January 3 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Steve George, Amy Woodyatt and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, January 4, 2021
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3:01 a.m. ET, January 3, 2021

Arizona ICUs at 93% capacity as state reports 8,883 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Claudia Dominguez

Arizona’s Department of Health reported 8,883 new Covid-19 cases and 46 deaths on Saturday. 

Hospital ICUs are at 93% capacity, with 61% of beds being used by Covid-19 patients and 32% by non-Covid patients. Additionally, 57% of ventilators across the state are in use, according to the Health Department’s data dashboard. 

At least 80,000 vaccines have already been administered to health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities, according to the state’s Health Department. 

2:43 a.m. ET, January 3, 2021

Coronavirus vaccine appointment turns into surprise marriage proposal for South Dakota couple

A Covid-19 vaccine appointment at a Canton, South Dakota hospital turned into a marriage proposal for one healthcare couple.

Robbie Vargas-Cortes, 31, a paramedic and EMS supervisor, was scheduled to get his vaccination on December 23, and knew his boyfriend of five years was one of the vaccine administrators at Sanford Canton-Inwood Medical Center. 

"I wanted for it to be a surprise," Vargas-Cortes told CNN.

Eric Vanderlee, a registered nurse, told CNN he had no idea the proposal was coming. When Vargas-Cortes rolled up his sleeve and there was already tape on his arm, he thought his boyfriend was jokingly indicating where the vaccine should go, "like a bulls eye or something."

But Vargas-Cortes had taped a ring to his arm.

"It just kind of dawned on me and I was like, 'absolutely, of course, yes.' It was just an amazing moment after I figured it out," Vanderlee said.

Vanderlee then had to administer the vaccine to his new fiancé. 

And within 10 minutes, Vargas-Cortes, vaccinated and engaged, was out the door responding to an ambulance call. 

"Congratulations, Eric and Robby!" Sanford Health said in a Facebook post along with video of the proposal.

Vargas-Cortes said he had the ring for three years, and was waiting for the right moment to pop the question. "We're nearing the end of the pandemic. The vaccine is kind of like a new chapter," he said.

2:24 a.m. ET, January 3, 2021

Inequities partly to blame for California Covid-19 surge, says Cuban-born doctor

From CNN Health’s Virginia Langmaid

Dr. Jorge Rodriguez an internal medicine specialist and CNN medical analyst speaks with CNN, on January 2.
Dr. Jorge Rodriguez an internal medicine specialist and CNN medical analyst speaks with CNN, on January 2. CNN

The current surge in Covid-19 cases in California is driven in part by economic disparities, Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, a Cuban-born internal medicine specialist and CNN medical analyst, said on Saturday.

“The huge inequity in both healthcare and living and bias is coming to roost. There are people that are having to work multiple jobs and then you see other people that are more privileged having parties and going to visit Puerto Vallarta. It’s so diverse,” Rodriguez said.
“But also, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few weeks from now, we find out this much more contagious variant of the virus is also here,” added Rodriguez, who is in private practice in Los Angeles. 

Rodriguez said he is concerned about the emergence of a new, potentially more infectious Covid-19 variant that could further strain the healthcare system. 

“I’m concerned because what it’s going to do is it’s going to have more people that are ill, more people that are going to be contagious, and therefore it is going to burden our healthcare system even more than it is right now,” he said.
“This is not just going to affect people that are Covid positive. This is going to affect people that have heart attacks, women that are having trouble with their pregnancy, diabetics that have to go to the hospital. It affects the whole community.”
2:10 a.m. ET, January 3, 2021

US has administered more than 4 million vaccine doses, according to the CDC

From CNN Health’s Virginia Langmaid

A person receives the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 24, 2020.
A person receives the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 24, 2020. Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

More than four million vaccine doses have been administered in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

As of 9 a.m. Saturday, the CDC Covid Data Tracker reported that 13,071,925 doses had been distributed and 4,225,756 had been administered. 

Distributed doses and administered doses include both the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines.

2:03 a.m. ET, January 3, 2021

India formally approves two Covid-19 vaccines for emergency use

From CNN’s Vedika Sud and Swati Gupta in New Delhi and Eric Cheung in Hong Kong

Doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine are seen at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, England, on January 2.
Doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine are seen at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, England, on January 2. PA Images/Sipa USA

India has formally approved the use of two Covid-19 vaccines for emergency use, one made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University and the other developed locally, the country's Drugs Controller General said in a Sunday briefing.

"After adequate examination ... vaccines of Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech are being approved for restricted use in emergency situations," said VG Somani, Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI).

Both vaccines will have to be administered in two doses and are to be stored at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees to 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit), he added.

The Serum Institute of India has been producing the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in India, while Indian biotech company Bharat Biotech developed Covaxin.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the announcement a "decisive turning point" on Twitter.

“DCGI granting approval to vaccines of @SerumInstIndia and @BharatBiotech accelerates the road to a healthier and Covid-free nation," he wrote. "Congratulations India. Congratulations to our hardworking scientists and innovators."

Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of the Serum Institute of India, said all the risks the Institute took with stockpiling the vaccine have finally paid off.

"India's first COVID-19 vaccine is approved, safe, effective and ready to roll-out in the coming weeks."

Last month, Bharat Biotech, the private company developing Covaxin with the government-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said that the vaccine "demonstrated acceptable safety profile and high immune response. . . No serious (grade 3-4) adverse events were reported."

The background: India has reported the second most coronavirus cases in the world, trailing only the United States.

The first phase of its vaccination plan covers 300 million people -- almost as many as the entire US population. India conducted a nationwide Covid-19 vaccine drill on Saturday ahead of plans for mass vaccinations, India's state-run broadcaster Doordarshan reported.

1:45 a.m. ET, January 3, 2021

Wyoming Governor says bars and restaurants can resume late night service after decrease in Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN’s Claudia Dominguez

Bars and restaurants in Wyoming can return to “normal operating hours” on January 9, the state's governor announced Saturday. 

“Effective January 9, updated health orders permit bars and restaurants to resume onsite consumption from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.,” Governor Mark Gordon said in a press release, Saturday.

The decision was made after Covid-19 hospitalizations decreased across the state. 

Gyms are also allowed to increase the number of attendees from 10 to 25, according to the statement. 

“I also want to express my gratitude to those businesses that adapted to these temporary measures. These have not been easy times for anyone," Gordon said. 
"We are not out of the woods yet, but continued personal safety measures while the vaccine is being distributed will enable our state’s schools and businesses to continue to remain open."

Wyoming has 38,163 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 438 deaths, according to the state’s Department of Health.

1:19 a.m. ET, January 3, 2021

Israel mulls tightening Covid restrictions even as vaccination program powers ahead

From CNN's Andrew Carey

A nurse prepares a Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in Beersheba, Israel, on December 29, 2020.
A nurse prepares a Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in Beersheba, Israel, on December 29, 2020. Tsafrir Abayov/AP

Israel’s Health Minister says current lockdown restrictions need tightening if the spread of the coronavirus pandemic is to be slowed, even as the country continues to charge forward with its vaccination program.

Friday saw the administration of the one millionth dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Israel, meaning that more than 10% of the country has now received the first of two doses of the vaccine.  

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing a tough re-election battle in March, hailed the announcement as record-breaking, exclaiming, “we are ahead of the entire world.”

But, as latest figures released Saturday evening showed the number of new Covid-19 cases at their highest level for nearly three months, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein warned of the more immediate need to control the disease’s spread.

"In view of a significant and alarming increase in morbidity and the number of serious patients, and the discovery of mutations, Health Minister Edelstein intends to bring forward a government resolution calling for a full closure for a short period of two weeks,” a statement from the Ministry said.

Even though Israel entered its third lockdown a week ago, there is a widespread sense that it is neither being closely adhered to, nor widely enforced. Among possible additional measures the government could take would be to increase the amount of schooling that takes place online.

1:10 a.m. ET, January 3, 2021

Houston Covid-19 vaccine appointment line overwhelmed after 250,000 calls

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner speaks with journalists in Havana, Cuba, on September 26, 2016.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner speaks with journalists in Havana, Cuba, on September 26, 2016. Alejandro Ernesto/EPA/Shutterstock

A phone line set up for members of the public to schedule vaccination appointments in Houston was temporarily overwhelmed Saturday after it was inundated with hundreds of thousands of calls.

Around 250,000 people called the Houston Health Department Covid-19 call center to make an appointment to receive the Moderna vaccine, according to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

The high volume of calls led to technical issues forcing the health department to switch to an on-site appointment system. The call center has since re-opened, according to Turner.

"We are working efficiently to vaccinate eligible frontline employees and vulnerable Houstonians," said Turner in a press release.
"The virus has taken a toll, especially among the elderly and black and brown communities. The vaccine is our best shot to help prevent people from getting sick and potentially suffering severe consequences."

The State of Texas' distribution plan prioritizes people 65 and older and people 16 and older who have at least one chronic medical condition, putting them at increased risk. 

1:00 a.m. ET, January 3, 2021

US has now reported more than 350,000 Covid-19 deaths

The United States has now surpassed 350,000 Covid-19 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

So far today the US has reported 2,398 new deaths, bringing the total number of deaths to 350,186 deaths, according to JHU.