January 28 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Zahid Mahmood and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, January 29, 2021
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3:13 p.m. ET, January 28, 2021

"We're in a race against the variants," says incoming US surgeon general

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

Dr. Vivek Murthy looks on as Joe Biden speaks at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 8, 2020.
Dr. Vivek Murthy looks on as Joe Biden speaks at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 8, 2020. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Biden’s pick for US surgeon general, said Thursday that he is deeply concerned by the emergence of new Covid-19 variants in the US.

“We're in a race against the variants right now,” Murthy said in an interview with the Washington Post. “The faster we're able to reduce overall rates of infection by taking the public health measures, like masking, distancing, the faster we're able to vaccinate people, the sooner we'll be able to turn this pandemic around.” 

Murthy noted that variants first identified in Brazil, South Africa and the UK all appear to be more transmissible, but do not appear to evade all protection from vaccines.

He said the administration is now working with Pfizer and Moderna to develop a booster to address variants.

We have got to do a much better job doing genomic surveillance here in the United States so we can detect these variants earlier,” he added. “We've got to invest much more in treatment, because treatment becomes extraordinarily important when you've got a virus that’s spreading this quickly.”

Murthy's comments come as South Carolina officials announced the first two confirmed cases in the US of a more contagious coronavirus strain first spotted in South Africa.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement it was aware of the cases, noting "we have no evidence that infections by this variant cause more severe disease." The agency said it would continue working with labs around the country to genetically sequence samples of the virus.

2:57 p.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Ohio pulls vaccine from statewide allocation to vaccinate K-12 staff

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Gov. Mike DeWine speaks during a press conference in Columbus, Ohio, on January 28.
Gov. Mike DeWine speaks during a press conference in Columbus, Ohio, on January 28. The Ohio Channel

Ohio has pulled vaccine from their statewide allocation specifically for vaccinating K-12 staff, allocating around 55,000 vaccines to schools every week, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday.

"This plan that we have will allow most of the K-12 staff in a county to be vaccinated within seven days," DeWine said, going county by county, around the state. 

"The goal is to make the logistics of this as easy as possible locally, to maximize the capacity of local vaccination partners," he said, adding, "there just isn’t enough to do every school in the first week."

DeWine said the state is trying to do two things at once, continuing to vaccinating older Ohioans in February, while keeping school vaccinations on track as well.

The governor also announced today that every public school in the state has agreed to go back to in-person instruction by March 1, except for one.

2:40 p.m. ET, January 28, 2021

More than 26 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the US, CDC data shows

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

Drivers wait in line at a mega COVID-19 vaccination site set up in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on January 27.
Drivers wait in line at a mega COVID-19 vaccination site set up in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on January 27. Damian Dovarganes/AP

More than 26 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States, according to data published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An average of about 1.2 million doses have been administered each day since President Biden took office.

The CDC reported that 26,193,682 total doses have been administered, about 54% of the 48,386,275 doses distributed.

Nearly 21.7 million people have now received at least one dose of the vaccine and about 4.3 million people have been fully vaccinated, CDC data shows.

Remember: States have 72 hours to report vaccine data, so data published by the CDC may be delayed – and may not necessarily mean all doses were given on the day reported.  

2:34 p.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Biden administration expands who can legally give a Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Jen Christensen

A pharmacist prepares COVID-19 vaccines for patients arriving at Town Toyota Center on January 26 in Wenatchee, Washington.
A pharmacist prepares COVID-19 vaccines for patients arriving at Town Toyota Center on January 26 in Wenatchee, Washington. David Ryder/Getty Images

The Biden administration is expanding the number of people who are now legally allowed to vaccinate people against Covid-19 to meet the “urgent need to expand the pool of Covid-19 vaccinators” and to increase access to vaccinations.

The US Health and Human Services Department said it amended the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act — otherwise known as the PREP Act — on Thursday.

These groups will now be able to vaccinate people:

  • Now any person who is licensed or certified to administer vaccines in one state can vaccinate people in another state.
  • Retired doctors and nurses whose license expired in the past five years are also eligible, as long as that license was in good standing before it became inactive.

Both groups will need to complete a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Covid-19 vaccine training.

For those health care professionals whose license has experienced or who are not currently practicing also need to be observed by a practicing professional for a set period of time.

“As vaccine supply is made more widely available over the coming months, having additional vaccinators at the ready will help providers and state health departments meet the demand for vaccine and protect their communities more quickly,” HHS Acting Secretary Norris Cochran said in a news release.

White House Covid Coordinator Jeff Zients announced plans for the move Wednesday.

2:26 p.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Poland extends coronavirus measures until Feb. 14

From CNN’s Antonia Mortensen

A man delivers a supply of heating gas to Piw Paw pub in Warsaw, Poland, on January 25.
A man delivers a supply of heating gas to Piw Paw pub in Warsaw, Poland, on January 25. Czarek Sokolowski/AP

Poland has extended its coronavirus measures until Feb. 14, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski announced at a news conference Thursday.

The measures were due to end Sunday.

Although the restrictions are being extended – there will be an exception. Shops in shopping malls can open starting Sunday.

The existing restrictions that remain unchanged include ski slopes being closed, restaurants shut except for take away or delivery, and people coming to Poland being subject to a 10-day quarantine. Weddings are banned, as are gatherings of more than five people. 

The decision is mainly influenced by the epidemic situation in Europe and new, more contagious mutations of the coronavirus, the head of the Ministry of Health explained. However, Niedzielski said the situation has been slightly better over the last week, stabilizing due to “social discipline."

He said the last weekly average was just over 5,500 daily infections. This decrease in the number of cases was also felt in the number of deaths. Last week deaths dropped more or less 10%, calculated Niedzielski. He added that the hospitalization rate fell below 14,000 for the first time in a long time.

1:58 p.m. ET, January 28, 2021

There's a chance schools will be able to reopen in the fall, says incoming US surgeon general

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

Dr. Vivek Murthy speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater on December 8, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware.
Dr. Vivek Murthy speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater on December 8, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

With the right resources and precautions, there’s a good chance schools will be able to safely reopen this fall, Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Biden’s pick for US surgeon general, said Thursday. 

“I think that we have a good shot by fall of certainly getting these schools to a place where we want them to be, but it's going to require a few steps,” Murthy said in an interview with the Washington Post. 

Before schools can reopen, they need resources, like masks and testing, Murthy said. Plus, communities need to bring down their Covid-19 infection rates, and school staffers need to be vaccinated. 

“When we do have the opportunity to vaccinate kids when the trial data comes through and shows that it is safe and effective, then we've got to start vaccinating children too,” he added. 

“If we take these steps though – get schools the resources, have clear guidance, get testing in place and vaccinate our educators – it is a good chance absolutely that we could have our schools open, and that your kids and my kids could be back in the classroom in the fall,” Murthy said. 

 

2:19 p.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Despite dropping Covid-19 cases, 95% of US population lives in a "sustained hotspot"

From CNN Health’s Deidre McPhillips

Few people walk through the streets of downtown Atlanta on December 7, 2020.
Few people walk through the streets of downtown Atlanta on December 7, 2020. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New Covid-19 cases continue to trend downward, with 16% fewer cases reported this week than last. But 95% of the US population lives in a county that the federal government considers to be a “sustained hotspot," according to a report.

The interagency White House Covid-19 Team publishes a daily report tracking key indicators for regions, states, cities and counties across the country. Wednesday’s report showed that two-thirds of counties reported fewer Covid-19 cases in the past seven days than they had the week prior, and one-third of counties reported fewer deaths this week than last. 

But more than 1,900 counties – home to 95% of the population – are still considered “sustained hotspots,” or places that maintain a high case burden and may be at risk for a strain on health care resources.

More than half of the US population lives in a county with a test positivity rate of 10% or higher, which could indicate an undercount in cases. About 5% of the population lives in a county where at least 1 in 5 people are testing positive for Covid-19, including five counties in the Atlanta metro region, along with four counties each in the Dallas, Cincinnati and Tulsa metro regions.

1:37 p.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Denmark extends coronavirus restrictions until Feb. 28

From CNN’s Antonia Mortenson

The famous "Stroeget" pedestrian street in Copenhagen, Denmark, is empty on January 12.
The famous "Stroeget" pedestrian street in Copenhagen, Denmark, is empty on January 12. Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images

Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced the country will extend its coronavirus restrictions until Feb. 28. She made the announcement during a news conference on Thursday.

Frederiksen said the country’s infectious diseases institute, the Statens Serum Institut, has assessed that the new mutation is spreading, “even with the restrictions we have in Denmark”. 

We cannot stop the spread, but we must do everything we can to slow it down, Frederiksen said.

“However, it is the hope that students from 0-4 classes can come to school before that date. We will announce a possible new school start at the beginning of next week,” Frederiksen added.

1:10 p.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Covid-19 outbreaks on college campuses put broader community at risk, new CDC report shows

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

The headquarters for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is seen in Atlanta on March 6, 2020.
The headquarters for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is seen in Atlanta on March 6, 2020. Ron Harris/File/AP

Covid-19 outbreaks on college and university campuses can lead to subsequent outbreaks in the surrounding community and other high-risk places, such as nursing homes and prisons, according to a new report published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For the study, published on Thursday, researchers in Wisconsin and at the CDC examined data on Covid-19 cases reported to the Wisconsin Department of Health between March and November. The researchers looked closely at a sharp rise in cases — increasing at a rate of 24% per week — from late August to mid-November.

The data showed that, in August, Covid-19 cases linked to outbreaks on college and university campuses increased sharply and then were followed by outbreaks in other high-risk settings. 

The researchers found that, overall, three places accounted for the largest numbers of outbreak-associated Covid-19 cases in Wisconsin: long-term care facilities at 26.8%, colleges or universities at 15% and correctional facilities at 14.9%. 

Another report from researchers in Indiana, also published by the CDC on Thursday, details how one university in Indiana responded to a Covid-19 outbreak on its campus.

The university implemented safety measures, including daily online health assessments for students, and requiring all students to complete PCR testing before arriving on campus. But then in mid-August, an outbreak occurred with 371 confirmed cases. Contact tracing identified several large, off-campus parties as being related to the outbreak, according to the report. 

In response, the university switched to online classes for undergraduates. On-campus students had to stay on campus. Off-campus students were restricted from campus. 

"This approach is consistent with recommendations for universities with outbreaks to avoid sending students home to avoid spreading infections into local and other communities," the researchers wrote. The researchers found that case numbers then decreased, testing capacity increased, and classes resumed in September with an average rate of new cases comparable to the overall county numbers at the time.

For both studies, only data on reported cases and outbreaks were included — there could have been more Covid-19 cases that were either asymptomatic or simply went unreported.