December 28 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020
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5:01 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

Novavax testing its vaccine against UK coronavirus variant

From CNN's Elizabeth Cohen and Michael Nedelman

Biotech company Novavax — which announced the launch of a phase 3 trial of its Covid-19 vaccine in the US on Monday — confirmed it is also testing its vaccine against the UK strain of coronavirus that appears to transmit more easily.

"We are actively testing sera against the new UK strain,” the company said in a statement Monday, adding that “results will take several weeks.”

This will involve taking blood from trial participants who received the vaccine and checking to see if their antibodies neutralize the UK strain in the lab.

Novavax joins other pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer and Moderna, which are also testing their vaccines against this strain — which has become widespread in the UK and has appeared in many other countries. The variant appears to be more transmissible, but there’s no indication it causes more severe disease. 

The statement noted there have been other coronavirus variants, and the company believes its vaccine will create an "immune response that covers these sequence variants and will be protective.”

4:28 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

$600 relief checks expected to start going out this week — but timing could slide, Trump official says

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

A Trump administration official said they still expect the individual $600 coronavirus relief checks to go out this week but acknowledged the timing could slide. 

President Trump signed the massive coronavirus relief bill Sunday night, after withholding his signature from the bill for almost a week.

The coronavirus relief package provides for $600 checks, but CNN has reported that experts said it would take at least two weeks for the Treasury Department to get cash into individuals' bank accounts, once the legislation had been signed. 

Read more of CNN's reporting on stimulus check distribution here.

4:30 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

The US has administered 2.1 million vaccine doses, according to CDC

From CNN's John Bonifield

A clinical pharmacist with Seattle Indian Health Board prepares to administer a shot of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine on December 21 in Seattle, Washington.
A clinical pharmacist with Seattle Indian Health Board prepares to administer a shot of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine on December 21 in Seattle, Washington. Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Approximately 2.1 million vaccine doses have been administered in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

As of 9 a.m. Monday, the CDC Covid Data Tracker said 11,445,175 doses have been distributed and 2,127,143 have been administered.

That's an additional 1,897,250 doses distributed, and 182,558 doses administered since the CDC's figures were last updated on Saturday.

3:41 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

CEO of L.A. hospital says staff may have to ration care if number of coronavirus patients rises

From CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas

Dr. Elaine Batchlor, CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles, speaks with CNN on December 28.
Dr. Elaine Batchlor, CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles, speaks with CNN on December 28. CNN

Dr. Elaine Batchlor, CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles, said Monday that staff may soon have to ration care if the number of coronavirus patients rises.

Batchlor said her hospital is so overwhelmed with coronavirus cases, it is now treating patients in the gift shop and chapel.

“If we continue to see an increase in the number of Covid patients, we may be forced to do something that, as health professionals, we all really just loathe having to even think about,” Batchlor told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin.

Batchlor said the hospital will not turn patients away but may have to employ techniques that have been used during times of war.

“We use what in the battlefield is called triage techniques, which is doing an assessment of each person's needs and prognosis and using scarce resources with patients that are most likely to benefit from them,” she said.

3:58 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

Cuba will impose new travel restrictions following rise in Covid-19 cases  

From CNN's Patrick Oppmann and Claudia Dominguez

Cuba will restrict international flights coming from several countries and tighten border restrictions starting Jan. 1, 2021 after a rise in new coronavirus cases in the island, according to the Cuban state-run Cuba Debate.   

The new measures include temporarily restrict the arrival of travelers from the US, Mexico, Panama, Bahamas, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. From Jan. 10, travelers from the rest of the countries will be required to show a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken 72 hours before traveling, and follow health protocols established by authorities upon arrival to Cuba, according to Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health.    

The country has seen a surge in new coronavirus cases recently after international travelers started arriving in the country, Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health said on its website. 

Cuba reopened its international airports in November after partially closing them in March in an effort to reduce Covid-19 infections. 

At least 71.5% of the new cases detected were traced to travelers arriving from the US, Mexico, Panama, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas, among other countries, Cuba Debate reported.  

The ministry’s National Director of Epidemiology, Dr. Francisco Duran Garcia, said that 3,783 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the country between the beginning of November and Dec. 23, according to the state-run news outlet.   

Reducing the number of travelers will decrease the number of cases that are being “imported into the country,” Garcia was quoted as saying by Cuba Debate.  

Cuban health officials on Monday reported a total of 229 new Covid-19 cases and one new death in the past 24 hours. Cuba has so far registered a total of 11,434 coronavirus cases and 143 deaths, according to the country's health ministry. 

3:41 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

"Growing concern" over very high level of Covid-19 infection in England

From CNN’s Sarah Dean and Samantha Tapfumaneyi

The UK recorded a further 41,385 coronavirus cases on Monday, breaking its daily record since the pandemic began.

A further 357 people have died, according to government data.

Responding to the data, Dr. Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director for Public Health England, said the very high level of Covid-19 infection in England is of "growing concern." 

The increase comes at a time when "hospitals are at their most vulnerable, with new admission rising in many regions," Doyle added.

Figures from NHS England show 20,426 hospital beds are currently occupied by confirmed Covid-19 cases. 

This is worse than the figure forecast by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and the Health Service Journal (HSJ) earlier in December, when they warned the government should reverse its decision to relax Covid-19 restrictions over Christmas. They predicted hospitalizations in England on New Year’s Eve could be just short of the pandemic’s peak in April (19,000) unless tighter measures were brought in.

The government did ultimately bring in tougher restrictions in many parts of England. It reversed a plan allowing people in the rest of England to get together for five days around Christmas, cutting the window down to just one day – Christmas Day itself. The U-turn came in response to the detection of a new variant of Covid-19 that appears to spread more rapidly.

"Despite unprecedented levels of infection, there is hope on the horizon," Doyle said in a statement released Monday. The UK has begun its vaccination program with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is set to receive UK regulatory approval within days. It could be rolled out by January 4, British media reported on Sunday.

3:21 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

More than 334,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

There have been at least 19,221,164 cases of coronavirus in the US, and at least 334,025 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

So far today, Johns Hopkins has recorded 88,438 new cases and 907 reported deaths.

At least 9,547,925 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 1,944,585 doses of the vaccine have been administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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

  

3:30 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

New Jersey will vaccinate more than 30,000 long-term care residents and staff this week

From CNN’s Taylor Romine

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a news conference following the first coronavirus vaccinations at University Hospital's Covid-19 vaccine clinic in Newark, New Jersey, on December 15.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a news conference following the first coronavirus vaccinations at University Hospital's Covid-19 vaccine clinic in Newark, New Jersey, on December 15. Seth Wenig/AP

New Jersey is expected to vaccinate approximately 31,000 long-term care residents and staff by the end of this week, Gov. Phil Murphy said in a Monday news conference. 

The state started its long-term care vaccination program this morning, with CVS planning to visit 85 long-term care facilities and provide more than 27,600 vaccinations, Murphy said. Walgreens is expected to visit 15 different care sites and provide approximately 4,100 vaccinations, he continued. 

"With each passing day, our vaccination program is growing a little larger and a lot stronger," Murphy told reporters. "With the New Year, we are looking forward to the opening of our six vaccination mega sites and the further expansion of our vaccine efforts, and the continued movement through each priority group."

Murphy later clarified that the "mega sites" will be open only to those in the current phase of vaccine distribution. It is likely that these sites will mostly serve health care workers, he said. 

What the numbers look like: New Jersey reported 2,745 new Covid-19 cases and 21 additional deaths, with a positivity rate of 10.98%. There are currently 3,684 people hospitalized with 715 patients in intensive care, Murphy said.

As of today, 220,425 doses of vaccines have been delivered overall with 46,217 doses administered, according to Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. These numbers might change as they get updated reports from over the weekend, she said. 

Murphy also addressed an event of 200 people shut down over the weekend, saying that while he didn't have all the details it sounded "incredibly irresponsible." He said that it will likely be difficult for contact tracers to get in touch with everyone related to the event. 

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

3:15 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

These Americans have been waiting for new Covid-19 aid for months. They say the latest bill is not enough.

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg/Getty Images

President Trump signed the the $900 billion Covid-19 relief package on Sunday, after he initially threw the bill in doubt by asking Congress to amend it right before the Christmas holiday.

The legislation, which was negotiated on a bipartisan basis, provides for $600 in direct payments. After the deal passed in Congress, Trump called for $2,000 checks instead.

CNN asked you, our viewers and readers, after Congress passed the bill for your thoughts on the latest relief package. Many expressed frustrations over the direct payment of $600 and said the bill does not provide enough assistance.

Briana, from Concord, North Carolina, lost her job as a business development coordinator for a massage franchise due to the pandemic back in March and hasn’t received unemployment payments since October. She and her husband now rely on unsteady income they make from a small flooring company they own, where her husband also works.

She told CNN that while the $600 stimulus check is beneficial, it is not enough for her family to get through the next few months, especially since she’s concerned about making her mortgage payments on time.

"$600 per adult plus the $500 per child is not enough to get us through, let’s just say four months," she said.

"So, we have been very, very frugal with our money," Briana explained.

She said the first stimulus package from earlier this year was much more helpful.

Briana also noted that her situation is especially difficult since she made the decision to homeschool her 7-year-old daughter because of the uncertainty over in-person and virtual learning.

She told CNN that homeschooling takes up six to seven hours of her day, and she also dedicates time assisting her daughter with schoolwork. While Briana has been looking for work, it’s been difficult to find a job that works with her current schedule.

“People like me and my family, fall between the cracks,” she said. “We need some help.”

Nicole, a self-employed hairdresser from Los Angeles, California, who has been out of work for most of the year, called the $600 payment an “insult.” She’s been relying on the income of her husband and unemployment payments.

“We’re two income household and we need two incomes to make it work,” Nicole told CNN. Being unable to work has been a “big hit,” she said.

She told CNN the current package is not enough, and like Briana, she said the first stimulus package was more helpful.

"We’ve been sitting here waiting and praying for six or seven months now since the end of July when the first… unemployment, pandemic support ended and since that ended something is better than nothing, yes, but what are we meant to do with that? Where’s that supposed to go? When there’s so many places for it to go," Nicole said.

She also expressed frustrations on how long it took for the current package to pass, calling it “unacceptable."

The US House of Representatives could pass a provision Monday night aimed at increasing the amount of money individuals and families receive in stimulus checks to $2,000.