December 30 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 0502 GMT (1302 HKT) December 31, 2020
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1:59 p.m. ET, December 30, 2020

AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine may be authorized for emergency use in US in April, official says

From CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas

In this undated photo, a researcher in Oxford, England, works on the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
In this undated photo, a researcher in Oxford, England, works on the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. John Cairns/University of Oxford/AP

The Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine may be authorized for emergency use in the US in April, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser for Operation Warp Speed, said Wednesday. 

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was authorized for use in the UK Wednesday.

“As you know, that vaccine is in Phase three trials here in the US,” Slaoui said during a briefing. “We have almost totally completed the recruitment of that trial.”

Slaoui said the vaccine is being manufactured ahead of the potential authorization.

“If everything goes well, that read-out and emergency use authorization may be granted somewhere early in April,” he added. “By that time, several tens of millions of doses of this vaccine will have been manufactured.”
1:40 p.m. ET, December 30, 2020

Tennessee will begin administering vaccines to teachers and residents 75 and older

From CNN’s Tina Burnside

The Tennessee Department of Health has updated its Covid-19 vaccination plan which now includes administering to teachers and residents 75 and older. 

The state's health department announced on Wednesday that updates to the current vaccination plan are being made based on new recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and discussions with Tennessee’s Unified Command Group and a stakeholder group of more than 30 partner agencies and organizations. 

K-12 teachers and childcare workers have also been moved up right behind frontline workers in the state's vaccination plan.

“COVID-19 vaccines remain limited at this time, and Tennessee’s allocation plan prioritizes those most at risk of illness and death from COVID-19,” Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said in a statement.  

During a news conference on Wednesday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said this layered approach that now includes teachers and residents 75 and older will make the state's vaccine distribution plan more efficient and effective. 

1:39 p.m. ET, December 30, 2020

US is working to address lag time in reporting on Covid-19 vaccine numbers, officials say

From CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas

A pharmacist prepares a Covid-19 vaccine at a senior-living community in Falls Church, Virginia, on Wednesday.
A pharmacist prepares a Covid-19 vaccine at a senior-living community in Falls Church, Virginia, on Wednesday. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The US is working to address a lag time in reporting on Covid-19 vaccine numbers, Operation Warp Speed officials said during a briefing Wednesday. 

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show 2.1 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the US.

“Surely, it's a number that is smaller than the 14 million doses that are out there already available for use,” said Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser for Operation Warp Speed.

The number is “lower than what we hoped for,” he added.

“We know that it should be better, and we're working hard to make it better,” Slaoui said.

Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said he is personally working to address the 72- to 96-hour delay in reporting on vaccine numbers, noting that the data will “tighten up,” as reporting becomes more routine.

1:46 p.m. ET, December 30, 2020

Elementary and middle schools in West Virginia will reopen next month

From CNN’s Carma Hassan

West Virginia Governor's Office
West Virginia Governor's Office

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced that all elementary and middle schools will reopen to in-person learning on Jan. 19.

“During 2020, we learned that Covid-19 transmission rates in our schools during the first semester was 0.02% among students and…0.3% among our staff,” Justice said. 

The governor said that despite their efforts, switching to virtual learning has not worked well for students in West Virginia.

“In the first semester, a third of our students, one third of our students, are receiving failing grades in at least one of their core classes,” Justice said

He added that the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reported a reduction in Child Protective Services referrals by an average of 50-54% a month.

The governor said the transmission rate among students aged 15 and up is significantly higher than that in children under 15. 

12:59 p.m. ET, December 30, 2020

More than 14 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been distributed in US, Operation Warp Speed official says

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

Nurse Courtney Senechal inoculates Phyllis Fischer with a Covid-19 vaccine in Boston.
Nurse Courtney Senechal inoculates Phyllis Fischer with a Covid-19 vaccine in Boston. Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

More than 14 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been distributed in the United States, Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said Wednesday.

"We are really doing well, in my opinion,” Perna said during a briefing. “Over 14 million doses of vaccine have been distributed to date, and every day we push more vaccine."

Perna did not say how many of those doses have been administered. The vaccine distribution process, he said, has entered a good cadence.

“This week we provided jurisdictions with the final allocations of doses available,” Perna said. “That means by tomorrow night, all the jurisdictions will be able to place orders for up to 20 million doses of vaccine, which has been collective over the last two weeks plus.”

Perna said the US is working to get people their second doses soon.

“This week we started not only pushing first dose vaccine, but we started pushing second dose vaccine for the Pfizer vaccine,” he said.

1:01 p.m. ET, December 30, 2020

"Pretty grim and depressing picture" in England, official says

From CNN’s Sarah Dean

"It is a pretty grim and depressing picture at the moment" in England, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam told a Downing Street news conference on Wednesday.

"It is almost certainly true that the NHS has not yet seen the impact of the infections that will have occurred during mixing in Christmas and that unfortunately is rather sobering,” he added.

Echoing the prime minister’s call for the nation to stay at home over New Years, Van-Tam said: "You have just got to play your part now in bringing us back from this dangerous situation we find ourselves in.”

11:57 a.m. ET, December 30, 2020

Pelosi calls out McConnell for "holding up" bill on $2,000 stimulus checks

From CNN's Kristin Wilson

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters during her weekly press conference on December 30 in Washington, DC.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters during her weekly press conference on December 30 in Washington, DC. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi assailed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for slow-walking the $2,000 CASH Act providing more relief funding for Americans in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that passed through the House earlier this week. 

“Who is holding up that distribution to the American people? Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans,” she said in a news conference today. “It’s amazing to see the patience that some people have with other people’s suffering. These Republicans in the Senate seem to have an endless tolerance for other people’s sadness."

"I do hope that in the days ahead – we only have a few days left in this session – that they will see the light and understand the suffering that is going on in our country," Pelosi added.

She did not, however, commit to bringing the CASH Act back up in a new Congress if it dies in the Senate.

“Let’s be hopeful it can happen this week, because the sooner it happens, the sooner the checks can go out. We’re not giving up on it, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, is advocating for it,” she said. “It would have bipartisan support in the Senate if Mitch McConnell would only allow it to come to floor instead of being an obstruction to those checks going to the American people."

Pelosi also blasted the current administration for “holding up” the distribution the coronavirus vaccination to Americans, saying that “this has to be done better.”

“Let’s hope in the last few weeks of the Trump administration that they will follow the science," she added.

“This pandemic is horrible,” Pelosi said. “But it has also pulled back the curtain to reveal further disparities in our economy in our society, “ she said, announcing that she is going to ask the Rules Committee in the new Congress to stand up a new committee to address economic disparity and fairness. 

Pelosi also addressed the death of Congressman-elect Luke Letlow of Louisiana, who died from complications of Covid-19, “It could happen to anyone, and it has happened to 350,000 Americans.”

11:29 a.m. ET, December 30, 2020

NYPD chief to potential Time Square New Year's Eve goers: “Don’t come”

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

An SUV delivers the "2021" New Year's Eve numerals to Times Square in New York during a coast-to-coast tour on December 21.
An SUV delivers the "2021" New Year's Eve numerals to Times Square in New York during a coast-to-coast tour on December 21. Michael Nagle/Bloomberg/Getty Images

New York Police Chief of Department Terence A. Monahan said Wednesday the New Year’s Eve Times Square event ��will look completely different than it has any other time in history.”

“We could all agree that 2020 has been a year unlike anything else we’ve experienced,” he said at a Wednesday briefing.

His message: “Please stay at home.”

“Don’t come,” he said, “if you think you’re going to be able to stand there and watch the ball, you’re mistaken.”

There will be “absolutely no spectators allowed in Time Square” and no “fireworks” in Coney Island or “midnight run” in Central Park.

Hotels in the area will be allowed to operate, but patrons must remain in the hotels.

The spectators that will be seen on television are cast members part of the production that have been prescreened for the virus, he said.

There will be “many less” NYPD officers in time square but he assures the NYPD will still have assets “similar” to what has been seen in the past.

He said there is about an 80% reduction in cops that will be in Times Square, which will allow cops to be in the outer boroughs “where they are needed.”

Officers will be posted in the streets of Times Square and subways, including heavy weapons teams and a counter terrorism overlay.

11:06 a.m. ET, December 30, 2020

New York is preparing emergency hospital facilities in case of potential Covid-19 surge, official says

From CNN's Taylor Romine

New York is currently "undertaking preparations" to have emergency hospital facilities ready in case there is another Covid-19 surge, including Javits Center in New York City, an official in the governor's office said. 

"The Governor has made clear that we’re laser focused on preserving hospital capacity and protecting our healthcare system as cases increase and continue to do so as we move through the holiday season," said Rich Azzopardi, senior advisor to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

"New York State for weeks has been undertaking preparations to have emergency hospital facilities to be ready for potential surge in cases, including sites such as the Javits where much of the infrastructure is still in place and could be mobilized quickly if the increase in hospitalizations is worse than expected," he added.

Azzopardi encouraged New Yorkers to continue taking precautions against Covid-19 so that the state can "avoid a surge that overwhelms our hospital system."