December 2 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 3, 2020
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1:06 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

The US could be close to 450,000 Covid-19 deaths by February, CDC director says 

From CNN's Andrea Diaz

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, Dr. Robert Redfield said that we could see more than 400,000 Covid-19 deaths before February.  

"We're in that range potentially now, starting to see 1,500 to 2,000 to 2,500 deaths a day from this virus," Redfield said during a virtual conference with the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation. "The mortality concerns are real, and I do think, unfortunately, before we see February, we could be close to 450,000 Americans have died from this virus." 

However, Redfield says that if the American public embraces social distancing, wears masks, limits gatherings and continues to follow hygiene rules currently in place, those numbers could be decreased. 

"I think my disappointment at one thing, during my time as the CDC director during this pandemic, was that there was an inconsistency of the American public embracing the message, mask-wearing. This mask-wearing, it's not a political decision, this is a public health tool, very powerful, very simple, but very powerful," Redfield said. 

1:08 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Health official urges Brits to get on the vaccine train

From CNN's Lauren Kent

The UK’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam on Wednesday used the analogy of a train when speaking about the roll out of the newly-approved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“The train has now slowed down safely, it has now stopped in the station, and the doors have opened — that was the authorization by the MHRA,” Van-Tam said during a Downing Street news conference. “What we need now is for people to get on that train and travel safely to their destinations,” he added.

“We need people to take it, this vaccine isn’t going to help you if you don’t take it," Van-Tam said.

The head of National Health Service (NHS) England, Simon Stevens, said that around 50 hospital hubs around England will start offering the vaccine to people over 80 years old and care home staff and others identified as high priority as early as next week.

In the subsequent weeks, general practitioner practices will come together in each area to operate local vaccination centers – that will grow to over 1,000 places across England.

Van-Tam also called for more than one authorized vaccine.

“We have one authorized vaccine but we need more," he said. "We then need assured supply, and that is a big and difficult ask for manufacturers, and it won’t all come at once, and it may stop and start a bit at times, we just have to manage that as best we can,” he added.

1:01 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

UK Prime Minister warns country not to get "carried away with optimism" as vaccine is approved

From CNN's Lauren Kent

As the United Kingdom becomes the first Western national to approve a Covid-19 vaccine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he is celebrating the scientific achievement, but warned the country not to get "carried away with optimism."

“It’s all the more vital that as we celebrate this scientific achievement, we’re not carried away with over optimism, or fall into the naïve belief that the struggle is over, it’s not,” Johnson said during a news conference at Downing Street on Wednesday.

He said the first doses will go to health and care staff, elderly people and those who are "clinically extremely vulnerable," but adding that it won't come without challenges.

“There are immense logistical challenges. The virus has got to be stored at minus 70 degrees, each person needs two injections, three weeks apart. So it will inevitably take some months before all the most vulnerable are protected," Johnson said.

Some background: UK regulators granted emergency authorization for a vaccine made by US pharma giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech on Tuesday.

A final analysis of the Phase 3 trial of the vaccine shows it was 95% effective in preventing infections, even in older adults, and caused no serious safety concerns, Pfizer said last month.

The announcement means the UK has vaulted past the United States and European Union in the race to approve a vaccine, months into a pandemic that has killed almost 1.5 million people worldwide.

12:58 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

US Treasury Secretary: Direct stimulus payments are not included in the deal "at the moment"

From CNN's Kristin Wilson

Greg Nash/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
Greg Nash/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has left the Capitol after two days of testimony, and said that “at the moment” direct stimulus payments to Americans suffering in the wake of the pandemic are not part of the deal that is being negotiated, "but that’s something that can be considered down the road.”

Mnuchin said he’s still hopeful that a stimulus funding deal will happen before members gavel out for the holiday.

“Well, as I said before there’s things like PPP that in my opinion there’s $140B sitting in the general fund ready to go out. There’s other money we haven’t used. I would hope we get something done quickly we’ll be continuing to have those Conversations.”

Read more about the stimulus negotiations here.

12:48 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

100 million Americans could be vaccinated by February, Operation Warp Speed adviser says

From CNN's Maggie Fox

About 100 million Americans could be vaccinated against coronavirus by February, Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed, said Wednesday.

“All the investments we have made in scaling up and starting to stockpile manufacturing of the vaccines allow us to stay confident that we will be able to distribute 20 million vaccines, enough to vaccinate 20 million people in the US in December,” Slaoui told a news briefing.

The United States has said if both Pfizer and Moderna win US Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization in December, they could distribute 40 million doses of vaccine by the end of the month. Each vaccine requires two doses, so that’s enough to fully vaccinate 20 million people.

An FDA's committee is scheduled to meet meet on Dec. 10 and Dec. 17 to review Pfizer's and Moderna's coronavirus vaccine candidates, respectively. FDA officials say their decisions on the vaccines could come days to weeks after the meetings — it depends on what questions come up.

Slaoui said he expected 60 million more vaccines by the end of January.

“So between December – mid-December and February – we will potentially have immunized 100 million people,” Slaoui said.

He said that covers many of the high-priority groups, including health care workers and people at high risk of severe disease and death from Covid-19.

12:44 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

CDC urges Americans to postpone travel and stay home ahead of winter holidays

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Henry Walke, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Covid-19 incident manager, said that as Americans continue through the holiday season, they should avoid travel and stay home.

“We’re happy we’re coming out with this guidance now before the holiday season to provide additional consideration for the American public and health care providers, public health administrators to think through in terms of preventing infection,” Walke said Wednesday.

“Our hope is before Thanksgiving, and now before the upcoming holiday season that people hear a message about avoiding travel, staying at home, and protecting themselves, especially now,” he continued. 

The reason for the recommendation to avoid travel is that cases are rising and hospitalizations and deaths are both increasing, Walke said. 

“We need to try to bend the curve, stop this exponential increase and so we’re really asking the American public to prevent these infections and avoid travel and wash their hands, wear a mask and maintain distance,” Walke said. 

12:37 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

UK authorization of Pfizer's vaccine should give Americans more confidence, HHS chief says

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Britain’s authorization of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine should give Americans more confidence in the safety of the vaccine and should speed authorization in the United States, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday.

“While the FDA completes its review, the approval of another independent regulatory body should give Americans additional confidence in the quality of such a vaccine,” Azar told a briefing.

“We are on track to be able to ship enough vaccine for 20 million Americans before the end of the year," he added.

The FDA’s vaccine advisers are scheduled to discuss Pfizer’s application for emergency use authorization on December 10.

12:24 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Top House Democrat and Mitch McConnell are in talks to try to get a stimulus deal

From CNN's Daniella Diaz

Getty Images
Getty Images

In a conference call with reporters, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he spoke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday about stimulus and has another talk scheduled today.

"I've talked to Senator McConnell on Monday. I'm going to talk to him again today," he said. "He and I both that it would be agree it would be optimal if in fact, we get to agreement by the end of this weekend. Have that agreement put on paper and memorialized so we can consider it as early as Wednesday or Thursday of next week."

Hoyer emphasized he'd like for members to vote on before or on Dec. 10 so that members can return home and properly quarantine for 15 days before the holidays.

He said he thinks leaders can agree on the framework of a Covid-19 relief bill by end of this weekend and pass it through the House Thursday but admits it is "optimistic."  He said agreed with McConnell about trying to pass a bill before next weekend.

“I said, ‘Mitch, you know, we need to get this done. There’s no magic about another week.’ And he agreed on that," Hoyer said.

2:07 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Shortening quarantine period could make more people willing to comply, CDC says

From CNN’s Jamie Gumbrecht

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hopes that more people might be willing to complete Covid-19 quarantine if the time period is reduced from 14 days – and that may result in fewer coronavirus infections, Dr. John Brooks, chief medical officer for the CDC’s Covid-19 response, said during a telebriefing on Wednesday.

“We believe that if we can reduce the burden a little bit, accepting that it comes at a small cost, we may get a greater compliance overall with people completing a full quarantine, and let's say, seven days, and when more people complete that, if we get more people on board to complete that overall, that will result in fewer infections,” Brooks said.

There is some risk a person who has left quarantine before 14 days could transmit the virus to others. The decision to change quarantine guidance came after “extensive” modeling by the CDC and other agencies that showed the risk of low, Brooks said.

“We can safely reduce the length of quarantine, but accepting there is a small residual risk that a person who is leaving quarantine early could transmit to someone else if they became infectious,” Brooks said. 

If a person quarantined for 10 days and had no symptoms and no test, the residual risk of transmitting coronavirus to someone else after quarantine is estimated to be about 1%, with an upper limit of about 10%, the CDC said on its website.

If a person quarantined for seven days and had no symptoms and a negative test, the risk of transmitting coronavirus is about 5%, with an upper limit of about 12%. A test should be collected within 48 hours before quarantine intends to end, and quarantine should not end before seven days, even if rest results are returned earlier.

If a person who ended quarantine early goes on to develop symptoms within 14 days, they should contact their local health authority and health care provider, seek out testing and isolate.

Correction: An earlier version of this story included a quote with incorrect percentages on risks after quarantine. The risk after a seven-day quarantine, among other requirements, is about 5%, with an upper limit of about 12%.