January 5 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Kara Fox, Ed Upright and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, January 6, 2021
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8:36 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Colombia authorizes emergency use of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

From CNN's Stefano Pozzebon in Bogota, Colombia

A member of staff poses with a vial of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination health center in Cardiff, United Kingdom, on December 8, 2020.
A member of staff poses with a vial of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination health center in Cardiff, United Kingdom, on December 8, 2020. Justin Tallis/Pool/Getty Images

Medical regulators in Colombia have authorized Pfizer/BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, Colombian President Ivan Duque announced on Tuesday.

Speaking in his daily news briefing, Duque said: "This was a process completed in record time ... In less than two days, our technicians reviewed more than 22,000 pages of documents." 

This is the first coronavirus vaccine that Colombia's medical authority, INVIMA, has authorized for emergency use. Duque said discussions were ongoing with AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson for future authorizations of their coronavirus vaccines.

In previous statements the Colombian government announced it had secured 10 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

8:11 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

WHO chief "disappointed" as Covid-19 investigators' China mission stalls

From CNN's Steve George in Hong Kong

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference organized by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents amid the Covid-19 pandemic on July 3, 2020 in Geneva.
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference organized by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents amid the Covid-19 pandemic on July 3, 2020 in Geneva. Fabrice Coffrini/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that some members of the international scientific team investigating the origins of Covid-19 were told at the last minute that they did not yet have the necessary permissions to arrive in China -- including some who were already en route.

Tedros said that some members of that scientific team had already begun their travels from their home countries to China in the 24 hours prior to learning arrangements that had been agreed to between WHO, the Chinese government and countries that the team were to travel through on their way to Wuhan had not been finalized. 

“I am very disappointed with this news given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute," Tedros said Tuesday, according to a transcript of his remarks on the WHO website. 

The WHO Director-General went on to say he had been in contact with Chinese officials to “once again made clear that the mission is a priority for WHO and the international team.”

He added that he was given assurances that China was speeding up the internal procedure for “the earliest possible deployment.”

“We are eager to get the mission underway as soon as possible," he said.

7:16 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

US hits record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

Clinicians care for a COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit at Providence St. Mary Medical Center on December 23, 2020 in Apple Valley, California.
Clinicians care for a COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit at Providence St. Mary Medical Center on December 23, 2020 in Apple Valley, California. Mario Tama/Getty Images

The United States reported 131,195 current Covid-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday, setting a new record high since the pandemic began, according to the Covid Tracking Project (CTP).

This is the 35th consecutive day that the US has remained above 100,000 current hospitalizations.

According to CTP data, the highest hospitalization numbers were recorded on the following days:

  1. Jan. 5: 131,195 people hospitalized
  2. Jan. 4: 128,210 people hospitalized
  3. Jan. 3: 125,562 people hospitalized
  4. Dec. 31: 125,379 people hospitalized
  5. Dec. 30: 125,218 people hospitalized
7:16 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

One commercial flight led to a Covid-19 cluster despite pre-travel testing, case study shows

From CNN's Michael Nedelman

Seven people from five countries tested positive for Covid-19 after a long-haul flight from Dubai to New Zealand in late September, despite taking pre-flight precautions, according to a case study published Tuesday in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Five of the passengers tested negative several days ahead of the 18-hour flight, including two traveling from Switzerland who likely brought the virus onboard the plane. The rest of the passengers who later tested positive for Covid-19 sat in aisle seats up to two rows away from those traveling from Switzerland, according to the study.

Five of the seven passengers reported wearing masks and gloves, which were optional during the flight. Upon arrival in New Zealand the passengers were taken to a government quarantine facility, where they later tested positive. The study says one of the cases was likely infected in the quarantine facility by a family member who was among the other six cases.

The study serves as a cautionary counterpoint to other research suggesting that viruses don’t spread easily on planes because of air circulation and filtration systems. The study authors note the system that controls the cabin air would likely be turned off for about a half-hour during a refueling stop in Malaysia.

Researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that getting tested three days before traveling reduces the risk of spreading the virus by only 5 - 9%. However, testing on the day of departure may reduce that risk by 37 - 61%, according to their paper, which was posted online in November and has not been peer-reviewed.

The November paper notes that pre-departure tests "can still miss infected travelers who are in their latent period, as they may not have enough viral shedding to be detected."

7:10 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

US surpasses 21 million Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

There have been at least 21,007,694 total cases of coronavirus in the United States and at least 356,540 people have died from Covid-19 since the pandemic began, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins recorded the first case of coronavirus in the United States on Jan. 21, 2020. 

Seventeen other countries have reported more than 1 million total Covid-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins.

Here's a breakdown of the countries and their total number of coronavirus cases:

  • India has more than 10 million total cases
  • Brazil has over 7 million total cases
  • Russia has more than 3 million total cases
  • France, United Kingdom, Turkey, and Italy have over 2 million total cases
  • Spain, Argentina, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, Poland, Iran, Ukraine, Peru, and South Africa all have over 1 million total cases each
7:12 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

1 in 15 Georgia residents infected by Covid-19, data shows

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

About one in 15 Georgia residents has been infected by Covid-19 and more than one in 1,000 has died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. 

The state’s seven-day average of new cases reached a record high on Monday, with an average of 8,546 new cases reported each day.

Only eight other states had higher per capita rates of new cases over the same seven-day period. 

In hospitals across Georgia, 91% of intensive care unit beds are occupied and 85% of all inpatient beds are occupied, according to estimates published Sunday by the Department of Health and Human Services. 

In the Atlanta metro area, new cases rose 33% over the previous week, according to data published by the health department on Tuesday, nearly double the average increase for the 25 largest metro areas in the US.

7:06 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Houston hospital system offers bonus of $500 to employees who get Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas

Houston Methodist Hospital stands at the Texas Medical Center campus in Houston, Texas, on June 24, 2020.
Houston Methodist Hospital stands at the Texas Medical Center campus in Houston, Texas, on June 24, 2020. Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Houston Methodist, a Texas hospital system, is offering a bonus of $500 to employees if they get vaccinated against Covid-19.

In an email written to the Houston Methodist staff last week, President and CEO Marc Boom said that employees are eligible for a “Hope Bonus” of $500 this March to thank them for their work during a challenging 2020.

“Eligibility criteria will include getting a Covid-19 vaccination, fulfilling our obligation as health care workers to lead the community,” Boom wrote.

Boom noted that the Covid-19 vaccine is not mandated for employees right now but will be eventually.

Houston Methodist employees previously received a $500 bonus in November to thank them for their work during the coronavirus pandemic.

7:05 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

More than 5,000 vaccinations carried out in France on Tuesday

From CNN's Sandrine Amiel in Paris 

A doctor administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine on January 5 at the University Hospital Centre of Lille, France.
A doctor administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine on January 5 at the University Hospital Centre of Lille, France. Denis Charlet/AFP/Getty Images

More than 5,000 Covid-19 vaccinations were carried out on Tuesday "in around thirty” hospitals in France, the country’s Health Minister Olivier Veran tweeted. 

“Tomorrow, doses will have been delivered to about one hundred hospitals,” Veran added, thanking those involved in the country’s mass-vaccination effort.  

Veran said on Monday that the country’s vaccination program would “intensify significantly” over the coming days, adding that the government expects to have “one million shots available by the end of the week.”

“As for nursing homes, the vaccinations are continuing progressively,” he said. 

According to the latest government data, 20,489 new cases were recorded in France on Tuesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 2,680,239. 

A total of 867 Covid-19-related deaths were registered over the last 24 hours, bringing the national death toll to 66,282. 

6:27 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Puerto Rico's governor eliminates total quarantine on Sundays and changes curfew hours

From CNN's Rafy Rivera

Pedro Pierluisi speaks during a press conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on August 2, 2019.
Pedro Pierluisi speaks during a press conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on August 2, 2019. Eric Rojas/AFP/Getty Images

The governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi, announced a decree on Tuesday to eliminate total quarantine on Sundays — a decision ordered by former Gov. Wanda Vázquez in December.

Pierluisi implemented a daily curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time, which will begin Jan. 8 and last until Feb. 7.

Commercial establishments must close at 10 p.m., according to the new decree, and a physical distance of three meters (nine feet) between family members is requested.

The new decree states that beaches, marinas and recreational parks are now allowed to be open, but alcohol will not be allowed. Additionally the opening of urban recreational and commercial areas is allowed with a capacity of 30%.

The Condominium Boards and Associations will establish the 30% rule within each complex in relation to the number of residents.

Commercial areas still require physical distancing, and bars and discos will remain closed.

Pierluisi also announced plans to carry out widespread testing across the island, as well as an educational campaign for information and prevention through media and social networks. He ordered an economic assistance program for affected businesses, and emphasized the need to improve communication and distribution regarding the vaccine strategy on the island.

According to the Puerto Rico Department of Health, as of Jan. 4, there were 74,458 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 1,562 deaths.