January 10 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

By Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Aditi Sangal and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 2:48 AM ET, Tue January 11, 2022
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7:35 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

Brazil reduces quarantine period for some Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Taylor Barnes

Brazil’s health ministry announced on Monday that its recommended quarantine period for people with light or moderate Covid-19 cases could be shortened to seven days or as few as five days for those are able to take a test and get a negative result on the fifth day.

Brazil’s secretary for health surveillance, Arnaldo Medeiros, said authorities took recent moves by the United States and the United Kingdom into account when making the decision, according to CNN affiliate CNN Brasil. 

“Our main message is that isolation is seven days long. If he [the patient] does not want to get a test on the fifth day and does not have any symptoms on the seventh, he can leave isolation. It’s not necessary to take a test. We recommend maintaining [isolation] until the tenth day,” said Medeiros. 

He added: “If he has symptoms on the tenth day, he can take the test. If it’s negative, he can leave isolation if he has no fever and is not taking antipyretics. But if it’s positive, he should maintain isolation.”

Brazil’s drug regulator has not approved the use of at-home rapid tests, meaning that Brazilians seek Covid-19 tests at pharmacies and other locations outside of their homes. The rise of Omicron cases has put a strain on testing capacity in the country.  

5:47 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

Coronavirus-related staff shortages force public transit cancellations across the US

From CNN's David Shortell

A man walks along a subway platform past an electronic sign announcing that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority suspended the W line due to crew shortage in New York on January 4.
A man walks along a subway platform past an electronic sign announcing that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority suspended the W line due to crew shortage in New York on January 4. (Anthony Behar/Sipa/AP)

Staffing shortages tied to the surge in Covid-19 cases have forced slowdowns and cancellations in public transit across several cities.  

In Detroit, 20 percent to 25 percent of SMART bus service is cancelled or delayed, the agency said in a statement Saturday. 

In Washington, DC, Metrobus shifted this week to a Saturday schedule on weekdays — amounting to roughly 75% of regular service, the agency said.

Portland, Oregon's TriMet buses are "facing the most significant operator shortfall in agency history" and reduced bus service by 9% beginning Sunday, the agency said. 

In New York City, 6% of the subway system workforce was out sick Monday, Metropolitan Transportation Authority said — down from about 21% last week. While three lines continued to be suspended, all of the subway system's stations still have round-the-clock service, as the suspended lines are redundant with other lines, an MTA spokesman told CNN last week.

4:20 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

US health insurers must cover home Covid-19 tests starting Saturday

From CNN’s Katherine Dillinger

US health insurers must cover over-the-counter home Covid-19 tests starting Saturday, the US Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday.

“Beginning January 15, 2022, individuals with private health insurance coverage or covered by a group health plan who purchase an over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic test authorized, cleared, or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be able to have those test costs covered by their plan or insurance,” HHS said in a news release.

No doctor’s order, prescription or office visit will be required, and the tests won’t be subject to copays or deductibles. Insurers will be required to pay for eight tests per covered person per month, either by covering the cost up-front or by reimbursing the insured person through a claim. There’s no limit on the number of tests that will be covered if a doctor or other medical professional orders or gives them after an office visit.

“This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests at no cost,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in the release.

3:30 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

Unvaccinated patients make up two-thirds of ICU beds in Italy, health minister says 

From CNN's Livia Borghese

Two-thirds of the intensive care unit beds in Italy are currently occupied by Covid-19 patients not vaccinated against the virus, Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Monday.  

“Just over 10% of people over 12 years remain unvaccinated. Yet this 10%, a small minority, occupies two-thirds of the beds in intensive care and 50% of the beds in the medical area,” Speranza said at a news conference.  

Italy on Wednesday made vaccination against Covid-19 mandatory for people age 50 and over. The new vaccination measure aims to reduce the number of unvaccinated people, Speranza said Monday, stressing to citizens that it’s “a choice based on full and complete scientific evidence.”  

Two days after the government announced the new measure, Italy registered a threefold increase of the vaccines administered daily to those age 50 and older, the vaccination campaign commissioner Francesco Paolo Figliuolo said in a statement Saturday.  

3:23 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

More than 50 US lawmakers demand the Biden administration do more on Covid-19 testing

From CNN's Lauren Fox and Kaitlan Collins

People wait in line at a Covid-19 testing and vaccination site in Orlando, Florida, on December 22.
People wait in line at a Covid-19 testing and vaccination site in Orlando, Florida, on December 22. (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

More than 50 US lawmakers, including some top Democrats, say the Biden administration must do more immediately to bolster the testing capacity in the country, arguing that he needs to deploy the Defense Production Act (DPA).  

“Understanding the complexities of the manufacturing and distribution processes, we respectfully urge that you utilize the full scope of your executive power under Defense Production Act to manufacture enough rapid tests to ensure that each American can take at least one rapid test per week,” they wrote in a letter.

The White House said Monday it has seen a letter from Democrats, and claimed many of the steps called for were already being undertaken by the administration.

"The good news is that we agree and we’re already doing most of what’s in that letter," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Psaki noted the President had used the DPA earlier this year, and would continue to do so to expand capacity.

"We used the Defense Production Act to drive production of these tests and we’ll do so again when we can accelerate production and delivery of these tests," she said. "We used $3 billion to procure tests, which became a major driver in increasing and expanding the market for tests."

"The President’s plan to procure and distribute 500 million tests to all Americans is in and of itself providing a major stimulus for global production of these tests," she went on.

Among other things, the lawmakers called on the administration to establish a hotline where Americans could access free tests, in addition to the website already announced by the White House for people to order tests online.

Psaki said there would be "more details" on a hotline this week.

More background: The Biden administration signed its first contracts with a Covid-19 test manufacturer as part of Biden's efforts to distribute half a billion free rapid tests throughout the country, a White House official confirmed to CNN last Friday.

Officials have offered few details since Biden announced the endeavor to send free test kits amid a nationwide shortage and surge in new cases. But they expect to launch a website this month where people can sign up for the tests online and then ship them out.

Biden last month announced the purchase of a half-billion at-home rapid Covid-19 tests, one of a series of new steps he unveiled as the country faces a potentially crippling wintertime surge of infections. The 500 million new tests will be made available in January and will reach Americans through the mail, according to the White House.

2:46 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

First free rapid tests will arrive for distribution "early next week," White House says

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House on January 10.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House on January 10. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

The first Covid-19 tests that will be sent to Americans for free will start arriving for distribution “early next week,” the White House said Monday. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during an afternoon briefing that the administration is “working closely with manufacturing distributors to understand what they can ship and by when.” She said officials were still “working through the timelines of distribution.”  

“There are several components of this,” Psaki continued. “We want to ensure that there's not only that physical test, but the ability to distribute them, which is what we're working through right now.” 

She said contracts with testing manufacturers were expected to be “structured in a way to require that significant amounts are delivered on an aggressive timeline, the first of which should be arriving early next week. We expect to have all contracts awarded over the next two weeks, and then Americans will begin being able to order these tests online later this month.” 

“We also expect to have details on the website as well as a hotline later this week. So these are all components that we're working through and working to expedite as quickly as possible,” she said. 

More background: On Friday, the Biden administration signed its first contract with a test manufacturer as part of President Biden's efforts to distribute half a billion free rapid tests throughout the country, according to White House officials. As CNN’s Kaitlan Collins reported, officials have offered few details since Biden announced the endeavor to send free test kits amid a nationwide shortage and surge in new cases.

2:42 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

CDC adds Canada to its highest-risk category for travel

From CNN’s Marnie Hunter

Vehicles cross the Ambassador Bridge from Windsor, Ontario, into Detroit in November.
Vehicles cross the Ambassador Bridge from Windsor, Ontario, into Detroit in November. (Matthew Hatcher/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday added Canada to its highest-risk category for travel. 

In its weekly update of Covid-19 travel advisories, the CDC also added the Caribbean island nation of Curaçao to its "Level 4: Covid-19 Very High" category.

The CDC places a destination at Level 4 when more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents are registered in the past 28 days. 

Last week, the CDC added Aruba to the Level 4 category.

1:55 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

Virginia declares 30-day state of emergency as hospitals struggle under Omicron wave

From CNN's Hannah Sarisohn 

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a limited state of emergency Monday as the influx of Omicron cases strain his state’s health care system. 

“Today I am declaring a State of Emergency in order to ease the pressure on Virginia’s hospitals and their staff,” Northam said.

The order, which is limited to 30 days, is “based on modeling that suggests the virus will peak in the next few weeks,” a statement from his office said. 

The order allows hospitals to expand bed capacity and give more flexibility in staffing, Northam said, adding that it also expands the use of telehealth and it expands which medical professionals can give vaccines. 

More than 3,500 patients statewide are currently hospitalized with Covid-19, and intensive care unit hospitalizations have more than doubled since Dec. 1, Northam’s office said. 

The governor noted that today is his last Covid briefing, as Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin is set for his inauguration this week.  

1:42 p.m. ET, January 10, 2022

Austria will ramp up checks against Covid-19 violations as infections rise  

From CNN's Nina Avramova

Austria will ramp up police checks against any violations of Covid-19 restrictions amid a rise in new infections, the country’s Interior Minister Gerhard Karner announced on Monday.  

More than 1.6 million checks have been undertaken by the police so far – with more than 12,000 violations punished – since the country imposed a lockdown on the unvaccinated in November, Karner said in a statement.   

The checks will start Tuesday and will focus particularly on shops, tourist hotspots and bar and dining establishments, the statement said.  

Around 71% of the total population has a Covid-19 vaccine certificate in the country, Austrian health ministry data shows.