December 26 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Brett McKeehan, Zamira Rahim, Ed Upright and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 4:15 p.m. ET, December 26, 2020
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12:35 p.m. ET, December 26, 2020

Global coronavirus cases surpass 80 million

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam 

The number of known cases of the novel coronavirus globally surpassed 80 million on Saturday at 12:20 pm ET, according to data held by the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

JHU reports the current number of known cases around the world is now at least 80,027,056. At least 1,753,313 have died globally.

The United States leads with the most deaths and the most confirmed cases worldwide. There are at least 18,771,885 coronavirus cases in the US and at least 330,345 have died. 

India, Brazil, and Russia following the US have the highest number of recorded coronavirus cases in the world.  

In terms of deaths, the US, Brazil, India, and Mexico have the highest Covid -19 related mortality rates.  

Here's a look at the countries with the highest number of cases:

12:27 p.m. ET, December 26, 2020

Biden urges Trump to sign Covid-19 relief bill: "This abdication of responsibility has devastating consequences"

From CNN's Annie Grayer and Tami Luhby

Getty Images
Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden released a statement calling on President Trump to sign the Covid-19 relief bill that was passed by Congress, saying that any further delay has “devastating consequences.”

“It is the day after Christmas, and millions of families don’t know if they’ll be able to make ends meet because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority,” Biden said in the statement. "This abdication of responsibility has devastating consequences."

Biden continued: "And while there is hope with the vaccines, we need funding to be able to distribute and administer them to millions of Americans, including frontline health care workers. This bill is critical. It needs to be signed into law now."

The President-elect said the latest Covid-19 bill is a "first step and down payment on more action that we’ll need to take early in the new year to revive the economy and contain the pandemic  — including meeting the dire need for funding to distribute and administer the vaccine and to increase our testing capacity."

Some context: Though Congress has passed a $900 billion Covid relief package, millions of Americans are in danger of losing important benefits just after the holidays if Trump continues to refuse to sign the bill.

The legislation would extend two pandemic unemployment programs and provide the jobless with a $300 weekly federal boost through mid-March. It would send direct payments of up $600 per person. It would reopen the Paycheck Protection Program so that some of the hardest-hit small businesses can apply for a second loan.

The package, which would be the second-largest relief deal after the $2 trillion CARES Act that Congress approved in March, also would extend eviction protection and enhance food stamp benefits.

12:15 p.m. ET, December 26, 2020

South Carolina reports over 3,100 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Kay Jones and Natasha Chen

Over 3,100 new cases of Covid-19 are being reported in South Carolina today.

The numbers released by the South Carolina Department of Health are through 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, according to the state's website. The 3,111 new cases reported today bring the state's total to 266,678. 

The department of health is also reporting 74 new deaths related to Covid-19 for a total of 4,763. 

South Carolina reported over 3,000 new cases six times in the month of December so far.

Prior to December, the highest daily reported new case total was 2,321 on July 18, according to the state's dashboard. 

Note: These numbers were released by the South Carolina 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

12:00 p.m. ET, December 26, 2020

Even with vaccine, individual prevention is critical in fighting Covid-19, public health specialist says

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid 

CNN
CNN

Even though vaccines are being administered across the United States, personal Covid-19 prevention measures are still important, Dr. Saju Mathew, a public health specialist, told CNN on Saturday.

“This is the most difficult part. You could have all the vaccines in the world and all of the wonderful therapeutics against this deadly virus. But what you have the least impact is on human behavior,” he said. “People are going to do what they want to do so what I’ve done is sort of change my messaging as a primary care physician to do more talking to people about risk reduction.”

Mathew said that those vaccines in use should still be effective against reported new variants of the Covid-19 virus, as the vaccines target a consistent physical part of the virus.

“Ultimately, the good news is even though there are 50 to 20 mutations, it hasn’t really affected the entire anatomy,” said Mathew. “I think the vaccines should work.”

11:55 a.m. ET, December 26, 2020

Here's where things stand on the new Covid-19 relief checks

From CNN's Katie Lobosco

Al Drago/Getty Images
Al Drago/Getty Images

A second round of stimulus payments that was included in a coronavirus relief package passed by Congress Monday night is now at risk if President Trump doesn't sign the bill.

The deal provided for $600 checks but the President indicated on Tuesday he would like that amount increased to $2,000 per person.

House Republicans, however, on Thursday blocked Democrats from increasing the amount — leaving the entire package in jeopardy. Democrats have seized on Trump's surprise objections to the bill in a bid to push Republicans to accept a higher amount for the stimulus checks — and Republican lawmakers are now in a difficult spot where they will be forced to decide whether or not they will defy the President.

Democrats vowed their effort isn't over, promising to move to pass a bill to increase the stimulus checks to $2,000 with a full up-or-down vote on the House floor on Dec. 28.

Here are key things to know about the Covid-19 stimulus checks:

Who gets the money fastest: The payments do not go all out at once. Those whose bank information is on file with the IRS will likely get the money first because it will be directly deposited into their account. Others will receive paper checks or prepaid debit cards in the mail.

About 90 million people — more than half of those eligible — received their payments within the first three weeks of April after the March deal was signed. Most people had their money within two months.

Still, about 12 million eligible Americans were at risk of not getting the money at all because the IRS had no way to reach them. While most people received the money automatically, very low-income people who don't normally file tax returns had to register online before November 21 to provide their address or bank account number.

IRS under pressure: If Congress keeps the eligibility requirements the same as they were for the first round of checks, the process may be nearly as easy as hitting a button. But it could complicate things if the parameters are changed —especially if Congress adds restrictions aside from income.

Additional checks may delay the start of the 2020 tax filing season. A second stimulus check means the agency will have to make changes to the tax return forms, some of which have already been sent to the printers.

Some background: In March, Congress provided individuals with $1,200 direct payments and couples with $2,400 plus $500 per child under the $2 trillion CARES Act.

As with that first round, the $600 payments included in the current legislation would start phasing out for individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $75,000, and those making more than $99,000 won't receive anything. The income thresholds would be doubled for couples.

Read more about the Covid-19 stimulus negotiations here.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, Phil Mattingly, Clare Foran and Kristin Wilson contributed reporting to this post. 

10:10 a.m. ET, December 26, 2020

At least 1,008,025 vaccine doses have been administered in the US

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

At least 9,465,725 vaccine doses have been distributed in the US and at least 1,008,025 doses of the vaccine have been administered throughout the country, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In terms of cases and deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally, there have been at least 18,765,469 cases of coronavirus in the country and at least 330,302 people have died.

So far today, Johns Hopkins has reported 9,109 new cases and 56 reported deaths. 

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases. 

10:06 a.m. ET, December 26, 2020

Japan will ban entry to foreign nationals after Covid-19 variant detected in country

From CNN's Junko Ogura in Tokyo  

Travelers are pictured in a departure lobby at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on December 26.
Travelers are pictured in a departure lobby at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on December 26. Kyodo News via Getty Images

Japan will ban foreign nationals from entering the country starting Monday through the end of January after several cases of the Covid-19 variant were recorded in the country, according to Japan's public broadcaster, NHK.  

Japanese citizens and foreign residents can still enter, but they're required to self-quarantine for 14 days, NHK reported.  

The move came after a new case of Covid-19 variant was confirmed on Saturday on a person who recently returned from the UK, NHK said.  

Five other travelers from Britain were also detected with the variant the previous day.  

9:59 a.m. ET, December 26, 2020

New Covid-19 variant detected in Sweden

From Sanam Mahoozi

Swedish health authorities have diagnosed a case of the new coronavirus variant in region of Sörmland, on the outskirts of Stockholm, according to a news release from the country’s Public Health Agency on Saturday. 

The person in question, who has tested for the new variant of the novel coronavirus, had traveled to Sweden over Christmas from the UK, where the new variant has been circulating. 

The person is not in need of hospital treatment at this stage and is following all necessary guidelines in order not to infect any others, the physician in charge of contact tracing, and infection control in the region of Sörmland, Signar Mäkitalo, explained, according to the statement.

Sweden has extended its travel ban on passengers arriving from the UK until Jan. 21, 2021. The restrictions were first announced by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ann Linde, in a tweet last week.

9:56 a.m. ET, December 26, 2020

Millions are in danger of losing key benefits soon if Trump doesn't sign the Covid-19 relief bill

From CNN's Tami Luhby

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Though Congress has passed a $900 billion Covid-19 relief package, millions of Americans are in danger of losing important benefits just after the holidays if President Trump continues to refuse to sign the bill.

The legislation would extend two pandemic unemployment programs and provide the jobless with a $300 weekly federal boost through mid-March. It would send direct payments of up $600 per person. It would reopen the Paycheck Protection Program so that some of the hardest-hit small businesses can apply for a second loan.

The package, which would be the second-largest relief deal after the $2 trillion CARES Act that Congress approved in March, also would extend eviction protection and enhance food stamp benefits.

These are some of the programs that are at risk if the bill isn't signed:

  • Expanded unemployment benefits: More than 12 million laid-off Americans could lose their unemployment benefits after this weekend if Trump doesn't sign the bill. And even if he does, they would likely suffer a break in payments of several weeks. As part of the historic broadening of jobless benefits under the CARES Act, lawmakers created three programs to help out-of-work Americans. While the $600 payment enhancement lasted only through July, the other two expire just after Christmas.
  • Eviction protection: A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order that went into effect in September temporarily halted evictions through the end of the year. The order, which was spurred by an executive measure Trump signed over the summer, applies to renters who meet certain income requirements, have experienced significant losses of income and have made their best efforts to find rental assistance and pay their rent. Since the order does not cancel or freeze rent, all of a tenant's back rent will be due January 1 if the moratorium is allowed to expire. Without rent relief or an extension of the protection, many struggling renters will again face eviction.
  • Coronavirus relief funds for states: Congress provided $150 billion to state and local governments to help them cover coronavirus-related expenses. But states have to use those funds by Dec. 30. States are on track to expend all the funds by the deadline, according to a National Governors Association survey of 42 states and territories. Most of the money has been used for health-related expenses, economic relief, education and child care, and government expenses. The package would give states and localities an additional year to spend the money.