December 28 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020
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3:15 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

These Americans have been waiting for new Covid-19 aid for months. They say the latest bill is not enough.

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg/Getty Images

President Trump signed the the $900 billion Covid-19 relief package on Sunday, after he initially threw the bill in doubt by asking Congress to amend it right before the Christmas holiday.

The legislation, which was negotiated on a bipartisan basis, provides for $600 in direct payments. After the deal passed in Congress, Trump called for $2,000 checks instead.

CNN asked you, our viewers and readers, after Congress passed the bill for your thoughts on the latest relief package. Many expressed frustrations over the direct payment of $600 and said the bill does not provide enough assistance.

Briana, from Concord, North Carolina, lost her job as a business development coordinator for a massage franchise due to the pandemic back in March and hasn’t received unemployment payments since October. She and her husband now rely on unsteady income they make from a small flooring company they own, where her husband also works.

She told CNN that while the $600 stimulus check is beneficial, it is not enough for her family to get through the next few months, especially since she’s concerned about making her mortgage payments on time.

"$600 per adult plus the $500 per child is not enough to get us through, let’s just say four months," she said.

"So, we have been very, very frugal with our money," Briana explained.

She said the first stimulus package from earlier this year was much more helpful.

Briana also noted that her situation is especially difficult since she made the decision to homeschool her 7-year-old daughter because of the uncertainty over in-person and virtual learning.

She told CNN that homeschooling takes up six to seven hours of her day, and she also dedicates time assisting her daughter with schoolwork. While Briana has been looking for work, it’s been difficult to find a job that works with her current schedule.

“People like me and my family, fall between the cracks,” she said. “We need some help.”

Nicole, a self-employed hairdresser from Los Angeles, California, who has been out of work for most of the year, called the $600 payment an “insult.” She’s been relying on the income of her husband and unemployment payments.

“We’re two income household and we need two incomes to make it work,” Nicole told CNN. Being unable to work has been a “big hit,” she said.

She told CNN the current package is not enough, and like Briana, she said the first stimulus package was more helpful.

"We’ve been sitting here waiting and praying for six or seven months now since the end of July when the first… unemployment, pandemic support ended and since that ended something is better than nothing, yes, but what are we meant to do with that? Where’s that supposed to go? When there’s so many places for it to go," Nicole said.

She also expressed frustrations on how long it took for the current package to pass, calling it “unacceptable."

The US House of Representatives could pass a provision Monday night aimed at increasing the amount of money individuals and families receive in stimulus checks to $2,000.

2:34 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

Man who lost his job and savings due to pandemic says $600 direct payments are "insulting"

Matthew Cox speaks with CNN on Monday, December 28.
Matthew Cox speaks with CNN on Monday, December 28. CNN

Matthew Cox lost his job as a manager in the service industry and has been searching for full-time employment since August.

He had to relocate his family from south Florida to Indiana so his wife's family could help with child care. Now, he's working for the food delivery service DoorDash and makes about $300 a month.

"It doesn't even pay the rent. So I have had to borrow money from my family, I've had to sell some stuff, take out savings and 401(k). So I'm at the point now where it's kind of living day to day," Cox said.

After months of negotiations, President Trump finally approved a $900 billion relief package that includes $600 direct stimulus payments to help people like Cox – but he said it's not enough.

"That is not really going help anybody. It is kind of almost insulting," Cox said about the $600 direct payments

"When the federal government says 'hey this is what we're going to do and this is the numbers we're going to get and hope everyone is happy,' for us out there making less money or no money, it doesn't really do a whole lot for us," he added.

Tonight: The House of Representatives is set to vote on a measure to increase stimulus checks for Americans under a certain income level to $2,000. More direct payments was something Trump argued for before signing the bill this weekend.

House Republicans blocked an effort by Democrats to advance $2,000 checks last week, but the House will try again on Monday with a floor vote. That vote will require a two-thirds majority to pass since it is taking place under a suspension of the rules, a threshold that means it would need a wide margin of bipartisan support to be approved.

2:17 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

Spain's Covid-19 death toll surpasses 50,000

From CNN’s Duarte Mendonca

Spain has reported an additional 298 coronavirus deaths since its last data was published on Thursday. That brings the country's total death toll to 50,122 since the pandemic began, according to Spain’s health ministry.

The country currently sits 10th in the global coronavirus death toll list, according to Johns Hopkins University data. 

The health ministry also reported 24,462 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of cases to 1,879,413, the data shows. 

1:29 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

New York City's key Covid-19 metrics exceed desired thresholds, mayor says

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

All Covid-19 indicators for New York City continue to be above the desired thresholds, Mayor Bill de Blasio said today.

New York City added nearly 2,500 new Covid-19 cases, reported 224 new hospitalizations, and reported a percent positivity of 7.24% on a seven-day average, according to a tweet from the mayor.

“The end of this battle is in sight — we can't let up the fight now,” NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

See the mayor's tweet:

1:16 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

New York governor will sign an executive order to combat potential vaccine fraud

From CNN's Brian Vitagliano

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference on Monday, December 28.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference on Monday, December 28. NY Governor's Office

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will be signing an executive order Monday that would fine up to a million dollars as well as a revocation of licenses for those who knowingly break the law when it comes to fraud and the Covid-19 vaccine.

The order would include doctors, nurses, pharmacists or any licensed health care professional.

The news comes as the New York Health Department is reviewing the actions of health care provider ParCare.

“The vaccine is a valuable commodity and you have many people that want the vaccine and you will have fraud in the vaccine process,” Cuomo said. 

He later said, “The vaccines are a priority, no politics at play at who gets a vaccine, we will not tolerate any fraud in the vaccination process.”

Cuomo said his office is looking at one health care provider who might have committed fraud. The governor, who did not mention the name of the company, said the New York State Police has reviewed the facts and referred it to New York Attorney General’s office. 

Asked specifically during the question and answer portion of the briefing about ParCare, Cuomo said, “the state police believe there’s enough evidence to commence a criminal investigation and hence the referral to the office of the Attorney General.”

CNN is reaching out to the Office of the Attorney General who earlier Monday issued a general warning alerting New Yorkers to potential scams offering early access to Covid-19 vaccines. She did not name a company in particular.

The New York Department of Health this weekend said that an Orange County provider may have transferred the Covid-19 vaccine to facilities in other parts of the state in violation of state guidelines and administered it to members of the public "contrary to the state's plan to administer it first to frontline health care workers, as well as nursing home residents and staffers.” CNN reported that ParCare was the provider.

1:43 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

New York is experiencing a "big increase" in positive Covid-19 tests, governor says

A nurse practitioner administers a Covid-19 swab test at Smith Point Park in Shirley, New York, on December 19.
A nurse practitioner administers a Covid-19 swab test at Smith Point Park in Shirley, New York, on December 19. Newsday/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday reported a statewide positivity rate of 8.3%, which he called a “big increase” from the 5.9% seven-day average. 

“For it to go up in two days is dramatic and very, very fast, so we are studying what that uptick actually means,” Cuomo said. 

At least 114 people have died from Covid-19 in New York. There has also been an increase of 376 hospitalizations, bringing the total to 7,559. The number of patients in intensive care units is up 35 for a total of 1,222. 

“Hope New Yorkers took our caution and celebrated smart, celebrate smart avoid shutdowns," Cuomo said. “What will happen will be the consequence of our actions."

Cuomo said 140,000 New Yorkers have already received one vaccine, with 259,000 vaccines expected this week. At least 139,000 doses will be coming from Pfizer and 119,000 will come from Moderna, Cuomo said. 

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

12:20 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

Top Democrat urges Trump to convince Republicans to act on $2,000 stimulus checks

From CNN's Ali Zaslav

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a press conference in Brooklyn, New York, on December 28.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a press conference in Brooklyn, New York, on December 28. Pool/WNYW

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on President Trump to not "just talk" but to "act" and to urge Senate Republicans to "support $2,000 in relief (checks)."

Speaking at a news conference in Brooklyn, New York, on Monday, he said:

"Today, I am telling Donald Trump, don't just talk about it, act. These Senate Republicans have followed you through thick and thin. Get them now to act and support the $2,000 checks."

Schumer added that he "will be on the floor of the Senate tomorrow urging that to happen, asking for what's called a unanimous consent request, and if Republicans go along, it will happen. We need that money. People are desperate. They need the help."

The New York Democrat noted that right now, there are "not enough" Senate Republicans for it to pass.

On Trump signing the relief bill late Sunday, he said, "We’re glad the President finally signed the Covid relief bill yesterday. New Yorkers can breathe a momentary sigh of relief."

12:02 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

Military personnel being deployed to California to combat coronavirus

From CNN's Ryan Browne

At least 75 US Army and Air Force medical personnel have been deployed to California to assist in the pandemic response.

“At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, approximately 75 U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force military medical personnel deployed to California as part of a Department of Defense COVID-19 response operation,” a statement from the Army said on Monday.

The latest situation: Since the Thanksgiving holiday, California has faced a surge of Covid-19 infections unparalleled across the United States, leading to continued daily record highs in hospitalizations and deaths.

Most of the state remains under stay at home orders triggered by a region's intensive care unit capacity falling below 15%. According to the state Department of Public Health, intensive care unit bed capacity in both the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California regions are at 0%, and it's likely the stay home orders will be extended for most of the state.

12:03 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

US House may pass $2,000 stimulus check provision on Monday

From CNN's Lauren Fox

The sun rises over the US Capitol on December 28 in Washington, DC.
The sun rises over the US Capitol on December 28 in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The US House of Representatives could pass a provision Monday night that would increase the amount of money individuals and families receive in stimulus checks.

A Republican leadership aide tells CNN that while the Republican side is not whipping the bill, "there’s a good chance it can pass." It’s far from certain, but aides are warning it’s possible. 

The bill, which would require a 2/3 majority to pass because it is going to occur under suspension, would increase the amount of the stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000 per individual.

Eligibility for the checks is determined by a person’s most recent tax returns. Anyone who made under $75,000 as an individual, or $150,000 as a couple, would receive the full amount. The amount individuals receive decreases by $5 for every $100 a person makes over $75,000. In short, that means that individuals who make over $99,000 would not be eligible, nor would couples making more than $198,000.

If the bill actually passes the House with a strong Republican vote, it will put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a tough position of having to decide whether to bring the provision to the floor in the Senate as a standalone bill. 

While the President has been urging Republicans to up the payments, many Republicans in McConnell’s ranks have made it clear they don’t think an increase is warranted, given how much it would increase the price tag of the stimulus bill.

A vote on the checks would likely divide the GOP conference and force some members to endure President Trump’s ire in his final days in office.

Reminder: The Covid-19 relief legislation was passed by Congress last Monday and was flown to Mar-a-Lago on Thursday to await Trump's signature. But after sitting on the sidelines during the negotiations, Trump emerged with an eleventh-hour complaint that a separate provision in the deal, which the President's own White House helped broker, would only provide up to $600 in direct payments.

Trump wanted to send out $2,000 checks. 

Trump signaled in a statement Sunday night that he signed the coronavirus relief bill only after securing a commitment for the Senate to consider legislation to increase stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, did not reference that commitment in his own statement Sunday night praising the President for signing the relief bill.