First case of UK variant found in Georgia, state's health department says
From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch
The first case of the UK Covid-19 variant has been identified in Georgia, according to a release from the state Department of Health.
"The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is announcing Georgia’s first case of COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7, the same variant discovered in the U.K. and in several other countries and U.S. states," the department said in a news release.
The variant was discovered during analysis of a specimen sent by a pharmacy in Georgia to a commercial lab, the release said. The resident is an 18-year-old man with no travel history who is currently isolating at home.
Previously, cases of the UK variant have been reported in Colorado, California and New York. Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and prevention said data suggests the new Covid-19 variant has been circulating undetected in the United States and transmitted person to person.
3:23 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021
US vaccine administration slows to 28% of distributed doses, CDC vaccine tracker shows
From CNN's Deidre McPhillips
The pace of Covid-19 vaccine administration in the United States continues to slow, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of 9 a.m. ET Tuesday, just 4.8 million of the 17 million doses distributed had been administered – or 28%. That figure was closer to 30% on Monday and 33% over the weekend.
Only five states have administered at least half of the Covid-19 vaccine doses that have been distributed to them, according to the CDC data:
South Dakota: 64.5%
New Hampshire: 56%
North Dakota: 55.8%
Meanwhile, 15 states have administered less than a quarter of doses distributed, including three states that have administered less than 20%:
Vaccine administration is moving even slower in long-term care facilities. Just 13% of the 3.3 million doses distributed for use in long-term care facilities have been administered, according to the CDC data.
3:13 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021
EU in talks to secure millions of additional Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine doses
From Sandrine Amiel
The European Union is in talks to procure some 100 million additional doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine as part of a potential new contract, French Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune said Tuesday.
"There are European discussions at this very moment, which we are supporting, to order additional doses that will benefit France, as well as other countries," Beaune told BFM TV. "There are no definitive numbers, but it could be around a hundred million more," Beaune added.
While the Secretary of State for European Affairs denied that the EU has experienced a shortage in vaccine supplies, he confirmed that discussions are ongoing to procure more doses.
Speaking on Tuesday, European Council President Charles Michel said that the distribution of the vaccine across the EU has posed a "tremendous challenge," but asserted that European authorities are "fully mobilised" with member states in order to ensure that doses are deployed.
"Before the end of January, EU leaders will have another video conference to discuss again the Covid-19 crisis and the vaccine roll-out," Michel added.
In his interview with BFM on Tuesday, Secretary of State Beaune noted that the EU has so far "signed contracts with six major vaccine companies," adding that one million doses had arrived in France on Tuesday evening.
CNN has reached out to BioNTech for comment and is awaiting a response.
3:08 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021
Nearly 128,000 children diagnosed with Covid-19 between Christmas and New Year's Eve, pediatricians say
From CNN's Jen Christensen
Nearly 128,000 children were diagnosed with coronavirus infections from Dec. 24 to Dec. 31, the American Academy of Pediatrics said Tuesday.
The professional association, made up of pediatricians, noted that over a two-week period — from Dec. 17 to 31 — there was a 17% increase in Covid-19 cases in children.
These newly reported cases bring the cumulative total to more than 2.13 million cases since the start of the pandemic. Children account for a little more than 12% of all Covid-19 cases in the states that report cases by age.
Some more context: Severe illness due to Covid-19 is still relatively rare among children. In each state between 0.2% and 3.4% of all children with Covid-19 were hospitalized, and children accounted for at most 0.19% of all Covid-19 deaths. Thirteen states reported no child deaths in this time period.
The AAP says there still is an urgent need to collect more data on the long-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including how Covid-19 affects them physically and mentally.
The count of cases is also not complete, because not all states report data in the same way. These numbers come from 49 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam.
3:07 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021
California surpasses 27,000 Covid-19 deaths
From CNN's Cheri Mossburg
California reported 368 new Covid-19 fatalities Tuesday, bringing the state's total death toll to over 27,000 since the start of the pandemic.
Additionally, 31,440 new cases of the coronavirus bring the state’s total number of infections to 2.45 million.
California has averaged more than 38,000 new cases every day for the past two weeks.
Once again, hospitalizations are reaching all-time highs in the Golden State. More than 22,000 people are receiving in-patient treatment, the state reported Tuesday. About 21% of those patients are in intensive care units. Much of the state is still feeling the oppressive crush, with ICU capacity at 0% in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley.
Nearly 300,000 Covid-19 tests are conducted every day in California, and the positivity rate continues to rise, reaching 12.7%, the highest rate since the initial wave of infections last spring.
With a total of 27,003 deaths, California has the third highest Covid-19 death toll in the nation. Only New York and Texas have reported a higher number of fatalities.
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.
2:31 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021
Denmark will impose tougher coronavirus restrictions as fears over spread of UK variant rise
From CNN’s Antonia Mortensen
Denmark will introduce new, tougher measures aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Tuesday.
She warned the "situation is really serious" as the country sees further confirmed cases of a more transmissible new variant first identified in the UK.
"A new and disturbing development in the pandemic has hit us: The British mutation in the coronavirus, which is a particularly contagious version," Frederiksen said during a news conference in Copenhagen.
Frederiksen expressed fears that the new variant might spread more quickly across Denmark than previously circulating strains, even as scientists work to track the spread and determine if it’s really driving new infection rates.
"Stay home, work at home if at all possible, cancel social engagements…if we do not succeed in delaying this mutation, more people will get sick, more people will be hospitalized and die, and it will put massive pressure on our hospitals," she urged citizens.
Under the new restrictions — which are expected to come into force on Wednesday — authorities have recommended all social gatherings be limited to a maximum of five people outside of one’s household, with a distance of two meters, rather than one, to be kept at all times in public spaces.
The government has also appealed to citizens to cancel all non-essential appointments until Jan. 17, and has encouraged citizens to avoid meeting with people outside of their own household as much as possible.
While no final decision has been taken on enforcing further travel restrictions, the Prime Minister also confirmed that the government is considering additional measures to control travel to and from Denmark.
"The next weeks will be crucial…we must see infection rates drop and we must be as low in case numbers as possible once the new variant takes over," Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said during the news conference. "If we can drop infection rates, it will be harder for the British version to take hold. It is a race between that mutation and the vaccines – and it is a race we must win," he added.
According to Denmark’s Statens Serum Institut (SSI), the new variant is believed to be at least 50 percent more contagious than existing coronavirus variants in Denmark.
SSI Director Henrik Ullum also said it is possible the new variant could spread rapidly across Denmark by mid-February, leading to an exponential increase in infection numbers.
While Prime Minister Frederiksen noted the country’s vaccination program will help to "bring the infection down," she cautioned that Denmark is "in a real race with time."
"Our strategy is clear: the minute they hit the ground, the vaccinations must be given," Frederiksen said. "The next few months will be the most difficult in the epidemic. Then spring will help us, and more and more people are being vaccinated," she added.
2:23 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021
National survey finds nearly 3% of community in London test positive for new Covid-19 variant
From CNN's Niamh Kennedy
Nearly 3% of the community in London tested positive for the new coronavirus variant in the closing days of 2020 and the first two days of 2021, the UK Office for National Statistics announced Tuesday.
Its Covid-19 Infection Survey said that 2.72% of the community in London tested positive for the new variant on Jan. 2. By contrast, 0.69% of the community in London tested positive for other variants on Jan. 2, the survey added.
The findings are based on the Community Infection Survey produced by the ONS, and are broken down by region as well as England-wide.
The new variant is more prevalent than other variants in London, the east of England and the southeast of England, the data shows. It is about equally prevalent with other variants in the east and west Midlands and the southwest.
Speaking during the UK government daily coronavirus news conference on Tuesday, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said in England "in every area there has been a relative increase in the new variant of this virus that is spreading around the country."
Whitty said the fastest increases have been seen in southeast England and eastern England in addition to London.
About 1.70% of the community in the east tested positive for the new variant on Jan. 2, while 0.46% of the community there tested positive on the same day for other variants.
In southeast England, 1.35% of the community tested positive on Jan. 2 for the new variant, with 0.78% testing positive for other variants.
Whitty warned that the new variant is "now taking off in other areas as well," including in parts of the country "which have got some of the lower rates and had previously controlled things." Whitty drew particular attention to the northeast and northwest "where the rate of increase has been higher than in some of the southern areas.”
2:19 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021
Germany extends national lockdown and tightens restrictions
From CNN’s Nadine Schmidt and Claudia Otto
Germany's government announced it will extend the country's national lockdown – which was in place until Jan. 10 – until the end of the month. It will also further tighten restrictions on movement and contact in order to curb the spread of coronavirus.
"We will have to harden measures," Chancellor Angela Merkel told journalists following a meeting with Germany's 16 regional leaders in Berlin. She warned that hospitals across the country are already overwhelmed, particularly in intensive care units.
Under the new measures, all non-essential stores, restaurants, schools and nurseries will be required to remain shut until Jan. 31. Citizens will only be permitted to meet with one other person outside of their own household, as opposed to gatherings of up to five people from two separate households.
"We need to restrict contact more strictly…we ask all citizens to restrict contact to the absolute minimum," Merkel added.
Tougher measures will also be introduced in towns and districts where the number of new coronavirus cases exceeds 200 per 100,000 residents over seven days, with a limit on non-essential travel of up to 15km (9.3 miles), Merkel announced.
She also confirmed that travelers returning to Germany from high-risk countries will now have to test twice for coronavirus, with travelers required to quarantine for five days upon return, even if their first coronavirus test result is negative.
Addressing the spread of the more transmissible variant first identified in the UK, Merkel said it is a "race against time" for Germany.
Bavarian state premier Markus Soeder also warned that "the mutating virus is spreading faster and likely to become more prevalent," adding that the lockdown would have to be extended as a result of this "new threat."
Chancellor Merkel reiterated that the coronavirus vaccine gives "hope to return to normal life," asserting that – despite criticism — Germany was right to back the European Commission’s decision to procure vaccines for all 27 member states.
"We do not want any go-it-alone national approach in securing vaccines," Merkel said.
According to Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on Tuesday, 316,962 people in Germany have now been vaccinated – around 0.4% of the country's population.
A total of 11,897 new cases new cases of coronavirus and 944 additional deaths were recorded in Germany as of Tuesday, the RKI added.
1:46 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021
Fauci says "it is very unlikely" Covid-19 vaccines will be federally mandated
From CNN's Jacqueline Howard
Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that "it is very unlikely" the US federal government would ever try to legally require people to receive Covid-19 vaccines.
"It is very unlikely it will be federally mandated," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Newsday's Randi Marshall during a virtual event.
Mandating vaccines is left to state and local authorities in the US.
"There will be individual institutions — they can be hospitals, they can be workplaces, they can be schools — where the authorities in charge of that institution say that in order to participate in the activities of this institution, you have to get vaccinated," Fauci said, adding that hospitals and other health care facilities, for instance, have a long history of requiring workers to get vaccinated against various pathogens.
US public school districts, as well as many camps and daycares, require students to be vaccinated in order to attend.