December 19 coronavirus news

By Emiko Jozuka, Adam Renton, Amy Woodyatt and Sarah Diab, CNN

Updated 0420 GMT (1220 HKT) December 22, 2020
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11:11 a.m. ET, December 19, 2020

US remains "on track" to allocate 20 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine by end of year, official says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

The United States remains "on track" to allocate 20 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to states nationwide by the end of the year, Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said during a news briefing on Saturday. 

The nation currently has two Covid-19 vaccines – Pfizer/BioNTech's and Moderna's – authorized for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration.

"We remain on track to allocate around 20 million doses of vaccine to all jurisdictions by the end of December, with distribution of those doses pushing into the first week of January," Perna said on Saturday morning.

"While this second vaccine from Moderna, added on to Pfizer, now allows us as a whole of America to be on the offense, we are a long way from being finished," Perna said. "Each shipment of vaccine is another few yards gained, but any good player or coach knows that you still need defense, along with offense, to win the game. I join our health professionals in urging Americans to stay diligent in their defense. Wear a mask, wash your hands and stay socially distanced."

 

11:55 a.m. ET, December 19, 2020

Distribution of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine has already begun," Operation Warp Speed official says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

A nurse prepares a shot of a Covid-19 vaccine during the Moderna vaccine trial on July 27 in Binghamton, New York.
A nurse prepares a shot of a Covid-19 vaccine during the Moderna vaccine trial on July 27 in Binghamton, New York. Hans Pennink/AP

Distribution of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine now has commenced in the United States, Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said during a briefing on Saturday. 

The US Food and Drug Administration authorized the vaccine on Friday.

"Distribution of Moderna vaccine has already begun," Perna said on Saturday morning.

"Boxes are being packed and loaded today. Trucks will begin rolling out tomorrow, from FedEx and UPS, delivering vaccines and kits to the American people across the United States," Perna said. "This week, in total, between Pfizer and Moderna, we have allocated 7.9 million doses of vaccine."

11:46 a.m. ET, December 19, 2020

Meet the 8-year-old boy who started a food pantry to help neighbors struggling through the pandemic

Cavanaugh Bell, 8, started a food pantry in his neighborhood.
Cavanaugh Bell, 8, started a food pantry in his neighborhood. CNN

Cavanaugh Bell, 8, used his $600 in savings to start a food pantry in an effort to help neighbors in need during the coronavirus pandemic.

Bell shared some words of encouragement today during CNN and Sesame Street's coronavirus town hall for other children who may be looking for ways to give back in their communities.

"I'd say stay positive and try and find the good things that are happening right now, like being able to spend time with your family. Finding ways to help your community is also fun and can give kids a way to feel powerful and feel like they matter right now," Bell said.

Watch Cavanaugh Bell's message for children who want to help:

12:21 p.m. ET, December 19, 2020

Feeding America CEO is "very optimistic" about where the US is heading

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, the CEO of Feeding America, speaks during CNN and Sesame Street's coronavirus town hall on Saturday.
Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, the CEO of Feeding America, speaks during CNN and Sesame Street's coronavirus town hall on Saturday. CNN

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, the CEO of Feeding America, shared words of encouragement today during CNN and Sesame Street's coronavirus town hall for families struggling in the US under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I'm excited to share that I am very optimistic about where we are going. I've got to tell you I think of it in terms of almost like sunrise. I'm not the weather lady, so I don't know exactly when the sun's going to rise but I know it's going to happen and what we are dealing with now and what people have been dealing with for a long time, I think we get past that, too," Babineaux-Fontenot said.

Babineaux-Fontenot added: "It might be different. And it's okay that we're going to sometimes feel scared and sometimes upset but think we are going to get through it together because I get to see so many people around the country and around the world who are out there trying to help their neighbors. We are going to get through this because we're going to do it together."

Watch Feeding America CEO's message:

10:55 a.m. ET, December 19, 2020

Wear a mask around family members even if they've been vaccinated, Fauci says

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during CNN and Sesame Street's coronavirus town hall on Saturday, December 19. 
Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during CNN and Sesame Street's coronavirus town hall on Saturday, December 19.  CNN

Even if an older family member has received a Covid-19 vaccine, it's still important for adults and children to wear a mask when around them, Dr. Anthony Fauci said today during CNN and Sesame Street's coronavirus town hall.

"Well, if your grandparent gets it, you still need to be careful and wear a mask because until we get this blanket of protection over everyone you can't be absolutely certain there isn't virus there," Fauci said in response to a child's video question. "Vaccines are extremely important to ending this outbreak but until we get the full component of almost everyone vaccinated, we can't abandon the common public health measures of wearing a mask. So yes, you still should be wearing a mask."

Why Dr. Fauci says you should still wear a mask around vaccinated family members:

10:25 a.m. ET, December 19, 2020

Fauci explains why children have not been given the Covid-19 vaccine yet

Protecting children is very "important" which is why the Covid-19 vaccine has not been administered to them yet, Dr. Anthony Fauci said today during CNN and Sesame Street's coronavirus town hall today.

"It's important to preserve the safety of children. We are very concerned that we want to make sure we emphasize the safety of vaccines so when you get a new vaccine you generally want to show the safety and the efficacy in an adult population," Fauci said. "Once you do, then you start doing trials, maybe a couple months later in the children so that you can quickly as possible get them the vaccine. So the reason why you're not hearing about our vaccinating children right now is because we want to wait a month or two."

Fauci added: "We're looking at January we're going to start some trials in children. We'll start with children who are a bit older and work our way down so that hopefully within a few months, we'll be able to tell children, what I know we'll be able to say, the vaccine is safe and effective in you and we're anxious to get you vaccinated. Hang in there, a couple of more months, and then we'll be in good shape."

Watch Dr. Fauci answer children's Covid-19 questions:

10:17 a.m. ET, December 19, 2020

Dr. Anthony Fauci asks families to "stay safe" this holiday season

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during CNN and Sesame Street's coronavirus town hall on Saturday, December 19. 
Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during CNN and Sesame Street's coronavirus town hall on Saturday, December 19.  CNN

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert in the US, called on Americans to protect themselves from the Covid-19 pandemic this holiday season.

"You can enjoy the family and the warmth of the holiday season and still stay safe and prevent yourself from getting infected by just doing some of the common things that we talk about;  appropriate wearing of masks, trying to keep some physical distance," Fauci said during CNN and Sesame Street's coronavirus town hall today. "If you can, try and do things outdoors a little bit more than indoors and importantly, you don't want to hang out in crowds with a lot of people around. I think your family and friends together you can still have a warm and enjoyable Christmas and holiday season right now and enjoy it to the fullest."

Fauci added: "Although we are in a serious time right now we need to take care of ourselves, we can still have fun and enjoy the holiday season."

Watch Dr. Fauci's message about the holidays:

12:36 p.m. ET, December 19, 2020

New strain of Covid-19 is more contagious, England’s medical chief warns

From CNN’s Luke McGee, Lindsay Isaac and Arnaud Siad

Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England, speaks during a news conference on December 16 in London, England.
Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England, speaks during a news conference on December 16 in London, England. Matt Dunham/WPA Pool/Getty Images

England’s chief medical officer has warned that a newly identified variant of Covid-19 is more contagious than previous strains of the virus, prompting speculation the prime minister will have to order further restrictions before Christmas.

Professor Chris Whitty says “urgent work” is underway to rule out if the new strain, prevalent in the southeast of England, can cause a higher mortality rate.

“There is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments although urgent work is underway to confirm this,” he said in a statement.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold a news conference Saturday after meeting with his cabinet on the faster spreading strain. With cases surging, Johnson could announce further restrictions. 

The government’s scientific advisory group for Covid-19 has also warned the new strain is a “real cause for concern,” and called for urgent action. On Twitter, Sir Jeremy Farrar said, “Research is ongoing to understand more, but acting urgently now is critical. There is no part of the UK & globally that should not be concerned. As in many countries, the situation is fragile."

Whitty also urged people to take more precautions.

“Given this latest development it is now more vital than ever that the public continue to take action in their area to reduce transmission,” he said.

In Wales: The Welsh government has brought its planned lockdown forward to Sunday and will curtail Christmas, after a newly discovered strain of Covid-19 in south east England has been determined to be present “throughout Wales.”  

Following an emergency cabinet meeting Saturday, the first minister said: “We now know that this new strain is significantly more infectious and spreads more quickly than the original one.” 

 

8:55 a.m. ET, December 19, 2020

SOON: CNN and Sesame Street partner up for coronavirus town hall

CNN
CNN

CNN and Sesame Street team up today their fifth Town Hall as kids and families persevere through the Covid-19 pandemic and prepare for a very different holiday season.

The hour-long special, "The ABCs of Covid-19," will be hosted by CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Erica Hill along with Sesame Street’s Big Bird and friends today 10 a.m. ET on CNN, CNN International, and CNN en Español.

Familiar faces from Sesame Street and experts from CNN and across the country will be ready to answer children’s questions about staying healthy through the winter months, celebrating the holidays while distanced from extended family and friends, and coping with big feelings as they continue to face unprecedented challenges in their young lives.

How to watch: The special will stream live without requiring a log-in on CNN.com’s homepage and across mobile devices via CNN’s apps for iOS and Android. It can also be viewed on CNNgo (at CNN.com/go on your desktop, smartphone, and iPad and via CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, and Android TV) and will be available on-demand to subscribers via cable/satellite systems, CNNgo platforms, and CNN mobile apps.