January 29 coronavirus news

By Zahid Mahmood, Hannah Strange, Julia Hollingsworth and Adam Renton, CNN

Updated 12:14 AM ET, Sat January 30, 2021
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11:28 p.m. ET, January 29, 2021

Italy to ease virus restrictions in many regions from Sunday

 From CNN’s Valentina DiDonato and Antonia Mortensen

Piazza Venezia Square is reflected in the window of a closed coffee bar following Covid-19 restriction measures in Rome, Italy on January 22.
Piazza Venezia Square is reflected in the window of a closed coffee bar following Covid-19 restriction measures in Rome, Italy on January 22. Gregorio Borgia/AP

Coronavirus restrictions in many parts of Italy will be eased from Sunday, the country's Health Ministry has announced.

All but five of Italy's regions will be considered "yellow" under its color-coded system, the ministry said on Friday. 

Veneto, the region around Venice, is to go from an orange to a yellow zone, which allows the daytime reopening of bars and restaurants and greater freedom to travel.

Calabria in the south and Emilia-Romagna in the north were also downgraded from orange to yellow.

From Sunday, the regions of Puglia, Sardinia, Sicily, Umbria and the autonomous province of Bolzano will be in the orange zone.

All the other regions and autonomous provinces are in the yellow zone.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza said Italy had experienced a significant drop in its coronavirus transmission rate.

"The transmission rate of the infection fell to 0.84. It is an encouraging result of the correct behavior of the people and the Christmas measures that have worked. Numerous regions will return to the yellow zone. This is good news, but keeping your full attention is essential. The challenge to the virus is still very complex," Speranza added. 
10:45 p.m. ET, January 29, 2021

Don't wait for teachers to be vaccinated before reopening schools, former US CDC director says

From CNN Health's Andrea Diaz

Dr. Tom Frieden testifies during a subcommittee hearing on May 6, 2020, in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Tom Frieden testifies during a subcommittee hearing on May 6, 2020, in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden says schools can safely reopen as long as the right precautions are taken. 

"Classrooms should stay open as long as possible, and reopen as soon as possible -- in-person learning is enormously important," Frieden said during an Axios podcast interview on Friday.

"It isn't the academic setting where the virus is spreading overwhelmingly, so we need our kids back in schools. Getting teachers vaccinated soon will help do that, but I wouldn't wait for teacher vaccination. Our kids need learning today."

Frieden says effective safety precautions include masks, proper ventilation in school buildings and social distancing to "the extent you can." He also recommends schools eliminate teacher break rooms and regulate extracurricular activities.

9:43 p.m. ET, January 29, 2021

Biden seeks to intensify public lobbying for Covid-19 relief bill amid the pandemic

When US President Joe Biden intensifies his attention next week to selling Republicans and Democrats on his coronavirus relief bill, he won't be relying on some of the presidency's most symbolic powers.

Out, for now, are arm-twisting sessions in the Oval Office or rides into a lawmaker's district aboard Air Force One. Instead, administration aides are planning remote television hits from the White House, out-of-the-blue phone calls to skeptical Republicans and maybe a stop somewhere within driving distance, according to officials.

Hamstrung by the very pandemic he is working to contain, Biden and his advisers have sharply limited the ways in which he can promote the $1.9 trillion relief bill he has proposed in the opening days of his presidency. Flying around the country to sell the plan is off the table for now, aides said, as Biden works to promote responsible pandemic behavior. Even the idea of visiting the weekly Democratic and Republican Senate luncheons on Capitol Hill is a non-starter, aides said, though -- like Biden -- many members of Congress have been vaccinated.

It's not necessarily how Biden would like to be ushering his debut legislative attempt through Congress, particularly since he built an entire career as a senator around attempts to foster bipartisanship through camaraderie on Capitol Hill. So, too, will his famous personal touch with middle-class Americans be sidelined as Air Force One remains in the hangar at Joint Base Andrews. He and his then-boss President Barack Obama used both while mustering support for the 2009 stimulus plan in the earliest days of that administration.

"The irony is that the virus is the core challenge he is trying to address," David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the Obama administration during its economic stimulus push, said Friday. "It also limits his ability to travel and sell it."

Read more here:

8:56 p.m. ET, January 29, 2021

EU will not trigger Brexit protocol amid vaccine export dispute, European Commission says

From CNN’s James Frater in London and Jonny Hallam in Atlanta

In an apparent rethink late Friday, the European Commission issued a statement saying it will not trigger a Brexit clause to introduce emergency export controls on vaccines to Northern Ireland from the bloc. 

"In the process of finalisation of this measure, the Commission will ensure that the Ireland / Northern Ireland Protocol is unaffected. The Commission is not triggering the safeguard clause," the statement said. 

However, the statement warned that "should transits of vaccines and active substances toward third countries be abused to circumvent the effects of the authorisation system, the EU will consider using all the instruments at its disposal."

Earlier Friday, the EU startled Belfast, London and Dublin when it said it was willing to use Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol -- an emergency measure that could be used by either the UK or the EU to retain stability on the island of Ireland.  

If the EU had invoked Article 16, any effort to use Northern Ireland as a back door to the rest of the UK to circumvent export controls would be restricted.

Following discussions with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen late Friday, the Irish leader, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, said he "welcomed the decision by the EC not to invoke the safeguard clause of the Ireland / Northern Ireland Protocol."

"This is a positive development given the many challenges we face in tackling Covid-19," he added.
6:48 p.m. ET, January 29, 2021

Coachella and Stagecoach have been canceled

From CNN's Sarah Moon

People attend the 2019 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival in Indio, California.
People attend the 2019 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival in Indio, California. Presley Ann/Getty Images

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and the Stagecoach Country Music Festival scheduled for April have been canceled under a new health officer order issued by Riverside County on Friday.

The order was issued by Riverside County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser “based on concerns of a fall resurgence of Covid-19 both within the county of Riverside and worldwide.”

According to the order, both music festivals attract “hundreds of thousands of attendees from many countries,” which could increase the risk of spread of the coronavirus. 

“If Covid-19 were detected at these festivals, the scope and number of attendees and the nature of the venue would make it infeasible, if not impossible, to track those who may be placed at risk,” Dr. Kaiser said.

Both events, which are two of the largest music events held in Southern California, were also canceled last year due to the pandemic.

CNN has reached out to Coachella and Stagecoach for a comment.

6:22 p.m. ET, January 29, 2021

CDC director extends pandemic order halting some evictions

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extended an order Friday halting evictions for some people through March 31.

The CDC said that the pandemic has worsened housing insecurity for many Americans, and evictions of tenants who cannot make rent or housing payments could hinder efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19.

“Keeping people in their homes and out of congregate settings — like shelters — is a key step in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19,” the CDC stated.

More context: The order, originally issued in September, was previously set to expire on Jan. 31.

It covers people who earn $99,000 or less a year and cannot make payment because of a loss of income or extraordinary medical costs. Tenants must prove they have exhausted efforts to get government assistance to pay rent, are making some effort to provide payment, and will be forced to move to congregate living settings or left homeless by eviction.

5:54 p.m. ET, January 29, 2021

Some states could vaccinate their seniors twice as fast as others, CNN analysis finds

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

Some states could fully vaccinate their 65-and-older population within two months, but it could take more than twice as long for others, a CNN analysis found.

If individuals age 65 and older were the only people being vaccinated, Alaska could fully vaccinate its seniors – with both shots of the two-dose regimen – within 43 days. In Iowa, Hawaii, Idaho and Florida, it could take more than 130 days, or more than four months.

The analysis considered the total senior population in each state, along with the average pace of vaccine administration over the past seven days, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In four states, more than one in five people are 65 or older, according to data from the US Census Bureau: Maine, Florida, West Virginia and Vermont.

At the current pace of vaccinations, it would take Florida 131 days to fully vaccinate its senior population if they were the only group being vaccinated. However, West Virginia is administering vaccines at a per capita rate that’s about 32% faster than Florida, and could fully vaccinate its senior population in 87 days.

About two weeks ago, the federal government – under the Trump administration – issued new guidance to states to expand vaccine eligibility to adults 65 years old and older, along with health care workers and long-term care residents and staff. But both Florida and West Virginia had adapted their plans to focus on senior populations sooner.

Florida’s vaccination plan has left many frustrated by apparent lack of coordination, but Gov. Ron DeSantis has defended the state’s plan and its emphasis on protecting older people. 

“We put seniors first and other states soon followed,” he said at a press conference.

About a quarter of Florida’s senior population – more than 1.1 million people 65 years or older – had received at least one vaccine dose, according to the state’s latest vaccine report.

In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice said in a news conference Monday that nearly 74,000 seniors had received at least one dose of vaccine – about 20% of the state’s 65 and older population.

While vaccine administration may be moving faster in some states, the focus on the senior population may not be as high.

In Michigan, for example, vaccine administration is 17% faster than Florida. But only 17% of seniors in the state have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard. 

5:53 p.m. ET, January 29, 2021

For some volunteers helping with the Covid-19 vaccination effort, early vaccination is a bonus

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

For the many volunteers helping with the nation’s Covid-19 vaccination effort, whether they can get vaccinated themselves depends on the jurisdiction they are in and how many doses happen to be available on any given day.

The US Department of Health and Human Services amended the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act on Thursday, in a move to broaden the pool of eligible vaccinators across the US.

St. Joseph County in South Bend, Indiana, received more than 1,500 responses to their call for volunteers to help with its vaccination effort.

Dr. Robert Riley, a retired family physician, joined the volunteer effort and received a shot of the Moderna vaccine during his first shift. Riley is 63 and was not providing direct patient care before volunteering, so he would not have otherwise received a vaccine.

Sometimes volunteers are offered doses that remain at the end of the day, but because of supply constraints, the county can only commit to vaccinating those who can volunteer 60 hours over the course of three months, said Robin Vida, the health department’s volunteer coordinator.

Many health systems and providers have had to come up with their own criteria for whether and when volunteers can get vaccinated.

LaKieva Williams helps run Georgia Responds, Georgia’s Covid-19 volunteer response effort. Since March, Williams says more than 7,000 Georgians have signed up to perform both medical and administrative tasks.

The Georgia Department of Health said that as a statewide agency, it cannot guarantee all volunteers priority access to vaccines.

“While I think ideally, you want all of your volunteers to be vaccinated we still have to adhere to the phases in the rollout,” Williams said. “The intent is there, but it’s a matter of supply.”

4:24 p.m. ET, January 29, 2021

Nearly 28 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the US, according to new CDC data

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

A nurse administers a Covid-19 vaccine to a patient at the Park County Health Department on January 28, in Livingston, Montana.
A nurse administers a Covid-19 vaccine to a patient at the Park County Health Department on January 28, in Livingston, Montana. William Campbell/Getty Images

Nearly 28 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States, according to data published Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reported that 27,884,661 total doses have been administered – about 57% of the 49,216,500 doses distributed.

Nearly 22.9 million people have now received at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 4.8 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.