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The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

Dr. Gupta looks back at the 2020 pandemic
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What you need to know

  • The US surpassed 20 million cases of Covid-19 on the first day of 2021.
  • The vaccine rollout in the US is lagging behind some other countries as the number of cases continue to surge.
  • UK scientific advisers say the new Covid-19 variant may require schools to be closed.

Our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic has ended for the day.

20 Posts

Florida reports more than 31,000 new Covid-19 cases Saturday

A medic transfers a patient on a stretcher from an ambulance outside of Emergency at Coral Gables Hospital where Coronavirus patients are treated in Coral Gables near Miami, Florida on December 10.

After the Florida Department of Health didn’t issue a Covid-19 report in recognition of the New Year holiday yesterday, today an additional 31,518 Covid-19 cases were reported in the state, according to data from the department.

There are 1,354,833 total Covid-19 cases in the state, the Florida Covid-19 data dashboard showed.

There were also 220 new coronavirus related deaths reported on Saturday, bringing the total number of deaths in the state to 22,210, according to the state’s health department.

According to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, there are currently 6,701 people hospitalized with Covid-19 in the state.

Note: These numbers were released by Florida’s public 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.  

Sociologist predicts post-pandemic "Roaring ’20s"

Yale professor Nicholas Christakis speaks with CNN on Saturday, January 2.

We’re not out from under the coronavirus pandemic yet, but a Roaring ’20s-type rebound is on the horizon, according to sociologist, physician and Yale professor Nicholas Christakis.

This will take time, Christakis told CNN.

“Plagues are not new to our species; they’re just new to us,” he said.  

By the beginning of 2022, we will reach herd immunity and a majority of the population will be vaccinated, he predicts, but “it’s still going to take some time to recover from the social and psychological and economic shock,” he said. 

So by the end of 2023, Christakis said the world will enter the post-pandemic period, and “all of these…experiences that are now being constrained by the germ will reverse.”

“If history is a guide, what’s going to happen is all of us that have been cooped up — have been saving our money, have become more religious…more risk-averse — all of those trends will unwind and people will relentlessly seek out social opportunities in nightclubs and bars and political rallies and sporting events and musical concerts and so on. There might be…some sexual licentiousness, people with a lot of pent-up desire…[and] more liberal spending, for example,” he added.

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California calls for blood donations amid "surge in Covid-19 cases" 

Registered nurses treat a Covid-19 patient at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center on December 22, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.

The California Public Health Department issued a request for blood donations Saturday as the state struggles through a “surge in Covid-19 cases.” 

“Blood centers have an urgent need for all blood types right now with the surge in Covid-19 cases,” the department tweeted Saturday. 

Some context: The state hit a grim milestone Friday as it reported 585 Covid-19 related deaths, the highest on record.

Additional health care staffing, including National Guard members and health care providers from the US Army and Air Force, have been mobilized to provide assistance to overrun hospitals.  

Note: These numbers were released by the California Department of Public Health and may not line up exactly in real-time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.  

India will resume flights with United Kingdom

Passengers arriving from United Kingdom fill in forms with their travel details at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai, India, on December 22, 2020.

India will resume limited flights with the United Kingdom after suspending them for two weeks amid concerns over the new variant of coronavirus, India’s Minister of Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri said Saturday.

Flights to the UK will resume starting Jan. 6, Puri said in a tweet, while flights from the UK to India will start back up on Jan. 8.

All passengers coming from the UK must present a negative PCR test conducted within 72 hours before boarding, India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said in a statement Saturday.

It will be mandatory for passengers flying from the UK to take another Covid-19 test on arrival at Indian airports, it said.

Tokyo governor urges Japan's government to declare state of emergency over Covid-19

Saitama Gov. Motohiro Ono, Chiba Gov. Kensaku Morita, Japan’s Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and Kanagawa Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa speak during a press conference on Saturday, January 2 in Tokyo.

The governor of Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures on Saturday urged Japan’s central government to declare a state of emergency amid a surge in new coronavirus cases.

Tokyo’s Gov. Yuriko Koike and the governors of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures made the request during a meeting with Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is Japan’s Economy Minister in charge of the government’s coronavirus response.

At a news conference after the meeting, Nishimura said that the government will consider the request the governors made after consulting with health experts.

He added that he shares the view that the situation in the metropolitan area is “severe” and the “issuance of a state of emergency is in sight.”

Governors warn of infection surge: The four governors called the recent surge a “crisis situation” that could have a major impact on the health care system.

They argued measures need to be strengthened immediately and further cooperation with the national government is necessary under a special anti-coronavirus law.

Tokyo reported 814 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday after it reaching an all-time high of 1,337 cases on Thursday – exceeding 1,000 for the first time.

"We do not recommend mixing Covid-19 vaccines," Public Health England chief says

A person receives the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a vaccination center in York, England on December 21, 2020.

Mixing Covid-19 vaccines is not recommended, Public Health England’s Head of Immunisations Dr. Mary Ramsay said Saturday, after government guidance was updated this week to say the interchangeability of Covid-19 vaccines was a “reasonable” option.

“We do not recommend mixing the Covid-19 vaccines – if your first dose is the Pfizer vaccine you should not be given the AstraZeneca vaccine for your second dose and vice versa,” Ramsay said in a statement.

“There may be extremely rare occasions where the same vaccine is not available, or where it is not known what vaccine the patient received. Every effort should be made to give them the same vaccine, but where this is not possible it is better to give a second dose of another vaccine than not at all,” she added.

Ramsay clarified the UK’s position on vaccine mixing after an update to the government’s vaccine playbook on Dec. 31.

What did the updated guidance say? Thursday’s guidance said if the same vaccine is not available, or if the first product received is unknown, “it is reasonable to offer one dose of the locally available product to complete the schedule.”

“This option is preferred if the individual is likely to be at immediate high risk or is considered unlikely to attend again,” it added.

Which vaccines are the UK using? The UK authorized emergency use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on December 2 and the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine on Dec. 30.

The guidance recommends both vaccines to be administered in two doses, a minimum of 21 days apart for Pfizer/BioNTech and 28 days apart for AstraZeneca, with longer term protection provided by the second inoculation.

UK guidelines contradict US approach: The updated UK guidance contradicts guidelines in the United States for the two vaccines it has authorized, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that the authorized Covid-19 vaccines “are not interchangeable with each other or with other Covid-19 vaccine products,” and that “the safety and efficacy of a mixed-product series have not been evaluated. Both doses of the series should be completed with the same product.”

The CDC adds, however, that “if two doses of different mRNA COVID-19 vaccine products are inadvertently administered, no additional doses of either product are recommended at this time.”

More than 1,000 fines issued as illegal rave party ends in French countryside

French Gendarmes break up a rave by the French authorities near a disused hangar in Lieuron, France, on January 2, 2021.

Five people have been arrested and more than 1,000 fines have been issued after an illegal New Year’s rave in the French countryside ended on Saturday, local authorities said.

More than 2,500 partygoers attended the illegal party in the region of Brittany in France, despite the government’s strict coronavirus restrictions and a national night-time curfew.

About 1,600 fines were issued as of Saturday following the rave, which started on Thursday, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said via his official Twitter profile.

Trucks, sound systems and generators have been seized and Gendarmes officers “are continuing their investigation and checks so that this illegal event is harshly sanctioned,” Darmanin added.

Of the 1,200 fines, 800 are related to coronavirus restrictions, Emmanuel Berthier, prefect of Ille-et-Vilaine, said.

Up to 20 vehicles including trucks which may be carrying sound equipment managed to escape the police block, Sauvegrain added.

“There is a judicial investigation which will allow us to identify the main perpetrators and to arrest them,” Sauvegrain added.

Local police said they had tried to shut down the rave, but “faced violent hostility,” with a police vehicle set on fire, other vehicles damaged, and soldiers sprayed with bottles and stones, causing minor injuries.

“No new violence” occurred since Thursday, a Gendarmerie Nationale spokesperson told CNN on Saturday, adding that partygoers were “leaving the premises voluntarily.”

Local authorities said the number of partygoers was “estimated at 2,500, coming from different French departments and from abroad.”

A national curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. has been in place since December 15.

The Navajo Nation faces a battle to protect its elders and traditions as Covid-19 deaths spike

The Northern Navajo Medical Center is shown as staff inside begin to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on December 16, in Shiprock, New Mexico.

Native Americans are losing their elders to Covid-19. As death tolls continue to climb, tribes are struggling to protect some of their last remaining knowledge and language keepers.

“Every time one of those elders leaves this world, it’s like a whole library, a whole beautiful chapter of our history, of our ceremonies – all that knowledge, gone,” Clayson Benally, a member of Navajo Nation, said.

Self-isolating in their Flagstaff, Arizona, homes, Clayson and his sister Jeneda Benally have been working to pass on the knowledge of their elder father, Jones Benally, during the pandemic.

“I take it as the greatest responsibility I’ve ever had in my life to make sure that our knowledge keepers, to make sure that my parents, come out on the other side of this pandemic,” Jeneda said.

Native Americans are particularly susceptible to the coronavirus because they suffer from disproportionate rates of asthma, heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.

The Navajo Nation is the largest tribe in the US, with over 300,000 members, and had reported 22,776 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 783 deaths as of Thursday. The tribe has been on lockdown since November 16 and will continue to stay at home until January 10, according to a recent announcement from the Navajo Department of Health. The new measures also include 57-hour weekend lockdowns.

“Wherever we go, we’re cautioned,” Jones said.

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Bangkok closes bars and entertainment venues

Twenty-five types of businesses will temporarily close in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, from Saturday in a bid to contain a new wave of local Covid-19 infections, according to a statement from the Government’s Public Relations Department.

Bangkok’s Governor Aswin Khwanmuang signed an order on Friday to close the businesses because of their “risk of spreading the disease.”

The businesses include pubs and bars, amusement and water parks, children’s playgrounds, fitness centers, massage parlors, and “all buildings at schools, tutorial schools, and educational institutions.”

Restaurants, shopping centers, cinemas, and beauty salons are among the businesses allowed to stay open, but are required to follow strict Covid-19 prevention measures.

Anyone caught breaking the rules will be subject to a jail term of up to one year, or a fine of up to 100,000 baht (US$3,333), or both, according to the government statement.

Thailand reported 216 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, taking the country’s total to 7,379, according to the country’s Department of Disease Control; 1,545 of those total cases occurred in Bangkok province.

As US inches closer to 350,000 Covid-19 deaths, one model projects about 115,000 more could die in next four weeks

An empty casket is delivered amid a surge of Covid-19 deaths to the Continental Funeral Home in East Los Angeles, California, on December 31, 2020.

The US topped 20 million total infections and inched closer to 350,000 Covid-19 deaths on the first day of 2021 – reminders of a grim reality continuing into the new year.

Grim death toll: More people have died across the US than anywhere else: nearly 348,000 Americans since the pandemic’s start. About another 115,000 could die over the next month, according to projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

That’s while hospitalizations are at the highest levels they’ve ever been. The US reported a record 125,379 hospitalized Covid-19 patients nationwide Thursday, according to the Covid Tracking Project. That number dipped slightly Friday, with 125,057 hospitalizations reported – about a 163% increase from two months ago.

A California doctor said hospitals have hit a “breaking point.”

“We’re also worried that at some point soon we’re going to have a really tough time finding the space and the staff to take care of all the sick patients coming in with Covid-19 who really need our help,” said Dr. Nicole Van Groningen of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Highest infections: And Friday’s bleak case milestone also means the nation has also recorded by far the most Covid-19 infections. It’s double what India – the country with the second-highest number of cases – has reported and nearly triple what Brazil – the third country in line – has reported.

Read the full story.

This year's list of "banished" words and phrases are all about Covid-19

A social distancing sign is seen during the 2021 New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square New York City, on December 31, 2020.

You’ve undoubtedly seen and heard the phrases in commercials since the pandemic began.

“We live in unprecedented times.” “In these challenging, difficult times.” “Out of an abundance of caution.” “We’re in this together.”

According to one university, that’s gone on long enough.

In its annual review, Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, released the 2021 edition of the Top 10 words and phrases that are overused to the point of becoming insincere, useless or cliché. For 2020, it’s all about Covid-19.

More than 1,450 phrases were nominated from around the world for consideration, LSSU said, and seven of the 10 phrases that the university selected for so-called “banishment” this year are about the coronavirus. They include:

  • “Covid-19”
  • “Social distancing”
  • “We’re all in this together”
  • “Pivot”
  • “Unprecedented”
  • and any variation of “in an abundance of caution” and “in these uncertain times.”

The university has compiled its annual “List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness” since New Year’s Day 1976. The list seeks to “uphold, protect, and support excellence in language” by encouraging the avoidance of words and terms that have been overused to the point of being “ineffective, baffling, or irritating.”

Read the full story here:

Lake Superior State University releases its annual list of clichéd phrases to banish from our lexicon

This year's list of 'banished' words and phrases are all about Covid-19

More than 160,000 cases of Covid-19 were reported in the US on New Year's Day

At least 160,606 new Covid-19 cases and 2,051 related deaths were reported in the United States on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally.

To date, there have been 20,128,693 reported cases of coronavirus in the US. At least 347,788 people have died. 

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases. 

Track cases here:

WHO approves Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in breakthrough for developing nations

The World Health Organization (WHO) has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use, paving the way for lower and middle-income countries to start immunizing their populations against Covid-19.

The vaccine was first approved in the UK on December 8 for emergency use within the country, with the US, Canada and European Union following soon after. All have begun their own vaccination drives.

But the WHO green means countries without their own regulatory bodies, or the means to rigorously assess the efficacy and safety of vaccines, can expedite their own approval processes and begin rolling out vaccination programs.

There have been concerns about unequal distribution of vaccines as wealthier countries have bought or signed contracts to purchase large amounts of the doses available or those waiting for approval.

In a statement Thursday, WHO said groups like UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organization could now procure the vaccine for distribution to countries in need.

Read more:

BioNTech has said it is confident the vaccine will work on the new variant first detected in the UK

WHO approves Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in breakthrough for developing nations

Face masks to be mandatory in supermarkets, malls and other indoor spaces in Australia's biggest city

Shoppers wearing face masks ride an escalator as they exit the Myer store located in the Pitt Street Mall in Sydney, Australia, on December 26, 2020. 

The Australian city of Sydney is mandating that people wear face masks in indoor spaces starting Sunday. Violations of the new measure will be punishable by a fine starting Monday.

The Premier of the state of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, announced the new regulations for Greater Sydney on Saturday. 

Residents will be fined 200 Australian dollars ($154) if they are caught without face masks in the following places:

  • Shopping malls
  • Supermarkets
  • Public transportation
  • Indoor entertainment venues like theaters
  • Places of worship
  • Hair and beauty salons
  • Gaming venues, including casinos

Staff in all hospitality venues and casinos must also wear masks.

Australia was able to successfully stop the virus’ spread last year by closing its borders to most travelers and enacting strict lockdowns. However, cases have tincreased in recent days.

New South Wales reported seven new locally acquired cases in the 24 hours to 8 p.m. local time Friday, with an additional 12 cases identified in returned travelers in hotel quarantine, according to the state government.  

A Virginia state senator has died after contracting Covid-19

Virginia state Sen. Ben Chafin Jr. has died after contracting Covid-19, according to a statement from his office. He was 60 years old.

“State Senator Augustus Benton (Ben) Chafin, Jr., a native son of Russell County located in Southwest Virginia, passed away on January 1, 2021 from Covid-19 complications,” the statement said.

The Republican lawmaker’s family thanked the VCU Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia, for “its vigorous care and heartfelt support during his two weeks of medical services there.”

Chafin, a cattle farmer and attorney, served Virginia’s 38th District. He was elected to the state’s House of Delegates in 2013 before moving to the Senate in 2014.

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South Korea extends gatherings limit nationwide as Covid-19 cases continue to spike

A medical staff member takes a swab from a visitor to test for Covid-19 in Seoul, South Korea, on December 28, 2020.

South Korea recorded 824 new cases of Covid-19 on Friday, the nation’s Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Saturday. 

Previously, South Korea boasted one of the world’s most successful responses to the epidemic. Despite being among the first countries hit, it has managed to avoid the type of stringent lockdown measures seen elsewhere in the world, thanks largely to a combination of aggressive testing and sophisticated track-and-trace techniques.

But a rise in recent untraceable infections has concerned authorities and forced them to consider enacting a lockdown. Of the infections identified yesterday, 788 are locally transmitted.

To date, 62,593 cases of Covid-19 have been identified in South Korea, killing at least 942 people.

The KDCA said the Covid-19 variant found in South Africa has been detected from a person who arrived from South Africa on December 26. The person had tested positive upon arrival, according to the release. 

Gatherings limited: South Koreans will be banned from gathering in groups of more than 5 people until January 17, according to the Health Ministry. The measure was already in place in the capital, Seoul, but has been extended to the entire country.

United States Covid-19 hospitalizations above 100,000 for 31st consecutive day

Medical staff members work in the Covid-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, on December 29, 2020.

At least 125,057 people in the United States were in hospital with the coronavirus on Friday, according to the Covid Tracking Project. 

It was the 31st day in a row that the country has remained above 100,000 current hospitalizations.

Japan has a record number of Covid-19 patients in serious condition

Japan’s Ministry of Health has reported 716 patients in serious condition due to Covid-19 – a new record for the country.

Cases have been on the rise in Japan this winter. On Friday, the ministry identified 3,114 new coronavirus infections and 54 related deaths.

At least 238,724 cases have been reported in the country since the pandemic began, as well as more than 3,500 deaths.

Authorities said a total of 36,186 people had been hospitalized.

The situation in Tokyo: The Japanese capital reported 783 new cases on Friday. On Thursday, Tokyo identified 1,337 infections – a single-day record and the first time the city exceeded 1,000 cases in a day.

US will not follow UK's decision to delay second doses of Covid-19 vaccines, Fauci says 

A pharmacist prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Triboro Center nursing home in the Bronx, New York, on December 21, 2020.

The US will continue giving two doses of the coronavirus vaccines a few weeks apart and will not follow the UK’s decision to delay the second shot, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN on Friday.   

“I would not be in favor of that,” Fauci said when asked about the UK’s new dosing regimen. “We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing,” 

So far, the coronavirus vaccines approved in the US require two doses based a few weeks apart.  

The British government announced Wednesday that “the UK will prioritize giving the first dose of the vaccine to those in the most high-risk group” and allow the second dose to be given up to 12 weeks later.  

The UK adopted the strategy to give as many people as possible the first dose as quickly as possible, saying it affords some amount of protection.  

Asked on Thursday by NBC’s Today Show if the US should change its approach and adopt the UK’s plan, Fauci answered, “that’s under consideration.” He told CNN Friday that this comment had been “misinterpreted.”  

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted that in their clinical trials, Pfizer and Moderna – the makers of the two vaccines approved in the US – studied the effectiveness of two doses a few weeks apart, not a few months apart.  

“The fact is we want to stick with what the science tells us, and the data that we have for both (vaccines) indicate you give a prime, followed by a boost in 21 days with Pfizer and 28 days with Moderna. And right now, that’s the way we’re going with it, and that’s the decision that is made,” he said. 

“We make decisions based on data. We don’t have any data of giving a single dose and waiting for more than the normal period of time (to give the second dose).”

When he indicated on the Today Show that following the UK’s example was “under consideration,” Fauci said Friday what he meant was some people – not US health authorities – were talking about it.  

“It was somewhat of a misinterpretation. I think some – not everybody – but people misinterpreted when I said it’s under consideration (as) like we’re going to change. We’re not,” he said.  

US to test whether Covid-19 vaccines are effective against South African coronavirus variant

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on December 22, 2020.

Scientists are studying whether a new variant of the novel coronavirus found in South Africa will pose a threat to existing vaccines, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN Friday.

“The proof of the pudding is we have to test it, and that is what is happening now, testing the strain found in South Africa against the antibodies produced by the vaccines. We don’t have that answer, but I am sure that answer is forthcoming soon,” Fauci said.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said scientists in South Africa are testing to see if the vaccines are effective against the variant, and that testing is also happening – or will happen soon – in the US.

“I don’t know whether it’s going to be Monday or Tuesday, and there are a lot of groups that are doing it,” he said.

Fauci said Wednesday that Covid-19 vaccines should be effective against a new strain of the virus found in the UK.

The South African variant has been traced back to about Nov. 20, according to Tulio de Oliveira, the virologist who first identified it. It has 22 significant changes from previous strains of the coronavirus, and the UK strain has 17 mutations. Both are an unusually high number of mutations, and some of them are related to the spike proteins found on top of the virus, which is the target for antibodies generated by the vaccines. 

READ MORE

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READ MORE

Here's what we know about the new Covid-19 variant found in Colorado
China approves Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine, promises free shots for all citizens
They did everything right. But after one at-home haircut, a husband and wife died of Covid-19
Spain will keep a register of those who refuse the coronavirus vaccine
Doctor drives three hours to get Covid-19 vaccine to rural Michigan hospital