January 20 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Sharon Braithwaite and Hannah Strange, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, January 21, 2021
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7:47 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

CDC reports more than 140 US cases of variant first identified in the UK

From CNN Health’s Michael Nedelman

At least 144 cases of a variant first identified in the UK have been identified in 20 US states, according to data posted Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This includes at least 46 cases in Florida, 40 in California, 17 in New York, six in Colorado, five in Georgia, five in Minnesota, four in Indiana, three in Maryland, three in Texas, two each in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, and one case each in Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

CDC says this does not represent the total number of cases circulating in the US, but rather just those that have been found by analyzing positive samples. The agency cautions that its numbers may not immediately match those of state and local health departments.

While the variant, known as B.1.1.7, appears to spread more easily, there's no evidence that it's any more deadly or causes more severe disease, according to CDC. It has also been found in at least 60 countries worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Related Coverage: Coronavirus variant discoveries in UK and South Africa began with a bet of a bottle of wine

7:48 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Chile authorizes emergency use of Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN’s Christoper Ulloa in Santiago, Chile

A panel of experts from Chile’s Institute of Public Health voted to authorize the emergency use of Covid-19 vaccine made by Chinese company Sinovac on Wednesday, for people between the ages of 18 and 59. The vote was 10 in favor, 2 against, and one abstention.

Heriberto Garcia, the director of the Institute, said the vaccine was "safe and effective. It prevents hospitalizations” and fights the “severity of the disease.” He also noted the vaccine has already been authorized in China, Indonesia, Turkey, and Brazil.

Late-stage trials of the Sinovac vaccine in Brazil showed just 50.38% efficacy, significantly lower than earlier results had shown -- raising questions as to the reliability of the data.

Sinovac is expected to send safety reports and conduct quality control checks on batches of vaccines, the Chilean health panel said.

Chile is already using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. It has been administered to 10,000 health officials and the elderly.

On Wednesday, Chile reported 3,583 new cases of coronavirus and 21 deaths. The country now has 680,740 total Covid-19 cases and 17,594 deaths.

7:48 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Local health officials will continue regular Covid-19 meetings with Biden administration

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) plans to continue meeting regularly with the Biden administration to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

In early December, NACCHO began meeting on a weekly basis with Nik Blosser of the Biden transition team, along with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the National Indian Health Board, said Lori Tremmel Freeman, NACCHO's chief executive officer.

"We'd meet for an hour," Freeman told CNN on Wednesday. "We would come together and make recommendations on topics to discuss -- timely and urgent matters leading into the transition -- and what they needed to be aware of from the broader public health system standpoint, in terms of things like Covid, the response, testing, tracing and vaccines."

Freeman added that the last meeting with the Biden transition team was on Tuesday, but there are plans to continue regular meetings now with Eduardo Cisneros, director of Covid-19 intergovernmental affairs under the Biden administration.

"Obviously, vaccines are high on the priority list," Freeman said. "At the same time, we don't want to diminish that we still have a lot of spread and a lot of burden from that spread on our health care systems and a lot of death from the disease. We still have a lot of work to do."

7:48 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

WHO could list several Covid-19 vaccines for emergency use within weeks

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

The World Health Organization is evaluating 15 vaccines and says it could list several of them for emergency use within weeks, according to a new guidance document published by WHO on Wednesday.

The organization is part of a global initiative called COVAX to ensure rapid and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines around the world.

The only vaccine in the document it already has listed for emergency use is the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, which is also authorized in the United States.

The WHO document says that a decision around emergency use for AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine is anticipated by the end of January, at the earliest. The same vaccine, produced in South Korea by SK Bioscience, could be listed for emergency use by the second half of February at the earliest.  

By mid-February, the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India could also be listed for emergency use, according to WHO documents. 

The document also estimates that Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine, which already has been authorized in the United States, could get an emergency use listing by the end of February.

By March at the earliest, China’s Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine and Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine could be listed for emergency use. The Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, which is administered as a one-dose shot, could be listed for emergency use by May at the earliest, notes the WHO document.

5:57 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

UK Home Secretary says she called for border closures in March, during first Covid-19 wave

From CNN’s Sarah Dean in London 

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has been recorded saying the nation should have closed its borders back in March due to the pandemic.  

 “‘On [the question of] 'should we have closed our borders earlier?’ the answer is yes, I was an advocate of closing them last March,” Patel is heard saying in an audio recording obtained by the Guido Fawkes politics website.

The recording was reportedly made during a Zoom call on Tuesday night with the Conservative Friends of India group.

Asked to comment on the audio recording, a Home Office spokesperson did not deny its authenticity and told CNN on Wednesday: "We have strong measures at the border in place which are vital as we roll out the vaccine."

The government has faced criticism over relaxed measures at the border, which were changed earlier this week. Initially, several countries had travel corridors with the UK, meaning visitors could enter the country without having to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival.

Patel's reported comments come after the UK closed all the ‘travel corridors’ -- effectively shutting the nation's borders -- on Monday for the first time during the pandemic. The decision was made in response to increasing concern over the new variants evolving internationally.

The UK’s Covid-19 death toll – the highest in Europe -- currently stands at more than 93,000, according to the government’s dashboard. 

Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer readout Patel's words from the audio recording in Parliament on Wednesday and asked why Prime Minister Boris Johnson had overruled the Home Secretary on border closures.

Johnson did not dispute what Patel said in the recording.

"I think it was the right honourable gentleman who last March said we didn't need to close borders but as usual Captain Hindsight has changed his tune to events," Johnson said.

"We are... in the middle of a national pandemic and this country is facing a very, very grave death toll and we are doing everything we can to protect the British public."

Johnson joked: "I'm delighted [Starmer] now praises the Home Secretary, a change of tune."

Starmer repeated the question, asking again why Johnson had overruled the Home Secretary.

Johnson responded: "We've instituted one of the toughest border regimes in the world and it was only last March that he and along with many members of his party were continuing to support an open borders approach.”  

In an on camera interview on Wednesday, Patel’s comments were again put to Johnson. Asked whether Britain should have closed its borders last March, he said: “There’s plenty of chance to look back at what decisions were taken when and what approach was taken back in March last year… but what I can say today is that the UK has amongst the toughest border regimes in the world.” 

CNN has contacted the Conservative Friends of India for comment.

5:12 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

New CDC director: "Healthier days lie ahead"

From CNN Health's Virginia Langmaid

In her first statement as Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky promised that "healthier days lie ahead" -- but getting there will require a rapid acceleration of Covid-19 testing, surveillance and vaccination.

Walensky, who began her post on Wednesday, also said the agency is conducting a comprehensive review of all existing Covid-19 guidance, which will be updated wherever needed.

"We must also confront the longstanding public health challenges of social and racial injustice and inequity that have demanded action for far too long. And we must make up for potentially lost ground in areas like suicide, substance use disorder and overdose, chronic diseases, and global health initiatives," Walensky added.

Newly inaugurated President Biden selected Walensky for the top post at CDC in December. Previously, she ran the infectious diseases division at Massachusetts General Hospital's and was a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

5:02 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

CDC’s ensemble forecast now projects up to 508,000 US Covid-19 deaths by mid-February

From CNN's Haley Brink and Ben Tinker

There have been at least 24,365,741 cases of coronavirus in the US according to data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU.)

According to JHU's tally, at least 404,284 people have died in the US from Covid-19. The US remains the worst hit country globally in terms of cases and deaths.

An ensemble forecast published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now projects there will be 465,000 to 508,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by February 13.

Unlike some individual models, the CDC’s ensemble forecast only offers projections a few weeks into the future. The previous ensemble forecast, published January 13, projected up to 477,000 coronavirus deaths by February 6.

CNN is tracking Covid-19's US spread here:

3:39 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

More than half a million Covid-19 monoclonal antibody treatments have been delivered to US states. How many have been used?

From CNN Health’s Jen Christensen

As of Monday, the United States has delivered more than half a million monoclonal antibody therapeutics to states to treat non-hospitalized Covid-19 patients, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services’ website, but it’s not clear how many have been used.

Since the therapies received an emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration in November, the department said it has delivered 454,087 courses of an Eli Lilly treatment, and 96,923 courses of Regeneron’s cocktail. 

Both treatments are authorized for people who are 12 years of age and older, who are at high risk for progressing to a severe form of Covid-19. Both were shown to reduce Covid-19-related hospitalization or emergency room visits.

It’s unclear exactly how many of the distributed antibody treatments have actually been used; it’s not posted by HHS or tracked on state dashboards. Health officials have said they aren’t being used enough; in Michigan, for example, less than 10% of available Covid-19 monoclonal antibody treatments have been used, Dr. William Fales, the medical director at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said last week.

The treatments are complicated to administer, in part because hospitals or infusion centers need to create a separate space to treat patients.

4:13 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Covid-19 deaths remain high in California as US crisis continues

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

The number of Covid-19 linked deaths in California remains high, though daily infection rates are dropping in the state.

California reported 694 new Covid-19 related deaths Wednesday, its second highest single day toll to date. The previous high of 708 deaths was recorded nearly two wee

As of Wednesday, California had a total of 3,019,371 confirmed infections.ks ago.

The Golden State became the first US state to surpass three million Covid-19 cases on JanuaStateary 8.

The tres hospitals remain crowded, with more than 20,800 people hospitalized across California for Covid-19. Approximately 4,750 of those patients are in intensive care units.

More than 3.2 million vaccine doses have been distributed in California and nearly 1.4 million doses have been administered.