December 16 coronavirus news

By Kara Fox, Jessie Yeung and Adam Renton, CNN

Updated 1354 GMT (2154 HKT) December 17, 2020
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2:39 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

US reports more than 198,000 new Covid cases

From CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian

The United States reported 198,357 new coronavirus cases and 3,019 virus-related deaths on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Tuesday's death toll marks the third highest daily count of fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic.

The nationwide totals now stand at 16,717,014 confirmed cases and 303,797 deaths.

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

CNN is tracking Covid figures:

1:59 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

HHS Secretary says we'll soon know how many Americans have been vaccinated so far

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. CNBC

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said he doesn't know how many Americans have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, but that those figures should arrive in the coming days.

“I can't tell you at this precise moment how many have gotten it,” Azar told CNBC’s Shepard Smith on Tuesday. “We're just, of course, two days into the vaccination program but we do have the IT systems to generate that data and get that reporting."

“And as we go, several days or maybe a week into this, we’ll start providing a dashboard with that type of information, so we know exactly how we're doing on getting shots in arms,” he added.

“It's important information. We have it. We literally track each box, GPS temperature control every truck. We've got a command center here with it, so we'll be able to start doing that type of reporting.”

The vaccine program: Vaccinations began on Monday, with the first doses delivered to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The first doses of the Pfizer vaccine were injected Monday into health care workers -- those at the front lines of the pandemic.

But it will be several months before most Americans can get a Covid-19 vaccine.

6:55 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Germany reports major spike in Covid-19 deaths

From CNN’s Fred Pleitgen in Berlin

Germany suffered a major spike in Covid-19-related fatalities, with 952 deaths connected to the disease reported on Tuesday, according to figures released Wednesday by the Robert-Koch-Institute (RKI), the country’s center for disease control.

Tuesday’s toll shatters the previous record of 598 deaths on December 11.

But the institute said a delay in reporting data from the large state of Saxony could be part of the reason for the sharp increase. 

Data was not transmitted from Saxony on Monday, so Wednesday’s report includes missing numbers for Monday as well as Tuesday.

The RKI also recorded 27,728 new cases of the novel Coronavirus Tuesday.

Surging numbers: Germany is currently experiencing a major surge of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. The country entered into a hard national lockdown on Wednesday in an effort to bring the situation under control.

An earlier version of this post misstated the gap in Saxony's figures released on Wednesday. They included Monday as well as Tuesday.

1:31 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

South Korea warns of first potential lockdown as cases rise and ICU beds run out

From CNN's Jake Kwon, Gawon Bae and James Griffiths

A medical staff member takes a swab for a Covid-19 test at a temporary testing station in Seoul on December 16.
A medical staff member takes a swab for a Covid-19 test at a temporary testing station in Seoul on December 16. Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images

South Korean health officials have warned residents to take current restrictions seriously, as the country faces the possibility of entering into its first potential lockdown since the beginning of the pandemic.

South Korea has long been considered a model country for its effective Covid-19 response. Despite being among the first countries to be hit by the virus, it has managed to avoid the type of stringent lockdown measures seen elsewhere in the world, thanks largely to a combination of aggressive testing and sophisticated track and trace techniques.

But as the pandemic drags on into winter, the emergence of a so-called "third wave" has resulted in an apparently untraceable rise in new infections.

Rising cases: On Tuesday, South Korea reported 1,078 new cases -- the country's highest daily count yet -- bringing the national total to 45,442, according to the Health Ministry. The majority of the cases were locally transmitted.

Some 226 patients are in critical condition, while there were an additional 12 deaths Tuesday, increasing total fatalities to 612.

Speaking Wednesday, senior Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho urged people to follow social distancing measures in the Seoul metropolitan area, which accounts for around half of the country's 51 million population.

Officials are now debating whether to raise restrictions to a higher alert level, with many concerned it could harm small businesses and the self-employed.

Last ICU bed: Seoul now only has one single ICU bed dedicated to Covid-19 left in the city, the acting mayor said on Wednesday.

Some 77 of the total 78 dedicated beds are occupied by coronavirus patients. And 85.7% of total dedicated beds across hospitals are occupied, adding extra strain to health systems that are already struggling.

The city will secure 18 additional ICU beds by end of the year, authorities said.

Read more here:

5:15 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

China's Fosun Pharma to buy 100 million BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines

From CNN's Pauline Lockwood in Hong Kong

Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a University Hospital Network (UHN) vaccination clinic in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on December 15.
Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a University Hospital Network (UHN) vaccination clinic in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on December 15. Cole Burston/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Chinese health care giant Fosun Pharma has secured a deal with BioNTech to buy 100 million doses of their coronavirus vaccine for use and distribution in mainland China.

The deal will be subject to Chinese regulatory approval, Fosun Pharma said in a statement on Wednesday.

“A local Phase 2 clinical trial of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine candidate BNT162b2 is on-going in Jiangsu, China,” the statement said.

The initial supply of these vaccines will be produced in BioNtech’s production facilities in Germany.

“We would like to thank the Chinese government and National Medical Products Administration for their commitment and trust in our vaccine development efforts to help address this global pandemic threat,” said BioNTech CEO Dr. Ugur Sahin.
“This joint development effort with Fosun Pharma is a testament to the importance of global cooperation and reflects our strategy to supply our vaccine globally. This agreement is an important step toward our shared goal of bringing a safe and efficacious vaccine to people worldwide.” 

The BioNTech vaccine, developed globally with Pfizer, has already received emergency use authorization in the United States and United Kingdom.

12:27 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Japan reports highest number of ICU patients since start of the pandemic

From CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo and Akanksha Sharma in Hong Kong

Japan has reported a new high for the number of patients in intensive care since the pandemic began.

Five additional new cases are in critical care as of Tuesday, bringing the total number of ICU patients to 592, according to the country's Ministry of Health.

The ministry also reported 2,410 new coronavirus infections and 45 virus-related deaths for Tuesday.

The new figures raise the country's total to 184,754 cases and 2,701 fatalities.

Tokyo and Osaka are big hotspots: Tokyo reported 460 new cases on Tuesday, and has 78 ICU patients. Meanwhile, Osaka reported 306 new cases and has 158 ICU patients.  

12:01 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

College football "Bowl Season" opener canceled due to Covid-19

From CNN's Kevin Dotson

The Frisco Bowl, the first scheduled game of college football’s postseason “Bowl Season" in the US, has been canceled due to Covid-19.

The game was scheduled to be played this Saturday in Frisco, Texas, between Southern Methodist University and University of Texas San Antonio. The cancellation was due to coronavirus issues within the Southern Methodist football program.

“While we are disappointed in having to cancel the game, our top priority is the health and safety of all parties involved,” said Clint Overby, vice president of organizer ESPN Events.

UT San Antonio will now play in the First Responder Bowl on Dec. 26 against an opponent yet to be determined. The Frisco Bowl is the 11th bowl game of the 2020-21 schedule to be canceled.

11:40 p.m. ET, December 15, 2020

Hill leaders near deal on long-awaited Covid relief plan

From CNN's Clare Foran, Manu Raju, Ted Barrett and Kristin Wilson

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks during a news conference with other Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, Dec. 15.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks during a news conference with other Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, Dec. 15. Rod Lamkey/Pool via AP

Congressional leaders in both parties expressed growing confidence Tuesday evening that Washington will be able to cut a last-ditch deal to provide relief to Americans hit hard by the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic after setting aside months of partisan finger-pointing and bickering.

Democrats and Republicans sounded upbeat following the conclusion of in-person talks on Tuesday between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy.

Nothing has been finalized yet and the details are scarce about what may be agreed to, but all signs are pointing to the likely announcement of a deal that will include provisions with widespread bipartisan support, including an extension of jobless benefits, loans for hard-hit small businesses and money for vaccine distribution. Lawmakers may also extend the federal eviction moratorium and defer student loan payments.

While Hill leaders would not confirm what they have agreed to, both sides are likely to have made some significant concessions including potentially dropping demands for money for states and cities -- a priority Democrats have been pushing -- and a liability shield that the GOP had been seeking.

Read more about the talks:

11:12 p.m. ET, December 15, 2020

CDC advisers set meetings to discuss Moderna vaccine and next phase of distribution

From CNN's Maggie Fox

A participant receives an injection in a Phase 3 Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial sponsored by Moderna at Accel Research Sites on August 4, in DeLand, Florida.
A participant receives an injection in a Phase 3 Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial sponsored by Moderna at Accel Research Sites on August 4, in DeLand, Florida. Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Vaccine advisers to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have scheduled meetings for this weekend to discuss Moderna’s candidate coronavirus vaccine and the next phases of vaccine distribution.

On Thursday, vaccine advisers at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will meet to discuss Moderna's application for emergency use authorization. The application could be granted as soon as Friday.

If the Moderna vaccine receives authorization, on Saturday the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will meet to discuss the candidate vaccine, and whether to recommend that the CDC allows distribution. If that recommendation is accepted, the vaccine could begin delivery starting next Monday.

On Sunday, ACIP has a second meeting, to discuss the next phases of vaccine distribution.

  • Phase 1a advised giving the first round of vaccines to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.
  • Phases 1b and 1c are expected to include essential workers and people at highest risk from infection, such as those aged over 65 or with underlying chronic conditions.