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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2:45 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Already free of coronavirus, this country could become the first in the world to be vaccinated

From CNN's Rhea Mogul

Health workers give Palau citizens their first dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccination.
Health workers give Palau citizens their first dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccination. Palau Ministry of Health

A cluster of islands in the Pacific Ocean that's one of the few places on Earth entirely free from Covid-19 could become one of the first countries vaccinated against the disease.

The Republic of Palau, an archipelago home to about 18,000 people, received its first shipment of the vaccine developed by US pharmaceutical company Moderna on Saturday. Vaccinations started the next day, Palau's Ministry of Health announced on Twitter.

The first shipment included 2,800 doses of the vaccine, which will be administered in two shots, 28 days apart. Health care workers, key officials and vulnerable groups will be among the first to receive the vaccine, according to the ministry's statement.

To date, Palau has not recorded a single coronavirus case or virus-related death, according to the World Health Organization.

In January, as the virus began to spread across Asia and the Pacific, Palau was among the first to implement stricter border controls. Its borders were entirely locked by March, and it began testing citizens for the virus by April. These measures were key to keeping Covid-19 out, Palau's ambassador to the UN said in May.

An independent nation in free association with Washington, Palau has access to the United States' mass Covid-19 vaccination program, known as Operation Warp Speed (OWS).

The archipelago covers an area of just 177 square miles (459 square kilometers) -- about a sixth of the size of Rhode Island, the smallest US state. That small size puts Palau in prime position to be among the first nations to be inoculated against Covid-19, according to the country's Incident Commander of the Ministry of Health, Ritter Udui.

"We are lucky to be in a position where we have access to vaccines through OWS, and our small size makes it easier for us to roll out the program," Udui said. "It's not compulsory to receive the vaccine, so our goal is to vaccinate about 80% of the population. We hope to achieve herd immunity (through the vaccination program)."

Read the full story:

2:20 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Analysis: China's latest potential culprit in its search for foreign coronavirus sources? Auto parts packaging

Analysis from CNN's James Griffiths

More than a year since the coronavirus pandemic began, while a surprising -- and frustrating -- number of points remain unclear, one thing is certain: the first major outbreak was in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

While scientists are still examining the exact origins of the virus, that Wuhan was the initial epicenter is undeniable.

As China has moved past its initial mishandling of the virus, Beijing has reveled in contrasting its own successes with the situation in other countries, particularly the United States.

But the stain of being the place where the pandemic emerged remains. In recent months, Chinese state media and officials have begun hyping up reports of potential other sources, pointing to research that may suggest -- or can be manipulated to suggest -- that the virus was circulating earlier than first thought and, most importantly, was circulating outside of China.

"More and more research suggests that the pandemic was likely to have been caused by separate outbreaks in multiple places in the world," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi claimed this month. "(China took) immediate actions to carry out epidemiological investigation, identify the pathogen and publicize key information including the genome sequencing of the virus. All this sounded alarm bells across the world."

Auto parts theory: On Monday, reports circulated on Chinese social media that the virus had been detected on auto part packaging in multiple cities, including from foreign brands. By the afternoon, Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, had stepped in to tell state media the auto parts in question were not imported, and whatever traces of the virus were detected were unlikely to be infectious.

While Wu effectively dismissed the potential car parts origin theory, it has echoes of far more widely reported claims that the virus could have entered China via frozen foods.

For months, China has been testing and disinfecting frozen products coming from overseas, over fears the virus could reenter the country that way, even as experts remain skeptical about this as a potential source of infection.

Read the full analysis:

1:43 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Top sumo wrestler tests positive for Covid-19 in Japan

From CNN’s Junko Ogura in Tokyo

Mongolian-born grand sumo champion Sho Hakuho performs a kata during a ring-entering ceremony at the Meiji Jingu Shrine on January 7, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan.
Mongolian-born grand sumo champion Sho Hakuho performs a kata during a ring-entering ceremony at the Meiji Jingu Shrine on January 7, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Top sumo wrestler Sho Hakuho has tested positive for coronavirus, the Japan Sumo Association (JSA) announced on Tuesday.

Mongolian-born Hakuho , who has won a record 44 top-division titles, has been preparing for the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, which is due to start on Sunday in Tokyo.

Hakuho experienced changes to his sense of smell on Monday and was tested at a nearby clinic. His results came back Tuesday morning. Wrestlers who are believed to have had close contact with him will be tested Tuesday.

Surging cases: Covid-19 infections have been soaring in Japan in recent weeks, and authorities are poised to declare a state of emergency in some areas, including Tokyo.

Japan’s Ministry of Health said 3,320 new coronavirus cases were identified Monday, bringing the country’s total number of cases to 248,672.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga dismissed calls to declare a state of emergency in November, citing advice from an advisory panel that hospitals were still relatively empty. However, Japan's total case count has more than doubled since then. Suga's approval rating has plummeted in recent weeks, in part due to his handling of the pandemic.

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.