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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9:45 p.m. ET, December 16, 2020

South Korea reports most deaths in a single day since pandemic began

From CNN’s Jake Kwon in Seoul

South Korea reported 22 deaths related to Covid-19 on Wednesday, the highest single-day total of the pandemic, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

For the second consecutive day, the country also reported more than 1,000 new Covid-19 infections, with 1,014 cases, the KDCA said in a news release.

Of those, 993 were local cases and 21 were imported.

The vast majority of the new infections -- 784 -- were in the Seoul metropolitan area. 

The latest tally brings total cases in the country to 46,453 and 634 deaths.

8:12 p.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Expect a quicker authorization of Moderna's coronavirus vaccine

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Vaccine advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration are scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss the second coronavirus vaccine aimed at the US market, this one made by biotechnology company Moderna.

The FDA has already telegraphed that a quick emergency use authorization can be expected and this one could go through even faster than the EUA for Pfizer last week -- itself a speedy process.

The Moderna vaccine is very similar to Pfizer's and BioNTech's vaccine. Both use a new approach involving genetic material known as messenger RNA or mRNA.

"It's based on the same technology," Dr. Elissa Malkin, co-investigator for the Moderna Clinical Trial at the George Washington University in Washington, DC, told CNN.
"Really, they do seem quite similar," added Malkin, who has studied both the Pfizer and the Moderna data.
"I think they are very likely to authorize it quickly."

The technology does not require the actual virus to make the vaccine -- simply the genetic code, which is used to trick the body into making little bits that look like the outside "spike" protein of the virus, prompting an immune response.

Both have shown about 95% efficacy in preventing disease, both appear very safe and both have been tested in tens of thousands of volunteers across the US and the world.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday he hopes the FDA will issue an EUA Thursday.

"Tomorrow, the FDA will hopefully make a decision regarding whether or not the Moderna messenger RNA vaccine will get an emergency use authorization," Fauci said on CNBC.

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9:22 p.m. ET, December 16, 2020

US hits record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN’s Haley Brink

The United States reported 113,069 Covid-19 hospitalizations on Wednesday, setting a new record high since the pandemic began, according to the Covid Tracking Project (CTP).

This is the 15th consecutive day that the US has remained above 100,000 hospitalizations.

According to CTP data, these days recorded the highest hospitalization numbers:

  1. Dec. 16: 113,069
  2. Dec. 15: 112,814
  3. Dec. 14: 110,549
  4. Dec. 13: 109,298
  5. Dec. 12: 108,461
9:12 p.m. ET, December 16, 2020

White House coronavirus task force warns of surging cases in more populated states

From CNN's Betsy Klein

The White House coronavirus task force is warning this week that while there has been some progress in slowing the spread of the pandemic in the northern and central United States, cases are still surging in more populated states.

"Stabilization in the Northern Plains, Upper Midwest, and some Rocky Mountain and Heartland states is being offset by significant deterioration in more populous states (82% of the population)," reports sent to states by the task force and obtained by CNN said, echoing comments made by Dr. Deborah Birx during a call with the nation's governors earlier this week.

The reports offered another week of bleak assessments, saying, "The fall surge is merging with the post-Thanksgiving surge to create a winter surge with the most rapid increase in cases; the widest spread, with more than 2,000 counties in COVID red zones; and the longest duration, now entering the 9th week, we have experienced."

Despite that surge and a "threat to the hospital systems," the task force warned that "many state and local governments are not implementing the same mitigation policies that stemmed the tide of the summer surge," citing indoor gatherings at home and calling for a "significant reduction in capacity or closure in public and private indoor spaces, including restaurants and bars."

Americans, the reports said, should "(understand) the clear risks of ANY family or friend interactions outside of their immediate household indoors without masks." That behavior has not been modeled by the White House, however, amid dozens of indoor holiday parties over the past two weeks.

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