December 17 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Eoin McSweeney, Ed Upright and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:04 a.m. ET, December 18, 2020
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11:22 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Japan reports record number of new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

Japan reported another day of record Covid-19 cases, adding 3,214 infections from Thursday, according to the country's Health Ministry.

Thursday's numbers top Japan's previous record reported one week ago, when 3,030 new cases were reported on December 12.

The ministry also reported 44 new virus-related fatalities for Thursday, bringing the country's death toll to 2,796. 

Japan's total confirmed cases nationwide stands at 190,950.

Winter surge: Japan is seeing a rise in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations since the start of November, as cold winter temperatures set in. Large urban centers like the capital Tokyo are reporting their highest level of infections.

Tokyo reported 822 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, marking the highest single-day rise since the start of the pandemic, the Tokyo metropolitan government announced.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike warned the city could reach 1,000 new cases a day if the trend continues and issued a special alert for the new year holidays.

"We must have more sense of crisis," she said at a news conference late Thursday. The same day, the city raised its alert level to "Level 4" -- the highest of the four-tier category.
10:53 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

All members of US Congress eligible to receive Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Daniella Diaz

All members of the US Congress will be eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, according to a memo from the Capitol attending physician and a news release from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

The physician’s memo to all members and staff asks members of Congress to call for an appointment.

“Once we have completed the vaccination of the Members, we will follow a process to identify the continuity-essential staff members in the various divisions of the Capitol community in the coming weeks. The appointing process will then continue until the small vaccine supply is exhausted. A second dose scheduling process will then begin later," the memo read.

Pelosi said that she plans to receive the vaccine "in the next few days.”

In a statement, she said: "My recommendation to you is absolutely unequivocal: there is no reason why you should defer receiving this vaccine." 

10:34 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

South Korea reports more than 1,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Jake Kwon in Seoul

People queue in line to wait for coronavirus testing in Seoul on Thursday, December 17.
People queue in line to wait for coronavirus testing in Seoul on Thursday, December 17. Lee Jin-man/AP

South Korea reported 1,062 new Covid-19 infections for Thursday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The country is grappling with another wave of infections as winter sets in.

In a Friday statement, the KDCA said 26 of the new cases were imported while 1,036 were locally transmitted.

The majority of the new infections -- 757 -- were in the Seoul metropolitan area.

South Korea also reported that 11 people died from the virus on Thursday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 645. 

South Korea has recorded at least 47,515 cases since the beginning of pandemic.

10:20 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

US Congress to receive "small number" of Covid vaccine doses 

From CNN's Manu Raju

The US Congress will receive a “small number” of Covid-19 vaccine doses, according to a letter from Capitol attending physician Brian Monahan.

In the letter, to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and viewed by CNN, Monahan wrote that Congress, the Supreme Court and Executive Branch agencies will be "provided with a specific number of Covid-19 vaccine doses to meet long-standing requirements for continuity of government operations."

"Those requirements are focused on essential operations and personnel," he added.

Monahan continued that the "small number" of doses provided "reflects a fraction of the first tranche of vaccines as it is distributed throughout the country."

McConnell announced earlier tonight that he will get a Covid-19 vaccine “in the coming days” and urged all Americans to do the same.

Covid in Congress: Earlier today Rep. Cedric Richmond, incoming White House Senior Advisor and Director of the Office of Public Engagement, tested positive for Covid-19.

Richmond is the fifth member of the House to announce this week that they had recently tested positive. 

That brings CNN's tally on members of Congress who have tested positive for Covid-19 to 39 House members and 11 senators.

9:46 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

US health secretary's wife tests positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Sara Murray

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar confirmed Thursday that his wife, Jennifer, has tested positive for Covid-19.

In a memo to colleagues, Azar said his wife is experiencing mild symptoms, but "otherwise doing well" and is self-isolating at home.

Azar added that he and his children have been tested and received negative results.

Azar has attended a White House holiday party -- despite the CDC advising Americans not to hold holiday gatherings -- but said he used a face covering and tried to practice social distancing.

9:28 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Rep. Cedric Richmond says he has mild symptoms after testing positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Mary Kay Mallonee

Rep. Cedric Richmond delivers remarks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of H.R. 7120, the "George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020," on Capitol Hill on June 17 in Washington.
Rep. Cedric Richmond delivers remarks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of H.R. 7120, the "George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020," on Capitol Hill on June 17 in Washington. Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond, incoming White House senior adviser and director of the Office of Public Engagement, said that he has mild symptoms and no fever after testing positive for Covid-19 .

Speaking to CNN's Don Lemon in a phone interview, Richmond said he is quarantined at home and is going to stay in quarantine for at least 10 days.

He said he is following all the rules of the Biden transition and their Covid protocols.

Richmond told Lemon that he saw President-elect Joe Biden at a rally on Tuesday. They were outside, didn’t get very close and were both wearing masks.

“I’m feeling fine, mild symptoms and no fever,” he said.

Richmond had traveled to Atlanta on Tuesday for a campaign event for the Georgia Senate run-off, where Biden was also present. 

According to the transition team, his interactions with the President-elect totaled less than "15 consecutive minutes, the CDC’s timeframe for close contact.”

9:13 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

US FDA plans to quickly issue emergency use authorization for Moderna vaccine

From CNN Health’s Maggie Fox

The US Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it plans to grant emergency use authorization to Moderna for its coronavirus vaccine.

“Following today’s positive advisory committee meeting outcome regarding the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, the US Food and Drug Administration has informed the sponsor that it will rapidly work toward finalization and issuance of an emergency use authorization,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn and Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.

“The agency has also notified the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Operation Warp Speed, so they can execute their plans for timely vaccine distribution," the statement continued.

8:59 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

US hits record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN’s Haley Brink

The United States reported 114,237 people hospitalized with Covid-19 on Thursday, the highest number since the pandemic began, according to the Covid Tracking Project (CTP).

This is the 16th consecutive day that the US has remained above 100,000 current hospitalizations. 

The highest number of hospitalizations according to CTP data are: 

  1. Dec. 17: 114,237
  2. Dec. 16: 113,090
  3. Dec. 15: 112,814
  4. Dec. 14: 110,549
  5. Dec. 13: 109,298 
8:37 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Giving all trial participants the vaccine is "ethically correct thing to do," says FDA advisory group member

From CNN Health’s Lauren Mascarenhas

Dr. Paul Offit.
Dr. Paul Offit. Source: CNN via Webex

Participants who received a placebo in Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine trial should get the vaccine, Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the US Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory group, said Thursday.

Moderna told trial participants that if the vaccine is authorized, volunteers who got a placebo in the trial will be offered the vaccine.

“If you got a placebo in that trial, I think you should get this vaccine,” Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, told CNN’s Erin Burnett. 

We know that this vaccine works. We know that it's safe.” 

“If you're in a high-risk condition, like you live or work in a long-term care facility or you're on the front lines in healthcare, I think you should get the vaccine,” he added. “I think that's the ethically correct thing to do.”