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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11:17 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

2 million Pfizer doses and 5.9 million Moderna doses allocated for next week, US health secretary says  

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks during an Operation Warp Speed briefing on December 16.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks during an Operation Warp Speed briefing on December 16. HHS and DoD

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday that approximately 2 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine have been allocated for jurisdictions to use next week. 

If Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine is authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration in the coming days, Azar said the US has authorized nearly 5.9 million doses for next week.

Remember: The Moderna vaccine has not been approved by for emergency use yet, but an advisory committee to the US Food and Drug Administration released a document confirming the vaccine's efficacy on Tuesday.

The FDA's Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will review that document and discuss issuing an emergency use authorization on Thursday.

Here's a look at how the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines compare.

11:12 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

20 million doses of Moderna vaccine will be delivered by end of month, Operation Warp Speed official says

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific advisor for Operation Warp Speed, speaks during an Operation Warp Speed briefing on December 16.
Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific advisor for Operation Warp Speed, speaks during an Operation Warp Speed briefing on December 16. HHS and DoD

The chief scientific advisor for Operation Warp Speed says 20 million doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine will be delivered by the end of the month.

"I think that's really excellent," Moncef Slaoui said at a news briefing on Wednesday.

Remember: The Moderna vaccine has not been approved by for emergency use yet, but an advisory committee to the US Food and Drug Administration released a document confirming the vaccine's efficacy on Tuesday.

The FDA's Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will review that document and discuss issuing an emergency use authorization on Thursday.

Slaoui added that the US government is continuing to effort additional doses from Pfizer. 

“We are working very closely with the company to ensure that we can support and help them address all the challenges in continuing to increase their capacity and output and also at the same time discussing how we may come to an agreement on the first option for an additional 100 million doses,” he said.

11:05 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

What questions do you have about Covid-19 vaccines? Submit them here. 

From CNN's Melissa Mahtani

A large majority of Americans, 71%, say they will "definitely or probably" get a Covid-19 vaccine, according to a survey out Tuesday from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But Black Americans, people living in rural areas and Republicans are more hesitant about getting the shots.

Only 11% of African Americans and 16% of Latinos were "very confident" that the process was taking their needs into account, according to the survey.

We want to hear your thoughts on Covid-19 vaccines.

Do you have specific questions or concerns? Type them in the box below and we may feature some in a special CNN Town Hall.

Dr. Anthony Fauci and Surgeon General Jerome Adams will join Don Lemon and CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta for "The Color of Covid – The Vaccines" Friday at 10 p.m. ET on CNN.

10:45 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

No "serious side effects" reported after 1,600 vaccinations, NYC commissioner says

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

NYC Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi speaks during a press briefing on December 15.
NYC Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi speaks during a press briefing on December 15. NYC Media

NYC Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi said following the vaccination of more than 1,600 health care workers, his department has so far not heard "of any serious adverse events, that means very serious side effects, in the city thus far."

The side effects experienced so far are those seen in the study of the vaccine, particularly some pain at the injection site, some fatigue, some muscle aches, which generally only last 23-48 hours and are considered mild.

The city plans to publish a dashboard showing how many individuals are being vaccinated daily, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

All the public NYC health and hospitals received the vaccine yesterday, the CEO Mitch Katz said. More are expected next week. 

Right now they are focusing on people in the highest risk areas, emergency rooms, intensive care units and those over 60 years old, Katz said. 

Katz added “from looking at the numbers I believe we’re going to vaccinate the whole hospital in 3 weeks. Everyone in every single unit, just starting at the highest risk units.”

The officials were speaking at the Elmhurst location, which was one of the hardest hit hospitals at the epicenter of the pandemic.

Earlier, the mayor observed the first vaccinations at the public hospital.

 

10:43 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

McConnell says Hill leaders have "made major headway" toward a stimulus deal

From CNN's Clare Foran

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks during a news conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on December 15.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks during a news conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on December 15. Rod Lamkey/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that Hill leaders have “made major headway toward hammering out a targeted pandemic relief package that would be able to pass both chambers with bipartisan majorities,” and have “committed to continuing these urgent discussions until we have an agreement.” 

“We agreed we will not leave town until we’ve made law,” he said.

McConnell did not announce any specifics on what will be in the deal, but did offer a preview of what’s likely to be included.

“We need vaccine distribution money, we need to re-up the Paycheck Protection Program to save jobs, we need to continue to provide for laid off Americans. Congressional leaders on both sides are going to continue working until we get this done," he said.

CNN's Manu Raju reported earlier that the deal is expected to be around $900 billion dollars and include a new round of stimulus checks. You can read more on the expected deal here

10:41 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Operation Warp Speed official says they are "on track" with all deliveries of Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Andrea Diaz

Gen. Gustave F. Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, speaks during an Operation Warp Speed briefing on December 16.
Gen. Gustave F. Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, speaks during an Operation Warp Speed briefing on December 16. HHS and DoD

Gen. Gustave F. Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said the team is "on track" with the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines in the United States.

"We are on track with all the deliveries that we said we were doing," said Perna during a virtual briefing Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense.

Perna said the volume of deliveries was 145 on Monday, 425 Tuesday and 66 today.

On Thursday, deliveries to additional 886 locations are expected, he said.

"It is about a steady drum-beat cadence of delivery of vaccine out to the American people."

10:23 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

US secretary of state quarantining after coronavirus exposure

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo pauses while speaking at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, on December 9.
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo pauses while speaking at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, on December 9. Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is quarantining after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus, but he himself "has been tested and is negative," the State Department announced Wednesday.

"Secretary Pompeo has been identified as having come into contact with someone who tested positive for Covid," a State Department spokesperson said. "For reasons of privacy we can't identify that individual."

"The Secretary has been tested and is negative. In accordance with CDC guidelines, he will be in quarantine," they said. "He is being closely monitored by the Department's medical team."

Pompeo's Wednesday schedule listed him as having no public appointments. President Trump is scheduled to hold a Cabinet meeting Wednesday morning. 

It is unclear when or where the top US diplomat came into contact with the individual who tested positive. CNN has reached out to the State Department for further details.

9:56 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Markets open mostly lower after gloomy holiday shopping report

From CNN’s Matt Egan

A Christmas tree stands in front of the New York Stock Exchange in New York City on December 9.
A Christmas tree stands in front of the New York Stock Exchange in New York City on December 9. Michael Nagle/Bloomberg/Getty Images

US stocks started Wednesday mostly lower after a weak retail sales report that underscored the need for another round of federal Covid relief. 

Here's where things opened:

  • The Dow fell 50 points, or 0.2%.
  • The S&P 500 lost 0.1%.
  • The Nasdaq dropped 0.1%.

The weaker open comes after a government report showed that US retail sales tumbled in November by more than economists had feared. 

The bleak holiday shopping report adds to evidence that the recovery is losing momentum as the pandemic intensifies. After months of failure, Congressional leaders appear to finally be closing in on an agreement for a Covid-19 relief package.

The Federal Reserve is scheduled to issue a new policy statement and updated economic projections at 2 pm. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has forcefully called for lawmakers to provide more fiscal stimulus.

10:05 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Here's what the latest Covid-19 stimulus deal could include

From CNN's Manu Raju and Clare Foran

Congressional leaders, after months of a bitter stalemate and as millions of Americans have been eager for relief, are finally indicating they're nearing a deal on a new rescue package that could pass both chambers within days.

The deal is expected to include a new round of stimulus checks, but no money for state and local aid, a priority Democrats had pushed for, and no lawsuit protections, which Republicans wanted, according to a source briefed on the talks.

The source cautioned that nothing is final until it is unveiled, but that's where this is headed at the moment.

Once details are unveiled, Hill leaders will have to sell the plan to their caucuses and try to ram it through Congress quickly — all with the threat of a shutdown looming at the end of the week.

The price tag for a stimulus deal could be close to $900 billion, a source familiar tells CNN, though more details could be out later Wednesday morning.

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 state and city governments — a priority Democrats have been pushing —and a liability shield that the GOP had been seeking.

A $748 billion bipartisan proposal released this week could serve as a ready-made starting point for what might be included. That package proposes:

  • $300 billion for the Small Business Administration and money for more Paycheck Protection Program loans
  • $35 billion for health care providers
  • $2.6 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for vaccine distribution and infrastructure
  • $3.4 billion for grants to states and cities to help with vaccine efforts
  • $7 billion for grants to states for coronavirus testing and contact tracing
  • $82 billion for schools and other education providers
  • $25 billion for rental assistance and an increase for food stamps
  • Extends the eviction moratorium until the end of January 2021
  • Extends student loan forbearance through April 2021
  • An expansion of federal supplemental unemployment insurance benefits by $300 per week for 16 weeks

Read more about the stimulus negotiations here.