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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6:52 a.m. ET, December 4, 2020

University of Washington model projects almost 539,000 US Covid deaths by April

From CNN's Matthew Hilk

Medical staff stand by a bag that contains a deceased Covid-19 patient at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston on November 25.
Medical staff stand by a bag that contains a deceased Covid-19 patient at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston on November 25. Go Nakamura/Getty Images

An update from an influential University of Washington model paints a staggering picture of Covid deaths in the coming months -- and suggests that even a rapid vaccine rollout won't reduce that number by much.

The update from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) Friday morning projects 538,893 Americans could die from coronavirus by April 1. The model suggests daily deaths will peak in the range of 3,000 in mid-January before gradually falling. 

How vaccine developments could affect that: The data suggest that a "rapid vaccine rollout" would still mean about 527,704 deaths by April 1 -- a reduction of only about 11,000. The model covers primarily the period before vaccines are expected to be widely available to the public. 

Why masks are still so vital: Far more impactful, the model suggests, would be universal mask wearing. The model argues that over 66,000 American lives could be saved.

"Avoiding even larger death tolls depends critically on state governors implementing packages of mandates as hospital stress becomes high," the researchers write. 

On the other end of the spectrum, the modeling shows deaths by April would soar to 717,229 if safety mandates are dropped and not renewed as cases rise.

US President-elect Joe Biden told CNN's Jake Tapper on Thursday that he will ask Americans to wear masks for the first 100 days after he takes office -- in marked departure from President Donald Trump's approach to the pandemic.

Despite the continued spread of Covid-19 in the US, there continues to be resistance to wearing masks. At an Oval Office ceremony on Thursday, few people were wearing them, according to reporters who were in the room.

6:31 a.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Hong Kong reports more than 100 cases for the third time in ongoing "fourth wave"

From CNN's Jadyn Sham and Akanksha Sharma in Hong Kong

A worker in Hong Kong attends to people in line at a Covid-19 testing center on November 24.
A worker in Hong Kong attends to people in line at a Covid-19 testing center on November 24. Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Hong Kong reported 112 new coronavirus cases on Friday, with 12 considered imported, health authorities announced at a regular news conference.

This is the third time that the city’s new cases breached the 100 per day mark in its ongoing "fourth wave." The first time it happened was on November 29 and then on December 2, according to official figures.

Of the 100 local cases reported on Friday:

  • 36 were untraceable
  • 17 were traced back to dance studio clusters
  • 47 were related to previously reported cases.

The head of the Communicable Disease Branch of the Department of Health's Center for Health Protection, Dr Chuang Shuk-Kwan, warned that the number of confirmed cases was “still on the rise” and has not shown “any downward trend yet”.

The new cases bring the city’s total to 6,702. Two people died from Covid-19 in Hong Kong on Friday, bringing the city’s virus death toll to 112.

5:25 a.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Global deaths from Covid-19 surpass 1.5 million in another tragic milestone

The world hit another tragic milestone late Thursday as the number of deaths from coronavirus exceeded 1.5 million worldwide, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Covid-19 cases are now at 65.3 million globally, with the United States having the highest number of reported infections of any country at 14.1 million. It has also recorded more deaths than any other country, at 276,383.

Brazil has the second-highest number of deaths at 175,270, and 6.5 million cases.

India has the second-highest number of cases at 9.6 million and 139,188 deaths.

5:50 a.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Tokyo 2020 budget balloons to $15.3 billion on cost of Covid

From CNN’s Junko Ogura in Tokyo

The floating monument, consisting of the Olympic rings, placed in Tokyo Gulf, as a symbol of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games, in Tokyo, on December 1.
The floating monument, consisting of the Olympic rings, placed in Tokyo Gulf, as a symbol of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games, in Tokyo, on December 1. Ahmet Furkan Mercan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The postponed Tokyo Olympic Games are set to cost $2.7 billion more than initially projected, the organizing committee said Friday, taking the total cost of next year’s event to $15.3 billion.

The extra spend includes:

  • Cost of postponing of the games by one year: $1.5 billion
  • Cost of Covid-19 prevention measures: $0.9 billion
  • Added contingency sum: $0.3 billion

The entire cost of the games will be borne by the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Government of Japan.

“Tokyo 2020, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Government of Japan and other related parties will continue to work together in order to ensure that athletes from around the world can compete in the Games under perfect conditions and spectators can participate in a safe and secure environment, as proof that mankind has overcome the virus,” said Friday’s statement.

The cost of the Tokyo Olympics was initially projected at $12.6 billion, before the pandemic forced its postponement.

Sums are based on the exchange rate used by the Tokyo Organising Committee (USD 1 = JPY 107). 

4:58 a.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Indian Prime Minister says frontline healthcare workers and elderly will be vaccinated first

From CNN’s Manveena Suri in New Delhi and Akanksha Sharma in Hong Kong

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that vaccinations will begin “as soon as we get a go-ahead from the scientists,” and that the first phase of the rollout will prioritize frontline healthcare workers and older citizens.

Addressing an all-party meeting on Friday to discuss the Covid-19 situation, Modi said there were "nearly eight vaccines are on different stages of trial with their manufacturing assured in India.” 

Of these, three vaccines from India are at different stages of development, Modi added.

Central and state governments are now working together to coordinate distribution for when a vaccine is approved, Modi said, assuring that "experts think that the vaccine isn't too far away."

Case count: On Thursday, India reported 36,595 new cases and 540 additional deaths.

That raises the country's total to at least 9,571,559 cases and 139,188 virus-related deaths.

4:48 a.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Seoul to strengthen Covid-19 restrictions as city faces "desperate crisis"

From CNN’s Jake Kwon and Gawon Bae in Seoul 

South Korea’s capital Seoul will be placed under tougher Covid-19 prevention measures starting Saturday, with the city in a “desperate crisis," announced Acting Mayor Seo Jeong-hyup on Friday.

The city has already been put under an "emergency period" since November 24, but Seoul must now effectively "stop after 9 pm," Seo said. The announcement came after the greater metro area recorded 463 new cases from Thursday.

Under the new restrictions: Public venues including cinemas, study cafes, beauty salons and department stores must close after 9 p.m. Supermarkets smaller than 300 square meters (3,229 square feet) will be exempt. Public transport will reduce passenger capacity by 30% after 9 p.m.

The measures will last at least two weeks, Mayor Seo said. 

The whole country faces new rules: The government has designated a “special disease prevention effort period” from December 7 until January 3, during the peak of the holiday season, according to Yoon Tae-ho, a senior Health Ministry official.

During this period, the government will toughen inspections in high-risk facilities like restaurants, entertainment facilities, amusement parks and indoor gyms, all usually busy toward the end of the year.

Yoon urged people to postpone end-of-year meetings, move events online, cancel parties, and switch to online schooling.

5:42 a.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Vaccine makers insist they didn’t cut corners in speedy development of coronavirus shot

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla NBC

The makers of the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines insist they did not cut corners in the development of the shots, which normally take years.  

“The quality standard we held ourselves to was 30,000-person placebo controlled trial,” Moderna President Stephen Hoge said in an NBC interview that aired Thursday night. “That really is the gold standard. We still met that bar, even though we've moved quickly."

He said that taking out some of the business and financial caution that normally slows down development of drugs helped speed up the process in developing a Covid-19 vaccine.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla agreed no corners were cut in speeding up the development process. He cited the 30,000-person clinical trial as the “gold standard,” too.

“That happens exactly as would happen with any other vaccine,” he told host Lester Holt.

Both Pfizer and Moderna have applied for emergency use authorization for their vaccines from the US Food and Drug Administration. Pfizer’s will be considered December 10 and Moderna’s December 17.

Johnson & Johnson has a coronavirus vaccine that is still in a Phase 3 clinical trial, but company CEO Alex Gorsky said the development process is the same as it would be for any other vaccine.


5:38 a.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Biggest challenge for Covid-19 vaccine is still ahead, Biden Covid Task Force member says

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

Dr. Marcella Nunez Smith
Dr. Marcella Nunez Smith NBC

The coronavirus vaccines have been developed in record time and an historic partnership between the government and private sector has been forged to deliver the shots -- but the biggest challenge is still ahead, according to the co-chair of the Biden-Harris Covid Task Force. 

“In some of our hardest hit communities, we know that there is quite a degree of vaccine hesitance and caution,” Dr. Marcella Nunez Smith told NBC News in an interview that aired Thursday.

People actually have to get the vaccine for it to work, said Nunez Smith, who is Founding Director of the Equity Research and Innovation Center at the Yale School of Medicine.

“We have a significant challenge right now in our country because we've walked away from science,” she told host Lester Holt. 

“What we have to do is find out what questions people have. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that trust has decayed between Americans and the federal government, and it will take work to rebuild and restore that confidence.”

5:34 a.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Vaccine makers describe the "incredible moment” they realized the shots worked

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

The president of biotechnology company Moderna, Stephen Hoge, speaks with NBC.
The president of biotechnology company Moderna, Stephen Hoge, speaks with NBC. NBC

Vaccine makers said they felt both excitement and relief when they realized they had a Covid-19 vaccine that worked.

The CEO of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Albert Bourla, told NBC News on Thursday that his company had invested $2 billion of its own capital into the vaccine, and did not accept any of the $12 billion the US government offered to vaccine developers.

He added that it was "an incredible moment" when he found out Pfizer’s vaccine was 95% effective.

“The next day, when I went home with my wife and kids and I sat on the couch with a glass of wine, I realized what does this mean for the world," he said.

The president of biotechnology company Moderna, Stephen Hoge, said he was relieved when he was told the Moderna vaccine was 94% effective in clinical trials.

“They notified us of the vaccine efficacy,” Hoge said. “I don't think I remembered another thing for about 20 minutes. There was this overwhelming sense of relief.” 

Both Pfizer and Moderna have applied for emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration for their vaccines. Pfizer’s will be considered December 10 and Moderna’s on December 17.