December 9 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Eoin McSweeney, Nada Bashir, Mike Hayes, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 10, 2020
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11:25 a.m. ET, December 9, 2020

Three California counties have no ICU capacity, health department says

From CNN’s Stella Chan and Sarah Moon

At least three California counties in one of the regions in a stay-at-home order has 0% intensive care unit capacity available, according to data from the state department of public health. 

“Whenever the ICUs get full, it’s really hard to move patients through the emergency department. It’s really hard for us to provide efficient services,” Dr. Rais Vohra said, an emergency physician who serves as the interim public health officer for Fresno County.

Vohra emphasized how dire the situation is, adding that working on the frontlines "gives you a very eye opening perspective."

“I know that those who aren’t in the medical field may not understand or quite grasp just how dire the situation is, but all the things you’re hearing about – how impacted our hospitals are, about how dire the situation with our ICUs is – it’s absolutely true and that really is the reason that we want everyone to stay home as much as possible,” he said.

Vohra warned that 10-15% of all infected cases will need to visit an emergency department and some will require hospitalization and therefore will be a strain on services at hospitals for all patients, including those not battling Covid-19. 

According to information from the California Department of Public Health:

  • Fresno has nine available ICU beds. 
  • Kings County has zero ICU beds available. 
  • Madera county has one bed available.

The counties are part of the San Joaquin Valley Region which is under a three-week state mandated stay-home order triggered last weekend by the low number of ICU beds available.

CNN has reached out to the health departments in Kings and Madera counties for comment.

11:24 a.m. ET, December 9, 2020

Fauci: "I think everybody uniformly needs to admit that we have a real problem"

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies at a hearing on September 23 in Washington, DC.
Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies at a hearing on September 23 in Washington, DC. Alex Edelman/Pool/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Wednesday said that for America to start flattening the Covid-19 curve and follow the pattern of Europe, everyone needs to admit and own the problem.

“I think everybody uniformly needs to admit that we have a real problem. We’ve got to own the problem,” Fauci told BBC World News’ Katty Kay at the 2020 Bloomberg American Health Summit. “If you don’t own the problem, you’re never going to fix the problem.”

In some parts of the country, there is almost denial, Fauci said – people thinking that the pandemic isn’t a big deal, that it’s fake news, or that it’s a hoax.

“It’s not. It’s real. The numbers are absolutely real,” Fauci said, pointing out that there are record numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“We have a serious issue,” he said, coming out of the Thanksgiving holiday and leading up to the Christmas and Hanukkah season.

11:17 a.m. ET, December 9, 2020

More than 286,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US

From CNN's Amanda Watts

There have been at least 15,186,244 cases of coronavirus in the US, and at least 286,461 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases. 

So far today, Johns Hopkins has reported 21,085 new cases and 212 reported deaths.

11:19 a.m. ET, December 9, 2020

New York City adds nearly 200 Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

A person is tested for Covid-19 in Queens, New York, on November 18.
A person is tested for Covid-19 in Queens, New York, on November 18. Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

New York City is reporting 196 hospital admissions, “right up on” the city set threshold of 200, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday. 

“We got to keep fighting back to get and stay under that threshold, it is so important,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

“Our hospitals are doing a great job, they are using techniques and approaches that they learned from the spring that are much more effective now so hospitals are handling the challenges very very well and that’s really important,” he said. “But that number is still higher than we need it to be.”

The new indicator, hospital admissions per 100,000 people on a 7-day average, is 2.34, the mayor said. 

“That is still too high,” he said, reminding the city wants to be under 2.

The city is reporting 2,738 Covid-19 cases on a 7-day average, which now includes probable cases. “Way too high,” de Blasio said.

The percent positivity of New York City residents on a 7-day rolling average is 4.81%, and while that’s under the 5% threshold “we got to work hard to keep pushing that number down,” he said. 

10:25 a.m. ET, December 9, 2020

Defense Department to receive almost 44,000 vaccine doses early next week

From CNN's Ryan Browne

The Department of Defense is expected to receive “just under 44,000 doses” of the Pfizer vaccine early next week, according to Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Thomas McCaffery.

“In the coming days we expect the department to receive its first allotment of the vaccine,” McCaffery said.

He confirmed the prioritization plan for Defense Department personnel, saying that the prioritization was based off CDC guidance and the Pentagon’s task force recommendations.

The vaccine “is voluntary for everyone” Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, the Defense Health Agency director said, due to it having only received emergency use authorization.

“The Department is strongly encouraging everyone to take it,” Place said.

Where is it being sent: Over a dozen military installations in the US, Europe and Asia were selected to receive the vaccine.

Place said those locations were chosen due their having cold storage capability, significant medical staff, and large populations.

Remember: The US FDA has not yet approved a coronavirus vaccine. The FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee is set to meet tomorrow to discuss Pfizer’s application for an emergency use authorization for its coronavirus vaccine.

10:16 a.m. ET, December 9, 2020

Here is what is included in the bipartisan group's Covid-19 stimulus proposals

From CNN's Lauren Fox

A Covid-19 self-testing site is set up at Penn Station in New York on December 4.
A Covid-19 self-testing site is set up at Penn Station in New York on December 4. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

With nine days left until the spending deadline, lawmakers are negotiating another Covid-19 stimulus bill.

A summary of what is included in the proposals, obtained by CNN, shows what the bipartisan group is working on. But, these summaries do not include a detailed explanation of how the group is planning to distribute $160 billion in state and local aid or how it will handle liability provisions. 

Here is some of what is included in the bill (Remember: This list isn’t exhaustive, but a sampling of what the bill includes):

On unemployment

  • $300 in enhanced unemployment benefits for 16 weeks
  • An extension of unemployment benefits for gig workers
  • An extension of program that allows people to remain on unemployment for 39 weeks instead of 26 weeks

On small businesses

  • $300 billion to the Small Business Association to provide another round of PPP loans for businesses with fewer than 300 employees that experienced demonstrated revenue losses because of the pandemic

On transportation 

  • Transportation funding for Amtrak, airports, bus companies and an extension of the payroll support program for frontline aviation workers

On health care

  • $35 billion for health care providers, including $7 billion for rural health and $1 billion for tribal health care facilities
  • $6 billion for vaccine distribution
  • $7 billion in testing and tracing grants for states and localities and an additional $2 billion for nursing homes.

On Education

  • $82 billion for education providers
  • An extension of student loan payment freeze through April 30, 2021

Other programs:

  • $25 billion to states and localities for rental assistance
  • A 15% increase in SNAP benefits for individuals for 4 months
  • $13 billion for farmers, ranchers affected by the pandemic
  • $10 billion for childcare providers struggling amid the pandemic
  • $6 billion in broadband grants

What's missing from this proposal Details on what the plan is exactly for state and local funding and liability. Under the liability section it says “ agreement in principle as the basis for good faith negotiations.”

9:53 a.m. ET, December 9, 2020

Stocks open higher on stimulus hopes

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

US equities opened higher on Wednesday on investor hopes that Congress will pass another round of government stimulus before the holidays is boosting the market. 

At the same time, investors are concerned about the worsening spread of Covid-19 that could lead to another shutdown of businesses given various states have already tightened restrictions.

Here's where things opened: 

  • The Dow opened 0.4%, or 108 points, higher.
  • The S&P 500 rose 0.2%.
  • The Nasdaq Composite opened up 0.1%.

If the S&P and the Nasdaq finish in the green, they will reach fresh record highs.

9:48 a.m. ET, December 9, 2020

Vaccines will begin moving within 24 hours of authorization, distribution official says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Paul Ostrowski — who serves as the deputy chief of supply, production and distribution for Operation Warp Speed — said on Wednesday that within 24 hours of emergency use authorization, “we will begin moving the vaccines.”

“So, for Pfizer at Kalamazoo, the trucks will roll right out of there to the nearest airports, and we’ll begin distributing the vaccines across the entire country to locations that the jurisdictions have requested,” Ostrowski told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America.”

As for how quickly they will get to the jurisdictions and people will begin getting vaccinated, Ostrowski said that the intent is to get the trucks moving within 24 hours and “then overnight, basically overnight, within 48 hours the vaccines have arrived at the locations that they’ve been designated by the jurisdictions, and the administration of the vaccine can occur immediately afterward.”

Remember: There has not been a vaccine approved in the US yet, but the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee is set to meet tomorrow to discuss Pfizer’s application for an emergency use authorization for its coronavirus vaccine.

9:48 a.m. ET, December 9, 2020

What to watch today in stimulus negotiations as lawmakers scramble to get another Covid-19 relief package

From CNN's Lauren Fox

The United States Capitol is pictured in Washington, DC, on December 7.
The United States Capitol is pictured in Washington, DC, on December 7. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

We've entered the part of the negotiations over stimulus relief to the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout where everyone is putting their ideas on the table. That's productive, but with just nine days to go until the next spending deadline, there's not much time left for it.

There are a lot of proposals and none of them are ready to be voted on: The White House is officially back in the game on stimulus talks for the first time since the election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is suggesting his own path forward, and the bipartisan group is still trying to solve for the problem of liability insurance that has confounded negotiators for months.

The bottom line: The White House offer is dead on arrival by Democrats. All eyes on the bipartisan group and whether they can close their deal. The sticking point? Money for state and local governments and liability protections.

Key things to watch today: We are waiting on the bipartisan group to release a series of summaries on their proposal. Why? Because putting it down on paper means the negotiations are serious.

The summaries are not expected to include liability and state and local aide, but will be a snapshot of how they plan to structure other programs including the small business loan Paycheck Protection Program, education funding, transportation funding, opioid funding, unemployment extenders and the student loan payment freeze.

A word of warning that the group involves a lot of players. Therefore any announcements on when these will be rolled out should be taken with caution as there are just a lot of members who have to agree before anything is seen publicly.

More on the bipartisan group: While the group does include Republicans and Democrats and it's grown to include members like Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who has been helping on the liability piece, the Republicans in the bipartisan group don't represent the views of the GOP conference at large on some of these issues. What might work for Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, or Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins may not work for Wyoming GOP Sen. John Barrasso.

Even if the group irons out a final proposal and has bill text, it's not the end of the agreement. There was some pushback in GOP lunch Tuesday over the path the bipartisan group is taking, according to aides. And, there is a recognition that leadership will eventually have to get involved in it. McConnell isn't one to bring bills to the floor that only have a handful of Republican votes. He's going to have to get broader buy-in from the conference.

Here's more about where stimulus negotiations stand here.