December 29 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Amy Woodyatt, Harry Clarke-Ezzidio and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 30, 2020
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1:21 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020

US reports more than 168,000 Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Joe Sutton in Atlanta

The United States reported 168,817 new Covid-19 cases and 1,718 additional deaths on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally.

At least 19,301,543 total cases and 334,836 deaths have now been recorded in the US.

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

CNN is tracking US cases:

1:00 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020

Japan detects first case of South African Covid-19 variant

From CNN’s Junko Ogura in Tokyo

Japan’s Health Ministry announced on Monday that it had detected the country's first case of the South African Covid-19 variant

A woman in her 30s who arrived at Tokyo’s Narita airport from South Africa on December 19 tested positive for Covid-19 and was found to be carrying the variant. 

The government also on Monday confirmed an additional six cases of the English variant, which appears to transmit more easily.

Those cases traveled from the United Kingdom and tested positive at the airport upon their arrival in Japan between December 1 and 24. A total of 14 cases of the UK variant have now been detected in Japan. 

The announcement of the detection of the South Africa-linked variant comes after the Japanese government started banning the entry of non-resident foreign nationals on Monday following the discovery of the UK variant in Japan.

12:27 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020

Japan reports nearly 2,400 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Junko Ogura in Tokyo

Passengers sit in an almost empty arrival hall at Kansai International Airport on December 27 in Osaka, Japan.
Passengers sit in an almost empty arrival hall at Kansai International Airport on December 27 in Osaka, Japan. Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

Japan reported 2,395 new coronavirus cases and 54 additional deaths Monday, according to a statement from the country's Ministry of Health. 

Of those, 481 were in the capital, Tokyo, where the total number of people infected with the virus since the start of the pandemic now stands at 57,040. 

It's the highest number of cases recorded in Tokyo on a Monday since the pandemic began. Japan typically records lower case numbers on Mondays as many medical facilities are closed over the weekends.

The total number of confirmed cases nationwide in Japan now stands at 223,832, while the death toll has reached 3,319.

While the latest national figures are down from a daily high reported on Friday, the Health Ministry said 661 patients were in a serious condition on Monday, two more than the previous day. 

PM's pledge: At a government coronavirus task force meeting Monday, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged to make sure health care services are available to deal with Covid-19 infections during the year-end and New Year holidays.

"There is no holiday for (the) virus," he said.
12:02 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020

Chinese city where coronavirus first emerged launches emergency vaccine roll out

From CNN's Beijing bureau

Passengers walk on a platform after arriving at the railway station in Wuhan, China on December 28.
Passengers walk on a platform after arriving at the railway station in Wuhan, China on December 28. Roman Pilipey/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The Chinese city of Wuhan -- which reported the first cases of Covid-19 last year -- has begun rolling out emergency use vaccines, according to the local branch of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

He Zhenyu, deputy director of the Wuhan CDC, made the announcement during a news conference on Monday.  

“Wuhan launched emergency use of Covid-19 vaccines beginning December 24 in 48 designated clinics in 15 districts in the city, targeting some key groups of people,” He said. 

People targeted by this vaccine campaign are between 18 to 59 years old, and will need to take two shots with a four-week interval, He added.

9:50 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

Coronavirus has been with us for a year. Here's what we still don't know

From CNN's Julia Hollingsworth

When China first reported cases of coronavirus to the World Health Organization on December 31, 2019, it was described as a mysterious new strain of pneumonia. It didn't even have a name.

Within two weeks, Chinese scientists had identified the virus' genome sequence, the genetic code that makes up the virus. Within three weeks, the first test kits had been created and then shared by the WHO. And just over 11 months since the virus was reported to the WHO, the first people were vaccinated, making the shots the fastest vaccines ever developed.

The speed at which we've learned about coronavirus is unprecedented and scientists say we already know a remarkable amount.

But one year on, with more than 81 million reported infections and 1.7 million deaths around the world, there's still a lot we don't know about Covid-19.

Those unknowns range from the basics -- such as how the virus started -- to the more complicated questions, including how will this pandemic end?

Read the full story:

11:54 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

US hits record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

A nurse tends to a Covid-19 patient inside the intensive care unit of Providence St. Jude Medical Center on December 25 in Fullerton, California. 
A nurse 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
7:49 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

Novavax is 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, that are also testing their vaccines against this strain -- which has become widespread in the United Kingdom 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.”

7:46 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

Novavax's coronavirus vaccine becomes fifth to begin Phase 3 trials in the US

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Novavax on Monday announced the start of the Phase 3 trial of its Covid-19 vaccine in the United States and Mexico. It is the fifth company to launch a large-scale trial of a coronavirus vaccine in the United States. 

The trial for the vaccine candidate, known as NVX-CoV2373, will evaluate safety, efficacy and immune response in up to 30,000 people age 18 and older. It builds on Phase 1/2 studies that demonstrated that the vaccine provoked an immune response and appeared to be safe. 

The trial is examining whether the vaccine prevents Covid-19 symptoms, as well as moderate or severe Covid-19 symptoms. All participants will be followed for 24 months following their second injection.

Two-thirds of participants will be assigned to randomly receive two injections of vaccine administered 21 days apart, the remaining one-third will receive a placebo. The trials sites are in locations that currently have high transmission rates "to accelerate the accumulation of positive cases that could show efficacy," a news release from Novavax says.

Read more about the vaccine trial:

8:43 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

House passes measure to increase stimulus checks to $2,000

From CNN's Clare Foran, Kristin Wilson and Lauren Fox

The House of Representatives on Monday passed a measure to increase stimulus checks for Americans under a certain income level to $2,000 after President Donald Trump championed the effort, sending the bill to the Senate where its future is less certain.

The legislation, which passed with a 275-134 vote, comes a day after Trump signed a sweeping coronavirus relief bill into law Sunday evening. That measure, which was negotiated on a bipartisan basis, provides for $600 in direct payments, but after a deal was brokered and passed out of Congress, Trump railed against the amount as too low and called for $2,000 checks instead, prompting House Democrats to push for an increase.

Democrats have seized on Trump's 11th-hour complaint over the direct payments in a bid to push congressional Republicans to accept a higher amount, forcing GOP lawmakers to decide whether or not to defy the President after many have argued that the overall cost for a stimulus package should not rise too high.

When and if the Senate will consider the measure is uncertain: The Senate Democratic leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, announced Monday that he planned to try and quickly pass the measure in the GOP-led chamber through requesting a unanimous consent agreement, which can be blocked by any senators who opposes it.

"Following the strong bipartisan vote in the House, tomorrow I will move to pass the legislation in the Senate to quickly deliver Americans with $2,000 emergency checks," Schumer said in a statement. "Every Senate Democrat is for this much-needed increase in emergency financial relief, which can be approved tomorrow if no Republican blocks it -- there is no good reason for Senate Republicans to stand in the way."

Read the full story: