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Amazon Workers Had Covid-19; CDC Funds Stalled: Virus Update

Amazon.com Inc. said close to 20,000 of its employees had tested positive for the virus during the pandemic. A $1 billion funding package to help the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fight Covid-19 has remained mostly unspent, people familiar with the matter said.

Pfizer Inc. Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said he’s disappointed that vaccine plans were discussed during this week’s U.S. presidential debate “in political terms rather than scientific facts.” President Donald Trump’s campaign moved a weekend re-election rally in Wisconsin after complaints by local officials.

In Europe, Paris may close bars and restaurants again and additional restrictions on movement were imposed in Madrid. Ireland’s cases are at the highest level since its lockdown eased.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases pass 34.1 million; deaths exceed 1 million
  • Pelosi says major differences to be bridged in stimulus negotiations
  • New York, San Francisco rents plunge in work-at-home shift
  • Covid-19 surge in Wisconsin started with back-to-school college kids
  • New York City downgraded by Moody’s due to pandemic fallout
  • English soccer could be next in line for a coronavirus bailout
  • Gilead will take charge of distributing its Covid-19 treatment

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on coronavirus cases and deaths.

Los Angeles Scales Back Restrictions (6:35 a.m. HK)

Los Angeles County, hard hit by the outbreak, announced an easing of restrictions on businesses, schools and playgrounds.

The easing will begin immediately, with nail salons able to open at 25% capacity, according to a statement from the county’s public health department. Indoor malls can begin reopening on Oct. 7 at 25% occupancy, while food courts and public areas must remain closed.

The county reported 1,148 new cases, for a total 271,371. Another 35 people died, for a total of 6,610 fatalities.

Amazon Says Almost 20,000 Workers Had Covid (6 a.m. HK)

Amazon.com Inc. says it’s aware of almost 20,000 employees who have tested positive for Covid-19 during the pandemic, a disclosure that follows criticism from some lawmakers and employees that the world’s largest online retailer was insufficiently transparent about outbreaks within its ranks.

The retailer said in a blog post Thursday that 19,816 employees tested positive for the respiratory disease, or were presumed positive, out of more than 1.3 million people who worked for the company from March 1 to Sept. 19. The company says that if its employees contracted the virus at a rate equal to that of the general population, Amazon would have seen some 33,952 cases.

Amazon has dealt with outbreaks of Covid-19 at facilities in Europe and the U.S.

N.Y.C. Debt Downgraded by Moody’s (4:46 a.m. HK)

New York City lost its Aa1 credit rating at Moody’s Investors Service, which sees New York “on a longer recovery path than most other major cities.”

The city’s general obligation bond rating was cut one notch to Aa2, affecting $38.7 billion of those bonds. The downgrade reflects New York’s “substantial financial challenges” rooted in the virus pandemic, according to Moody’s.

CDC Anti-Pandemic Funds Stuck for Months (4:43 a.m. HK)

The bulk of a $1 billion funding package intended to help the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fight the Covid-19 pandemic in the U.S. has remained unspent since being authorized more than five months ago, according to people familiar with the matter.

New York, New Jersey Join Contact-Tracing App (4:40 a.m. HK)

New York and New Jersey joined Pennsylvania and Delaware in a phone app that traces whether they were in contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, Governors Andrew Cuomo and Phil Murphy said in a joint statement.

The app, which works across state lines, is called “COVID Alert NY” and “Covid Alert NJ” in their respective states. Connecticut will start an app using the same technology soon, Cuomo and Murphy said.

When a person tests positive, the Department of Health will contact that person and give them a password for their phone, so that the owner of any phone that comes within 6 feet of that person’s phone will be alerted, Cuomo said earlier Thursday.

U.S. Cases Rise in Line With One-Week Average (4 a.m. HK)

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased 0.6% as compared with the same time Wednesday to 7.26 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The increase matched the average daily gain over the past week. Deaths rose to 207,374.

Trump Moves Wisconsin Rally Opposed by Mayor (3:58 a.m. HK)

President Donald Trump ditched a re-election rally on Saturday in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and moved it to Janesville in the southern part of the state. The event at La Crosse’s airport was opposed by city officials as coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest.

Brazil Analyzing First Covid-19 Vaccine Registration (2:55 a.m. HK)

Brazil’s Health Surveillance Agency started the first analysis for the registration of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, according to the regulator’s website. It said it will remain committed to providing access to the vaccine as soon as possible.

Pfizer CEO Disappointed With Vaccine Discussion at Presidential Debate (2:15 a.m. HK)

Bourla, who’s also Pfizer’s chairman, said it’s approaching its goal set earlier in the year to have a vaccine data ready to submit to the FDA this month, with the aim of delivering 100 million doses delivered year end. The timing of the vaccine and political pressure to move that forward were among the topics at the presidential debate Tuesday.

“I was disappointed that the prevention for a deadly disease was discussed in political terms rather than scientific facts,” he said. As he approaches the timeline for his plans, “we find ourselves in the crucible of the U.S. Presidential election. In this hyper-partisan year, there are some who would like us to move more quickly and others who argue for delay. Neither of those options are acceptable to me.”

Scottish Lawmaker Apologizes for Breaking Covid Rules (1:50 a.m. HK)

A Scottish National Party politician broke self-isolation rules to attend Parliament in London this week while waiting for the result of a coronavirus test, which later came back positive.

She then breached the regulations again by taking the train home to Scotland. Margaret Ferrier, the MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West near Glasgow, apologized “unreservedly” for her actions in a statement, saying she had contacted the police and the House of Commons authorities.

Paris May Close Restaurants Again (1:30 a.m. HK)

Paris may have to close bars and restaurants again to stem the resurgence of the pandemic, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said.

Positive tests and patients in intensive care in Paris and its close suburbs have climbed above “maximum alert” levels, he told reporters. If the data firm up, “we have no choice” other than to declare those places a maximum alert zone starting Monday, requiring bars and restaurants to close, Veran said.

France’s seven-day rolling average of cases fell on Thursday to 11,467, the lowest in more than a week, with 13,970 new infections reported.

Ireland Cases at Highest Since Easing Lockdown (1 a.m. HK)

Ireland reported the most new coronavirus cases since April 26, amid growing worry about the spread of the virus across the country.

There were 442 new cases recorded Thursday, with four deaths. Authorities’ “main concern is the overall national picture” rather than specific regions, the health ministry said. The government is considering tightening limits on household visits nationwide, while extra restrictions in Dublin may continue for at least three more weeks. The government eased its original lockdown of the country in May.

Separately, Ryanair said it will close bases at the country’s Cork and Shannon airports for the winter season if the Irish government doesn’t ease travel restrictions.

New York Cases Surge (12:15 a.m. HK)

New York state reported more than 1,300 new cases of coronavirus, the most since May, before New York City began allowing businesses to gradually reopen.

Test results show positivity of 1.27%, while hospitalizations were at 612, Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters Thursday. There were 11 virus-related fatalities Wednesday.

After having been an early center of the pandemic, New York had largely quelled the crisis, but numbers are increasing again.

Cases in 20 hot-spot ZIP codes are continuing to rise, with 6.5% of tests being positive, up from 5.5% the day prior, Cuomo said during a conference call. The main increases have been in Brooklyn and in Rockland County, he said.

Italy Cases Jump (11:40 p.m. HK)

Italy reported 2,548 new coronavirus cases, the most since April 24, compared with the previous seven-day average of 1,761. Record daily tests at 118,236 boosted discovered infections. The regions of Veneto and Campania led, unlike earlier in the year when the region of Lombardy around Milan was the epicenter of the outbreak.

Another 24 deaths were reported, compared with 19 the previous day. Patients in intensive care units rose by 11 to 291. Some regions like Lazio and Piedmont are looking at expanding containment measures such as the use of face masks outdoor, Ansa reported.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he will seek an extension to Jan. 31 of emergency powers granted to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. Jobless Claims Fall More than Expected (8:34 p.m. HK)

Fewer Americans than expected registered for unemployment benefits last week, as the slow labor-market recovery grinds on while businesses contend with an increase in coronavirus cases.

Initial jobless claims in regular state programs decreased by 36,000 to 837,000 in the week ended Sept. 26, Labor Department figures showed Thursday. Continuing claims, the total pool of Americans on state benefit rolls, fell to 11.8 million in the week ended Sept. 19.

Economists expected initial claims to fall to 850,000 and for continuing claims of 12.2 million, according to median estimates in a Bloomberg survey.

— With assistance by Dan Reichl

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