The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and the Omicron variant

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 0113 GMT (0913 HKT) December 18, 2021
29 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
6:01 p.m. ET, December 17, 2021

Radio City "Christmas Spectacular" has been canceled for the rest of the season due to Covid-19

The "Christmas Spectacular" show starring the Radio City Rockettes has been canceled for the rest of the season “due to increasing challenges from the pandemic,” according to a statement posted Friday on the show’s website.

“We regret that we are unable to continue the Christmas Spectacular this season due to increasing challenges from the pandemic. We had hoped we could make it through the season and are honored to have hosted hundreds of thousands of fans at more than 100 shows over the last seven weeks,” the statement said.

The show said they look forward to “welcoming fans back to Radio City Music Hall in 2022.”

6:28 p.m. ET, December 17, 2021

New York state reports highest single-day Covid-19 case count since the beginning of the pandemic

From CNN’s Taylor Romine, Kristina Sgueglia, and Artemis Moshtaghian

New York state reported its highest single-day Covid-19 case count on Friday with 21,027 positive cases, according to available state data.

Before this new record, the state had reported 19,942 positive Covid-19 cases on Jan. 14, according to the data. 

However, Covid-19-related hospitalizations remain comparatively low.

On Friday, the state reported 3,839 Covid-19 related hospitalizations, as compared to 8,088 Covid-19 related hospitalizations reported on Jan. 14, according to Covid-19 hospitalization data. At its peak in mid-April 2020, New York’s hospitalization rate for Covid-19 nearly reached 19,000. 

New York Covid-19 data also revealed that positive Covid-19 cases in the state jumped 154% in less than a week.

On Friday, the state reported 21,027 positive Covid-19 cases, one and a half times the number of positive Covid-19 cases reported on Tuesday — which was 8,266 positive Covid-19 cases.

“We must not make light of the winter surge that we are facing, and we should continue to encourage everyone we know to get vaccinated, get the booster and wear a mask,” New York Gov. Hochul said Thursday in a news release.

The data revelations come as New York City reported its positivity rate from PCR tests doubled over a four-day period. The NYC health commissioner sid cases have tripled in the past month.

5:35 p.m. ET, December 17, 2021

"We can't give in. We will win this war" against the coronavirus, Fauci says

From CNN's Maggie Fox

The US can win the war against the coronavirus if people keep fighting and use the weapons at hand, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday.

Fauci likened the fight against Covid-19 to World War II, which raged for years.

“You have to do it, Erica. I mean, everybody understands, and we all have been through a two-year ordeal that is really unprecedented in the history of public health in our country. That is for sure, but we can't give in,” Fauci told CNN’s Erica Hill. “We will win this war with this virus, but we will win it only because we apply the things that we have: the interventions. We are so fortunate that we have a highly effective and safe vaccine. We know what public health mitigations work. We have just got to hang in there. We can't give up."

Fauci added: “We're at war. You know, if you really want to make a metaphor out of it and take an analogy, it's sort of like in the beginning of World War II, when we were losing all the battles and we were getting pushed back on the Pacific front and on the Europe front. If we had said, ‘oh, my goodness, we're all fatigued, let's give up,’ that would not have been a good thing,” said Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and who has been a senior White House adviser throughout the pandemic.


5:28 p.m. ET, December 17, 2021

Report on how Trump administration handled the pandemic is getting "the truth out there," Fauci says

(From CNN Health’s Maggie Fox)

A report from Democrats on the House Oversight Committee that accuses the Trump administration of making “deliberate efforts to undermine” the pandemic response is an effort to get the truth out there, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday.

The report said the administration worked to undermine the public health response to the coronavirus pandemic by blocking officials from speaking publicly, watering down testing guidance and attempting to interfere with other public health guidance.

Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and who has been a senior adviser to the Trump and Biden administrations, agreed that officials were unable to say some of the things they wanted to.

“It's always important, Erica, to get the facts and the truth out there, and that's what that report is doing,” Fauci told CNN. “It was unfortunate that it was not a situation where we were optimally getting the message across.”

One incident, in particular, was when former President Trump called on states to "liberate" themselves in April 2020 while much of the country remained shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Fauci corroborated some of the accusations during interviews for a documentary with CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta. 

“As I said in that interview with Sanjay, Dr. (Deborah) Birx and I had put a lot of effort into getting a format out where people could address the outbreak in a way that would be optimal from a public health standpoint. And then the day after we did that, when that came out, I'll say it again as I said to Sanjay: I was floored by that, because that was totally counterproductive," Fauci said.

4:57 p.m. ET, December 17, 2021

Houston mayor tests positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Raja Razek 

Mayor Sylvester Turner during a news conference on November 6, in Houston.
Mayor Sylvester Turner during a news conference on November 6, in Houston. (Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images)

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has tested positive for Covid-19, according to a news release from his office. 

"This afternoon, I learned that I tested positive for the virus that causes Covid-19. I was not feeling well overnight and thought I was suffering from allergies or a sinus infection, so I decided to get tested before starting my daily schedule," Turner said in the release. 

The mayor added: "Before and after getting my test results, I canceled all events for today and the weekend. My symptoms are mild, and I will spend the next several days isolating myself at home and getting some rest." 

3:30 p.m. ET, December 17, 2021

2 more NHL teams shut down due to Covid-19

The NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers will shut down through Dec. 26 due to “concern with the number of positive cases within the last two days as well concern for continued Covid spread in the coming days,” the league announced Friday.

The Avalanche will have four games postponed during that time, while the Panthers will miss three games.

The NHL also extended the Calgary Flames’ shutdown through Dec. 26. The Flames will have missed six games since its shutdown began on Dec. 13. As of Wednesday, the Flames had 16 players in the NHL’s Covid-19 protocols.

5:26 p.m. ET, December 17, 2021

Pfizer will test third Covid-19 vaccine dose in children under 16

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

A health worker prepares to administer a dose of Pfizer covid-19 vaccine at the Sanford Civic Center in Sanford, Florida, in early December.
A health worker prepares to administer a dose of Pfizer covid-19 vaccine at the Sanford Civic Center in Sanford, Florida, in early December.

Pfizer is including a third dose of its Covid-19 vaccine in trials of the vaccine in children under 16, the company announced Friday.

The company announced in an earnings call that it will be testing a three-microgram third dose in children younger than 5, and in a news release said it plans to test a 10-microgram third dose in children ages 5 to 11.

Pfizer said two doses of vaccine did not produce the hoped-for results in the children ages 2 to 5.

The vaccines protected the youngest group – infants and toddlers up to 2 years – at the same levels seen in teens and young adults, but the three-microgram dose did not produce the same immunity in the 2-to-5-year-olds, the company said in a news release.

“The decision to evaluate a third dose of 3 microgram for children 6 months to under 5 years of age reflects the companies’ commitment to carefully select the right dose to maximize the risk-benefit profile,” the company said.

An additional study, in adolescents 12 to 17 years old, will examine the use of a third dose of either 10 or 30 micrograms, the company said. 

In the United States, a booster dose of Pfizer’s vaccine is currently for fully vaccinated people age 16 and older. 

“The effectiveness data for three doses of the vaccine in general for people 16 years and older and the early laboratory data we have seen with Delta and other variants of concern, including Omicron suggests that people vaccinated with three doses of our Covid vaccine may have a higher degree of protection,” Kathrin Jansen, head of research and development at Pfizer, said in the call.

“Therefore, we have decided to modify each of the pediatric studies to incorporate a third dose to the series and seek licensure for a three dose series rather than a two dose series as originally anticipated.”

Pfizer is currently studying its vaccine in children 6 months to 2 years old and 2 to less than 5 years old. Jansen said in an earlier phase of the trials for the primary series, a 3-microgram dose in the 2- to 5-year-old cohort showed comparable immune response to dosages given to older populations with fewer side effects than a 10-microgram dose. 

Jansen said the change in the trials is not expected to impact the timeline to submit for emergency use authorization for the vaccine in younger populations, which is still targeted at mid-2022. 

“If the three-dose study is successful, Pfizer and BioNTech expect to submit data to regulators to support an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for children 6 months to under 5 years of age in the first half of 2022.”
2:42 p.m. ET, December 17, 2021

Italy records highest number of daily Covid-19 cases since start of the year

From CNN's Livia Borghese

Italy recorded 28,632 new coronavirus cases on Friday, marking the highest number of daily cases since the beginning of the year, according to data from Italy's health ministry.

“The number of daily Covid positive has steadily increased for the last eight weeks,” the Italian National Institute of Health said in its weekly report. 

The Delta variant is still dominant in Italy, which has confirmed only 55 cases of Omicron variant, health institute President Silvio Brusaferro said in a video address on Friday.

A total of 5,336,795 people in Italy have been infected since the start of the pandemic.

Italy also reported 120 deaths related to coronavirus in the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll to at least 135,421 since the pandemic began. 

2:34 p.m. ET, December 17, 2021

Southwest CEO tests positive for Covid-19 after testifying unmasked at Senate hearing

From CNN’s Pete Muntean

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly testified before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on December 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. 
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly testified before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on December 15, 2021 in Washington, DC.  (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly, who testified unmasked at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, has since tested positive for Covid-19, the airline said in a statement.  

“Although testing negative multiple times prior to the Senate Commerce Committee Hearing, Gary tested positive for COVID-19 after returning home, experiencing mild symptoms, and taking a PCR test,” according to Southwest.  
“Gary is doing well and currently resting at home, he has been fully vaccinated and received the booster earlier this year.”  

Kelly testified at the hearing that he believes masks do not add substantial protection to airplane passengers and cited aircraft ventilation systems.  

"I think the case is very strong that masks don't add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment,” he said. “It is very safe and very high-quality compared to any other indoor setting.” 

The hearing lasted about three hours. Five witnesses were seated in close proximity and went most of the hearing unmasked.  

Kelly was seated between American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby. Kirby tested negative, the airline said. American did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  

Delta Chief of Operations John Laughter tested negative, his airline said, and Association of Flight Attendants President Sara Nelson said she will follow testing protocols.