December 6 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Jenni Marsh and Amy Woodyatt, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 7, 2020
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10:04 a.m. ET, December 6, 2020

Operation Warp Speed official praises Biden's plan for Americans to mask up for 100 days

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific advisor for Operation Warp Speed, told CNN that he thinks President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to ask all Americans to wear masks for his first 100 days in office is a good idea. 

“I think it’s a good idea, it’s never too late,” Slaoui said. “This pandemic is ravaging the country.”

Slaoui said that everyone needs to take precautions, wear masks, wash their hands, keep their distance and “remain aware that this virus is a killer.”  

“We have a vaccine, there is light at the end of the tunnel but we will not all have the vaccine in our arms before May or June so we need to be very cautious and vigilant,” he added.

More background: Biden told CNN on Thursday that he will ask Americans to wear masks for the first 100 days after he takes office, in a sign of how Biden's approach to the virus will be dramatically different from President Trump's response.

"Just 100 days to mask, not forever. One hundred days. And I think we'll see a significant reduction," Biden said Thursday.

9:11 a.m. ET, December 6, 2020

UK to have 4 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by end of year

From CNN's Mia Alberti and Niamh Kennedy

Specialist Covid-19 vaccine freezers in a secure location, awaiting distribution of the vaccines to the NHS.
Specialist Covid-19 vaccine freezers in a secure location, awaiting distribution of the vaccines to the NHS. Public Health England

Health officials in the United Kingdom expect to have up to 4 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine available by the end of December.

The UK became the first Western country to authorize a Covid-19 vaccine on Wednesday, marking a pivotal moment in the global fight against coronavirus.

"We know the first batch of 800,000 [doses] is making its way to the country now... and we are expecting in the low millions, so up to 4 million doses, to be with us by the end of December," Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers told Sky News on Sunday.

Vaccinations to begin next week: The health official said 50 hospital hubs across the UK have already received their allocation of the vaccine, and that the distribution of the vaccine is "really well underway now." Covid-19 vaccinations are set to begin on Tuesday in England, Wales and Scotland.

The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, enough to vaccinate 20 million people or one-third of the UK population.

“Despite the huge complexities, hospitals will kickstart the first phase of the largest scale vaccination campaign in our country’s history from Tuesday. The first tranche of vaccine deliveries will be landing at hospitals by Monday in readiness," professor Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, said in a news release on Sunday.

"Robust" authorization process: Cordery also addressed concerns regarding the safety of the jab, saying its "authorization and approval process has been incredibly robust."

"Yes, it has been shorter than other vaccine approval processes, but that's because everything all has been thrown at this all in one go, rather than the much more bureaucratic process we've been seeing with other vaccine approvals where perhaps the need has been less pressing," she added.

The head of Britain's medicines regulator also put out assurances on Sunday, saying the Pfizer/BioNTech jab is "as safe as any general vaccine."

"My main message is that the safety profile of the Covid-19 vaccine is really no different than any other vaccine -- you might have a mild symptom but it will probably disappear in a day or two, and nothing at all of serious nature," June Raine, head of the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), told the BBC.

Raine also explained health officials will carefully monitor people after having the vaccine.

7:43 a.m. ET, December 6, 2020

They couldn't say goodbye in person, so ICU patients are using tablets instead

From CNN's Giulia Heyward and Douglas S. Wood

Some hospitals are stocking enough iPads to rival a modest Apple store. But the reason for this reflects a grim reality: They're being used to connect Covid-19 patients with their families -- sometimes, for the last conversation they'll ever have.

When Dr. Mark Shapiro posted about a patient saying goodbye to his family via an iPad, he wanted to communicate to others the severity of this pandemic.

"As the ICU (intensive care unit) team makes ready, there's a key step we mustn't forget," Shapiro, who is a hospitalist at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital in California, wrote on Twitter. "At first he says "No," but we encourage him. The nurse brings in the iPad. With the last air in his shattered lungs, he says goodbye to his family. Over an internet connection."

Hospitals have been overwhelmed by the thousands of patients coming in every day after contracting coronavirus. Across the US, there's been a shortage of hospital supplies for medical staff and beds for patients.

And the contagious nature of the illness has forced hospitals to limit, and often forbid, visitation rights to mitigate its spread. The latest solution has been the implementation of iPad stations and other virtual technology so patients can communicate with their friends and family -- often, for the last time.

Read the full story here:

7:40 a.m. ET, December 6, 2020

1 million new coronavirus cases have been added to the US total -- in just 5 days

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

People come to be tested for Covid-19 at a test site at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey, on December 3.
People come to be tested for Covid-19 at a test site at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey, on December 3. David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

After the first cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the United States on January 20, it took almost 100 days to reach 1 million infections. Now, the country has added more than 1 million cases to its grim total in just five days.

From Tuesday to Saturday, 1,000,882 new coronavirus cases were reported in the US, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, bringing the total to more than 14.5 million confirmed cases and 281,199 deaths from the virus.

The month of November registered frightening peaks in the daily number of new coronavirus cases -- reaching 100,000 for the first time, as well as spikes in hospitalizations and deaths. On the second day of December, more than 200,000 new cases were reported for the previous 24 hours.

A grim prognosis: And as the impacts of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings begin to reveal themselves, and hospitals fill to capacity, experts say it is likely to get worse.

"Every single day, thousands more people are getting this virus, and we know that means that in a few days, in a week, hundreds of people are going to be coming to the hospital and hundreds of people are going to die," Dr. Shirlee Xie, a hospitalist and associate director of hospital medicine for Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis, told CNN's Ana Cabrera, her voice breaking with emotion.

"I think that sometimes when you hear statistics like that, you become numb to what those numbers mean," she said. "But for us, the people that are taking care of these patients, every single number is somebody that we have to look at and say, 'I'm sorry, there's nothing more I can do for you.'"

More than 100,000 Covid-19 patients have been hospitalized nationwide for the past four days, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Read the full story here.

6:22 a.m. ET, December 6, 2020

South Korea to toughen distancing measures as coronavirus cases continue to rise

From CNN's Jake Kwon in Seoul

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo speaks during a meeting of the Central Disease Control Headquarters at the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, on July 20.
Health Minister Park Neung-hoo speaks during a meeting of the Central Disease Control Headquarters at the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, on July 20. YONHAP/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

South Korea's Minister of Health Park Neung-hoo announced the country will raise its social distancing measures from this Tuesday, as the capital city area has entered a "widespread stage."

South Korea was widely praised as a Covid-19 success story, and had managed to keep the pandemic largely under control.

But there are now more active Covid-19 cases in South Korea than at any other point through the pandemic, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

Pandemic is on the brink of spreading: The Seoul Metropolitan Area will enter the fourth-highest level of social distancing restrictions in a five-level system for three weeks starting on Tuesday at 12 a.m. local time, Park said Sunday.

Park noted that past distancing measures had not yielded a clear result and that the pandemic is at the brink of spreading to the rest of the country.

There are currently 7,873 Covid-19 patients in the country, which has recorded a total of 37,546 cases and 545 deaths since the pandemic began.

Seoul restrictions: From Tuesday in the Seoul Metropolitan Area, gatherings including those at weddings and funerals must not exceed 50 people. Karaoke businesses and gyms must close, and spectators will be banned at sports events.

Hair salons and movie theatres must close after 9 p.m. The government will strongly recommend private businesses transition to work from home so only one-third of workers are in the workplace.

Masks mandatory as Covid-19 hospital beds could run out: In the rest of the country, masks will become mandatory in all indoor facilities, and gatherings must not exceed 100 people. Bars and clubs will be closed, and restaurants will only be allowed to serve takeout and deliveries past 9 p.m.

If the current trend persists, beds dedicated to critical care of Covid-19 patients will run out in about a week, Park said. Park said the health authority will work to secure more critical care beds dedicated to Covid-19 patients from 177 beds currently, to 274 beds by December 15.

"We are no longer recommending refraining from having gatherings. Please cancel all of them and reduce all activity for these three weeks," Park said.

5:59 a.m. ET, December 6, 2020

Tokyo records highest daily spike in Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Junko Ogura in Tokyo

Tokyo reported its highest daily increase in Covid-19 infections on Saturday, with 584 new cases, according to Japan’s Health Ministry. 

On Saturday, 2,514 new Covid-19 cases and 32 deaths were registered throughout the country.

The southwestern city of Osaka recorded 399 new cases, its fifth straight day with more than 300 new infections. 

The number of people suffering severe symptoms is rising in Japan, with 520 people currently in intensive care.

There have been 160,810 Covid-19 cases reported in Japan and at least 2,318 people have died of the virus.

5:22 a.m. ET, December 6, 2020

Russia reports its highest daily number of new Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Mary Ilyushina in Moscow

Medical workers wearing protective gear return to their ambulance after transferring a patient suspected of having Covid-19 at a hospital in Kommunarka, outside Moscow, on December 5.
Medical workers wearing protective gear return to their ambulance after transferring a patient suspected of having Covid-19 at a hospital in Kommunarka, outside Moscow, on December 5. Pavel Golovkin/AP

Russia reported 29,039 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, the highest number of cases it has ever reported in a single day, according to data from the country’s coronavirus response center. The previous record was set just a day before with 28,782 cases recorded that day. 

The total number of coronavirus cases reported in Russia as of December 6 is 2,460,770. 

The country reported 457 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the overall official toll to 43,141.

Russia’s counting methods of Covid-19 deaths have been questioned by independent observers and demographers with CNN previously reporting the numbers could be vastly understated. 

4:19 a.m. ET, December 6, 2020

Europe's social safety net is often considered the gold standard. Coronavirus has exposed its holes

From CNN's Emma Reynolds in London

Ros Davies is usually busiest at Christmas, building magnificent sets and stages for London's most sparkling parties and events.

This year, the fairytale is canceled. Davies, a self-employed carpenter hasn't worked since March because of the pandemic and has no idea when she may do so again.

She's living in temporary accommodation found for her in the city by St. Mungo's, a homelessness charity, while a plan to get her into permanent housing is on hold.

"I was hoping to move on and sort my life properly but ... here we are," the 50-year old told CNN Business. "I wouldn't have believed if you had said a year ago that your job's going to stop in March and that's it, you might never work doing that again."

Davies did some retraining in painting and decorating, but with England just coming out of a second lockdown it hasn't led to any work. She has gone from regular jobs that paid enough for her to take vacations, to complete reliance on UK social security payments of just over £400 ($530) a month.

Workers falling through the cracks: Coronavirus has revealed gaping holes in European social safety nets that are often seen as the gold standard. While many countries introduced support programs for workers affected by the pandemic, people are falling through the cracks. Most often, those who were already suffering the effects of inequality are hit the hardest — lower-income workers, those in insecure jobs, young people, women and minority ethnic groups.

"Some of the social security systems in Europe are more extensive, better developed [than in the United States]," Michael Spence, a Nobel Laureate and former dean of Stanford Business School, told CNN Business.

He said that during the 2008 financial crisis, pre-existing programs involving governments and businesses helped many European countries avoid too many layoffs.

"But I think in the pandemic economy, the shock's so big that they kind of overwhelm the systems," he said. "The systems weren't built to withstand nearly overnight contractions of 25% in economies."

Unemployment was up by 2.18 million year on year in the European Union in October 2020, rising from a rate of 6.6% to 7.6%. The UK unemployment rate was an estimated 4.8% in the three months to September, up 0.9 percentage points year on year, and 782,000 jobs were lost between March and October, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Read the full story:

2:49 a.m. ET, December 6, 2020

"Just wear the mask": CDC urges

From CNN Health’s Lauren Mascarenhas

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged the public to wear masks as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths soar across the nation.

 “JUST WEAR THE MASK,” the CDC said on Twitter on Saturday.

“Cover your mouth AND nose,” the agency continued, citing public health precautions it has repeatedly recommended, this time with a new sense of urgency.

 The CDC recommends people stay six feet apart, wash hands and stay home when possible.

“Cases are rising fast,” the agency warned. “If we don’t act together and do what we can to slow the spread, thousands more could die.”