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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3:49 p.m. ET, December 20, 2020

CDC advisers vote to prioritize older adults and frontline workers to receive Covid-19 vaccines in next phase

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has voted 13-1 to prioritize adults ages 75 and older and frontline essential workers to receive Covid-19 vaccines in phase 1b of allocation.

The committee vote also included prioritizing adults ages 65 to 75, people ages 16 to 64 who have high-risk medical conditions, and other essential workers in Phase 1c of allocation.

"They really serve to address the current lack of vaccine supply and address those individuals with the highest risk for disease," Dr. José Romero, the ACIP chair and secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, said about the new recommendations.

The committee met on Sunday to discuss phases 1b and 1c of vaccine distribution. In a previous meeting earlier this month, the group voted on phase 1a, which advised giving the first round of vaccines to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

Some context: There are now two Covid-19 vaccines – Pfizer/BioNTech's and Moderna’s – authorized for emergency use in the United States.

3:09 p.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Here's the latest on the stimulus negotiations

From CNN’s Manu Raju

The two sides are still going back-and-forth over a handful of outstanding issues, including how private schools should be treated in the more than $80 billion in aid outlined for schools and education providers.

Republicans had been pushing for $5 billion in aid for private schools, but Democrats had tried to cut that to be about $2.5 billion, according to a source with direct knowledge of the talks. 

Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of the GOP leadership, confirmed that how to "treat private schools" is one of the final issues to iron out.

Enhanced jobless benefits at $300 per week would begin on Dec. 27 and go on for about 11 more weeks, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions. That is less than what many Democrats wanted but more than what many Republicans were willing to support.

Also, direct payments would indeed be capped at $600 per person for an individual earning less than $75,000. The proposal would provide an additional $600 per person in the family, meaning a family of five could get $3,000 assuming they're under the requisite income threshold.

What's happening now: The relevant committees of jurisdiction are finalizing the bill text and are getting official cost estimates with the Congressional Budget Office. That's a process that takes time to play out.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi still wants a vote tonight, as does Sen. Chuck Schumer, but Republicans believe another stop-gap will be needed to avoid a midnight shutdown and they should vote Monday instead.

2:42 p.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Biden's surgeon general nominee says vaccine may reach general population by mid-summer

Dr. Vivek Murthy, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to be US surgeon general, speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater December 8 in Wilmington, Delaware.
Dr. Vivek Murthy, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to be US surgeon general, speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater December 8 in Wilmington, Delaware. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A “realistic” vaccine timeline may mean that high-risk populations start getting vaccinated in late spring, and that a Covid-19 vaccine may be available to the general public “closer to mid-summer” said Vivek Murthy, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for surgeon general.

Speaking to NBC, Murthy presented a timeline different from the one proposed by members of the Trump administration.

Officials working on Covid-19 response under the current administration have presented a timeline that would put the United States at 200 million vaccines distributed by June. However, this timeline has changed over the course of this month, with the goal of 20 million initial doses getting pushed later and later.

“If everything goes well, we my see a circumstance whereby late spring, people who are in lower risk categories can get this vaccine,” said Murthy, “but that would really require everything to go exactly on schedule. I think it’s more realistic to assume that it may be closer to mid-summer, early fall when this vaccine makes its way to the general population.”

Biden has set a goal of distributing 100 million Covid-19 vaccines in his first 100 days in office, which Murthy called “doable.”

“Is it doable? Yes, I think we can do it, but what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to prepare and be ready to execute,” he said.

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.