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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11:58 a.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Moderna will establish a registry to track pregnancies during clinical trials 

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Pedestrians wearing face masks walk past the headquarters of biotechnology company Moderna in Cambridge, Massachusetts on November 16.
Pedestrians wearing face masks walk past the headquarters of biotechnology company Moderna in Cambridge, Massachusetts on November 16. Matthew Healy/AFP/Getty Images

Moderna said it will establish a "pregnancy registry" to track pregnancies during clinical trials for its Covid-19 vaccine. 

The company told US Food and Drug Administration vaccine advisers about plans to keep track of people who get vaccinated while pregnant.

"With respect to safety in the event of vaccine exposure during pregnancy, a developmental and reproductive study was completed in December 2020, with no adverse findings," Dr. David Martin, vice president of pharmacovigilance at Moderna, told FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC).

In documents released earlier this week ahead of the VRBPAC meeting, Moderna said 13 pregnancies were reported through Dec. 2. Six of the pregnancies were in the vaccine arm and seven were in the placebo arm. 

"Given the limited human exposure to date in the phase three trial, we will establish a pregnancy registry that includes a cohort recruited from the general population," he said.  

11:50 a.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Spain's prime minister tests negative for Covid-19 after contact with Macron

From CNN’s Al Goodman and Claudia Rebaza

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) welcomes Spanish Prime minister Pedro Sanchez prior to a meeting marking the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) at the Elysee palace in Paris, on December 14, 2020.
French President Emmanuel Macron (R) welcomes Spanish Prime minister Pedro Sanchez prior to a meeting marking the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) at the Elysee palace in Paris, on December 14, 2020. Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, tested negative for Covid-19 on Thursday, his office announced. 

Following Covid-19 protocols, Sánchez will quarantine until Dec. 24 after being in contact with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Dec. 14, a statement released by his office reiterated. 

"The Prime Minister will continue with his duties with the limitations that derive from his quarantine," the statement adds. 

King Felipe VI of Spain also had to quarantine for a period of ten days at the end of November after being in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19.

11:47 a.m. ET, December 17, 2020

New York City mayor says Covid-19 restrictions needed "sooner rather than later"

from CNN's Kristina Sgueglia 

Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony at Madison Square Park in New York on November 16.
Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony at Madison Square Park in New York on November 16. Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images

Continuing to beat the drum on what he believes is necessary if numbers don’t turn around, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested restrictions will be necessary, and soon.

"If we don’t turn this around quickly the restrictions are the thing that stop the situation from getting worse," de Blasio said.

"If you want to avoid them…wear a mask, practice distancing, do not travel, do not have large gatherings, be tough be disciplined," he said. 

All the metrics are just "too high" and "growing" he warned.

"I don’t like restrictions, none of us likes restrictions, but I think we need them sooner rather than later."

De Blasio said he thinks restrictions need to be put into effect "soon based on the very consistent information we are seeing." 

"Certainly right after Christmas is a natural moment where the world slows down a little bit," he said.

As he reiterated, the decision is up to the state and they remain in constant contact.

11:41 a.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Moderna has additional Covid-19 vaccine trials planned for children and cancer patients

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

Moderna Therapeutics headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 18.
Moderna Therapeutics headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 18. Blake Nissen/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Moderna says it will continue to investigate how its Covid-19 vaccine works in different patient populations, beyond the late-stage trial that is currently underway. 

"We are initiating pediatric clinical trials, collaborating with the National Cancer Institute, to evaluate vaccine safety and immunogenicity of people with cancer, and will continue to collaborate with FDA and other agencies to gather additional long term safety data," Moderna Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tal Zaks said Thursday.

He spoke at the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) meeting that is considering Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use authorization in the United States.

11:35 a.m. ET, December 17, 2020

New York City hospital system suspends elective procedures as Covid-19 cases surge 

from CNN's Kristina Sgueglia 

CEO of Health + Hospitals Dr. Mitch Katz attend a press conference on the coronavirus outbreak on March 3, in New York.
CEO of Health + Hospitals Dr. Mitch Katz attend a press conference on the coronavirus outbreak on March 3, in New York. mpi43/MediaPunch /IPX/AP

New York City Health + Hospitals has suspended elective procedures at its 11 hospitals, according to its CEO.

"We’ve made it clear that the only surgeries we will be doing are surgeries where they come in emergently such as car accidents or surgeries where somebodies health is directly affected such as when somebody has an infection," CEO Mitch Katz said.

Necessary and emergency surgeries continue however, but consistent with the governor’s request, elective procedures have been canceled, he said.

"We do have the extra 25% capacity the state has asked us for." Currently occupancy is at 65% in both ICU and in regular medical surgical beds, he said. "One third more patients than the patients we have would easily fit in without opening any extraordinary spaces."

Katz says the hospitals are already participating in "level loading," meaning moving patients from full hospitals to other hospitals with more capacity. He remarked that it’s been easier to move patients now because they are not as sick as they were in March or April, and the hospital system is moving them earlier in the process, he said. 

Katz also added that they are committed to getting everybody in the 11 public hospitals vaccinated in three weeks. 

11:27 a.m. ET, December 17, 2020

 Israelis brace for possible third lockdown

From CNN's Elliott Gotkine and Amir Tal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Maccabi Healthcare Services vaccine complex for COVID-19, in Tel Aviv, Israel, December 13.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Maccabi Healthcare Services vaccine complex for COVID-19, in Tel Aviv, Israel, December 13. Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/AP

The number of daily coronavirus cases in Israel hit 2,802 on Wednesday – way above the 2,500 mark at which lawmakers said tightened restrictions would kick in.

The R-rate – the average number of people infected by a Covid-19-carrying individual – rose to 1.23.

The country’s so-called coronavirus cabinet will meet on Sunday to decide what to do. 

Although a third lockdown is possible, it seems more likely the government will impose additional restrictions on commerce: closing shops, malls and markets that aren’t considered essential. 

The night before the cabinet meets, after the end of the Jewish sabbath, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be the first person in the country to be vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

In a video message recorded at his home, where he’s self-isolating, he said:

"On Friday, I will leave quarantine and on Saturday evening I will go get vaccinated. I have asked to be the first person to get vaccinated in order to serve as an example and to persuade you that you can and should be vaccinated."

President Reuven Rivlin will follow on Sunday, when he visits health workers at Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem. 

Along with leading political figures, medical professionals will also be among the first group of Israelis to be vaccinated.

11:19 a.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Moderna's chief medical officer reveals key details on vaccine

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Dr. Tal Zaks, Moderna’s chief medical officer, on December 17.
Dr. Tal Zaks, Moderna’s chief medical officer, on December 17. Food and Drug Administration

The Moderna vaccine involves "no further mixing or dilution, while remaining stable for up to 12 hours at room temperature," Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tal Zaks, said on Thursday.

During the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC), Zaks said the manufacturing process "does not use products of animal or human origin, and it does not contain preservatives or adjuvants."

The Phase 3 study shows "the vaccine efficacy rate for symptomatic Covid-19 infection was 94.1%, with a 95% confidence interval lower bound of 89.3%," Zaks said.

"Importantly, we also observed a dramatic reduction in severe cases. All of the 30 severe cases observed at the time of primary analysis occurred in people given placebo," Zaks added.

Moderna says that a reduction in symptomatic cases "predicts a reduction in cases leading to hospitalization, intensive care and death."

Moderna has done early phase clinical trials on infectious disease for several years, Zaks said. "We have had not seen a significant safety concern in any of our trials to date."

11:12 a.m. ET, December 17, 2020

UNICEF will feed children in the UK for the first time due to coronavirus

From CNN's Josefine Obema

For the first time in its 70 year history, humanitarian organization UNICEF will help feed people in parts of Britain. 

Calling it a "domestic emergency," the UN agency said vulnerable children and families are in need of assistance due to the Covid-19 crisis. 

UNICEF director of programmes, Anna Kettley, said:

"The pandemic has turned the lives of children and family’s upside down and for many the continued impact of the pandemic will be increasing financial worries." 
"We welcome the Government’s recent announcement to provide a support package to families facing hardships in England. Increasing the value of the Healthy Start Vouchers and expanding the Holiday Activities and Food program from April next year should also be recognized as important steps forwards in tackling food insecurity and ensuring that children can eat well." 

Children affected by the pandemic will receive breakfast boxes from schools in parts of south London over the Christmas holidays. Families in other parts of the country will receive fresh fruit, vegetable packs and meal kits. 

11:06 a.m. ET, December 17, 2020

French prime minister tests negative for Covid-19 following contact with Macron

From CNN's Pierre Buet and Gaelle Fournier

French Prime Minister Jean Castex attends a press conference in Paris on December 10.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex attends a press conference in Paris on December 10. Thomas Samson/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

French Prime Minister Jean Castex tested negative for Covid-19 on Thursday morning, according to a statement from the Prime Minister's office. 

Castex will continue to self-quarantine for seven days following contact with French President Emmanuel Macron, who tested positive for the virus.

Another cabinet minister – Marc Fesneau – will self-quarantine as well, French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal told journalists at BFMTV. 

Meanwhile, the President of the French National Assembly, Richard Ferrand, will also isolate for seven days following contact with Macron. 

"In accordance with the sanitary guidelines in force, the President of the National Assembly is isolating immediately for a seven-day period. He will then do a RTPCR test," said a statement from the National Assembly. "He will continue to exercise his functions."