December 23 coronavirus news

By James Griffiths, Adam Renton, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, Eoin McSweeney, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 24, 2020
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10:43 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

US reports more than 3,000 Covid-19 deaths

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

The United States reported more than 3,000 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University -- the fifth time since the pandemic began that the country has added more than 3,000 Covid-19 fatalities in a day.

Tuesday marked the fourth-highest number of deaths in the country from Covid-19 reported in a single day, according to JHU data.

The top five days for new deaths are:

  1. Dec. 16: 3,682
  2. Dec. 17: 3,346
  3. Dec. 11: 3,283
  4. Dec. 22: 3,221
  5. Dec. 9: 3,064
10:55 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Republicans taken by surprise at Trump's refusal to sign Covid relief bill

From CNN's Lauren Fox and Manu Raju

The US Capitol at dawn in Washington, D.C. on December 21.
The US Capitol at dawn in Washington, D.C. on December 21. Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Like many of his own aides, Republicans on Capitol Hill were not given a heads up that US President Donald Trump was going to rail against the stimulus bill tonight on Twitter.

A Republican leadership aide told CNN “no” when asked if this was expected. The aide pointed out that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had negotiated this bill. He was the White House’s voice in the room, everyone assumed. Another aide said Trump seemed to be “coming unhinged.”

The President is upset about several provisions that were actually in the omnibus spending bill, not the Covid relief bill.

“It is called the Covid relief bill, but it has almost nothing to do with Covid,” Trump said on Twitter.

The omnibus spending bill that appropriates money for all the federal agencies for the rest of the fiscal year was combined with the stimulus bill, meaning there are numerous provisions unrelated to the pandemic relief that has also been voted on by Congress.

Multiple sources in Congress told CNN the President's threats would not lead to a renegotiation, given the measure was passed with big veto-proof majorities.

How this plays out is uncertain. It’s possible Trump could veto the bill, but if he waits the full 10 days, it could push it into the new Congress when the Democratic majority is smaller in the House. The bill hasn’t even been sent to the White House yet for his signature.

At the moment, the hope on the Hill is he doesn’t veto the bill since he never explicitly said he will.

Some opposition lawmakers reacted approvingly to Trump's calls for greater stimulus checks, and House Democrats will try to pass by unanimous consent on Thursday a bill to increase direct payments, though any one member can scuttle that effort.

It’s unclear what will happen when or if such a bill is blocked.

Government funding runs out on December 28.

9:20 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

US hits record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

Medical staff members work to extract muscle sample from a patient for muscle biopsy examination in the Covid-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on December 22, in Houston, Texas.
Medical staff members work to extract muscle sample from a patient for muscle biopsy examination in the Covid-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on December 22, in Houston, Texas. Go Nakamura/Getty Images

The United States reported 117,777 current Covid-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday, setting a new record high since the pandemic began, according to the Covid Tracking Project (CTP).

This is the 21st consecutive day that the US has remained above 100,000 current hospitalizations.

The highest hospitalization numbers according to CTP data are:

  1. Dec. 22: 117,777
  2. Dec. 21: 115,351
  3. Dec. 17: 114,459
  4. Dec. 18: 113,955
  5. Dec. 19: 113,929
11:23 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Trump throws Covid relief bill in doubt by asking Congress to amend it

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal, Kevin Liptak and Jeremy Diamond

U.S. President Donald Trump appears on a video posted on his Twitter account on the evening of December 22.
U.S. President Donald Trump appears on a video posted on his Twitter account on the evening of December 22. Donald J. Trump/Twitter

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he is asking for changes to the coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress, leaving the future of the $900 billion stimulus in question.

"I'm asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 per couple," Trump said in a video released on Twitter. "I'm also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items in this legislation or to send me a suitable bill."

The extraordinary message came after he largely left negotiations over the measure to lawmakers and his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Trump did not explicitly threaten to veto the bill, but said he was dissatisfied with its final state.

The statement was filmed by the White House and was not open to the press. Reporters did not have a chance to ask the President questions. It's unclear when the message was recorded.

The President has in the past said he would sign the bill, and earlier Tuesday the White House publicly defended the bill. But many of his allies have spoken out against the agreement passed.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Read the full story:

9:11 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

UK scientists say new virus strain likely more transmissible and may impact children more than other variants

From CNN's Amy Cassidy in Glasgow, Zamira Rahim and Naomi Thomas

Scientists from the UK’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) say they are now “highly confident” the new variant of coronavirus is more infectious than others, with a “hint” that it could be more transmissible in children. 

According to NERVTAG, the new variant -- which is believed to have originated in southeast England -- could be around 71% more transmissible than other variants. 

“As of last Friday, we felt we had moderate confidence because the data was coming in, but some of the analysis had been done very quickly,” Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the University Oxford and chair of NERVTAG, said during a virtual news briefing on Monday.

“We now have high confidence that this variant does have a transmission advantage over other virus variants that are currently in the UK,” he added. 

Speaking alongside Horby, Professor Neil Ferguson from Imperial College London noted that there is a “hint” that this variant “has a higher propensity to infect children,” compared with earlier strains. But he cautioned that “we haven’t established any sort of causality on that, but we can see that in the data,” he added.  

Another NERVTAG member, Wendy Barclay, head of the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London, said earlier strains of the virus may have had a “harder time” getting into human cells using a receptor called ACE2. Adults, who have a lot of this receptor in their noses and throats, are “easy targets” compared to children. But under this hypothesis, a virus that can more readily use this receptor to enter cells may make children just as susceptible to the virus as adults, she said. 

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some research suggests the UK strain may "bind more tightly” to the ACE2 receptor, but "it is unknown whether that tighter binding, if true, translates into any significant epidemiological or clinical differences.”

Read more about the new Covid-19 variant:

10:57 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Covid-19 is now on every continent as Antarctica records its first outbreak

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

Antarctica has recorded its first Covid-19 case after 36 people tested positive on a research base, according to a statement released by the Chilean Army.

The news marks an unfortunate milestone in the global fight against coronavirus, as until this week, Antarctica was the last continent free from the virus' grip.

On Sunday, the General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme Base, a Chilean research base located on Antarctica's northernmost Trinity Peninsula, confirmed that 26 army personnel and 10 civilians working as contractors on the base tested positive with Covid-19.

The outbreak comes after at least three people tested positive for Covid-19 on a military vessel that had been supplying logistical support to the O'Higgins base between November 27 and December 10.

Read more: