January 5 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Kara Fox, Ed Upright and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, January 6, 2021
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11:16 p.m. ET, January 4, 2021

Los Angeles ambulance crews told not to transport patients who stand little chance of survival

From CNN's Alexandra Meeks

After administering him with oxygen, County of Los Angeles paramedics load a potential Covid-19 patient in the ambulance before transporting him to a hospital in Hawthorne, California on December 29, 2020.
After administering him with oxygen, County of Los Angeles paramedics load a potential Covid-19 patient in the ambulance before transporting him to a hospital in Hawthorne, California on December 29, 2020. Apu Gomes/AFP/Getty Images

With intensive care units at Southern California hospitals nearly full because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency (EMS) has directed ambulance crews not to transport patients with little chance of survival to hospitals, and to conserve the use of oxygen.

Los Angeles and Southern California are dealing with one of the country's worst outbreaks of the novel coronavirus. ICU bed capacity plunged to 0% in Southern California last month, as more and more people were admitted to hospital seeking treatment for Covid-19. 

Now, many medical facilities simply do not have the space to take in patients who do not have a chance of survival, according to the agency.   

As of Monday evening, there were 7,544 people hospitalized in Los Angeles due to Covid-19 and just 17 available adult ICU beds, according to county health data. Due to the shortage of beds, the county EMS said patients whose hearts have stopped, despite efforts of resuscitation, should no longer be transported to hospitals.

If there are no signs of breathing or a pulse, EMS will continue to perform resuscitation for at least 20 minutes, the EMS memo said. If the patient is stabilized after the period of resuscitation, the patient would then be transported to a hospital. If the patient is declared dead at the scene or if no pulse can be restored, paramedics will no longer transport the body to the hospital.

Oxygen shortage: A shortage of oxygen in Los Angeles and the nearby San Joaquin Valley, thanks to Covid-19, is putting immense pressure on the system and forcing paramedics to conserve the supply.

In order to maintain normal circulation of the blood to organs and tissue needed for the body to function, EMS said an oxygen saturation of at least 90% will be sufficient. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom formed a task force to address the issue last week. It is working with local and state partners to help refill oxygen tanks and mobilize them to hospitals and facilities most in need.

8:07 p.m. ET, January 4, 2021

US hits record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

The United States reported 128,210 current Covid-19 hospitalizations on Monday, setting a new record high since the pandemic began, according to the Covid Tracking Project (CTP).

This is the 34th consecutive day that the US has remained above 100,000 current hospitalizations.

According to CTP data, the highest hospitalization numbers were recorded on these days:

  • Jan. 4: 128,210
  • Jan. 3: 125,544
  • Dec. 31: 125,379
  • Dec. 30: 125,218
  • Jan. 1: 125,047
7:23 p.m. ET, January 4, 2021

UK Prime Minister imposes harsh lockdown as new Covid-19 variant spreads

From CNN’s Tara John, Luke McGee and Nada Bashir

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson reimposed a lockdown in England on Monday as a more transmissible variant of Covid-19 fuels a surge in infections and hospitalizations in the country.

"It is clear that we need to do more to bring this new variant under control," Johnson said. "That means the government is once again instructing you to stay at home."

During his televised address to the nation, Johnson reimposed measures seen during the first lockdown last spring, including closures of secondary and primary schools to all except the children of key workers and vulnerable children. He added that this means it will not be "possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer as normal," and alternative arrangements are being put in place.

People will be allowed to leave their homes for limited reasons like shopping for essentials, exercise, and medical assistance. Johnson also said people could still leave home "to escape domestic abuse" -- an issue that arose earlier during the pandemic, as isolation and lockdown conditions exacerbated barriers to escape for victims of domestic violence.

International departures are now limited to those who have "a legally permitted reason," such as work.

Outdoor sports venues will have to close. But unlike spring's lockdown, nurseries will not be shuttered, elite sports can go ahead, and places of worship will remain open on the basis that attendees adhere to social distancing rules.

The lockdown is expected to remain in place at least through the middle of February.

His announcement follows that of Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who announced a lockdown that will begin on midnight, Tuesday, local time. Wales and Northern Ireland -- the other nations of the UK -- are already in lockdown.

The UK is back in crisis mode as new daily Covid-19 cases soared above 50,000 cases for nearly a week, and hospitalizations exceed April's peak.

Read the full story:

11:17 p.m. ET, January 4, 2021

Scientists worry mutations in Covid-19 variant first seen in South Africa may affect vaccine response

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Thabisle Khlatshwayo receives her second shot at a vaccine trial facility for AstraZeneca at Soweto's Chris Sani Baragwanath Hospital outside Johannesburg, South Africa, on Monday, November 30, 2020.
Thabisle Khlatshwayo receives her second shot at a vaccine trial facility for AstraZeneca at Soweto's Chris Sani Baragwanath Hospital outside Johannesburg, South Africa, on Monday, November 30, 2020. Jerome Delay/AP

Scientists in Britain said Monday they are increasingly concerned that that the pattern of mutations in a variant of the novel coronavirus first identified in South Africa may affect the protection offered by some vaccines.

While that variant shares the same N501Y mutation as another variant first identified in the United Kingdom, it also has two other mutations called E484K and K417N. They affect the spike protein -- the part of the virus that attaches to the cells it infects.

Most of the coronavirus vaccines are also designed to train the body to recognize the spike protein, or parts of it, and the fears are that if it mutates too much, vaccines will no longer be as effective.

"These two additional mutations may interfere more with vaccine effectiveness in the South African variant," Dr. Julian Tang, honorary associate professor and virologist at the University of Leicester, said in a statement distributed by the UK-based Science Media Center on Monday. 

"This does not mean that the existing Covid-19 vaccines will not work at all, just that the antibodies induced by the current vaccines may not bind and neutralize the South African variant as well as it would the other circulating viruses -- including the UK variant," Tang said.

Lawrence Young, professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, said in a separate statement on Monday that "the accumulation of more spike mutations in the South African variant are more of a concern and could lead to some escape from immune protection."

Meanwhile, scientists are working to better understand the new variant, its mutations and their significance. "Some of the changes are quite significant and thus scientists are paying a lot of attention. We do not yet know enough to say more than this," James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, said in a statement on Monday. 

Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization's technical lead for coronavirus response, told CNN Sunday that scientists are doing tests to assess the vaccine's efficacy against the variant first found in South Africa, which has 22 mutations.