December 17 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Eoin McSweeney, Ed Upright and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:04 a.m. ET, December 18, 2020
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4:10 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

San Francisco announces mandatory 10-day quarantine for travelers

From CNN's Sarah Moon

Travelers wearing protective masks wait in line to go through security at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, Nov. 24, 2020. 
Travelers wearing protective masks wait in line to go through security at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, Nov. 24, 2020.  David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Anyone visiting, moving in, or returning to San Francisco from anywhere outside the Bay Area will now be required to quarantine for 10 days under a new health order intended to slow an unprecedented spread of coronavirus that threatens to overwhelm hospitals, officials announced in a news release on Thursday.

The new health order also strongly discourages any nonessential travel within the 10-county Bay Area region.

“Covid-19 cases are surging in San Francisco and across the country. Hospitals in the Bay Area are close to being overwhelmed,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “We must do whatever we can to contain the virus and stop its circulation in our community. Now is not the time to travel and risk being exposed or exposing others.”

The health order comes after officials announced Wednesday the entire San Francisco Bay Area will be under California’s stay-at-home order starting Friday after the region’s intensive care unit capacity plunged below 15%, raising the number of residents under the restrictions to more than 39 million statewide.

Limited exceptions to the quarantine order will apply to people who are traveling for certain critical activities, the release added. Some people, including medical professionals, first responders, workers for official government business, and essential infrastructure workers will be exempt from the new health order. 

The new travel restriction and 10-day mandatory quarantine is “necessary due to rapid and widespread Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations that threaten our region’s ability to provide intensive care for critically ill patients,” the release said.

The travel order will begin Friday at midnight and will remain in effect until Jan. 4. Officials said the order may be extended if the surge continues.

4:06 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Vaccine developer Moderna offering all trial participants vaccine once it receives authorization

From CNN’s Nadia Kounang

A nurse gives a volunteer an injection as a study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway in Binghamton, N.Y on July 27, 2020.
A nurse gives a volunteer an injection as a study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway in Binghamton, N.Y on July 27, 2020. Hans Pennink/AP

In a letter sent to trial participants, Moderna said if the vaccine is authorized, volunteers who got placebo will be given the option to get the vaccine.

“If you would like to know whether you have received the mRNA-1273 vaccine or placebo, then you will be offered the opportunity to be unblinded. Another option would be to stay in the study to continue to capture data in a blinded fashion,” the letter reads.

Blinding means keeping trial participants unaware of whether they have received the vaccine or the placebo. It is considered a gold standard for scientific studies. The company says it will continue to track those participants who choose to take the vaccine.

The full length of the Moderna trial is two years. Unblinding participants and giving them an option to get the vaccine early could mean opportunities to track long-term effects from the vaccine may be lost.

Vaccine advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration asked about this during Thursday’s meeting.

“There’s not only one flavor of study,” said Dr. Lindsey Baden, one of the lead investigators of the Moderna trial and a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“There are other formats of the study that can enable us to learn, particularly to learn about asymptomatic transmission.” Baden pointed to doing nasal swabs and antibody testing as ways to continue to track disease in participants who chose to be unblinded.

“It’s not as if this will take place over six months to a year. This is going to take place over days to week in terms of extending the vaccine supply to additional groups,” she said.

3:59 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

California shatters record for highest number of Covid-19 deaths in a single day

From CNN’s Sarah Moon and Cheri Mossburg

People wait in line to get a Covid-19 test at a testing center in Los Angeles, California on December 16, 2020.
People wait in line to get a Covid-19 test at a testing center in Los Angeles, California on December 16, 2020. Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

California shattered its record for the highest number of coronavirus deaths in a single day Thursday with 379 new deaths reported, according to data from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

The record surpasses the previous all-time high of 293 lives lost reported yesterday.

California also added 52,281 new cases of the virus on Thursday as it continues to see an unprecedented surge in new infections following the Thanksgiving holiday, though state health officials said the figure included an unspecified number of cases from a backlog.

The number was slightly below Wednesday's 53,711 figure, which included a more than 15,000-case backlog from previous days.

The number of patients hospitalized with the coronavirus continues to quickly rise statewide, placing a strain on the state’s health care system. More than 15,000 patients are currently in the hospital, with over 3,000 patients in intensive care.

More data: The intensive care unit bed capacity in Southern California has plunged to 0.0%, and is hovering at near all-time lows in the San Joaquin Valley at 0.7%, according to CDPH.

More than 98% of the state’s nearly 40 million residents are now under a stay-at-home order that officials hope will slow the unprecedented spread of the virus.

To date, California has reported a total of 1,723,362 cases and 21,860 deaths.

Note: These numbers were released by the California Department of Public Health and may not line up exactly in real-time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project. 

5:34 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

At-home Covid-19 test could be a "game-changer," FDA commissioner says

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

Ellume/AP
Ellume/AP

An at-home Covid-19 test authorized by the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday is an exciting development in testing accessibility, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn told Sen. Tim Scott in an Instagram Live on Thursday. 

The tests, from Australian company Ellume, could be available over the counter, and uses a customer’s smartphone to send test data to doctors. 

“It should be available next month,” Hahn said.

“We’re hoping to see more of these come to the FDA and hoping that the data show that they’re accurate and good to use,” he said, “because this will be a game-changer, I believe, in terms of access to testing.”

Hahn also spoke to Scott about ensuring marginalized communities have access to and can trust a Covid-19 vaccine. 

“It's not only a medical imperative that we get to the point where we have herd immunity we have enough people vaccinated, but it's a moral one as well,” he said. 

“We do in fact need to ensure that our most vulnerable and affected communities have the protection, moving forward to prevent the serious complications of this disease," Hahn said.

3:09 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Vice President Mike Pence will be vaccinated tomorrow morning

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a round table discussion at Catalent Biologics, where COVID-19 vaccine vials are being filled.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a round table discussion at Catalent Biologics, where COVID-19 vaccine vials are being filled. Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence will be vaccinated tomorrow at 8 a.m. ET, his office announced today.

The White House confirmed plans to vaccinate Pence publicly yesterday.

Here's what the White House said:

"Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence will publicly receive a COVID-19 vaccine to promote the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and build confidence among the American people. Vice President Pence and Second Lady Pence will be joined by Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who will also receive the vaccine. This event will take place at the White House."
3:02 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Covid situation in L.A. is "untenable," health director says

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

 

People wait in line to get a Covid-19 test at a testing center in Los Angeles, California on December 16.
People wait in line to get a Covid-19 test at a testing center in Los Angeles, California on December 16. Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

The explosive spread of Covid-19 in Los Angeles is overwhelming the health care system with record numbers of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, in a situation the county's health director, Barbara Ferrer, calls “untenable.” 

One in every 50 Los Angeles County residents may be infected with Covid-19 at this point as the virus continues to spread out of control in the nation’s most populous county, Ferrer estimated in an interview with Dana Bash on CNN Newsroom.

“This is a post-holiday surge that doesn’t need to be,” Ferrer said. “This is a lot of intermingling that needn’t have happened.”

She blamed three key factors for the explosion of cases: fatigue after several months of modifications, a misunderstanding of what's safe and what's not safe, and the politicization of mask wearing.

Ferrer acknowledged the holidays that are upon us, and urged people to spend time only with those in their households, despite the fatigue.

“There are some people who will never see a family member again, and there are other people who will spend the entire holiday season working overtime shifts in our hospitals, because they're taking care of too many patients so I think we should all sort of think about our own fatigue our own tiredness with, with all of the modifications we're asked to make,” she said.

In recent weeks, Los Angeles has consistently broke records for new daily cases, which have been quickly followed by record-high hospitalizations and fatalities. On Thursday, about 65% of the county’s hospitals were on "diversion," meaning they could no longer accept new patients and had to direct incoming ambulances to other facilities.

Watch:

1:26 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

US will ship 7.9 million doses to states in the next week if Moderna vaccine is authorized, official says

From CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas

Admiral Brett Giroir, U.S. assistant secretary for health, speaks during an Operation Warp Speed vaccine summit at the White House in Washington DC, on Tuesday, December 8.
Admiral Brett Giroir, U.S. assistant secretary for health, speaks during an Operation Warp Speed vaccine summit at the White House in Washington DC, on Tuesday, December 8. Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The US may ship 7.9 million coronavirus vaccine doses to states in the next week, Adm. Brett Giroir, US Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary, said on a call with reporters Thursday.

“Today, as I've said before, the end of the pandemic is in sight,” Giroir said. With two companies making vaccine, that will add to the supply that is slowly being rolled out.

“If the Moderna vaccine is authorized, we expect to ship 7.9 million additional doses of vaccines to states next week,” Giroir said.

On Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said 2 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine and 5.9 million doses of Moderna’s had been allocated for next week, in anticipation of Moderna’s vaccine winning US Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization by the weekend.

“We still anticipate that every American will have the opportunity to be vaccinated by June,” Giroir said. 

He noted that the vaccination program aims to achieve long-term herd immunity, which might start to happen if 75 to 80% of Americans are immunized.

“This will essentially end the pandemic as we know it,” he predicted.

1:23 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Covid-19 hospitalizations in Pennsylvania are double the state's peak in spring

 From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. 
This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Pennsylvania is reporting 6,346 patients hospitalized, double what it reported in the peak of the spring when the pandemic first took hold, officials said.

Of that number, 1,238 are in the ICU, Pennsylvania Health Department officials said in a news release.

The state reported an additional 9,966 positive cases.

Officials also marked an additional 224 deaths, down from the 278 reported Wednesday, which is the record high of one day additions.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of number of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 5,200 since the end of September, the department noted in the release.

From Dec. 4 to Dec 10, statewide percent positivity was 16.2%.

The most up-to-date daily data is available on the department's website.

1:08 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Pfizer says there have been no production or shipment delays involving Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN’s Nadia Kounang

The logo of Pfizer is seen on their headquarters in Manhattan, New York on November 19.
The logo of Pfizer is seen on their headquarters in Manhattan, New York on November 19. Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Vaccine maker Pfizer denied Thursday it is experiencing delays in making or shipping its coronavirus vaccine.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tweeted that his company “is not having any production issues with our COVID-19 vaccine, and no shipments containing the vaccine are on hold or delayed.

This week we successfully shipped all 2.9 million doses that we were asked to ship by the U.S. government to the locations specified by them,” he tweeted.

“We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses. We have continuously shared with Operation Warp Speed (OWS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through weekly meetings every aspect of our production and distribution capabilities. They have visited our facilities, walked the production lines and been updated on our production planning as information has become available,” Bourla added.

Pfizer said it is confident it can deliver 50 million doses globally this year and up to 1.3 billion doses next year.