December 21 coronavirus news

A sign alerts customers that the "French Borders are Closed" at the entrance to the Port of Dover in Kent, south east England on December 21, 2020, as a string of countries banned travellers all but unaccompanied freight arriving from the UK, due to the rapid spread of a more-infectious new coronavirus strain. - Britain's critical south coast port at Dover said on Sunday it was closing to all accompanied freight and passengers due to the French border restrictions "until further notice". (Photo by William EDWARDS / AFP) (Photo by WILLIAM EDWARDS/AFP via Getty Images)
Fauci: Not recommending UK travel shut down right now
01:47 - Source: CNN

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Pfizer and Moderna are testing their vaccines against UK coronavirus variant 

A vial of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine is seen at George Washington University Hospital on December 14 in Washington DC.

Pfizer and Moderna are testing their coronavirus vaccines to see if they work against the new mutated version of the virus that’s recently been found in the United Kingdom and other countries, according to company statements.  

“Based on the data to date, we expect that the Moderna vaccine-induced immunity would be protective against the variants recently described in the UK,” Moderna said in a statement.
“We will be performing additional tests in the coming weeks to confirm this expectation.”

Pfizer said it is now “generating data” on how well blood samples from people immunized with its vaccine “may be able to neutralize the new strain from the UK.” 

Pfizer and Moderna make the only two coronavirus vaccines that have been authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration. 

The novel coronavirus has mutated before, and both companies say they’ve found that their vaccines worked against other variations of the virus. 

Some researchers who are examining the genome of the UK variant told CNN they have concerns that this variant’s mutations might possibly somewhat diminish the effectiveness of the vaccine. 

“You could imagine some modest hit in vaccine efficacy, which wouldn’t be good, but I don’t think it would break the vaccine,” said Trevor Bedford, an associate professor in the vaccine and infectious disease division of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. 

Read more about the UK coronavirus variant:

People at St Pancras station in London, waiting to board the last train to Paris amid concerns that borders will close.

What we know -- and what we don't -- about the UK coronavirus variant

The number of Covid cases among children in the US jumped 25% in the past two weeks, doctors say

Drawings of children wearing masks adorn a hallway at Stark Elementary School on September 16, in Stamford, Connecticut.

The number of children in the United States infected with the coronavirus jumped 25% between December 3 and 17, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported Monday.

More than 1.8 million children across the US have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, the AAP said in its latest report.

Over 182,000 cases in children were reported last week alone, the highest weekly increase since the pandemic began, the group said.

Severe illness, hospitalization and death from the virus is still rare among children.

“However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects,” the AAP said on its website.

As of December 17, children represented between 1.1% and 2.8% of total hospitalizations, depending on the state. Between 0.2% and 4.0% of all child Covid-19 cases resulted in hospitalizations in states that reported that information and fewer than 0.21% of all children with Covid-19 died. Thirteen states reported no deaths in children. In states reporting, 0.09% of all child Covid-19 cases resulted in death.

The AAP defines children as those 17 and younger.

The report’s count is likely underestimated and is incomplete because not all states report data in the same way.

Some 49 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam contributed data to the AAP report. A smaller subset of states report information about hospitalizations and deaths by age.

Fauci: I wouldn't be surprised if new UK Covid-19 mutation is already in US

Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on PBS Newshour on December 21.

A new Covid-19 variant linked to a surge of cases in the United Kingdom is probably already in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday.

“You have to make that assumption,” Fauci told PBS Newshour’s Judy Woodruff. “When you see something that is pretty prevalent in a place like the UK, there are also mutations that we’re seeing in South Africa, and given the travel throughout the world, I would not be surprised if it’s already here.”

He added that “when we start to look for it we’re going to find it.”

“Certainly it’s not yet the prevalent one, the way it seems to have assumed that prevalent nature in the UK, but we’re going to be looking for it right now, and I’m sure sooner or later we’re going to run into it and find it.”

Fauci said since the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is an RNA virus it tends to mutate a lot.

“Most of the mutations have no functional relevance,” he said. “This one has a suggestion that it might allow the virus to spread more readily.”

Fauci said researchers are still trying to determine if the variant is more transmissible, but he said it doesn’t seem to have any impact on the deadliness of the virus.

“It doesn’t make people more sick and it doesn’t seem to have any impact on the protective nature of the vaccine that we’re currently using,” the chief medical adviser for the incoming Biden administration said.

Fauci said researchers need to keep an eye on it to determine if “there’s more functional relevance.”

He said he thinks a UK travel ban is premature because there’s not enough evidence to warrant “essentially a travel lockdown.”

Fauci said he prefers considering the possibility of mandatory testing of travelers from the UK.

Panama suspends travel from the UK and South Africa over new variant fears

Paramedics admit a man with respiratory problems to a hospital in Panama City on December 14.

The Central American nation of Panama is temporarily suspending entry for foreign travelers who have stayed in or transited through either the United Kingdom or South Africa in the past 20 days, the government announced in a statement Monday.

The ban applies to those trying to enter Panama through air, land or water routes via commercial or private transport, and comes into force at 11:59 p.m. Monday local time.

A PCR test or an antibodies test will be compulsory upon arrival for Panamanians wishing to enter their country; in addition, a mandatory quarantine is required at a “hotel hospital” regardless of the test results for as long as health authorities deem necessary, according to the government statement.

Both South Africa and the UK have recorded cases from new variants of the coronavirus, with the UK variant appearing to be more infectious. It is unclear at present how the South African variant differs from what has already been spreading worldwide.

South Korea to shut ski slopes after latest spike

South Korea will shut down all winter sports facilities, including ski slopes, from December 24 until January 3, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said in a meeting on Tuesday.

The move comes a day after the country saw its highest daily death toll of the pandemic, with two dozen new fatalities from the virus recorded.

Chung said the measure would include tourist destinations across the country. He reiterated calls for the public to cancel gatherings and stay home this holiday season.

New cases: South Korea reported 824 local and 45 imported cases from Monday, bringing the country’s total to 51,460. Of the new cases, 546 were reported in the Seoul metropolitan area.

The country also recorded 24 new deaths from the virus from Monday, bringing the country’s death toll to 722.

Virgin Atlantic to require proof of negative Covid test for all passengers traveling from London to US

Virgin Atlantic Airline planes are pictured at the apron at Manchester airport in northwest England, on June 8.

Virgin Atlantic will require proof of a negative Covid-19 test for all passengers traveling from London to the United States starting December 24, the company said in a statement.

“With the health and safety of our customers and people always our number one priority, we will require all travellers to present evidence of a negative LAMP or PCR Covid-19 test, taken up to 72 hours prior to departure, including on-site at the airport,” Virgin said.

The United Kingdom is currently grappling with what appears to be a more infectious variant of the coronavirus, which has resulted in new restrictions in the south of England and numerous countries cutting off travel from the UK, including most of its European neighbors.

Australia's New South Wales reports 8 new locally-transmitted cases after another record testing day

Cars wait in line at a Bondi Beach Covid-19 drive-through testing clinic on December 21, in Sydney, Australia.

The Australian state of New South Wales reported eight new locally-transmitted Covid-19 cases from Monday following almost 45,000 tests being carried out.

That’s the lowest number of new local cases since a mystery outbreak sprang up in Sydney’s Northern Beaches area last week.

Seven of the eight new local cases are linked to the Sydney cluster, NSW Health said Tuesday, and the eighth is still under investigation. The total number of cases from the cluster now stands at 90.

The state saw a record number of Covid-19 tests reported to 8 p.m. last night, with 44,466 tests carried out on Monday, NSW Health added.

NSW reported 18 total new cases, the other 10 being imported from travelers in hotel quarantine.

Mystery cluster: Health authorities in New South Wales have acted quickly to get on top of the new cluster, which ended a run of days with no community transmission in Sydney.

The Northern Beaches municipality, with a population of just over 250,000, has been locked down until Wednesday night in an attempt to stop the spread.

NSW has recorded a total of 4,600 Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began.

US hits record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations

A California National Guard medic checks the vital signs of an incoming patient in front of triage tents set up outside Providence St Mary Medical Center amid a surge in Covid-19 patients in Southern California on December 18, in Apple Valley, California.

The United States reported 115,351 current Covid-19 hospitalizations on Monday, setting a new record high since the pandemic began, according to the Covid Tracking Project (CTP).

This is the twentieth consecutive day that the US has remained above 100,000 current hospitalizations.

The highest hospitalization numbers according to CTP data are:

December 21: 115,351 people hospitalized December 17: 114,459 people hospitalized December 18: 113,955 people hospitalized December 19: 113,929 people hospitalized December 16: 113,278 people hospitalized

US surpasses 18 million Covid-19 cases

A site worker distributes a testing kit at a Covid-19 testing site in Wilmington, Delaware on December 21.

There have been at least 18,006,061 cases of coronavirus in the United States and at least 319,190 people have died from Covid-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University

It took the US 284 days to reach 9 million Covid-19 cases, according to university data. It only took the nation 52 days to reach the second 9 million cases.

Johns Hopkins recorded the first case of coronavirus in the US on Jan. 21. 

CDC: More than 600,000 people have received a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine so far in the US

Walgreens pharmacist Jessica Sahni prepares a Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at The New Jewish Home long-term care facility on Manhattans Upper West Side in New York on December 21.

Operation Warp Speed has delivered more than 4.6 million vaccines to all 50 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico, and 614,117 people have received the shot as of 9 a.m. Monday morning, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Covid Data Tracker.

The total doses distributed are cumulative counts of Covid-19 vaccine doses that have been recorded as “shipped” in the CDC’s Vaccine Tracking System since Dec. 13, the agency reported Monday.

The total number of administered doses are reported to the CDC from state, territorial and local public health agencies and five federal agencies, including the Bureau of Prisons, the Veterans Administration, the Department of Defense, the Department of State and Indian Health Services.

The numbers of vaccines shipped account for both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, but the number of doses administered includes only Pfizer’s vaccine at this time, the CDC said.

Pfizer’s vaccine started rolling out on Dec. 14 and Moderna’s, which just received an emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration Friday, started shipping out Monday.

Massachusetts reports more than 3,700 new Covid-19 cases

A nurse cares for a Covid-19 positive patient at UMass Memorial Hospital on December 4, in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Massachusetts reported 3,760 new Covid-19 cases and 41 deaths on Monday, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health

The state currently has a seven-day average positivity of 5.94%, according to the health department’s Covid-19 dashboard.

Note: These numbers were released by Massachusetts’ public health agency and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.