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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10:25 a.m. ET, January 3, 2021

US surgeon general says Covid-19 projections are "scary," but urges Americans to keep following precautions

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams speaks with CNN on Sunday, January 3.
US Surgeon General Jerome Adams speaks with CNN on Sunday, January 3. CNN

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams called on the American people to continue to take Covid-19 precautions as cases surge following the Thanksgiving holiday, and the impacts of travel over the Christmas holiday continue to unfold.

"I want people to know the projections are pretty scary, but they are projections. What we do now matters. If you gathered over the holidays outside of your household without a mask, there are still measures you can take right now," Adams told CNN's Jake Tapper.

"You still can self-quarantine. You can still get tested knowing that greater than 50% of the spread now among people who are asymptomatic. You can still wear a mask and wash your hands and watch your distance. If we do that we will be able to temper this surge," he continued.

At least 123,639 people nationwide were in the hospital with coronavirus on Saturday, marking 32 consecutive days that the number of hospitalizations has exceeded 100,000, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

"I want people to understand that if we get over this current surge, then things will start to get better but it depends on the actions that we all take right now," Adams said.

The official said that he's still optimistic amid the tragedy.

"Less than a year after getting this virus sequenced, we are going to have 20 million doses delivered within a month after actually getting the EUA (emergency use authorization)," he said.

The interview comes as the CDC says the US has administered more than 4 million vaccine doses, but is lagging behind some other countries as the number of cases continue to surge. The administered doses include both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines.

8:31 a.m. ET, January 3, 2021

For more than a month, US hospitals have had more than 100,000 coronavirus patients every day

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

Hospitals around the United States are racing to keep up with surges of Covid-19 patients at numbers they have not seen at any other time in the pandemic.

At least 123,639 people nationwide were in the hospital with coronavirus on Saturday, marking 32 consecutive days that the number of hospitalizations has exceeded 100,000, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Impact of festive season continues to be felt: Cases have skyrocketed after the Thanksgiving holiday, and impacts from Christmas and New Year's celebrations are still unfolding. As of Saturday, more than 20.4 million people have been infected with the virus in the US and at least 350,186 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. And health experts worry what will happen to those numbers if infections continue to spread.

"This is about total collapse of the health care system if we have another spike," said Dr. Brad Spellberg, chief medical officer at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center.

And we, in the hospital, cannot stop that. We can only react to it.
It is the public that has the power to put a stop to the spread of this virus by obeying the public health guidance that have been put out."

A difficult start to the new year: As Americans rang in the new year, almost 11,000 families grieved the new loss of a loved one to Covid-19.

At least 10,901 Covid-19 deaths were reported in the last three days of 2020, according to Johns Hopkins University. That's about 3,633 deaths a day -- more than the number of lives lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US.

In less than 11 months, Covid-19 has killed more than 349,000 people in the US. And another 115,000 Americans could die from the disease over the next month, according to projections by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Read the full story:

8:10 a.m. ET, January 3, 2021

Thailand reports first case of UK Covid-19 variant from a British family

From CNN’s Kocha Olarn in Bangkok

A medical official bags a swab sample to test for Covid-19 on December 19, 2020 in Samut Sakhon, Thailand.
A medical official bags a swab sample to test for Covid-19 on December 19, 2020 in Samut Sakhon, Thailand. Jack Taylor/AFP/Getty Images

Thailand has reported its first case of the UK Covid-19 variant found in a British family who arrived Bangkok on Dec. 21, 2020, according to Dr. Yong Poovorawan, a senior virologist at Chulalongkorn University.

According to a Facebook post on Sunday, the British family of four have all been infected. The infection started with the mother and two children first and was then passed to the father. The family are from Kent, UK, and are now staying at a private hospital under quarantine.

“We have controlled the cases well to prevent any further spread, ” the doctor said in the post.

Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong, the Director-General of Department of Disease Control, has also confirmed the information about the UK Covid-19 variant being found among what he called foreign returnees. He said the Ministry of Public Health has recommended the Foreign Affairs Ministry delay the future arrivals of passengers from the UK.

More on the Covid-19 variant: Health authorities from around the world have said the UK variant, though believed to be more easily spread, does not appear to be more deadly than previously identified coronavirus strains.

Many countries have banned flights from the United Kingdom, and the CDC recently announced passengers from London to the United States will need a negative coronavirus test from the previous 72 hours.

7:55 a.m. ET, January 3, 2021

Britain aims for "tens of millions" of vaccinations in next 3 months, says UK Prime Minister

From CNN’s Elle Pickston and Arnaud Siad in London

A nurse administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Haxby, England, on December 22, 2020.
A nurse administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Haxby, England, on December 22, 2020. Lindsey Parnaby/AFP/Getty Images

Britain aims to complete “tens of millions” of Covid-19 vaccinations in the next three months, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday.

Speaking to the BBC, Johnson said: “We do hope that we will be able to do tens of millions [of Covid-19 vaccines] in the next three months, I can certainly give you that figure,” he added.

Johnson said this strategy relied on three vaccines, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines – which have both been approved in the UK – and the Moderna vaccine which would be ready to use “soon.”

The Prime Minister, echoing what he said in October last year, said: “I thought by the spring things would be better. I stick to that.”

Asked about the number of doses from the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, which was approved by UK regulators on Wednesday, Johnson said 530,000 doses would be ready to be inoculated on Monday, on top of “the million or so” Pfizer/BioNTechCovid-19 vaccine already distributed.

Earlier on Sunday, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Twitter that the country had administered 1 million Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines, saying “the end is in sight.”

UK revises vaccine guidance: Last week, the UK’s chief medical officers issued revised advice on the recommended interval period between vaccine doses for the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

While UK regulators had previously recommended that a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine be given three weeks after the first dose, the UK medical officers this week advised that it may be given between 3 to 12 weeks following the first dose. Similarly, the second dose of the newly UK-authorized Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine may be given 4 to 12 weeks following the first, according to the recommendations.

In a letter to healthcare professionals, the chief medical officers defended their decision to extend the interval period for patients waiting to receive their second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, saying Thursday that the decision was taken based on their assessed balance of risks and benefits.  

The British Medical Association said the move was is “grossly unfair” to thousands of at risk-patients across the country.

Pfizer says it does not have data to demonstrate that just a single dose of its Covid-19 vaccine would provide protection against the disease after more than 21 days.

7:51 a.m. ET, January 3, 2021

UK Prime Minister says “tougher restrictions” to come

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad in London

Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the final PMQs Of 2020, on December 16, 2020 in London, England.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the final PMQs Of 2020, on December 16, 2020 in London, England. Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images

Coronavirus restrictions in England are “alas probably about to get tougher,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday.

Speaking to the BBC, Johnson said: “It may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks that will be tougher in many parts of the country. I am fully reconciled with that.

“I bet the people of this country are reconciled to that,” he added during an appearance on the Andrew Marr Show.

Pressed to elaborate what those tougher restrictions might be, Boris Johnson said: “There are obviously a range of tougher measures that we would have to consider. I don’t want to speculate, I’m not going to speculate now about what they would be.

“Clearly, school closures that we had to do in March is one of those things (…),” he added, as the controversy over the government’s mixed messages over schools reopening continues to dominate headlines in the UK.

Controversy over school opening: On Friday, it was announced that primary schools in London would be closed -- but many primary schools in England are still expected to open Monday.

In an official letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the Doctors' Association UK warned that the government should review the need to close schools and universities nationally.

"Studies from Imperial College London show that the new COVID-19 variant has higher transmissibility and showed increasing numbers during the lockdown in November, especially in those aged under 20 years old. This may have been influenced by schools remaining open. The evidence is pointing towards urgent action being required to curb the spread all over the UK," the organization wrote.

Surge in cases: On Saturday, the UK recorded its highest daily rise in coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic, with a further 57,725 new coronavirus cases and 445 deaths.

Echoing his warning in October last year, Johnson warned on Sunday that: “It is bumpy, and it’s going to be bumpy.”

Under the current coronavirus “Tiers” system, most of England falls under the toughest Tier 3 and Tier 4 restrictions -- with the latter in place for all of London -- with a strict stay-at-home message.

7:09 a.m. ET, January 3, 2021

Outbreak at South Korean prison rises to 1,084 Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Gawon Bae in Seoul

Seoul's Dongbu Detention Center in Seoul, South Korea, on December 31, 2020.
Seoul's Dongbu Detention Center in Seoul, South Korea, on December 31, 2020. Ko Bum-jun/Newsis/AP

The number of Covid-19 cases linked to a prison in South Korea has risen to 1,084, the Korean Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Sunday.

Among the cases linked to the Dongbu detention facility in southeastern Seoul, 1,041 are inmates, 22 are staff members, 20 are family members, and one is an acquaintance, KDCA said in a statement.

As of Sunday, South Korea has reported 63,244 Covid-19 cases and 962 deaths, according to the KDCA.

Authorities search for source of outbreak: Vice Justice Minister Lee Yong-gu said in a briefing Thursday that health authorities are contact-tracing to find the source of the cluster. Preliminary results show that the facility structure, poor ventilation equipment, inmates concentrated in a small space, and asymptomatic cases could be the reasons for the cluster.

Lee added that level 3 social distancing will be applied to all detention centers and prisons starting December 31 until January 13. During this time, access to lawyers will be limited, and meetings between inmates and outside people will be banned.

6:16 a.m. ET, January 3, 2021

The US has reported at least 20,427,780 coronavirus cases

The United States has reported at least 20,427,780 coronavirus cases, including at least 350,186 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally.

On Saturday, Johns Hopkins University reported 299,087 new cases and 2,398 additional deaths.  

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases. 

Note: Daily totals may be affected by the New Year's Day holiday; CNN is aware of at least one state that did not report Covid-19 data on Friday but included additional cases on Saturday.

  • For the latest Johns Hopkins University US numbers, check here.
  • For the latest US Center for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine numbers, check here.
  • State by state list of vaccine doses administered and tracked by Johns Hopkins University can be found here.

5:30 a.m. ET, January 3, 2021

These former nurses were asked to leave retirement and return to the front lines

From CNN's Alisha Ebrahimji

These retired nurses and many others were in urgent demand this year to fight Covid-19. From left to right: Mary Milliard, Evelyn Ochoa-Celano, Juliana Morawski.
These retired nurses and many others were in urgent demand this year to fight Covid-19. From left to right: Mary Milliard, Evelyn Ochoa-Celano, Juliana Morawski. Courtesy Mary Millard/John Tabaniag/CNN

Juliana Morawski has realized that she most likely couldn't go back to working in an emergency room, even if she wanted to. As a retired emergency nurse of 30 years, that realization is hard for someone who just wants to lend a helping hand on the front lines.

But even though she isn't in the ER, Morawski, 69, is working at an Illinois clinic, answering phones and administering Covid-19 vaccines, and she told CNN she takes comfort in knowing that "anything is better than nothing."

She said due to her age and some minor health problems, she thinks ER managers would consider her a high risk.

I still, honestly, feel guilty that I'm not able to help (in the ER) because they (nurses) are so burned out," she said.

"They're definitely getting hammered and hammered, daily."

Morawski got a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine last week and said she's looking forward to the second dose next month.

Call to action: In March, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, along with officials from around the worldput out calls for qualified healthcare workers to dig out their scrubs and return to their craft to help fight on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Evelyn Ochoa-Celano, 63, answered that call despite having retired from nursing, three months prior. Unfortunately a few months later, she died of coronavirus herself.

Ochoa-Celano retired from a city hospital in the Bronx, New York, her son, John Tabaniag told CNN, but was picking up part-time shifts at a nursing home on Long Island to stay busy.

After Cuomo's letter came out, Ochoa-Celano called her son to say she was transitioning back to full-time work at the nursing home.

As much as Tabaniag was proud of his mom for wanting to fight on the front lines, he was worried about her health. Having lost his stepfather and younger brother, he feared losing his mother, too.

Read the full story.

4:45 a.m. ET, January 3, 2021

Dangerous Covid-19 conspiracy theories are here to stay

From CNN's Tara John in London

Protesters holding placards as they take part in a demonstration in Trafalgar Square organized by the group Stand Up X in London, on August 29, 2020.
Protesters holding placards as they take part in a demonstration in Trafalgar Square organized by the group Stand Up X in London, on August 29, 2020. Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

At a recent Saturday protest outside London's Stratford train station -- comprised of bindi-wearing hippies, conspiracy theorists in balaclavas, and middle-aged men in waterproof jackets -- a protester with the grassroots, anti-lockdown group StandUpX yelled into a megaphone.

"The vaccine is there to make you infertile... that vaccine is just going to make them able to control you," they shouted.

Listening to the dangerously false spiel was 24-year-old Rebekah, who we are only identifying by her first name. A survivor of domestic abuse, Rebekah said she was living in a Manchester safe house when the first UK-wide lockdown began in March. "If I was still living at home [with her abuser] in lockdown, I probably would have died," she told CNN.

But Rebekah's concerns about the crushing social and economic effects of pandemic restrictions took a conspiratorial turn after she read an Instagram post that she said made her question "information shared by the media." She researched the matter online, churning up information that, while not supported by facts, nonetheless backed up her growing suspicions.

Conspiracy theories spread: Many conspiracy theories have found legs during the pandemic, and one of the first ones that Rebekah found was the widely debunked claim that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates was profiting from coronavirus vaccines.

There's no evidence Gates or his foundation will profit from the Covid-19 vaccines, according to PolitiFact, a nonpartisan fact-checking operation.

In 2021, experts fear this alternative, fact-free universe will fuel hesitancy in taking the vaccine, a vital weapon in the fight against the virus.

"To beat Covid-19, we also need to defeat the parallel pandemic of mistrust that has consistently hindered our collective response to this disease," Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, warned in a virtual briefing to the UN Correspondents Association on November 30.

Read the full story.