December 22 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020
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12:31 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Masks help, but without social distancing, they may not be enough to prevent virus spread, study says

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Shoppers walk along Oxford Street in London, England, on December 19.
Shoppers walk along Oxford Street in London, England, on December 19. David Cliff/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Mask-wearing alone, without social distancing, may not be enough to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, according to new research published Tuesday in the journal Physics of Fluids.  

“This study, which can be treated as precautionary, provides quantitative support to the guidelines proposed by the medical research community that wearing a mask and avoiding close face-to-face or frontal interactions as much as possible will help in preventing the transmission and spreading of virus particles such as Covid-19 through sneezes and coughs,” said the study, from researchers at the Consortium for Particulate Suspensions at New Mexico State University.  

“If the relevant social distancing guidelines are compromised, the study shows that foreign airborne sneeze and cough droplets could pass through all the masks tested (except for the N-95 mask) even when assuming a 100% snug fit,” the researchers said.

Researchers used a machine to simulate coughs and sneezes and tested five types of masks with no leakage around the edges. The masks tested were an N95 mask, a surgical mask, a two-layer cloth mask, a regular cloth and a wet two-layer cloth mask.

In experiments that simulated a virus carrier wearing a mask, they found that many small sneeze or cough droplets were still able to escape the mask, even when it was snug. Therefore, both virus carriers and susceptible people could consider wearing masks to reduce the transmission. 

“A mask definitely helps, but if the people are very close to each other, there is still a chance of spreading or contracting the virus,” study author Krishna Kota, an associate professor at New Mexico State University, said in a statement. “It’s not just masks that will help. It’s both the masks and distancing.” 

11:11 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Almost 3,000 lorries reportedly stranded in Kent, England, following France border closure

From CNN’s Sharon Braithwaite

Lorries waiting to cross the English Channel are parked on the runway at Manston airport on December 22 in Kent, England.
Lorries waiting to cross the English Channel are parked on the runway at Manston airport on December 22 in Kent, England. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

There are currently almost 3,000 lorries stranded in Kent, England, a press officer for Kent County Council told CNN on Tuesday afternoon. They are stranded because France closed its border with Britain on Sunday following the emergence of a new Covid-19 variant discovered in the UK.

There are 632 lorries on the M20 motorway – a key gateway to the continent for freight trucks traveling in and out of the UK – and 2,188 lorries in the Manston Airport carpark, the press officer said.

On Monday, the UK enacted "Operation Brock" in a bid to keep traffic moving on the M20 during periods of cross-Channel disruption. The motorway barrier system was designed to deal with potential traffic disruption at the end of the Brexit transition period.

Lorries arriving in Kent en route to the port of Dover or the Eurotunnel are being diverted to Manston Airport to park.

The operation involves using a contraflow road layout on the M20 London-bound carriageway between junctions 9 and 8 (from Ashford to Maidstone) and directing lorries heading for mainland Europe onto the coastbound carriageway, where they can be queued if necessary.

Hauliers have been advised to avoid traveling to Kent as disruption could last for several days.

11:03 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

First cases of Covid-19 confirmed in Antarctica as 36 people test positive on military base

From CNN's Florencia Trucco, Cristopher Ulloa and Maija Ehlinger

The continent of Antarctica has recorded its first Covid-19 cases, after 36 individuals tested positive on a research base, according to a statement released by the Chilean Army. 

Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme (BAE) Station, a Chilean military base in Antarctica, confirmed that 26 Army personnel and 10 civilians working as contractors on the base tested positive on Sunday.

The Chilean Army's statement said they have an "unconditional commitment to safeguard the health of its members." 

Personnel on the research base have been isolated and are "constantly monitored with the support from the Health Authority of the Magallanes and Chilean Antarctic Region, achieving so far a favorable diagnosis and without any complications associated with COVID-19 by our staff," the statement added.

As of Tuesday, Chile has recorded at least 589,189 total coronavirus cases and 16,217 deaths, according to the Chilean Health Ministry. 

11:13 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Dr. Fauci and US health secretary Azar receive Covid-19 vaccine

Dr. Anthony Fauci receives the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday, December 22 in Bethesda, Maryland.
Dr. Anthony Fauci receives the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday, December 22 in Bethesda, Maryland. Pool

Dr. Anthony Fauci is getting the first dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine in Bethesda, Maryland.

National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and six other NIH frontline workers are also receiving the vaccine this morning.

As he received the vaccine, Fauci explained why he believed it was important for him to get it.

"As a symbol to the rest of the country that I feel extreme confidence in the safety and the efficacy of this vaccine, and I want to encourage everyone who has the opportunity to get vaccinated so we can have a veil of protection over this country that would end this pandemic," Fauci said.

Speaking at the beginning of the event Tuesday, Fauci said he considered it "an honor to be part of this process."

"What we're seeing now is the culmination of years of research which have led to a phenomenon that has truly been unprecedented," Fauci added, saying that he is also honored to be a member of the NIH, a place where these developments got started.

Azar called this vaccine an "extraordinary" scientific achievement. As he sat to receive the vaccine, he said he had "complete confidence" in the safety of the vaccine. Azar also thanked NIH for their efforts.

"We've all said it is nothing short of miraculous to have a safe and effective vaccine within one year of a novel virus becoming known to the world," he said.

Watch the moment Dr. Fauci received the Covid-19 vaccine:

11:14 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

SOON: Fauci will receive the Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe, Holly Yan and Steve Almasy

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks before receiving a Covid-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, on December 22.
Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks before receiving a Covid-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, on December 22. Pool

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Francis Collins, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will receive their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine this morning.

In short remarks at the beginning of the event, Fauci said it was "an honor" to be a part of this process.

Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said on Twitter yesterday hat he will receive Moderna's vaccine, alongside Azar, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and other NIH frontline workers.

As of this morning, here have been at least 4,624,325 vaccine doses delivered across the US and 614,117 vaccine doses administered according to the CDC

Most Americans will have to wait months before getting their inoculations.

On Monday, the country reported about 191,000 new cases and 1,700 deaths, as more than 115,000 people were hospitalized — a new record.

The US has had more than 18 million cases and more than 319,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

9:54 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Covid-19 cases surge in the US as the vaccine roll out continues. Here's a look at the latest figures.

From CNN's Haley Brink 

As more people in the United States receive a Covid-19 vaccine, the US is still seeing a surge of new Covid-19 cases, causing a strain on hospital systems.

Pfizer and Moderna meanwhile are testing their coronavirus vaccines to see if they work against the mutated version of the virus found in the United Kingdom and other countries, the companies said.

Here's a look at where things stand in the US:

Vaccinations

  • So far this morning, there have been at least 4,624,325 vaccine doses delivered across the US.
  • Of those, 614,117 doses have been administered according to the CDC

New cases

  • The US surpassed 18 million total Covid-19 cases yesterday. It took just 4 days for the country to hit this million marker. So far, the US has reached the last 4 "million milestones" every 4 to 5 days – meaning if this growth continues, there could be 20 million cases by the new year.
  • The US is averaging about 215,429 Covid-19 cases per day.
  • California reported nearly 40,000 daily new cases yesterday and both Texas and Florida reported over 10,000 daily new case yesterday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Deaths

  • The nation is averaging at least 2,655 reported deaths a day, according to JHU. This is the highest that this metric has ever been. 
  • Deaths are rising in 21 states compared to this time last week, according to JHU.

Hospitalizations

  • The US reported at least 115,351 hospitalizations on Monday – that is a record high, according to CTP data.
  • The US is now averaging about 113,912 hospitalizations over the last 7 days, this is up 4.48% from last week.  
10:13 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

"It’s a disaster right now," California nursing officer says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Nancy Blake, chief nursing officer at Harbor UCLA Medical Center, speaks with CNN's Sara Sidner. 
Nancy Blake, chief nursing officer at Harbor UCLA Medical Center, speaks with CNN's Sara Sidner.  CNN

California hospital workers are sounding the alarm as a coronavirus surge in the state is pushing hospitals to breaking point.

"It's a disaster right now for our staff. The patients are extremely sick; this is a horrible disease. … It's been 10 months of this, and we are inundated," said Nancy Blake, chief nursing officer at Harbor UCLA Medical Center.

Blake said her staff is mentally and physically exhausted. 

"At the very beginning…people were, you know, saying ‘nurses are heroes’ and ‘great job,’ and now they're not listening to us," she told CNN’s Sara Sidner. 

"I’ve been a nurse for 40 years, and it's the worst I’ve ever seen," she added. 

There are no more intensive care unit beds in the hospital, and vast portions of the state are seeing zero ICU bed capacity.

"It really is like a never-ending struggle," nurse Cliff Resurreccion said.

CNN goes inside a California hospital running out of beds:

9:47 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

US stocks open mixed after Congress passes stimulus bill

From CNN's Anneken Tappe 

Noam Galai/Getty Images
Noam Galai/Getty Images

It was a mixed bag for Wall Street Tuesday after Congress passed a long-awaited second pandemic stimulus bill.

However, economists worry that the effort has come too late. Meanwhile, investors are also worried about the new coronavirus variant that shut down UK travel over the past days.

Here's where things stood at opening:

  • The Dow opened down 0.1%, or 40 points.
  • The S&P 500 opened flat.
  • The Nasdaq Composite rose 0.3%.

It is a shortened trading week ahead of Christmas, ending at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday.

9:02 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Nepal bans passengers flying from UK 

From CNN's Sugam Pokharel

Nepal has become the latest country to ban airline passengers originating from or transiting through the UK from entering into the country, its aviation authority announced Tuesday. 

The restriction will go into effect from midnight Wednesday local time and will stay until further notice, according to a statement from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN).

CAAN said that it has issued a circular to all international airlines to ensure that aircraft inbound to Nepal "shall not board the passengers originating from or transit through" the UK "due to the severe contagion of new strain of Covid-19" in the country. 

#UK Variant##