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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1:18 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

US reports more than 180,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Joe Sutton

At least 180,477 new Covid-19 patients were identified across the United States on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally of cases.

Another 1,903 people were killed by the virus.

To date, there have been at least 20,817,140 coronavirus cases in the US. A total of at least 353,483 people have died in the pandemic.

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

Vaccination status: At least 15,418,500 vaccine doses have been distributed nationwide, and at least 4,563,260 shots have been administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Track US cases here:

12:47 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Covid-19 is wreaking havoc in California. Here's what you should know

From CNN's Jon Passantino

Motorists line up to take a coronavirus test in a parking lot at Dodger Stadium on Monday, January 4, in Los Angeles.
Motorists line up to take a coronavirus test in a parking lot at Dodger Stadium on Monday, January 4, in Los Angeles. Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP

California is already the epicenter of the latest Covid-19 surge in the United States, but things could get worse if cases spike due to gatherings over the Christmas and New Year's holidays. Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a news conference that the state may soon be heading into a "surge on top of a surge."

Officials in Southern California, where the surge is most acute, are calling it a "human disaster."

The union that represents actors and media professionals, Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), is recommending a production hold in Southern California due to the surge that is plaguing the state.

The Golden State reported 29,633 new coronavirus cases and 97 virus-related deaths on Monday. Though both figures are lower than recent averages, that's likely attributed to a lag in testing data from the holidays and weekend.

Here’s a roundup of the staggering figures:

  • LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer says one person is now dying from the virus every 15 minutes in the county. Health officials are predicting the death toll could soar in the coming weeks to more than 1,000 people per week. "We're likely to experience the worst conditions in January that we've faced the entire pandemic, and that's hard to imagine," Ferrer said.
  • About one in five Los Angeles County residents tested for Covid-19 is testing positive.
  • Hospitals are nearing a breaking point. As of Monday evening, there were 7,544 people hospitalized in Los Angeles County due to Covid-19 and just 17 available adult ICU beds, according to county health data.
  • Los Angeles ambulance crews have been directed to conserve the use of oxygen and stop transporting patients with little chance of survival to hospitals.
  • Only 454,000 people have received a shot of the Covid-19 vaccine in California despite the state receiving 1.29 million doses -- meaning only 35% of the state’s vaccine supply has been administered so far. Gov. Newsom acknowledged the state’s rollout of the vaccine has been too slow, but vowed it would pursue more aggressive action to accelerate who can administer the vaccine, such as dentists.
  • Six cases of the more transmissible coronavirus variant first seen in the UK have now been confirmed in patients in Southern California.
  • As of Monday, California had reported a total of 29,635 deaths and 2,420,894 cases.
12:30 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

More than 1,000 people have died from Covid-19 in South Korea

From CNN’s Jake Kwon in Seoul, South Korea

People wearing face masks walk near a screen displaying precautions against the coronavirus in Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday, December 27, 2020.
People wearing face masks walk near a screen displaying precautions against the coronavirus in Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday, December 27, 2020. Lee Jin-man/AP

Coronavirus deaths in South Korea have surpassed 1,000, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said Tuesday.

KDCA said the country reported 26 additional fatalities from Covid-19 Monday, bringing the death toll to 1,007.  

An additional 715 cases were also identified Monday -- 455 of which were in the Seoul metropolitan area, according to KDCA. At least 64,979 cases have been confirmed in the country since the pandemic began.

Fighting a new wave: South Korea has long been considered a model country for its effective response to multiple waves of coronavirus, but a new spate of cases this winter has had officials worried.

President Moon Jae-in said this new wave appears past its peak and is slowly being contained. However, Moon said he will maintain the current disease prevention measures to continue to curb the infection rate.

Moon also said that the government will begin vaccination as early as next month.

12:03 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Mexico's Covid-19 czar who promotes "stay at home" campaign declines to apologize for beach travel

From CNN’s Matt Rivers in Mexico City and Taylor Barnes in Atlanta

Dr. Hugo López-Gatell, Mexico’s deputy secretary of health and a prominent figure in the country's response to the Covid-19 pandemic, declined to apologize for traveling over the New Year holiday when asked about viral social media photos that show him unmasked on an airplane and at an oceanfront restaurant in the state of Oaxaca.

Sitting in front of a sign that read “Quédate en casa,” or, “Stay at home,” López-Gatell told reporters at a Monday news conference: “I have nothing to hide. I simply went to the coast of Oaxaca … And I went to visit close relatives, very good friends, and we were in a very private home during those days.”

For months, López-Gatell has urged Mexicans to stay at home during the pandemic unless it was absolutely necessary to leave.

Speaking at the news conference, he said that the Covid-19 situation varies between Mexican states, with some states more severe than others, in an apparent justification of his travel. However, López-Gatell lives in Mexico City, the heart of the country’s outbreak.

He also said the restaurant he was seen at was open and following public health rules.

Read more about the reaction to López-Gatell's trip:

10:25 p.m. ET, January 4, 2021

Mexico approves AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use

From CNN’s Matt Rivers in Mexico City and Taylor Barnes in Atlanta

Mexico’s drug administration has approved the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, according to a tweet from Dr. Hugo López-Gatell, the country's deputy health secretary.

It's the second coronavirus vaccine approved in the country, following Pfizer's, which Mexico authorized and began using to vaccinate people in December.

Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, hailed the news of the second emergency vaccine authorization and wrote on Twitter that “production will begin very shortly in Mexico.”
11:16 p.m. ET, January 4, 2021

Los Angeles ambulance crews told not to transport patients who stand little chance of survival

From CNN's Alexandra Meeks

After administering him with oxygen, County of Los Angeles paramedics load a potential Covid-19 patient in the ambulance before transporting him to a hospital in Hawthorne, California on December 29, 2020.
After administering him with oxygen, County of Los Angeles paramedics load a potential Covid-19 patient in the ambulance before transporting him to a hospital in Hawthorne, California on December 29, 2020. Apu Gomes/AFP/Getty Images

With intensive care units at Southern California hospitals nearly full because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency (EMS) has directed ambulance crews not to transport patients with little chance of survival to hospitals, and to conserve the use of oxygen.

Los Angeles and Southern California are dealing with one of the country's worst outbreaks of the novel coronavirus. ICU bed capacity plunged to 0% in Southern California last month, as more and more people were admitted to hospital seeking treatment for Covid-19. 

Now, many medical facilities simply do not have the space to take in patients who do not have a chance of survival, according to the agency.   

As of Monday evening, there were 7,544 people hospitalized in Los Angeles due to Covid-19 and just 17 available adult ICU beds, according to county health data. Due to the shortage of beds, the county EMS said patients whose hearts have stopped, despite efforts of resuscitation, should no longer be transported to hospitals.

If there are no signs of breathing or a pulse, EMS will continue to perform resuscitation for at least 20 minutes, the EMS memo said. If the patient is stabilized after the period of resuscitation, the patient would then be transported to a hospital. If the patient is declared dead at the scene or if no pulse can be restored, paramedics will no longer transport the body to the hospital.

Oxygen shortage: A shortage of oxygen in Los Angeles and the nearby San Joaquin Valley, thanks to Covid-19, is putting immense pressure on the system and forcing paramedics to conserve the supply.

In order to maintain normal circulation of the blood to organs and tissue needed for the body to function, EMS said an oxygen saturation of at least 90% will be sufficient. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom formed a task force to address the issue last week. It is working with local and state partners to help refill oxygen tanks and mobilize them to hospitals and facilities most in need.

8:07 p.m. ET, January 4, 2021

US hits record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

The United States reported 128,210 current Covid-19 hospitalizations on Monday, setting a new record high since the pandemic began, according to the Covid Tracking Project (CTP).

This is the 34th consecutive day that the US has remained above 100,000 current hospitalizations.

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

  • Jan. 4: 128,210
  • Jan. 3: 125,544
  • Dec. 31: 125,379
  • Dec. 30: 125,218
  • Jan. 1: 125,047
7:23 p.m. ET, January 4, 2021

UK Prime Minister imposes harsh lockdown as new Covid-19 variant spreads

From CNN’s Tara John, Luke McGee and Nada Bashir

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson reimposed a lockdown in England on Monday as a more transmissible variant of Covid-19 fuels a surge in infections and hospitalizations in the country.

"It is clear that we need to do more to bring this new variant under control," Johnson said. "That means the government is once again instructing you to stay at home."

During his televised address to the nation, Johnson reimposed measures seen during the first lockdown last spring, including closures of secondary and primary schools to all except the children of key workers and vulnerable children. He added that this means it will not be "possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer as normal," and alternative arrangements are being put in place.

People will be allowed to leave their homes for limited reasons like shopping for essentials, exercise, and medical assistance. Johnson also said people could still leave home "to escape domestic abuse" -- an issue that arose earlier during the pandemic, as isolation and lockdown conditions exacerbated barriers to escape for victims of domestic violence.

International departures are now limited to those who have "a legally permitted reason," such as work.

Outdoor sports venues will have to close. But unlike spring's lockdown, nurseries will not be shuttered, elite sports can go ahead, and places of worship will remain open on the basis that attendees adhere to social distancing rules.

The lockdown is expected to remain in place at least through the middle of February.

His announcement follows that of Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who announced a lockdown that will begin on midnight, Tuesday, local time. Wales and Northern Ireland -- the other nations of the UK -- are already in lockdown.

The UK is back in crisis mode as new daily Covid-19 cases soared above 50,000 cases for nearly a week, and hospitalizations exceed April's peak.

Read the full story:

11:17 p.m. ET, January 4, 2021

Scientists worry mutations in Covid-19 variant first seen in South Africa may affect vaccine response

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Thabisle Khlatshwayo receives her second shot at a vaccine trial facility for AstraZeneca at Soweto's Chris Sani Baragwanath Hospital outside Johannesburg, South Africa, on Monday, November 30, 2020.
Thabisle Khlatshwayo receives her second shot at a vaccine trial facility for AstraZeneca at Soweto's Chris Sani Baragwanath Hospital outside Johannesburg, South Africa, on Monday, November 30, 2020. Jerome Delay/AP

Scientists in Britain said Monday they are increasingly concerned that that the pattern of mutations in a variant of the novel coronavirus first identified in South Africa may affect the protection offered by some vaccines.

While that variant shares the same N501Y mutation as another variant first identified in the United Kingdom, it also has two other mutations called E484K and K417N. They affect the spike protein -- the part of the virus that attaches to the cells it infects.

Most of the coronavirus vaccines are also designed to train the body to recognize the spike protein, or parts of it, and the fears are that if it mutates too much, vaccines will no longer be as effective.

"These two additional mutations may interfere more with vaccine effectiveness in the South African variant," Dr. Julian Tang, honorary associate professor and virologist at the University of Leicester, said in a statement distributed by the UK-based Science Media Center on Monday. 

"This does not mean that the existing Covid-19 vaccines will not work at all, just that the antibodies induced by the current vaccines may not bind and neutralize the South African variant as well as it would the other circulating viruses -- including the UK variant," Tang said.

Lawrence Young, professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, said in a separate statement on Monday that "the accumulation of more spike mutations in the South African variant are more of a concern and could lead to some escape from immune protection."

Meanwhile, scientists are working to better understand the new variant, its mutations and their significance. "Some of the changes are quite significant and thus scientists are paying a lot of attention. We do not yet know enough to say more than this," James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, said in a statement on Monday. 

Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization's technical lead for coronavirus response, told CNN Sunday that scientists are doing tests to assess the vaccine's efficacy against the variant first found in South Africa, which has 22 mutations.