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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8:34 a.m. ET, December 28, 2020

2 million administered vaccine doses reported by CDC "probably an underestimate," top US health official says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health, speaks during an Operation Warp Speed vaccine summit at the White House in Washington, D.C., on December 8.
Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health, speaks during an Operation Warp Speed vaccine summit at the White House in Washington, D.C., on December 8. Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the US Department of Health and Human Services said on Good Morning America that when it comes to the number of Covid vaccines that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported being administered, “the two million number is probably an underestimate.”

On Saturday, the CDC Covid Data Tracker said that 9,547,925 vaccine doses had been distributed and 1,944,585 had been administered.

Giroir said that 10.8 million doses have been distributed to the states, “that two million number is delayed three to seven days, so we certainly expect that to be a multiple of two million.”

Giroir said that another four point seven million doses would be distributed this week, so by the end of the week there would be over 15 and a half million doses “in the hands of the states.”

There will be another allocation Tuesday, he said, saying “that’s the rhythm,” with states being told what they will get the following week.

“So, 20 million doses will be distributed to the States by the first week in January, that’s where we are, probably another 30 million doses in January, another 50 million doses in February. That seems to be a very good estimate given what we know right now,” said Giroir. “So it’s moving along, it’s cranking, the end of the pandemic is in sight, but we have a lot of work to do and literally thousands of lives depend on how well we follow the simple public health measures until the vaccine can be widely distributed.”
8:11 a.m. ET, December 28, 2020

Pfizer reschedules EU vaccine deliveries following "logistical issue"

From CNN's Al Goodman in Madrid and Amy Cassidy in Glasgow

A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at a nursing home in Barbastro, Spain, on December 27.
A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at a nursing home in Barbastro, Spain, on December 27. Alvaro Calvo/Getty Images

The delivery of hundreds of thousands of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to countries in the European Union has been delayed due to a “minor logistical issue,” Pfizer told CNN on Monday.

“We have rescheduled a limited number of our deliveries. The logistical matter has been resolved and those deliveries are now being dispatched,” Pfizer said in a statement.

“There are no manufacturing issues to report,” the US pharmaceutical giant added.

Vaccination deliveries delayed: Spain’s Health Ministry has said it had expected to receive a further 350,000 vaccine doses on Monday after launching its vaccination campaign the day before, but confirmed that the delivery has since been delayed due to a problem encountered “in the loading and shipping process.”

“The next delivery of vaccines will be delayed a few hours and will arrive in Spain on Tuesday, December 29, for the continuation of vaccinations throughout the national territory,” the Health Ministry said in a statement.

Transporting the newly-developed Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine has proven to be a major logistical challenge, as the vaccine has to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius, or -94 degrees Fahrenheit, while in transit.

8:06 a.m. ET, December 28, 2020

Beijing cancels New Year's Eve festivities amid Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Beijing bureau 

Residents wait to be tested for coronavirus after new confirmed cases were detected in Beijing, on December 28.
Residents wait to be tested for coronavirus after new confirmed cases were detected in Beijing, on December 28. Jade Gao/AFP/Getty Images

Beijing is cutting down its New Year's Eve events after the city reported local coronavirus infections over the weekend.

The Chinese capital's Happy Valley amusement park announced it will close at 5:30 pm beginning Monday and cancel its planned New Year's Eve concert and celebrations, an announcement from the amusement park read.

Another major New Year's event from Beijing's China Central Television Tower is also canceled, according to a CCTV Light Show announcement on its official WeChat account.

The tower's light show usually runs from December 31 to January 3 but all four days will be canceled this year out of precaution due to the Covid-19 pandemic, CCTV said.

The cancellations come after two locally transmitted Covid-19 cases were reported in Beijing's Shunyi district Friday. The city has collected 838,270 samples as of Sunday afternoon in its latest round of mass testing, Beijing's Center for Disease Control and Prevention said. Of the samples collected, close to 390,000 testing results have returned, and five people who are identified as close contacts of the initial two cases have returned positive results for the virus.

On Sunday, Beijing officials discouraged people from attending temple fairs and gatherings for the New Year and Spring Festival holidays, adding that holding major events will need to go through a strict application and review process.

Officials also discouraged travel agencies and online travel companies from organizing group tours to Beijing during the holiday season.

Parks and tourist attractions are required to operate at 75% capacity during the two holidays.

7:52 a.m. ET, December 28, 2020

For 26 consecutive days, more than 100,000 people have been hospitalized with coronavirus in the US

From CNN’s Madeline Holcombe, Paul Vercammen and Artemis Moshtaghian

As the US prepares to grapple with potential holiday Covid-19 surges, hospitals across the country have reported more than 100,000 patients for the 26th day in a row.

December has been a devastating month for coronavirus spread in the country. More than 63,000 Americans have died so far this month -- the most since the pandemic began -- bringing the total to more than 333,000 people lost to the virus in the US, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. With a total of 19.1 million people infected, there are now 118,720 people currently hospitalized, the Covid Tracking project reported.

One hospital in Southern California is facing the possibility of rationing the limited number of ICU beds and treatment equipment due to the surge of cases, meaning health care providers may have to make decisions of who gets treatment and who does not, infectious disease specialist Dr. Kimberly Shriner told CNN on Sunday.

Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena is preparing for the "ultimate triage" if cases continue to climb in the coming weeks, Shriner said.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Kimberly Shriner
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Kimberly Shriner CNN

“We have a limited number of ventilators, we have a limited number of ICU beds,” Shriner explained, adding that the hospital has nurses who normally take care of one or two patients now taking care of three or four.

And with waves of holiday travel, health experts predict cases will only grow. More than 1.1 million people were screened at airports on Saturday, according to the TSA. More than 616,000 were screened on Christmas Day alone, and hundreds of thousands more traveled in the days leading up to the holiday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci described the potential impacts of the holiday season as a "surge upon a surge."

"If you look at the slope, the incline of cases that we've experienced as we've gone into the late fall and soon to be early winter, it is really quite troubling," Fauci said.
"As we get into the next few weeks," he added, "it might actually get worse."

Read the full story here.

7:12 a.m. ET, December 28, 2020

British tourists reported to have "fled" Swiss ski resort after quarantine measures imposed

From CNN’s Fanny Bobille in Paris and Arnaud Siad in London

A gondola lift is pictured in the Swiss Alpine resort of Verbier on December 22.
A gondola lift is pictured in the Swiss Alpine resort of Verbier on December 22. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

A number of British tourists staying at the Swiss ski resort of Verbier are reported to have "fled clandestinely under cover of night" on Saturday, after a quarantine period was imposed on all travelers from the United Kingdom, a local official told CNN on Monday.

The quarantine requirement was introduced amid concerns over a new, more contagious, coronavirus variant.

"Some British tourists left immediately, while others decided to stay a little longer. Some of them fled clandestinely during the night," Jean-Marc Sandoz, spokesman for the town of Bagnes, some 20 minutes away from Verbier, told CNN.

"They left progressively, as soon as they found a way back to their homes," he added, noting that the exact number of tourists who left the resort has not been confirmed.

On 21 December, the Swiss Federal Council imposed an entry ban and retroactive quarantine period on all travelers from the UK and South Africa, to prevent the spread of two newly-detected variants of coronavirus.

All those who have entered Switzerland from the two countries since 14 December are required to quarantine for 10 days.

According to Sandoz, 370 holidaymakers from the UK were recorded as being required to comply with the 10-day quarantine order.

"Some of them had to leave for France, because planes for the UK are suspended in Switzerland," Sandoz said.

"You can't blame them. In most cases the quarantine was unbearable. Imagine staying with four people in a hotel room of 20 square metres, and they had to pay for staying at a Swiss ski resort," he added.

According to Head of the Verbier Tourism Office, Simon Wiget, British tourists usually make up 21% of holidaymakers staying at the resort.

6:56 a.m. ET, December 28, 2020

How the pandemic brought a rising tide of hunger to Europe

From CNN's Harry Clarke-Ezzidio in London

Aerold Bentley, co-founder and chair of the First Love foundation food bank, loads crates packed with goods for distribution to families in Tower Hamlets, east London, on April 24.
Aerold Bentley, co-founder and chair of the First Love foundation food bank, loads crates packed with goods for distribution to families in Tower Hamlets, east London, on April 24. Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Life wasn't easy for Patricia, even before the pandemic hit.

She struggled with mental health issues after fleeing an abusive relationship, moving herself and her children into an east London flat with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.

For the past few years, Patricia had held down a job as a barista, but she was furloughed after the Covid-19 crisis exploded and the United Kingdom went into lockdown. As the money got tighter, she found herself resorting to a food bank to help feed her family.

"You feel like you're going through it by yourself with your kids, and it's hard to explain to them what you're facing at the time when they just want to eat -- they don't really understand food poverty," said Patricia. We are only using her first name, in order to protect her identity.

Like many others in the east London borough of Tower Hamlets -- one of the most deprived areas in the British capital -- Patricia turned to the First Love Foundation.

The charity -- which gives out food to those in need, as well as providing other services including housing and legal assistance -- said it saw a 925% surge in demand during the early stages of the pandemic.

An ongoing struggle: The pandemic has only widened the ever-growing divide between the haves and have-nots.

In July, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the virus had "laid bare" risks and inequalities known for decades, and warned that "entire regions that were making progress on eradicating poverty and narrowing inequality have been set back years, in a matter of months."

But even in Europe -- home to some of the richest countries and most generous social safety nets -- concerns around hunger and deprivation existed long before the Covid-19 crisis.

In 2019, a report by Eurostat estimated that there were 92.4 million people in the EU who were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, equivalent to 21.1 % of the total population.

Another Eurostat report from 2018 revealed that 33.4 million Europeans were unable to afford a meal with meat, fish, or a vegetarian equivalent every second day -- highlighting the sheer scale of the problem across Europe.

And when the pandemic hit, things got even worse.

Read the full story here:

6:53 a.m. ET, December 28, 2020

Differing state responses a "major weakness" in US response, says Fauci

From CNN's Amy Woodyatt

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is pictured before receiving his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on December 22, in Bethesda, Maryland.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is pictured before receiving his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on December 22, in Bethesda, Maryland. Patrick Semansky/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Differences in how individual US states have responded to coronavirus are a "major weakness" in the US' handling of the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci has said.

"The states are very often given a considerable amount of leeway in doing things the way they want to do it, as opposed to in response to federal mandates, which are relatively rarely given," the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told BBC Radio 4 in a segment that aired Monday.

"Although that works well for certain things, when you’re dealing with a pandemic, which doesn’t know the difference between the border of New York and New Jersey, or Florida and Georgia, or Texas and Oklahoma ... you have to have a degree of consistency in your response," he said, referencing shutdowns and reopening guidelines.

"What we’ve had was a considerable disparity with states doing things differently in a non-consistent way. There have been a lot of factors that have led to the fact that, unfortunately for us, the United States has been the hardest hit country in the world, but I believe that disparity among how states do things has been a major weakness in our response," he said.

There have been at least 19.1 million cases of coronavirus in the US, and at least 333,129 Americans have been lost to the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally of cases.

"Politicization" of public health measures slowed response: Fauci also pointed to divisive politics as a factor in the US' response to the pandemic.

"Unfortunately, this year, I think it's no secret to anyone following what’s going on that there is a considerable degree of divisiveness in this country," he said, explaining that this had complicated what "at another time, and under different circumstances" would be seen as simple public health matters.

"But now what we see is somewhat of a politicization, where ... things like the wearing of masks become a political statement, where ... keeping away from crowds becomes a political statement, that has made it very problematic as we’ve dealt with this unprecedented and historic outbreak," he said.

Fauci said it is vital to continue with public health measures until coronavirus vaccinations are prevalent throughout the world -- not just in developed nations.

"Until we get that veil of protection, then we are constantly going to be challenged," he said.

6:47 a.m. ET, December 28, 2020

London Ambulance Service is receiving as many emergency calls as it did in pandemic's first wave

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

Ambulances are seen parked outside the Royal London Hospital in London, England, on December 27.
Ambulances are seen parked outside the Royal London Hospital in London, England, on December 27. Hollie Adams/Getty Images

The London Ambulance Service (LAS) says it has received as many emergency calls in recent weeks as it did during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

It says it has had to rely on the support of extra staff members and volunteers to ease pressure on the service.

An LAS spokesman said demand for the service has risen "sharply" in recent weeks, with up to 8,000 calls a day to the 999 emergency number, compared to 5,500 on a typical busy day.

UK variant: The United Kingdom has identified a new, more contagious coronavirus variant, linked to a recent surge in cases in England. Dozens of countries have banned travel from the UK in an attempt to contain it.

More than 2.29 million cases of coronavirus have been reported in the United Kingdom since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, and more than 70,000 people have died.

"Our colleagues in emergency departments are also under pressure receiving our patients as quickly as they can. We are working urgently with NHS partners to reduce any delays," the LAS spokesman added.

According to data from the service, the LAS took 7,918 calls on December 26 this year, in comparison to 5,217 the year before.

"One of our busiest ever days -- 16 March 2020 -- as the first wave of the pandemic peaked, was only marginally busier," an LAS spokesperson told CNN Monday.

4:37 a.m. ET, December 28, 2020

Police shut down illegal bar and gathering of more than 200 people at warehouse party

From CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian in Atlanta

Authorities shut down an illegal bar and broke up a warehouse party in Newark, New Jersey where more than 200 people were gathered in the middle of the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Newark Department of Public Safety maintain that patrons of the event were eating, drinking alcohol and participating in illegal gambling at a warehouse located at 6 Libella Court early Sunday morning.

Newark Public Safety Director Anthony F. Ambrose announced the arrest of two women working behind the illegal bar for being unable to produce the appropriate paperwork proving they held a license to sell alcohol, according to a statement released on Sunday.

Denisse Tinizaray, 26, and Katherine Tinizaray, 28, both of Newark, were arrested on Sunday and each face charges of maintaining an illegal alcohol establishment, illegal possession of alcohol and illegal sale of alcohol.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced new restrictions earlier this month limiting outdoor gatherings to no more than 25 individuals, down from the previous 150-person limit. In August, Murphy announced a reduction to indoor gatherings limiting establishments to 25% capacity with a maximum number of 25 people, due to the “upward climb” in the Covid-19 transmission rate.