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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8:48 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Vaccine trials for younger children could start early next year, NIH director says

From CNN Health’s Shelby Lin Erdman

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, appears before a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to discuss vaccines and protecting public health during the coronavirus pandemic on Sept. 9, in Washington.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, appears before a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to discuss vaccines and protecting public health during the coronavirus pandemic on Sept. 9, in Washington. Michael Reynolds- Pool/Getty Images

Vaccine trials for children younger than 12 years old could start early next year, Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the US National Institutes of Health, said Wednesday.

We “very definitely need to get there,” Collins told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, because only children 12 and older are being studied right now.

“We will want to, shortly after the first of the year, also find out does this work for younger children because we know they can be infected and they can pass this along,” he said.
“So that is a next sort of level of test that's going to need to be done in a … vaccine trial in order to be sure that the vaccine is safe and effective in that group."

Pfizer and Moderna are now testing their respective vaccines on children between 12 and 18 years old.

Both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines are expected to receive an emergency use authorization in the US for adults in the near future. Pfizer received emergency authorization for its vaccine in the United Kingdom on Wednesday. 

8:08 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Pompeo to host holiday parties at State Department amid coronavirus spikes

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo looks on as he meets with civil society leaders in Tbilisi, Georgia, on November 18.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo looks on as he meets with civil society leaders in Tbilisi, Georgia, on November 18. Patrick Semansky/Pool/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has invited hundreds of guests to the State Department for holiday receptions in the coming weeks, according to two State Department officials familiar with the planning.

These events, which will offer refreshments and drinks for guests, come as State Department employees have been told not to host holiday gatherings, to maximize teleworking from Thanksgiving until January and continue to receive emails from the department about Covid-19 outbreaks inside the building, the sources said.

The invitations for one of the events in mid-December went out to 900 people and the invite for another went to the 180 foreign ambassadors in the US, the sources said.

In total, State Department officials are hosting a holiday reception at the State Department or the Blair House almost every day over the next few weeks, two sources familiar with the planned gatherings said. With President Trump also hosting events, they said that Pompeo felt enabled to do the same.

The planned events are leaving State Department career officials enraged, as they have concerns about the parties leading to a greater spread of the virus. Career and contracted staff feel like they cannot say no to working the event, one of the officials explained. There is concern about the potentially dangerous position this forces people into.

“What makes Secretary Pompeo and his chief of protocol, Cam Henderson, think they are above the roles and have the virus under control to throw numerous parties when there is literally a pandemic raging inside the building that they can't fix,” the second State Department official said.

“It is simply irresponsible,” the first official said, noting that some of the contractors who work in the kitchen may not have health insurance.

The Washington Post was first to report that more than 900 invites were sent.

A State Department spokesperson provided the following details about safety plans for holiday parties at the State Department:

We plan to follow all Diplomacy Strong guidelines in compliance with health officials' guidance.
All attendees will be required to wear masks, and social distancing guidelines will be implemented to ensure space between attendees. The Department will have temperature checks via forehead scanning machines at the entrance to all events, in addition to numerous hand-sanitizing towers throughout the spaces. Additionally, all proper food and beverage safety precautions will be taken by catering services and staff – all will wear gloves and masks and any food or beverage will be served individually. All attendees confirmed for the events will be e-mailed with health and safety precautions in advance of their arrival to any Department facility, asking individuals to stay home if they’re feeling any Covid symptoms or if they’ve come into close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days, per the CDC guidelines, and as is standard Department policy.
We’ve taken every precaution to thin out the number of individuals in all spaces at one time, and plan to keep outdoors space open and available to attendees, weather permitting. The Diplomatic Corps will be spread into three separate blocks of time for entrance into the White House and Blair House in an effort to keep them spaced and socially distant, and again that precaution was taken for the Department’s Diplomatic Corps Reception by splitting the event into two. We do not anticipate any problems in monitoring the number of individuals in these indoor spaces or exceeded the allotted numbers for indoor gatherings, per the Diplomacy Strong “Phase 2” guidelines.
7:29 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

California sheriff who refused to enforce Covid-19 restrictions tests positive for coronavirus

From CNN’s Isaac Engelberg

In this April 25, 2018 file photo, Sacramento sheriff Scott Jones speaks at a news conference on April 25, 2018 in Sacramento.
In this April 25, 2018 file photo, Sacramento sheriff Scott Jones speaks at a news conference on April 25, 2018 in Sacramento. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, who has refused to enforce restrictions aimed at curbing an unprecedented surge in Covid-19 cases, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the sheriff’s office announced.

“Sheriff Jones’ symptoms started last Friday and were mild, including a fever, congestion, light-headedness, and a headache,” a statement from the sheriff’s office said.

Jones took a test late last week following an exposure from another employee who had tested positive, and received his own positive result on Tuesday. His family is also in quarantine, the statement noted.

The sheriff is one of “dozens of Sacramento Sheriff's Office employees who … have contracted the virus,” the department said in a statement. It is unclear how and by whom these people were infected. 

“The sheriff is doing well and has almost no symptoms remaining,” Rodney Grassman, a spokesperson for the sheriff, told CNN. Grassman declined to offer additional details, saying “the sheriff is an elected public official so he wanted to share the diagnosis with the public but at the same time this is a medical condition and thus a private matter for the sheriff and his family.”

Some background: The positive test result follows weeks of Jones publicly expressing his opposition to new Covid-19 restrictions from state and county officials meant to curb the spread of the virus. 

Last month, Jones said he would not enforce a curfew issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom prohibiting nonessential gatherings from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for the vast majority of the state’s 40 million residents.

“The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office will not be determining … compliance with, or enforcing compliance of, any health or emergency orders related to curfews, staying at home, Thanksgiving or other social gatherings inside or outside the home,” Jones said in a Nov. 19 news release.

Jones also resisted earlier attempts by officials to halt the spread of the coronavirus, including the statewide mask mandate Newsom issued on June 18. The following day the sheriff’s department said, “it would be inappropriate for deputies to criminally enforce the Governor’s mandate.” Instead, the department would operate on an “educational capacity.”

 

7:26 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

911 emergency medical system in US "at a breaking point," ambulance group says

From CNN’s Shelby Lin Erdman

A medical worker walks outside of the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn on December 1 in New York.
A medical worker walks outside of the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn on December 1 in New York. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The 911 emergency call system is struggling to stay together, said the American Ambulance Association, which represents all of the nation’s ambulance services.

“The 911 emergency medical system throughout the United States is at a breaking point,” Aarron Reinert, the president of the American Ambulance Association, wrote in a recent letter to the Department of Health and Human Services. “Without additional relief, it seems likely to break, even as we enter the third surge of the virus in the Mid-West and West.”

CNN obtained a copy of the letter, which was dated Nov. 25, on Wednesday. 

Reinert said in the letter that public and private ambulance services in all 50 states must have additional funding in order to continue providing the services they have supplied since the pandemic began last spring.

“Similar to hospitals and many skilled nursing facilities, ground ambulance service providers and suppliers since March have been serving their communities in a disproportionate manner to their traditional role in the Medicare program,” Reinert wrote in the letter.

“Given the substantially heavier burden that AAA members are carrying during the pandemic, we reiterate our request for HHS to provide additional funding from the Congressionally allocated dollars for the Provider Relief Fund specifically to ground ambulance service providers to ensure the stability of these essential providers and suppliers as the country continues to battle the pandemic,” he said.

The trade group is asking for $2.6 billion from HHS to prevent the emergency medical system from buckling under the weight of the pandemic.

The organization’s CEO Maria Bianchi told CNN the money would mean every single ambulance in the US, regardless of affiliation, would get $43,500 to help with supplies, such as personal protective equipment, and continued operations.

Bianchi described the current situation with ambulance services as a “rubber band stretched to the breaking point.”

“What is happening is you're seeing services stretched and stretched and stretched and stretched, like a rubber band, and we're still being pulled,” she said. “I think the concern is that rubber band breaking and that we're close to that point.”

The US has just under 60,000 ambulances, Bianchi said, and the American Ambulance Association represents all of them.

“It has never been this bad and we are we are looking for a tonic, something that can help us to alleviate this surge, so that that does not happen, so that someone doesn't call 911 and a unit doesn't arrive within the appropriate amount of time to help that person,” she said.

7:16 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

US surpasses 100,000 Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN’s Haley Brink

The United States has surpassed 100,000 current Covid-19 hospitalizations, setting a new record high since the pandemic began, according to the Covid Tracking Project (CTP). 

On Wednesday, 100,226 people were hospitalized with Covid-19, according to CTP. 

6:24 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Arizona governor orders Covid-19 vaccine to be made available at no cost

From CNN’s Andy Rose

Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey arrives for a news conference to talk about the latest Arizona V-19 information Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey arrives for a news conference to talk about the latest Arizona V-19 information Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool) AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool

Arizona residents will not have to pay out-of-pocket to receive a Covid-19 vaccine when one is approved, under an executive order issued Wednesday by Gov. Doug Ducey.

“This is a global pandemic, and the vaccine shouldn't cost Arizonans a penny,” Ducey said at a news conference.

Early test results from vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna have been characterized as very positive, and final government approval could come in a matter of days.

Ducey added that, when a vaccine is available, getting teachers vaccinated will be among the top priorities.

“We want our schools open and our teachers protected,” said Ducey.

Some context: State officials have been developing a plan for distributing the coronavirus vaccine, and the head of the state’s National Guard said they are prepared to help.

“If there are any gaps in the rural areas for that last mile, our logistics team will cover that, as well,” said Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire, Arizona’s adjutant general.

In addition to the vaccine plan, the governor’s office announced Monday that an additional $60 million in funding will be made available to fund a surge in hospital staffing. Ducey said the money will fund an additional 500 nurses through January.

6:20 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

48 NBA players test positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Jill Martin

The NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) jointly announced Wednesday that of the 546 players tested for Covid-19 during this initial return-to-market testing phase, 48 have tested positive for the virus.

Anyone who has returned a confirmed positive test during this initial phase of testing in their team’s market will be isolated until they are cleared for leaving isolation under the rules established by the NBA and NBPA in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, according to a news release.

NBA players returned to a league-wide testing program during the past week, with testing beginning between Nov. 24-30 depending on the day that a player returned to the team’s market. 

6:15 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Here's how Covid-19 vaccinations will be tracked in the US

From CNN's John Bonifield

Dr. Kelly Moore, associate director of the Immunization Action Coalition, which is supporting frontline workers who will administer Covid-19 vaccinations, said vaccination cards will be used as the "simplest" way to keep track of Covid-19 shots.

"Everyone will be issued a written card that they can put in their wallet that will tell them what they had and when their next dose is due," Moore said. "Let's do the simple, easy thing first. Everyone's going to get that."

Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, which is helping states with their immunization plans, said vaccination clinics will also be reporting to their state immunization registries what vaccine was given. For example, if an entity didn't know where a patient got a first dose, they could run a query.

"If you're in the same state, they can query the information system," Hannan said.

On top of that, Moore said many places are planning to ask patients to voluntarily provide a cell phone number, so they can get a text message telling them when and where their next dose is scheduled to be administered.

Hannan said many states are also providing consumer access to records.

"So your record that's in the immunization information system, you would have a way to access, so you could check. And if you went and showed up somewhere different to get a second dose, you would be able to find out what your first dose was," she said.

Hannan said every dose administered is being reported to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well.

The CDC did not immediately respond to CNN's inquiry about whether such a database would include a record of everyone immunized.

5:43 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

EPA administrator to quarantine following Covid-19 exposure

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), listens during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on May 20 in Washington.
Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), listens during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on May 20 in Washington. Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler has been exposed to Covid-19 and will quarantine until he’s “gone through the proper testing protocols,” he announced in a statement. 

Wheeler was supposed to attend the 50th anniversary Nixon Library environmental exhibit opening tomorrow, but he said in the statement he will now attend virtually. 

He said he is quarantining after consulting with his doctor and “out of an abundance of caution” following what the statement says was a secondary exposure. The statement didn’t say how or where Wheeler was exposed.

“I look forward to carrying out agency business as usual,” he added.