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Jan. 7, 2021, 6:15 a.m. EST

U.S. could see up to 150,000 more COVID-19 deaths by February as new strain takes hold, expert warns

More infectious variant makes it even more crucial to get vaccine program on track after early disappointment, says Dr. Ashish Jha

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By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch

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In other news:

• The European Union has granted emergency use authorization to the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA -4.36% , MarketWatch’s Jack Denton reported. The European Commission is expected to quickly grant authorization for the vaccine, allowing it to be deployed across Europe, where COVID-19 infections remain very high and millions of people continue to live under strict lockdown measures. The prospective clearance of the Moderna vaccine comes as governments across Europe face challenges in rolling out the vaccine at scale. In France, President Emmanuel Macron faces national criticism over the inoculation campaign, which lags its European peers.

• The head of the World Health Organization said that he is “disappointed” Chinese officials haven’t finalized the permissions to allow a team of experts into China to examine the origins of COVID-19, the Associated Press reported. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a rare critique of Beijing, said members of the international scientific team began departing from their home countries over the last 24 hours as part of an arrangement between WHO and the Chinese government. “Today, we learned that Chinese officials have not yet finalized the necessary permissions for the team’s arrival in China,” Tedros said during a news conference in Geneva. “I’m very disappointed with this news, given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute, but had been in contact with senior Chinese officials,” he said.

• The Netherlands is finally preparing to start its COVID-19 vaccine program, becoming the last country in the EU to do so, the BBC reported. The Dutch government has come in for criticism over the delay, with former public health director, Roel Coutinho, warning the country’s “shameful” vaccination strategy was “going to cost lives.” During an emergency debate in parliament, opposition politicians called the approach “chaotic and confusing.” The Netherlands has 852,921 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the Johns Hopkins data show, and at least 12,095 people have died.

• The Geneva-based Press Emblem Campaign nongovernmental organization said Wednesday that more than 600 journalists have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, with Latin America leading with more than half of known victims, AFP reported. At least 145 deaths were recorded in Asia, with 94 in Europe, 23 in North America and 28 in Africa. The press freedom group called for journalists to have priority access to vaccines upon request.

Don’t miss: Telemedicine provides people with a lifeline during the pandemic — but once again highlights the divide between rich and poor

• CVS Health Corp. /zigman2/quotes/209664499/composite CVS -3.22%  plans to give the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines in roughly 8,000 skilled-nursing facilities in 49 states by Jan. 25, MarketWatch’s Jaimy Lee reported. The program allows both residents and employees of the facilities to get one of the two authorized COVID-19 vaccines right now; both groups are considered by the U.S. government to be at high risk of contracting the coronavirus. CVS said it also plans to publish its national and state vaccination figures every day at 4 p.m. It also said that while uptake among residents remains “encouragingly high,” the actual number of residents is about 20% to 30% lower than facility projections that were based on bed count. “Initial uptake among staff is low, part of which is likely due to facilities wanting to stagger vaccinations between visits,” said the drugstore chain.

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Students Share Lessons From Their Virtual 2020

As Covid-19 changed their lives, students shared unexpected upsides with WSJ’s Julie Jargon. Photo Illustration: Adele Morgan

Latest tallies

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide climbed above 86.7 million on Wednesday, the Johns Hopkins data show, and the death toll rose to 1.9 million. At least 48 million people have recovered from COVID-19.

Brazil has the second highest death toll after the U.S. at 197,732 and is third by cases at 7.8 million.

India is second worldwide in cases with 10.4 million, and third in deaths at 150,114.

Mexico has the fourth highest death toll at 128,822 and 13th highest case tally at 1.5 million.

The U.K. has 2.8 million cases and 77,370 deaths, the highest in Europe and fifth highest in the world.

China, where the virus was first discovered late last year, has had 96,335 confirmed cases and 4,788 deaths, according to its official numbers.

See also: Scotland to impose new lockdown starting at midnight

What’s the economy saying?

Employers in the private sector shed 123,000 jobs in December, the first decline since April, according to the ADP National Employment Report, MarketWatch’s Greg Robb reported.

Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected a December gain of 60,000 private sector jobs.

What happened: Job losses were primarily concentrated in retail and leisure and hospitality.

Private-sector service providers subtracted 105,000 jobs in December. Meanwhile goods producers shed 18,000 jobs. Manufacturing lost 21,000 jobs.

By company size, small businesses lost 37,000 private-sector jobs in December and large businesses lost 147,000. Medium-sized businesses, defined as firms with 50 to 499 employees, added 37,000 jobs.

See: ‘We forget about them as being essential workers.’ COVID-19 has made farm workers even more vulnerable — and created momentum to protect them

Economists use ADP’s data as a guide to the Labor Department’s employment report, which will be released Friday which covers government jobs in addition to the private sector.

Economists polled by MarketWatch expect the government’s report to show a slowing in job growth in December with nonfarm employment up by only 50,000 last month.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -1.86%  was last up 1.4%, while the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -1.90%  was up 0.9%.

/zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 352.43
-16.08 -4.36%
Volume: 25.16M
Nov. 30, 2021 4:00p
P/E Ratio
21.64
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$149.41 billion
Rev. per Employee
$617,996
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/zigman2/quotes/209664499/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 89.06
-2.96 -3.22%
Volume: 9.05M
Nov. 30, 2021 4:00p
P/E Ratio
15.57
Dividend Yield
2.25%
Market Cap
$121.47 billion
Rev. per Employee
$895,513
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime
US : Dow Jones Global
34,483.72
-652.22 -1.86%
Volume: 678.80M
Nov. 30, 2021 4:57p
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime
US : S&P US
4,567.00
-88.27 -1.90%
Volume: 4.07B
Nov. 30, 2021 4:57p
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Ciara Linnane is MarketWatch's investing- and corporate-news editor. She is based in New York.

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