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With limited access to travel and events, Americans are spending discretionary dollars on winter sporting goods. Here's why that's good news for outdoor retailers like REI.

  • As winter nears, Americans are stocking up sporting goods like skis and ice skates in an effort to stay active and social outside as the pandemic continues. 
  • At REI, the outdoor retailer has seen "significant increases" in demand for items like snow shoes and cross-country skis, with sales of the latter nearly tripling year-over-year.
  • "With bikes, camping gear, and sport utility equipment being sold out and back-ordered for months, we should expect nothing less as we head into the winter sports seasons," Durk Stelter, chief revenue officer at Linc Global, told Business Insider. 
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Concerns over a second wave of the coronavirus haven't stopped Americans from finding ways to stay both social and active as winter nears. 

Similar to sales of fire pits and disposable campfires, cold weather sporting gear and apparel are in high demand. This includes skis, ice skates, snow boots, and puffer jackets, according to retailers like REI. And as traditional brands look to cash in, emerging niche outdoor brands are also hitting the market, looking to capitalize.

At REI, the company is experiencing "significant increases" in demand for snow shoes, at rates currently four times higher than the same period last year. At the same time, demand for cross-country skis has nearly tripled year-over-year, according to data provided to Business Insider. 

In preparation for cold-weather activities and extended periods of time outside, items like parkas are also flying off shelves. According to the retail analytics firm Edited, the sell-out rate for parkas has grown by 89% year-over-year in the US, while items like leather jackets are selling out at a rate 136% higher than last year in the UK. 

The demand comes amid uncertainty surrounding whether venues like ski resorts and lodges will be able to open safely this winter. Many have announced tentative opening plans with significant modifications and restrictions. Earlier this summer, some companies began offering discounted advance passes to members, while devising health-conscious strategies like introducing new ski lift loading methods and minimizing or closing indoor dining. 

According to Durk Stelter, chief revenue officer at customer experience automation company Linc Global, retailers can expect to see demand for outdoor activity gear to continue to grow into the winter months, much as it did during the summer — causing shortages on everything from bicycles to rollerblades. 

"As we have seen throughout the pandemic, the need for outdoor equipment has increased dramatically," Stelter said. "With bikes, camping gear, and sport utility equipment being sold out and back-ordered for months, we should expect nothing less as we head into the winter sports seasons."

Stelter added that he expects heightened spending on outdoor equipment and sporting gear this holiday season, especially as the $450 billion spent by consumers during the 2019 holiday season on services like food, travel, and sporting events — activities and experiences that have all been severely limited during the pandemic — is now "up for grabs." 

"This holiday, we should expect shoppers to invest more in outdoor winter equipment, such as skis and snowmobiles, as more people look for ways to stay outdoors in a socially-distanced environment," he said. "The good news is manufacturers have had more time to position for increased inventory, but it is still to be seen if they were able to overcome covid restrictions to meet the unexpectedly high demand."

A man uses Ski Skates.Ski Skating

Meanwhile, emerging companies like Ski Skates — which boasts "the shortest skis in the world" and "the only skis that fit into your backpack" — are also seeing an influx in interest. Created in the Czech Republic in 2019, Ski Skates operates "like ice skates for snow" and functions as an attachment to snow boots that blends the acts of skiing and skating. 

Though the company is still in its nascent stages, a company spokesperson said Ski Skates has already sold thousands of pairs of its flagship product, Snowfeet, and is preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign in November. The spokesperson added that the primary draw of Ski Skates is they can be used at ski lodges and resorts or alternative locations amid the coronavirus outbreak.

"Skiskates are perfect for use when all the ski resorts are closed during the pandemic because you can use them not only on ski slopes, but on sledding hills or hiking trails as well, and have fun with your family and friends," the spokesperson said. 

Do you have a personal experience with the coronavirus you’d like to share? Or a tip on how your town or community is handling the pandemic? Please email [email protected] and tell us your story.

Get the latest coronavirus business & economic impact analysis from Business Insider Intelligence on how COVID-19 is affecting industries.

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Australia’s Virus Hotspot State Records Just One New Case

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Victoria, the state at the center of Australia’s coronavirus outbreak, has recorded just one new case overnight and no deaths, raising pressure on authorities to ease lockdown restrictions.

The 5 million residents of the state capital, Melbourne, remain under stay-at-home orders until the rolling 14-day average drops below 5 new cases and there are fewer than five cases with an unknown source. Critics, including the federal health minister, say the target is too onerous, and that the prolonged lockdown is risking people’s mental health and weighing on the national economy.

State Premier Daniel Andrews is due to address the media on Sunday and is being urged to ease restrictions. Prime Minister Scott Morrison again weighed into the issue on Friday.

63,610 in U.S.Most new cases today

+1% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-0.​9885 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

5.​3% Global GDP Tracker (annualized), Aug.


“At some time you’ve got to step off the shore and start moving forward again,” Morrison told reporters, adding the state had “earned” a relaxation of the rules.

The rolling 14-day average of cases state-wide is 8.6, while there are 17 cases with an unknown source. That’s still an enviable record for other parts of the world, with the U.K., U.S. and many European countries facing a second wave amid the onset of winter.

Australia has been in the vanguard of nations seeing success in controlling community transmission. Its first nationwide lockdown, which lasted roughly from March to May, was one of the most successful in the world, reducing the number of cases to just a handful a day. But security failures at quarantine hotels for returning travelers and poor communication of critical information to migrant communities allowed the virus to roar back in Victoria.

Much of the nation has crushed community transmission, as states such as Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania restrict entry to people from virus hotspots. The international border remains closed to non-residents, and those returning from overseas must undergo 14 days of quarantine in hotels or other government-run facilities.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci says Trump campaign ad took his comments out of context

  • A 30-second ad from Trump's reelection campaign praises the president's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • It includes a clip of Fauci saying, "I can't imagine that anybody could be doing more."
  • Fauci said he was referring to the White House Coronavirus Task Force in the early days of the pandemic when the group was working 24 hours a day and "things were really on fire."

White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that his comments used in one of President Donald Trump's campaign ads were taken out of context.

The 30-second ad from Trump's reelection campaign praises the president's response to the coronavirus pandemic and includes a clip of Fauci saying, "I can't imagine that anybody could be doing more."

"The way that ad went where they quoted me at the end, it was certainly in the context that looked very much like a political endorsement, and I've assiduously avoided that for so many years, like decades,"Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during an interview with Yahoo News.

Fauci said he was referring to the White House Coronavirus Task Force in the early days of the pandemic when the group was working 24 hours a day and "things were really on fire." Fauci, a member of the task force, said the ad "made it look very much like a political endorsement."

"I have never ever indirectly or directly endorsed a political candidate," said Fauci, who was appointed director of NIAID in 1984.  "I have been in the public health arena and advising six administrations for the last five decades."

Fauci said he wants to be "completely apolitical" and stay as a "scientists, a physician and a public health person."

Fauci and Trump have been at times at odds with coronavirus response efforts, with the president often critical of Fauci. Just two days ago, Trump mocked Fauci in a tweet, writing that the infectious disease experts "pitching arm is far more accurate than his prognostications."

"'No problem, no masks'. WHO no longer likes Lockdowns – just came out against. Trump was right. We saved 2,000,000 USA lives!!!" Trump tweeted.

Trump could be referring to Fauci's previous criticism about the U.S. not completely locking down early in the outbreak. Fauci said in July that the U.S. had so many coronavirus cases because it "did not shut down entirely."

The World Health Organization now says full-scale lockdowns should only be used as a last resort if other restrictive measures don't work.

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Trump health official blasts Nevada after state ends use of rapid coronavirus tests in nursing homes

A top official from the Department of Health and Human Services on Friday urged Nevada to reverse its decision to suspend the use of two rapid coronavirus tests in nursing homes, saying there is no "scientific reason" to justify its action.

Nevada health officials have ordered nursing facilities in the state to immediately suspend the use of two tests, manufactured by companies Quidel and Becton, Dickinson and Co., after the officials said the tests repeatedly delivered false positives.

Nevada officials said 23 out of 39 positive antigen test results from both Quidel and BD were later found by PCR to be negative, according to a directive issued last week. That is an error rate of about 60%, according to the document.

Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary at HHS, said Friday that false positives are a "reality" of the testing ecosystem and are to be expected. Calling the Nevada action "unjustified," Giroir said the federal agency has sent a letter to the state threatening to take "swift action and appropriate steps" if the decision is not reversed.

This is an "unwise, uninformed and unlawful" decision, Giroir said on a call with reporters. "Nevada's letter unilaterally prohibiting these tests is in violation of HHS's PREP Act guidance. Under federal law, Nevada may not prohibit or effectively prohibit such testing."

He said Nevada's action "reflects a basic lack of knowledge" about testing and interpreting results.

"Not just Covid testing but clinical testing in general," he continued. "The science is on the administration's side and the administration is on the side of science."

Giroir wouldn't say what action the federal government was prepared to take, only saying the government has "a number of enforcement mechanisms" at its discretion. He urged nursing homes to continue to use the tests, saying "there is no scientific reason to not comply with this."

The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment on Giroir's remarks.

Quidel and BD's tests can provide results in as little as 15 minutes.

The Trump administration is requiring nursing homes to routinely tests residents and staff in an attempt to detect new Covid-19 cases more quickly. The coronavirus has hit nursing homes in the U.S. especially hard, and the administration has shipped thousands of tests across the nation.

Rapid tests have been seen as essential tools to help schools and businesses reopen, but the accuracy of the tests have remained a concern since

The FDA said it had received 302 "adverse event" reports as of Sept. 30, including numerous accounts of false negative, according to Reuters.

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FDA grants emergency clearance for GenMark test that screens for the flu, coronavirus and other viruses

  • California-based lab test manufacturer GenMark Diagnostics announced Thursday that the FDA granted an emergency authorization for its rapid molecular test.
  • The test simultaneously looks for more than 20 different viruses and bacteria including the coronavirus.
  • Flu and Covid-19 patients typically develop similar early symptoms, which could make it difficult this flu season for doctors and nurses to diagnose patients and pursue the best treatment.

California-based lab test manufacturer GenMark Diagnostics announced Thursday that the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization for its rapid molecular test that can distinguish between more than 20 different viruses and bacteria, including the coronavirus.

Flu and Covid-19 patients typically develop similar symptoms early on in the virus, which could make it difficult this flu season for doctors and nurses to diagnose patients and pursue the best treatment. Tests like GenMark's that are able to simultaneously screen for the flu, the coronavirus and other pathogens could be crucial to helping hospitals effectively treat Covid-19 and influenza patients this winter, public health specialists say.

Shares of Genmark shot up about 15% after the close but pared gains and were up more than 4% in after-hours trading.

"While we can't predict what cold and flu season is going to look like this year, we know that we have to arm healthcare providers with the necessary tools to quickly and accurately diagnose the cause of infections in seriously ill patients, so syndromic testing is going to be critical," Scott Mendel, GenMark's CEO, said in a statement.

The test, called ePlex Respiratory Pathogen Panel 2, uses a nasopharyngeal swab to collect samples and provides results in less than two hours, according to the company. It added that the test was funded in part by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which is a part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Through the contract, BARDA awarded up to $749,000 to the company for the development of the test, the company said in March.

The test was approved for use in Europe about a month ago, the company said. The FDA previously authorized a GenMark's diagnostic test for the coronavirus. 

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Watch live: Fauci, Slaoui, Bloomberg and Collins participate in coronavirus vaccine symposium

  • Johns Hopkins University and the University of Washington are holding a series of panels on Tuesday with the nation's top health officials as part of a coronavirus vaccine symposium. 
  • The speakers include White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIH head Dr. Francis Collins and Moncef Slaoui, who leads the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed Covid-19 vaccine efforts. 

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Johns Hopkins University and the University of Washington are holding a series of panels Tuesday with the nation's top health officials as part of a coronavirus vaccine symposium titled "Preserving the Scientific Integrity of Getting to COVID-19 Vaccines: From Clinical Trials to Public Allocation." 

The speakers include White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci; National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins; Moncef Slaoui, who leads the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed Covid-19 vaccine efforts; and billionaire philanthropist and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner, will also speak at the event. 

The symposium "will feature insights from global leaders in vaccine science, health metrics, policy, regulation, and communications" and is designed to "put forward a concise plan for protecting the scientific integrity of these lifesaving efforts," according to a press release. 

Countries across the globe are racing to develop, manufacture and distribute Covid-19 vaccines at historic speeds. However, the safety and timing of potential Covid-19 vaccines has come under question as some people grow concerned about political interference in their approval process. 

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

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House panel investigates political interference by White House over coronavirus at CDC and FDA

  • A House Oversight subcommittee has requested information about non-expert White House influence at the nation's top health agencies throughout the pandemic. 
  • The subcommittee sent letters to the leaders of the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requesting documents and information on agency actions.
  • The allegations of political interference by the White House come at a critical time, particularly for the FDA, which will soon be charged with potentially authorizing the first vaccine for the coronavirus.

A House Oversight subcommittee has opened an investigation looking at whether White House officials unduly pressured the nation's top health agencies throughout the pandemic. 

The subcommittee sent letters to the leaders of the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requesting documents and information on agency actions, drafts submitted to the White House and changes made during the review process. 

The letters are signed by Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., chairman of the subcommittee. The letters emphasize the role of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, known as OIRA, in reviewing agency decisions. The OIRA is part of the White House's Office of Management and Budget and has authority to review regulatory actions made by agencies. 

"We are particularly concerned that a little-known office within the White House — the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, part of the Office of Management and Budget — is exerting influence over what is supposed to be non-partisan, scientific messaging," Krishnamoorthi said Tuesday in a statement.

In congressional testimony, both CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield and FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn have said that their agencies have not been affected by political pressure. Both have also vowed to maintain the scientific integrity of their agencies. 

The allegations of political interference by the White House come at a critical time, particularly for the FDA, which will soon be charged with examining data for and potentially authorizing the first vaccine for the coronavirus. Trump has repeatedly said it's possible a vaccine could come before the Nov. 3 presidential election, a timeline that causes skepticism among most scientists.

Last month, the Washington Post reported that the FDA planned to publish new standards for an emergency authorization of a potential vaccine, which would make it much less likely for a vaccine to be authorized before the election. However, The New York Times reported Monday that top White House officials are now blocking the guidance, which has still not been published. 

"The public wants a COVID-19 vaccine that it can trust. Assuredly, FDA and its expert staff want that too," Krishnamoorthi wrote in his letter to Hahn. "Unfortunately, President Trump has pledged to rush a vaccine into the market, and that undermines public trust in FDA's ability to ensure a safe and effective vaccine."

President Donald Trump has publicly pressured Hahn and FDA officials in the past. Early in the pandemic, Trump called for the emergency authorization of the use of antimalaria  drug hydroxychloroquine. Prescriptions for the 60-year-old medication surged 2,000% in March, but later studies found that it was actually hastening death in some patients and the FDA pulled its emergency authorization in June.

More recently, the president publicly criticized Hahn and called for him to quickly authorize convalescent plasma for the treatment of Covid-19. Some scientists said that while the treatment appeared safe, the country would have been better served by not authorizing the treatment and instead studying it more rigorously in large clinical trials.

Trump has publicly sparred with the CDC as well. Last month, when Redfield testified that the U.S. should have enough vaccine doses for Americans to return to "regular life" by the third quarter of 2021, Trump later contradicted him, saying he "made a mistake."

Krishnamoorthi's letter to Redfield mentions the appointment of Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign official who took over as top spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services earlier this year. For months, Caputo and other politically appointed communications staff at HHS were at the center of reports about meddling in internal CDC affairs, including the publication of medical research about the virus.

Last month, Caputo was placed on a 60-day medical leave after he posted a video on his personal Facebook page accusing CDC scientists of engaging in "sedition" against the president. Caputo, through a spokesman, later said he was diagnosed with cancer. 

Krishnamoorthi said in his letter to Redfield that "we are concerned that the White House is altering and censoring CDC reports and guidance so that they do not provide support for questioning the Administration's pandemic response or harming President Trump's reelection prospects."

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New York launches coronavirus contact tracing app as cases rise in hot spots

  • New York on Thursday launched a new contact tracing app that alerts users when they've come into close contact with someone who tests positive for the coronavirus.
  • The app is called "Covid Alert NY." It's free and available through Apple's App Store and Google Play for both iPhones and Android phones. 
  • Contact tracing is one of the only proven strategies in containing the coronavirus, but it's never been conducted on the scale demanded by the pandemic. 

New York on Thursday launched a new app to trace coronavirus infections that alerts users when they've come into close contact with someone who tests positive for Covid-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.

The app is called "Covid Alert NY." It's free and available through Apple's App Store and Google Play for both iPhones and Android phones. 

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced later Thursday the launch of Covid Alert NJ. 

"We have about 15,000 people statewide who do contact tracing. We call them disease detectives. But we've been looking for a technology-based solution," Cuomo said on a conference call with reporters. "The app will know where a person who tested positive was through their cell phone, and the app can tell you if you were within six feet of that person." 

Contact tracing is the process whereby trained personnel contact people who have tested positive for a virus, asks them to quarantine and contacts people who might have been exposed to the infectious individual. It's one of the only proven strategies to help contain outbreaks, but it's never been conducted on the scale demanded by the pandemic. 

To quickly scale up contact tracing programs, some countries, including France, Germany, Ireland and South Korea have turned to mobile apps to supplement the effort. Such programs have found varying degrees of success in getting the public to adopt the system. 

New York's new app uses Bluetooth technology, not location tracking technology, to detect close contact between phones, and thus individuals, said Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor. 

"Covid Alert NY does not track your location, your movement, or use GPS. It does not collect or store any personal information," she said. "The app is completely anonymous. It uses Bluetooth technology to sense proximity to another phone with the same app, but not geographic location."

Apple and Google call their Bluetooth-based system "exposure notification," to draw a contrast with contact tracing. Apple-Google technology has been adopted by several states which have released apps, including Virginia, North Carolina, and Arizona. New York is the biggest state so far to release an app based on the Google-Apple technology, which was first announced this spring as workplaces and schools shut down in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

The more people that install the app, the more effective it will be because more phones will be looking out for the app's Bluetooth signals. This means that adoption is crucial for these apps to be effective. A previous study suggested 60% adoption was needed. But in Virginia, the first state to release an app, only half a million people downloaded its app, or roughly 5% of its population in the first month it was available. 

Apple and Google representatives presented research in September that if 15% of people install the app, in addition to contact tracing, exposure notification apps could reduce Covid-19 infections.

The app "doesn't give any privacy information" and is voluntary, Cuomo said. He added that the app will roll out in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Connecticut to work across state lines. 

"Everybody's wondering, 'I was next to this person, I was next to that person,' but this can actually give you some data," Cuomo said. "I think it's going to not only bring contact tracing to a new level, but it's going to give people comfort."

The roll out of the app comes as cases are ticking upward in New York state, driven by a number of hot spots. Cuomo said the state is investigating and marshaling resources to 20 ZIP codes where the percent of tests coming back positive continues to rise. 

Google, Apple and Bloomberg Philanthropies, led by billionaire philanthropist and former mayor of New York City Mike Bloomberg, all contributed to the development and roll out of the app, Cuomo said. The governor announced in April that Bloomberg would help develop the program. 

Larry Schwartz, a longtime advisor to Cuomo, helped lead the effort to develop and implement the app, Cuomo said. Schwartz said on the call that the app is "an enhancement to the traditional contact tracing" the state has been doing and is not a replacement. 

He added that the app has been piloted on university campuses. The app cost about $700,000 to develop, he said, adding that it was paid for through a combination of federally allocated funds and support from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The app is available in the top six languages spoken in New York, he said. New York's app will also work across state lines to alert people who use similar apps from Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Schwartz added that a team of data security experts have reviewed the app to protect the privacy of users.

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