COVID Live Updates: France, Japan report cases of new virus strain

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- France and Japan are reporting cases of a coronavirus strain that was first reported in the U.K.

French authorities have tracked its case to a French citizen who arrived form England on Dec. 19. They say he shows no symptoms and he is isolating at home.

Japanese media is reporting five cases of the more contagious strain. Health officials there are trying to trace their contacts and determine how they got infected.
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COVID-19 vaccine fraud? Members of public may have gotten shots
A New York-based medical provider is being investigated for allegedly fraudulently obtaining and distributing a COVID-19 vaccine, Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement Saturday. The vaccines were reportedly given to members of the public and not frontline healthcare workers or nursing home residents and staff, as stipulated by the state.

NY hospitalizations drop
New York saw a drop in the number of patients being treated for COVID-19 in state hospitals, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

More patients left hospitals than were admitted Friday, dropping the overall number by 66 down to 6,884.

The state reported 10,806 new positive cases, 5.36% of all test results.

New York reported another 122 deaths.

NYC indicators
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is warning New Yorkers not to let up on COVID safety precautions over the holiday weekend.

He reported 180 new hospitalizations in the city Saturday as well as 3,203 new cases with a 7-day average 6.78% positivity rate.

New Jersey cases rise
New Jersey reported 4,000 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday with 19 additional virus-related deaths.

Inmates test positive in Hudson County
According to an email from a Hudson County jail official, at least 17 inmates have recently tested positive for COVID-19. Sixteen of the individuals are county inmates and one is a federal inmate.

Each is being housed in isolation as well as the other inmates who they came into contact with. Five employees who work at the jail, including nurses and correctional officers, have died of COVID.

Healthcare workers start receiving Moderna vaccine in Essex County
New Jersey is taking another step forward in the fight against coronavirus as the state saw more than 5,000 new cases overnight.

On Saturday, healthcare workers will start receiving the Moderna vaccine at Essex Community College, which is one of five locations in the county where the vaccine is being made available.

State in 'footrace' amid rising coronavirus cases, Cuomo says
Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged New Yorkers to remain vigilant in the fight against the coronavirus, saying in a Christmas Day statement that the state finds itself in a "footrace" to distribute the vaccine amid rising cases.

The latest statistics showed the state's positivity rate falling slightly even as hospitalizations continued to rise.

Trump golfs in Florida as COVID relief hangs in the balance
President Donald Trump is spending his Christmas golfing in Florida as a government shutdown looms and COVID relief hangs in the balance.

Trump had no events on his public schedule Friday after throwing the future of a massive COVID relief and government funding bill into question. But Trump tweeted that he would do a video conference with service members.

Trump is at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach for the holidays. Failure to sign the bill could deny relief checks to millions of Americans on the brink and force a government shutdown in the pandemic.

Duke women end basketball season amid virus

The Duke women's basketball team ended its season Friday amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The team has been on pause since Dec. 16 because of two positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing within the program's travel party. The Blue Devils postponed games against Miami, N.C. State and UNC Wilmington.

The team's next scheduled game was against Louisville on Thursday. The men's basketball team planned to keep playing.

Virus besets Belarus prisons filled with president's critics
A wave of COVID-19 has engulfed prisons in Belarus that are packed with people in custody for demonstrating against the nation's authoritarian president, and some of the protesters who contracted the coronavirus while incarcerated accuse authorities of neglecting or even encouraging infections.

Activists who spoke to The Associated Press after their release described massively overcrowded cells without proper ventilation or basic amenities and a lack of medical treatment.

Grim prediction
A new model from the University of Washington is projecting the death toll in the U.S. will reach more than half a million by April 1.

But researchers say that number would have been higher. The vaccine could help save more than 33,000 lives.

Meanwhile, there are over 120,000 patients hospitalized with coronavirus in the US, according to the COVID Tracking Project. It marks the 20th straight day that the nation has hit a record high of current hospitalizations this month.

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