December 21 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Steve George, Meg Wagner and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020
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11:54 a.m. ET, December 21, 2020

Health official estimates 1 in 64 L.A. residents has Covid-19

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

Vehicles line up to enter a COVID-19 testing site at Dodger Stadium on December 7 in Los Angeles.
Vehicles line up to enter a COVID-19 testing site at Dodger Stadium on December 7 in Los Angeles. Mario Tama/Getty Images

As Covid-19 tightens its grip on California, one in every 64 Los Angeles County residents is infected with the virus and is "actively infecting others," L.A. County Health Services Director Christina Ghaly estimates. 

In an interview with Poppy Harlow on CNN’s Newsroom, Ghaly said because of the widespread infections, the county’s hospitals are full. About half of all ICU patients are suffering from Covid-19, and about a third of regular beds are filled with Covid patients. ICU Capacity in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley remains at zero, with just 2.1% of ICU beds availability statewide. 

At this point, Los Angeles hospitals are not turning away patients, nor are they rationing care.

"Obviously that's a situation nobody wants to be in and we're not there in Los Angeles County and we're not there in California, but the hospitals are under stress," said Ghaly. She expressed concern that holiday gatherings will lead to another surge in two to three weeks.

Guidelines on how L.A. County hospitals could prioritize patients by rationing care have been circulated among doctors at some area hospitals, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times. Without enough staff to save every patient, doctors may soon be faced with just trying to save as many as possible.

"It's heartbreaking really to see where we're at, at this point in the pandemic. We're so close to the end with the very same time that we're battling this scourge in Los Angeles County," Ghaly lamented.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is under quarantine for the second time, as he was recently in contact with staffer who has tested positive for Covid-19, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is quarantining after his nine-year-old daughter tested positive for the virus last week. Both politicians have tested negative

11:48 a.m. ET, December 21, 2020

When can kids get a Covid-19 vaccine?

A Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is prepared at Kaiser Permanente Capitol Hill Medical Center in Washington, DC, on December 17.
A Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is prepared at Kaiser Permanente Capitol Hill Medical Center in Washington, DC, on December 17. Shawn Thew/Pool/Getty Images

It's the big question many parents want to know – when can kids safely receive the vaccine and what should households do until then?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, offered some insight on the topic during CNN's Sesame Street Town Hall on Saturday.

"When you get a new vaccine you generally want to show the safety and the efficacy in an adult population," Fauci explained.

"Once you do, then you start doing trials, maybe a couple of months later, in the children so you can as quickly as possible get them the vaccine," he said.

"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 in 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," Fauci added.

Asked if the vaccine will make Covid-19 disappear completely, Dr. Fauci said that's the ultimate goal, "to get rid of Covid-19 completely."

"Once you get the overwhelming majority of the people vaccinated, the level of the virus is going to go down and down and down and then it's going to turn out to be no problem. So you're going to be able to do all the things you've been asking me about, you're going to be able to hug, you're going to be able to kiss, you're going to be able to have fun with your family," Fauci said. "But, the only way we get there is if we get a broad acceptance of the vaccine," he added.

Watch Dr. Fauci answer kids' questions on Covid-19 below:

10:51 a.m. ET, December 21, 2020

Pakistan suspends travel from the UK

From CNN’s Sophia Saifi

Pakistan is suspending direct or indirect travel from the United Kingdom into the country. 

According to a statement released by Pakistan’s aviation ministry the suspension will be in effect from Dec. 23-30. 

The ban is for travelers who "originate travel and are in or have been in the UK over the past ten days."

Transit passengers traveling via the UK will be allowed access into the country permitting that they do not leave the airport in the UK. 

Pakistani passport holders who have traveled to the UK on a visitor or a temporary visa will be allowed to return under certain conditions. This includes a negative PCR test 72 hours prior to travel and a PCR test on arrival. Passengers will be required to stay in a government facility until the test result arrives along with a mandatory enforced home isolation for a week. 

All passengers who have already arrived from the UK in the past week will have to get tested.

This decision will be reviewed on Dec. 28. 

10:52 a.m. ET, December 21, 2020

Denmark bans flights from the UK for 48 hours 

From CNN’s James Frater and Yong Xiong

Denmark has temporarily banned air travel from the UK for 48 hours until 4 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

Transport Minister Benny Engelbrecht said in a statement Monday that Denmark is "in a very serious situation" with infection widespread throughout the country.

"The government chooses therefore to close flights from the UK for 48 hours, so there is more time to assess what measures need to be taken," Engelbrecht said.

Christian Howard-Jessen, a press officer at Denmark’s Statens Serum Institut, told CNN they have detected ten people with the coronavirus variant in Denmark. All these patients were found two weeks ago or earlier and all of them have recovered, so there’s no known active case with the coronavirus variant in Denmark, Howard-Jessen said. At least some of these ten people had been to the UK. 

Howard-Jessen explained that Denmark’s "huge testing capacity" led them to detecting these ten cases. "We sequence 20-25% of all test that are found positive for coronavirus. The consequence is that we will find a lot more cases than other countries," he added. 

11:10 a.m. ET, December 21, 2020

Doses of the Moderna vaccine will be administered this afternoon in New York

From CNN’s Alexandra Field

Boxes containing the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are prepared for shipment at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Mississippi, on December 20.
Boxes containing the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are prepared for shipment at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Mississippi, on December 20. Paul Sancya/Pool/AP

Moderna vaccines have arrived at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Hospital in Valley Stream, New York, and vaccinations will begin this afternoon.

Moderna's candidate is the most recent vaccine to receive an emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration

This is the second vaccines given the greenlight from health agencies: Already, more than 556,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have been administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 2.8 million doses have been distributed to the facilities. 

10:48 a.m. ET, December 21, 2020

Spain will refuse entry to travelers from the UK starting tomorrow

Fron CNN’s Claudia Rebaza

Spain’s government, in coordination with Portugal, will refuse entry to travelers from the UK starting tomorrow, Spain’s La Moncloa announced via social media on Monday afternoon. 

Spanish citizens and residents are exempt. 

The government also announced it will reinforce border controls in Gibraltar. 

Some background: A new coronavirus variant discovered in the UK has prompted a new lockdown and travel bans.

But remember: There is no evidence the new variants are any more virulent, meaning they do not cause more severe disease. They do not appear to impact the effects of treatments or the protection offered by vaccines.

9:57 a.m. ET, December 21, 2020

US stock prices tumble as new coronavirus variant sends Europe into lockdown

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

US stocks tumbled at the opening bell in New York Monday as worries over a new variant of the coronavirus overshadowed news of a second pandemic relief bill that was agreed in Washington late Sunday.

The Dow sank 275 points, or 0.9%, while the broader S&P 500 opened 1.2% lower. The Nasdaq Composite fell 1.2%.

Meanwhile, Washington agreed on a $900 billion stimulus package, including enhanced jobless benefits and direct payments.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the deal on Monday before it goes to the Senate. Getting another stimulus deal was a top priority for investors over the past months, but now that it's here, the good news is overshadowed by the new virus developments.

10:08 a.m. ET, December 21, 2020

UK working closely with international partners to minimize travel disruptions

From CNN’s Luke McGee

Lorries are parked on the M20 near Folkestone in Kent, England, on December 21, after the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel were closed.
Lorries are parked on the M20 near Folkestone in Kent, England, on December 21, after the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel were closed. Steve Parsons/PA/AP

The British government says it is working closely with its international partners after at least two dozen countries — including its closest neighbors — announced new restrictions limiting travel from the UK following the detection of a new variant of coronavirus. 

According to the Prime Minister’s spokesperson, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is working to support British nationals affected by the travel disruptions caused by the new restrictions. They will be providing food, drink and toilets for British truck drivers currently stuck in gridlock in the area surrounding the Eurotunnel — a key gateway to Europe for the transport of freight to and from the UK. 

During a briefing on Monday morning, Boris Johnson’s spokesperson tried to allay fears over supply chains being impacted by travel restrictions. He said the majority of food supplies to the UK do not come via the English Channel and asserted that Britain’s supply chains are "resilient," with many retailers having already stocked up on goods ahead of the Christmas period.  

The Prime Minister is expected to give a press briefing Monday afternoon, after chairing an emergency COBRA meeting at Downing Street to address the fallout of the new international travel restrictions. 

9:50 a.m. ET, December 21, 2020

European Union drug regulator recommends authorizing Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine

From CNN's Kara Fox

The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is pictured on December 8 in Cardiff, Wales.
The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is pictured on December 8 in Cardiff, Wales. Justin Tallis/Pool/Getty Images

The European Union drug regulator has recommended authorizing the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for use, paving the way for the first phase of the bloc's mass vaccination program to begin later this week.

In a closed-door meeting in Amsterdam on Monday, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) granted the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine a conditional marketing authorization, green lighting the drug for distribution.

Before the 27-nation bloc can begin its rollout, the European Commission must give its final approval, which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen would likely happen later on Monday.

"It's a decisive moment in our efforts to deliver safe & effective vaccines to Europeans," von der Leyen tweeted. "Now we will act fast. I expect a decision by this evening," she said.

The EMA's head of communications Marie-Agnes Heine called the move a "significant milestone in the fight against the pandemic" during a virtual press briefing with reporters.

The UK and the US granted emergency use authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine earlier this month, and hundreds of thousands in those countries have since received their first shots.

Read more about the vaccine approval process in Europe here.