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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7:25 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

US hits record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

Registered Nurse Jacqueline Fiel tends to a Covid-19 patient inside the intensive care unit of Providence St. Jude Medical Center on December 25 in Fullerton, California. 
Registered Nurse Jacqueline Fiel tends to a Covid-19 patient inside the intensive care unit of Providence St. Jude Medical Center on December 25 in Fullerton, California.  Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

The United States reported 121,235 Covid-19 hospitalizations on Monday, setting a new record high since the pandemic began, according to the Covid Tracking Project (CTP).

This is the 27th consecutive day that the US has remained above 100,000 current hospitalizations.

According to CTP data, these days had the highest hospitalization numbers:

  • Dec. 28: 121,235 people hospitalized
  • Dec. 24: 120,151 people hospitalized
  • Dec. 23: 119,463 people hospitalized
  • Dec. 25: 118,948 people hospitalized
  • Dec. 27: 118,720 people hospitalized
6:03 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

House votes to increase stimulus checks to $2,000

From CNN's Kristin Wilson and Clare Foran

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

 

The House has passed the Caring for Americans with Supplemental Help (CASH) Act of 2020 by the slimmest of margins, with just enough Republicans crossing over and supporting a measure that was championed by President, and sending the bill to the Senate.

The provision increases the amount of money individuals and families receive in stimulus checks, and echoes demands made by Trump over the past week to provide more funding to Americans suffering economic hardship in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 275-134 vote, which garnered enough bipartisan support to reach the two-thirds majority threshold required to pass under suspension, increases the amount of the stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000 per individual.

Eligibility for the checks is determined by a person’s most recent tax returns. Anyone who made under $75,000 as an individual or $150,000 as a couple would receive the full amount. The amount individuals receive decreases by $5 for every $100 a person makes over $75,000. In short, that means that individuals who make over $99,000 would not be eligible nor would couples making more than $198,000.

What's next: Now that the bill has passed the House with Republican votes, it will put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a tough position of having to decide whether to bring the provision to the floor in the Senate as a standalone bill.

While the President has been urging Republicans up the payments, many Republicans in McConnell’s ranks have made it clear they don’t think an increase is warranted given how much it would increase the price tag of the stimulus bill. A vote on the checks would likely divide the GOP conference and force some members to endure Trump’s ire in his final days in office.

7:05 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

Stay-at-home order in parts of California will likely be extended

From CNN's Sarah Moon

People walk along the Venice Beach Boardwalk on December 27 in Los Angeles, California.
People walk along the Venice Beach Boardwalk on December 27 in Los Angeles, California. Damian Dovarganes/AP

The regional stay-at-home order for Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley is likely to be extended, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in a news conference on Monday.

While the three-week order was set to expire Monday, Newsom said it’s very likely that the order will be extended based on current trends. Intensive care unit bed capacity for these regions has fallen to 0%.

Once Monday's data is collected, Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's Health and Human Services secretary, will announce projections based on a four-week period on Tuesday, according to Newsom. Stay-at-home orders for the greater Sacramento region will expire on Jan. 1 and a week after for the Bay Area.

California added 33,170 new cases of coronavirus and 64 additional deaths on Monday. Newsom warned that the slightly lower number of deaths is due to a reporting lag over the weekend.

The continued surge of cases and hospitalizations in the Southern California region is challenging the health care system, particularly in Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties, said Newsom. The state is deploying additional staff to Los Angeles County to assist.

The state is also partnering with CVS and Walgreens to provide doses of the Pfizer vaccine to residents and staff in long-term care facilities, Newsom announced. Pharmacy staff will be administering the vaccine by going directly to care facilities.

A total of 261,672 doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been administered as of Dec. 26, Newsom said. By the end of this week, California will have received 1.76 million doses of the vaccine. 

The state is also discussing the next phase of vaccine distribution, which includes people over 75 years of age, workers in education and childcare, emergency services, and food and agriculture.

To date, California has a total of 2,155,976 coronavirus cases and 24,284 deaths.

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

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.