December 11 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Brett McKeehan, Nada Bashir, Eoin McSweeney, Hannah Strange and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 0438 GMT (1238 HKT) December 14, 2020
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3:36 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

South Carolina reports its highest daily number of new Covid-19 cases ever 

From CNN’s Natasha Chen

South Carolina announced that it had its highest number of new cases of Covid-19 on Friday.  

“One week ago, today, South Carolina announced its highest number of new cases of Covid-19. Today, we eclipse that number by more than 700,” South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control wrote in a news release on Friday afternoon.   

South Carolina announced a total of 3,217 confirmed and probable cases of Covid-19 on Friday and 47 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 4,673 deaths and 245,200 cases.   

“South Carolina, like many other states, is currently experiencing a worsening of this pandemic,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Interim Public Health Director. “While the arriving vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel, it will be months before there is enough vaccine available for everyone. It is incumbent upon all of us to continue to take actions aimed at saving lives.” 

South Carolina health officials are urging residents to do their part to help take the recommended actions and precautions to slow the spread. 

“No one else should have to die at the hands of this silent killer,” said Dr. Linda Bell, state epidemiologist. “It is within all of our powers to stop Covid-19. As we each wait patiently for our turn to receive the Covid-19 vaccines, let’s keep doing our part by wearing our masks and practicing social distancing.” 

3:03 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

White House official told FDA head vaccine must be authorized today or he needs to resign, sources say 

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Kevin Liptak and Jim Acosta

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows attends a luncheon on Capitol Hill on October 21 in Washington, DC.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows attends a luncheon on Capitol Hill on October 21 in Washington, DC. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told Food and Drug Administration commissioner Stephen Hahn that he needed to have the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine emergency use authorized by the end of the day and if not, he needs to resign, an administration official and a source familiar with the situation told CNN.

A White House official said they do not comment on private conversations but the chief “regularly requests updates on the progress toward a vaccine."

The two men had a call this morning.

Another person familiar also said the chief of staff communicated to Hahn this morning that the vaccine needed to be authorized by the end of today. This person said Trump has been venting about Hahn since the UK vaccine was rolled out earlier this week. 

Hahn disputed the episode above. 

“This is an untrue representation of the phone call with the chief of staff. The FDA was encouraged to continue working expeditiously on Pfizer-BioNTech’s EUA request. FDA is committed to issuing this authorization quickly, as we noted in our statement this morning," Hahn said in a statement to CNN.

The Washington Post first reported the conversation between Dr. Hahn and the White House chief of staff. 

2:44 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

Vaccine reaction among UK health workers with allergies happened "within minutes," Pfizer says

From CNN's Jacquelne Howard

The adverse reactions that occurred among two health care workers in the United Kingdom after receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine happened "within minutes," a representative for Pfizer said on Friday.

The health care workers, who both have a significant history of allergic reactions, have since recovered. 

"Both of the women had their reactions started within minutes," Dr. Susan Mather, senior director of safety surveillance and risk management at Pfizer, told the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Community on Immunization Practices on Friday. "So, about two minutes, and the other one just said within minutes."

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices convened a half-day meeting Friday to discuss the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine and then, in a follow-up meeting, will vote on whether any groups should not receive the vaccine.

Following the two cases in the United Kingdom, UK health authorities gave precautionary advice that people with a significant history of allergic reactions should not be given the vaccine.

2:21 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

WHO releases an updated checklist to help support school re-openings as Covid-19 cases surge

From CNN’s Leanna Faulk

Children arrive for class on the first day of school reopening on December 7 in New York.
Children arrive for class on the first day of school reopening on December 7 in New York. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

In preparation for the surge of positive Covid-19 cases, the World Health Organization released an updated checklist on Friday to help school administrators in re-opening schools.

“Prolonged school closures are being presenting an unprecedented challenge to children's education, health and well-being,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a virtual WHO briefing. “Today, WHO has released a new checklist to support schools in reopening and in preparing for resurgence of Covid-19 and similar public health crisis.”

The checklist encourages a continued practice of public health safety measures including wearing a mask, social distancing, washing hands, sanitation and isolation.

“Schools can reopen safely,” Dr. Ruediger Krech, director of Health Promotion at WHO, wrote in a news release. “Decisions to reopen schools should be driven by data and the safety measures in place, but also address the concerns of students, parents, caregivers and teachers.”

Ghebreyesus said the checklist includes 38 suggested measures including reorganizing the layout of desks or changing school schedules to stagger breaks in between class.

2:03 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

Senate passes stop-gap bill to avert shutdown hours before midnight deadline

From CNN's Clare Foran and Manu Raju

Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images
Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

After a series of last-minute holdups, the Senate just passed a one-week stop-gap funding bill by voice vote to avert a government shutdown at midnight tonight. The bill will next go to President Trump for his signature.

The short-term spending bill would extend government funding by a week to Dec. 18 and is aimed at giving lawmakers more time to reach an agreement on Covid relief and broader funding legislation for a new fiscal year. It passed the House earlier this week.

The Senate needed to pass the short-term government funding bill sometime during the day Friday ahead of the funding expiration deadline to avert a shutdown, but lawmakers have been dealing with a series of holdups that had thrown a timeline for a vote into question.

1:27 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

As stimulus talks continue, the Senate will soon pass a stopgap to keep the government open

From CNN's Manu Raju

After some drama, the Senate is about to pass the weeklong stopgap by voice vote, aides tell CNN. 

This would keep the government open until Dec. 18

The stopgap measure comes at a make-or-break moment where Congress is working to come together quickly to give struggling Americans some desperately needed relief.

While there are some signs of progress on state and local aid in bipartisan relief talks, prospects are still grim for Congress to get a deal both sides can live with, get drafted quickly and jammed through Congress — and then onto the desk of a mercurial President who has had no role in the negotiations but can upend them at any given moment.

1:24 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

More than 20,000 pharmacy providers enrolled in CDC's Covid-19 vaccine ordering system

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

The platform the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will use for all Covid-19 vaccine ordering, called VTrckS, already has more than 20,000 pharmacy providers enrolled in preparation to distribute and administer vaccines quickly, CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier said on Friday.

"In preparing to distribute and administer the Covid vaccine quickly and efficiently, CDC has worked with our many partners in state and local health departments and throughout the country," Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a meeting of the CDC's Advisory Community on Immunization Practices. 

"Forty-one thousand Covid-19 providers are enrolled in VTrckS," Messonnier said. "That includes more than 20,000 pharmacy providers, and many of those pharmacy providers will help us to reach the 55,000 long-term care facilities, covering more than 3.5 million persons that have been enrolled in our federal pharmacy partnership."

ACIP is having a half-day meeting Friday to discuss the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

5:45 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

Boston biotech conference led to 245,000 coronavirus cases across US, analysis shows

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

A biotech conference in Boston in February that’s already been flagged as a Covid-19 superspreading event led to at least 245,000 other cases across the US and Europe, a new genetic fingerprinting study shows.

One single case seems to have been responsible for 245,000 other eventual cases, the team at the Broad Institute in Massachusetts reported. 

Their study finds two particular genetic fingerprints of viruses associated with the conference and then tracks those lineages across the US. One “was exported from Boston to at least 18 US states as well as to other countries, including Australia, Sweden, and Slovakia,” the team, led by Bronwyn MacInnis, director of pathogen genomic surveillance at the Broad Institute, wrote in the journal Science.

One was especially bad. A virus carrying one mutation – a small genetic change they’ve flagged as C2416T – was apparently carried to the conference by a single person, and ended up infecting 245,000 people. A second viral strain with a mutation known as G26233T ended up in 88,000 people.

“A single introduction had an outsize effect on subsequent transmission because it was amplified by superspreading in a highly mobile population very early in the outbreak, before many public health precautions were put in place,” the team wrote.

“While Massachusetts accounted for most early spread related to the conference, Florida accounted for the greatest proportion of cases overall,” they added.

“We think this is an important cautionary tale of the downstream implications of superspreading, which is all the more relevant as we enter the peak of the holiday season, and begin rolling out vaccines that may not decrease transmission,” MacInnis told CNN.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the number of coronavirus cases that can be linked to the conference. At least 245,000 cases are linked to the mutation, and another 88,000 cases are a subset of those 245,000 cases.

1:07 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

Senate still struggling to set up vote for weeklong stopgap to keep government open

From CNN's Manu Raju

Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images
Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Even with Sen. Rand Paul vowing not to block a short-term funding bill, there are still other problems.

Since the Senate needs all 100 senators to agree to schedule a vote, several senators are making demands that are complicating the ability to avoid a shutdown by midnight tonight.

In addition to the demand by Sen. Bernie Sanders for a commitment for a vote on a package for a new round of stimulus checks, others are also making demands, including Sen. Mike Braun, a Republican of Indiana. He wants a vote on a proposal to ensure Congress doesn't get paid if it fails to pass a budget. The measure, ironically, includes a provision to prevent government shutdowns.

Senate Majority Whip John Thune confirmed those were the two main holdups.

"There is either going to be a bunch of stuff, or nothing," South Dakota Republican said.

"Neither side is blinking at the moment," he added.