December 9 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Eoin McSweeney, Nada Bashir, Mike Hayes, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 10, 2020
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12:20 a.m. ET, December 9, 2020

FDA warns against wearing face masks with metal parts during MRIs after patient's face is burned

From CNN Health’s Shelby Lin Erdman

This graphic provided by the FDA warns mask-wearers of the potential metal parts of their masks.
This graphic provided by the FDA warns mask-wearers of the potential metal parts of their masks. Source: FDA

The US Food and Drug Administration is warning against wearing face masks with metal parts during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams after a patient experienced facial burns.

The agency issued a safety communication Tuesday alerting patients and health care providers about the potential dangers.

“The FDA recently received a report that a patient’s face was burned from the metal in a face mask worn during an MRI,” the agency said in the alert.

The injury occurred during a scan of the neck.

“The report describes burns to the patient’s face consistent with the shape of the face mask,” the FDA said.

Some face masks, such as surgical or non-surgical masks and respirators, contain metal parts and coatings. Metal parts can include nose pieces, also called nose clips or wires, nanoparticles or antimicrobial coating that might contain silver or copper.

The metals can heat up during an MRI and burn the patient.

“Burns from metal objects worn by a patient during an MRI exam are a known issue and patients should not wear any metal during an MRI,” the agency said, but given the coronavirus pandemic, the FDA is urging patients to wear masks during an MRI.

The FDA is urging health care workers to make sure patients are wearing masks that do not have metal components during MRIs. 

Magnetic resonance imaging uses strong magnets and radio waves to take internal pictures of the body. MRIs help health care providers diagnose an injury or disease and monitor medical treatment, the FDA said.

12:03 a.m. ET, December 9, 2020

China resumes cruises to disputed islands after Covid-19 suspension

CNN's Lily Lee in Hong Kong and CNN's Beijing bureau

China is resuming operations on two cruise lines to a group of disputed islands in the South China Sea following nearly a year of suspension due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

South China Sea Dream, a ship run by Nanhai Cruises, will sail to the Paracel Islands from Sanya, Hainan on Wednesday. The trip is not open to foreign travelers.

Last month, Nanhai Cruises released a statement on its official WeChat account saying: "Long time no see! Thank you for your support for the 'South China Sea Dream' ship. After 319 days of waiting, the 'South China Sea Dream' ship will officially resume sailing on December 9, 2020."

Chang'le Princess, a Hainan Strait Shipping ship, will also start sailing again to the Paracels. It's resuming operations from Sanya with a chartered event on Thursday that will be formally open to domestic tourists from Dec. 15.

Competing claims in the South China Sea: Beijing has opened the Paracel Islands -- known as the Xisha Islands in China -- to domestic tourists since 2013, as a way to exercise its maritime claims in the disputed area. Both Vietnam and Taiwan also lay claim to the islands and have protested China's activities in the area.

10:38 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

North Korean leader's sister warns South Korea's foreign minister could "pay dearly" for Covid-19 remarks

From CNN's Yoonjung Seo in Seoul

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, attends a wreath laying ceremony at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Saturday, March 2, 2019.
Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, attends a wreath laying ceremony at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Saturday, March 2, 2019. Jorge Silva/Pool via Bloomberg

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's powerful sister Kim Yo Jong has accused South Korea's foreign minister of making "reckless remarks" on the emergency anti-epidemic measures in North Korea, adding that she "might have to pay dearly for it."

Kim also accused South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha of speaking "without any consideration of the consequences."

Kim's statement, her first in public for several months, was made on the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Wednesday.

What did Kang say? The South Korean foreign minister's comments about the coronavirus situation in North Korea were made on Dec. 5 at a conference in Bahrain hosted by the International Institute For Strategic Studies.

“They still say they don't have any cases (of COVID-19), which is hard to believe,” Kang said. "The regime is very intensely focused on controlling the disease that they say they don't have, so it's a bit of an odd situation.”

North Korea has said it doesn't have any confirmed Covid-19 cases but many experts are doubtful. The country closed its borders in January and raised its anti-epidemic measures to the highest level again on Dec. 2, according to the KCNA.

In late November, South Korea’s spy agency reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered executions of at least two people due to Covid-19 and economic pressure, according to a South Korean lawmaker briefed by the country's spy agency.

8:55 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Biden details plan to combat coronavirus pandemic in first 100 days

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

US President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday laid out his three-point plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic, an approach in dealing with the virus that continues to contrast with President Donald Trump.

The plan, announced as he introduced the team he has designed to get the pandemic under control, would aim to get at least 100 million Americans vaccinated in his initial 100 days in office, his pledge to sign a face mask mandate on his first day in office and efforts to get kids back to school safely.

Biden's plan came the same day that Trump signed a largely symbolic executive order aimed at prioritizing the shipment of the coronavirus vaccine to Americans before other nations.

"My first 100 days won't end the Covid-19 virus. I can't promise that," Biden said at an event in Wilmington, Delaware. "But we did not get in this mess quickly, we're not going to get out of it quickly, it's going to take some time. But I'm absolutely convinced that in 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better."

Last week, in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, the President-elect said he will ask Americans to wear masks for the first 100 days after he takes office.

Read the full story:

7:56 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

US hits record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

The United States reported 104,600 Covid-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday, setting a new record high since the pandemic began, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

According to CTP data, these are the highest hospitalization numbers:

  1. Dec. 8: 104,600 people hospitalized
  2. Dec. 7: 102,148 people hospitalized
  3. Dec. 6: 101,501 people hospitalized
  4. Dec. 4: 101,276 people hospitalized
  5. Dec. 5: 101,192 people hospitalized
9:00 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

US has to overcome Covid-19 denial and pull together, Fauci says

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe, Jason Hanna and Naomi Thomas

Dr. Anthony Fauci wants people who still believe Covid-19 is a hoax to know it's real and that the US needs everyone to get behind public health measures.

Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and other health experts have said the next few months will be a challenging time, but Americans can help turn the tide by wearing masks, keeping a distance from others and washing their hands frequently.

However, "trouble is, you go to different parts of the country, and even when the outbreak is clear and hospitals are on the verge of being overrun, there are a substantial proportion of the people who still think that this is not real, that it's fake news or that it's a hoax," Fauci said.

Fauci has advised six presidents. He said he's never seen anything like this.

"We've got to overcome that and pull together as a nation uniformly with adhering to these public health measures," he said at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council summit on Tuesday.

That people aren't doing this is "really extraordinarily frustrating, because we feel strongly that we will be able to have a significant impact," he said.

The US surpassed 15 million total reported Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, meaning one in 22 Americans has tested positive for the virus. Experts feel the actual number of infections is much higher.

Read the full story:

12:08 a.m. ET, December 9, 2020

UK launches West's first mass vaccination effort

From CNN's Eliza Mackintosh

The United Kingdom has begun administering the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine outside clinical trials, launching a sprawling public health campaign to vaccinate tens of millions of people in just a matter of months. It marks a significant turning point in the fight against Covid-19, months into a pandemic that has left more than 1.5 million dead.

Margaret "Maggie" Keenan, who turns 91 next week, became the first person in the world to receive an authorized, fully-vetted coronavirus vaccine.

"It's the best early birthday present I could wish for," Keenan said after receiving the jab in Coventry, England, dressed in a festive "Merry Christmas" T-shirt. "It means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the New Year after being on my own for most of the year."

The second patient to receive a shot was an 81-year-old man named William Shakespeare (yes, you read that right).

Keenan and Shakespeare were among a handful of people across Britain — those aged over 80, nursing home staff and health care workers — who were administered doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Tuesday morning, a week after the UK leapfrogged the rest of Europe and the United States to become the first Western nation to approve it.

The process, which is complicated by the need to store the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in ultracold conditions, will be closely watched from around the globe. The speed with which UK regulators approved the vaccine raised questions in some quarters. But Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said the process had been "incredibly robust."

Other nations are not far behind the UK. The US regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has scheduled a meeting of its vaccine advisory committee on Thursday to discuss Pfizer/BioNTech's emergency authorization application. It will meet again on December 17 to consider the application for Moderna's vaccine candidate.

Meanwhile, vaccination centers across Moscow started to distribute Russia's Sputnik vaccine on Saturday, initially to groups such as teachers, health professionals, and municipal services workers, after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered large-scale vaccination to begin across the country.