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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4:00 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

"We've got a lot of work to do" on vaccine distribution, Biden says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden said “there's a lot more that has to be done” when it comes to distributing any possible coronavirus vaccine. 

The Trump administration has “clued us in on their planning on how they plan to distribute the vaccine to the various states,” Biden said. “But there is no detailed plan that we've seen, anyway, as to how you get the vaccine out of a container into an injection syringe into somebody's arm. It's going to be very difficult for that to be done and it's a very expensive proposition.”

Biden said he agrees with prioritizing first-responders, nursing home residents and health care workers, but there also “has to be some equity in the way this is distributed.”

Biden called Covid-19’s effects on Black and Latino populations a “mass casualty event.”

He said delivering the vaccine to “major drug chains does not get you into a lot of these neighborhoods, and it doesn't guarantee that it gets around, so we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Watch here:

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

CDC: Masks are critical to stopping coronavirus spread — sometimes, even at home

From CNN's Maggie Fox

A woman walks past a shop selling masks in Edinburgh, Scotland on September 22.
A woman walks past a shop selling masks in Edinburgh, Scotland on September 22. Jane Barlow/PA Images /Getty Images

Masks are “critical” in controlling the spread of coronavirus — and that includes at home sometimes, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

A CDC review of what works makes it clear that mask use, physical distancing, avoiding crowds and washing hands all could help control the spread of the virus – and would allow kids to go back to school and businesses to reopen.

“Consistent and correct use of face masks is a public health strategy critical to reducing respiratory transmission of SARS-CoV-2, particularly in light of estimates that approximately one half of new infections are transmitted by persons who have no symptoms,” the CDC summary of guidance reads.

The CDC has gradually been strengthening its recommendations on mask use. “Compelling evidence now supports the benefits of cloth face masks for both source control (to protect others) and, to a lesser extent, protection of the wearer,” the team wrote.

Masks work so well that certain communities should consider giving them out, the CDC team said. 

“A community-level plan for distribution of face masks to specific populations, such as those who might experience barriers to access, should be developed,” the CDC team wrote in the agency’s weekly report.

“Because the highest risk for transmission has been documented among household contacts of Covid-19 patients, keeping the household safe requires physical distancing, using the other public health strategies summarized here, and, in particular, consistent and correct use of face masks (outside the household and in some circumstances within the household) to prevent introduction and transmission of SARS-CoV-2,” they added. 

Physical distancing is also important.

“Although the impact of physical distancing is difficult to disaggregate from other interventions, one study estimated that physical distancing decreased the average number of daily contacts by as much as 74%,” they added. Consistent physical distancing could stop the spread, the CDC said.

3:49 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Biden says he is "encouraged" by efforts to pass a $900 billion relief package

President-elect Joe Biden said one of the most important aspects of the $900 billion relief package being negotiated on Capitol Hill is the money it will provide to public health as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage in the US.

"I am encouraged by the bipartisan efforts in the Senate around $900 billion package for relief. It's a bipartisan effort. When Congress works out the details of this relief package, they're going to have to focus on resources for direct public health responses to Covid-19," Biden said during a news conference this afternoon in Wilmington, Delaware. "We need meaningful funding for vaccines now, so we don't lose time and leave people waiting for additional months. We need serious funding for testing now. We need to ramp up testing, allow our schools and businesses to operate safely. The sooner we pass the funding, the sooner we can turn the corner on Covid-19."

Biden was emphatic that "Congress and President Trump have to get this deal done for the American people."

"But any package passed in the lame duck session is not going to be enough overall. It's critical, but it's just a start. Congress are going to need to act again in January," the President-elect said.

Watch here:

3:52 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Biden on the economy: We must act now "to regain momentum and start to build back a better future"

President-elect Joe Biden speaks on the latest unemployment figures at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware on December 4.
President-elect Joe Biden speaks on the latest unemployment figures at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware on December 4. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden called today's job's report — the last of 2020 — "grim," and said that the coronavirus pandemic has put millions of Americans into financial trouble "through no fault of them own."

He said the federal government must step up "now."

“If we act now — now, I mean now — we can begin to regain momentum and start to build back a better future," Biden said while speaking in Delaware.

Biden applauded the bipartisan effort in the Senate for a coronavirus relief package.

What was in today's job's report: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the US economy added 245,000 jobs in November on a seasonally adjusted basis. It was 224,000 fewer than economists had expected, as the job recovery continues to slow.

Watch here:

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.”