January 23 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Brett McKeehan and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 12:26 a.m. ET, January 24, 2021
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1:11 a.m. ET, January 23, 2021

Long-term Covid-19 symptoms "could be an issue," Fauci warns

From CNN Health's Andrea Diaz

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a White House press briefing in Washington, D.C., on January 21.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a White House press briefing in Washington, D.C., on January 21. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Long-term Covid-19 symptoms should be taken seriously as they could be an issue as more people contract the virus, the top US infectious disease expert says.

"This is a real phenomenon. I myself am personally dealing and helping a number of people who have a post-acute Covid-19 syndrome," Dr. Anthony Fauci told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Friday.  "They are virologically okay -- the virus is no longer identified in them, but they have persistence of symptoms that can be debilitating."

Fauci said some of the symptoms his patients have include extreme fatigue, muscle aches, temperature dysregulation and "brain fog," where it's difficult for them to focus or concentrate.

"We take it very seriously for the simple reason that even if a small fraction, and it appears to be more than just a small fraction, of people have persistent symptoms, when you look at the 24-25 million people in the United States who have been infected ... and globally when you have approaching 100 million people having been infected, this could be something that really could be an issue," Fauci said. 

Some context: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, joint pain and chest pain as the most commonly reported long-term symptoms. Others, such as "brain fog," depression and headache, are also reported among coronavirus long-haulers.

"While most persons with Covid-19 recover and return to normal health, some patients can have symptoms that can last for weeks or even months after recovery from acute illness. Even people who are not hospitalized and who have mild illness can experience persistent or late symptoms," the US CDC says.

11:58 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Update on Johnson & Johnson vaccine expected within weeks, Fauci says

From CNN Health's Andrea Diaz

News about how well the single-dose coronavirus vaccine by Johnson & Johnson works could come in two weeks, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert.

"I don’t want to get ahead of them, but I have to tell you I would be surprised if it was any more than two weeks from now that data will be analyzed, and decisions would be made,” Fauci told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Friday . 
"The data will be analyzed in the similar fashion, the way we analyzed it with the Moderna and the Pfizer candidate,” added Fauci, who as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has helped with some of the clinical trials involving the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna secured emergency use authorization (EUA) from the US Food and Drug Administration in December. Johnson & Johnson is widely expected to be the third company to apply for an EUA for a coronavirus vaccine in the US.

11:21 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Fauci says he was blocked from appearing on MSNBC’s Maddow show by Trump administration

From CNN Health's Andrea Diaz

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with reporters at the White House, in Washington, DC, on January 21.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with reporters at the White House, in Washington, DC, on January 21. Alex Brandon/AP

Top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has revealed the reason behind his absence from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show throughout the coronavirus pandemic: the Trump administration blocked him.

"I've been wanting to come on your show for months and months. You've been asking me to come on your show for months and months, and it's just gotten blocked," Fauci told Maddow during a live interview Friday.
"I mean let's call it what it is -- it just got blocked because they didn't like the way you handle things, and they didn't want me on. I mean it was so clear," added Fauci, who has made a point of appearing on media outlets large and small, as well as blogs, webcasts and before community groups to explain the pandemic.

But when he asked to go on Maddow, a show with a definite left-leaning bent and highly critical of the Trump administration, Fauci said the answer would be "don't do it." 

Fauci said he doesn't expect to see the same treatment from the Biden administration. 

"I think you're going to see a lot of transparency,” said Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy of Infectious Diseases and who will continue as a White House adviser.

“You might not see everybody as often as you want, but you're not going to see deliberate holding back of good people when the press asks for them ... It was a tough situation. It really was."

2:49 a.m. ET, January 23, 2021

Biden administration will strive to give clearer coronavirus guidance, adviser says

From CNN Health’s Maggie Fo

Dr. Vivek Murthy speaks during an event at The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 8, 2020.
Dr. Vivek Murthy speaks during an event at The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 8, 2020. Susan Walsh/AP

The Biden administration will try to give state and local governments better guidance on how to manage coronavirus, US Surgeon General designate Dr. Vivek Murthy said Friday.

"We know that there have been times where we have needed more clear guidance, and we have gotten that feedback at the ground level," Murthy said during a webcast hosted by the US Conference of Mayors.

"People will say, 'Well, the general contours of the school guidance is good, but could we have more specifics on this part or how to actually implement?'" Murthy added.

"Taking that feedback into account, we want to be sure that the new administration is providing the kind of feedback with the specificity that communities need to reopen schools more safely; to do the same with workplaces, so that we can all get back up on our feet and turn this pandemic around."

2:40 a.m. ET, January 23, 2021

For the first time in the pandemic, parts of Hong Kong are under lockdown

From CNN's Pauline Lockwood

Government workers wearing personal protective equipment in the locked-down Jordan neighborhood of Hong Kong, on January 23.
Government workers wearing personal protective equipment in the locked-down Jordan neighborhood of Hong Kong, on January 23. Justin Chin/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Hong Kong is imposing a temporary lockdown on residents in coronavirus hotspots -- a first in the city’s battle against Covid-19.

In a statement released early Saturday, the Hong Kong government made a "restriction-testing declaration", which requires residents from parts of the bustling neighborhood of Jordan to stay in their premises and undergo compulsory testing arranged by the government. 

Jordan, in the Kowloon peninsula, is a dense and thriving urban area with high-rise apartments, businesses and restaurants. The lockdown area includes Temple Street, home to the iconic night market popular with tourists. 

About 10, 000 residents are affected by the lockdown, the government’s information office told CNN on Saturday.

Residents from buildings in the designated area are prohibited from leaving their homes until testing has been completed. The government says the compulsory testing is expected to take 48 hours. 

Hong Kong’s Secretary for the Environment, Wong Kam-sin, said in a news conference Saturday that water from the pipes of several buildings in the area was being tested to ascertain whether the coronavirus is spreading through sewage. 

In a separate statement Saturday, the Hong Kong government announced that roads in the “restricted area” would be closed to traffic. 

Hong Kong recorded 61 new Covid-19 on Friday, including 55 local transmissions. 

11:15 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Biden coronavirus advisers confident more vaccine is coming

From CNN’s Nicholas Neville and Maggie Fox

Dr. Vivek Murthy speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 08.
Dr. Vivek Murthy speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 08. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden’s coronavirus advisers are confident more vaccine is coming, Dr. Vivek Murthy, who is the nominee for Surgeon General, said Friday.

The transition team started speaking with companies making the vaccines to try to get an idea of how much supply was really available and how quickly production could be stepped up, Murthy told a webcast sponsored by the US Conference of Mayors.

“We've been deeply involved in conversations with the companies on a very regular basis and those were conversations that, frankly, started even before the election to try to understand just more closely what the supply was, what the challenges were, what the roadblocks were to getting even more supply accelerated, what the potential failure spots would be that we need to look out for and plan for,” Murthy said.

“Those conversations, I think, have given us more confidence that there is more supply coming, and that it will continue to steadily increase over the next few months,” Murthy added.

“And part of what we've talked about also is the importance of making that data as clearly available and transparent so that mayors and the general public can also see a lot of what we're seeing as well, can have some confidence about what the supply looks like over the coming weeks.”

State and local leaders want and need to know, so they can plan, he said.

“One of the most clear pieces of feedback that we got from governors and echoed by mayors as well was that they needed more information on when the supply was coming. They needed more than four or five days notice, that they needed ideally several weeks notice so they can plan accordingly and set up their operations, and we heard that loud and clear,” Murthy said.

“So, I think what you will see in the coming weeks is a greater focus on that transparency around supply so that you have a better sense of what we're seeing, and also so that you have a sense of what supply also will be coming to your state over the coming weeks. “

10:19 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Panama confirms first case of Covid-19 variant detected in South Africa

From CNN's Kiarinna Parisi  

The first positive case of the Covid-19 variant detected in South Africa has been confirmed in Panama, Ministry of Health officials announced in a statement Friday. 

"This is a 40-year-old passenger, born in Zimbabwe, who entered the country on January 5 from South Africa and had previously made a stop over in the Netherlands before arriving in Panama," the statement said.

After testing positive, the patient was kept in isolation, complying with Panama's protocol, according to the Ministry of Health.

To date, Panama has registered at least 4,944 deaths related to Covid-19 and about 305,752 confirmed cases.

11:11 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

UK coronavirus variant may be linked to "higher degree of mortality," Boris Johnson says

From CNN's Nada Bashir, Samira Said and Michael Nedelman

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a virtual press conference on Covid-19 at 10 Downing Street in London, on January 22.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a virtual press conference on Covid-19 at 10 Downing Street in London, on January 22. Leon Neal/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The coronavirus variant first identified in the UK “may be associated with a higher degree of mortality” in infected patients, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday during a news briefing at Downing Street.

“I must tell you this afternoon that we’ve been informed today that, in addition to spreading more quickly, it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant – the variant that was first identified in London and the South East – may be associated with a higher degree of mortality,” Johnson said. 

Researchers are still looking at the data and there is still a lot of uncertainty.

Patrick Vallance, the UK government's chief scientific adviser, said it looks like the variant is more deadly when looking at the total population that becomes infected.

"If you took somebody in their 60s — a man in their 60s — the average risk is that for 1,000 people who got infected, roughly 10 would be expected to, unfortunately, die with the virus. With the new variant, for 1,000 people infected, roughly 13 or 14 people might be expected to die," he said.

Vallance said the increase in risk would affect all age groups.

This evidence comes from several groups in the UK that found an increased risk of death for people infected with the variant compared to people infected with other forms of the coronavirus. In four analyses cited by a government advisory group, these estimates ranged between roughly 1.3 and 1.9 times higher risk of death. At least one analysis among hospitalized patients did not.

The advisory group, known as NERVTAG, concluded there is a “realistic possibility” that variant is linked to a higher risk of death. However, the researchers said the absolute risk of death for an individual remains low, and more data will be needed to provide definitive proof. For example, in some cases the data came from less than 10% of all deaths reported.

Vallance stressed that "there's a lot of uncertainty around these numbers and we need more work to get a precise handle on it. But it obviously is of concern that this has an increase in mortality, as well as an increase in transmissibility, as it appears of today."

He noted that when it comes to patients who are hospitalized with Covid-19, there is not an increased risk of mortality.

“When we look at data from hospitals, so patients who are in hospital with the virus, the outcomes for those with the original virus or the new variant look the same,” he said.

UK Prime Minister Johnson said "both the vaccines we’re currently using remain effective both against the old variant and this new variant."