December 26 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Brett McKeehan, Zamira Rahim, Ed Upright and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 4:15 p.m. ET, December 26, 2020
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10:10 a.m. ET, December 26, 2020

At least 1,008,025 vaccine doses have been administered in the US

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

At least 9,465,725 vaccine doses have been distributed in the US and at least 1,008,025 doses of the vaccine have been administered throughout the country, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In terms of cases and deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally, there have been at least 18,765,469 cases of coronavirus in the country and at least 330,302 people have died.

So far today, Johns Hopkins has reported 9,109 new cases and 56 reported deaths. 

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases. 

10:06 a.m. ET, December 26, 2020

Japan will ban entry to foreign nationals after Covid-19 variant detected in country

From CNN's Junko Ogura in Tokyo  

Travelers are pictured in a departure lobby at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on December 26.
Travelers are pictured in a departure lobby at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on December 26. Kyodo News via Getty Images

Japan will ban foreign nationals from entering the country starting Monday through the end of January after several cases of the Covid-19 variant were recorded in the country, according to Japan's public broadcaster, NHK.  

Japanese citizens and foreign residents can still enter, but they're required to self-quarantine for 14 days, NHK reported.  

The move came after a new case of Covid-19 variant was confirmed on Saturday on a person who recently returned from the UK, NHK said.  

Five other travelers from Britain were also detected with the variant the previous day.  

9:59 a.m. ET, December 26, 2020

New Covid-19 variant detected in Sweden

From Sanam Mahoozi

Swedish health authorities have diagnosed a case of the new coronavirus variant in region of Sörmland, on the outskirts of Stockholm, according to a news release from the country’s Public Health Agency on Saturday. 

The person in question, who has tested for the new variant of the novel coronavirus, had traveled to Sweden over Christmas from the UK, where the new variant has been circulating. 

The person is not in need of hospital treatment at this stage and is following all necessary guidelines in order not to infect any others, the physician in charge of contact tracing, and infection control in the region of Sörmland, Signar Mäkitalo, explained, according to the statement.

Sweden has extended its travel ban on passengers arriving from the UK until Jan. 21, 2021. The restrictions were first announced by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ann Linde, in a tweet last week.

9:56 a.m. ET, December 26, 2020

Millions are in danger of losing key benefits soon if Trump doesn't sign the Covid-19 relief bill

From CNN's Tami Luhby

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

Though Congress has passed a $900 billion Covid-19 relief package, millions of Americans are in danger of losing important benefits just after the holidays if President Trump continues to refuse to sign the bill.

The legislation would extend two pandemic unemployment programs and provide the jobless with a $300 weekly federal boost through mid-March. It would send direct payments of up $600 per person. It would reopen the Paycheck Protection Program so that some of the hardest-hit small businesses can apply for a second loan.

The package, which would be the second-largest relief deal after the $2 trillion CARES Act that Congress approved in March, also would extend eviction protection and enhance food stamp benefits.

These are some of the programs that are at risk if the bill isn't signed:

  • Expanded unemployment benefits: More than 12 million laid-off Americans could lose their unemployment benefits after this weekend if Trump doesn't sign the bill. And even if he does, they would likely suffer a break in payments of several weeks. As part of the historic broadening of jobless benefits under the CARES Act, lawmakers created three programs to help out-of-work Americans. While the $600 payment enhancement lasted only through July, the other two expire just after Christmas.
  • Eviction protection: A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order that went into effect in September temporarily halted evictions through the end of the year. The order, which was spurred by an executive measure Trump signed over the summer, applies to renters who meet certain income requirements, have experienced significant losses of income and have made their best efforts to find rental assistance and pay their rent. Since the order does not cancel or freeze rent, all of a tenant's back rent will be due January 1 if the moratorium is allowed to expire. Without rent relief or an extension of the protection, many struggling renters will again face eviction.
  • Coronavirus relief funds for states: Congress provided $150 billion to state and local governments to help them cover coronavirus-related expenses. But states have to use those funds by Dec. 30. States are on track to expend all the funds by the deadline, according to a National Governors Association survey of 42 states and territories. Most of the money has been used for health-related expenses, economic relief, education and child care, and government expenses. The package would give states and localities an additional year to spend the money.
11:39 a.m. ET, December 26, 2020

Key factors that will help determine when you get a Covid-19 vaccine in the US

From CNN's Eliott C. McLaughlin

A nurse at Broward Health Medical Center prepares a Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on December 17.
A nurse at Broward Health Medical Center prepares a Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on December 17. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

With two Covid-19 vaccines approved for emergency use and politicians, health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities rolling up their sleeves, but when will you be able to get the vaccine?

The answer depends on each person's health, what they do for a living and where they live.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, Biden's nominee for surgeon general, said he believes it may take until late spring to finish vaccinating high-risk populations, if all goes according to plan. That means mid-summer may be a "realistic" timeline for the general public to begin vaccinations, he told NBC.

Here's what you need to know about getting a Covid-19 vaccine:

Who is getting vaccinated first?

  • Health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities are first in line, followed by adults ages 75 and older and frontline essential workers such as first responders.
  • The next phase will be adults between 65 and 75, those between 16 and 64 with high-risk medical conditions and "other essential workers," according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

When will the general public get the vaccine?

  • This is a moving target that will be dictated by numerous variables. Dr. Vivek Murthy, Biden's nominee for surgeon general, said he believes it may take until late spring to finish vaccinating high-risk populations, if all goes according to plan.
  • That means mid-summer may be a "realistic" timeline for the general public to begin vaccinations, he told NBC.
  • A recent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices chart indicated the general public may start getting the vaccine in about 20 weeks -- putting the target in May — which is "kind of in line with what I was thinking, too," Hannan said.
  • Because states will handle rollouts differently, Hannan says it's a good idea for people to monitor state health department websites for specifics.
  • Some states are setting up "public-facing dashboards," she said, and the New Mexico Department of Health on Wednesday announced a website that will allow residents to register for notifications on when they qualify to receive the vaccine.

Who is an essential worker?

  • The ACIP defines frontline essential workers as anyone employed in "sectors essential to the functioning of society (who) are at substantially higher risk of exposure" to the coronavirus.
  • Besides first responders, that includes those working in education and child care, food and agriculture, manufacturing, corrections, the US Postal Service, public transit and grocery stores. There are roughly 30 million people in this category.

Who is making decisions at the state level?

  • It will ultimately fall on state governors to make calls on who gets the vaccinations and when, Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, said. However, most states have advisory committees or tasks forces in their health and preparedness agencies that will provide recommendations to governors.
  • While the ACIP issues guidelines of who gets the first doses, states are free to make their own decisions.

Read more here.

9:10 a.m. ET, December 26, 2020

The TSA says more than 616,000 people were screened on Christmas Day

From CNN's Pete Muntean

Despite warnings from health officials to not travel this holiday season due to the pandemic, the Transportation Security Administration says it screened at least 616,469 people at security checkpoints across the United States on Christmas Day.

That’s just 23% of the people screened on the same day a year ago and half of the pandemic air travel record set on Wednesday.

This is a lull before numbers are expected to tick up again this weekend.

Travel experts tell CNN to expect that Sunday will be another big day for air travel, especially after several days of about a million people being screened daily in the lead-up to Christmas.

8:33 a.m. ET, December 26, 2020

Here's why some communities in the US may have trouble receiving the Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Nicquel Terry Ellis, Nathaniel Meyersohn and Omar Jimenez

Chicago is among the cities across the country that could face roadblocks to vaccine access due to a lack of major pharmacy and grocery chains in their poorest Black and brown neighborhoods.

Public health experts identify these communities as "pharmacy deserts" — areas where a substantial number of residents have limited access to retail or independent pharmacies. The problem is largely found in areas with low income residents who have barriers to transportation.

Civil rights leaders and health advocates fear the disparity could leave underserved communities scrambling to figure out how to vaccinate everyone as the federal government says pharmacies will play a key role in vaccine distribution.

"It's going to be a mad scramble particularly if this vaccine is seen as safe and effective," said Rev. Marshall Elijah Hatch Sr., of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church on Chicago's west side. "It's very difficult to imagine that there's going to be some kind of egalitarian distribution. We are going to have to fight."

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced on Nov. 12 that the US government was partnering with large chain pharmacies and networks that represent independent pharmacies and regional chains to expand access to future Covid-19 vaccines.

The list of pharmacies included CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid and large grocery chains with pharmacies such as Walmart, Kroger, Costco and Publix.

"Pharmacy vaccinators are crucial public health partners for increasing access and convenience of Covid-19 vaccines," HHS said in a news release. "By working with these partners, the federal government will rapidly expand access to Covid-19 vaccines."

But relying on pharmacies to expand vaccine access could be challenging.

A study from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014 showed that pharmacy deserts — which were defined as a low-income community that either has low-vehicle access and is more than half a mile from a pharmacy or is more than a mile from a pharmacy regardless of vehicle access — were more prevalent in predominately Black neighborhoods in Chicago than in White ones.

Between 2000 and 2010, there was a 20% increase in the number of pharmacies in White communities, with no expansion in minority communities, the study found.

Read the full story here:

7:33 a.m. ET, December 26, 2020

Australian golf legend Greg Norman has been hospitalized in the US with coronavirus

From CNN's Paul Gittings

Greg Norman competes during the PNC Championship at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando on December 20.
Greg Norman competes during the PNC Championship at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando on December 20. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Australian golfer Greg Norman has been diagnosed with Covid-19, according to a post on his Instagram account.

The 65-year-old posted a photo of himself with medical equipment in the background, wearing a facemask with the logo of the NFL team Pittsburgh Steelers.

Norman won the 1986 and 1993 British Opens, spent over 300 weeks at the top of the world golf rankings and is nicknamed the "Great White Shark."

This sums it all up. My Christmas Day," he wrote.

In a post peppered with expletives, Norman said he wanted to "get this [virus] behind us never to experience it again."

He had been quarantining at his home in Jupiter, Florida after developing mild symptoms earlier in the week although an earlier Covid-19 test taken on Tuesday had proved negative.

Norman competed in last week’s PNC Championship in Orlando with his son Greg Jr., finishing in a share of ninth place.

8:07 a.m. ET, December 26, 2020

Travelers from South Africa face additional virus test in South Korea

From CNN’s Jake Kwon in Seoul

Medical staff swab samples for the coronavirus from a foreign passenger at a virus testing booth outside Incheon international airport in Seoul, Korea on April 1.
Medical staff swab samples for the coronavirus from a foreign passenger at a virus testing booth outside Incheon international airport in Seoul, Korea on April 1. Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images

South Korea will require additional coronavirus tests for travelers from South Africa before they can be released from 14-day mandatory quarantine upon arrival in the country, the government said in a press release Saturday.

If a traveler from South Africa tests positive for the coronavirus, the government will conduct additional testing for the new variant spreading in the UK, the Disease Control and Prevention Agency added in the statement.

A similar variant to the one identified in the UK has been discovered in South Africa, where scientists say it is spreading quickly along coastal areas.

On Wednesday, South Korea suspended flights from the UK until December 31 due to concerns over the new variant. It also suspended the issuance of quarantine exemptions at South Korean consulates in the UK.

All travelers from the UK must undergo 14 days of quarantine and take an extra coronavirus test.