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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9:54 p.m. ET, December 21, 2020

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

From CNN’s Tatiana Arias in Atlanta and CNNE’s Kiarinna Parisi in Miami

Paramedics admit a man with respiratory problems to a hospital in Panama City on December 14.
Paramedics admit a man with respiratory problems to a hospital in Panama City on December 14. STR/AFP/Getty Images

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.

9:26 p.m. ET, December 21, 2020

South Korea to shut ski slopes after latest spike

From CNN's Jake Kwon in Seoul

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.

8:53 p.m. ET, December 21, 2020

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

From CNN's Rob Frehse and Debbie Berger

Virgin Atlantic Airline planes are pictured at the apron at Manchester airport in northwest England, on June 8.
Virgin Atlantic Airline planes are pictured at the apron at Manchester airport in northwest England, on June 8. Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

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.

8:24 p.m. ET, December 21, 2020

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

From CNN's Paul Devitt

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

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.

7:42 p.m. ET, December 21, 2020

US hits record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

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.
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. Mario Tama/Getty Images

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:

  1. December 21: 115,351 people hospitalized
  2. December 17: 114,459 people hospitalized
  3. December 18: 113,955 people hospitalized
  4. December 19: 113,929 people hospitalized
  5. December 16: 113,278 people hospitalized

 

7:03 p.m. ET, December 21, 2020

US surpasses 18 million Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Haley Brink and Virginia Langmaid

A site worker distributes a testing kit at a Covid-19 testing site in Wilmington, Delaware on December 21.
A site worker distributes a testing kit at a Covid-19 testing site in Wilmington, Delaware on December 21. Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images

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. 

7:05 p.m. ET, December 21, 2020

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

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

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.
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. Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images

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.

 

6:49 p.m. ET, December 21, 2020

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

From CNN's Mirna Alsharif

A nurse cares for a Covid-19 positive patient at UMass Memorial Hospital on December 4, in Worcester, Massachusetts.
A nurse cares for a Covid-19 positive patient at UMass Memorial Hospital on December 4, in Worcester, Massachusetts. Allison Dinner/AFP/Getty Images

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.

6:14 p.m. ET, December 21, 2020

Hospitalizations and Covid-19 positivity rate in Connecticut moving downward, governor says

From CNN's Mirna Alsharif

A woman gets a Covid-19 rapid test at a drive through testing facility in Greenwich, Connecticut, on November 13.
A woman gets a Covid-19 rapid test at a drive through testing facility in Greenwich, Connecticut, on November 13. Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Connecticut's hospitalizations and positivity rate are moving downward, according to Gov. Ned Lamont at a news conference on Monday.

Hospitalizations are continuing to trend downward and are currently at 1,143, which is 24 less than what they were on Friday. The positivity rate is 5.18% and was at 6.85% on Friday. 

"It's about the same number we were a month ago before Thanksgiving," Lamont said about the positivity rate. "That's a trend that, we're not out of the woods, but perhaps things are stabilizing." 

Lamont also reported 4,595 new Covid-19 cases and 95 new deaths. 

A total of 7,761 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the state so far, Lamont said.

Moderna vaccine deliveries will begin in the state starting today, he said. 

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