December 18 coronavirus news

By Emma Reynolds, Hannah Strange, Helen Regan, Adam Renton and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 0421 GMT (1221 HKT) December 22, 2020
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1:34 p.m. ET, December 18, 2020

Migrants and refugees are suffering from mental health issues during pandemic, WHO says

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus talks during a daily press briefing on COVID-19 virus at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 11.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus talks during a daily press briefing on COVID-19 virus at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 11. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

More than half of refugees and migrants surveyed reported increased “depression, anxiety, and loneliness” caused by Covid-19, according to a survey from the World Health Organization that was put out on Friday.

In addition, one in five refugees and migrants surveyed reported increased drug and alcohol use. 

The survey, compiled in a report titled Apart Together, was conducted by the WHO and a research consortium led by Ghent University and the University of Copenhagen. The survey accessed 30,000 migrants and refugees in almost every WHO member state. 

Refugees and migrants reported high compliance rates with some measures of virus prevention, like hand washing and wearing face coverings. However, nearly 20% said they were unable to comply with stay-at-home measures, and more than 15% were unable to avoid public transport. 

Twelve percent of those surveyed reported current symptoms they believed to be linked to Covid-19. Of those who reported being unable to access medical care if they had symptoms, 35% said they lacked the money to seek health care and 22% said they feared deportation if they accessed medical care. 

“Access to care must not be linked to legal status,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing discussing the report’s findings. “We call on all countries to remove financial and other barriers to care for migrants as part of their journey towards universal health coverage. Health for all means all – including migrants.”

1:27 p.m. ET, December 18, 2020

Joe and Jill Biden will receive Pfizer vaccine on Monday

From CNN’s Sarah Mucha

President-elect Joe Biden, and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, depart the Queen Theater after introducing key foreign policy and national security nominees and appointments on November 24, in Wilmington, Delaware.
President-elect Joe Biden, and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, depart the Queen Theater after introducing key foreign policy and national security nominees and appointments on November 24, in Wilmington, Delaware. Mark Makela/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden and incoming first lady Jill Biden will receive their first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday.

"On Monday, President Elect Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will receive the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in Delaware," transition spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters on a briefing call Friday.

They do not have details on where exactly that will take place yet. 

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and incoming second gentleman Doug Emhoff will receive their vaccines the following week, Psaki said.

12:48 p.m. ET, December 18, 2020

Nancy Pelosi receives Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Kristin Wilson

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi receives the Pfizer-BioNTech SE Covid-19 vaccine at the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC, on Friday, December 18.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi receives the Pfizer-BioNTech SE Covid-19 vaccine at the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC, on Friday, December 18. Ken Cedeno/UPI/Bloomberg/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been vaccinated by the Capitol Attending Physician Dr. Brian Monahan, Pelosi's spokesperson Drew Hammill confirmed to CNN.

Earlier today, Vice President Mike Pence, second lady Karen Pence and Surgeon General Jerome Adams received the first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

CNN reported last night that all members of Congress will be eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, according to a memo from the Capitol attending physician and a statement from Pelosi. 

12:38 p.m. ET, December 18, 2020

New York hospitals are in "crisis management" and have added capacity, governor says

From CNN's Laura Ly

Governor Andrew Cuomo delivers remarks on the inequities in the Trump administration's vaccine distribution plan at Riverside Church in New York, on November 15.
Governor Andrew Cuomo delivers remarks on the inequities in the Trump administration's vaccine distribution plan at Riverside Church in New York, on November 15. Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that the state’s hospitals are in “crisis management” mode and capacity has been added at facilities across the state.

Cuomo said the state’s department of health mandated that 25% additional capacity be added and advised that hospitals should cancel elective surgeries if there are capacity issues. 

Accordingly, about 31,000 hospital beds have been added in New York’s “downstate” region, Cuomo said.

The New York Department of Health has also mandated that hospitals notify state officials if they are three weeks away from reaching 85% maximum capacity. If such a threshold is reached, the state would move to shutdown the economy in that area, Cuomo said.

However, no hospital in the state has given the health department any such notice, which Cuomo said was “good news.”

“I believe hospitals are going to be able to manage this. We learned a lot in the spring,” Cuomo said.

Additionally, New York reported a statewide positivity rate of 5.09% on Friday, and Covid-19 hospitalizations, ICU patients, and intubation numbers across the state are all down, Cuomo said.

12:33 p.m. ET, December 18, 2020

Prime minister urges Canadians not to give up as Covid-19 cases climb

From CNN’s Amanda Watts 

Canada prime minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Major General Dany Fortin, vice president of logistics and operations at Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), depart following a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Thursday, December 10.
Canada prime minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Major General Dany Fortin, vice president of logistics and operations at Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), depart following a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Thursday, December 10. David Kawai/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is urging Canadians to take Covid-19 “very seriously, as numbers continue to head in the wrong direction."

He added, “Our fight against this virus is not over, even as we're preparing to say goodbye and good riddance to 2020.” 

Speaking during a Friday news conference, Trudeau said, “Canadians are pretty good at making it through long tough winters, and this is going to be a longer and tougher one than we're even used to.” 

Frontline workers in Canada started to receive vaccinations earlier this week.

“Getting a vaccine, in a week or a month, won’t do you any good if you catch Covid-19 today,” he added.

Speaking in French, Trudeau asked Canadians across the country to stay inside, wear masks and continue to social distance through the holiday season.

“Christmas will not be the same way this year, but it's still going to be an opportunity for us to be with a close one, physically or virtually," Trudeau said.

“Just like through this spring, summer, and fall, we will continue to be there for you. We will have your back, every step of the way,” Trudeau promised. “We will do as a government, whatever it takes, for as long as it takes to keep you safe and supported. We're coming into the final miles of this crisis, and we can't give up now.” 

11:36 a.m. ET, December 18, 2020

Some US lawmakers begin to get vaccinated

From CNN's Kristin Wilson

Some House members are already starting to get their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

CNN reported last night that all members of Congress will be eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, according to a memo from the Capitol attending physician and a press release from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. 

Democratic Rep. Don Beyer is set to get his vaccine this afternoon.

His communications director tweeted: "Voting schedule permitting, @RepDonBeyer will get a coronavirus vaccine via the Office of the Attending Physician this afternoon."

Earlier today, Vice President Mike Pence, second lady Karen Pence and Surgeon General Jerome Adams received the first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

1:04 p.m. ET, December 18, 2020

Technology used to make Covid-19 vaccine could change how we fight diseases, Moderna chairman says

From CNN's Elise Hammond

Noubar Afeyan speaks at the 2019 Aurora Forum on October 16, 2019 in Yerevan, Armenia.
Noubar Afeyan speaks at the 2019 Aurora Forum on October 16, 2019 in Yerevan, Armenia. Victor Boyko/Getty Images for Aurora Humanitarian Initiative

Noubar Afeyan, the co-founder and chairman of drug maker Moderna, says that the technology used to make the company's Covid-19 vaccine could change the way scientists think about therapeutics and vaccines for other diseases in the future.

"We have in fact demonstrated in many different disease therapeutic areas and vaccines that this kind of technology could, in fact, create a whole new portion of the medical repertoire we have to fight disease," Afeyan told CNN on Friday.

Moderna is one of the companies to pioneer mRNA technology its vaccine is based on. Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine also uses this approach.

How it works: Messenger RNA is a single strand of the genetic code that cells can "read" and use to make a protein. In the case of this vaccine, the mRNA instructs cells in the body to make the particular piece of the virus's spike protein. Then the immune system sees it, recognizes it as foreign and is prepared to attack when actual infection occurs.

"We wanted to do the work to enable such a molecule to become a medicine," Afeyan said. "The difference is if you're dealing with an information molecule, a code molecule, by changing the code you ought to be able to make any therapeutic or vaccine you want, that was the dream."

He says this technology will change people's perception of how long it should take to make a vaccine, adding that the "Covid-19 vaccine example will forge a new path."

"Perhaps not to always be able to go from zero to a vaccine in less than a year, but certainly the five to ten years it used to take was somewhat predicated on older technology and also, I'll say, the assumption that it has to take that long, which we no longer have to make," he said.

Some context: The FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee met to discuss Moderna's vaccine on Thursday, and is expected to authorize it for emergency use in the coming days. Once it does, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says the federal government has nearly 5.9 million doses ready to be shipped.

Watch the Moderna co-founder:

10:31 a.m. ET, December 18, 2020

How the vaccine gets from the lab to your arm

Getting the Covid-19 vaccine from the labs to your arm is a long road that requires a carefully thought out chain of transportation to keep the vials at the right temperature.

Here's a look at how that process works:

  • Step 1: The manufacturer packs the doses into trucks. The trays of vaccine are stored in special boxes that are packed with dry ice and equipped with a temperature sensor and GPS tracker.
  • Step 2: Those trucks head to the airport and the boxes are put on cargo and passenger planes. On the plane, the vaccines are stored in special cooling containers – some of theme with the ability to regulate the temperature and send an alert if something is wrong.
  • Step 3: Once the planes land at airports around the country, some of the containers are stored in special cold facilities while others are packed on more trucks to head to hospitals. Companies like FedEx and UPS will drive the doses to their destination.
  • Step 4: Health care workers take the trays out of the boxes and put them in freezers. These workers then begin the process of turning the vials into injections.

Watch:

10:19 a.m. ET, December 18, 2020

1 in 216 Americans tested positive for Covid-19 this week alone

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Residents arrive for COVID-19 and COVID-19 antibody tests at a mobile test site being run by Roseland Community Hospital on December 12, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. 
Residents arrive for COVID-19 and COVID-19 antibody tests at a mobile test site being run by Roseland Community Hospital on December 12, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois.   Scott Olson/Getty Images

As new Covid-19 cases surge in the United States, over the last seven days, more than 1.51 million new coronavirus cases were reported, according to Johns Hopkins University. That means new infections were reported in 1 in 216 Americans this week alone, per JHU data.

This is the most cases added in a single week since the pandemic began.

The US is now averaging more cases every single day than it ever has during the pandemic. Right now, on average, about 216,675 new cases are reported every day. The US has now averaged more than 200,000 cases for 11 consecutive days.

In just the first 17 days of the month, December is already the second-highest month of new cases since the pandemic began, per JHU.

Here's how this month compares:

  • January: 8 cases
  • February: 29 cases
  • March: 192,152 cases
  • April: 884,047 cases
  • May: 718,241 cases
  • June: 842,906 cases
  • July: 1,915,966 cases
  • August: 1,463,760 cases
  • September: 1,202,896 cases
  • October: 1,917,201 cases
  • November: 4,462,302 cases
  • So far in December: 3,607,151 cases