19 is likely to become as “endemic” as the annual flu virus, according to the U.K.’s chief scientific advisor.

“We can’t be certain, but I think it’s unlikely we will end up with a truly sterilizing vaccine, (that is) something that completely stops infection, and it’s likely this disease will circulate and be endemic, that’s my best assessment,” Patrick Vallance told the National Security Strategy Committee in London on Monday.

“Clearly as management becomes better, as you get vaccination which would decrease the chance of infection and the severity of disease … this then starts to look more like annual flu than anything else and that may be the direction we end up going,” he said.

He cautioned that a vaccine against the new coronavirus — and there are a handful in Phase 3 clinical trials, according to the World Health Organization — is not likely to eradicate the virus anyway.

“The notion of eliminating Covid from anywhere is not right, because it will come back,” he said, noting there had only been one human disease “truly eradicated” thanks to a highly effective vaccine and that was smallpox.

Biotech companies and academic bodies around the world have joined forces to try to create a vaccine against the coronavirus at breakneck speed given its ferocity. On Monday, the grim milestone of 40 million confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide was reached, and the virus has caused 1.1 million deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Historically, creating a vaccine from scratch had taken 10 years on average, Vallance said, and it had never taken under five years.

“We’re now in the extraordinary situation where there are at least eight vaccines which are in quite large clinical studies around the world … We will know over the next few months whether we have any vaccines that really do protect and how long they protect for,” he said.

He added there were a number of vaccines that created an immune response and antibody response, but only the Phase 3 clinical trials would prove whether they “actually stop people getting infected.” The safety profile of such vaccines would also become clearer and from then on, a “sensible vaccination strategy” could be looked at, Vallance said.

Vallance concluded he didn’t believe there would be any vaccine available for widespread use in the community until at least spring 2021.


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WHO holds briefing on coronavirus after cases hit 40 million

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[The stream is slated to start at 11 a.m. ET. Please refresh the page if you do not see a player above at that time.]

The World Health Organization is holding a briefing Monday on the coronavirus pandemic after the number of reported cases worldwide hit 40 million.

The grim milestone comes as various parts of Europe and the U.S. struggle to deal with an alarming surge in infections. On Friday, the WHO said that Europe’s coronavirus outbreak is “concerning” as the number of available intensive care beds continues to dwindle and near capacity in some regions.

“We know of a number of cities across Europe where ICU capacity will be reached in the coming weeks,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead. “That is concerning as we approach the flu season.”

Read CNBC’s live updates to see the latest news on the Covid -19 outbreak.

–CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt contributed to this report.


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