December 22 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020
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8:16 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Trump calls on Congress to "amend" Covid relief bill

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal, Kevin Liptak and Jeremy Diamond

President Donald Trump speaks at an Operation Warp Speed vaccine summit at the White House on December 8.
President Donald Trump speaks at an Operation Warp Speed vaccine summit at the White House on December 8. Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

US President Donald Trump signaled he will not sign the coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress unless it amends the massive spending legislation.

“Send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a Covid relief package and maybe that administration will be me and we will get it done,” he said in a video released on Twitter.

The extraordinary message came after Trump largely left negotiations over the measure to lawmakers and his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. It leaves the future of the $900 billion stimulus package and its accompanying government funding measure in question.

Trump did not explicitly threaten to veto the bill, but said he was dissatisfied with its final state.

The statement was filmed by the White House and was not open to the media. Reporters did not have a chance to ask the President questions. It’s unclear when the message was recorded.

“I’m asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 per couple,” Trump said. “I’m also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items in this legislation or to send me a suitable bill.”

The President has in the past said he would sign the bill, and earlier Tuesday the White House publicly defended the proposal. But many of his allies have spoken out against the agreement passed by Congress.

7:01 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Arkansas sees record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN's Gisela Crespo

Arkansas reported on Tuesday 1,103 people are currently hospitalized for Covid-19, the highest number of hospitalizations since the pandemic began, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during a news briefing.

Hutchinson announced the state is partnering with Baptist Health Systems to add 124 additional hospital beds in Little Rock and Van Buren to accommodate Covid-19 patients.

The governor explained that while the state's health care system has been able to manage the current caseload, "we don't know what the rest of December is going to be like."

"We don't know what January is going to be like because we don't know what Christmas is going to be like... If we're not successful, then we're going to see another spike after Christmas and we have to be prepared for it," Hutchinson said. 

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

7:01 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Fauci warns of a "superimposed" surge on top of the current surge if people travel for the holidays

From CNN’s Shelby Lin Erdman

CNN
CNN

If Americans disregard the dire situation already underway as the coronavirus rages across many regions of the country and travel for the holidays anyway, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is warning of a “difficult” time next month. 

“As you might imagine, it's quite concerning to me,” Fauci told CNN on Tuesday.

The Transportation Security Administration is reporting record-high pandemic travel and said that it screened more than 4 million air travelers between Friday and Monday.

“This type of travel is risky,” he said, “particularly if people start congregating when they get to their destination in large crowds, in indoor settings.”

“I'm afraid that if, in fact, we see this happen, we will have a surge that’s superimposed upon the difficult situation we are already in,” Fauci warned. “So, it could be a very difficult January coming up if these things happen.”

The United States is still handling the increased surge that occurred after Americans ignored public health officials’ advice on Thanksgiving travel and gatherings.

Watch here:

6:54 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Fauci says he feels fine after receiving Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

CNN
CNN

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he feels fine after getting a Covid-19 vaccine Tuesday morning.

“Actually, I feel really fine. I feel very good. I feel perfectly normal,” Fauci told CNN this afternoon.

Fauci said he expects to develop some soreness in his arm.

“That's very common in any kind of vaccination so I'm anticipating that, but in general I feel fine,” he said.

Fauci, along with National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, all received the Moderna vaccine Tuesday.

Fauci said they didn’t choose the Moderna shot, but that it was simply the vaccine that was made available to them. 

Fauci, who will serve as chief medical adviser for the incoming Biden administration, said he has every confidence in the two vaccines now being administered across the country. 

Fauci said, even though the authorization process has been done quickly, “the speed will not sacrifice the integrity of the science nor did it sacrifice safety.”

“The speed was a reflection of the extraordinary advances that were made in the science of the vaccine platform technology,” he said. “On the basis of all of that, I feel very confident about what we're doing and that's the reason why I strongly recommend to everybody and everyone that when the vaccine becomes available to them to get vaccinated.”

“That is how we're going to put this pandemic behind us,” he added.

Watch the moment:

5:07 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Lousiana governor extends Covid-19 restrictions

From CNN's Gisela Crespo

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday announced he signed a proclamation extending the state's modified phase 2 restrictions to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Speaking during a news briefing, Edwards said the restrictions, which include limits on gatherings and a mask mandate, will remain in place for another 21 days starting tomorrow. 

Edwards explained that while new data suggests the state is starting to plateau when it comes to new coronavirus cases, "we're plateauing at a very high level. That is concerning."

"It remains a very perilous situation for the state with respect to Covid," Edwards added. "Even if we're doing better, the caseload, the hospitalizations, the deaths are at a very high level." 

The restrictions were originally set to expire on Dec. 23.

4:35 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Pennsylvania reports nearly 8,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Sahar Akbarzai

A sign for free coronavirus testing is propped in the snow at the Montour-Delong Community Fairgrounds near Danville, Pennsylvania, on December 21.
A sign for free coronavirus testing is propped in the snow at the Montour-Delong Community Fairgrounds near Danville, Pennsylvania, on December 21. Paul Weaver/Sipa USA/AP

Pennsylvania reported 7,962 new positive Covid-19 cases and 231 additional deaths, according to a release by the Department of health.  

There are currently 6,090 hospitalizations in the state with 1,217 of those patients are in the intensive care unit.  

The hospitalizations are double the amount as the Covid-19 peak in the spring, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.  

The positivity rate for the week of Dec. 11 -17 stood at 15.8% statewide, according to the department of health.  

There have now been 571,551 total cases of Covid-19 and 14,212 deaths related to coronavirus in the commonwealth since the pandemic began.  

From Dec.14- 21, Pennsylvania has received 127,755 doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, and 26,563 doses of those vaccine shipments have been administered, according to the department of health.  

NOTE: These numbers were released by the Pennsylvania dept of health and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

3:48 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

UK scientists say new Covid-19 strain likely more transmissible and may impact children more than other variants

From CNN's Amy Cassidy in Glasgow, Zamira Rahim and Naomi Thomas

Scientists from the UK’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) say they are now “highly confident” the new variant of coronavirus is more infectious than others, with a “hint” that it could be more transmissible in children. 

According to NERVTAG, the new variant — which is believed to have originated in southeast England — could be around 71% more transmissible than other variants. 

“As of last Friday, we felt we had moderate confidence because the data was coming in, but some of the analysis had been done very quickly,” Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the University Oxford and chair of NERVTAG, said during a virtual press briefing on Monday.

“We now have high confidence that this variant does have a transmission advantage over other virus variants that are currently in the UK,” he added. 

Speaking alongside Horby, Professor Neil Ferguson from Imperial College London noted that there is a “hint” that this variant “has a higher propensity to infect children,” compared with earlier strains. But he cautioned that “we haven’t established any sort of causality on that, but we can see that in the data,” he added.  

Another NERVTAG member, Wendy Barclay, head of the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London, said earlier strains of the virus may have had a “harder time” getting into human cells using a receptor called ACE2. Adults, who have a lot of this receptor in their noses and throats, are “easy targets” compared to children. But under this hypothesis, a virus that can more readily use this receptor to enter cells may make children just as susceptible to the virus as adults, she said. 

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some research suggests the UK strain may "bind more tightly” to the ACE2 receptor, but "it is unknown whether that tighter binding, if true, translates into any significant epidemiological or clinical differences.”

 

2:55 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx says she plans to retire

From CNN's Andrea Diaz

Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images
Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images

Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus response, said on Tuesday that she plans to retire, but she's willing to help President-elect Joe Biden's team as needed. 

In a tweet shared by reporter Amber Strong from the news site Newsy, Birx said she would serve as a resource to the Biden administration as needed.

"I will be helpful in any role that people think I can be helpful in, and then I will retire. I will have to say as a civil servant, I will be helpful through a period of time," she said.

Additionally, Birx said that she wants the "Biden administration to be successful." 

Her comments come days after The Associated Press reported that she traveled out of state for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many health officials warned the American public to not travel or attend any gatherings if possible. 

"I will have to say that this experience has been a bit overwhelming, it's been very difficult on my family. I think what was done in the last week to my family, you know, they didn't choose this for me, you know they've tried to be supportive but to drag my family into this," Birx said regarding the reports of her recent travel.  

CNN has reached out to the White House for more details. 

2:12 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Germany extends UK travel ban despite EU recommendation  

From CNN’s Sarah Dean and Fred Pleitgen

Germany has extended its travel ban from the UK until January 6 – despite the European Commission on Tuesday recommending member states scrap the ban. 

“From December 22nd, 2020 until January 6th, 2021 inclusive, there is a transport ban for travelers from the United Kingdom to Germany, i.e. transport companies are prohibited from transporting travelers to Germany," the updated travel advisory said on Tuesday.

The advisory clarified that "a German citizen who wants to enter Germany at the border will not be refused."

“From January 1, 2021, people with residence and right of residence in Germany can be transported again. The federal government must approve the flights individually. The airline will obtain this approval. Travelers do not need individual permits,” the note added.

Earlier on Tuesday, the European Commission said: “While it is important to take swift temporary precautionary action to limit the further spread of the new strain of the virus and all non-essential travel to and from the UK should be discouraged, essential travel and transit of passengers should be facilitated.”