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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9:46 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

New York City reports first serious allergic reaction to Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Sheena Jones

The New York City Health Department is reporting the first serious adverse allergic reaction to the Covid-19 vaccine, according to a statement.

“We have received a single report of a serious adverse event in a health care worker. The health care worker, who had a significant allergic reaction, has been treated and is in stable condition,” according to the press release.

At this time it is unclear if this adverse reaction is a result of the Pfizer vaccine, but the health department says reactions like this are rare, but note they have been reported with the Pfizer vaccine.

Nearly 30,000 vaccinations have been administered in the city, according to the release and the city along with CDC will continue tracking more severe side effects.

“We will continue to move forward with the coronavirus vaccine distribution to ensure that health care workers and nursing home staff and residents are protected against COVID-19,” according to the release.

9:44 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Stocks open higher with hopes of new stimulus package

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

US stocks rose modestly on Wednesday amid a mixed bag of economic and political news.

President Trump expressed his displeasure with the stimulus deal Congress painstakingly negotiated, upping the risk for more economic turmoil and a government shutdown.

Meanwhile, weekly jobless claims fell from the prior week. That said, nine months into the pandemic, first time claims for unemployment benefits are still nearly four times that of the same period last year.

On top of that, personal income fell 1.1% in November, more than economists had expected.

Here's where things stood at opening:

  • The Dow opened 0.6%, or 173 points, higher.
  • The S&P 500 rose 0.4%.
  • The Nasdaq Composite opened up 0.1%.

This is a shortened trading week ahead of the Christmas holiday, ending Thursday at 1 p.m. ET.

9:43 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Sweden extends ban on travel from the UK

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy

Sweden has extended its ban on travel from the United Kingdom to Sweden until Jan. 21 following the detection of a new variant of coronavirus in England, a spokesperson for the Swedish Minister for Justice and Migration told CNN Wednesday.

According to the Minister’s spokesperson, Swedish nationals living in the UK will be permitted to return to Sweden during this period, as well as British nationals living or working in the country. 

Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde initially announced the travel restrictions in a tweet on Sunday, confirming that a temporary ban would be introduced in response to the outbreak.

Sweden has also imposed a ban on travel from Denmark to Sweden until Jan. 21 in order to "reduce the risk of congestion and the spread of the virus in shopping centers and restaurants in Skåne County," according to the press release.

People from Denmark living or working in Sweden may still enter the country, in addition to Swedes living or working in Denmark.

9:48 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

NIH director says he's “feeling great” after receiving Covid-19 vaccine 

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, receives his Covid-19 vaccine in Bethesda, Maryland, on December 22.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, receives his Covid-19 vaccine in Bethesda, Maryland, on December 22. Patrick Semansky/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told CNN’s Erica Hill that he was “feeling great” a day after receiving the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine.

“I’m feeling great,” he said. “My arm is a little sore, just like you’d expect after a flu shot, but absolutely fine and delighted to be able to start down this path and I hope anybody watching that was inspired by watching Dr. Fauci get his injection. That we all, as scientists, believe this is safe and effective.”

“Come on Americans, roll up your sleeves,” Collins said. 

Collins received his first dose of the Moderna vaccine Tuesday at an NIH event, alongside Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.


9:43 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

NIH director says he’s concerned about what’s missed by US coronavirus surveillance

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, on December 23.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, on December 23. CNN

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told CNN’s Erica Hill on Wednesday that he was concerned about what is being missed with coronavirus surveillance and that “this has been a concern of mine for several months.” 

“We don’t have the kind of really rigorous surveillance system that would help us right now to find out what are the new variants that are circulating in the united States,” Collins said, adding that the United Kingdom has a “much more vigorous” surveillance system, which is how health experts there found the new variant. 

Collins said US surveillance “is going to get beefed up now, and we will be able to determine this.” 

 “It’s unlikely that this mutant is not already here, given that it was first detected in the UK back in September and there’s been a lot of people going back and forth,” he said. “So, it would be surprising if it has not arrived on our shores.” 


9:44 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Data on new Covid-19 variant and its transmissibility in children “still very early,” NIH director says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, on December 23.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, on December 23. CNN

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told CNN’s Erica Hill on Wednesday that the data on the new coronavirus variant and its transmissibility in children is “still very early.”

He said he is “not yet convinced that the discussion about children is necessarily undergirded by rigorous science.” 

Collins added that he thinks he believes that the variant is more transmissible among adults, but “we need more data on the kids to be sure that that signal is there.” 

If it is, he said, it wouldn’t be surprising, “if this is a virus that’s particularly good at transmitting in adults, why not with kids as well.” 

He pointed out that very importantly, “nobody has seen any evidence that this causes more severe illness, only that it spreads more rapidly. Very important distinction.” 

Some context: Experts in the UK suggested this week there was a “hint” that the new coronavirus strain could have “a higher propensity to infect children,” compared with earlier strains, although it has not been shown to be more dangerous than others strains, or more dangerous for children than adults.

More information is needed, the experts said.


9:18 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Incoming CDC director says stimulus vaccine distribution funding is “just a down payment”

From CNN Health’s Andrea Diaz

When asked about the Trump administration's deal to purchase an additional 100 million doses of Covid-19 from Pfizer, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, incoming director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said this is a "good thing," but more money will be needed to get the country vaccinated. 

"I certainly think more vaccine is better than less vaccine … but we can't let up on the measures that we have right now," Walensky told CNN's John Berman Wednesday. 

Walensky said money for vaccine distribution in the coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress this week is just a "just a down payment" for what’s actually needed.

 "I am really enthusiastic about this bill that Congress passed that will allow $8.75 billion towards vaccine distribution assuming it will go through ... but I also want to convey that I believe that that's just a down payment to what needs to happen in order to get, you know, to every corner of the country," said Walensky.

Remember: Congress voted Monday evening to approve a far-reaching $900 billion Covid relief package that promises to accelerate vaccine distribution and deliver much-needed aid to small businesses hit hard by the pandemic, Americans who have lost their jobs during the economic upheaval and health care workers on the front lines of the crisis.

Read more about what is in the second stimulus package here.

9:30 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Trump signaled he may not sign the Covid-19 relief bill. Here's what that means. 

From CNN's Phil Mattingly

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One on December 12 at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
President Donald Trump boards Air Force One on December 12 at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump's surprise Tuesday night video cataloging his complaints about the massive — and painstakingly negotiated — $900 billion coronavirus relief bill immediately raised the specter of a government shutdown and economic turmoil at a time when aid is desperately sought for millions of Americans.

The President didn't explicitly threaten to veto the bill, and his White House said earlier in the night that he would sign it, but in a video released on Twitter, he added a layer of confusion to a delicate process that includes not only Covid-19 relief but a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package that funds the federal government.

Here are some key things to know:

First, some facts: The White House explicitly told Senate Republicans weeks ago that it supported pursuing the omnibus (all 12 appropriations bills tied into a single big package) and those negotiations took place for weeks.

The White House was fully aware of what was in the bill and what was agreed upon, though White House officials acknowledged late Tuesday that Trump himself had not received a detailed briefing on the package before its passage.

Most of the items the President listed off as problematic in his Tuesday night video weren't from the Covid relief piece of the package. They were from the omnibus. Most, if not all, of those items were similar to items in past spending packages the President has signed.

Most notably, two people involved with the matter say, the President is fired up about the foreign aid in the package. Again, that has been part of each spending package he's previously signed — but Trump was riled up in part by commentators on conservative media who complained about the aid, according to people familiar.

There is no appetite for changes on Capitol Hill: As for his request to "amend" the bill, well, both chambers have passed the legislation, and at this point, aides on both sides say, there's no plan to make any move to acquiesce to the President's request on the cleared package. Early talk is that both sides may just ignore it and see if he cools off. The government is operating under a seven-day continuing resolution, so there's some time here. The real deadline is December 28.

"Maybe he'll become obsessed with something else and forget about this whole episode," one senior Democratic aide told CNN. "Or maybe he'll just blow the thing up. Perfect coda to his time in office."

But at the moment, aides on both sides of the aisle are mostly just dumbstruck.

"It's a weird thing where I'm not at all surprised because of course he'd do this, but also kind of stunned because he's been so preoccupied with everything else that this seemed in a good place," one senior Republican aide told CNN.

Read the full story here.


8:46 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Another 803,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

Another 803,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Labor Department said Wednesday.

That was a drop off from the week before but still a high number and yet another sign that the US job recovery has run into serious trouble.

On top of that, 397,511 workers filed for benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides aid to groups that aren't usually eligible for jobless benefits, such as the self-employed. That number is not adjusted for seasonal swings.

Added together, 1.3 million Americans filed initial jobless claims last week on an unadjusted basis.

Continued claims, which count workers who have applied for benefits for at least two weeks in a row, stood at 5.3 million, up from the prior week.

Congress agreed on a new round of stimulus to combat the fallout from the pandemic over the weekend. It would include an extension of the unemployment benefits that millions of Americans need to make ends meet.

However, President Trump's complaints about the bill, delivered on video via Twitter on Tuesday, raised the risk of more economic turmoil, not to mention a government shutdown. Trump asked Congress to amend the bill and up the amounts paid in stimulus checks.