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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1:40 p.m. ET, December 9, 2020

Azar says there will be enough vaccine for any American who wants one next year

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), signs a Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. -80C Benchtop Freezer during an Operation Warp Speed vaccine summit at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, December 8.
Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), signs a Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. -80C Benchtop Freezer during an Operation Warp Speed vaccine summit at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, December 8. Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said there will be enough vaccine for any American who wants one by the end of the second quarter of 2021.

Twenty million Americans should be vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of 2020, 50 million by the end of January and at least 100 million should be vaccinated by the end of the first quarter, Azar said at an Operation Warp Speed briefing Wednesday.

“We remain confident that across our portfolio of multiple vaccines, we will have enough doses for any American who wants a vaccine by the end of the second quarter of 2021,” Azar said.

Characterizing the results from the US Food and Drug Administration’s assessment of the Pfizer vaccine trial as “more good news,” Azar said people still do need to wear a mask, wash hands, avoid crowds and keep physical distance to stop the spread of Covid-19.

“Even as we have such a bright future ahead, we face extremely concerning trends in the spread of the virus,” Azar said. “Hospitalization rates are now at the highest they have been during the pandemic. We are so close to being able to protect millions of Americans from this virus with the vaccine. For now, we need to double down on the steps that can keep us all safe.”

1:36 p.m. ET, December 9, 2020

Coronavirus vaccine supplies to begin shipping out today in the US

From CNN's Sara Murray

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence departs from an Operation Warp Speed vaccine summit at the White House in Washington DC, on Tuesday, December 8.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence departs from an Operation Warp Speed vaccine summit at the White House in Washington DC, on Tuesday, December 8. Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Operation Warp Speed, which is overseeing the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in the US, announced Wednesday that it has approved supply shipments in advance of the anticipated Pfizer vaccine. 

Items like syringes, needles, and alcohol wipes should begin going out today and through the end of the week, officials told reporters on a press call.

The news comes ahead of tomorrow's crucial meeting of the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee that will consider authorizing emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine.

1:20 p.m. ET, December 9, 2020

Mississippi governor plans to host holiday parties despite surge in Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Tina Burnside

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves speaks on Covid-19 testing at the White House in Washington DC, on September 28.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves speaks on Covid-19 testing at the White House in Washington DC, on September 28. Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is planning to host holiday parties in the near future despite his current executive order limiting gatherings due to a surge in coronavirus cases across the state, Mississippi Today first reported. 

State Rep. Chris Bell told CNN affiliate WAPT that he received an invitation to one of the governor's parties, but he is respectfully declining to attend because the virus is still out of control. 

CNN reached out to the governor's office on Wednesday. While the governor's spokesperson Bailey Martin didn't specifically address the holiday invitations, Martin said in a statement that any event held by the governor and the first lady are conducted safely in accordance with the governor's executive order. 

"The Governor and First Lady have cancelled or delayed many mansion events this year including the 1st Friday Christmas Candlelighters event and their daughter’s 16th birthday party, and have only continued with those events that can be conducted safely – following the governor’s executive orders. These events – that tend to be smaller and never allow more than ten participants indoors at a time to see the museum/decorations – are conducted similar to the limited public tours that are offered to the general public," the statement read. 

It's not clear how many people are invited to each event.

Currently, state orders limit indoor gatherings to fewer than 20 people, but the governor has said he will be announcing more restrictive measures this week.

The latest numbers: The Mississippi Department of Health reported at least 1,732 new single day cases of coronavirus and 56 additional deaths for Monday, December 7, bringing the state to a total of at least 167,926 Covid-19 cases and 4,017 reported deaths. 

Note: These numbers were released by Mississippi’s public 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.

1:17 p.m. ET, December 9, 2020

North Carolina records highest number of new Covid-19 cases since pandemic began

From CNN's Tina Burnside 

Gov. Roy Cooper removes his mask before speaking at a briefing on the state's coronavirus pandemic response at the N.C. Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, North Carolian, on December 8.
Gov. Roy Cooper removes his mask before speaking at a briefing on the state's coronavirus pandemic response at the N.C. Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, North Carolian, on December 8. Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP

North Carolina set a record with the highest number of single-day coronavirus cases as well as hospitalizations on Wednesday since the start of the pandemic. 

The North Carolina Department of Health reported 6,495 new Covid-19 cases and 2,440 hospitalizations. 

Wednesday marked the 13th straight day North Carolina set a new high in Covid-19 hospitalizations, according to the state's Covid-19 dashboard. 

To date, the state has recorded 410,527 total cases of coronavirus and at least 5,661 deaths. 

Note: These numbers were released by North Carolina’s public 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.

12:42 p.m. ET, December 9, 2020

Alabama governor extends current safer-at-home order for another six weeks 

From CNN's Tina Burnside 

A worker at a coronavirus testing site speaks with someone through a car window in Hoover, Alabama, on Tuesday, September 1.
A worker at a coronavirus testing site speaks with someone through a car window in Hoover, Alabama, on Tuesday, September 1. Jay Reeves/AP

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced on Wednesday that she will be extending her safer-at-home order that includes a statewide mask mandate for another six weeks. 

During a news conference Wednesday morning, Ivey said no changes will be made to the existing order which will extend until Jan. 22. 

Under the existing order, individuals will be required to wear a mask or other facial coverings when in public and in close contact with other people as described in the order. 

Currently the state has recorded at least 280,187 Covid-19 cases and approximately 3,985 deaths since the start of the pandemic. 

Alabama's Health Officer Scott Harris said the state is "in some pretty dark days" with the surge in Covid-19 cases. 

Harris said there is optimism with the rollout of the vaccine which Alabama is expecting to receive its first doses by early next week. 

The state is expected to receive approximately 41,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the first shipment, which Harris cautions will not be enough for the first priority group. Harris said there will be more flexibility with distribution once the state receives the first doses of the Moderna vaccination. 

Note: These numbers were released by Alabama’s public 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.

12:23 p.m. ET, December 9, 2020

New York will address the Covid-19 vaccine with a three-step plan, governor says

From CNN’s Taylor Romine

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Cuomo holds up samples of empty packaging for the COVID-19 vaccine during a news conference at the State Capitol in Albany, New York, on Thursday, December 3.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Cuomo holds up samples of empty packaging for the COVID-19 vaccine during a news conference at the State Capitol in Albany, New York, on Thursday, December 3. Mike Groll/Office of Governor of Andrew M. Cuomo via AP

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday the state will be focusing on a three-part plan in regards to the Covid-19 vaccine, including education, equitable distribution and a fast delivery process. 

Step one: Education

The state will be launching a public education plan to encourage residents to get the vaccine. For the vaccine to be effective, 75-85% of the population needs to get it. Right now, 50% of the population is saying they don't want to get it, according to the governor.

The campaign will focus on a "real public education to dispel the skepticism that already exists," he said. 

Step two: Equal distribution

Secondly, the state will be focusing on equitable distribution of the vaccine in Black and brown communities, since these communities have been impacted by higher infection and death rates, Cuomo said. 

"We want to make sure that when we do the vaccine that it is done in a just and fair and equal way," Cuomo told reporters. 

Step three: Speed of distribution

Lastly, Cuomo said that the state is working on how to quickly distribute the vaccine across the state, which he said is a huge undertaking. 

"I can't think of a government operation that has been commenced that is more difficult and intricate than what governments will be asked to do here," he said. 

While the state has a good record of tackling challenges like testing capacity, this will "test capacity across the board," he added. 

12:10 p.m. ET, December 9, 2020

What questions do your kids have about the Covid-19 vaccine?

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

CNN and Sesame Street are coming together for a new town hall on Saturday, Dec. 19 at 10 a.m. ET to help children and parents understand the latest issues surrounding coronavirus, including details about the vaccine, celebrating the holidays safely and how to stay healthy and happy during the winter months ahead.

The hour-long special will be hosted by CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Anchor Erica Hill, along with Sesame Street’s Big Bird.

Leave your questions for them below.

12:17 p.m. ET, December 9, 2020

New York reported 95 more deaths from Covid-19

From CNN’s Taylor Romine

A medical worker performs a rapid COVID-19 test at a COVID-19 Rapid Test Center in Manhattan, New York, on December 8.
A medical worker performs a rapid COVID-19 test at a COVID-19 Rapid Test Center in Manhattan, New York, on December 8. Noam Galai/Getty Images

New York reported an additional 95 deaths from Covid-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today.

New York currently has a 5.44% positivity rate for Covid-19 across the state, the governor said. Without the microclusters, the positivity rate is at 4.86%, but it is at 7.08% in the microcluster zones, he said. 

One note: These numbers were released by the(state’s public 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

12:11 p.m. ET, December 9, 2020

Pentagon confirms some senior leaders will receive vaccine in earliest phase 

From CNN's Ryan Browne

Aerial view of the Pentagon building.
Aerial view of the Pentagon building. Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Pentagon confirmed Wednesday that a small number of senior leaders would be among the first to receive the coronavirus vaccine, an action that is being taken in order to help convince military personnel that the vaccine is safe. CNN first reported on Tuesday that senior leadership would be among the first to receive the vaccination.

While the bulk of senior military leaders will receive the vaccine after medical personnel, a select few will receive it in the earliest phase.

“We do intend as part of this initial phase of healthcare workers, emergency responders, etcetera, have some very small set of very visible leaders that will volunteer to take the vaccine, do it in a public way as one way of helping to message the safety and efficacy and underscore that we are encouraging all those eligible personnel to take the vaccine,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Thomas McCaffery, announced Wednesday.

“Right now we would be looking at current senior leaders, the top four,” he added, listing Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, Deputy Secretary David Norquist, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten, and the senior enlisted adviser would receive the vaccine in the earliest phase to help convince Department if Defense personnel that the vaccine is safe.

Officials said there were no current plans to offer the vaccine to President-elect Joe Biden’s designate for Defense secretary, retired Gen. Lloyd Austin.

The Pentagon is expected to receive 44,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the coming days.

“Of those 44,000 a huge majority will be for first responders, critical healthcare people and a very very limited number to critical national capabilities in this first tranche,” Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, the Defense Health Agency director said.

Senior leaders are considered “critical national capabilities” by the Pentagon.

The vaccine “is voluntary for everyone” Place said, due to it being expected to only receive emergency use authorization from the FDA, while adding that “the Department is strongly encouraging everyone to take it,” Place said.