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President Joe Biden targets 1.5 million Covid vaccinations a day, up from 1 million




US President Joe Biden delivers remarks before signing a “Made in America” Executive Order in the South Court Auditorium at the White House on January 25, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden said Monday the United States could reach 1.5 million Covid-19 vaccinations per day, topping his previously targeted pace of 1 million per day, which was nearly met already by the Trump administration.

Biden has pledged to administer 100 million shots of coronavirus vaccine in his first 100 days in office, a pace of 1 million shots per day.

“That is my promise, that we would get 100 million vaccinations,” he said Monday. “I think with the grace of God and the good will of the neighbor and the crick not rising, as the old saying goes, I think we may be able to get that to 1.5 million a day, rather than 1 million a day, but we have to meet that goal of a million a day.”

Some public health specialists have criticized Biden’s pledge to administer 100 million shots of vaccine in his first 100 days in office as too modest. When Biden assumed the presidency last week, the U.S. was already well on its way to achieving the necessary pace of 1 million shots per day. As of Sunday, the U.S. topped a seven-day average of 1.1 million vaccinations per day, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And with the anticipated introduction of Johnson & Johnson‘s one-shot vaccine next month, the Biden administration is now saying that the 1 million shots per day pace is a floor, rather than a goal. The two currently authorized vaccines, manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, both require two doses to achieve maximum protection against the virus. The potential authorization of JNJ’s one-shot vaccine could substantially accelerate the mass effort.

But just last week, Biden dismissed the idea that the goal of 100 million vaccinations in 100 days might be too low of a threshold, claiming that he was told before he took office that the target might be too high.

“I find it fascinating that yesterday the press asked the question, ‘Is 100 million enough?’ The week before they said, ‘Biden, are you crazy? You can’t do 100 million in 100 days,” the president said Friday. “We’re, God willing, not only going to do 100 million, we’re going to do more than that.”

Biden said Monday that the administration is working to increase the number of people who can administer the shots, boost production of the doses, and set up more facilities where people can schedule appointments and receive their inoculations.

“Time is of the essence,” he said. “We’re trying to get out a minimum of 100 million vaccinations in 100 days, and move in the direction where we are well beyond that in the next 100 days, so we can get to the point where we reach herd immunity in a country of over 300 million people.”

His change in tune echoes comments made this weekend by White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, who served in the Trump administration. Fauci said Sunday the Biden target of 100 million doses in 100 days is not a final number.

“It is really a floor and not a ceiling,” Fauci told the CBS program “Face The Nation.” “It is going to be a challenge. I think it was a reasonable goal that was set. We always want to do better than the goal that you’ve set.”

With a limited supply of doses, states are still rationing the lifesaving shots, setting eligibility parameters that vary widely. The Trump administration and now the Biden White House have both encouraged states to quickly move through the phases of eligibility to broaden the population able to get the vaccines.

Pressed on Monday by a reporter about when the U.S. will get to the point when anyone who wants to get the vaccines will be able to, Biden said this spring. But he added it is going “to be a logistical challenge that exceeds anything we’ve ever tried in this country.”

“I feel confident that by summer we’re going to be well on our way to heading toward herd immunity,” he said.

But even as Biden voiced a more aggressive target for the vaccination campaign, he added Monday that the U.S. is “going to see somewhere between a total of 600,000 to 660,000 deaths before we begin to turn the corner in a major way.”

And the president painted an even bleaker picture last week, saying that “there’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.”

— CNBC’s Nate Rattner contributed to this report.

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California lifts statewide Covid stay-at-home order, allowing restaurants to reopen




A person wearing a protective mask arranges a table outside a restaurant in San Francisco, California, July 14, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

California will lift its stay-at-home order across the state on Monday, paving the way for restaurants and personal care services to reopen with modified operations for the first time in weeks, according to a statement from the state’s health department.

The stay-at-home order, which Gov. Gavin Newsom first announced on Dec. 3, split the state into five regions and was based on an area’s available intensive care unit capacity. Three of those regions — San Joaquin Valley, Bay Area and Southern California — were still under the order before it was lifted Monday.

Under the order, restaurants were allowed to offer take-out and delivery services only, and personal care businesses like hair salons and barbershops were ordered to close. Retailers were allowed to remain open with limited capacity. The state is expected to move back to its county-by-county tiered system, which will allow businesses to reopen depending on the level of Covid-19 spread in their area.

Nearly every county will start off in the most widespread, restrictive reopening tier, meaning that many businesses, including restaurants and gyms, will be allowed to reopen for outdoor services only, according to the California Department of Public Health. Retailers will be allowed to reopen their businesses at a quarter of their capacity under the most widespread tier.

State health officials now project that ICU capacity, the percentage beds in use, in every region will drop below 85% in four weeks after running at or close to max capacity for weeks. That allows Newsom to lift the stay-at-home order across California. The Sacramento region already exited the order on Jan. 12 and the Northern California region never entered the order, the state’s health department said.

“California is slowly starting to emerge from the most dangerous surge of this pandemic yet, which is the light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been hoping for,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a statement.

“Seven weeks ago, our hospitals and front-line medical workers were stretched to their limits, but Californians heard the urgent message to stay home when possible and our surge after the December holidays did not overwhelm the health care system to the degree we had feared,” Ghaly said.

California is reporting roughly 25,256 new Covid-19 cases a day on average, a more than 35% decline compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

There are now 18,638 people hospitalized with Covid-19, a recent dip across the state but still more than double the number of patients on Dec. 1, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project, which is run by journalists at The Atlantic. 

Just because the state has lifted the order, however, doesn’t mean that every county has to allow the businesses to return. Under California’s reopening plan, local jurisdictions are allowed to implement tougher restrictions if necessary.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who at times has implemented tougher restrictions on San Francisco County, said on Monday that the area will allow most of the businesses to reopen under the tiered reopening plan beginning Thursday. Restaurants can offer outdoor dining with limits on customers per table, hotels will be allowed to accept reservations from tourists again and personal care services can resume for indoor and outdoor services.

An order that limits non-essential businesses and gatherings from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. will remain in effect, even though the state order will expire, according to a statement from the mayor’s office.

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NBA plans for private equity investments in teams




NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addresses the media prior to the game of the Miami Heat against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game one of the 2020 NBA Finals as part of the NBA Restart 2020 on September 30, 2020 at AdventHealth Arena at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.

Garrett Ellwood | National Basketball Association | Getty Images

Ownership accoutrements.

It’s the phrase National Basketball Association commissioner Adam Silver used in 2019 to help frame the attraction of becoming a sports owner. And Silver suggested the NBA could incentivize those looking to join its club, even on a minority level.  

The NBA’s plan to lure private equity money is in motion, and it’s betting on the allure of owning limited partnerships in its clubs will pay off.

With valuations in clubs rising to astronomical levels, the NBA joined the private equity chase when owners approved a plan to allow investment firms to own stakes in teams. NBA executive J.B. Lockhart is one the individuals who oversees this strategy and the league picked Dyal Capital as its partner.

They way it works: The NBA rounds up stakes in clubs and sells them to private equity firms like Dyal, who can then technically sell the limited partnerships (LPs) to private investors. Last May, Barron’s reported Dyal was seeking to raise $2 billion to purchase the LPs.

Some in the private equity space praise the NBA’s move, and even attempt to connect it to a more global play down the line.

The pros and cons of PE

“This provides the NBA, its member teams, its entire infrastructure with financial optionality,” said Chris Lencheski, the chairman of private equity consulting company Phoenicia and adjunct professor at Columbia University.

Allowing private equity investments will also help minority owners looking to sell and exit ownership groups. On the majority side, owners who want to recover from Covid-19 losses by can sell shares and benefit, too.

Lencheski, who also serves as CEO of Granite Bridge Partners’ Winning Streak Sports, sees the NBA’s global “economic moat” as a draw for investors as there’s unlikely to be any viable competition for high-level professional basketball. Plus the league is backed by global licensing, merchandise, sponsorship and approximately $2.5 billion in annual media rights income, which runs through the 2024-25 season.

But the move is not risk-free.

Addressing the NBA’s ratings slide at the 2019 Sports Business Journal Dealmakers conference, Silver described cable television model as “broken” and added league’s young viewers “are tuning out traditional cable.”

So should its media rights drop in price as cable subscribers continue to cut the cord, valuations could drop and investors can lose money on LPs. One sports banker pointed to 2009 when valuations dropped due to a bad economy as proof the NBA isn’t immune to a decline due to economic turmoil, either.

And few foreseen the abrupt stop to its estimated 40% in revenue due to the pandemic.

But it could have help from the public’s allure.

Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots the ball against the Miami Heat during Game Four of the NBA Finals on October 6, 2020 at AdventHealth Arena in Orlando, Florida.

Nathaniel S. Butler | National Basketball Association | Getty Images

The SPAC play

Dyal and investment firm Owl Rock merged with Altimar Acquisition Corporation, a $275 million special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) currently trading on the New York Stock Exchange, allowing the combined firms to go public. The new firm is called Blue Owl, and public investors will soon be able to invest in it under the ticker symbol “OWL” on the NYSE later this year.

And one of its attractions will be its NBA fund.

Dyal did not respond to a CNBC request for comment, but managing partner Michael Rees spoke about the firm’s NBA strategy on a Dec. 23 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission call announcing the plan to launch Blue Owl.

“We’re proud to be a partner, an exclusive partner, with the NBA, the National Basketball Association, where we’re the only approved buyer of a portfolio of minority equity stakes in the 30 teams in the NBA,” said Rees, according to the call’s transcript. “That business is just being launched, and we’re hoping to have our first closing in the not-too-distant future.”

“We think we can grow certainly a very attractive basketball strategy off of this platform, but also possibly expand to a broader sports business that could have tremendous upside,” added Rees, who will also serve as one of the co-presidents of Blue Owl.

It’s not clear what Blue Owl’s overall sports strategy is, nor how it expects to make a return on NBA LPs. A person close to their planning told CNBC it would purchase stakes in some clubs, not all 30 teams.

When discussing the NBA’s private equity play, a Wall Street CEO said the firms make no money on fiduciary capital until it sells something. The person requested to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of discussing the matter publicly.

The CEO, who has an extensive history in private equity, also questioned how private firms would make any return on $2 billion. A long-time sports executive, who also requested anonymity, noted NBA teams can redistribute annual profits to new investors.

So, if a private firm is betting on sports teams as a long-term play, it could earn on clubs revenue while holding on to the LPs through dividends. Then, it could sell the LPs at a higher price.

And with the NBA such a global product, billionaires around world looking for an entry point into U.S. sports could be potential consumers of NBA accoutrements.

Paris Saint-Germain’s Qatari president Nasser Al-Khelaifi arrives for a training session at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on August 22, 2020 on the eve of the UEFA Champions League final football match between Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.

Miguel A. Lopes | AFP | Getty Images

Foreign investment an option?

Private firms can purchase the LPs and then sell them on the secondary market. If the NBA goes the private equity route, there will be guidelines in place, but it will lose some control on who the LPs are sold to.

Foreign investors could be a way for firms to make money on the LPs.

There is chatter that points to Middle East investors as future buyers of the minority shares. The NBA prohibits sovereign state investment in its teams, but investors from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Qatar have been linked to the league before. In 2010, it was rumored investors were interested in purchasing the Detroit Pistons.

Lencheski added the NBA could also use the private equity investment vehicle to examine individuals who could look to buy majority positions in teams at a later date. The sports executive used Tsai’s entry as an example. He paid Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov $1 billion for a 49% stake in the Brooklyn Nets in 2018 before taking full control.

Lencheski pointed to David Tepper’s entry into the National Football League as another example.

“One of the many factors that certainly helped Charlotte’s ownership in the NFL was the minority interest initially in the Pittsburgh Steelers,” he said. “If David Tepper doesn’t see the way the Steelers organization operates, understands what a best-in-class organization looks like when he goes to his NFL colleagues and says, ‘I want to buy a team,’ he has the funds, but more importantly for the NFL, he understands the culture of a winning community-focused sports organization.”

The NBA appears bullish on its product. Live sports still keeps the cable model from shattering. The league continues to produce international superstars to protect its economic moat — $8.3 billion in revenue. And the NBA’s credit is in good standing.

The NBA’s new focus is expanding the list of those seeking ownership accoutrements via private equity.

“You get some of the benefits of being a team owner,” Silver told SBJ, according to SportsPro. “So it’s not just a pure, ‘What’s my return financial investment?’ Not that that’s not important, but try to come closer to some of the same reasons that traditional franchise owners buy into teams.

“Part of it is financial,” Silver said, “but part of it is the amenities, and the cachet, and the desire to be directly involved with these leagues.”

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