December 4 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Brett McKeehan, Emma Reynolds, Hannah Strange, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:05 a.m. ET, December 5, 2020
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3:02 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

California shatters daily Covid-19 case record

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

Specimen bags at a Covid-19 testing site in San Francisco, California, on December 1.
Specimen bags at a Covid-19 testing site in San Francisco, California, on December 1. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images

California has shattered its own Covid-19 records in Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions.

The state added 22,018 new Covid-19 cases Friday, a new record for California's daily infection figure. The total number of confirmed cases is at least 1,286,557 since the start of the pandemic. 

Hospitalizations are also at the highest level seen yet, with more than 9,940 admitted patients. More than 2,200 of those are in intensive care units.

ICU capacity is the single threshold that will trigger California’s new stay-at-home order by region. If and when each of the five regions dip below 15% ICU capacity, the stay-home order will be enacted. None of the areas currently meets that threshold.

The positivity rate in California stands at about 7.5% with an average of about 210,000 tests being conducted each day.

To note: These numbers were released by the California 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. 

2:29 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

20 million Americans will be able to get a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the year, health official says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

A Department of Health and Human Services employee holds a Covid-19 vaccine record card on November 13 in Washington, D.C. The cards will be sent out as part of vaccination kits from Operation Warp Speed.
A Department of Health and Human Services employee holds a Covid-19 vaccine record card on November 13 in Washington, D.C. The cards will be sent out as part of vaccination kits from Operation Warp Speed. EJ Hersom/Department of Defense

By the end of this year, it's expected that at least 20 million people in the United States will be able to get Covid-19 vaccines, Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir said Friday.

"We have the expectation that at least 20 million Americans will be able to receive Covid vaccines by the end of this year," Giroir said in recorded remarks during a meeting of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee hosted by the US Department of Health and Human Services Friday.

"As you know, the FDA will also be considering emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine after the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee meeting on Dec. 10, and we anticipate the Moderna vaccine will be considered by the committee the following week," Giroir added. "We all expect these to be the first and second of a number of vaccines to be considered for an EUA."

Remember: The US Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved any coronavirus vaccine.

The FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, a panel of independent experts, will meet Thursday to review Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine candidate and make a recommendation about whether to authorize the vaccine. A similar FDA committee meeting for Moderna's vaccine candidate is set for Dec. 17.

FDA officials say their decisions on the vaccines could come days to weeks after the meetings — it depends on what questions come up.

1:23 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

More than 1,000 migrant children in US government custody tested positive for Covid-19 since March

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

More than 1,000 migrant children in US government custody have tested positive for coronavirus since March, according to the federal agency charged with their care. 

In total, there have been 1,061 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases among unaccompanied migrant children in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a federal agency that falls under the Health and Human Services Department.

Of the 1,061 cases, 943 children have recovered and been moved from medical isolation, according to the agency. 

Currently, 118 children have tested positive and remain in medical isolation, though none of the children have required hospitalization. 

HHS funds a network of more than 100 shelters where migrant children who arrived in the United States without parents or guardians are provided care until they're released to sponsors. 

Children who have had coronavirus while in care were in shelters in New York, Oregon, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, Virginia, California, and Florida.

In a November court declaration, the acting ORR director, Nicole Cubbage, suggested that children are becoming infected prior to entering custody.

“The number of recently referred UAC who test positive during their initial medical examination (which is administered within 48 business hours of a UAC entering care) has also increased significantly in recent weeks, suggesting that these UAC are becoming infected prior to entering ORR custody,” Cubbage said in her declaration, referring to unaccompanied children. 

The Trump administration has argued that children should be swiftly removed from the United States after being apprehended from the southern border – a change from prior practice which required children be turned over to HHS after being taken into custody by the Department of Homeland Security.

Last month, a federal judge blocked the administration from turning back unaccompanied migrant children at the US-Mexico border under a public health order implemented in March. The administration has since appealed the ruling. 

1:21 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Miami-Dade County's coronavirus positivity rate has jumped 91% over 2 months

From CNN's Tina Burnside 

Over the course of two months, the coronavirus positivity rate in Florida's Miami-Dade County has spiked 91%, according to the county's Chief Medical Officer Peter Paige. 

During a roundtable discussion on Friday, Paige said overall numbers in the county continue heading in the wrong direction.

Paige said the county is currently at 9.77% positivity for the number of coronavirus infections in comparison to two months ago where the positivity rate was 5.11%. 

Paige says hospitalizations have also spiked 139% over the last 60 days. As of Thursday, there are 815 patients hospitalized due to Covid-19 in comparison to two months ago where there were only 341 covid-19 patients, Paige said. 

Intensive care unit rates have also jumped 58% in the last two months, Paige said.

"This is particularly concerning considering we really don't know that the most challenging days may still be ahead of us," Paige said. 

Paige said it's even more critical at this point to prepare for the future and is urging people to follow strict Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to help slow the spread of the virus. 

Remember: The positivity rate is not a measure of how many cases there are, it is the percentage of all coronavirus tests performed that show someone has Covid-19.

1:26 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

HHS launches national ad campaign promoting Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Kristen Holmes

A health worker injects a person during clinical trials for Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine at Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida on September 9.
A health worker injects a person during clinical trials for Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine at Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida on September 9. Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The Department of Health and Human Services launched their national ad campaign promoting awareness about the forthcoming coronavirus vaccines with a modest $150,000 ad buy on YouTube.

The ads, which will stream across the platform, come from snippets of a public service announcement from October featuring Dr. Anthony Fauci. The ads will link to the full video that breaks down exactly how the vaccine works and includes FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn on the approval process and why the vaccine will be safe. 

In the public service announcement, Fauci touts the importance of vaccines.

“One of the great triumphs of medical science in dealing with infectious diseases has been vaccinations. It has saved hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of people’s lives,” he says.

According to an administration official, HHS will be spending $250 million on a national education campaign and is planning for a much larger push using digital and social media to begin as early as next week to help “prepare the nation for the vaccine when it is available for public distribution through the states.” 

An HHS spokesperson said the work on the public health education campaign began last summer, when officials announced a controversial, $15 million celebrity-fueled ad campaign intended to “defeat despair” around coronavirus.

Democrats lambasted the idea as an effort to promote President Trump ahead of the election, and it was scuttled.

Following questions from Congress in October, HHS Secretary Alex Azar testified that he had “ordered a strategic review of this public health education campaign.”

The review was completed on Nov. 13.

According to an administration official, the government then canceled that contract and has since shifted strategy on their education campaign to a “science-based” approach and is working on a “new creative for vaccine acceptance- based on focus group, public surveys and secondary research.” 

Health care officials have raised concerns that there is not currently a national education or advertisement campaign in effect to help promote the vaccines safety, offer information and temper expectations. 

“For this administration, the vaccine has been the silver bullet. But, they aren’t explaining to people that they need to be patient,” one health care official in touch with Operation Warp Speed said. “What happens when mobs of people show up on December 15, demanding the vaccine? That’s why we need an education component.”

12:32 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Couple who participated in vaccine trial has a message for anyone hesitant to get one

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

CNN
CNN

Karen and Steve Coma, a North Carolina couple, said it was “public service” and “doing our part” that compelled them to volunteer in the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine trial.

“We both — my mother, Steve's parents — have people that are at an at-risk age or state and felt it was important for us to help expedite this,” Karen said. 

Her mother, who has dementia and is in a long-term care facility, just tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday. 

“It just made me realize how important this is for so many,” Karen said. “Because we have so many elders in long-term care facilities and nursing facilities across the country.”

Her mother does not have any symptoms and is “doing fine,” Karen said.

While they do not know if they received the actual vaccine or if they received a placebo, they have a guess. 

Steve said he had some mild muscle ache and tiredness, while Karen and their daughter — who also participated in the trial — did not experience any side effects. 

“It would not prevent me from going to work, really just sort of mild symptoms,” he said. 

Their message for anyone wary about taking a vaccine?

“Overcome that hesitation and get vaccinated … Break the cycle,” Steve said. 

Watch:

12:24 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Here's where stimulus talks stand on Capitol Hill

From CNN's Lauren Fox

What a difference a week makes.

On Monday, it looked like nothing was going to happen on stimulus. Now, it's possible a deal is brokered in a matter of days.

It's crunch time. If a bipartisan group of lawmakers is actually going to unlock a stimulus agreement and present it in writing by Monday, there is a lot of work left to do.

Here's what's happening now: Aides familiar with the process tell CNN that members are working around the clock and have broken into teams to hammer out specific sections of the bill. Democratic Sen. Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois and Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas are quietly working on a compromise for the liability insurance section. 

Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia are working on a formula that could work for state and local governments, including possibly setting a cap at how much any one state could receive. The intention would be to block large states from getting as much money as they might have gotten in the last round based on the old formula.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear, according to multiple aides involved, that he'd like to see a proposal Monday. That's what Manchin has said publicly, too. 

So what's actually in the plan? The proposal includes:

  • $300 a week in enhanced federal unemployment benefits (there is still a debate about how retroactive this could be)
  • A continued pause on student loan payments
  • Eviction moratorium
  • Another round of money for the Paycheck Protection Program
  • $16 billion for vaccine development and distribution and Covid-19 testing and tracing
  • Extension of unemployment programs that allowed gig workers to file for unemployment insurance
  • Extension of the program that allows unemployed Americans to get 39 weeks instead of 26
11:45 a.m. ET, December 4, 2020

This 23-year-old athlete may never return to sports after suffering from coronavirus

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

CNN
CNN

Until last week, Riley Behrens was a healthy 23-year-old rugby player. Then he contracted Covid-19.

“I really did not believe it at first,” he told CNN. “I thought if I get sick, if I test positive, I'm just going to have a little bit of trouble but I'll be OK. And I was not OK.”

Doctors told Behrens that he had a mini stroke stemming from Covid-19.

“[I] didn't think it would be that bad when I first tested positive. I thought OK, I’d be sick for a couple days. I’ll get over this. I think it's so important to realize how unpredictable the virus is and just start taking it seriously.”

Behrens thinks the virus possibly reached him through a wedding that he was not at but someone he knows attended, because several attendees from that wedding had gotten sick.

The ordeal has left Behrens weak and still in recovery, while he is being told he will “likely never return to contact sports because of lasting lung and brain damage. The risk for a second stroke will always be there, and another head injury could be fatal,” he tweeted Sunday.

Watch more:

11:16 a.m. ET, December 4, 2020

The 4 key areas that can help end the coronavirus pandemic, according to WHO's director-general

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

A health worker in Hollywood, Florida, injects a person during clinical trials for a Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on September 9.
A health worker in Hollywood, Florida, injects a person during clinical trials for a Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on September 9. Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg/Getty Images

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained four key areas that countries need to invest in to help end the coronavirus pandemic.

They are:

  1. Covid-19 vaccines
  2. Preparedness for the next pandemic
  3. Health as a foundation of peace and prosperity
  4. Multilateralism to safeguard the world's common future

"The pandemic has proven that a health crisis is not just a health crisis; it is a social, economic, political and humanitarian crisis," Tedros said during a special session of the United Nations on Friday. "If the world is to avoid another crisis on this scale, investments in basic public health functions — and especially primary health care — are essential."

Tedros called for national leaders to come together in solidarity.

"The risks of under-investment in health have wide-ranging impacts, and so do the benefits of investing in health," he said.

"Health is an investment in successful societies. It enables individuals, families, communities and nations to flourish. The world spends $7.5 trillion on health every year — almost 10% of global GDP. But most of this spending is in the richest countries, and is disproportionately directed to treating disease, rather than promoting and protecting health," Tedros continued. "We need a radical rethink of the way we view and value health."