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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3:59 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

California shatters record for highest number of Covid-19 deaths in a single day

From CNN’s Sarah Moon and Cheri Mossburg

People wait in line to get a Covid-19 test at a testing center in Los Angeles, California on December 16, 2020.
People wait in line to get a Covid-19 test at a testing center in Los Angeles, California on December 16, 2020. Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

California shattered its record for the highest number of coronavirus deaths in a single day Thursday with 379 new deaths reported, according to data from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

The record surpasses the previous all-time high of 293 lives lost reported yesterday.

California also added 52,281 new cases of the virus on Thursday as it continues to see an unprecedented surge in new infections following the Thanksgiving holiday, though state health officials said the figure included an unspecified number of cases from a backlog.

The number was slightly below Wednesday's 53,711 figure, which included a more than 15,000-case backlog from previous days.

The number of patients hospitalized with the coronavirus continues to quickly rise statewide, placing a strain on the state’s health care system. More than 15,000 patients are currently in the hospital, with over 3,000 patients in intensive care.

More data: The intensive care unit bed capacity in Southern California has plunged to 0.0%, and is hovering at near all-time lows in the San Joaquin Valley at 0.7%, according to CDPH.

More than 98% of the state’s nearly 40 million residents are now under a stay-at-home order that officials hope will slow the unprecedented spread of the virus.

To date, California has reported a total of 1,723,362 cases and 21,860 deaths.

Note: These numbers were released by the California Department of Public Health and may not line up exactly in real-time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project. 

5:34 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

At-home Covid-19 test could be a "game-changer," FDA commissioner says

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

Ellume/AP
Ellume/AP

An at-home Covid-19 test authorized by the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday is an exciting development in testing accessibility, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn told Sen. Tim Scott in an Instagram Live on Thursday. 

The tests, from Australian company Ellume, could be available over the counter, and uses a customer’s smartphone to send test data to doctors. 

“It should be available next month,” Hahn said.

“We’re hoping to see more of these come to the FDA and hoping that the data show that they’re accurate and good to use,” he said, “because this will be a game-changer, I believe, in terms of access to testing.”

Hahn also spoke to Scott about ensuring marginalized communities have access to and can trust a Covid-19 vaccine. 

“It's not only a medical imperative that we get to the point where we have herd immunity we have enough people vaccinated, but it's a moral one as well,” he said. 

“We do in fact need to ensure that our most vulnerable and affected communities have the protection, moving forward to prevent the serious complications of this disease," Hahn said.

3:09 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Vice President Mike Pence will be vaccinated tomorrow morning

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a round table discussion at Catalent Biologics, where COVID-19 vaccine vials are being filled.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a round table discussion at Catalent Biologics, where COVID-19 vaccine vials are being filled. Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence will be vaccinated tomorrow at 8 a.m. ET, his office announced today.

The White House confirmed plans to vaccinate Pence publicly yesterday.

Here's what the White House said:

"Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence will publicly receive a COVID-19 vaccine to promote the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and build confidence among the American people. Vice President Pence and Second Lady Pence will be joined by Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who will also receive the vaccine. This event will take place at the White House."
3:02 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Covid situation in L.A. is "untenable," health director says

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

 

People wait in line to get a Covid-19 test at a testing center in Los Angeles, California on December 16.
People wait in line to get a Covid-19 test at a testing center in Los Angeles, California on December 16. Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

The explosive spread of Covid-19 in Los Angeles is overwhelming the health care system with record numbers of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, in a situation the county's health director, Barbara Ferrer, calls “untenable.” 

One in every 50 Los Angeles County residents may be infected with Covid-19 at this point as the virus continues to spread out of control in the nation’s most populous county, Ferrer estimated in an interview with Dana Bash on CNN Newsroom.

“This is a post-holiday surge that doesn’t need to be,” Ferrer said. “This is a lot of intermingling that needn’t have happened.”

She blamed three key factors for the explosion of cases: fatigue after several months of modifications, a misunderstanding of what's safe and what's not safe, and the politicization of mask wearing.

Ferrer acknowledged the holidays that are upon us, and urged people to spend time only with those in their households, despite the fatigue.

“There are some people who will never see a family member again, and there are other people who will spend the entire holiday season working overtime shifts in our hospitals, because they're taking care of too many patients so I think we should all sort of think about our own fatigue our own tiredness with, with all of the modifications we're asked to make,” she said.

In recent weeks, Los Angeles has consistently broke records for new daily cases, which have been quickly followed by record-high hospitalizations and fatalities. On Thursday, about 65% of the county’s hospitals were on "diversion," meaning they could no longer accept new patients and had to direct incoming ambulances to other facilities.

Watch:

1:26 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

US will ship 7.9 million doses to states in the next week if Moderna vaccine is authorized, official says

From CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas

Admiral Brett Giroir, U.S. assistant secretary for health, speaks during an Operation Warp Speed vaccine summit at the White House in Washington DC, on Tuesday, December 8.
Admiral Brett Giroir, U.S. assistant secretary for health, speaks during an Operation Warp Speed vaccine summit at the White House in Washington DC, on Tuesday, December 8. Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The US may ship 7.9 million coronavirus vaccine doses to states in the next week, Adm. Brett Giroir, US Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary, said on a call with reporters Thursday.

“Today, as I've said before, the end of the pandemic is in sight,” Giroir said. With two companies making vaccine, that will add to the supply that is slowly being rolled out.

“If the Moderna vaccine is authorized, we expect to ship 7.9 million additional doses of vaccines to states next week,” Giroir said.

On Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said 2 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine and 5.9 million doses of Moderna’s had been allocated for next week, in anticipation of Moderna’s vaccine winning US Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization by the weekend.

“We still anticipate that every American will have the opportunity to be vaccinated by June,” Giroir said. 

He noted that the vaccination program aims to achieve long-term herd immunity, which might start to happen if 75 to 80% of Americans are immunized.

“This will essentially end the pandemic as we know it,” he predicted.

1:23 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Covid-19 hospitalizations in Pennsylvania are double the state's peak in spring

 From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. 
This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Pennsylvania is reporting 6,346 patients hospitalized, double what it reported in the peak of the spring when the pandemic first took hold, officials said.

Of that number, 1,238 are in the ICU, Pennsylvania Health Department officials said in a news release.

The state reported an additional 9,966 positive cases.

Officials also marked an additional 224 deaths, down from the 278 reported Wednesday, which is the record high of one day additions.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of number of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 5,200 since the end of September, the department noted in the release.

From Dec. 4 to Dec 10, statewide percent positivity was 16.2%.

The most up-to-date daily data is available on the department's website.

1:08 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Pfizer says there have been no production or shipment delays involving Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN’s Nadia Kounang

The logo of Pfizer is seen on their headquarters in Manhattan, New York on November 19.
The logo of Pfizer is seen on their headquarters in Manhattan, New York on November 19. Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Vaccine maker Pfizer denied Thursday it is experiencing delays in making or shipping its coronavirus vaccine.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tweeted that his company “is not having any production issues with our COVID-19 vaccine, and no shipments containing the vaccine are on hold or delayed.

This week we successfully shipped all 2.9 million doses that we were asked to ship by the U.S. government to the locations specified by them,” he tweeted.

“We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses. We have continuously shared with Operation Warp Speed (OWS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through weekly meetings every aspect of our production and distribution capabilities. They have visited our facilities, walked the production lines and been updated on our production planning as information has become available,” Bourla added.

Pfizer said it is confident it can deliver 50 million doses globally this year and up to 1.3 billion doses next year.

12:47 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Moderna says two allergic reactions during trials were not related to the vaccine

From CNN's Jen Christensen

Moderna, Inc. headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Tuesday, December 15.
Moderna, Inc. headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Tuesday, December 15. Elise Amendola/AP

Dr. David Martin, the vice president of pharmacovigilance at Moderna, said the company will continue to monitor for allergic events, but hasn’t seen any reactions related to the Covid-19 vaccine during its late-stage clinical trial.

During the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) meeting Thursday, Martin said there were two anaphylaxis reactions among the volunteers in Moderna’s late-stage trial, but the company does not think its vaccine-related. 

"We have actively scrutinized our safety data to identify and analyze possible cases of anaphylaxis. We found no cases suggestive of anaphylaxis to mRNA 1273," Martin said. 

One severe allergic reaction was in the placebo group and one was in the group that got the vaccine. 

The allergic reaction in the placebo group happened 10 days after the volunteer got their first dose of the placebo. Doctors believed the allergic reaction was a reaction to a dye used in the placebo.

The person in the vaccine group had a severe allergic reaction 63 days after they got the second dose of the vaccine. This person has a history of asthma and is allergic to shellfish. 

12:40 p.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Kamala Harris will be vaccinated in public

From CNN’s MJ Lee and Jeff Zeleny

U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks during an event to announce new cabinet nominations at the Queen Theatre on December 11, in Wilmington, Delaware.
U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks during an event to announce new cabinet nominations at the Queen Theatre on December 11, in Wilmington, Delaware. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will receive the Covid-19 vaccine in a public setting, transition officials tell CNN. The exact timing and logistical details remain up in the air. 

President-elect Joe Biden is likely to receive the vaccine early next week and he too, will do it in public.

What is also still unclear is whether both Biden and Harris might receive the vaccine in the same setting. 

The commitment to getting vaccinated in public comes as the incoming Biden administration is focused on building public trust around the coronavirus vaccine as distribution gets underway.

Harris, in particular, has stressed the importance of doing this in communities of color, where there tends to be stronger distrust of vaccines. 

"Frankly, it’s about listening to the people. I mean it’s about remembering history, and why people feel the way they do. And then also reminding us that this vaccine is just about one thing and one thing only: saving lives," Harris said in an interview with ABC News this week.