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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2:12 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Massachusetts tightens some statewide Covid-19 restrictions as cases rise

From CNN's Laura Ly

Jim Davis/The Boston Globe/Getty Images
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced new statewide restrictions on capacity for businesses and lowered limits for indoor and outdoor gatherings amid rising Covid-19 cases numbers. 

Beginning on December 26, businesses in “most industries” will need to limit their capacity to 25%, Baker said, calling the decision to institute the new measures “enormously difficult.”

Additionally, indoor gatherings are now limited to 10 people and outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 people, Baker said. 

The new restrictions will be in place for at least two weeks and do not affect K-12 schools, Baker said. 

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said the aim is to keep the new measures temporary and said the 25% capacity restriction applies to industries including restaurants and personal services, theaters and event venues, casinos, offices, places of worship, retail stores, libraries, fitness centers, museums, indoor recreation, driving and flight schools, indoor golf facilities, and lodging common areas. 

The latest numbers: On Tuesday, Baker announced that the state had at least 3,760 new cases, with 1,991 people hospitalized and 410 people in the ICU, stating that the state’s hospitals “are now under significant pressure.”

The Massachusetts Department of Health also released updated guidance on Tuesday to hospitals, directing them to “postpone or cancel all nonessential inpatient elective invasive procedures in order to maintain and increase inpatient capacity” beginning on December 26, according to a statement from the governor’s office. 

1:47 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

First senior citizens not in nursing homes receive doses of Covid-19 vaccine in Florida 

From CNN's Rosa Flores and Sara Weisfeldt

The first senior citizens who are not living in long-term care facilities were vaccinated in Florida on Tuesday during a news event hosted by Gov. Ron DeSantis at UF Health in the Villages. 

DeSantis did not provide a timeline for when more senior citizens will have access to the vaccine, but said it “is coming soon.”

Where things stand: So far, tens of thousands of senior citizens and frontline health workers in the state of Florida have been vaccinated against Covid-19, per DeSantis.

That includes seniors in 100 long-term care facilities in Broward and Pinellas counties and health care workers in five hospitals across the state.

DeSantis said Florida received 179,400 doses of Pfizer last week and 127,000 additional doses this week. And by the end of the day, DeSantis expected the arrival of 367,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

The Moderna vaccine — which does not require ultra-cold storage — will be distributed more widely, at 173 hospitals throughout the state, DeSantis said.

As for who will be the first in line to get the vaccine as more doses become available, DeSantis said elderly will have priority.

”In Florida we’ve got to put our parents and grandparents first,” DeSantis said. “And we are going to work like hell to be able to get all the vaccine out to the elderly who want it.”
1:53 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Furloughed American Airlines workers will get paid by Christmas

From CNN’s Pete Muntean

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

American Airlines is telling workers who were furloughed because of the pandemic that they will get retroactive pay by Christmas.

In a new letter to employees on Tuesday, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom say that American’s 19,000 furloughed workers will be re-hired over time.

The $900 stimulus bill in Congress includes $16 billion for commercial airlines that have been struggling in the pandemic. It also bars them from making any new furloughs until March 31, 2021. 

“With this support, we will be recalling furloughed team members in order to reinstate pay and benefits effective Dec. 1, 2020,” says the letter. “We have taken steps to expedite payments to all furloughed team members.”

US airlines furloughed roughly 50,000 employees when restrictions attached to the first round of emergency coronavirus relief expired October 1. 

“Bringing nearly 19,000 team members back to work is a complex process and will take time,” American says. “While pay and benefits will be restored right away, people will be asked to return to the operation in phases.”

1:36 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

CDC accepts vaccine advisers’ recommendation for next phases of Covid-19 vaccination

From CNN's Jamie Gumbrecht

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has accepted the recommendation of its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to prioritize older adults and frontline essential workers to receive Covid-19 vaccines in the next phase of allocation. 

On Sunday, ACIP members 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.

The recommendations were published Tuesday in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

1:32 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

French citizens can return from UK starting tomorrow, prime minister says

From Jim Bittermann and Sandrine Amiel in Paris

French citizens can return from Britain starting Wednesday providing they can show proof of a negative Covid-19 test, French Prime Minister Jean Castex's office said on Tuesday. 

The communique said that people living in France or the EU can also enter the country with a negative test result.

Some background: It comes after France closed its border with Britain on Sunday following the emergence of a new Covid-19 variant in the UK.

The specific procedures for resuming road freight traffic will be detailed in the coming hours, the communique said.

This arrangement will apply until at least January 6, except if a possible bilateral or European review takes place by then, it added.

“Planes, boats and Eurostars will resume service tomorrow morning. French nationals, residents in France and those who have a legitimate reason must present a negative test,” France’s Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari tweeted.

1:57 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Ireland will tighten restrictions over fears of new Covid-19 strain

From CNN's Sanam Mahoozi

In this November 23, 2020 file photo, a closed sign is seen in a shop window in Dublin's city centre.
In this November 23, 2020 file photo, a closed sign is seen in a shop window in Dublin's city centre. Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Getty Images

The Irish government has agreed to return the country to level 5 restrictions, Micheál Martin, the Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach), said on Tuesday.

With several specific adjustments, from Dec. 24 until Jan. 12, the people of Ireland will be facing tougher measures in response to the rising cases and the increasing threat of the new Covid-19 strain, currently circulating in the United Kingdom. 

“Figures suggest that we may now be seeing a daily growth rate of approximately 10%. This is very obviously, a source of serious concern, and is simply not sustainable,” Martin said.

Here's a look at the new restrictions:

  • The new restrictions, which will go into effect on Christmas Eve, will see maximum disruptions made to the retail, hospitality, leisure, and the travel sectors, with additional measures taken to limit social contact between people.
  • Nonessential retail can stay open, but the retail sector is asked to postpone January sales events.
  • Restaurants and pubs must close and can only provide take away and delivery.
  • Gyms, leisure centers, and swimming pools may remain open, but only for individual training.
  • Schools, early learning and childcare services will remain open, but higher education should remain primarily online.
  • Socially, up to two other households can visit someone’s else’s home up to and including Dec. 26. After that, this number decreases to one household up to and including the Dec. 31. Starting on Jan. 1, no visits can take place in private homes/gardens aside from exemptions set by government guidelines.

While acknowledging that the tougher measures are difficult, especially in this usually festive season, the prime minister assured the nation that the measures are necessary, and preventive.

He went on to say that even though there is no hard evidence that the new strain of the virus has arrived in Ireland, the “safest and the most responsible thing to do is to proceed on the assumption that it is already here”.

These measures are to be reviewed on Jan. 12, 2021.

1:10 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

"Miserable existence" for lorry drivers stuck in Kent with limited access to toilet and washing facilities

From CNN’s Sarah Dean

Feight lorries sit on the tarmac at Manston Airport on December 22 in Kent, England.
Feight lorries sit on the tarmac at Manston Airport on December 22 in Kent, England. William Edwards/AFP/Getty Images

The situation at Manston Airport in Kent, England, where thousands of lorry drivers are stranded due to France closing its borders to the UK is “serious," the Road Haulage Association's policy and public affairs managing director Rod McKenzie tweeted on Tuesday.

“Lorry drivers have few toilets and little food to eat – miserable existence after 48 hour border closure – [Road Haulage Association] urging Govt to improve facilities fast,” he tweeted.

A statement from the RHA said it accepts that the EU wants reassurance that the UK is taking all possible measures to prevent the spread of the latest, more contagious strain of the coronavirus, however RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said “hauliers have been working within the strict COVID protocols since the end of March.” 

“There are many serious implications to this latest situation, even lateral flow COVID testing will have a massive impact on the supply chain,” Burnett said. 

Here's what else the statement said:

“Right now, HGV drivers caught up in this mess have limited access to toilet and washing facilities – the majority have none. Denying them even the most basic facilities is not only putting their health at risk, it’s exacerbating the very situation that it was supposed to prevent. For example, what will happen to those drivers who test positive? They will be unfit to drive but where will they go? They will be unable to quarantine with their families in Europe and what will happen to their vehicles? Who will be responsible for the deep cleaning of their cabs? And for those carrying return loads, what will happen to their cargo? This is going to be an extremely expensive exercise.” 
12:59 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

New York City mayor says widespread vaccinations may take "roughly until about June"

From CNN's Laura Ly

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, December 22.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, December 22. NYC Media

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that widespread vaccinations in the city would likely not be completed until roughly June 2021 and that residents should keep to basic Covid-19 precautions until then.

“Look, we’ve said we think it’s going to be roughly until about June before we can get really widespread vaccination. I think every week is going to get better…but when you’re really going to be pervasive in New York City, probably give or take, June,” de Blasio said.

The city will begin a communications campaign to publicize information about the vaccine on social media, on the subways, and on TV and radio, de Blasio said.

Approximately 25,000 Moderna vaccine doses have arrived in New York City, according to Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner. 

The city is expecting about 149,000 Moderna doses in total this week, Chokshi said.

De Blasio continued to urge New Yorkers to cancel their travel plans as Covid-19 case counts and hospitalizations continue to rise, but would not say whether the state was waiting too long on whether to institute another shutdown, calling the situation “complex.”

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

12:35 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

South Carolina governor tests positive for Covid-19 

From CNN’s Devon M. Sayers

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster speaks to a crowd during an election night party for Sen. Lindsey Graham on November 3 in Columbia, South Carolina.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster speaks to a crowd during an election night party for Sen. Lindsey Graham on November 3 in Columbia, South Carolina. Sean Rayford/Getty Images

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster tested positive for Covid-19 Monday evening, his office said. 

McMaster is “experiencing mild symptoms with a cough and slight fatigue,” his office said.  

The governor has been in quarantine since his wife, Peggy, tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday. The governor's wife remains asymptomatic, McMaster's office said. 

“Peggy and I urge everyone to be extra careful during the Christmas holiday season,” McMaster said in the release. “This virus spreads very easily.”