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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6:10 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Singapore says almost half of all migrant workers living in dorms were infected with Covid-19

From CNN's Eric Cheung in Hong Kong

A worker uses hand sanitizer at the entrance to the Westlite Mandai worker dormitory in Singapore, in August.
A worker uses hand sanitizer at the entrance to the Westlite Mandai worker dormitory in Singapore, in August. Wei Leng Tay/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Since the pandemic began, 47% of migrant workers living in dormitories across Singapore have been infected with Covid-19, according to a statement released by the Singaporean Ministry of Health on Monday.

A total of 152,794 migrant workers residing in dorms have returned positive results in PCR or serology tests for Covid-19. Approximately 323,000 migrant workers are living in dormitories across Singapore, the statement added.

PCR tests are used to diagnose current or new infections, the ministry said, while serology tests can detect the presence of Covid-19 antibodies in blood samples and allow health officials to identify people who had been infected in the past.

The vast majority of migrant workers who returned positive results were either asymptomatic or had very mild symptoms, it added.

The new statistics show that the number of infections in Singapore was much higher than previously thought. 

"For every Covid-19 infection in the dormitories detected through PCR testing, another 1.8 cases were untested and undetected at the time, and were identified subsequently only through serology testing," the ministry said. 

"This is not surprising as many migrant workers did not have any symptoms, and thus would not have sought treatment."

As of Wednesday, Singapore reported 58,341 cases and 29 deaths since the pandemic began.

The majority of those cases were reported in migrant workers' dormitories over the summer, prompting authorities to lock down the facilities and conduct testing to stem the outbreak.

6:08 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

China will suspend inbound international flights if five people onboard test positive for coronavirus

From CNN's Eric Cheung in Hong Kong

A security guard watches over the empty international arrivals channel at Beijing airport on November 6.
A security guard watches over the empty international arrivals channel at Beijing airport on November 6. Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

China will suspend inbound international flight routes if five or more people test positive for Covid-19 when they land, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said in a statement on Wednesday.

Under the new rules, if five or more passengers test positive for Covid-19 after arriving in China on a flight, the airline company will be banned from running those flights for two weeks, it said.

A four-week suspension will be served if 10 or more passengers test positive for the virus, it said. Airlines will be allowed to resume flying one flight per week on the route once the suspension ends. 

Previously, airlines had to serve a one-week suspension if five or more passengers on a flight tested positive for Covid-19. The tightened restrictions are implemented with immediate effect.

On Tuesday, the Civil Aviation Administration of China issued one-week suspension notices to Ethiopian Airlines, the Russian airline Pegas Fly, and Swiss International Air Lines after five or more passengers who traveled on their flights tested positive for Covid-19.

4:17 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

US has surplus of monoclonal antibody treatments for Covid-19, Azar says

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

Not enough Covid-19 patients are asking for or receiving monoclonal antibody treatment, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Tuesday.

“We have a surplus of these monoclonal antibodies right now, the Regeneron and Lilly antibodies, and what's happening is people are waiting too long to seek out the treatments until they show up at the hospital and, by then, it may be too late in order to get the benefit of these antibody treatments that beat back the spread of the virus,” Azar told CNBC in an interview.

What is the treatment? "Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system's ability to fight off harmful antigens such as viruses," the FDA said in a statement after approving the Eli Lilly treatment. It's "designed to block the virus' attachment and entry into human cells."

The treatment involves an infusion, and Azar acknowledged there’s a natural resistance to get that kind of treatment if a person still feels healthy.

But doctors need to prescribe and use these products early in the disease progression, as it can "dramatically reduce the risk for us of hospitalizations at a time when our hospitals are getting very crowded with people with Covid,” he said.

“So basically if you are over 65 or at risk of serious complications or hospitalizations because of comorbidities, what have you, and you test positive, you need to seek out and get the Lilly or the Regeneron monoclonal antibody,” Azar said.
3:57 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

This 107-year-old woman beat Covid-19

From CNN's Kay Jones and Amanda Jackson

Tillie Dybing.
Tillie Dybing. Ecumen

Tillie Dybing is a survivor.

At the age of 107, the Minnesota woman recently beat Covid-19 after being diagnosed this fall, according to officials at the Ecumen Detroit Lakes community home, where she has lived since 2015.

This isn't the first pandemic Dybing has lived through. Born in 1913, she was almost 5 years old when the 1918 flu pandemic hit her family farm in North Dakota, she told CNN affiliate KARE.

"My folks got sick and they were in bed, and I'd run into the bed and my Dad said, 'Can't you find another place to run,'" she said.

Throughout her life, Dybing endured other losses, including the deaths of several siblings in infancy and her husband in her 80s. She is also a cancer survivor, having beaten uterine cancer at the age of 95, KARE reported.

Now, she has survived two viral pandemics. The only Covid-19 symptoms Dybing says she had was fatigue.

"Nothing in her lungs. They said she doesn't have a fever. She just slept all the time," Dybing's daughter Susan Berke told KARE.

Dybing recently returned to her apartment at the facility after spending a few weeks away from the general population, Ecumen officials said. They added that they are happy she has recovered and thanked her family for trusting them with her care.

3:31 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Coronavirus is adding to delays for the US Postal Service this holiday season

From CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian 

A letter carrier sorts mail at his station inside the Roxbury Post Office in Boston, MA on December 1.
A letter carrier sorts mail at his station inside the Roxbury Post Office in Boston, MA on December 1. Lane Turner/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

The United States Postal Service is warning customers that they are experiencing unprecedented volume increases and limited employee availability due to the impact of Covid-19.

“We appreciate your patience and remain committed to delivering the holidays to you,” an update on their website says.

“While every year the Postal Service carefully plans for peak holiday season, a historic record of holiday volume compounded by a temporary employee shortage due to the Covid-19 surge, and capacity challenges with airlifts and trucking for moving this historic volume of mail are leading to temporary delays," said the USPS, adding that similar challenges are being felt by “shippers across the board.”
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.

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