Coronavirus updates: China will suspend international flights over COVID cases


(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 73.7 million people and killed over 1.6 million worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Here’s how the news developed Wednesday. All times Eastern:

Dec 16, 8:58 pm
Congressman reveals positive test after voting on House floor

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., said Wednesday night that he tested positive for COVID-19, after voting on the House floor earlier in the day.

Wilson, who is known for shouting “You lie” at President Barack Obama during his 2009 health care address to Congress, said he will be taking “all necessary precautions” and quarantine through Christmas.

“Thankfully I feel fine and do not have any symptoms. It is so important that we all do our part to help prevent the spread of this virus,” Wilson said in a statement.

Wilson’s office has not responded to questions about whether any members or staff are quarantining as a result of close contact with the congressman, or if he knew of his result before voting on the House floor.

Approximately 37 members of Congress, the majority of whom are Republicans, have tested positive or presumed positive for COVID-19, according to an ABC News tally.

Dec 16, 8:31 pm
US sets new daily death record: 3,400

The U.S. recorded 3,400 new coronavirus-related deaths Wednesday, a new daily record, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

This comes one week after the U.S. recorded its first day with 3,000 deaths.

“The new 7-day average for deaths in the South is at an all-time high. The region reported 1,053 deaths today, a new single-day record,” the tracking project tweeted.

Hospitalizations also reached a new record-high Wednesday, with 113,069 Americans hospitalized with the virus, according to the health data.

“The 7-day average for deaths is rising in 23 states across the US. There are 16 states reporting higher per-million deaths than the summer peak in AZ,” the tracking project tweeted.

The seven-day average of deaths, 2,507, and seven-day average of hospitalizations, 109,945, were also record-highs, the tracking project said.

Dec 16, 7:26 pm
FDA responds to allergic reaction from Pfizer vaccine recipient

The Food and Drug Administration said it’s looking into an incident in Alaska where a Pfizer vaccine recipient had an anaphylactic reaction shortly after it was administered to them.

“The agency will continue to work with CDC and Pfizer to better understand what occurred,” the FDA tweeted.

The agency added that Pfizer and all vaccination providers must report all serious adverse effects of the vaccine to the federal government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

“The vaccination provider fact sheet notes: severe allergic reactions have been reported following vaccination & appropriate medical treatment used to manage immediate allergic reactions must be immediately available for administration in event of any acute anaphylactic reaction,” the FDA tweeted.

Dec 16, 6:39 pm
NBA updates COVID testing as opening night approaches

The NBA and NBA Players Association released their latest update on their coronavirus testing, less than a week before the start of the new season.

“Of the 549 players tested for COVID-19 since Dec. 10, one new player has returned a confirmed positive test,” the league and union said in a joint statement.

The unidentified player is in isolation, according to both organizations.

Teams are currently playing preseason games and are scheduled to officially start the season on Dec. 22.

Dec 16, 6:19 pm
Los Angeles County sees record number of deaths in 1 day

Los Angeles County recorded 131 new deaths Wednesday, the highest number since the pandemic began, according to health officials.

The grim milestone comes as the county continues to see huge jumps in new cases and hospitalizations in the last couple of weeks, according to L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer.

From Nov. 1 to Dec. 16, the number of Los Angeles residents hospitalized with COVID-29 rose from 791 to 4,456, according to Ferrer. She said it could reach 5,000 by Monday.

“As we continue to see more cases and more hospitalizations, increases in daily deaths will stay on this very tragic and troubling course for some time,” Ferrer said during the daily news conference.

The county recorded 21,411 new cases on Wednesday, but Ferrer noted that the new data includes a backlog of approximately 7,000 cases.

From Nov. 1 through Dec. 8, the average number of new daily cases increased by 656%, according to Ferrer.
“In the past week and a half, we have seen cases increase from an average of about 5,900 cases each day in the last week of November to an average of 9,264 the second week in December,” she said.

-ABC News’ Cammeron Parrish

Dec 16, 4:17 pm
California shatters new daily case record

California reported a record high of 53,711 new cases Wednesday — a 3.3% increase from Tuesday.

Of Wednesday’s new cases, 21,411 were in Los Angeles County alone.

This surpassed the previous daily case record of 35,729, which was reported on Dec. 11.

The Golden State recorded 293 additional deaths on Wednesday, up 1.4% from Tuesday.

Dec 16, 3:38 pm
Twitter to remove misleading information on vaccines

Twitter said that starting next week, the company will “prioritize the removal of the most harmful misleading information, and during the coming weeks, begin to label Tweets that contain potentially misleading information about the vaccines.”

Beginning early next year, the company said it may “label or place a warning on Tweets that advance unsubstantiated rumors, disputed claims, as well as incomplete or out-of-context information about vaccines.”

Dec 16, 1:22 pm
FDA authorizes Abbott’s BinaxNOW rapid test for home use

Abbott has received FDA emergency use authorization for at-home use of its BinaxNOW rapid test, which it says can deliver “results in minutes.”
The credit card-sized $25 test — the lowest available price for at-home testing — will become highly available in 2021, Abbott said.  
Until now, the test (which requires a prescription) was available in limited quantities and needed to be performed by a trained medical professional.
Thirty million tests should be available in the first quarter of 2021 and another 90 million in the second quarter.
ABC News’ Eric Strauss contributed to this report.

Dec 16, 11:36 am
Florida woman becomes one of 1st nursing home residents in US to get vaccine

Cynthia Mayes, 70, became one of the first nursing home residents in the nation to receive the Pfizer vaccine Wednesday morning.

Mayes was first of 288 residents and staff at ManorCare Health Services in Palm Harbor (part of ProMedica) to get the shot.

“It’s like Christmas morning,” said Dr. Mark Gloth, the chief medical officer for ProMedica Senior Care.

When the Florida National Guard carried in the box containing the vaccine, Gloth said the nursing home staff erupted in spontaneous cheers and applause.

“This is a bad virus — you are stupid not to get [vaccinated],” Mayes said, according to the facility.
ABC News’ Matthew Mosk contributed to this report.

Dec 16, 11:34 am
US saw 1 COVID-19 death every 30 seconds over last 24 hours

The United States registered 3,019 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, which is approximately one fatality recorded every 30 seconds over the 24-hour reporting period, according to an ABC News analysis of data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

Over the past month, the country’s seven-day average of daily deaths from the disease has more than doubled, according to an ABC News analysis of data compiled by The COVID Tracking Project. There were just five days where fewer than 1,000 COVID-19 fatalities were reported nationwide. In the last seven days, the country has reported 17,292 COVID-19 deaths — a new weekly record.

More than 112,000 people in the United States are currently hospitalized for COVID-19 — more than ever before. The figure is nearly double the country’s previous peaks from April and July.

Meanwhile, the country’s seven-day average of daily cases is nearing 209,000 — more than three times the average from July, and more than six times the average in April.

ABC News’ Brian Hartman and Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report.

Dec 16, 11:15 am
COVID-19 vaccinations will be free in Indonesia

Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced Wednesday that he will be the first in the country to be immunized against COVID-19 and that the vaccine, once approved, will be available at no cost to all citizens.

“I want to emphasize once again that I will become the first one to be vaccinated. This is to build trust and certain among the public that the vaccines are safe,” he said in an address from the presidential palace that was livestreamed on YouTube. “I’ve ordered the finance minister to prioritize and reallocate to provide free vaccines, so there’s no reason that the people can’t access them.”

Earlier this month, Indonesia received 1.2 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech. The vaccine, called CoronaVac, is still awaiting approval from Indonesia’s food and drug agency, according to Widodo.

Indonesia, which has the fourth-largest population in the world, has reported more than 636,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, including at least 19,248 deaths, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Dec 16, 11:11 am
Florida woman becomes one of 1st nursing home residents in US to get vaccine

Cynthia Mayes, 70, became one of the first nursing home residents in the nation to receive the Pfizer vaccine Wednesday morning.

Mayes was first of 288 residents and staff at ManorCare Health Services in Palm Harbor (part of ProMedica) to get the shot.

“It’s like Christmas morning,” said Dr. Mark Gloth, the chief medical officer for ProMedica Senior Care.

“This is a bad virus — you are stupid not to get [vaccinated],” Mayes said, according to the facility.
ABC News’ Matthew Mosk contributed to this report.

Dec 16, 11:02 am
Vaccinations begin at NYC public hospitals

Vaccinations began Wednesday for staff at New York City’s public hospitals, beginning with Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who attended the inaugural moment, commended the Elmhurst Hospital “health care heroes” who “held the line” when the hospital faced “one of the toughest battles” against COVID-19 in the U.S.

“In the last 48 hours since the vaccine arrived, over 1,600 health care workers have been vaccinated in New York City — that is a huge step forward,” the mayor said.

Elmhurst plans to vaccinate its entire hospital staff within three weeks.

Dec 16, 9:31 am
WHO warns of ‘high risk of further resurgence’ across Europe early next year

The World Health Organization has warned that “there is a high risk of further resurgence” in COVID-19 infections across Europe at the start of the new year.

“Despite some fragile progress, COVID-19 transmission across the European Region remains widespread and intense,” the WHO Regional Office for Europe said in a statement Wednesday. “There is a high risk of further resurgence in the first weeks and months of 2021, and we will need to work together if we are to succeed in preventing it.”

The warning comes amid the festive season when families are anxious to gather together for the winter holidays.

“Annually across Europe, we see a massive increase in gatherings that bring together people of all ages, including families, religious groups and friends,” the regional office said. “This brings a significant risk of increased COVID-19 transmission during the upcoming holiday season.”

The regional office is urging everyone in Europe to “play our part to prevent yet another resurgence” by postponing or reducing the size of gatherings and holding them outside if possible, wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing and avoiding any transportation that might be crowded.

The regions of the Americas and Europe continue to shoulder the burden of the coronavirus pandemic, accounting for 85% of new cases and 86% of new deaths globally, according to the WHO’s weekly epidemiological update published Tuesday.

Dec 16, 7:55 am
China will ban inbound international flights if five or more people on board test positive

China’s aviation authority announced Wednesday it will suspend inbound international flight routes if five or more passengers on board test positive for COVID-19 upon arrival.

The airline will be banned from operating that flight route for up to two weeks if five or more passengers are found to be infected with the virus after landing in China. The suspension period extends to four weeks if 10 or more passengers test positive, according to a statement from China’s Civil Aviation Administration.

Airlines will be allowed to resume one flight per week on that route once the suspension ends.

The previous rule was a one-week ban if five or more passengers on an inbound international flight tested positive for COVID-19.

The move comes one day after China’s Civil Aviation Administration issued one-week suspensions to inbound flights operated by Ethiopian Airlines, Russia’s Pegas Fly and Swiss International Air Lines after five or more passengers on each of those flights tested positive for COVID-19.

The first known human cases of COVID-19 were identified in Wuhan, China, last December. The virus soon spread to every single continent around the world, except Antartica. Since the start of the pandemic, the Chinese mainland has reported more than 86,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including at least 4,634 deaths, according to the latest data from China’s National Health Commission.

Dec 16, 6:32 am
COVID-19 vaccine to be authorized in Europe ‘within a week,’ EU chief says

A COVID-19 vaccine will be authorized in the European Union “within a week,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced Wednesday.

“Finally, within a week, the first vaccine will be authorized so that vaccinations can start immediately, and more will follow in the new year,” von der Leyen said in an address to lawmakers at the European Parliament in Brussels. “In total, we have bought more than enough doses for everyone in Europe.”

The EU’s 27 member states will all be able to launch mass immunization programs on “the same day” that the vaccine is approved, according to von der Leyen.

“To get to the end of the pandemic, we will need up to 70% of the population vaccinated,” she said. “This is a huge task, a big task. So let’s start as soon as possible with the vaccination together, as 27, with a start at the same day.”

The European Medicines Agency, the drug regulator for the European Union, announced Tuesday that a special meeting to discuss conditional authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech will be moved up to Dec. 21. The meeting was originally scheduled for Dec. 29. The move comes amid mounting pressure on the agency after the United States and the United Kingdom both granted emergency-use authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and began immunization campaigns.

Dec 16, 5:50 am
UK vaccinates over 137,000 people against COVID-19 in seven days

There were 137,897 people who were vaccinated against COVID-19 across the United Kingdom in the first seven days of the country’s mass immunization program, according to Nadhim Zahawi, the U.K. minister in charge of the vaccine rollout.

Zahawi said 108,000 people were administered the vaccine in England, 7,897 in Wales, 4,000 in Northern Ireland and 18,000 in Scotland.

“A really good start to the vaccination program,” Zahawi wrote on his official Twitter account Tuesday morning. “That number will increase as we have operationalised hundreds of PCN (primary care networks).”

On Dec. 2, the United Kingdom became the first Western country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, granting emergency-use authorization to one developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech. The U.K. government launched a mass immunization program just six days later, administering the shot to people over the age of 80 and front-line health workers.

Dec 16, 4:18 am
US reports over 198,000 new cases

There were 198,357 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the United States on Tuesday, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

It’s the 43rd straight day that the U.S. has reported over 100,000 newly diagnosed infections. Tuesday’s tally is down from the country’s all-time high of 231,775 new cases confirmed on Dec. 11, according to Johns Hopkins data.

An additional 3,019 deaths from the disease were also registered nationwide on Tuesday, just under a peak of 3,300 fatalities on Dec. 11, according to Johns Hopkins data.

A total of 16,724,772 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 303,849 of them have died, according to Johns Hopkins data. The cases include people from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and other U.S. territories as well as repatriated citizens.

Much of the country was under lockdown by the end of March as the first wave of pandemic hit. By May 20, all U.S. states had begun lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The day-to-day increase in the country’s cases then hovered around 20,000 for a couple of weeks before shooting back up over the summer.

The numbers lingered around 40,000 to 50,000 from mid-August through early October before surging again to record levels, crossing 100,000 for the first time on Nov. 4 and reaching 200,000 for the first time on Nov. 27.

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