December 2 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 3, 2020
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1:43 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Covid-19 cases in West Virginia increased 91% since Halloween, governor says 

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

The number of Covid-19 cases in West Virginia has increased by 91% since Halloween and half of its virus-related deaths have occurred in the past eight weeks, said Gov. Jim Justice, citing data from the National Guard.  

"This is absolutely a tragedy that is going on all across our nation and we've got to take it so seriously, right here. It is unbelievable," said Justice who stressed the importance of wearing face masks.  

West Virginia currently has 622 Covid-19 patients hospitalized, with 164 in intensive care, a record high, he said. The number of intensive care patients is growing, the governor said.  

Justice announced 43 additional coronavirus-related deaths since Monday. The governor juxtaposed the newly reported deaths with past "horrific disasters" in the state like the Marshall University football team plane crash.  

"I was in a dorm at Marshall University in South Hall," said Justice. "We remember it always 50 years ago this happened, 50 years ago we lost 75 on that plane." 

Justice went on to read the age and sex of each West Virginian who has died from the virus since Monday. 

"Please don't let them become a statistic West Virginia," he said.  

"Will these people be remembered in anyway, compared to that plane crash? Probably not," Justice added.  

In the last 24 hours, the state reported 1,087 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 49,905 cases and 778 deaths, according to West Virginia health officials.  

2:06 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Moderna says Covid-19 vaccine was their first ever Phase 3 trial

From CNN’s Samira Said

Hans Pennink/AP
Hans Pennink/AP

Moderna had never run a Phase 3 clinical trial before the Covid-19 vaccine, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said at a World Economic Forum conference on vaccines.

The Moderna CEO said he was at the Davos conference in January when he saw data on the virus, and realized, "Oh sh*t, it's a pandemic. I only read about those in history, biology books." 

"I'm sure a lot of people thought we will not be able to pull it off. The team did a remarkable job where we got 30,000 people vaccinated between July 27 and October 22 [in the trial]," Bancel said.  

Bancel also called the UK's approval of the Pfizer vaccine today "great news for the world."

2:09 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Operation Warp Speed not trying to pressure FDA with vaccine distribution plans, general says

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

A sign on the entrance to a pharmacy reads "Covid-19 Vaccine Not Yet Available", November 23, 2020 in Burbank, California. 
A sign on the entrance to a pharmacy reads "Covid-19 Vaccine Not Yet Available", November 23, 2020 in Burbank, California.  Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

The federal government’s Operation Warp Speed is not trying to pressure the US Food and Drug Administration with its plans to distribute a coronavirus vaccine before one is even authorized, a top official said Wednesday.

The federal government has said it will have 40 million doses of vaccine by the end of December and has told states shipments of vaccines could begin as soon as Dec. 15 – even though the US Food and Drug Administration has not even decided on emergency use authorization and has not scheduled a meeting of its vaccine advisers until Dec. 10.

“It is a white board plan,” Army General Gustave Perna, chief operations officer for Operation Warp Speed, said during a news briefing.

“It is meant to help us prepare. But it is not constraining to execution. And there is 100%, without question, no interference with the FDA and their very deliberate, arduous effort to make sure we have the right solution if and when they do approve EUA.”
1:25 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

US was "severely underprepared" for Covid-19 pandemic, CDC director says

From CNN's Andrea Diaz

US Chamber of Commerce Foundation
US Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that as he approaches the end of his term at the CDC in January, he has realized that the United States was not prepared for a pandemic, and more investment is needed.

"This nation was severely underprepared for this pandemic, I think we got to call it the way it is. When I became CDC director, I wasn't prepared to understand how little investment had been made in the core capabilities of public health, and what it is the premier public health institution in our nation," Redfield said. 

He added that the US had not invested enough in data analytics, laboratory resilience to ensure the public health capacity had multiple platforms, or the public health workforce.

"I had some states that their public health contact tracing workforce was less than 50 people, so there's a huge lack of investment, which I hope this pandemic will change that," Redfield added.

1:05 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

CDC director suggests possibly mandating Covid-19 vaccine for certain industries

From CNN Health’s Sierra Jenkins

Certain occupations and subgroups could benefit from a vaccine mandate, according to Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During a livestream event with US Chamber of Commerce Foundation on Wednesday, Redfield said he can see the likelihood of health care, long-term care facility and airline personnel requiring proof of immunization for staff and consumers.

“It will be a decision, I think, each industry will make,” Redfield said. “I do think there are certain industries where I think it would be important to protect their workforce, and some other industries where it may be important to make sure that they protect their costumers and consumers.”

Although the decision is up to institutions, mandating a vaccine for certain occupations could prevent reintroducing the virus.

“Even though we get control of Covid … the pandemic and the world is not going to controlled for multiple years, and so we’ll always have a global risk of reintroduction through susceptibles if they haven’t been vaccinated.”

1:06 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

The US could be close to 450,000 Covid-19 deaths by February, CDC director says 

From CNN's Andrea Diaz

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

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, Dr. Robert Redfield said that we could see more than 400,000 Covid-19 deaths before February.  

"We're in that range potentially now, starting to see 1,500 to 2,000 to 2,500 deaths a day from this virus," Redfield said during a virtual conference with the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation. "The mortality concerns are real, and I do think, unfortunately, before we see February, we could be close to 450,000 Americans have died from this virus." 

However, Redfield says that if the American public embraces social distancing, wears masks, limits gatherings and continues to follow hygiene rules currently in place, those numbers could be decreased. 

"I think my disappointment at one thing, during my time as the CDC director during this pandemic, was that there was an inconsistency of the American public embracing the message, mask-wearing. This mask-wearing, it's not a political decision, this is a public health tool, very powerful, very simple, but very powerful," Redfield said. 

1:08 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Health official urges Brits to get on the vaccine train

From CNN's Lauren Kent

The UK’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam on Wednesday used the analogy of a train when speaking about the roll out of the newly-approved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“The train has now slowed down safely, it has now stopped in the station, and the doors have opened — that was the authorization by the MHRA,” Van-Tam said during a Downing Street news conference. “What we need now is for people to get on that train and travel safely to their destinations,” he added.

“We need people to take it, this vaccine isn’t going to help you if you don’t take it," Van-Tam said.

The head of National Health Service (NHS) England, Simon Stevens, said that around 50 hospital hubs around England will start offering the vaccine to people over 80 years old and care home staff and others identified as high priority as early as next week.

In the subsequent weeks, general practitioner practices will come together in each area to operate local vaccination centers – that will grow to over 1,000 places across England.

Van-Tam also called for more than one authorized vaccine.

“We have one authorized vaccine but we need more," he said. "We then need assured supply, and that is a big and difficult ask for manufacturers, and it won’t all come at once, and it may stop and start a bit at times, we just have to manage that as best we can,” he added.

1:01 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

UK Prime Minister warns country not to get "carried away with optimism" as vaccine is approved

From CNN's Lauren Kent

As the United Kingdom becomes the first Western national to approve a Covid-19 vaccine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he is celebrating the scientific achievement, but warned the country not to get "carried away with optimism."

“It’s all the more vital that as we celebrate this scientific achievement, we’re not carried away with over optimism, or fall into the naïve belief that the struggle is over, it’s not,” Johnson said during a news conference at Downing Street on Wednesday.

He said the first doses will go to health and care staff, elderly people and those who are "clinically extremely vulnerable," but adding that it won't come without challenges.

“There are immense logistical challenges. The virus has got to be stored at minus 70 degrees, each person needs two injections, three weeks apart. So it will inevitably take some months before all the most vulnerable are protected," Johnson said.

Some background: UK regulators granted emergency authorization for a vaccine made by US pharma giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech on Tuesday.

A final analysis of the Phase 3 trial of the vaccine shows it was 95% effective in preventing infections, even in older adults, and caused no serious safety concerns, Pfizer said last month.

The announcement means the UK has vaulted past the United States and European Union in the race to approve a vaccine, months into a pandemic that has killed almost 1.5 million people worldwide.

12:58 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

US Treasury Secretary: Direct stimulus payments are not included in the deal "at the moment"

From CNN's Kristin Wilson

Greg Nash/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
Greg Nash/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has left the Capitol after two days of testimony, and said that “at the moment” direct stimulus payments to Americans suffering in the wake of the pandemic are not part of the deal that is being negotiated, "but that’s something that can be considered down the road.”

Mnuchin said he’s still hopeful that a stimulus funding deal will happen before members gavel out for the holiday.

“Well, as I said before there’s things like PPP that in my opinion there’s $140B sitting in the general fund ready to go out. There’s other money we haven’t used. I would hope we get something done quickly we’ll be continuing to have those Conversations.”

Read more about the stimulus negotiations here.