The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Joshua Berlinger, Brett McKeehan and Amy Woodyatt, CNN

Updated 3:40 p.m. ET, January 2, 2021
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4:15 a.m. ET, January 2, 2021

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

From CNN's Dave Alsup

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

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.

11:29 p.m. ET, January 1, 2021

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

From CNN's Junko Ogura in Tokyo

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.

4:16 a.m. ET, January 2, 2021

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

From CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen

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.
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. Eric Lee/Bloomberg/Getty Images

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.  

4:16 a.m. ET, January 2, 2021

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

From CNN's Elizabeth Cohen

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on December 22, 2020.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on December 22, 2020. Patrick Semansky/Associated Press/Bloomberg/Getty Images

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.