The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Nectar Gan, Jenni Marsh and Tara John, CNN

Updated 0455 GMT (1255 HKT) December 21, 2020
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1:48 p.m. ET, December 20, 2020

CDC director accepts advisory committee’s recommendation for Moderna Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard, Ben Tinker and Arman Azad

Boxes containing the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Mississippi, on December 20.
Boxes containing the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Mississippi, on December 20. Paul Sancya/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield has accepted the recommendation of the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices that Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine should be given to people ages 18 and older in the United States.

The move paves the way for Moderna’s vaccine to be administered in the US, which is expected to add millions of doses to the country’s vaccine supply.

On Saturday, ACIP committee members voted in favor of the recommendation.

On Friday, the US Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency use authorization for Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine.

Moderna began shipping its vaccine on Sunday, with first shots in arms expected Monday morning.

2:43 p.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Senate majority leader says he expects Covid-19 stimulus deal "in a matter of hours"

From CNN’s Ali Zaslav

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell heads to the floor of the Senate from his office on December 20 in Washington, DC.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell heads to the floor of the Senate from his office on December 20 in Washington, DC. Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday, “I’m relieved that we appear to be just hours away” to finalizing an agreement on a $900 billion coronavirus relief package.

“Discussions on another major pandemic rescue package continued all night and this morning. We're winnowing down the remaining differences. I believe I can speak for all sides when I say, I hope and expect to have a final agreement nailed down in a matter of hours,” McConnell said in remarks on the Senate floor.

He reiterated that Democrats and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey came to an agreement late Saturday night on a key sticking point: The role of the Federal Reserve to intervene in the US economy.

“These new emergency lending facilities were always intended to sunset at the end of this year,” McConnell said of the provision. “Senator Toomey and our Democratic colleagues have landed on compromise language that ensures this will, in fact, happen.”

When could they vote: Walking off the floor, when asked about potential vote timing in the Senate Sunday, McConnell replied, “We’ll see.”

Meanwhile, top Republican Sen. John Cornyn told reporters he thinks “it’s doubtful” the Senate will vote Sunday on a stimulus – and they’ll likely need to pass a continuing resolution to extend the government funding deadline, which expires at midnight. Adding, “I hear the text may not even be available until later on.”

1:09 p.m. ET, December 20, 2020

More than a million people in the US have traveled by air over the past two days

From CNN’s Pete Muntean

People check in at Washington Reagan National Airport on December 18 in Arlington, Virginia.
People check in at Washington Reagan National Airport on December 18 in Arlington, Virginia. Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images

The Transportation Security Administration said 1,073,563 people passed through security checkpoints on Saturday.

On Friday, 1,066,747 people flew. The TSA said this is the first time since the pandemic began that more than a million people were screened on consecutive days.

The numbers hint at an early rush for holiday air travel, something the CDC warned against the week prior to Thanksgiving. On Nov. 29, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, 1,176,091 people flew— an air travel record during the pandemic that still stands. 

 

1:12 p.m. ET, December 20, 2020

UK breaks daily coronavirus case record for the second time in 4 days

From Niamh Kennedy

Rebecca Jackson processes a rapid Covid-19 test on December 15 in Redcar, England.
Rebecca Jackson processes a rapid Covid-19 test on December 15 in Redcar, England. Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

The United Kingdom has again broken its daily coronavirus case record, having recorded 35,928 new cases on Sunday, according to the UK government coronavirus dashboard.

This is the highest daily case number recorded by the UK according to CNN's tally.

This tops the previous record of 35,383 cases reported on Thursday. 

A further 326 deaths were recorded in the UK on Sunday. 

Medical Director for Public Health England Yvonne Doyle said in a statement on Twitter that the "sharp and sudden increase is of serious concern."

Doyle said most of the new cases "reported today are concentrated in London and the South East" although it is "too early to tell if this is linked to the new variant."

This number comes as nearly 20 million people in the UK are placed under the highest level of restrictions. 

12:24 p.m. ET, December 20, 2020

US leadership should get the Covid-19 vaccine, HHS official says

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

Influential leadership, including the President, should get vaccinated against Covid-19 to help public confidence in the available vaccines, Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir told ABC on Sunday.

“I think any leader who is influential over groups of individuals should have the vaccine,” he said, “obviously, President-Elect Biden, Vice President-Elect Harris, the President.”

More on this: Vice President Mike Pence was vaccinated on Friday. Members of Congress are also eligible for vaccination. Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have received the vaccine.

“I think leadership, like the Vice President, the surgeon general, should get vaccines because they will inspire confidence with the people who believe in them and trust them,” said Giroir.

"I would encourage the President to get a vaccine for his own health and safety,” he said, “and also generate more confidence among the people who follow him so closely.”

Some context: Earlier this week, a White House official told CNN that President Trump wouldn’t be vaccinated until it was recommended by the White House medical team.

11:51 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

People who have been infected with Covid-19 should be vaccinated, Operation Warp Speed lead says

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

People who have been infected with Covid-19 should still get vaccinated against the virus, Operation Warp Speed head Moncef Slaoui told CNN on Sunday.

“We know that infection doesn’t induce a very strong immune response, and it wanes over time,” Slaoui said.

Slaoui said it is safe for people who were infected with Covid-19 to get a vaccine.

“That has happened in the clinical trials,” he said. “People participating in the trial had experienced, or actively had, a viral infection at the time they started being vaccinated, so it’s safe.”

Covid-19 vaccinations are underway for health care workers and residents of long term care facilities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to discuss the next groups recommended to be vaccinated at a meeting Sunday afternoon.

 

1:15 p.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine may provide more doses than originally thought, FDA says

From CNN's Jen Christensen

A pharmacist prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at Torrance Memorial Medical Center on December 19 in Torrance, California.
A pharmacist prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at Torrance Memorial Medical Center on December 19 in Torrance, California. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Doran Fink, deputy director-clinical of the Division of Vaccines and Related Products Applications at the US Food and Drug Administration, on Sunday said that the FDA is working with Pfizer to update the prescribing information and fact sheets about its Covid-19 vaccine, to make sure health care providers get the most vaccine doses from each vial.

The company has overfilled the vials, and with careful administration, instead of the five doses indicated on the label, it will usually yield six, or possibly even seven, doses, Fink told the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

Fink said that the FDA has posted the information on its website.

“In order to optimally address the pandemic,” Fink said. "We do want health care providers to be using every full dose that can be obtained from each vial.”

11:21 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Here's where things stand in Congress with the stimulus negotiations

From CNN’s Manu Raju

Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Congressional leaders are still trying to hammer out the $900 billion Covid-19 relief deal and believe it could take much of the day to iron out the last remaining disagreements before finally unveiling the text to the rest of Congress shortly before votes occur, aides said Sunday.

Lawmakers also have not yet seen the text of the $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package that leaders are trying to push through to fund the government through next September. The goal is to tie the Covid-19 relief bill to the massive omnibus package.

If finalizing the bill drags on today, as many expect, Congress may — for the fourth time since September — be forced to pass another stopgap spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. It’s possible, one source said, they may have to pass a 1-2 day stopgap.

What happens next: Once the text is unveiled, the House Rules Committee will have to consider the package - a meeting that could take several hours. Then, they will have to schedule House floor debate and set up votes in the chamber. 

The Senate is more complicated because it requires consent of all 100 members to schedule a vote, and it’s uncertain if that will happen if any member is unhappy with the bill or the process. If they can’t get an agreement for a quick vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will be forced to take procedural steps to up a vote, a process that could take several days.

10:59 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Long-term care facilities in New York state will begin receiving Covid-19 vaccines on Monday

From CNN's Laura Ly

Long-term care facilities across New York state will begin receiving Covid-19 vaccines on Monday, according to a New York state official.

There are 618 New York long-term care facilities enrolled in a state program where employees working with CVS and Walgreens will go to the facilities and administer the vaccines to residents and staff, Gareth Rhodes, special counsel to the state Department of Financial Services, said during a news briefing Friday. 

The program starts on Monday. About three weeks after administering the first dose, Walgreens and CVS employees will return to the long-term care facilities to administer the second dose, Rhodes said. 

Rhodes said that both pharmacies will split vaccination duties. CVS plans to complete their portion of the first-dose vaccinations within the first two weeks. Rhodes said the state is still working with Walgreens on establishing a schedule, but that he expects a “similar timetable.”