December 11 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Brett McKeehan, Nada Bashir, Eoin McSweeney, Hannah Strange and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 11:38 PM ET, Sun December 13, 2020
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11:54 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

South Korea reports its highest daily rise in coronavirus cases since the start of pandemic 

From CNN’s Jake Kwon in Seoul

Containers to be used as a ward to treat people infected with the coronavirus are set up on the grounds of the Seoul Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea on Thursday, December 10.
Containers to be used as a ward to treat people infected with the coronavirus are set up on the grounds of the Seoul Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea on Thursday, December 10. Ahn Young-joon/AP

South Korea reported 950 new coronavirus cases on Saturday -- the most infections in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said in a press release.

Of those, 928 confirmed cases are local infections, while 22 are imported. 

The Seoul Metropolitan Area accounts for the majority of the total with a record 669 new cases, the KDCA said.

Meanwhile, three more cases have been linked to the church cluster in Daegu city, according to the local government’s press release on Saturday.

There have now been 32 cases linked to the church cluster, where contact tracers said members of the choir didn't wear masks and parishioners shared snacks.

Earlier this year, the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji religious group became one of the country’s biggest single clusters, linked to more than 5,200 cases.

The country has recorded 41,736 cases in total so far.

South Korea’s related death toll also increased by six on Saturday, bringing total fatalities to 578.

10:54 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

Pfizer vaccine EUA "a monumental moment" for US, health expert says

From CNN Health’s Shelby Lin Erdman

CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen.
CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen. Source: CNN

The US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of an emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is “really a monumental moment,” Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst and emergency room physician, said Friday. 

“I think it’s really amazing,” Wen, the former Baltimore health commissioner, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

“We need to take a moment, I think, and just consider that we are having this mass casualty event every day here in the US, but now we have this vaccine developed in record time that can in time really save us and save our country and save the world from this awful pandemic. And this is really a monumental moment for us."

“We also need to make sure that every safeguard was followed, and that's what all these scientists and all these committees are here to do,” she added.

FDA vaccine advisers met Thursday and voted to recommend an EUA for the vaccine. Now the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet Saturday. 

The CDC committee must vote to recommend the vaccine, and the agency must accept that recommendation, in order for vaccinations to begin.

10:27 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

US CDC vaccine advisers meeting Saturday

From CNN Health’s Jamie Gumbrecht

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meeting will now begin at 11 a.m. ET Saturday, according to an update on the CDC’s website.

The meeting was previously scheduled for Sunday.

Following the US Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization of Pfizer and BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine, the CDC committee must vote to recommend it. The CDC must then accept that recommendation for vaccinations to begin.

The vote is expected to take place about 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

10:24 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

US FDA chief calls Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine EUA a "significant milestone" in pandemic fight

From CNN Health’s Shelby Lin Erdman

Stephen Hahn testifies at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on September 23, in Washington D.C.
Stephen Hahn testifies at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on September 23, in Washington D.C. Alex Edelman-Pool/Getty Images

The US Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is a “significant milestone” in fighting a pandemic that has killed nearly 300,000 Americans, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said Friday.

“The FDA’s authorization for emergency use of the first Covid-19 vaccine is a significant milestone in battling this devastating pandemic that has affected so many families in the United States and around the world,” Hahn said in a statement.

“Today’s action follows an open and transparent review process that included input from independent scientific and public health experts and a thorough evaluation by the agency’s career scientists to ensure this vaccine met FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization.
“The tireless work to develop a new vaccine to prevent this novel, serious, and life-threatening disease in an expedited timeframe after its emergence is a true testament to scientific innovation and public-private collaboration worldwide." 

The emergency use authorization allows the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to be distributed in the US, the FDA said in a news release.

It’s not an FDA approval, but the EUA “holds the promise to alter the course of this pandemic in the United States,” Dr. Peter Marks, the director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.

“With science guiding our decision-making, the available safety and effectiveness data support the authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine because the vaccine’s known and potential benefits clearly outweigh its known and potential risks,” Marks said.

9:37 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

US FDA issues emergency use authorization for Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN Health's Ben Tinker & Jacqueline Howard

A member of staff uses a needle and a vial of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to prepare a dose at a vaccination health center on December 8, in Cardiff, UK.
A member of staff uses a needle and a vial of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to prepare a dose at a vaccination health center on December 8, in Cardiff, UK. Justin Tallis/Pool/Getty Images

The US Food and Drug Administration has authorized Pfizer and BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine for emergency use.

A Pfizer spokesperson confirmed to CNN on Friday that an EUA had been granted, following the recommendation of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee.

On Thursday, 17 committee members voted to recommend the FDA issue an EUA for the vaccine. Four voted no and one abstained.

9:32 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

FAA urges all US airports to be ready for vaccine deliveries

From CNN's Pete Muntean and Greg Wallace

FAA chief Steve Dickson answers questions about his test flight of a Boeing 737 MAX during a press conference after landing at Boeing Field on September 30 in Seattle.
FAA chief Steve Dickson answers questions about his test flight of a Boeing 737 MAX during a press conference after landing at Boeing Field on September 30 in Seattle. Mike Siegel-Pool/Getty Images

The US Federal Aviation Administration is urging airports nationwide to be ready for flights carrying the coronavirus vaccine even if the airport is not scheduled to receive it.  

The agency told airports “to ensure they are fully prepared for aircraft carrying Covid-19 vaccines.”

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson directed airports to ensure delivery trucks have priority access to the airfield, and that adequate security is in place for vaccine shipments.

“This includes both those airports identified for shipments that will transition at airports as well as those that may serve as alternate/divert airports, even if they will not be a primary destination for aircraft carrying Covid-19 vaccines,” the FAA said in a statement.

On Thursday, the FAA told CNN it would direct air traffic controllers to give priority clearance to flights carrying the vaccine. The agency said the flights will be monitored from its command center in Warrenton, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C.

8:27 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

Covid-19 patients account for an increasing share of people hospitalized in the US

From CNN Health’s Deidre McPhillips

Health care worker Demetra Ransom comforts a patient in the Covid-19 ward at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, on December 4.
Health care worker Demetra Ransom comforts a patient in the Covid-19 ward at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, on December 4. Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images

Newly released data from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shows more than 85% of hospitals nationwide had more patients with Covid-19 last week than they did a month ago.

Overall, about 1 in 5 hospital inpatients were confirmed to have Covid-19 last week – nearly double from a month earlier. 

Among America’s 10 largest cities, the share of hospital patients with Covid-19 ranged from about 9% in New York to 23% in Chicago. 

They are: New York, 9%; Los Angeles, 16%; Chicago, 23%; Houston, 11%; Phoenix, 22%; Philadelphia, 22%; San Antonio, 16%; San Diego, 16%; Dallas, 20%; San Jose, 19%.

But in smaller cities the situation can be even worse. In El Paso, Texas, for example, more than 50% of patients in city hospitals were confirmed to have Covid-19 – nearly double the national average for the seven-day period between November 27 and December 3. 

HHS had previously reported Covid-19 hospitalization data at the state level, but this dataset – released Monday – is the first from the national government to report local, facility-level data.

7:14 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

US hits record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN’s Haley Brink

Medics transfer a patient at Coral Gables Hospital where coronavirus patients are treated in Miami, Florida, on December 10.
Medics transfer a patient at Coral Gables Hospital where coronavirus patients are treated in Miami, Florida, on December 10. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

The United States reported 108,044 Covid-19 hospitalizations on Friday, setting a new record high since the pandemic began, according to the Covid Tracking Project (CTP).

This is the tenth consecutive day that the US has remained above 100,000 hospitalizations.

 According to CTP data, the highest hospitalization numbers are...

  1. Dec. 11: 108,044
  2. Dec. 10: 107,258
  3. Dec. 9: 106,705
  4. Dec. 8: 104,590
  5. Dec. 7: 102,148
6:55 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

Trump signs stopgap funding bill to avert shutdown at midnight

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal 

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives during an Operation Warp Speed vaccine summit at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, December 8.
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives during an Operation Warp Speed vaccine summit at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, December 8. Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Trump has signed a one-week stopgap funding bill by voice vote to avert a government shutdown at midnight.

The bill was passed by the Senate earlier Friday. 

Some background: The short-term spending bill would extend government funding by a week to Dec. 18 and is aimed at giving lawmakers more time to reach an agreement on Covid relief and broader funding legislation for a new fiscal year. It passed the House earlier this week.

So far, however, stimulus talks remain at an impasse over critical sticking points, creating uncertainty over whether an agreement can be reached.

Lawmakers now have just one additional week to work out thorny issues that are currently holding up an agreement or potentially witness the collapse of the talks.