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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10:03 a.m. ET, December 30, 2020

Lag in US Covid-19 vaccinations shows Trump administration's "failure to plan," Biden coronavirus adviser says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

“As someone who has worked in vaccine development, distribution, administration for many years, this is not a surprise,” Rick Bright, a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus advisory board told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota and Jim Sciutto when asked about the number of vaccine doses promised by the administration and the number that have been administered.

Bright said that “we know how hard it is to get this job done, we’ve tried to do this in 2009 and 10 responding to an influenza pandemic.”

“What this reveals,” he said, “is a failure to plan, a failure to have a national strategy to vaccinate individuals across the country, a failure to communicate, a failure to coordinate, a failure to be honest and transparent with Americans about the complexities and the timelines for this vaccine.”

He said that this erodes the trust and confidence that people have in the entire system, “let alone in the vaccine.”

Bright admitted that he and the rest of the Biden team have a lot of work to do.

“President-elect Biden said that he will move heaven and earth to make sure we do everything possible to get the vaccine into the arms of Americans in every pocket of our country,” Bright said. “And that’s what we’re going to focus on after January 20.”

Bright said that they will make sure they’re rolling out a strategy end to end, using the defense production act to get supplies and vaccines produced, communication and coordination to get the vaccine distributed, education and resources to support the administration and healthcare workers, and communication and education to build confidence in people to get the vaccine.

 “We have a lot of work to do, and president-elect Biden and his team have a plan and a blueprint to roll out on day one, and they want to administer 100 million doses of vaccine in those first 100 days, and I believe we’re going to get the job done,” Bright said.


9:32 a.m. ET, December 30, 2020

There is no sign the Senate will vote on a bill on $2,000 stimulus checks. Here's where things stand.

From CNN's Lauren Fox

Mitch McConnell, US Senate majority leader, walks from his office to the Senate Chamber at the Capitol in Washington on December 29.
Mitch McConnell, US Senate majority leader, walks from his office to the Senate Chamber at the Capitol in Washington on December 29. Shutterstock

Things are going to drag on in the Senate for a few days.

Bottom line: There is absolutely no sign right now that a standalone bill on $2,000 checks is going to get a vote on the Senate floor. It looks like McConnell is simply going to run out the clock. There were several opportunities on Tuesday when McConnell could have made that assurance or let Democrats pass the bill with a unanimous consent agreement that would have shielded his members from having to take a potentially tough vote.

McConnell blocked those efforts.

Instead, he gave himself an out card down the line — and only if he needs one — by placing on the calendar a bill that would tie a repeal of Section 230 to increasing direct stimulus payments to $2,000 for Americans under a certain income level. The Kentucky Republican may never bring it up. It's there just in case he needs to put something on the floor. Democrats were furious. And there's nothing they can do about it.

McConnell vs. Trump: It's important to remember that McConnell is essentially ignoring Trump's request at the moment. Remember, he never made Trump any promises about what he was or was not going to do on the Senate floor. Trump's statement Sunday night was full of things he thought he'd won.

McConnell made no such mention on fulfilling those promises in his own statement thanking Trump. In a lot of ways, this moment isn't that dissimilar to how McConnell has managed Trump for four years, letting the President rant and vent only to quietly conduct things the way he thinks is best for his members in his own chamber (remember how when the tax bill was drafted, McConnell ignored Trump's later requests to bring up health care for the zillionth time).

Stay tuned: Let's never rule anything out. Dynamics change. If something from polling in Georgia begins to shift to the point that McConnell feels like he needs to give Perdue and Loeffler a vote, he will.

And he now has one on the calendar he can bring up. Cornyn summed it up best when asked if he thought checks would happen: "I've given up making predictions around here. I didn't think I'd be here today, either. So, I don't know. I don't know the answer."

Read more here.

Suzanne Malveaux reports:

8:36 a.m. ET, December 30, 2020

First person to receive Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine outside of clinical trials receives second dose

From CNN's Mia Alberti

Margaret Keenan receives her second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital Coventry in England on December 29.
Margaret Keenan receives her second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital Coventry in England on December 29. Jonny Weeks/The Guardian/PA/AP

Margaret Keenan, 91, received her second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday, three weeks after she became the first patient outside of clinical trials to receive the vaccine.

"Our hardworking staff who have been involved in the vaccination programme have remained in contact with Margaret’s family since that day and we are delighted that Margaret has been continuing to recover well at home following her discharge from hospital,” Professor Andy Hardy, Chief Executive of University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, said Wednesday.

"It’s important that everyone comes forward to get the jab when they are invited to do so and, like other hospitals and GP surgeries across the country, we’ll be following the latest expert advice and evidence to invite people to get vaccinated at the time they need it,” Hardy added.

Keenan received the first of two doses of the vaccine on Dec. 8 at University Hospital in Coventry, less than a week after the UK became the first country to approve it.

8:18 a.m. ET, December 30, 2020

TSA records fourth straight day of more than 1 million screenings at US airports 

From CNN's Greg Wallace

For the fourth consecutive day after the Christmas holiday, more than 1 million people passed through airport security checkpoints on Tuesday, according to the Transportation Security Administration.  

It is also the eighth of the last 12 days where checkpoint traffic exceeded 1 million people. 

Sunday was the single busiest day of the pandemic at airports, with nearly 1.3 million people screened.  

Tuesday’s tally was at least 1,019,347 people, the agency said.  

The numbers represent a spike in pandemic era travel and raise public health concerns.  

8:01 a.m. ET, December 30, 2020

US lags behind some other countries in Covid-19 vaccinations

From CNN Health's Elizabeth Cohen and Deidre McPhillips

A Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is prepared for staff at a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center in Acton, Massachusetts, on December 28.
A Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is prepared for staff at a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center in Acton, Massachusetts, on December 28. Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

The United States is lagging behind several other countries in its Covid-19 vaccination efforts, according to an analysis by CNN of the most recent government data.

In the US:

  • 2,127,143 doses were administered from December 14 through December 28 at 9 a.m.
  • That’s 151,939 shots per day, or a daily rate of 46 shots per 100,000 people in the country.

That is significantly lower than the daily vaccination rates for Israel, the UK, and Bahrain.

The daily rate per 100,000 in Israel is 608, for Bahrain it’s 263, and for the UK it’s 60, according to data supplied by those governments.

The US is vaccinating quicker than Canada, where the daily rate is 10 doses per 100,000 people, according to researchers at the University of Toronto.

So far, 11,445,175 doses of the vaccine have been distributed to US states, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

US Assistant Secretary of Health Admiral Brett Giroir said the 2 million number for doses administered is likely an “underestimate” because reporting of shots “is delayed three to seven days, so we certainly expect that to be a multiple of two million.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, however, said that even if the 2.1 million is an underestimate, it’s still lower than what had been hoped for.

“Even if you undercount, two million as an undercount, how much undercount could it be,” Fauci said. “So, we are below where we want to be.”

8:15 a.m. ET, December 30, 2020

UK health regulators say there were "no corners cut" in Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine approval

From CNN's Nada Bashir

Dr. June Raine, MHRA chief executive, speaks at a press briefing in London on December 30.
Dr. June Raine, MHRA chief executive, speaks at a press briefing in London on December 30. PA/Getty Images

The head of the UK’s medicines regulatory agency MHRA has said that “no corners whatsoever have been cut” in the authority’s assessment of the newly-approved coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, asserting that the safety of the public is a priority. 

“Our teams of scientists and clinicians have very carefully, methodically and rigorously reviewed all the data on safety, effectiveness and on quality as soon as they have become available, and have done so around the clock, looking at all the tests and trials,” MHRA Chief Executive Dr. June Raine said Wednesday during a televised briefing at Downing Street. 

“These are difficult times for so many of us, but vaccines such as this one will have the potential to save many lives and will see us come through. Having an effective vaccine is the best way to protect us and may save tens of thousands of lives,” Raine added. 

Speaking alongside Dr. Raine, the chair of the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), Professor Wei Shen Lim, said that while the newly-approved vaccine comes with fewer logistical challenges than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, both will be administered in the UK as part of the country’s mass vaccination programme. 

“The committee’s advice is that for individuals eligible for vaccination in the phase 1 programme in the UK, both vaccines may be used, with no preference for one vaccine above the other,” Lim said. 

“To facilitate rapid deployment within a mass vaccination programme, and to avoid substantial vaccine wastage, it may be that in certain settings, one vaccine is offered in preference over another,” he continued, adding that the deployment of both vaccines will allow for “rapid and high levels of vaccine uptake” across the country.  

“This will allow the greatest number of eligible people to receive the vaccine in the shortest time possible, and that will protect the greatest number of lives,” Lim said. 

During the briefing, Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chair of the UK Commission on Human Medicines Expert Working Group, also noted that two doses of the Oxford-Astra-Zeneca vaccine should be given at an interval of between 4-12 weeks, stressing that members of the public should continue to follow government guidelines during this period. 

“You have to wait until day 22 before you get partial immunity after the first dose, and so it is really important that people continue to follow all the government guidelines,” Pirmohamed said. 

7:54 a.m. ET, December 30, 2020

Former Harvard professor calls for a domestic travel ban after first case of the UK Covid-19 variant found in Colorado

From CNN’s Joe Sutton

After the first case of the UK Covid-19 variant was identified in the US, former Harvard professor William Haseltine has said that it's imperative to take "more serious measures" to control its spread.

Speaking on CNN's New Day program on Wednesday, Haseltine said that implementing a domestic travel ban that would include air, bus and train travel would be "highly controversial, but it's what we need to do."

"We know the virus is much more transmissible -- and we know we've got to take more serious measures to control what's inevitably going to be an increased rate of infection in our population," Haseltine said.

On Wednesday, US health officials in Elbert County, Colorado said they were monitoring at least two cases of the new UK Covid-19 variant.

The county has one confirmed case and now has a second suspected case, Dwayne Smith, director of public health for Elbert County, told CNN.

Both of the individuals who tested positive for the new variant are men who were working at the Good Samaritan Society assisted living facility in Simla, approximately 45 miles northeast of Colorado Springs. 

Neither of the cases are residents of Elbert County and they are currently isolating in a location outside of the county, Smith said. He added that there was “no indication at this point” that virus had spread beyond the facility and into the larger community.  

7:30 a.m. ET, December 30, 2020

Calls for a Premier League 'circuit break' amid rising Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Ben Morse

It's a season that's so far delivered one of the more intriguing title races -- just six points separate the top nine teams -- but as the UK grapples with a significant spike in Covid-19 cases, the English Premier League is facing a major challenge in how it navigates the remainder of the 2020/2021 campaign.

On Tuesday, the Premier League announced 18 new positive Covid-19 tests among players and club staff in its latest round of testing. That's the highest number of positive results recorded since the league began weekly testing at the start of the current season.

On Monday, the match between Everton and Manchester City was postponed because of a Covid-19 outbreak at the latter club, which included positive tests for players Gabriel Jesus and Kyle Walker on Christmas Day.

Monday's postponement was the second match to be have been affected by Covid-19 this season -- Newcastle's game at Aston Villa was also postponed after a number of players and staff at the north-east club returned positive test results.

According to a number of reports, Wednesday's game between Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham is also in doubt. Fulham has recorded a number of positive tests at the club.

New West Bromwich Albion manager Sam Allardyce, who was appointed earlier in December, has called for a temporary halt to the Premier League season amid the rising number of positive test results.

Everyone's safety is more important than anything else. When I listen to the news the variant virus transmits quicker than the original ... we can only do the right thing which is have a circuit break," Allardyce told reporters on Tuesday.

"I'm 66 and the last thing I want to do is catch Covid. I'm very concerned for myself and football ... We had one positive this week and it seems to be creeping around no matter how hard we try."

The UK is currently battling a new variant of the virus which spreads more quickly than the others and has forced increased restrictions over the holiday season.

53,135 new coronavirus cases were recorded in the UK on Tuesday, breaking a daily record since the pandemic began -- for a second day in a row. A further 414 people have died, according to the British government.

Read the whole story here:

6:38 a.m. ET, December 30, 2020

Indonesia secures vaccine deals with AstraZeneca and Novavax

From CNN's Carly Walsh

Indonesia’s foreign minister announced Wednesday that the country has signed deals with AstraZeneca and Novavax to secure 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, state news agency Antara reported Wednesday.

Antara reported each company will supply 50 million doses but no details were given on when the shipments will arrive.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi also said in the press conference Wednesday that an additional 1.8 million doses of the Chinese company Sinovac's vaccine would arrive on Thursday, following on from the 1.2 million doses that arrived earlier in December.