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U.S. reports nearly 200,000 new cases as more than 1,500 people die daily

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A patient arrives outside Maimonides Medical Center, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., November 17, 2020.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

The United States reported more than 195,500 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, a record-high spike less than a week before Thanksgiving, which public health officials are warning could further exacerbate the outbreak.

Friday’s jump of nearly 200,000 cases brings the seven-day average of new cases up over 167,600, an increase of nearly 20% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The seven-day average of new cases are up by at least 5% week over week in 43 states and the District of Columbia, Hopkins data shows.

The rise in cases is driving a surge in hospitalizations and deaths. More than 82,100 people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19 across the country, more than at any point before during the pandemic, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project, which is run by journalists at The Atlantic.

The Atlantic obtained data earlier this week from the Department of Health and Human Services that showed about 20% of American hospitals faced or expected to face a staffing shortage last week.

More than 1,800 people in the U.S. died of Covid-19 on Friday, according to Hopkins data. The nation has recorded more than 1,500 fatalities daily since Tuesday, death tolls not seen since May. On Thursday, the U.S. recorded more than 2,000 deaths.

Earlier this week, Dr. Henry Walke, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Covid-19 incident manager, said the agency is “alarmed” by the “exponential increase in cases and hospitalizations and deaths.” At the agency’s first official press briefing in months, he urged Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving gatherings.

Public health specialists and epidemiologists are sounding the alarm that Thanksgiving could worsen an already severe nationwide outbreak. Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the CDC who was appointed by President Barack Obama, said Friday on Twitter that if “we’re not much more careful than we’re planning to be, this Thanksgiving will be the Super Bowl of superspreading events.”

Dr. Bill Schaffner, an epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University, said he’s “very concerned” about the holiday weekend. He said even if people have plans to practice social distancing during the Thanksgiving meal, such protocols “will become less complete by the end of the day, particularly after a glass or three of eggnog.”

“We will be giving thanks, but we’ll also be giving the virus, I’m afraid,” he said in a phone interview. “People will take these back to their homes. They’ll be spread within the family further and to neighbors and friends.”



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Customers will see only benefits

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David McInerney, CEO, FreshDirect

Source: CNBC

FreshDirect customers have nothing to fear after the company was bought by the Dutch owner of Stop & Shop and Food Lion, the grocery delivery service’s CEO said Tuesday.

Ahold Delhaize and Centerbridge Partners, a private equity firm, announced Wednesday that they would be buying FreshDirect. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Ahold Delhaize will acquire a majority stake and Centerbridge Partners will have a minority investment of 20%.

“Hopefully the only differences that customers see are the benefits,” FreshDirect CEO David McInerney said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

The Dutch company already has a foothold in U.S. grocery e-commerce through Peapod, which was the first company in the country dedicated to online grocery delivery. But FreshDirect’s specialty is fresh food, which represents about 60% of its total sales, and it has a higher market share than Peapod in the New York tri-state area.

McInerney said that he appreciated how Ahold Delhaize plans to preserve the e-commerce company’s brand. FreshDirect will keep its name and will still independently operate its New York City facility.

“I think combining the knowledge of both companies, we can make it even more competitive and compelling,” Ahold Delhaize CEO Frans Muller said.

Stockpiling during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic made online grocery sales soar, and the trend seems to be sticking. Muller said that the pandemic accelerated Ahold Delhaize’s e-commerce business by several years.

“Being that we’re on top of our game right now … strong double digit-growth, we were naturally attractive, given where the world is in terms of adoption of online food,” McInerney told CNBC’s Becky Quick.

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021.

Correction: David McInerney is CEO of FreshDirect. An earlier version misspelled his name.


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Trump administration officials speak on Covid vaccine distribution

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The departments of Health and Human Services and Defense are holding a joint briefing Tuesday on the Trump administration’s coronavirus vaccine program Operation Warp Speed as states prepare to distribute doses as early as next month.

The briefing comes four days after Pfizer and its partner BioNTech applied for an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for their Covid-19 vaccine. The FDA process is expected to take a few weeks, and an advisory committee meeting to review the vaccine has been scheduled for early December.

Pfizer announced on July 22 that the U.S. agreed to buy 100 million doses of its vaccine for up to $1.95 billion. The agreement, which is part of Operation Warp Speed, allows the U.S. to acquire an additional 500 million vaccine doses.

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


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Cramer calls this stock market ‘the most speculative’ he’s ever seen

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Jim Cramer

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Tuesday that some of the stock gains in the market are “insane,” with investors recently buying certain names from Tesla to Royal Caribbean seemingly without regard for fundamentals or the state of the coronavirus pandemic and holding onto them.

“Where are the profit takers” after these dizzying moves higher? the “Mad Money” host asked.

Cramer called the current environment “the most speculative market I’ve ever seen,” hitting on a recent theme in which he’s been dumbfounded by the kinds of moves in so-called Robinhood stocks, names being gobbled up on the online trading platform favored by younger investors.

“You can’t lose in that market,” he said, adding “it’s like a slot machine” that always pays out. “I’ve not seen this in my career,” stressed Cramer, who came to Wall Street in the mid-1980s after joining Goldman Sachs and later became a hedge-fund manager before becoming a financial journalist.

Cramer questioned how this type of buying can continue, pointing out that in the past such speculation has been met with a big sell-off. However, he pointed out that such a downturn has not happened yet despite coronavirus cases in the U.S. and around the world hitting record after record, which could threaten the nascent economic recovery from the depths of the pandemic in the spring.

In the case of Tesla, Cramer called it a technology company not just an automaker. He said that Tesla’s more than 500% gain this year alone could not be justified any other way.

Cramer has been a fan of Tesla for a while, even buying one of the electric vehicles. “These are ridiculous” moves, he said but added it’s not 1999, referring to the dotcom bubble that later burst. “Investors just like Tesla,” he argued. The strong move in Tesla shares Tuesday pushed the company to a $500 billion stock market value.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened about 300 points higher Tuesday, with the Trump administration approving Joe Biden‘s transition and the president-elect set to pick former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary. A day earlier, the Dow soared 327 points after AstraZeneca and Oxford said their Covid-19 vaccine was up to 90% effective, in a third straight Monday of encouraging late-stage trial data.

Tuesday’s trading featured so-called reopening stocks like airlines and cruise lines getting another boost. Tech stocks — seen as beneficiaries of the pandemic stay-at-home economy, which would abate in a post-vaccine world — were steady after a rough Monday that put a cap on the Nasdaq’s gains.


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