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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7:43 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

US hits record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

The United States reported 104,600 Covid-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday, setting a new record high since the pandemic began, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

According to CTP data, these are the highest hospitalization numbers:

  1. Dec. 8: 104,600 people hospitalized
  2. Dec. 7: 102,148 people hospitalized
  3. Dec. 6: 101,501 people hospitalized
  4. Dec. 4: 101,276 people hospitalized
  5. Dec. 5: 101,192 people hospitalized
6:27 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Pence renews calls for mask wearing and social distancing

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal and Maegan Vazquez

Pool
Pool

Vice President Mike Pence called for Americans to remain patient during his remarks at a White House summit on the Covid-19 vaccine Tuesday, renewing calls for social distancing and mask wearing. 

“We are literally on the cusp of putting coronavirus in the past,” Pence said. “We are coming very close in the days ahead, I believe, to the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic in America. But it will yet be months to go, miles to go before we sleep, and so we encourage you all to do your part.”  

Pence urged Americans to “save lives” by practicing good hygiene.

“Wash your hands. Practice social distancing or wear a mask when it's not possible or whenever local authorities indicate that it's appropriate. The way that we got through the early days of this pandemic,” he said, adding later, “it's the way we'll see our way through the months ahead between now and when the coronavirus vaccine that will likely be approved this week will be widely available for every American.”

Pence’s remarks and tone were significantly different than that of President Trump, who spoke at the same event earlier in the day. Trump’s speech was much more focused on taking credit and claiming victory for the development of a vaccine. When asked by a reporter about advice for Americans on avoiding the spread of Covid in the holiday season, Trump commented that “the vaccine was our goal.” 

The vice president also did something else Trump did not in his speech: he offered his sympathies to those who had lost loved ones to coronavirus.

“Before I reflect on all the we've heard today and the extraordinary professionalism and cooperation that you've witnessed,” Pence said, “I want to extend my – my sympathies to the families that may be looking on at this very hour. Families that have lost loved ones over the course of this year.”

“Even as we enter a time of great promise in this country,” he continued, “I want families that have lost loved ones, and those that are still struggling in the midst of this pandemic to know There's not a day gone by, that you haven't been on the hearts of all of us working at every level. And, and we will never forget your families, or your loved ones, as we hasten the day that we put this pandemic in the past.”

5:45 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Pennsylvania records its highest number of Covid-19 hospitalizations since pandemic began

From CNN's Anna Sturla

More than 5,561 Pennsylvanians were hospitalized with Covid-19 on Tuesday, the highest since the pandemic began, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

The department said it was expecting "to see case counts and hospitalizations increase into the winter and during flu season," spokesperson Maggi Mumma told CNN.

Pennsylvania has 1,160 residents in intensive care. Earlier Tuesday, the Commonwealth announced that it had 10,170 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, reaching a total of 436,614.

5:44 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Messaging on Covid-19 needs to be uniform "from the top right down," Fauci says

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

WSJ CEO Council Summit
WSJ CEO Council Summit

 

Dr. Anthony Fauci said he has had some conversations with President-elect Joe Biden as well as with Ron Klain and with Jeff Zients, and will likely have more detailed discussions soon. 

“I will say we need to have a uniform message that comes from the top right down to each and every one of the people involved, the health officials, the physicians, the scientists, the public health officials,” Fauci said during the Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit on Tuesday. “We’ve all got to be on the same page, telling the American public that we’ve got to pull together.” 

Fauci said that that was the most important thing to him, “a uniformity of approach and not disparate were some groups do one thing and other groups do another. That’s my main message.” 

 

5:24 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Operation Warp Speed knows "exactly" where states want Pfizer vaccine to be distributed, general says

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed
Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed Pool

Operation Warp Speed knows where states want the Pfizer vaccine to be distributed, Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said during a White House summit on Tuesday. And as of Friday, it will know where states want Moderna vaccine to go, he said.

Perna said that the goal of Operation Warp Speed was to start moving vaccines throughout the entire United States within 24 hours after emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration. 

“We know that for Pfizer vaccine, based on our allocation, we know exactly, as of last Friday, where the states want the vaccine distributed to,” Perna said. 

“We know the locations by address, we know the populations, based on the amounts that they want at each location. We know this as a fact,” he continued. 

Perna said that this information was already being shared with vaccine makers and distributors “so that they can plan, package and prepare to distribute.” 

“This week, we’re working on the Moderna vaccine initial allocations with the states and by this Friday, we will have all the locations for the Moderna vaccine allocation from the states,” Perna said. “We’ll know where they want it and we’ll know how much they want it.” 

Within a one-week period, he said, “we’ve been able to accumulate, process, inform and collaborate where the vaccines going to, key to our success.” 

4:49 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Michigan governor orders flags to lower as state surpasses 10,000 Covid-19 deaths

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered US and Michigan flags across the state to be lowered to half-staff for 10 days, in remembrance of the now more than 10,000 Michiganders who have died from Covid-19, according to a release from the governor’s office. 

The state reported 5,909 new cases of Covid-19 Tuesday, bringing the total to 410,295. At least 191 new Covid-19-related deaths were reported Tuesday, bringing the total to 10,138.

“Our nation is grieving alongside each of the families who have an empty seat at the dinner table each night or who will be missing family members during the holiday season,” Whitmer said. “Right now, we need to listen to our scientists and medical professionals who are asking us to double down on wearing masks and maintaining physical distancing to prevent an unnecessarily greater loss of life. With a vaccine on the horizon, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we each need to do our part until then. We will get through this together.”  

Flags are to be returned to full staff on Dec. 19, the release said.

4:45 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

France reports rise in new Covid-19 infections but fewer patients in intensive care 

From CNN's Sandrine Amiel in Paris

France recorded a rise in Covid-19 cases with more than 13,000 new infections on Tuesday, according to France’s Public Health Agency.

The increase in cases means France is getting further away from President Emmanuel Macron's target of 5,000 or fewer daily cases, which is the government's requirement to lift the lockdown. 

The average number of new daily cases in recent days was about 10,000, France’s public health agency chief said on Monday. 

With 804 new deaths recorded on Tuesday, fatalities were higher than Monday’s toll of 366. However, the number of deaths tends to be higher on Tuesdays and Fridays, when care homes share their data with public health authorities. 

On Tuesday, 3,078 patients were in intensive care units, which is a decrease of 110 patients compared to Monday and closer to the target of 3,000 ICU patients set by the government as a benchmark to lift restrictions.

A total of 25,882 coronavirus patients remain hospitalized, which is a decrease of 451 compared to Monday.  

5:02 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

US will likely have a third Covid-19 vaccine in February, Operation Warp Speed official says

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser for Operation Warp Speed
Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser for Operation Warp Speed Pool

The United States will likely have a third Covid-19 vaccine in February, Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser for Operation Warp Speed, said Tuesday.

“We are likely to have a third vaccine somewhere in February hopefully, if the appropriate efficacy and safety profile of course are achieved,” Slaoui said at a White House briefing.

The Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines could both be authorized for emergency use before the end of December. The US Food and Drug Administration's Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet on Thursday to discuss Pfizer's application for emergency use authorization for its coronavirus vaccine candidate.

A similar meeting is scheduled next week for Moderna's vaccine candidate.

Slaoui noted that other vaccines are in development, including Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which is in Phase 3 trials and requires only one dose. Slaoui said that a one-shot vaccine is “a major advantage,” especially in the context of a pandemic. 

“That vaccine is likely to complete its efficacy trial, in terms of assessing efficacy of the vaccine, probably early in the month of January, and hopefully would file for emergency use authorization either late in January or early in February,” Slaoui said.

He added that AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which uses similar technology, is also in Phase 3 trials.

“We project that efficacy may be achieved somewhere in the end of January or early February, and maybe by late February or early March, that vaccine could become available, if approved by the FDA,” he said.

4:30 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Pentagon planning to prioritize medical personnel in coronavirus vaccine rollout

From CNN's Ryan Browne

The Pentagon has drafted a list of the groups that it will provide the coronavirus vaccine to first. It is prioritizing health care workers and then "critical national capabilities," which will include the country’s nuclear forces, elite military units and senior Pentagon leaders, according to two defense officials familiar with the list.

Officials have said that the Defense Department will receive a tranche of the vaccine and has been delegated responsibility to decide who will receive it. 

The military is expected to initially receive significantly fewer vaccine doses than there are military and civilian personnel working for the US Department of Defense, meaning they have to prioritize who will get the initial doses.

The list of senior leaders to receive the vaccine will likely include acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

The senior leaders are being prioritized due to their seniority but they are also at higher risk from the virus because they are older than the average military service member. Miller is 55 and Milley is 62.

It was not clear whether the list of priority recipients had been finalized, but the draft seen by CNN Tuesday has been widely circulated within the Defense Department. The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment on the draft.

The vaccine rollout could begin in the next few days with the US Food and Drug Administration due to meet on Thursday to consider approving the authorization of Pfizer's vaccine.

The Pentagon list is divided into three "phases," and several sub-phases, according to the defense official familiar with the list.

The first phase will involve the vaccination of "health care providers, health care support, emergency services and public safety personnel." Personnel working in intensive care units, emergency rooms, urgent care centers, and first responders such as emergency medical services, police, search and rescue, and firefighters will be among the first to receive the vaccine. Residents in Armed Forces retirement homes will also fall into this first category. The coronavirus has proven deadly to nursing home communities.

The next priority group will include inpatient health care and support personnel as identified by their institutions. 

National Guard and Reserve personnel on active duty supporting Covid response efforts, patient care, Urban Augmentation Military Task Forces supporting civilian hospitals, and administering of the vaccines or testing will be next to receive the vaccine.

Thousands of National Guard and Reserve personnel have been called up to support virus response efforts across the country.

After the vaccination of military health care workers, the next high priority group — designated Phase 1b.1 — will include "Critical National Capabilities" such as strategic and nuclear deterrence forces, homeland defense forces, "national leadership/senior staff as defined by Joint and Service staff principals," the Special Operations Command national mission force, and the Cyber Command national mission force.

After senior leaders and elite units are vaccinated, the next group to receive the vaccine will include personnel preparing to deploy within the next three months, including military, civilian and contractors who would normally receive Defense Department vaccines in pre-deployment.

The next group to receive the vaccine will include "other critical and essential defense department personnel," including select members of the military, staff working in Defense Department schools, child and youth services, and food handlers on military installations. 

Phase 2 will include "high risk" beneficiaries, and Phase 3 healthy uniformed military personnel.