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December 3 coronavirus news

What you need to know

  • Coronavirus cases are rising in the US, and health care officials say their staff and facilities are struggling to support burgeoning numbers of patients.
  • The UK is set to receive its first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in the coming hours, England's deputy chief medical officer said today, one day after the country authorized it.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci said the British regulators who authorized that vaccine Wednesday did not scrutinize the trial data as carefully as the US FDA is doing in its review.
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11:16 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

UK receives its first batch of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine

A worker near the Pfizer facility in Puurs, Belgium, on December 3. Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The first doses of Pfizer/BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine arrived in the UK on Thursday -- a day after the country approved the vaccine for distribution, according to British media.

Pfizer and Downing Street declined to comment to CNN, citing security reasons.

The UK’s Department of Health told CNN that up to 800,000 doses of the vaccine are being made available next week. 

The vaccines were carried by a fleet of unmarked trucks through the Eurotunnel from Belgium and are on their way to undisclosed storage facilities in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, according to CNN affiliate ITV News.

The in-demand vaccine will be distributed from these storage facilities early next week to 50 hospital hubs acting as vaccination points, according to the health ministry.

Earlier on Thursday, England's Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, said "We expect to receive (the Pfizer vaccine) very shortly in the UK, and I do mean hours, not days," in an interview with BBC Radio.
First vaccine approval: The UK became the first western country to authorize use of a coronavirus vaccine. The country has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer jab, enough to vaccinate 20 million people -- roughly a third of the UK's population -- as the vaccination involves two shots administered at least three weeks apart.
10:15 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Michigan to use National Guard to help distribute vaccines

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday that the state will look to the Michigan National Guard to help distribute Covid-19 vaccines when they become available.

The National Guard will provide logistical and transportation support, according to a release from the Governor’s office. 

This comes after Whitmer secured an extension of Michigan National Guard forces for Covid-19 response through March 31, 2021. 

“The Michigan National Guard continues to be a crucial part of our fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. I want to thank our men and women in uniform for their dedication and round-the-clock work to protect the people of our state by expanding testing in our communities and ensuring they have what they need to get through this crisis,” Whitmer said. 
8:32 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Los Angeles County sets another daily record for new Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations

An aerial view of cars are lined up at Dodger Stadium for COVID-19 testing over downtown Los Angeles, on December 2. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Los Angeles County reported an additional 7,854 Covid-19 cases Thursday, breaking the record for the highest number of new cases there since the start of the pandemic for the second time in a week. This brings the total number of cases in the county to 421,881.

Health officials also reported 2,572 people hospitalized with coronavirus in L.A. County, surpassing yesterday's all-time high of 2,439. If the rate of hospitalizations continues on its current trajectory, the county's health care system could soon be overwhelmed, officials warned.

"These are the highest numbers we have seen," said County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis. "Actions need to be taken now and on a daily basis."

County health officials reported 44 new deaths Thursday, raising the number of people who have died due to Covid-19 to 7,345.

While there are 1,119 beds currently available in intensive care units in the county, officials warned the ICU bed capacity is bound to drop below 15% at some point next week. Passing that threshold will prompt stricter stay-at-home orders, as outlined by Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday afternoon.

"A continued surge in cases and hospitalizations is not sustainable because as hospitalizations increase sharply, the health care system can become overwhelmed," the county's health department said in a news release.

Los Angeles recently imposed a curfew and closed all in-person restaurant dining to reduce the transmission of the virus. Some businesses that are not adhering to public health orders by closing their doors or limiting capacity in line with public health directives are now receiving citations, the county said.


7:55 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

US sets new record for Covid-19 hospitalizations

Medical staff members work in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at the United Memorial Medical Center on November 26, in Houston, Texas. Go Nakamura/Getty Images

The United States set a record for the number of people currently hospitalized with Covid-19 on Thursday, according to the Covid Tracking Project (CTP).

On Thursday, 100,667 people were hospitalized with Covid-19, according to CTP. This is the second consecutive day that the US has surpassed 100,000 current hospitalizations.

According to CTP data, the highest hospitalization numbers are:

  1. Dec .3: 100,667
  2. Dec. 2: 100,226
  3. Dec. 1: 98,691
  4. Nov. 30: 96,053
  5. Nov. 29: 93,265
6:21 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Moderna expects to have 100-125 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine globally in early 2021

In this July 27, 2020, file photo, nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot that is part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., in Binghamton, N.Y. AP Photo/Hans Pennink

Vaccine maker Moderna said Thursday it expects to have between 100 million and 125 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine available by the first quarter of 2021, with most of those designated for the US market.

The company has applied for emergency use authorization for its vaccine from the US Food and Drug Administration and FDA advisers are scheduled to discuss the application Dec. 17. Moderna has also applied to European drug regulators for conditional approval.

“Today, Moderna re-affirmed its expectation of having approximately 20 million doses available in the U.S. by the end of 2020,” the company said in a statement.

“Additionally, the Company expects to have between 100 million and 125 million doses available globally in the first quarter of 2021, with 85-100 million of those available in the U.S. and 15-25 million of those available outside of the U.S. These expected first quarter doses are inclusive within the 500 million to up to 1 billion doses that the Company expects to manufacture globally in 2021.”

The Moderna vaccine requires two doses per person, with the shots spaced four weeks apart. 

6:04 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Pfizer says it still doesn't know if someone can transmit Covid-19 after receiving vaccine

It’s still unclear whether a person who receives Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine can still transmit the virus, company CEO Albert Bourla said Thursday.

“I think this is something that needs to be examined,” Bourla said in an interview with NBC News scheduled to air Thursday night. “We are not certain about that right now with what we know.”

Bourla also told host Lester Holt he believes vaccine trial participants who received a placebo rather that the actual shot should get the vaccine.

“It is a moral and ethical dilemma and obligation,” Bourla said. “I believe that in discussion with regulators, we should find a way, so sooner rather than later, give to all the placebo participants the vaccine.” 

If that happens, it would mean unblinding the vaccine trial – something that could impact the longer term results, health experts have said. 

Pfizer has asked the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization for its vaccine. The FDA’s advisers meet Dec. 10 to discuss the application.

But Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and a member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee, told Holt there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

“We sort of have a million questions to make sure that we understand exactly what the safety issues are and exactly what the efficacy issues are,” Offit said. “Is it effective in people over 65? Is it equally effective among racial groups, ethnic groups? Is it effective in people who have various medical conditions?”

But there’s one question that he does have an answer for, Offit said.

“The standard we're going to hold this too is, would I give this vaccine to myself or my own family? And if the answer to that question is, ‘I'm not sure,’ then we're not going to move forward.”

5:59 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Arkansas reports highest daily Covid-19 case count since the start of the pandemic

A nearly empty downtown street stands in Bentonville, Arkansas, on Thursday, May 28, 2020. Terra Fondriest/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arkansas has reported 2,789 Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during a news conference.

Hutchinson said this is the highest daily count the state has reported since the pandemic began.

The state has 32 counties that have reported over 20 new cases in the last 24 hours. They usually report 10 counties having reached that distinction, Hutchinson said noting the increase.  

“This is a message to everyone that wherever you are in the state of Arkansas, there are increased number of Covid cases, increased level of spread. And you have to protect yourself, you have to wear your mask and keep the social distance,” he said.

Since the start of the pandemic, the state has reported 164,310 cases and 2,555 deaths. 

To note: These numbers were released by the state’s health agency and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.
5:58 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

More than 12,000 health workers in Kentucky will receive the vaccine first, governor says

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear addresses the press in Frankfort, Kentucky on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday that 12,675 of the 38,000 doses in the first shipment of Pfizer vaccines to reach the state will be going to frontline health care workers, those dealing with or exposed to Covid-19, and those working in the emergency room or in Covid-wings. 

According to the governor, the shipments will arrive as early as Dec. 15 and the remaining two thirds of the doses will be going to long-term care facilities, where CVS and Walgreens will handle distribution and administration, Beshear said.

The governor announced that the first 11 health care sites that will be receiving doses, were chosen because they were large enough to handle the minimum pallet size Pfizer ships, and because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention required that they have ultra-low cold storage to receive them.

“We're allowing each of these facilities to make their own allocations, based on tearing that they have done with their staff, they know who is most at risk and have done that analysis,” Beshear said.
5:54 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Wyoming's first lady tests positive for Covid-19

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and his wife, first lady Jennie Gordon, arrive for the 65th Wyoming Legislature's 40-day general session on Wednesday, January 9, 2019, in Cheyenne, Wyoming Jacob Byk/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP

Eight days after Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon tested positive for Covid-19, his wife received the same diagnosis Thursday.

First lady Jennie Gordon has been in quarantine at home with the governor since he first tested positive, but spokesperson Michael Pearlman tells CNN they have stayed in separate rooms. Pearlman does not believe the first lady’s infection will affect the governor’s timetable for returning to the office.

“The First Lady is only experiencing minor symptoms at this time. Governor Gordon has recovered and is nearly symptom free,” the governor’s office said in a written statement.