January 6 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Zamira Rahim, Angela Dewan and Hannah Strange, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, January 7, 2021
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2:10 a.m. ET, January 6, 2021

South Korea will test every prisoner in the country for Covid-19

From CNN's Jake Kwon in Seoul, South Korea

Medical workers prepare to conduct Covid-19 tests on all inmates at Dongbu Detention Center in Seoul, South Korea on January 5.
Medical workers prepare to conduct Covid-19 tests on all inmates at Dongbu Detention Center in Seoul, South Korea on January 5. Yonhap/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

South Korea will test every prisoner held in the country's 52 detention facilities for Covid-19 after a cluster of cases emerged at a detention center in the capital Seoul.

Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho announced the plan at a briefing Wednesday. Yoon said that prisoners at 11 facilities had already been tested and, so far, no positive cases had been reported. Prisoners at the other 41 facilities have not yet been tested, Yoon said. 

Viruses can spread easily in prisons because of their small, cramped quarters and lack of fresh air. The cluster in Seoul's Dongbu Detention Center exploded in just weeks. It was detected in mid-December, and authorities have now found 1,118 cases tied to the detention center, mostly among the prison population. The facility housed 2,292 inmates when the first cases were identified.

Justice Ministry official Kim Jae-sul said the detention center was overcrowded when the cluster was detected, which would make it easier for the virus to spread. Yoon, the Health Ministry official, said 972 prisoners have been transferred to different facilities, lowering the population density.

New cases: South Korea identified 809 local and 31 imported coronavirus cases on Tuesday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said in statement. Of those, 567 cases were found in the Seoul metropolitan area.

Though cases are slowly declining, a winter surge had authorities scrambling to find new hospital beds, especially in Seoul. Yoon said authorities had "secured" more beds for Covid-19 patients and that there were now a total of 177 ICU beds available for coronavirus treatment nationwide.

To date, 65,818 cases of Covid-19 have been identified in South Korea, killing 1,027 people.

1:46 a.m. ET, January 6, 2021

The US recorded at least 3,775 Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday. That's a new record

From CNN's Joe Sutton in Atlanta

An empty casket is delivered amid a surge of Covid-19 deaths to the Continental Funeral Home on December 31, 2020 in East Los Angeles, California.
An empty casket is delivered amid a surge of Covid-19 deaths to the Continental Funeral Home on December 31, 2020 in East Los Angeles, California. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Umages

At least 3,775 Covid-19 deaths were reported in the United States on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University -- the highest number of fatalities recorded in a single day since the pandemic began.

Nationwide there were at least 229,055 new cases of Covid-19 reported Tuesday. To date, there have been 21,046,195 cases of coronavirus in the US. At least 357,258 people have died. 

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

Track US cases here:

12:48 a.m. ET, January 6, 2021

California orders hospitals to delay non-essential surgeries in regions hardest hit by Covid-19 surge

From CNN's Sarah Moon

Ambulances are parked outside an emergency room entrance at Long Beach Medical Center Tuesday, January 5, in Long Beach, California.
Ambulances are parked outside an emergency room entrance at Long Beach Medical Center Tuesday, January 5, in Long Beach, California. Ashley Landis/AP

California health officials have ordered that non-essential surgeries be delayed in regions where ICU bed capacity is 10% or less.

The move was made in order to ease the burden on California hospitals, which are treating a record number of Covid-19 patients, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). It is effective immediately and will last for three weeks.

CDPH said the order will help “reduce pressure on strained hospital systems and redistribute the responsibility of medical care across the state so patients can continue to receive lifesaving care.” 

“California is experiencing an unprecedented and exponential surge in COVID-19 cases, and staffing and other resources are becoming strained,” State Public Health Officer Tomás Aragón said in the public health order.

“Large proportions of California hospitals have reached significant strain on their ability to provide adequate medical care to their communities.” 

The number of patients hospitalized in California with Covid-19 has skyrocketed sevenfold over the past two months, Aragon said, while the number of patients being treated in intensive care has soared by over sixfold during the same period.

Surgeries for patients who have serious and urgent medical conditions will continue, officials said.

12:03 a.m. ET, January 6, 2021

Here's the latest on the Covid-19 surge in California

From CNN's Jon Passantino

A patient rests in a corridor waiting for a room at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center in Tarzana, California on January 3.
A patient rests in a corridor waiting for a room at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center in Tarzana, California on January 3. Apu Gomes/AFP/Getty Images

California is the epicenter of the current surge of Covid-19 cases in the United States. On Tuesday, the state reported 31,440 new cases and another 368 people died from the virus, pushing the statewide death toll to more than 27,000.

Only New York and Texas have reported a higher number of virus-related fatalities.

California has reported a total of 2,452,334 cases.

Here's what you should know:

  • Los Angeles County recorded more than 1,000 deaths in less than a week. More than 11,000 people have now died there.
  • Hospitalizations continue to hit all-time highs statewide. More than 22,000 Californians are now in hospital, and 21% of those patients are in intensive care.
  • The statewide positivity rate is also rising. It's now 12.7%, the highest it has been since the initial wave of infections last spring. 
  • The new, potentially more contagious UK variant of the coronavirus is spreading. Thirty-two patients are confirmed to have contracted the variant strain in San Diego. Another 24 confirmed and four probable cases of the new Covid-19 variant were reported Tuesday. Four of the patients were children younger than 10.
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom has formally requested 500 additional federal medical personnel to help staff hospitals overwhelmed with patients.
  • Just 27% of California’s vaccine doses have been administered so far. A total of 459,654 doses had been administered as of Tuesday, but just over 5,200 shots were given out in the past 24 hours. Health officials say they are struggling to vaccinate people against the virus as health workers are overwhelmed treating the sick and navigating state logistical issues. The state is now authorizing dentists to administer the shots in a push to accelerate deployment.
10:53 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Operation Warp Speed says it distributed 3 million coronavirus vaccines Tuesday

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Christopher Miller testifies at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on "Threats to the Homeland" on Capitol Hill on September 24 in Washington.
Christopher Miller testifies at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on "Threats to the Homeland" on Capitol Hill on September 24 in Washington. Joshua Roberts/Pool/Getty Images

The federal government’s Operation Warp Speed said it distributed more than 3 million coronavirus vaccines on Tuesday, meaning that the government has now distributed more than 19 million vaccines across the United States.

Officials in President Donald Trump's administration have been promising to speed up vaccine distribution. They have admitted they have fallen far short of promises to have vaccinated 20 million people by the end of 2020.

“On behalf of Operation Warp Speed, I am proud to report that today, 3,087,100 vaccines were distributed to the American people,” Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller said in a statement.
“Today’s great work brings the total number of doses distributed to 19,141,175 over the last 21 days since the first vaccine doses showed up at administration sites.” 

Earlier Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 17 million vaccine doses had been distributed and more than 4.8 million people had been given their first doses of vaccine. 

10:11 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

North Korea just held a major political meeting with about 5,000 people — and there wasn't a mask in sight

From CNN's Joshua Berlinger in Hong Kong and Yoonjung Seo in Seoul, South Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un addressed the opening session of its 8th Workers’ Party Congress on Tuesday morning, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. 
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un addressed the opening session of its 8th Workers’ Party Congress on Tuesday morning, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.  Source: KCNA

North Korea kicked off a rare political event that's supposed to happen every five years or so with about 5,000 people -- including leader Kim Jong Un -- gathered indoors without masks and seated close together on Tuesday.

While it's impossible to verify if face coverings were worn at any point in time, none of the images released by North Korea's state-run KCNA news Wednesday of the Workers Party Congress show people wearing masks indoors.

From a propaganda standpoint, the images make sense: North Korea claims to not have recorded a single case of Covid-19, so holding a high-level meeting without masks is a way to reinforce that narrative.

But almost no one believes North Korea has been spared from a pandemic that has infected more than 86 million people and killed nearly 2 million. In fact, Kim's regime recognizes the danger of the virus and has gone to incredible lengths to stop its spread.

Almost all travel into the country ceased shortly after the virus emerged a year ago, and internal travel is also heavily restricted. North Korean state media regularly carries articles reminding its people on the importance of its emergency anti-epidemic campaign. And the regime reportedly had two people executed for not following Covid-19 guidelines, including a customs official who did not follow virus prevention rules while importing goods from China.

Experts believe Pyongyang is enacting a vigilant response because it knows its dilapidated healthcare infrastructure likely cannot contain a major outbreak of Covid-19.

That makes the photographs from the meeting Tuesday all the more puzzling. Perhaps North Korea believes the safeguards it put in place were good enough to allow attendees not to wear masks to the meeting. This is a unique event that North Korea does not want to postpone -- it's just the eighth Party Congress in North Korea's history and the second of Kim's tenure. The last one held before Kim took power was in 1980.

But holding it is a risk. If just one of the 5,000 people who traveled from across the country to attend the meeting had Covid-19 and was infectious, it means Kim may have just kicked off an incredibly important political meeting with a super-spreader event.

9:27 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

In Australia and Taiwan's fight against Covid, flight crews are proving to be their Achilles heel

From CNN's Julia Hollingsworth

Countries around the Asia-Pacific region have closed borders and imposed strict quarantine requirements, essentially sealing themselves off from the world.

But in many jurisdictions there's a key exception to those rules: flight crews.

For months, flight crews in a number of places -- including Taiwan and Australia -- have been able to avoid the tough quarantine rules imposed on other international travelers. But rule breaches by airline staff in both places in December have prompted questions about whether exemptions for aviation workers are creating an unnecessary risk to the public.

Taiwan has now tightened its quarantine rules for flight crews, something two Australian states did in December.

But it's a tricky predicament. While health experts say that treating flight crews differently is a loophole in an otherwise tough border approach, aviation industry officials say exemptions are needed to keep the industry operating -- and avoid jeopardizing flight crews' mental health.

What happened in Taiwan? When Taiwan reported its first locally-transmitted case in more than 250 days on December 22, authorities quickly pin-pointed a foreign pilot as the source of infection.

Authorities said a New Zealand pilot in his 60s infected a woman in her 30s after completing the required three days of quarantine required for pilots, Taiwan state media CNA reported. That pilot has now been fined by Taiwanese authorities for not disclosing his complete contact history and fired by his company.

What happened in Australia? A series of incidents in December prompted questions over quarantine exemptions for flight crews. A Sydney van driver who had transported international flight crews tested positive at the start of December.

Later that month, New South Wales Police fined 13 international air crew members 1,000 Australian dollars ($760) each for going to a number of Sydney venues when they should have been quarantining. And just before Christmas, a Qantas crew member tested positive after flying into Darwin from Paris and then boarding a domestic flight.

Read the full story:

10:05 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

WHO team blocked from entering China to study origins of coronavirus

From CNN's Helen Regan in Hong Kong

The World Health Organization said that China has blocked the arrival of a team investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, in a rare rebuke from the UN agency.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said two scientists on the United Nations team had already left their home countries for Wuhan when they were told that Chinese officials had not approved the necessary permissions to enter the country.

The arrangements had been jointly agreed with China in advance.

"I am very disappointed with this news," Tedros told a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday. "I have been in contact with senior Chinese officials and I have once again made clear that the mission is a priority for WHO and the international team."

Tedros said WHO was "eager to get the mission underway as soon as possible" and that he had been given assurances that Beijing was speeding up the internal procedure for "the earliest possible deployment."

Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO's health emergencies program said there was an issue with visas and one team member had already returned home. The other was waiting in transit in a third country.

WHO officials have long been negotiating with Beijing to allow a team of global scientists access to key sites to investigate the origin of the virus -- first detected in Wuhan in December 2019 -- and its likely jump from an unidentified host species to humans.

In May, WHO agreed to hold an inquiry into the global response to the pandemic after more than 100 countries signed a resolution calling for an independent probe.

Ryan said the team hoped it was "just a logistical and bureaucratic issue" that can be resolved in "good faith in the coming hours and recommence the deployment of the team as soon as possible."

Read the full story:

10:12 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
  2. Jan. 4: 128,210
  3. Jan. 3: 125,562
  4. Dec. 31: 125,379
  5. Dec. 30: 125,218