December 8 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Nada Bashir, Luke McGee, Ed Upright, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 9, 2020
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4:21 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Covid-19 deaths in California top 20,000

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

Drivers with appointments wait in line to get a free COVID-19 self-test at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Tuesday, December 1.
Drivers with appointments wait in line to get a free COVID-19 self-test at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Tuesday, December 1. Damian Dovarganes/AP

California reached a grim milestone Tuesday, recording more than 20,000 deaths as the result of Covid-19 infections.

The state’s Department of Public Health added 112 fatalities Tuesday, bringing the total to 20,047 since the pandemic hit the Golden State. 

Daily case counts have more than doubled in the past two weeks. Today, 23,272 new infections were reported statewide. California has seen a 55% increase in test positivity rate over the past two weeks, which currently stands at 8.7%.

“The fact is that transmission is now so widespread across our state that most all nonessential activities create a serious risk for transmission,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said in a news conference Tuesday.

That surge in cases continues to haunt the state’s health care system. A record high of 10,500 admitted patients are receiving treatment today, Ghaly said. Over the past two weeks, hospitalizations are up 71%, with new intensive care admissions close behind with a 68.7% increase. Ghaly expressed concern that highly trained health care workers will “not be able to provide the kind of care Californians have come to expect.”

As intensive care unit capacity in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley has dipped below 15%, residents in those areas are under a new stay-at-home order. Much of the Bay Area joined the order, despite not falling under the same threshold. Restrictions will remain in place for at least three weeks. Intensive care unit capacity in Southern California is 10.1%, and only 5.6% in the San Joaquin Valley.

Under the order, residents can still go to doctor visits, buy groceries and worship outdoors. Retail is still open as well. California is still under a travel advisory, and Ghaly is urging people to cancel all travel with the exception of that which is deemed essential. 

“Together we can stop the surge. “I know that you’re all tired I know that it’s exhausting. I certainly share some of that exhaustion, as well," he said.

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. 

4:12 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

White House task force warns states that vaccines will not reduce spread until late spring

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

US President Donald Trump speaks at the Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit on Tuesday, December 08, in Washington, DC.
US President Donald Trump speaks at the Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit on Tuesday, December 08, in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The White House coronavirus task force is warning states that current vaccination plans won't reduce the spread of the disease until at least the late spring.

Even as President Trump said Tuesday the US vaccination plan would "quickly and dramatically reduce deaths and hospitalizations and within a short period of time, I think we want to get back to normal," his task force told states in a weekly report that mitigation measures were still essential to preventing further contagion.

"The current vaccine implementation will not substantially reduce viral spread, hospitalizations, or fatalities until the 100 million Americans with comorbidities can be fully immunized, which will take until the late spring," the report, obtained by CNN, read. "Behavioral change and aggressive mitigation policies are the only widespread prevention tools that we have to address this winter surge."

The reports, which are distributed to states on a weekly basis, said that while the "imminent arrival of vaccines provides hope," the effect of the effort would takes months to materialize.

"Large-scale benefits of lower deaths and hospitalizations will only come after months of immunization," the report said. "Difficult but temporary changes in personal behavior are key to limiting disease and death until we bring the pandemic to an end with immunization; this messaging must be delivered frequently and by all effective modalities."

The report said the current surge was continuing in "every corner of the US, from small towns to large cities, from farms to beach communities."

"This surge is the most rapid increase in cases; the widest spread of intense transmission, with more than 2,000 counties in COVID red zones; and the longest duration of rapid increase, now entering its 8th week, that we have experienced," the report stated.

It went on to lament that "many state and local governments are not implementing the same mitigation policies that stemmed the tide of the summer surge; that must happen now."

It said mitigation efforts in Europe had resulted in "clear improvement" but warned "the majority of the United States is not mitigating similarly."

4:08 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

North Carolina announces new stay-at-home order as Covid-19 cases spike in the state

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch

Gov. Roy Cooper
Gov. Roy Cooper State of North Carolina

Effective on Friday, North Carolina is entering into a modified stay-at-home order, Gov. Roy Cooper announced today during a news conference.

The modified order will be from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time. All residents must stay at home. 

Cooper said that all businesses and most retail stores must also be closed by 10 p.m. local time.

“Our new modified stay at home order aims to limit gatherings and get people home where they are safer, especially during the holidays. It’s also a reminder that we must be vigilant the rest of the day,” Cooper said. 

“We will do more if our trends do not improve,” he said.

The state's latest numbers: North Carolina has reported 404,032 cases and 5,605 deaths since the start of the pandemic. The state is also seeing the highest number of hospitalizations since the pandemic began.

Note: These numbers were released by the state’s health agency and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

4:04 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Switzerland plans to ban public events and limit private gatherings as coronavirus infections rise

From Sandrine Amiel, Stephanie Halasz, and Lauren Kent

A view of the market with the town hall in the old town of Saxony, Pirna, Switzerland on Monday, December 7.
A view of the market with the town hall in the old town of Saxony, Pirna, Switzerland on Monday, December 7. Robert Michael/picture alliance/Getty Images

Switzerland plans to ban nearly all public events and place further restrictions on private gatherings starting Saturday, as coronavirus infections rise, the Swiss government announced Tuesday.

The new measures follow the Swiss government's announcement last week that ski resorts can remain open for domestic tourism but stricter Covid-19 restrictions would be imposed. 

Starting Dec. 12 to Jan. 20, the government plans to halt all public events, except church services and legislative meetings, and will order restaurants, shops, markets, and sports facilities to close at 7 p.m. local time.

The government also plans to restrict private household meetings to five people from two households, apart from on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year's Eve, when a maximum of 10 people can meet for the holidays. 

Meanwhile, each local cantonal authority can authorize ski resorts to open, according to the Federal Department of Home Affairs last Friday. 

"The corona situation is noticeably deteriorating. The number of infections is rising again, the intensive care units are very busy and the health workers are exhausted," Swiss Government spokesperson André Simonazzi said in a series of tweets Tuesday. "The Federal Council therefore wants to tighten the national measures."

Switzerland's 26 cantons will now consult with the federal government on the proposed measures, with the final decision to implement them taking place on Friday.

The new restrictions come as the Federal Office of Public Health recorded 92 more deaths in Switzerland and neighboring country Liechtenstein Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 5,116. Health authorities also recorded 4,262 new Covid-19 infections Tuesday, bringing the total cases to 358,568 since the pandemic began.  

"If the situation worsens next week, the Federal Council plans to take additional measures on December 18, such as the closure of restaurants and shops," said Simonazzi. "Compensation measures for businesses that are most affected by the restrictions are under consideration."

Swiss Confederation President Simonetta Sommaruga added, "With this package, we want to create clarity and planning security. And we want to provide security in these uncertain times."

3:43 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Washington state governor extends Covid-19 restrictions through the new year

From CNN's Konstantin Toropin

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday a three-week extension of the state's current restrictions, which include bans on indoor dining and social gatherings.

The restrictions were originally imposed by Inslee on Nov. 15 and were set to last until Dec. 14. This new extension means Washington will be under tightened restriction through the holiday season and New Year's Eve celebrations. 

"This is because we remain concerned about Covid activity and we still do not have a clear picture of the situation following the Thanksgiving weekend," Inslee said at a news conference.

Inslee also announced an additional $50 million in economic support for businesses and more safeguards for workers impacted by the pandemic.

3:09 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

California sends regional text alerts asking residents to stay home

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

More than two thirds of California residents will soon receive emergency text alerts from the state’s Emergency Operations Services asking them to stay at home and abide by the newly enacted health orders, according to a tweet from CalOES.

Those living in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley – about 27 million people – will be asked to stay home with the exception of seeking essential services.

The alerts will be sent starting today at noon local time.

Both regions found themselves under the new health order Sunday night as intensive care unit capacity in each fell under the 15% threshold set by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

3:06 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

US has to overcome Covid-19 denial and pull together, Fauci says 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

WSJ CEO Council Summit
WSJ CEO Council Summit

Speaking at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council summit on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that uniform wearing of masks, physical distancing and avoiding crowds and congregate settings can prevent or turn around surges in Covid-19 cases – and people need to pull together to implement those measures.

The fact that they aren’t being done uniformly is “really extraordinarily frustrating, because we feel strongly that we will be able to have a significant impact,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 

With the country coming out of Thanksgiving and entering Christmas season, “we’re in for a very challenging period,” he said. 

“The only way we’re going to counter that is by a consistent, uniform implementation and adherence to public health measures.”

However, “trouble is, you go to different parts of the country, and even when the outbreak is clear and hospitals are on the verge of being overrun, there are a substantial proportion of the people who still think that this is not real, that it’s fake news or that it’s a hoax.” 

Fauci said that this was extraordinary, and he had never really seen anything like it. 

“We’ve got to overcome that and pull together as a nation uniformly with adhering to these public health measures,” he said. 

2:49 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

McConnell proposes dropping two key issues to help pass stimulus deal

From CNN's Manu Raju and Clare Foran 


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed dropping two of the issues that have been the hardest for Democrats and Republicans to agree upon in a new Covid relief deal – state and local money and liability protections – to pass a deal now that both sides can agree on.

The remarks from McConnell create a new opening to potentially pass relief during the lame duck session and come after the Senate majority leader has previously made clear how much of a priority liability protections are for him and Senate Republicans.

“We can’t leave without doing a Covid bill, the country needs it,” McConnell said Tuesday.

He went on to say, “What’s the way forward? We know the new administration is going to be asking for another package. What I recommend is we set aside liability and set aside state and local and pass those things that we can agree on knowing full well we’ll be back at this after the first of the year.”  

It's notable that McConnell referenced a new administration given that he has not yet referred to Joe Biden as President-elect.

2:05 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Health care workers in Mexico will receive top priority in vaccination program

From CNN’s Matt Rivers and journalist Karol Suarez

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard Cepropie

Mexican officials announced Tuesday that health care workers will receive top priority when the country’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign begins this month, with other vulnerable populations following in the coming months.  

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told reporters the country will receive 250,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in December, the majority of which will be given to health care workers in Mexico City, the center of the country’s outbreak. 

In January, February, and March an additional 1 million doses of that same vaccine will arrive each month. Ebrard added an additional 12 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine will arrive in April. That will be enough to vaccinate roughly 7.6 million Mexicans, given the Pfizer vaccine’s two-dose requirement.

In the first phase of the program, from December through February, health care workers will exclusively receive vaccinations. In the second phase, from February through April, remaining health care workers and adults aged 60 and over will receive priority.

The next phases will see those 50-59 years of age vaccinated, followed by those 40-49 years of age, with the rest of the country getting vaccinated after that. The country hopes to vaccinate 75% of citizens over age 16 by the first quarter of 2022. The main goal of the campaign is to reduce Covid-19 deaths, officials said at Tuesday’s briefing. 

Mexico says it has purchases agreements for tens of millions more doses from other vaccine suppliers and hopes to finalize those agreements in the coming weeks and months. Health officials added that Mexico’s military will assist the country’s health ministry with the logistics of vaccine distribution.

Mexico has the fourth highest number of Covid-19 deaths worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.