The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton, Tamara Qiblawi and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 2119 GMT (0519 HKT) December 24, 2020
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2:46 p.m. ET, December 24, 2020

More than 600,000 people in the UK have gotten their first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

From CNN's Lauren Kent

Staff deliver injections of the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to patients at a drive-in vaccination center in Hyde, Greater Manchester, England on December 17.
Staff deliver injections of the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to patients at a drive-in vaccination center in Hyde, Greater Manchester, England on December 17. Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

More than 600,000 in the United Kingdom have received the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, according to a statement released Thursday by the Department of Health and Social Care. 

The latest data shows that 616,933 people in the UK received the first dose between Dec. 8 and Dec. 20.

"In line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), vaccines have been administered to care home residents, those aged 80 and over and health and social care staff through over 500 vaccination sites across the UK. The vaccination programme will continue at pace over Christmas," the statement said.

"The vaccine roll out in care homes in England began on Wednesday 16 December, with hundreds of residents vaccinated across seven care homes... Larger care homes with 50-70 beds will be prioritised at first, with around 2,900 care homes of this size in England," the statement added. "Over the coming weeks and months the rate of vaccination will increase as more doses become available and the programme continues to expand, with more vaccines being delivered direct to care homes."

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, “In just over three weeks, the NHS in every part of the UK has already set up hundreds of vaccination sites to ensure those most in need can receive their jab as quickly as possible. This is just the beginning and we are continually expanding our vaccination programme to help everyone get back to normal in the future.”

2:34 p.m. ET, December 24, 2020

Mexico will begin its 1st stage of vaccination against Covid-19

From CNN's Claudia Dominguez and Mayumi Maruyama

Hospital nurse María Irene Ramírez receives the first of two Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine injections at the General Hospital in Mexico City on December 24.
Hospital nurse María Irene Ramírez receives the first of two Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine injections at the General Hospital in Mexico City on December 24. Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images

Mexico, the first country in Latin American, will begin its coronavirus vaccination campaign today, according to officials in a Twitter post. 

Hospital nurse María Irene Ramírez in Mexico City was the first person to get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as part of the government’s strategy to focus on healthcare workers first before moving on to the elderly, who are considered most at risk.

"I’m a bit nervous but happy, honestly, it’s the best gift I could have gotten in 2020 and now I’ll be able take on this war against this invisible enemy with more strength and with more confidence," she said.

"We will pull through. Well yes, we’re very afraid, but we have to pull through because someone has to lead this effort and I am willing to continue on the battle front," she added

1:34 p.m. ET, December 24, 2020

New York reports more than 12,500 new cases of Covid-19

From CNN's Sheena Jones

Health care workers tend to patrons who arrive for rapid COVID-19 tests at ProHealth Care on December 3 in Jericho, New York.
Health care workers tend to patrons who arrive for rapid COVID-19 tests at ProHealth Care on December 3 in Jericho, New York. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

New York reported 12,568 new cases of Covid-19 as of Dec. 23, according to the state’s Covid-19 dashboard

The state has 6,928 total Covid-19 hospitalizations, according to a tweet from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

New York reports a 5.55% test positivity rate, according to the tweet. 

“Sadly, there were 129 fatalities,” according to the tweet.

12:49 p.m. ET, December 24, 2020

New Jersey will require negative Covid-19 test from United Airline flights originating in the UK

From CNN's Sheena Jones

United Airlines airplanes sit on the tarmac at London Heathrow Airport in London on March 16.
United Airlines airplanes sit on the tarmac at London Heathrow Airport in London on March 16. Jason Alden/Bloomberg/Getty Images

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is requiring all United Airlines passengers with flights originating in the UK and flying into Newark Liberty International Airport to have a negative Covid-19 test before arriving in the state, according to a release from the governor’s office.

This comes after the UK announced the discovery of a new variant of Covid-19 in the country. 

Passengers will be required to test negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours of their flight. 

“In effort to strengthen existing travel protocols with our partners at United, beginning Monday, December 28, all United customers with flights originating in the U.K. will be required to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test obtained within 72 hours of departure for incoming flights to Newark Liberty International Airport. As we continue to experience a second wave of COVID-19 cases, it’s critical that we take any and all precautions to mitigate the potential for further transmission,” the release said in part. 

Earlier this week, three other airlines agreed to test all passengers coming from the UK into New York for Covid-19.

12:26 p.m. ET, December 24, 2020

Arizona's Covid-19 hospitalizations set record for the second day in a row

from CNN's Hollie Silverman

Arizona reported the highest day of hospitalizations for the second day in a row, a graph tweeted by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey shows.

The number of inpatient Covid-19 patients hospitalized in Arizona increased to at least 4,221 from 4,163 yesterday, the governor said in a tweet Thursday.

Intensive care unit beds in use by Covid-19 patients decreased Thursday from 972 to 965 and the number of ventilators in use decreased to 620 from 673, Ducey said in a tweet.

The percentage of patients with Covid-like illness seen in Arizona hospitals is now at 16.6%, the governor tweeted.

There were at least 7,046 new Covid-19 cases and 115 new deaths reported Thursday for a total of 480,319 cases and 8,294 deaths since the pandemic began, according to the Arizona Department of Health Service dashboard.

A total of 3,107,007 Covid-19 tests have been reported in the state of Arizona, with 23,378 of those test results being reported Thursday, the ADHS website shows.

12:28 p.m. ET, December 24, 2020

The safest way to celebrate New Year’s Eve is with your household or virtually, CDC says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

A 2021 sign is seen in Times Square on December 23 in New York City.
A 2021 sign is seen in Times Square on December 23 in New York City. Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

The safest way to celebrate the new year during the pandemic is at home with the people you live with, or online with friends and family, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in guidance posted to its website on Wednesday.

“Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others,” it says, echoing guidance for other winter holidays.

For those that host a celebration, CDC suggests staying outside, limiting the number of guests, making extra masks available and keeping background music low to avoid shouting. 

When attending a celebration, the agency says masks should be worn indoors and outdoors and alcohol and drugs that can alter judgement should be avoided. 

“While it is possible that some people may receive COVID-19 vaccines before New Year’s Eve, continue taking steps to protect yourself and others for some time to come,” the CDC says.

CDC also suggests other activities, such as having a virtual celebration with loved ones, planning a New Year’s party for the people who live in a household, reaching out to friends, family and neighbors, watching live streamed fireworks or planning an outdoor activity. 

“It’s okay if you decide to postpone or cancel your gathering. Do what’s best for you,” the guidance says.

If celebrating with people outside of your household, CDC suggests wearing a mask – even under a scarf when outside – and staying at least 6 feet apart, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, washing hands, staying home if sick and getting a flu shot as soon as possible. 

Holiday travel may also increase a person’s chance of getting and spreading Covid-19, and CDC continues to recommend postponing travel.

12:09 p.m. ET, December 24, 2020

Lebanon reports highest Covid-19 daily increase for two consecutive days

From CNN's Ghazi Balkiz

Lebanon reported at least 2,708 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, which is the highest number of daily infections recorded since the beginning of the pandemic, the country's Ministry of Public Health said Thursday.

On Wednesday, Lebanon set a previous record of 2,246 new cases.

The country now has a total of 165,934 cases. There were also 20 new deaths recorded in the past 24 hours, raising the national death toll to 1,353, the ministry added.

12:00 p.m. ET, December 24, 2020

Italy surpasses 2 million Covid-19 cases

From Livia Borghese

A medical worker in Rome administers a Covid-19 swab test on December 19.
A medical worker in Rome administers a Covid-19 swab test on December 19. Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images

On Christmas Eve, Italy surpassed 2 million coronavirus cases.

The country reported at least 18,040 new cases bringing the total to 2,009,317, according to the health ministry.

There were an additional 505 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 70,900 deaths.

There are at least 2,589 people in intensive care — that's down from 35 patients the previous day.

12:08 p.m. ET, December 24, 2020

For the first time all season, an NFL coach will miss a game due to Covid-19 protocols

From CNN’s Dan Kamal

Darrell Bevell, interim head coach of the Detroit Lions, looks on before a game on December 13 in Detroit.
Darrell Bevell, interim head coach of the Detroit Lions, looks on before a game on December 13 in Detroit. Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Players, assistant coaches and coordinators have all missed National Football League games this season under league Covid-19 protocols, but never has a head coach been absent from the sidelines.

But – according to a statement from the Detroit Lions Thursday – that will change this weekend when the team’s interim head coach Darrell Bevell will be forced to sit out Detroit’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because he is a close contact of someone who tested positive for Covid-19.

In addition to the team’s head coach, the Lions also announced four other coaches – defensive coordinator Cory Undlin, defensive line coach Bo Davis, defensive backs coach Steve Gregory and linebackers coach Ty McKenzie – will also miss the game due to NFL Covid-19 protocols.

The 5-9 Lions host the 9-5 Buccaneers Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.