The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and Supreme Court ruling

By Rhea Mogul, Adam Renton, Jack Guy, Aditi Sangal, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 7:52 PM ET, Thu January 13, 2022
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10:33 a.m. ET, January 13, 2022

Biden administration will order an additional 500 million Covid-19 tests to meet demand

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins 

President Biden plans to order an additional 500 million more Covid-19 tests in addition to the first 500 million he's in the process of ordering now, a White House official confirms. 

These will be ordered after they obtain the first half a billion he's promised, which have not yet been secured. 

An HHS official testified this week that they have bought about 50 million so far and are in the process of signing contracts for the rest. 

More than 151,000 Americans were in the hospital with Covid-19 nationwide on Wednesday, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. And the US averaged more than 747,260 new Covid-19 cases daily over the last week, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

President Biden is set to deliver remarks at 10:30 a.m. ET today.

9:49 a.m. ET, January 13, 2022

Harris defends Biden administration on testing and Covid-19 response

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Vice President Kamala Harris appears on NBC’s Today Show on 13 January 2022
Vice President Kamala Harris appears on NBC’s Today Show on 13 January 2022 (NBC)

Vice President Kamala Harris defended the Biden administration’s Covid-19 response Thursday in an appearance on NBC’s Today Show, acknowledging frustration with the state of the pandemic as she touted progress. 

In the new portion of the interview, Harris was pressed on why Americans still don’t have access to at-home Covid-19 testing.

“But we just ordered – I don't have the number in front of me, but millions of tests,” she said, presumably a reference to the 500 million free at-home tests the administration has yet to deploy. 

She continued, “We have 20,000 sites where people can go, and I urge people to -- you can Google it or go on to any search engine and find out where free testing and the free testing site is available.” 

Harris pushed back on frustration that people still have to google where to get a test.

“Come on now. I mean, really, if you if you want to figure out how to get across town to some restaurant you heard is great, you usually do Google to figure out where it is. So that's simply about giving people, right, a mechanism by which they can locate something that they need, something that can help them,” she said.

She was pressed repeatedly on when the 500 million promised free at-home tests will be deployed to Americans, saying they will arrive “shortly.”

Asked twice whether it should have been done sooner, she said, “We are doing it.”

“People are rightly frustrated with where we are,” she said, adding that “we’re all frustrated,” but that the US has made “great progress” with vaccines, boosters, and kids back in school. 

“We are not where we were a year ago,” she said.

President Biden is set to deliver a speech this morning on his administration's Covid-19 response.

9:27 a.m. ET, January 13, 2022

Here's what to do if you or someone in your family tests positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Katia Hetter

These days, it's much easier to contract the coronavirus as the highly contagious Omicron variant spreads worldwide. As people face this current reality, it's important to note that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recently changed its guidelines around isolation and quarantine. Many have questions about what to do if they or a family member ends up catching Covid-19.

CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, who is an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, answers some key questions.

CNN: What if everybody in your family tests positive? Do they need to isolate from one another?

Wen: If everyone has Covid-19, they do not need to isolate from each other. That's because it's highly unlikely that they have different strains of coronavirus; they probably all got the same strain from one another, and they aren't going to reinfect each other so quickly. The entire family, of course, should be isolating from other people.

CNN: How long should someone be in isolation?

Wen: The CDC's new guidelines essentially shorten the isolation period from 10 days to five days, with an additional five days wearing a mask. This means that you should stay fully isolated for the first five days. After that, you can go out — to work, to the grocery and so forth — but you should wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask when out in public. Don't go to settings where you will be maskless, such as restaurants.

When it comes to people in the same family, this guidance means you really shouldn't have meals together or have other casual, maskless encounters with uninfected members of your family in the 10-day period. If families are in two pods, the two shouldn't mix for 10 days inside their house.

CNN: If someone had symptoms on Monday, got tested on Wednesday and then got results back on Friday, when does the five-day clock start?

Wen: Monday. The five-day clock starts when someone first starts getting symptoms. If someone is tested and they are asymptomatic but have a positive result, the five-day clock starts when they first got the test. If you are unsure — for example, if you are feeling a little rundown Sunday but don't really have full symptoms until Tuesday — use the date that you are certain of the symptoms.

Remember that the count starts at day zero. Day one is the first full 24 hours after the onset of symptoms or after the positive test.

Read more answers to key questions here.

9:44 a.m. ET, January 13, 2022

Germany recommends booster shots for all those ages 12-17

From Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

13 January 2022, Berlin: Karl Lauterbach (SPD), Federal Minister of Health, speaks during the three-day debate on the policies of the traffic light coalition in the Bundestag, Berlin, Germany on 13 January 2022.
13 January 2022, Berlin: Karl Lauterbach (SPD), Federal Minister of Health, speaks during the three-day debate on the policies of the traffic light coalition in the Bundestag, Berlin, Germany on 13 January 2022. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa/Getty Images)

Germany's vaccine advisory committee — known as STIKO — has recommended Covid-19 booster shoots for all children and teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17, as the country recorded its highest single daily surge in infections on Thursday.  

In a written statement, the committee recommended the booster shots administered are an mRNA vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech. Booster shots should be administered three months after the last vaccine dose at the earliest, STIKO added. 

In August, STIKO recommended all children and teenagers aged 12-17 to be vaccinated with a Covid-19 vaccine.

On Thursday, German health minister and epidemiologist Karl Lauterbach urged German lawmakers in parliament to support a key vote on whether to introduce a general vaccine mandate by the end of March or else the country ''would never be able to end the pandemic.''

9:01 a.m. ET, January 13, 2022

US FEMA administrator says they're ready to forward deploy medical personnel as Covid-19 cases surge

From CNN's DJ Judd

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell told CNN Thursday the Biden administration is preparing to surge military support to local responses as a massive wave of Omicron cases continues across the country.

“We are prepared, as we have been since day one of this pandemic, to continue to support the states,” Criswell told Brianna Keilar in an interview. “I will remain in constant communication to anticipate what their needs are, and then as the needs are, as the resources become available and not needed in one state, we’ll forward deploy them and move them to the next state that's in greatest need,” adding there was “a good possibility” that more states would see surging cases as “they kind of spread on a wave across the country.” 

For the time being, the FEMA administrator said, the number one request remains more staffing for states facing rising cases.

“So these teams are going to provide critical support to help relieve some of the drain and the strain on the health care system, and give them the well needed resources that they need to continue to fight this pandemic,” with a focus primarily on medical care providers, nurses, and physicians, and, to a lesser extent, individuals to assist with administrative needs.

President Biden is expected to deliver remarks on Thursday announcing a new wave of federally deployed medical teams to six states to help hospitals combat Covid-19, a White House official told CNN. 

9:36 a.m. ET, January 13, 2022

Covid-19 cases have begun to plateau in Africa in last 2 weeks, WHO says

From CNN's Bethlehem Feleke in Nairobi 

People receive a PCR test at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde, Cameroon on Saturday.
People receive a PCR test at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde, Cameroon on Saturday. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters)

Covid-19 cases in Africa have begun to plateau in the last two weeks, Dr. Abdou Salam Gueye, director of regional emergencies for WHO Africa, said in a virtual briefing on Thursday. 

"Encouragingly, after a six-week surge, Africa's fourth pandemic wave that has been primarily driven by the Omicron variant has recorded its first drop in cases... this marks the shortest life surge to date on the continent," he said, while cautioning that underreporting during the holiday period could be a factor. 

East, central and southern Africa have reported a decrease in cases in the week ending on January 9th, while cases in west and northern Africa have risen.

Deaths across the continent have risen 64% in the same week compared to the previous week, mainly in infected high-risk people, although deaths in the fourth wave remain lower than previous waves.  

In South Africa, where the wave has been less severe with less hospitalizations, "we are still seeing very serious infections and admissions in patients who are unvaccinated and also in patients who have comorbidities and this includes the elderly population," said South African pulmonologist Anita Graham. 

Around 10% of Africa's population has been vaccinated, according to Dr. Gueye. 

 

8:31 a.m. ET, January 13, 2022

In morning speech, Biden will announce new federal medical team deployments to help hospitals combat Covid-19

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond and Paul LeBlanc

President Biden is expected to deliver remarks this morning announcing a new wave of federally deployed medical teams to six states to help hospitals combat Covid-19, a White House official told CNN. The President is set to speak at 10:30 a.m. ET.

The military medical teams will support the following hospitals, according to the official:

  • Cleveland Clinic in Ohio
  • Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn
  • Rhode Island Hospital in Providence
  • Henry Ford Hospital outside Detroit
  • University of New Mexico hospital in Albuquerque
  • University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey

"These teams will be providing relief, triaging patients, helping to decompress overwhelmed emergency departments, and freeing up health care providers to continue other lifesaving care. They will be working alongside health care workers on the front lines to give them the support they need," the official added.

The deployments come as the Biden administration faces growing scrutiny alongside record Covid-19 hospitalizationstesting challenges and messaging frustration -- issues the GOP has seized on.

Where things stand in the US: More than 151,000 Americans were in the hospital with Covid-19 nationwide on Wednesday, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. And the US averaged more than 747,260 new Covid-19 cases daily over the last week, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

That's about three times last winter's peak average (251,987 on Jan. 11, 2021), and about 4.5 times the peak from the Delta-driven surge (166,347 on Sept. 1), according to JHU.

The surge has put considerable stress on hospitals nationwide. And, to combat the massive strain on health care services that comes as more staff members call out sick with the virus, state leaders have enacted emergency procedures to help hospitals cope.

8:27 a.m. ET, January 13, 2022

Hong Kong airport will ban transit passengers from most countries for a month

From CNN's Eric Cheung in Hong Kong

Hong Kong will ban transit passengers from most countries for a month starting on Sunday, the Hong Kong Airport Authority announced on Thursday.

Anyone staying in a "high-risk country" in the last 21 days will not be allowed to use the Hong Kong International Airport as a transit point, the airport authority announced. 

Hong Kong has classified any country outside mainland China or Taiwan with the Omicron coronavirus variant as a "high-risk country" — meaning that most passengers will be affected by the new measures.

The airport authority said the measure was "in response to the rising number of Omicron cases around the world".

Hong Kong's flagship carrier, Cathay Pacific, also said in a news release on Thursday that all passengers starting their journey from outside mainland China or Taiwan will not be allowed to use Hong Kong as a transit period during the period.

8:49 a.m. ET, January 13, 2022

French health minister tests positive for Covid-19

From Dalal Mawad in Paris

Olivier Véran following a cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France on Wednesday.
Olivier Véran following a cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France on Wednesday. (Sipa/AP)

French Health Minister Olivier Véran has tested positive for Covid-19, he said Thursday.

"I just tested positive for Covid. As a result, I will isolate and continue to perform my duties remotely," Veran said on his verified Twitter profile.

The news comes as the country grapples with a teachers strike in protest at Covid-19 school protocols.