January 12 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

By Jack Guy, Hannah Strange, Rhea Mogul and Adam Renton, CNN

Updated 2:18 AM ET, Thu January 13, 2022
24 Posts
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11:15 a.m. ET, January 12, 2022

Mild-to-moderate Covid-19 associated with worsening mobility in middle-aged and older adults, Canadian study finds 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

A study looking at more than 24,000 middle-aged and older adults found that Covid-19 was associated with worsening ability to move around and difficulties in physical functioning.

Authors from McMaster University and other Canadian universities published the study on Wednesday in JAMA Network Open.

Of the 24,114 participants, 121 had either a positive test result or a Covid-19 diagnosis from a health care practitioner with no confirmatory test. Seven of them were hospitalized and 113 were considered to have had mild-to-moderate disease. 

The authors found that those who had a probable or confirmed case had nearly twofold higher odds of reporting worsening ability to engage in household activity and to participate in physical activity. Those who were suspected to have had Covid-19 were also twofold as likely to report worsening ability to move around in the home, engage in housework activity and participate in physical activity.

Looking to specific activities, those with confirmed or probable Covid-19 were more likely to experience worsening difficulty standing up after sitting in a chair than those without Covid-19. Those with suspected Covid-19 also were more likely to experience worsening difficulty walking up and downstairs and walking two to three blocks. 

The results of the study show that sociodemographic risk factors and having three or more chronic conditions were associated with a decline in mobility and/or function as well, the authors wrote. 

There is “a need to further understand the longer-term impacts of the illness and to consider the development and implementation of effective intervention and management approaches to address any persistent deficits in mobility and functioning among those living in the community," the authors wrote.

The study does have some limitations, including that not all Covid-19 cases were confirmed with testing, only a small number of the participants had Covid-19 and that functional ability was not assessed using performance-based tests. The study also did not assess the exact timing of Covid-19 diagnosis related to the decline in mobility, or how long mobility deficits could last.

10:54 a.m. ET, January 12, 2022

Broadway ticket sales drop by 31% in 2022 as Omicron concerns continue

From CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich

Signage at the theater as performances resume at "The Music Man" on Broadway at The Winter Garden Theater on January 6, 2022 in New York City.
Signage at the theater as performances resume at "The Music Man" on Broadway at The Winter Garden Theater on January 6, 2022 in New York City. (Bruce Glikas/Getty Images)

Broadway raked in $18 million dollars the first week of the new year, a 31% drop from the $26 million earned the week prior, according to Broadway League.

Twenty-seven shows are still running despite several closing, either permanently or temporarily, amid Omicron cases and concerns. Attendance also dropped by about 22,000 the first week of 2022 – leaving 40% of seats unfilled.

On Monday, The Broadway League – along with the owners and operators of Broadway’s 41 theaters – announced an extension of their mask and vaccine requirements through April 30, 2022. The theaters are also allowing for flexible exchanges and refunds. The average ticket price last week fell to $116.26 – a 20% drop from the week before.

Broadway was closed for nearly a year and a half, with many shows opening again just this past fall. Several productions will be closing for good this month, including "Ain't Too Proud," but others are still slated to reopen this year, including "Beetlejuice" and "American Buffalo."

“Our theaters and world class shows are open for business, ready to welcome and enrapture our audiences, as we’ve done every day for the past five months,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League, on Monday.
10:44 a.m. ET, January 12, 2022

CDC forecast predicts more than 62,000 Covid-19 deaths in the US in the next four weeks 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas and Virginia Langmaid

A medical workers puts on PPE before entering a negative pressure room with a Covid-19 patient in the ICU ward at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts on January 4, 2022.
A medical workers puts on PPE before entering a negative pressure room with a Covid-19 patient in the ICU ward at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts on January 4, 2022. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images)

An ensemble forecast from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published Wednesday predicts that over 62,000 more people could die from Covid-19 over the next four weeks.  

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the coronavirus has killed 842,322 people in the United States. 

The forecast could mean an average of 2,624 Covid-19 deaths a day, up from a current average of 1,715 per day, according to JHU data. 

The CDC included projections that indicate the number of deaths will rise steadily over the four weeks.  

Hospitalizations are predicted to increase for the eighth straight week, with the forecasts predicting 17,900 to 48,000 new confirmed Covid-19 hospitalizations reported on February 4. 

There are currently 145,982 people hospitalized with Covid-19, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. 

The death and hospitalization forecasts caution that “current forecasts may not fully account for the emergence and rapid spread of the Omicron variant or changes in reporting during the holidays and should be interpreted with caution.”

The forecast for cases did not predict an increase or decrease, or give a predicted number of cases. 

“Recent case forecasts have shown low reliability, with more reported cases than expected falling outside the forecast prediction intervals for 1-, 2-, 3-, and 4-week ahead case forecasts. Therefore, case forecasts will continue to be collected and analyzed but will not be summarized until sustained improvements in performance are observed,” the CDC said. 

 

9:27 a.m. ET, January 12, 2022

Switzerland shortens quarantine to 5 days but proposes extending social restrictions 

From CNN's Amy Cassidy

People wearing a facemask as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus shop in the streets of the ski resort of St. Moritz, Switzerland on December 11, 2021
People wearing a facemask as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus shop in the streets of the ski resort of St. Moritz, Switzerland on December 11, 2021 (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

Switzerland will reduce its Covid-19 self-isolation period from 10 days to five, the Health Ministry announced Wednesday, citing “increased pressure” on the economy and society with several people in quarantine. 

However current restrictions on social interaction, due to expire Jan. 24, should be extended until March 31, the Federal Council proposed. 

These include a working from home mandate and a limit of 30 adults at private indoor gatherings if everyone is vaccinated against Covid-19, reduced to ten if someone is unvaccinated. 

After consultation, officials will decide on Jan. 17 whether or not to extend these measures. 

It comes as Switzerland’s “epidemiological situation is critical and remains difficult to assess”, the Health Ministry said, with pressure on hospitals “likely to rise” given the sheer volume of infections. 

This is despite hospital admissions and occupancy of intensive care units falling in recent weeks despite a surge in the number of cases, it said. 

9:15 a.m. ET, January 12, 2022

White House expected to announce additional purchase of 500,000 AstraZeneca Covid-19 treatment courses

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

The Biden administration is expected to announce the purchase of additional courses of a Covid-19 treatment manufactured by drugmaker AstraZeneca Wednesday.

The White House is “in the process of ordering another half-million courses of AstraZeneca’s preventive treatment for immunocompromised individuals,” Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients is expected to say at Wednesday’s Covid-19 briefing.

“The federal government was instrumental in the research and development of this product – and our latest order will also bring us to over one million treatment courses available through end of March,” Zients is expected to say, per a copy of his remarks obtained by CNN. 

Zients will also tout the previously-announced purchase of 20 million courses of Pfizer’s antivral pill, with the first 10 million courses expected to be delivered by the end of June 2022.

The administration spent much of the past year focused on manufacturing and scaling vaccine supply. But as the Omicron variant continues to spread, with surging cases and hospitalizations, some experts have warned current efforts to surge supply of therapeutics are not enough.

More background: Therapeutics aren’t just being hampered by small supply. Some doctors are warning CNN they are also hampered by lack of testing to get test results in a timely enough fashion to actually administer doses in the proper window.

Pfizer’s Paxlovid treatment needs to be administered within 5 days of symptoms, and GlaxoSmithKline’s Sotrovimab monocolonal antibody treatment needs to be administered within seven days. Additionally, some hospitals also say there is simply not enough hospital staff to administer enough monocolonal antibody infusions because of staffing shortages.

 

9:02 a.m. ET, January 12, 2022

Global Covid-19 cases increased "markedly" over the past week, WHO says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

New global Covid-19 cases increased “markedly” in the week of Jan. 3 to 9, with over 15 million new cases being reported, according to the World Health Organization’s weekly epidemiological update published Tuesday. 

This was a 55% increase in cases compared with the week before.

Five WHO regions reported an increase in cases, with the largest increase of 418% coming in the South-East Asia region. This was followed by the Western Pacific Region, 122%, the Eastern Mediterranean Region, 86%, the Region of the Americas, 78% and the European Region, 31%. 

The African Region was the only one to report a decrease, 11%.

The highest number of new cases was reported in the United States, followed by France, the United Kingdom, Italy and India. 

Globally, as of Jan. 9, there have been over 304 million confirmed cases. 

While there was an increase in the number of cases, the number of deaths remained similar to the previous week, with over 43,000 new deaths being reported. 

Two regions reported increases of deaths, the African Region, 84%, and the Region of the Americas, 26%. The Western Pacific Region reported a similar number of deaths to the previous week. Decreases were reported in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, 11%, the European Region, 10%, and the South-East Asia Region, 6%. 

As of Jan. 9, there have been over 5.4 million deaths reported globally. 

9:17 a.m. ET, January 12, 2022

Face masks can reduce distance droplets travel by half, new study suggests

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

FFP2 face mask and disposable surgical face masks are seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on January 11, 2022.
FFP2 face mask and disposable surgical face masks are seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on January 11, 2022. (Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Wearing a face mask can reduce the distance that aerosols and droplets travel when someone is speaking or coughing – possibly by half, a new study suggests.

The study, published Wednesday in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, adds to mounting evidence that shows face masks help limit the spread of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, and other airborne respiratory pathogens too.

Researchers at the University of Central Florida in Orlando conducted the study, involving 14 participants ages 21 to 31. Each participant recited a phrase and simulated a cough for five minutes in three different scenarios: without wearing a mask, while wearing a single-layer cloth mask, and while wearing a three-layered disposable surgical mask. N95 and KN95 masks were not included in the study. The phrase participants recited was, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog into a field of pretty playful perpetually purple pandas."

The researchers used high-power illumination instruments to detect aerosols and droplets coming from the participants as they spoke and simulated coughs.

The researchers found that without face coverings, droplets and aerosols traveled up to about 4 feet when someone was speaking, and up to 4.5 feet when coughing. The cloth mask reduced those maximum distances to about 2 feet for speech and 2.2 feet when coughing, and disposable masks reduced the distances further to 0.50 feet for both scenarios, according to the study.

"This study quantified that face coverings exhibit different distribution and velocity characteristics in comparison to without a face covering for both cough and speech," the researchers wrote in part in the study. "All face covering types reduce expelled volume and propagation distance, with the disposable face covering being the most effective at reducing both."

The researchers added that their findings suggest practicing a physical distance of 3 feet while wearing a mask appears to be equally as effective as 6 feet of physical distancing without a mask.

The current US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation for social distancing is to stay 6 feet apart. 

11:56 a.m. ET, January 12, 2022

Boris Johnson apologizes for attending Downing Street party during lockdown

From CNN's Luke McGee in London

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday January 12, 2022.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday January 12, 2022. (House of Commons/PA/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson has apologized for attending a gathering in the back garden of 10 Downing Street on May 20, 2020, at which point Britons were prohibited from gathering due to strict coronavirus restrictions.

At the start of the weekly session of Prime Minister's Questions, Johnson said he did attend the gathering for 25 minutes before going inside to work. He said he believed the gathering to be a work event, but with hindsight conceded he should have sent attendees back inside.

Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer said the UK Prime Minister's excuse that he "did not realize he was at a party" was ridiculous and "offensive." The Labour Party leader went on to ask if the Prime Minister would resign.

The Prime Minister's comments on Wednesday came after days of outrage over a "bring your own booze" event held at Downing Street during the height of the UK's first Covid-19 lockdown.

Read the full story: Boris Johnson apologizes for attending Downing Street party during lockdown

11:56 a.m. ET, January 12, 2022

UK PM Boris Johnson: 'I want to apologize'

By CNN's Stephanie Halasz

Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement ahead of Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London on Wednesday January 12, 2022.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement ahead of Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London on Wednesday January 12, 2022. PA/Reuters

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said in a statement to Parliament that he wants to apologize over a drinks party held at 10 Downing Street during the country's first lockdown.

“I know the rage they feel with me and with the government I lead when they think in Downing Street the rules are not being properly followed by the people they make the rules,” Johnson said.

“I must take responsibility,” he said.