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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10:06 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Covid-19 is surging at an alarming rate in California. Here's why.

Cars line up at a coronavirus testing site at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Monday.
Cars line up at a coronavirus testing site at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Monday. Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Los Angeles County has been fighting a brutal battle against Covid-19 for weeks now.

New infections have soared with about one in five residents who get tested for Covid-19 receiving positive results.

In a little more than a month, the county doubled its number of infections, climbing from about 400,000 cases on Nov. 30 to more than 800,000 cases on Jan. 2, health officials said Monday.

The case deluge has translated to a surge of Covid-19 patients, overwhelming hospitals and plunging intensive care unit capacity across the region to zero. There are now more than 7,600 people hospitalized with Covid-19 in in the county, 21% of whom are in the ICU, officials said

With no hospital beds available, ambulance crews in the county were given guidance not to transport patients with little chance of survival. And the patients who are transported often have to wait hours before a bed is available.

But it will get worse.

Officials say they're headed into the feared surge stemming from holiday gatherings.

"The increases in cases are likely to continue for weeks to come as a result of holiday and New Year's Eve parties and returning travelers," Los Angeles County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said.

"We're likely to experience the worst conditions in January that we've faced the entire pandemic, and that's hard to imagine."

As the nation's most populous state and home to approximately 1 in 9 Americans, California would understandably lead in a category such as total cases in a pandemic felt nationwide. However, it is the sheer volume of sick residents and the rate of increase that is particularly driving alarm.

On Nov. 1, the seven-day average for new daily cases in California was 4,183. On Dec. 29, it was 31,245.

The state averaged more than 40,000 new coronavirus infections every day for the week prior to Christmas, according to data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU), filling up hospitals and pushing health care workers to consider ways to ration care.

Multiple factors are at play when it comes to California's sudden acceleration of coronavirus cases, including Covid-19 fatigue, resistance to stay-at-home regulations, the huge number of essential workers and the socioeconomic factors of the pandemic affecting poorer and minority households.

9:46 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

US stocks open lower

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

American flags fly outside the New York Stock Exchange on Monday.
American flags fly outside the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. Michael Nagle/Bloomberg/Getty Images

US stocks opened in the red on Tuesday as investors eye the high-stakes runoff election in Georgia that will determine the balance in the Senate.

On top of that, the spread of Covid-19 is forcing new lockdown restrictions in Europe.

Here's how the market opened: 

  • The Dow opened 0.1%, or 24 points, lower.
  • The S&P 500 also slipped 0.1%.
  • The Nasdaq Composite opened down 0.2%.

 

9:33 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

More than 140 inmates test positive for Covid-19 at Puerto Rico Prison 

From CNN's Ana Melgar Zuniga 

The Puerto Rico Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation confirms an outbreak of Covid-19 affecting 143 prisoners in the correctional facility of Bayamón 501, according to a news release from the agency. 

According to the statement, on Dec. 28 a correctional officer tested positive. He had been in contact with five prisoners. Those five people later had contact with the other prisoners in module one of the facility. In the release, the department's designated secretary, Ana Escobar Pabón, said she was informed of the outbreak Monday afternoon, after cases spread quickly. 

All of the prisoners of module one were tested and the results were received yesterday, according to Escobar Pabón.

Two prisoners are hospitalized, according to Escobar Pabón. The prisoners who were affected will be isolated for 14 days. Prisoners in other modules of the facility, security officers and civilians that might have been exposed will be tested as well.

Escobar Pabón ordered the use of plasticware to serve food, canceled any transports from going in or out of the prison, and provided additional PPE to the workers. Visits were already cancelled under the current Covid-19 executive order.

9:44 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Switzerland reports 28 cases of UK Covid-19 variant

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy

Virginie Masserey, Head of Infectious Diseases Control at Switzerland's Federal Office of Public Health, attends a coronavirus news conference in Bern, Switzerland, on December 4.
Virginie Masserey, Head of Infectious Diseases Control at Switzerland's Federal Office of Public Health, attends a coronavirus news conference in Bern, Switzerland, on December 4. Denis Balibouse/Reuters/File

Swiss health authorities reported 28 cases of the new variant of Covid-19 that has been spreading across the UK. 

Most of these infections were discovered either in people who had traveled from the UK recently or that had been in contact with those that had, the Head of Infectious Diseases Control at the country’s Federal Office of Public Health, Virginie Masserey, said at a press conference on Tuesday. However, she said the variant had also been found in people who “didn't have this epidemiological link.”

“This virus is in Switzerland and propagating,” Masserey explained, adding that while the spread at the moment remains "very low,” the new variant provides a “further reason to continue the efforts to lessen absolutely the number of cases in Switzerland.”

“If we start to see a significant spread of the variant starting from a rather high level this could overburden the health system and increase the number of deaths” she added. 

Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health reported 4,020 cases in the past 24 hours, 208 new hospitalizations and 98 deaths.

9:35 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Armenian President test positive for Covid-19

From Stephanie Halasaz

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian attends a meeting in March 2020.
Armenian President Armen Sarkissian attends a meeting in March 2020. Chinese Embassy in Armenia/Xinhua/Getty Images

The Armenian President has tested positive for Covid-19, his assistant Hasmik Petrosyan tells CNN. 

The President is self-isolating in London where he was visiting grandchildren, Petrosyan said, speaking from Yerevevan, Armenia. Asked how he's doing, she said "not bad."

Sarkissian arrived in London on December 30 to celebrate New Years with his grandchildren, but Petrosyan said it's not clear when he may leave.

"I don’t know the details (of restrictions), but maybe a little bit later," she said when asked if he was allowed to leave the UK, given travel restrictions.

9:16 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

American airports screened more than a million travelers again on Monday

From CNN’s Pete Muntean

More than a million people passed through security at America’s airports once again on Monday.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says it screened 1,080,346 people at airport checkpoints nationwide.

This sets the stage for another post-holiday uptick in coronavirus cases. 

Roughly 18 million people have flown since the start of the holiday travel period on Dec. 18 and TSA numbers continue to average above one million passengers each day.

On Twitter, TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said "if you choose to travel, please wear a mask."

On Monday, TSA said it expects air travel numbers to keep trending up in 2021, though not reach pre-pandemic levels.

9:15 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Los Angeles hospital official says some patients are waiting for hours in ambulances across city

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Los Angeles County paramedics load a potential Covid-19 patient into an ambulance before transporting him to a hospital in Hawthorne, California, on December 29.
Los Angeles County paramedics load a potential Covid-19 patient into an ambulance before transporting him to a hospital in Hawthorne, California, on December 29. Apu Gomes/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Jeffrey Smith, chief operating officer of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said hospitals and staff are doing their best to keep up as coronavirus infections soar. 

Ambulance crews in Los Angeles County were given guidance not to transport patients with little chance of survival. The order is “very specific to patients who suffered from a cardiac arrest and are unable to be revived in the field,” Smith explained. “Those patients have a very low rate of survival even if they are transported to the hospital, so at this time, it is deemed to likely be futile.”

He said emergency medical services are working to divert ambulances to hospitals with capacity to receive patients. The length of time that patients are waiting in ambulances varies from “day-to-day and hour-to-hour,” Smith said.

“Things change very quickly. There are parts of our city where ambulances are waiting for hours in order to off-board patients. In those places, the county is working with those hospitals to actually set up tents to receive those patients and get them off the ambulances so the ambulances can be returned to service,” he said. 

Smith said that the medical center has converted recovery rooms into ICU beds to double their capacity, brought in additional staff from around the country and increased health care workers’ shifts to try to keep up with demand.

8:25 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

The 91-year-old Briton who told CNN that there was "no point dying now" gets second vaccine shot

From CNN's Duarte Mendonça

Martin Kenyon speaks with CNN.
Martin Kenyon speaks with CNN. CNN

The 91-year-old British man who became an internet sensation after being interviewed on CNN just after taking his first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in December has now been given his second and final dose.

Martin Kenyon told CNN on Tuesday he had taken his booster shot of the vaccine on December 29, as previously arranged with Guy's Hospital in London.

The pensioner said he is in good health and still in awe of just how much attention he keeps receiving over his vaccination, which he calls "nonsense."

Kenyon's rise to fame stems from an interview with CNN's Cyril Vanier outside of Guy's Hospital moments after he received his first shot.

The grandfather had gone to the hospital to get vaccinated on December 8, the day that the UK became the first country to rollout the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine -- a landmark moment in the coronavirus pandemic.

When asked by Vanier about how he felt, given that he was one of the first people in the UK to receive the first dose of the vaccine in December, Kenyon responded:

I don't think I feel about it at all, except that I hope I am not going to have the bloody bug now. I don’t intend to have it [coronavirus] because I’ve got granddaughters and I want to live a long time to enjoy their lives."

WATCH:

8:42 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Belgium to receive half of expected Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine shots due to "logistical issue"

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy

A member of the medical staff prepares doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at the Notre-Dame hospital in Brussels, Belgium, on December 28.
A member of the medical staff prepares doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at the Notre-Dame hospital in Brussels, Belgium, on December 28. Johanna Geron/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Belgium will only receive half of its expected doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine because of a “logistical issue,” a government spokesperson said at a Covid-19 briefing on Tuesday.

“The company Pfizer has only provided us with half of the expected doses for the month of January,” Yves Van Laethem said, explaining that the logistical problems in the second half of December “disrupted the delivery of the vaccine.”

Van Laethem added that this meant the country had received a little over 3,000 doses rather than the expected 6,000 doses. 

Despite this setback the government still planned to prioritize "the most fragile people,” who have “been hit the hardest by the virus,” he said. The vaccine will continue to be administered primarily to nursing home residents in two doses, he added, reminding Belgians that 60% of the country's virus deaths had taken place in those settings.

Case numbers continue to decline “in all the provinces” of the country, Van Laethem also said. Belgium at present is recording an average of 1,582 daily cases, which marks a decrease of 40% compared to the previous week.

The situation in its nursing homes is also continuing to improve "slowly and systematically" the spokesperson added.