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December 30 coronavirus news

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China has administered 3 million doses of coronavirus vaccines since December 15

A staff member inspects syringes of Covid-19 inactivated vaccine products at a packaging plant of the Beijing Biological Products Institute Co., Ltd, a unit of state-owned Sinopharm, in Beijing on December 25.

China has drastically scaled up its emergency use program in recent weeks, officials revealed Thursday as they announced the approval of the country’s first homegrown coronavirus vaccine, developed by Sinopharm.

Since December 15, the country has administered more than 3 million doses of coronavirus vaccines on “key groups” in the population, Zeng Yixin, vice-minister of China’s National Health Commission, said at a news conference Thursday. He did not identify who those groups were.

That’s on top of the more than 1.5 million doses of coronavirus vaccines administered to “high-risk groups” as of the end of November, Zeng added.

Among those who have been inoculated, fewer than 0.1% developed a light fever, and about two people per million developed “relative serious adverse reactions” such as allergies, according to Zeng.

China rolled out its controversial emergency use program in July, inoculating hundreds of thousands of people with experimental vaccines that did not have their safety and efficacy proven in clinical trials. People who received the vaccines include healthcare workers, border control personnel and state-owned company employees who needed to travel overseas.

This post has been updated to accurately reflect the number of adverse reactions.

China approves Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine

Chinese regulators have approved a coronavirus vaccine developed by state-owned pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm, officials announced Thursday.

Sinopharm said yesterday its coronavirus vaccine is 79.34% effective, citing interim analysis of Phase 3 clinical trials.

Though few details were provided, the company said the vaccine met the standards of the World Health Organization and China’s own regulator, the National Medical Products Administration.

Read more about the Sinopharm vaccine:

BEIJING, April 14, 2020 . A staff member tests samples of the COVID-19 inactivated vaccine at a vaccine production plant of China National Pharmaceutical Group ,Sinopharm, in Beijing, capital of China, April 11, 2020. China has approved two COVID-19 inactivated vaccine candidates for clinical trials, according to the State Council joint prevention and control mechanism against the coronavirus Tuesday.
   The two vaccine candidates are developed by Wuhan Institute of Biological Products under the China National Pharmaceutical Group ,Sinopharm, and Sinovac Research and Development Co., Ltd, a company based in Beijing. Clinical trials of the two vaccines have started. (Photo by Zhang Yuwei/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Zhang Yuwei via Getty Images)

China's Sinopharm says its coronavirus vaccine is 79% effective

Nearly 2.8 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in US, CDC says

A pharmacist dilutes the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine while preparing it to administer to staff and residents at the Goodwin House Bailey's Crossroads, a senior living community in Falls Church, Virginia, on December 30.

A total of 2,794,588 coronavirus vaccine shots have been administered in the United States, according to the latest numbers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, 12,409,050 doses have been distributed across the country, according to the CDC.

Through the federal partnership with long-term care facilities, 167,149 shots have been administered and 2,166,200 doses have been distributed, the CDC reported.

Numbers of vaccine doses distributed and administered among each state are also displayed on the CDC website.

Reporting delay: Federal officials have acknowledged a delay in the reporting of numbers of vaccines distributed and administered.

More than 14 million vaccine doses have been distributed to date, but the CDC tracker hasn’t yet reported the additional doses, Operation Warp Speed chief operating officer Gen. Gustave Perna said Wednesday in a news briefing.

Several shipments of Moderna vaccine replaced due to improper temperature storage, group says

Several shipments of Moderna Covid-19 vaccines were delayed before the Christmas holiday due to “temperature excursions,” meaning they had been refrigerated inappropriately while in transit, according to the Texas Hospital Association.

Leadership reported the issue immediately, Carrie Williams of the Texas Hospital Association said. The federal government shipped replacement vaccines.  

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Moderna vaccine should arrive onsite frozen between -25°C (-13°F) and -15°C (5°F) and stored at the same temperatures. Once vaccines are thawed, they must be kept between 2°C (36°F) and 8°C (46°F) and only for up to 30 days. 

The CDC also provides strict and specific handling guidance for Moderna vaccines.

CNN is still learning about the incident from the CDC, the Texas state health authorities and the shipping company.

US hits record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations

The United States reported 125,220 current Covid-19 hospitalizations on Wednesday, setting a new record high since the pandemic began, according to the Covid Tracking Project (CTP).

This is the 29th consecutive day that the US has remained above 100,000 current hospitalizations. 

According to CTP data, the highest hospitalization numbers are:

  • Dec. 30: 125,220 people hospitalized
  • Dec. 29: 124,686 people hospitalized 
  • Dec. 28: 121,235 people hospitalized
  • Dec. 24: 120,151 people hospitalized
  • Dec. 23: 119,463 people hospitalized

Texas reports Covid-19 hospitalization record for third day in a row

A medical staff member sets up a ventilator for a patient in the Covid-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on December 29 in Houston, Texas.

Texas has reported a record number of hospitalizations for the third day in a row. 

The Texas Department of State Health Services shows that 11,992 patients are currently hospitalized with Covid-19, up from Tuesday’s record of 11,775.

The state has also reported 17,458 new positive cases and 326 deaths related to the virus on Wednesday. 

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.

Los Angeles County surpasses 10,000 Covid-19 deaths

Los Angeles County reported 274 new fatalities related to coronavirus, surpassing a total of 10,000 deaths, health officials confirmed in a news conference on Wednesday.

The county broke its previous record of 227 deaths on Tuesday. 

“The terrible reality is that the average number of people dying each day from Covid-19 illness, as noted by Supervisor Solis, is about 150 people a day,” L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said.

Ferrer also noted that the high number is due to a backlog associated with an outage.

According to Ferrer, the number of people dying from the virus is as high as the average number of people dying each day from every other cause, which is about 170 people.

Mortuaries across the county are filling up and they are struggling to find space for Covid victims, Department of Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said.

More data: The daily positivity rate in the county is about 20% and over 7,000 people are hospitalized, Ferrer said.

While the new Covid-19 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, has not been reported in Los Angeles County, she said, “this doesn’t mean the variant is not circulating in L.A. County.”

She explained that the variant was not found in the first set of samples that were tested.

To date, the county has a total of 756,116 coronavirus cases and 10,056 deaths.

If Covid-19 vaccination picks up, US could return to normal life by early fall 2021, Fauci says

A pharmacist prepares to administer a Covid-19 vaccine to staff and residents at a senior living community in Falls Church, Virginia, on December 30.

If the US is able to “diligently vaccinate” people in 2021, the nation could return to normal life by early fall, Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview with California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday.

Although Covid-19 vaccine rollout is off to a slower start than expected, if the US is able to “catch up” in 2021, widespread vaccination could be possible beginning in April, Fauci said.

“Let’s say in April, it will be what I call “open season,” namely, anybody who wants to get vaccinated can get vaccinated,” Fauci said. “If we then diligently vaccinate people in April, May, June, July, then we will gradually and noticeably get a degree of protection approaching herd immunity.”

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that herd immunity against coronavirus could likely be achieved if about 70% to 85% of the population gets vaccinated. 

“By the time we get to the early fall, we will have enough good herd immunity to be able to really get back to some strong semblance of normality – schools, theaters, sports events, restaurants,” he said. “I believe if we do it correctly, we will be there by the early fall.”

Fauci urged people to get vaccinated.

Washington governor extends statewide Covid-19 restrictions

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced a one-week extension of the state’s Covid-19 restrictions, according to a news release by the governor’s office. 

“Gov. Jay Inslee today announced a one-week extension of the ‘Stay Safe–Stay Healthy’ proclamation, along with the statewide restrictions imposed. The extension of the statewide restrictions will now expire on Jan. 11, 2021. No changes were made in the proclamation aside from the expiration date,” the release said.

The release added: “An updated reopening plan is currently being developed to provide a pathway for businesses and workers impacted by this order to reopen safely. The updated plan will be released next week.” 

Immune response from vaccine "very likely" to protect you from new Covid-19 variant, Fauci says

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks before receiving his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health on December 22 in Bethesda, Maryland.

Covid-19 vaccines should be effective against the new UK virus variant, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday.

Fauci told California Gov. Gavin Newsom that Covid-19 vaccines will likely protect against the new variant, which has now been identified in California and Colorado. The variant appears to be more transmissible but not more deadly.

“When you get vaccinated, the immune response that you make is called polyclonal, which means it’s against many different parts of the virus,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Even though you have one part of the virus that’s changed, it is very likely that the other components of the vaccine induced response will protect you.” 

However, something to keep an eye on is how monoclonal antibodies will work against this new strain. 

“Since these are specific mutations, we want to make sure that they don’t evade the protection of certain of the monoclonal antibodies, because the monoclonal antibody is against a very specific component of the virus,” he said.

“The other thing that they’ve noted in the UK, is that people who have been infected don’t seem to get reinfected by this, which means that the immunity that’s given to you when you get infected is protective against this particular strain,” he added.

Fauci said the new strain does not appear to have any impact on diagnostics. He noted that the National Institutes of Health, along with other scientists in the US, are working to learn more about the new strain using isolates from the UK.

UK Covid-19 variant confirmed in San Diego, California

The new Covid-19 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, has been detected in a Covid-19 patient in San Diego, California, county supervisor Nathan Fletcher announced Wednesday during a news conference. 

“About an hour ago, the governor in a joint appearance with Dr. Anthony Fauci confirmed that a UK variant case had been detected in the state of California and I can confirm that that case is in fact a patient in San Diego,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher said the patient is a 30-year-old man with no travel history that started developing Covid-related symptoms on Dec. 27. 

CDC's ensemble forecast projects up to 424,000 total US Covid-19 deaths by Jan. 23

An ensemble forecast published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now projects there will be 383,000 to 424,000 coronavirus deaths in the US by Jan. 23.

Unlike some individual models, the CDC’s ensemble forecast only offers projections a few weeks into the future. The previous ensemble forecast, published Dec. 23, projected up to 419,000 coronavirus deaths by Jan. 16.

At least 340,956 people have already died from Covid-19 in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

New Covid-19 variant identified in Southern California, governor says

A woman receives a Covid-19 testing kit at a regional pop-up walk-up testing site in Baldwin Park on Monday, December 21.

The new Covid-19 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, has now been found in Southern California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday during an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci on Facebook.

“Just an hour or so ago, we were informed that this new variant, this new strain that we’ve identified obviously from the United Kingdom, from other parts of the globe, identified in Colorado yesterday, has been identified here in the state of California, in Southern California,” Newsom said.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the news about the new strain, which appears to be more transmissible but not more deadly, was to be expected.

“I don’t think that Californians should feel that this is something odd,” Fauci said. “This is something that’s expected.”

More than 340,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the US

There have been at least 19,653,653 cases of coronavirus in the US, and at least 340,956 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

So far today, Johns Hopkins has recorded 142,817 new cases and 2,395 reported deaths.

At least 12,409,050 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 2,589,125 doses of the vaccine have been administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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

Covid-19 vaccines will likely protect against new variant, Giroir says

A woman receives a Covid-19 vaccine at a retirement home in Delray Beach, Florida, on Wednesday.

Covid-19 vaccines will likely protect against a new variant of the virus that was first reported in the UK and now identified in Colorado, US Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Adm. Brett Giroir said Wednesday.

“We do expect – we haven’t proven it 100%, but we will soon – we do expect that the vaccines now being administered or under development will cover this strain very well,” Giroir told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

The new variant appears to be more transmissible, but not more deadly.

“It’ll still be prevented by a mask and distancing,” said Giroir. “It is not more serious. In other words, you’re no more likely to die or be hospitalized with this.”

Giroir said it is likely that the variant has been in the US for a while.

“It’s very unlikely that it’s rampant, but I think it’s certainly been here,” he said.

“We need to be doing a better job” with Covid-19 vaccine rollout, US health official says

The US needs to be doing a better job with its Covid-19 vaccine rollout, Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir said Wednesday.

“Of course, we need to be doing a better job, but all vaccine programs start somewhat slow,” Giroir told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

He said he expects distribution to ramp up soon and that the US is on track to distribute 20 million vaccine doses by the first week of January.

“I know we will be distributing about 30 million more in January and potentially up to 50 million more in February,” he said.

As pharmacies begin to play a larger role in vaccine administration, Giroir said he expects the pace to quicken.

“We have a federal contract with 40,000 pharmacies – that’s 60% of all pharmacies in the US – to provide vaccines,” said Giroir. “The scale will go up very rapidly as things progress and evolve.”

“Vaccines on the shelf are no good,” he added. “They need to get in people’s arms and we are leaving no stone unturned to do that.”

Some background: Operation Warp Speed is on track to fall well short of the 20 million vaccine shots they predicted would be administered by the end of December.

Nearly 2.6 million vaccine doses have been administered in the United States, according to data given to CNN by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 6,700 fans will be allowed at Buffalo Bills playoff game, governor says

Bills Stadium is seen before a game on December 13.

Approximately 6,700 fans will be allowed to attend the upcoming Buffalo Bills first playoff game, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.

Cuomo said the decision to allow fans at the first playoff game was an agreement between the New York Department of Health, the Buffalo Bills, and the National Football League.

All fans will need to be tested for Covid-19 before the game and anyone with a positive test will not be allowed to attend.

Every fan must wear a mask from when they leave their vehicle in the parking lot to when they reenter their vehicles to go home. All fans will be sitting in socially-distanced “pods” with the people they came with, Robert Mujica, New York State’s Budget Director, said Wednesday. 

No tailgating or congregating will be allowed. Following the game, contact-tracing will occur to monitor any possible spread of Covid-19, Cuomo said.

Any fans who refuse to comply will be removed from the premises, Dr. Howard Zucker, New York’s Health Commissioner, said Wednesday.

The outdoor, controlled venue at the upcoming Buffalo Bills game will serve as a “pilot” program to test ways the state can reopen businesses and events smartly and safety, Cuomo said.

McConnell takes definitive stance against moving forward on $2,000 Covid-19 stimulus checks

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took a definitive stance against moving forward on a House-passed bill to increase direct stimulus payments to $2,000, criticizing the policy and making it clear nothing will move forward in the chamber that doesn’t include President Trump’s other two priorities: a full repeal of online liability protections and an investigation into voter fraud. 

“The Senate is not going to split apart the three issues that President Trump linked together,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. 

McConnell, on Tuesday, introduced legislation that combined the three Trump priorities – each a pre-requisite for Trump signing the Covid-19 relief and spending package earlier this week.

McConnell, on Wednesday, made clear that the introduction of that legislation met the contours of the agreement with Trump, which stipulated only starting the process to vote on the issues. 

As it currently stands, there are no votes scheduled on McConnell’s bill, or the House-passed legislation, and GOP aides say it’s likely the 116th Congress comes to an end without any action on increasing direct payments. 

The Kentucky Republican opened up his floor remarks Wednesday blasting Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders for holding up the NDAA override vote. 

“Today the Senate was supposed to finish legislation securing critical tools, training and support for America’s armed forces. But the junior senator from Vermont had other ideas,” he said.

McConnell added: “We’ll stay on this important bill until we complete it, one way or another.”

Sanders has said he will delay the NDAA override vote unless McConnell brings a $2,000 checks to a vote on the floor. A final vote could stretch into Saturday if Sanders continues to hold it up. Eventually, though, it will pass. It’s just a matter of how long this takes.

NBA announces zero new positive Covid-19 tests among players

The NBA says no players tested positive for Covid-19 during the league’s latest testing window.

According to the league and the NBA Players Association, 495 tests have been administered since Dec. 24 with zero positive results for the virus.

The latest results are down from last week, in which two new players returned a positive test for Covid-19. 

Belgium tightens rules for travelers to prevent spread of new Covid-19 variant 

Travelers walk at Brussels Airport in Belgium after flights to the United Kingdom resumed on December 23.

Belgium has stepped up its rules for travelers arriving in the country to prevent the possible spread of the new variant of Covid-19, a press release from the prime minister’s office said Wednesday.

These are the new measures:

  • Starting Thursday, there will now be a mandatory quarantine for anyone who has been outside of Belgium for more than 48 hours. 
  • There will be a mandatory test on day one and day seven of quarantine.
  • Quarantine can only end if a person receives a valid negative Covid-19 test result on day seven.
  • If a person tests positive on day seven, the clock resets and they have to quarantine for another seven days when you will again need to have a valid negative test.

This measure will provisionally apply until Jan. 15.

Belgium had imposed a partial travel ban on UK travelers from Dec. 23 to Dec. 31, which allowed some limited essential travel.

One person dies from coronavirus in Los Angeles County every 10 minutes

The number of Covid-19 deaths reached a new high in California on Wednesday.

California recorded 432 new fatalities, the highest reported in a single day so far. In Southern California, Los Angeles County officials described the grim situation there in a tweet Wednesday, and said one person dies from Covid-19 every 10 minutes.

Some of these deaths are believed to be part of a backlog announced by Los Angeles Tuesday. The number of people who have died from the virus in the Golden State is nearly 25,000.

Gov. Gavin Newsom called the high number of fatalities “very, very sobering.”

California added 30,921 cases Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to more than 2.2 million Covid-19 infections. More than 746,000 of those are in Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous. About 40% of Californians who died of Covid-19 lived in Los Angeles County.

Hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions remain at an all-time high. ICU capacity is down to 0% statewide, with the brunt of the impact in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley. Projections for each region show the demand for ICU beds exceeding capacity for at least the next four weeks.

There is some glimmer of optimism, as the positivity rate in California is showing a slight dip and has dropped to a two-week average of 12.2%. 

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

Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on "Gilligan's Island," dies of Covid-19 complications

Actress Dawn Wells is seen in September 2019.

Dawn Wells, who played the lovable castaway Mary Ann Summers on “Gilligan’s Island,” died in Los Angeles Wednesday from Covid-19 complications, her publicist Harlan Boll confirmed to CNN.

She was 82.

This story is developing.

Sweden requires negative coronavirus test from UK travelers coming into the country

Passengers traveling from the United Kingdom to Sweden are now required to show a negative coronavirus test result in order to enter the country, the Swedish government announced on Wednesday.

The new conditions will go into action on Jan. 1 —  with the lifting of a flight ban from the UK, previously set to Jan. 21 —  and won’t be applicable to Swedish residents, the statement said.

“Swedish citizens and everyone transporting goods from the UK are exempt from the ban. The same applies to people who live or work in Sweden, people with imperative family reasons and diplomats,” the statement said.

Sweden expects these new measures to “reduce the risk of spreading the Covid-19 virus, especially the new variant of the virus discovered in the UK.”