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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12:48 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

100 million Americans could be vaccinated by February, Operation Warp Speed adviser says

From CNN's Maggie Fox

About 100 million Americans could be vaccinated against coronavirus by February, Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed, said Wednesday.

“All the investments we have made in scaling up and starting to stockpile manufacturing of the vaccines allow us to stay confident that we will be able to distribute 20 million vaccines, enough to vaccinate 20 million people in the US in December,” Slaoui told a news briefing.

The United States has said if both Pfizer and Moderna win US Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization in December, they could distribute 40 million doses of vaccine by the end of the month. Each vaccine requires two doses, so that’s enough to fully vaccinate 20 million people.

An FDA's committee is scheduled to meet meet on Dec. 10 and Dec. 17 to review Pfizer's and Moderna's coronavirus vaccine candidates, respectively. FDA officials say their decisions on the vaccines could come days to weeks after the meetings — it depends on what questions come up.

Slaoui said he expected 60 million more vaccines by the end of January.

“So between December – mid-December and February – we will potentially have immunized 100 million people,” Slaoui said.

He said that covers many of the high-priority groups, including health care workers and people at high risk of severe disease and death from Covid-19.

12:44 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

CDC urges Americans to postpone travel and stay home ahead of winter holidays

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Henry Walke, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Covid-19 incident manager, said that as Americans continue through the holiday season, they should avoid travel and stay home.

“We’re happy we’re coming out with this guidance now before the holiday season to provide additional consideration for the American public and health care providers, public health administrators to think through in terms of preventing infection,” Walke said Wednesday.

“Our hope is before Thanksgiving, and now before the upcoming holiday season that people hear a message about avoiding travel, staying at home, and protecting themselves, especially now,” he continued. 

The reason for the recommendation to avoid travel is that cases are rising and hospitalizations and deaths are both increasing, Walke said. 

“We need to try to bend the curve, stop this exponential increase and so we’re really asking the American public to prevent these infections and avoid travel and wash their hands, wear a mask and maintain distance,” Walke said. 

12:37 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

UK authorization of Pfizer's vaccine should give Americans more confidence, HHS chief says

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

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

Britain’s authorization of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine should give Americans more confidence in the safety of the vaccine and should speed authorization in the United States, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday.

“While the FDA completes its review, the approval of another independent regulatory body should give Americans additional confidence in the quality of such a vaccine,” Azar told a briefing.

“We are on track to be able to ship enough vaccine for 20 million Americans before the end of the year," he added.

The FDA’s vaccine advisers are scheduled to discuss Pfizer’s application for emergency use authorization on December 10.

12:24 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Top House Democrat and Mitch McConnell are in talks to try to get a stimulus deal

From CNN's Daniella Diaz

Getty Images
Getty Images

In a conference call with reporters, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he spoke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday about stimulus and has another talk scheduled today.

"I've talked to Senator McConnell on Monday. I'm going to talk to him again today," he said. "He and I both that it would be agree it would be optimal if in fact, we get to agreement by the end of this weekend. Have that agreement put on paper and memorialized so we can consider it as early as Wednesday or Thursday of next week."

Hoyer emphasized he'd like for members to vote on before or on Dec. 10 so that members can return home and properly quarantine for 15 days before the holidays.

He said he thinks leaders can agree on the framework of a Covid-19 relief bill by end of this weekend and pass it through the House Thursday but admits it is "optimistic."  He said agreed with McConnell about trying to pass a bill before next weekend.

“I said, ‘Mitch, you know, we need to get this done. There’s no magic about another week.’ And he agreed on that," Hoyer said.

2:07 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Shortening quarantine period could make more people willing to comply, CDC says

From CNN’s Jamie Gumbrecht

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hopes that more people might be willing to complete Covid-19 quarantine if the time period is reduced from 14 days – and that may result in fewer coronavirus infections, Dr. John Brooks, chief medical officer for the CDC’s Covid-19 response, said during a telebriefing on Wednesday.

“We believe that if we can reduce the burden a little bit, accepting that it comes at a small cost, we may get a greater compliance overall with people completing a full quarantine, and let's say, seven days, and when more people complete that, if we get more people on board to complete that overall, that will result in fewer infections,” Brooks said.

There is some risk a person who has left quarantine before 14 days could transmit the virus to others. The decision to change quarantine guidance came after “extensive” modeling by the CDC and other agencies that showed the risk of low, Brooks said.

“We can safely reduce the length of quarantine, but accepting there is a small residual risk that a person who is leaving quarantine early could transmit to someone else if they became infectious,” Brooks said. 

If a person quarantined for 10 days and had no symptoms and no test, the residual risk of transmitting coronavirus to someone else after quarantine is estimated to be about 1%, with an upper limit of about 10%, the CDC said on its website.

If a person quarantined for seven days and had no symptoms and a negative test, the risk of transmitting coronavirus is about 5%, with an upper limit of about 12%. A test should be collected within 48 hours before quarantine intends to end, and quarantine should not end before seven days, even if rest results are returned earlier.

If a person who ended quarantine early goes on to develop symptoms within 14 days, they should contact their local health authority and health care provider, seek out testing and isolate.

Correction: An earlier version of this story included a quote with incorrect percentages on risks after quarantine. The risk after a seven-day quarantine, among other requirements, is about 5%, with an upper limit of about 12%.

12:17 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Next 3 months will be the most difficult "in the public health history of this nation," CDC director warns

From CNN's Andrea Diaz

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield on Wednesday warned that the next few months are going to be rough, as the number of Covid-19 cases spike across the country.

"The reality is, December and January and February are gonna be rough times. I actually believe they're gonna be the most difficult in the public health history of this nation, largely because of the stress that's going to put on our health care system," Redfield said during a virtual conference with US Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Redfield says this is because as of today, 90% of the hospitals in this country are in the "red zone."

"Ninety percent of our hospitals in this nation are actually in what we call one of the hot zones in the red zone – therefore at risk for increased hospitalization and potential to negatively impact hospital capacity," Redfield said. "Ninety percent of all of our long-term care facilities are in what we call high transmission zones, so, we are at a very critical time right now about being able to maintain the resilience of our health care system."

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

Nobody's going to be "vaccinating at full speed on day one," immunization expert says

From CNN's John Bonifield

Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine vials.
Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine vials. Pfizer

Dr. Kelly Moore, associate director of the Immunization Action Coalition, which is supporting frontline workers who will administer Covid-19 vaccinations, said the first day that a vaccine is available is going to be "a really important learning day."

"Nobody's going to be running out of the gates to start vaccinating at full speed on day one," said Moore, who serves on the external advisory board for Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine.

Moore said day one will probably be designed to be a relatively small number of people vaccinated in controlled settings, so that those who are administering the vaccines can start learning how the product works and get experience giving the shots before they scale up and expand their offerings.

"One of the challenges that has not gotten a lot of attention is that we have not factored in space in our timeline to do a lot of hands-on training with the people who will be administering these vaccines," she said.

For example, Moore said vaccinators won't have access to product-specific factsheets and training materials until the US Food and Drug Administration authorizes emergency use of a coronavirus vaccine. She says her organization is waiting to see what the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posts before it can prepare materials to amplify what is distributed by the agency.

"CDC has informed states that they have a big stack of training job aids and training materials, and information, and training modules on these vaccines, ready to go, as soon as the emergency use is issued, but they can't post them or share them until the authorization is issued," Moore said. "We are preparing the groundwork for what we need to do, but we're in a holding pattern."

A CDC spokesperson told CNN it was their understanding that the materials do exist but cannot be distributed until the vaccine is given an emergency use authorization by the FDA.

In a statement, the FDA said, "We note that all printed material regarding the authorized emergency use of any vaccine must be consistent with the terms of the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). This includes the fact sheets for health care providers and for patients/vaccine recipients, which will be available upon authorization."

Moore said the product-specific training materials must wait for the EUA because certain information contained in them is contingent on the FDA's decision.

She said the current vaccine timeline does not leave a big window for vaccinators to learn about the products.

"They're going to be moving directly from paper to practice with very little time in between. So, that could be a challenge for folks," Moore said.

11:52 a.m. ET, December 2, 2020

CDC: The best way to protect yourself and others is to postpone holiday travel

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Travelers pass by a sign advertising hand sanitizer at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on November 29, 2020 in SeaTac, Washington. 
Travelers pass by a sign advertising hand sanitizer at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on November 29, 2020 in SeaTac, Washington.  David Ryder/Getty Images

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends postponing travel over the upcoming winter holidays for people to keep themselves and their families as safe as possible.

“CDC recommends that the best way to protect yourself and others is to postpone travel and stay home,” said Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s Covid-19 incident manager, during a news briefing on Wednesday. 

If people do decide to travel, “CDC recommends that travelers consider getting tested one to three days before travel,” Walke said. “And then again three to five days after travel.” 

This should be combined with reducing non-essential activities for a full seven days after travel, he said. For those who do not get tested after travelling, CDC recommends that non-essential activities are reduced for ten days. 

Walke said if Covid-19 symptoms are experienced at any point during or after travelling, people should follow CDC or local guidance about what to do if a person gets sick.

“Testing does not eliminate all risk, but when combined with reducing non-essential activities, symptom screening and continuing with precautions like wearing masks, social distancing and hand washing it can make travel safer,” Walke said. 
11:38 a.m. ET, December 2, 2020

More than 270,000 people in the US have died from coronavirus

There have been at least 13,741,687 cases of coronavirus in the US, and at least 270,881 people have died since the pandemic began, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

So far today, Johns Hopkins has reported 20,383 new cases and 239 reported deaths.

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