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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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.

11:43 a.m. ET, December 9, 2020

UK could have up to 4 vaccines in use by mid-2021, chief medical officer says

From CNN's Amy Cassidy in Glasgow

A person in Cardiff, Wales, receives an injection of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on December 8.
A person in Cardiff, Wales, receives an injection of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on December 8. Justin Tallis/Pool/Getty Images

The UK can expect to have a “portfolio of three or four vaccines” in use by the middle of next year, England’s Chief Medical Officer told lawmakers on Wednesday.

Thousands of people were vaccinated on Tuesday, the first day of the national rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. 

"The aim would be to roll out this vaccine, and then any others that get a licence and are effective and safe; and we expect by the middle of the year probably to have a portfolio of three or four vaccines which we can actually use,” Chris Whitty told a parliamentary committee.  

Asked by lawmakers when the UK regulator would decide on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, chief of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency June Raine said she could not provide a firm date for a decision on authorization.

Raine said regulators have “great interest” in how the two dosing regimens produced different efficacies, and if there is a scientific basis to the different immune responses. 

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine showed 90% efficacy in one dosing regimen — when the vaccine was given as a half dose, followed by a full dose at least a month later. It showed 62% efficacy in a second regimen — when two full doses were given to people at least a month apart.

On the issue revaccination, Whitty told lawmakers that the situation may arise where vulnerable people will need to be revaccinated, as it is yet unknown how long protection against the virus can last.

“It might last for a very long time, it might last for […] nine months, I think it's more likely to be somewhere between those two,” Whitty said. 

Asked what lessons have been learned from the pandemic, Whitty admitted that in the early stages of the pandemic, officials underestimated asymptomatic spread.

“We drew comfort wrongly from SARS,” Whitty said, referring to the respiratory illness brought on by a coronavirus that killed more than 700 people in 2002 and 2003.

“In SARS, the great majority — if not all — of the transmission was from people who were symptomatic,” Whitty said. 

Whitty went on to say that the pandemic could have been managed better in the early stages if “data streams” were more complete on mask effectiveness, lockdown timings and travel quarantines. 

He said that limited testing capacity meant officials hadn’t realized how widespread the virus had become in the UK or across Europe. 

On communicating health guidance to Britain’s minority ethnic groups – who have suffered disproportionately from the pandemic – Whitty acknowledged that officials did not get the messaging right in the early stages, adding that social research was and still is not strong enough. 

11:30 a.m. ET, December 9, 2020

Delta CEO says nearly 700 people are on the no-fly list over mask policy

From CNN’s Pete Muntean

A Delta Air Lines plane lands at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, on October 19.
A Delta Air Lines plane lands at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, on October 19. Nik Oiko/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

In a new memo to employees, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian says nearly 700 people have now been placed on its no-fly list for refusing to comply with the airline's mask policy.

The new number an increase from the Delta’s last update on Nov. 12, when the carrier said about 500 passengers had been banned from flying since the start of the pandemic.

Delta began requiring that passengers wear masks on flights on May 4. All major airlines now mandate that passengers wear masks in the absence of any new regulations from the federal government.

President-elect Joe Biden reaffirmed yesterday his call for a federal mask mandate during the first 100 days of his administration including on planes, trains and buses. 

11:21 a.m. ET, December 9, 2020

Canada approves Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use

From CNN’s Paula Newton in Ottawa

Health Canada, the department of Canada's government responsible for the country's federal health policy, approved Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine under emergency approval Wednesday, indicating in its authorization that there were some "conditions."

More informations is expected at an afternoon news conference where technical details about the vaccine roll out will be outlined.

Canada started a “dry-run” of distribution this week throughout the country.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier this week that Canada would receive an initial shipment of 249,000 doses by the end of the year, and he expects Canada’s first vaccinations to occur sometime next week.

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.