December 5 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Brett McKeehan and Eoin McSweeney, CNN

Updated 0546 GMT (1346 HKT) December 6, 2020
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12:48 a.m. ET, December 5, 2020

US health secretary takes thinly veiled swipe at China over coronavirus information

From CNN's Maggie Fox

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on November 19.
US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on November 19. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Friday attacked the World Health Organization and -- without naming it -- China for what he said was a lack of timely sharing of information about the origins and spread of the coronavirus.

In recorded remarks played at the United Nations General Assembly, Azar complained about “dereliction of duty” while praising the US for speeding coronavirus vaccines to market.

“The World Health Assembly directed WHO to undertake an investigation into the origins of the virus, but the results are not expected until next year -- an unacceptable timeframe,” Azar said.
“Even worse, international experts will be expected just to review the conclusions of one country’s experts -- far from the kind of collaborative spirit we need to get to the truth,” he added, using the non-diplomatic language that has characterized the Trump administration.
“The key issue is not where the virus first appeared -- it is whether information about the virus was shared in a timely and transparent way. Sadly, the necessary information sharing did not happen, and this dereliction of duty has been absolutely devastating for the entire globe.”

Azar did not mention that the US withdrew its support for WHO under President Donald Trump, or Trump’s constant barrage of blame, accusing China of spreading the virus.

“Sadly, some countries have also attempted to take advantage of the pandemic to pursue economic, diplomatic, or security gains with hard-hit countries. The United States has taken a different path. Our work on vaccines for Covid-19 has been fully transparent, and we will follow all the usual and stringent American safety and quality protocols to produce countermeasures that the whole world can trust. The United States will make these tools available to our partners and friends once we take care of the American people,” Azar said.

He did not say who he meant by “some countries.”

“The United States is providing to countries combating the virus more funding, equipment, and support than any other nation. This is what the United States does in times of crisis, because we have a positive vision and a commitment to strengthen our friends, not take advantage of their misfortunes,” Azar concluded.

11:26 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Los Angeles mayor says surge in Covid-19 cases is "greatest threat to life" ever faced by city

From CNN's Sarah Moon

Los Angeles County set records Friday for the highest number of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations for the third time in a single week.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday’s numbers would have been unimaginable just a few weeks ago, and called the surge “the greatest threat to life” the city has ever faced.

"We’re on the verge of 10,000 cases daily with the numbers that we’re seeing this week," Garcetti said. "Getting this virus under control is mission crucial for Los Angeles."

The county reported 8,860 new cases and 2,668 hospitalizations on Friday, according to a press release from the local Department of Public Health.

Los Angeles is projected to reach half a million coronavirus cases by the end of this year, according to Garcetti.

Public health officials are urging residents not to travel this holiday season, and stay home if possible.

"Los Angeles County continues to experience a pandemic that is moving in a direction that will cause significantly more suffering and deaths,” Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “As case numbers and hospitalizations continue to rapidly increase, the number of individuals who will experience severe health outcomes will also increase.”

Once 85% of ICU beds are filled in the Southern California region, Los Angeles County will impose additional closures to some businesses including personal care services like nail and hair salons, and family entertainment centers like zoos and museums.

Garcetti said he expects the region will pass the 85% ICU bed capacity threshold in the next few days.


12:42 a.m. ET, December 5, 2020

Authorities are worried a Thanksgiving and Christmas surge in Covid-19 cases could be dire

Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Dr. Anthony Fauci. CNN

Another 500,000-plus people in the US could die of Covid-19 between now and April, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

Speaking to CNN during its global coronavirus town hall, Fauci said the number of US fatalities could get as bad as that predicted by a reliable model from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

That model predicts another 539,000 people could be killed by the virus.

"We have a number of conflating events occurring," Fauci said. "We have the surge that we know has gone on before the Thanksgiving holiday -- that very steep inflection of cases that has led to the record numbers."

Fauci said the US was yet to see the effects of any Thanksgiving holiday-related surge.

"That may peak two to three weeks from now, and they will cusp at the Christmas holiday," Fauci told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "We are really very concerned if you take the Thanksgiving surge, the Christmas surge -- by the time you get to December and the beginning of January, we very well could see the numbers you just mentioned."

However, Fauci said the country could stem the tide if the public wears masks, practices social distancing and avoids crowds.

"Those simple things alone, despite the enormity of the problem, can make a difference. Because it has been proven it does make a difference," he said. "So we all need to pull together to do that because as I've said so many times, help is on the way. Vaccines are imminent. We will be starting to get vaccine doses in people's arms by the middle and end of December, and then more in January."

11:25 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Parts of the US medical system are under strain and may cause temporary lockdowns, Fauci says

Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Dr. Anthony Fauci. Source: CNN

The sharp rise in Covid-19 cases across the US has placed the health care system under strain -- which may cause temporary lockdowns, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert, told CNN.

Fauci specifically referenced conversations he's had with medical colleagues in Los Angeles, California, where the health care system "is really strained."

"There are some situations where they will be doing temporary lockdowns because they cannot strain the health care system any more," Fauci said. "The unimaginable thing, that no one wants to see happen, that when you have such a strain on the beds, and on the personnel, the health care personnel, that you are going to deprive people from the kind of care they need."

Fauci added: "If it requires doing more drastic things, or draconian things, like maybe a temporary shutdown some areas, I think some of the areas of the country are thinking about that, I know as a fact. In California, in some places, they are thinking about that."

11:22 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

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

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Masks are "critical" to controlling the spread of coronavirus -- and that includes at home sometimes, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 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 CDC's Margaret Honein, Dr. Henry Walke and colleagues wrote.

Read more here.

11:11 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

When can the average American get a Covid-19 vaccine?

Lisa Taylor receives a Covid-19 vaccination from RN Jose Muniz as she takes part in a vaccine study at Research Centers of America on August 7 in Hollywood, Florida. 
Lisa Taylor receives a Covid-19 vaccination from RN Jose Muniz as she takes part in a vaccine study at Research Centers of America on August 7 in Hollywood, Florida.  Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Most average, healthy Americans who are not elderly and have no underlying conditions will likely be able to get a Covid-19 vaccine at the end of March or start of April, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci said it's important for everyone to get vaccinated because the quicker that's done, the quicker the US can establish "an umbrella of herd immunity" so the pandemic stops spreading at its current rapid rate.

Herd immunity, Fauci said, "is so, so important in bringing the level of virus to way, way down to below the threatening level. The sooner we get there, the better we are."

A powerful vaccine: Fauci said he did not expect the vaccines awaiting FDA approval to be as effective as they are.

"We had technological advances that allowed us to do things in weeks to months that normally would have taken several years," he said. "That didn't compromise any safety, it didn't compromise any scientific integrity. We invested an extraordinary amount of money to get the doses ready as soon as the vaccine was ready to be administered."
12:26 a.m. ET, December 5, 2020

Mexico sets new single-day record with 12,127 Covid-19 infections

From CNN's Abel Alvarado in Atlanta

Mexico reported 12,127 new Covid-19 cases over the last 24 hours -- setting a new single-day record for fresh infections in the country.

Its total confirmed cases stand at 1,144,643, according to the health ministry. 

The ministry also confirmed 690 more related deaths Friday, taking the country's total death toll to 108,863.  

Mexico has the fourth-highest number of coronavirus deaths in the world, trailing only the United States, Brazil and India, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally.

12:22 a.m. ET, December 5, 2020

US FDA authorizes first Covid-19 flu combo test for at-home sample collection

From CNN Health’s Shelby Lin Erdman

The US Food and Drug Administration said Friday it has authorized the first emergency use for a combination coronavirus and flu test for at-home sample collection. It can detect both Covid-19 and influenza A and B.

Health care providers can prescribe the test for people suspected of having Covid-19 for sample collection at home, the FDA said.

The new test is a “significant step” in the agency’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said Friday in a statement.

“With the authorization of this test, the FDA is helping to address the ongoing fight against Covid-19 while in the middle of the flu season, which is important for many, including the most vulnerable of Americans,” Hahn said.

Hahn said the test, which comes as flu season ramps up in the US, allows suspected Covid-19-positive patients to remain in quarantine at home while waiting for test results. 

“This efficiency can go a long way to providing timely information for those sick with an unknown respiratory ailment,” Hahn added.