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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11:35 a.m. ET, December 17, 2020

New York City hospital system suspends elective procedures as Covid-19 cases surge 

from CNN's Kristina Sgueglia 

CEO of Health + Hospitals Dr. Mitch Katz attend a press conference on the coronavirus outbreak on March 3, in New York.
CEO of Health + Hospitals Dr. Mitch Katz attend a press conference on the coronavirus outbreak on March 3, in New York. mpi43/MediaPunch /IPX/AP

New York City Health + Hospitals has suspended elective procedures at its 11 hospitals, according to its CEO.

"We’ve made it clear that the only surgeries we will be doing are surgeries where they come in emergently such as car accidents or surgeries where somebodies health is directly affected such as when somebody has an infection," CEO Mitch Katz said.

Necessary and emergency surgeries continue however, but consistent with the governor’s request, elective procedures have been canceled, he said.

"We do have the extra 25% capacity the state has asked us for." Currently occupancy is at 65% in both ICU and in regular medical surgical beds, he said. "One third more patients than the patients we have would easily fit in without opening any extraordinary spaces."

Katz says the hospitals are already participating in "level loading," meaning moving patients from full hospitals to other hospitals with more capacity. He remarked that it’s been easier to move patients now because they are not as sick as they were in March or April, and the hospital system is moving them earlier in the process, he said. 

Katz also added that they are committed to getting everybody in the 11 public hospitals vaccinated in three weeks. 

11:27 a.m. ET, December 17, 2020

 Israelis brace for possible third lockdown

From CNN's Elliott Gotkine and Amir Tal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Maccabi Healthcare Services vaccine complex for COVID-19, in Tel Aviv, Israel, December 13.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Maccabi Healthcare Services vaccine complex for COVID-19, in Tel Aviv, Israel, December 13. Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/AP

The number of daily coronavirus cases in Israel hit 2,802 on Wednesday – way above the 2,500 mark at which lawmakers said tightened restrictions would kick in.

The R-rate – the average number of people infected by a Covid-19-carrying individual – rose to 1.23.

The country’s so-called coronavirus cabinet will meet on Sunday to decide what to do. 

Although a third lockdown is possible, it seems more likely the government will impose additional restrictions on commerce: closing shops, malls and markets that aren’t considered essential. 

The night before the cabinet meets, after the end of the Jewish sabbath, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be the first person in the country to be vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

In a video message recorded at his home, where he’s self-isolating, he said:

"On Friday, I will leave quarantine and on Saturday evening I will go get vaccinated. I have asked to be the first person to get vaccinated in order to serve as an example and to persuade you that you can and should be vaccinated."

President Reuven Rivlin will follow on Sunday, when he visits health workers at Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem. 

Along with leading political figures, medical professionals will also be among the first group of Israelis to be vaccinated.

11:19 a.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Moderna's chief medical officer reveals key details on vaccine

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Dr. Tal Zaks, Moderna’s chief medical officer, on December 17.
Dr. Tal Zaks, Moderna’s chief medical officer, on December 17. Food and Drug Administration

The Moderna vaccine involves "no further mixing or dilution, while remaining stable for up to 12 hours at room temperature," Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tal Zaks, said on Thursday.

During the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC), Zaks said the manufacturing process "does not use products of animal or human origin, and it does not contain preservatives or adjuvants."

The Phase 3 study shows "the vaccine efficacy rate for symptomatic Covid-19 infection was 94.1%, with a 95% confidence interval lower bound of 89.3%," Zaks said.

"Importantly, we also observed a dramatic reduction in severe cases. All of the 30 severe cases observed at the time of primary analysis occurred in people given placebo," Zaks added.

Moderna says that a reduction in symptomatic cases "predicts a reduction in cases leading to hospitalization, intensive care and death."

Moderna has done early phase clinical trials on infectious disease for several years, Zaks said. "We have had not seen a significant safety concern in any of our trials to date."

11:12 a.m. ET, December 17, 2020

UNICEF will feed children in the UK for the first time due to coronavirus

From CNN's Josefine Obema

For the first time in its 70 year history, humanitarian organization UNICEF will help feed people in parts of Britain. 

Calling it a "domestic emergency," the UN agency said vulnerable children and families are in need of assistance due to the Covid-19 crisis. 

UNICEF director of programmes, Anna Kettley, said:

"The pandemic has turned the lives of children and family’s upside down and for many the continued impact of the pandemic will be increasing financial worries." 
"We welcome the Government’s recent announcement to provide a support package to families facing hardships in England. Increasing the value of the Healthy Start Vouchers and expanding the Holiday Activities and Food program from April next year should also be recognized as important steps forwards in tackling food insecurity and ensuring that children can eat well." 

Children affected by the pandemic will receive breakfast boxes from schools in parts of south London over the Christmas holidays. Families in other parts of the country will receive fresh fruit, vegetable packs and meal kits. 

11:06 a.m. ET, December 17, 2020

French prime minister tests negative for Covid-19 following contact with Macron

From CNN's Pierre Buet and Gaelle Fournier

French Prime Minister Jean Castex attends a press conference in Paris on December 10.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex attends a press conference in Paris on December 10. Thomas Samson/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

French Prime Minister Jean Castex tested negative for Covid-19 on Thursday morning, according to a statement from the Prime Minister's office. 

Castex will continue to self-quarantine for seven days following contact with French President Emmanuel Macron, who tested positive for the virus.

Another cabinet minister – Marc Fesneau – will self-quarantine as well, French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal told journalists at BFMTV. 

Meanwhile, the President of the French National Assembly, Richard Ferrand, will also isolate for seven days following contact with Macron. 

"In accordance with the sanitary guidelines in force, the President of the National Assembly is isolating immediately for a seven-day period. He will then do a RTPCR test," said a statement from the National Assembly. "He will continue to exercise his functions."

10:52 a.m. ET, December 17, 2020

US surpasses 17 million Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Amanda Watts 

There have been at least 17,000,408 cases of coronavirus in the United States and at least 307,770 people have died from Covid-19 since the pandemic began, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.  

On Dec. 12, the US hit 16 million cases. Five days later, on Dec. 17, the US hit 17 million cases.

11:13 a.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Tennessee governor says Covid-19 vaccine is not a cure for foolish decisions

From CNN's Tina Burnside

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference in Nashville on December 17.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference in Nashville on December 17. George Walker IV/The Tennessean/USA Today Network

As the state prepares to administer its first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is urging all residents to be vigilant and to continue acting responsibly during this pandemic. 

Lee says although today is a historic moment and turning point in this pandemic, the sobering reality is that Tennesseans are getting sicker. 

On Wednesday, the state reported 11,410 new cases, a new record high since the start of the pandemic. Lee said decisions people made over the Thanksgiving holiday is having a severe reality on the hospital system across the state. 

"One thing this vaccine will not solve, or cure is selfishness or indifference to what is happening to our neighbors around us," Lee said. 

Lee also stated that the vaccine is not a cure for foolish decisions on how we gather, or one's refusal to wear a mask and it won't cure the idea that someone else's decision won't impact another person's life.  

Lee said there is darkness before dawn happening in Tennessee and is urging all Tennesseans to recognize and adhere his message. 

Today, the state is expecting 56,550 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to start arriving to their hospitals statewide. 

Earlier this week, the state Department of Health announced it is holding the first shipment of 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine as an emergency backup in the event a hospital's supply is damaged.   

10:55 a.m. ET, December 17, 2020

More than 5,000 NYC healthcare workers have been vaccinated, mayor says

From CNN's Roxanne Garcia

Sandra Lindsay, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine by Dr. Michelle Chester in Queens, New York, on December 14.
Sandra Lindsay, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine by Dr. Michelle Chester in Queens, New York, on December 14. Mark Lennihan/Pool/AP

About 5,200 healthcare workers have been vaccinated so far in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a Thursday briefing, adding the "numbers are going to grow rapidly each day."

A total of 42,900 doses have been delivered so far, he said.

"The virus keeps causing us a challenge, the rate of infection keeps going up in this city, hospitalizations keep going up, we’ve got a serious issue here."

"That’s why we need the vaccine to fight the virus," he said.

10:40 a.m. ET, December 17, 2020

Delaware to begin vaccinating staff at 3 long-term care facilities

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

Delaware is set to begin vaccinating staff at three long-term care facilities Thursday, according to the governor’s office.

The state received 7,800 doses Wednesday, and delivered them to three Genesis Healthcare Inc facilities which plan to start vaccinating staff Thursday.

Residents will begin receiving the vaccine the week of Dec. 28, the release said, adding Walgreens and CVS pharmacists are partnering with facilities to vaccinate the residents.

"We are all relieved to see that this vaccine has arrived at our long-term care facilities to protect Delaware’s most vulnerable citizens from COVID-19," Gov. John Carney said in the Thursday release

"But we’re not through the woods yet. We still face a difficult winter surge of cases and hospitalizations. Stay vigilant until we can widely distribute the vaccine," he added.