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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10:56 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Iran plans to import 42 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines

From CNN's Hira Humayun

Pedestrians walk past closed shops along a street in Iran's capital Tehran on Nov. 21.
Pedestrians walk past closed shops along a street in Iran's capital Tehran on Nov. 21. AFP/Getty Images

Iran plans to import 42 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from abroad, Iranian Food and Drug Administration (IFDA) spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said Tuesday, according to state TV.

The imported vaccines are meant for high-risk groups, while the public will receive a locally produced vaccine, PressTV reported. Jahanpour said that Iran had pre-ordered about 16.8 million shots through COVAX, an initiative led by the World Health Organization, which aims to provide worldwide access to effective Covid-19 vaccines. 

“In addition to that, negotiations are underway with four countries to pre-order 20 to 21 million doses of corona (virus) vaccines which if approved by the IFDA, would be used in the country,” Jahanpour said. 

He also said another 4 million doses of vaccine would be supplied through joint manufacturing ventures between Iranian and foreign companies and that the foreign supply of vaccines would be exclusively dedicated to high-risk groups, including the elderly, those with debilitating diseases and health workers.

“The rest of the country’s need would be met through domestic manufacturing,” Jahanpour said.

Accusations against US: Last Thursday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused the United States of waging an economic war and preventing Iran from making a payment to COVAX. 

“The United States even prevents us from using our own money in different countries to pay COVAX for the vaccine,” Zarif said, adding, “We’ve been trying, our Ministry of Health has been trying, our Central Bank has been trying to transfer money we have in billions in other countries to WHO for COVAX and we haven’t had much success.” 

10:22 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

People who recovered from Covid-19 should still get a coronavirus vaccine, Fauci says

From CNN Health’s Shelby Lin Erdman

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recommends people who have recovered from Covid-19 should still plan to get vaccinated when a coronavirus shot becomes available.

“It is not clear how long immunity to getting infected lasts,” Fauci told a gathering of the National Urban League Tuesday night.
“Typically, when you get infected, you’re immune from reinfection for a period of time. It could be lifelong, like with measles. It could be 10 years or so as with other diseases or it could be relatively short ... The history of coronaviruses indicate that the durability of immunity is a bit on the short side."

Immunity may only last a year or two and not decades, Fauci said.

“So that's the reason why we make no distinction,” he said. “If a person gets infected and then wants to get the vaccine, it’s perfectly fine. It doesn't have any impact on other underlying conditions.”

9:53 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Rhode Island leads the US for highest average of new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people 

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

A stretcher is loaded back into an ambulance after EMTs dropped off a patient at a newly opened field hospital operated by Care New England to handle a surge of Covid-19 patients in Cranston, Rhode Island, on Tuesday, Dec. 1.
A stretcher is loaded back into an ambulance after EMTs dropped off a patient at a newly opened field hospital operated by Care New England to handle a surge of Covid-19 patients in Cranston, Rhode Island, on Tuesday, Dec. 1. David Goldman/AP

Rhode Island is currently reporting an average of 123 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, according to JHU data -- the highest number by this metric in the United States.

The states with the top five averages in the US currently are:

  1. Rhode Island: 123 new cases per 100,000 people
  2. Indiana: 102 new cases per 100,000 people
  3. Utah: 98 new cases per 100,000 people
  4. South Dakota: 97 new cases per 100,000 people
  5. Alaska: 97 new cases per 100,000 people. 

According to JHU data, the average number of cases per 100,000 people is rising in more than half the country. Rhode Island, Connecticut, California, and Tennessee are some states seeing this metric rise the quickest.

9:25 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

North Korean leader's sister warns South Korea's foreign minister could "pay dearly" for Covid-19 remarks

From CNN's Yoonjung Seo in Seoul

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, attends a wreath laying ceremony at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Saturday, March 2, 2019.
Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, attends a wreath laying ceremony at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Saturday, March 2, 2019. Jorge Silva/Pool via Bloomberg

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's powerful sister Kim Yo Jong has accused South Korea's foreign minister of making "reckless remarks" on the emergency anti-epidemic measures in North Korea, adding that she "might have to pay dearly for it."

Kim also accused South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha of speaking "without any consideration of the consequences."

Kim's statement, her first in public for several months, was made on the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Wednesday.

What did Kang say? The South Korean foreign minister's comments about the coronavirus situation in North Korea were made on Dec. 5 at a conference in Bahrain hosted by the International Institute For Strategic Studies.

“They still say they don't have any cases (of COVID-19), which is hard to believe,” Kang said. "The regime is very intensely focused on controlling the disease that they say they don't have, so it's a bit of an odd situation.”

North Korea has said it doesn't have any confirmed Covid-19 cases but many experts are doubtful. The country closed its borders in January and raised its anti-epidemic measures to the highest level again on Dec. 2, according to the KCNA.

In late November, South Korea’s spy agency reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered executions of at least two people due to Covid-19 and economic pressure, according to a South Korean lawmaker briefed by the country's spy agency.

9:00 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Biden details plan to combat coronavirus pandemic in first 100 days

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

US President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday laid out his three-point plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic, an approach in dealing with the virus that continues to contrast with President Donald Trump.

The plan, announced as he introduced the team he has designed to get the pandemic under control, would aim to get at least 100 million Americans vaccinated in his initial 100 days in office, his pledge to sign a face mask mandate on his first day in office and efforts to get kids back to school safely.

Biden's plan came the same day that Trump signed a largely symbolic executive order aimed at prioritizing the shipment of the coronavirus vaccine to Americans before other nations.

"My first 100 days won't end the Covid-19 virus. I can't promise that," Biden said at an event in Wilmington, Delaware. "But we did not get in this mess quickly, we're not going to get out of it quickly, it's going to take some time. But I'm absolutely convinced that in 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better."

Last week, in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, the President-elect said he will ask Americans to wear masks for the first 100 days after he takes office.

Read the full story:

8:31 p.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Raid of former Florida Covid data scientist's home could affect other state employees, legal experts warn

From CNN's Casey Tolan and Curt Devine

The former Florida state data scientist whose house was raided by police on Monday says she isn't just worried about the legal ramifications she's facing, but also for other state employees who leaked her damaging information on Florida's coronavirus response.

Rebekah Jones, who was fired after accusing Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration of minimizing the pandemic and skewing state data, attracted national attention after her house was raided by armed state police on Monday morning. State authorities are investigating whether she accessed a government messaging system without authorization to send a message urging her former colleagues to speak out about coronavirus deaths.

Jones has denied sending the message, but she told CNN she fears the computers and phone that state police seized from her Tallahassee home could expose her sources in the government to retaliation.

"On my phone is every communication I've ever had with someone who works at the state, who has come to me in confidence and told me things that could get them fired or in trouble like this," Jones told CNN's Chris Cuomo on Monday night. "And I just want to say to all those people right now, if he doesn't know already, DeSantis will know soon enough that you've been talking to me. So be careful."

Read the full story:

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.