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December 29 coronavirus news

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Los Angeles County's Covid-19 hospitalizations are at an all-time high

A nurse works with a Covid-positive patient inside the ICU at Providence St. Jude Medical Center on December 25 in Fullerton, California.

Los Angeles County’s Covid-19 hospitalizations are at an all-time high, with 10 times the number of people in hospital from just two months ago.

According to the Los Angeles Department of Public Health (LADPH), 7,181 patients were in the hospital Tuesday – 267 more than Monday. Around 20% of those in hospital are in the intensive care unit (ICU). 

On October 29, there were 750 people hospitalized with the disease. 

LADPH is reporting 227 new deaths, which is a record for the highest number of fatalities reported in a day, although authorities attributed the high number in part to a reporting delay from last week’s Spectrum power outage and the holidays. 

The county also announced 12,979 newly confirmed cases Tuesday.  

In context: LA County is home to nearly 10 million people, making it the most populous county in the US.

The county alone has reported more coronavirus cases than many countries, including Belgium and Canada. Since the beginning of the pandemic, LA County has seen 746,089 cases of Covid-19 and is inching toward 10,000 deaths, with 9,782 lives lost.

Newly-elected GOP congressman Luke Letlow has died aged 41 after being diagnosed with Covid-19

Incoming congressman-elect Luke Letlow has died aged 41 after being diagnosed with Covid-19, CNN has confirmed.

In a statement released on Twitter, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards wrote: “It is with heavy hearts that @FirstLadyOfLA and I offer our condolences to Congressman-elect Luke Letlow’s family on his passing after a battle with COVID-19.” 

Two Republican sources also confirmed Letlow’s death to CNN. 

Read more:

Luke Letlow, a Republican who won the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, 5th Congressional District, passed away on Tuesday.

Congressman-elect Luke Letlow dies after battling Covid-19

US adds record number of daily Covid-19 deaths

Reggie Elliott, a funeral transporter, writes on the side of a box before depositing the remains of a Covid-19 victim at Maryland Cremation Services in Millersville, Maryland on December 24.

The United States reported a record-high number of new Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU). 

So far on Tuesday, 3,708 additional Covid-19 deaths have been reported, according to JHU. 

The US is currently averaging 2,210 additional deaths per day and has reported 338,544 total deaths, JHU data shows. 

The days with the highest number of new deaths according to JHU data are: 

Dec. 29: 3,708 Dec. 16: 3,682 Dec. 22: 3,401 Dec. 23: 3,359 Dec. 17: 3,346

Note: This is an ongoing tally. The final numbers will not be available until overnight tonight. 

Lack of resources and advanced planning put vaccination distribution behind, Biden Covid-19 board member says

Dr. Atul Gawande

A lack of resources and little advanced planning has delayed vaccine distribution and administration in the United States, a member of the Biden-Harris Transition Covid Advisory Board said in an interview Tuesday. 

“I’d say we’re still not at the bottom of why all of the problems are there,” Gawande said.

Gawande said there had not been the advanced planning and resources to stand up the vaccination sites and capabilities required.

“I’m very involved in standing up vaccination sites in Massachusetts and it’s been a big problem that there weren’t the resources to get them going weeks ago,” Gawande said.
“And then you know the protocols and transparency about who’s being prioritized when all of that came down just in the last couple of weeks and that’s not enough time to expect all of the distribution to already be happening.”

Gawande said he expects President-elect Joe Biden to be “upfront about what the challenges are” and “transparent about where the bottlenecks are.”

Operation Warp Speed had promised that 20 million doses of vaccine would be administered before January 1. The latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that just over 11 million doses have been distributed and only 2.1 million have been administered to people.

US will likely see "homegrown variants" of Covid-19 similar to UK strain, health expert says

The United States will likely see “homegrown variants” of Covid-19 similar to the United Kingdom variant identified in Colorado on Tuesday, said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

While the variant seems to be more transmissible than previously identified Covid-19 strains, health authorities from around the world have said it does not appear to be more deadly. 

Hotez said that if the US starts performing more virus genomic surveillance, it will likely identify additional strains of the virus in the country.

“We’re going to see homegrown variants that are similar in character in terms of transmissibility, I can almost promise you that,” he said.

Here's what we know about the new Covid-19 variant found in Colorado

The first known case of the new Covid-19 variant in the United States was discovered in Colorado Tuesday, according to state health officials. 

The variant, called B.1.1.7, has been linked to the United Kingdom. The Colorado man who was infected is in his 20s, is isolating in Elbert County and appears to have no travel history, according to Gov. Jared Polis.

No close contacts of the man have been identified yet, but health officials are working on contact tracing, Polis said.

Here’s what we know about the new Covid-19 variant:

  • It came from the UK: The new variant is believed to have originated in southeast England, according to the World Health Organization.
  • It spreads quicker: Scientists advising the UK government have estimated the variant could be up to 70% more effective at spreading than others. Peter Horby, chair of the UK’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), said last week that scientists were “confident” the new variant is “spreading faster than other virus variants.”
  • It raises questions about vaccines: But there are no signs yet that the current vaccine front-runners won’t work against this new variant, experts and drugmakers have said.
  • It’s appeared in other countries: The variant has already spread globally. Aside from the US, it has also been detected in several countries, including Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands and Australia, according to WHO.

Read more:

CDC releases illustration of the Coronavirus.

Here's what we know about the new Covid-19 variant found in Colorado

UK Covid-19 strain "almost certainly in multiple states," Biden task force member says

Dr. Atul Gawande.

The UK Covid-19 variant is “almost certainly in multiple states, a member of the Biden-Harris Transition COVID Advisory Board said Tuesday.

“It is almost certainly in multiple states and I think we will be seeing evidence of that in the days to come,” Dr. Atul Gawande, who is also a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told CNN’s Brianna Golodryga.

On Tuesday, a Colorado man in his 20s with no known travel history became the first confirmed case of the variant in the United States.

“An unknown travel history mean that this person picked it up the community,” Gawande said.

“Exactly how prevalent it is, is the real question,” he said. “If it’s been spreading, how, how dominant is it?”

The UK Covid-19 strain appears to be more transmissible. Gawande said that’s a big part of his concern because he expects the surge underway in the United States to get worse before it gets better.

“If this mutation, this mutated virus, which is more contagious, is not widespread yet and beginning to spread, that means it will be even more important to follow the approaches we know work,” he said.

Most experts have suggested the UK variant is not necessarily associated with more severe illness, or increased risk for hospitalization and death. 

US hits record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations

The United States reported 124,686 current Covid-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday, setting a record high since the pandemic began, according to the Covid Tracking Project (CTP).

This is the 28th consecutive day that the US has remained above 100,000 current hospitalizations.  

The highest hospitalization numbers, according to CTP data, are: 

  • Dec. 29: 124,686
  • Dec. 28: 121,235
  • Dec. 24: 120,151
  • Dec. 23: 119,463
  • Dec. 25: 118,948

Texas sets new Covid-19 hospitalization record

Dr. Joseph Varon and other medical staff members perform a procedure for hypothermia treatment on a patient in the Covid-19 intensive care unit on Christmas Eve at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston.

Texas reported Tuesday a record number of coronavirus patient hospitalizations; 11,775 people across the state, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard. 

The state’s last record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations was Monday with 11,351 people.

According to the Texas Covid-19 dashboard, there are 653 available intensive care unit beds; 7,601 ventilators available, and 12,320 available hospital beds. 

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

Moderna plans to immunize its workforce with new Covid-19 vaccine

Nurse Leonida Lipshy gives Dr. Nadav Fields a shot of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine on December 23, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Biotech company Moderna announced plans Tuesday to immunize its workforce with its new vaccine.

The company issued a statement explaining that it is making the shot available to its workers in the United States “to provide an additional layer of Covid-19 protection” because Moderna workers are conducting essential services in developing, manufacturing and delivering the vaccine.

“The program will extend to adult household members of our team to reduce the risk of absenteeism and disruption due to a Covid-19 infection in an adult household member,” Moderna said. 

The company is also making vaccines available to board members.

“Participation in the program is confidential and entirely voluntary,” the company added. 

The company is paying for the program, including the vaccine and the administration.

The vaccine that will be used is separate from the supply committed to the US government, Moderna said.

Some context: The US Food and Drug Administration granted the company an emergency use authorization for its shot just over a week ago, making it the second Covid-19 vaccine to receive authorization in the US.

US treasury secretary says direct payments may start as early as tonight

Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin said direct payments to Americans may begin to be deposited as early as tonight.

These would be the $600 payments included in the Covid-19 relief package President Trump signed on Sunday evening.

Read Mnuchin’s tweet:

Colorado identifies first known case of UK Covid-19 variant in the US

Colorado health officials announced the nation’s first known case of the Covid-19 variant originally discovered in the United Kingdom Tuesday. 

The Covid-19 variant B.1.1.7 was identified in a Colorado man in his 20s, with no travel history, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement Tuesday. Polis said the man is in isolation in Elbert County, and will remain in isolation until cleared by health officials.

No close contacts of the man have been identified yet, but health officials are working on contact tracing, he added.

“There is a lot we don’t know about this new Covid-19 variant, but scientists in the United Kingdom are warning the world that it is significantly more contagious,” Polis said. “The health and safety of Coloradans is our top priority and we will closely monitor this case, as well as all Covid-19 indicators, very closely.”

More than 2 million children have tested positive for Covid-19 in the US

A boy receives a free Covid-19 test at a St. John’s Well Child & Family Center mobile clinic set up outside Walker Temple AME Church in South Los Angeles amid the coronavirus pandemic on July 15, in Los Angeles.

There were 178,935 new cases of Covid-19 reported among children in the week ending Dec. 24, the American Academy of Pediatrics said Tuesday. 

According to the AAP, this number of cases brings the cumulative total to 2,000,681 positive Covid-19 cases among children since the start of the pandemic. As of Dec. 24, children represented 12.4% of all cases of Covid-19 in the US.

The AAP also noted, that since Nov. 12, there has been an increase of 1 million Covid-19 cases in children, and over the last two weeks, from Dec. 10 - Dec. 24, there was a 22% increase in child cases. 

This puts the overall rate at “2,658 cases per 100,000 children in the population,” the AAP said.

“At this time, it appears that severe illness due to Covid-19 is rare among children. However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects,” the AAP’s data report said. 

HHS says it has allocated more than 19 million Covid-19 vaccine doses

Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine is pictured at Rady Children's Hospital before it's placed back in the refrigerator in San Diego, California on December 15.

As of Tuesday, 19.88 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been allocated to states, according to a tweet from the Health and Human Services Public Affairs Office.

HHS said it reached that number by allocating 4.2 million doses that will be delivered in the first week of 2021.

Last week, Army Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said the US planned to allocate 20 million doses of the vaccine by the end of the year. An allocation of vaccine is not a confirmed shipment. Instead, it is vaccine that has been allocated for states to be able to order, according to a senior administration official. 

Despite the allocations, the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that just over 11 million doses have been distributed, and only 2.1 million have actually been administered to people.

There is currently no evidence UK coronavirus variant is linked to a higher risk of hospitalization

Ambulances outside the Royal London Hospital, in London on Tuesday, December 29.

Preliminary analysis from Public Health England (PHE) on the new variant of coronavirus first detected in the UK has revealed that, while the variant appears to be more transmissible, there is no evidence it’s linked to a higher risk of hospital admission or death.

“Preliminary results from the cohort study found no statistically significant difference in hospitalization and 28-day case fatality” between people infected with the new variant versus a different strain of the virus, according to the report released Dec. 28. 

The report supports statements from health authorities around the world who have said there is no reason to believe the variant causes more severe disease.

The British health authority notes that “there was also no significant difference in the likelihood of reinfection” between both groups. However, this was based on a relatively small number of suspected reinfections.

Some context: The report comes as coronavirus cases in the UK continue to surge, with further confirmed cases of the new variant in more than two dozen countries across the globe.

Chile records first case of Covid-19 variant  

Chile has recorded its first case of the new Covid-19 variant — first detected in England — in a passenger who returned to the country recently after visiting London, a senior Chilean health ministry official announced on Tuesday.  

The country’s Undersecretary of Public Health Paula Daza said a Chilean woman who arrived on a flight from Madrid on Dec. 22 tested positive for the variant. The woman spent a week in London visiting relatives before flying to Chile from Madrid.  

“All emergency measures have been taken and the person has already been transferred to a local hospital to be monitored by health personnel,” Daza said.  

Daza assured that the woman is in good health and that contract tracing is being carried out.  

Health authorities have since announced a mandatory 10-day quarantine for all people arriving in Chile from abroad, beginning Thursday.   

New York reports more than 11,000 new Covid-19 cases

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted Tuesday Covid-19 hospitalizations in the state are at 7,814.

The statewide positivity rate stands at 7.14% with 11,438 new cases.

There were 124 new deaths reported, according to Cuomo.

Note: These numbers were released New York 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.

Latest NFL Covid-19 testing window reveals uptick in cases

The National Football League and NFL Players Association’s latest Covid-19 testing results revealed 58 players and team personnel tested positive for the virus between Dec. 20 and Dec. 26.

The combined total is up from 45 positive tests, which were reported during the week of Dec. 13-19.

The NFL says there were 21 players and 37 personnel who tested positive for coronavirus. 

Overall, the league says it has administered approximately 881,510 tests to players and personnel during the period from Aug. 1 to Dec. 26. During this time, 222 players and 396 personnel tested positive for Covid-19, according to the league and the players’ union.

Chicago couple who died of Covid-19 after family visit did everything right to avoid the virus, son says

Mike and Carol Bruno did everything right to avoid Covid-19. They refrained from hosting the big, traditional family gatherings they were used to. They stuck to phone calls and video conferences with family even though they didn’t live far away.

But a simple family visit to get a haircut claimed both of their lives.

The Brunos were married nearly six decades before they passed away from the virus, their son Joseph Bruno told CNN. The Chicago couple, who died 10 days apart, are now among the more than 1.7 million people who have died from coronavirus in the US.

Bruno hopes his family’s grief serves as an important reminder of how easy it can be to contract Covid-19, no matter how safe you are.

“Even when we thought we did everything right, we still got it,” Bruno told CNN. 

Keep reading here.

Sen. Bernie Sanders says the US must help "struggling working families"

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks on the Senate floor in Washington, DC, on December 29.

During an impassioned speech on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon, Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders implored lawmakers to increase the size of direct stimulus checks to individuals from $600 to $2,000 as the weight of the coronavirus pandemic continues to crush families in need.

Sanders, who said Monday he would move to delay a vote on the National Defense Authorization Act unless Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Republican, brings $2,000 stimulus checks to a vote on the floor, continues to push for larger checks. 

McConnell blocked Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer’s request today for the chamber to pass by unanimous consent the House-passed bill which increased the amount of the stimulus checks.

Schumer said $600 is “not enough” for Americans who need the extra money to pay for groceries and rent, and dismissed concerns that the proposal would add too much money to the deficit. He said that Republicans had previously passed nearly $2 trillion in tax cuts and recently fought to include a tax break for corporate meal expenses.

More on Sanders: According to a new Gallup poll, Sanders and Bill Gates were among the most admired men on a new list released Tuesday.

Barack Obama came in second among men at 15%. President-elect Joe Biden came in third with 6% of and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, came in fourth with 3%.

President Trump and former first lady Michelle Obama were the most admired man and woman of 2020, according to the poll.

CNN’s Ali Zaslav, Alex Rogers and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

WATCH:

02:09

McConnell blocks bill for $2,000 Covid-19 relief checks

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to open up the senate on Capitol Hill on December 20 in Washington, DC.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer’s request for the chamber to pass by unanimous consent the House-passed bill increasing the size of direct stimulus checks to individuals from $600 to $2,000. 

McConnell said on Tuesday that the Senate would consider three of President Trump’s priorities—further direct financial support for Americans, reexamining Section 230’s protections for technology firms and ballot integrity efforts—this week.

“Those are the three important subjects the President has linked together,” said McConnell. “This week the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus.” 

McConnell’s remark about bringing Trump’s priorities “into focus,” was not a commitment to bringing votes on the issues. 

Schumer urged the Senate to join Trump and the House to increase the size of the checks, arguing that “working Americans have taken it on the chin” during the pandemic. 

“Right now, they’re facing their hardest and their darkest days,” said Schumer. “Tens of millions have lost their jobs. Tens of millions are struggling to put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads. In the wealthiest nation on Earth, modern day bread lines stretch for miles down American highways.” 

“The fastest way to get money into Americans pockets, is to send some of their tax dollars right back from where they came,” he added. 

Watch Sen. McConnell object:

01:23

United Kingdom records highest rise in daily Covid-19 cases 2 days in a row

The United Kingdom recorded 53,135 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, breaking its daily record since the pandemic began for a second day in a row.

An additional 414 people have died, according to the government’s dashboard.

The previous highest record was reported on Monday when the UK reported 41,385 coronavirus cases and 357 deaths.

In response to the latest figures, Dr. Susan Hopkins, senior medical adviser for Public Health England, said in a statement: “We are continuing to see unprecedented levels of Covid-19 infection across the UK, which is of extreme concern particularly as our hospitals are at their most vulnerable.”

“Whilst the number of cases reported today include some from over the festive period, these figures are largely a reflection of a real increase,” she added.

EU buys an additional 100 million doses of Pfizer vaccine

Doses of the Pfizer-Biontech Covid-19 vaccine are seen at the 'Am Birkenwaeldchen' senior citizens' park in Zeulenroda-Triebes, Germany, on December 27.

The European Union has bought an additional 100 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine — bringing its total to 300 million, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted Tuesday.

“More vaccines will follow,” von der Leyen added.

The EU officially kicked off its Covid-19 vaccination campaign on Sunday, days after approving the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Dec. 21.

The vaccine rollout comes as European governments race to contain the spread of a new Covid-19 variant that was first detected in the UK.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is continuing its rolling review of other promising vaccine candidates, including those from AstraZeneca and Oxford University, and Johnson & Johnson.

See the tweet:

More than 67,000 people have received Covid-19 vaccine doses in New York City, mayor says

A dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is administered at Northwell Health's Long Island Jewish Valley Stream hospital in New York City on December 21.

More than 67,000 people have been vaccinated in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, adding that the “results, again, have been great.”

New York City administered 12,515 vaccines on Dec. 23, making it the highest single-day total of vaccinations in the city, he said Tuesday.

Urgent care staff treating Covid-19 patients, staff administering the Covid-19 vaccine, health care workers, nursing home residents and staff, as well as EMS, will be vaccinated this week, according to the mayor.