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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6:45 p.m. ET, January 6, 2021

CDC found over 50 cases of the UK variant in the US

From CNN's Michael Nedelman

Banners advising people to wear masks against the coronavirus hang along Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. 
Banners advising people to wear masks against the coronavirus hang along Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021.  Damian Dovarganes/AP

At least 52 cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom have been identified in the United States, according to the CDC on Wednesday.

This includes 26 cases in California, 22 cases in Florida, two cases in Colorado, and one case in Georgia and New York.

CDC says this does not represent the total number of cases circulating in the US, but rather those that have been found by analyzing positive samples. The agency cautions that its numbers, which are expected to update on Tuesdays and Thursdays, may not immediately match those of state and local health departments.

While the variant appears to spread more easily than Covid-19, there's no evidence that it's more deadly or causes more severe disease, according to CDC. 

Experts suspect there could be many more cases in the US and have criticized the country for not doing more genetic sequencing of virus samples to surveil for mutations. On Sunday, a CDC official told CNN the agency plans to more than double the number of samples it sequences over the following two weeks -- with a target of 6,500 per week.

The earliest known US sample that carried the current version of the variant was taken on December 19 in Florida, according to the genomic database GISAID. However, collection dates are not available for all samples.

7:46 p.m. ET, January 6, 2021

Israel's PM says new Moderna vaccine will arrive on Thursday

From CNN's Pierre Meilhan

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on December 22, 2020.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on December 22, 2020. Yonathan Sindel/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said late Wednesday that the Covid-19 vaccine Moderna “is due to arrive in Israel” on Thursday.

Netanyahu tweeted the announcement saying, “We will give these vaccines to people who cannot go to their HMO, whether they are isolated at home or cannot go to the inoculation sites for any other reason.”

He also said he spoke to Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel several days ago.

“This is the first Moderna shipment, others will come. I am working to bring millions of additional vaccines to the citizens of Israel so that we can emerge from the coronavirus pandemic once and for all,” Netanyahu said. 

The country is in the midst of a mass vaccination campaign, which has now seen over 1.3 million Israelis receive their first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, out of a total population of about 9 million, according to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein.

Israel currently has over 60,000 Covid-19 cases according to the country’s health ministry.

7:13 p.m. ET, January 6, 2021

Ireland tightens lockdown measures, closing construction sites and schools

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in Dublin

An empty street in Dublin city center on Monday, January 4, 2021, in Dublin, Ireland.
An empty street in Dublin city center on Monday, January 4, 2021, in Dublin, Ireland. Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Ireland has further tightened its Covid-19 lockdown measures, closing construction sites and schools across the country, Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Micheál Martin announced Wednesday, adding that such measures would be necessary "to suppress the surge and flatten the curve once again." 

Under the new restrictions all schools will close and move online until the end of January. An exception has been made for final year students, who will be allowed to attend school three days a week from January 11.

Other childcare services will also close, with exceptions made for vulnerable children and the children of frontline workers.

Non-essential construction projects will be ordered to close from 6pm on Friday, Martin added, acknowledging "how severe a measure this is on the construction sector."

On Wednesday, 7,836 new cases were recorded by Ireland’s Department of Health, and national hospitalization figures surpassed those from the first wave of the pandemic, Ireland’s Health Executive boss Paul Reid said on Twitter.

This surging case rate prompted the Irish government to re-impose Level 5 lockdown measures on December 30.

Taoiseach Martin said Wednesday that the situation in Ireland "is not dissimilar to what is happening in the UK in terms of the rapid growth in community transmission and rapid hospitalizations." 

5:22 p.m. ET, January 6, 2021

WHO official: World is playing “a very dangerous game” as virus has opportunity to mutate

From CNN's Elizabeth Cohen

The World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
The World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

The world — especially countries like the United States — is playing a “very dangerous game” with the novel coronavirus, giving it more chances to mutate as the virus spreads, a World Health Organization official said.

"We're playing a very dangerous game with this virus right now," Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for the coronavirus response, told CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. "What worries us is that the longer this spreads the more opportunities it has to change."

Van Kerkhove pointed out that many mutations won’t have much of an impact on the virus, but if a virus changes its genetics in just the right way, tests might not be able to detect it as easily, and vaccines might not work as well against it.

She pointed out that some countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, have done a better job controlling the virus. “It’s completely up to us to be able to bring the virus under control,” she said. “The virus is controllable, including these variants.” 

3:59 p.m. ET, January 6, 2021

California records more than 450 Covid-19 deaths as hospitalizations reach new high

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg and Amanda Watts

The Dodger Stadium COVID-19 testing site, which is the largest in the U.S. reopened Monday on January 5, in Los Angeles, California.
The Dodger Stadium COVID-19 testing site, which is the largest in the U.S. reopened Monday on January 5, in Los Angeles, California. Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

California’s Department of Public Health confirmed 459 new Covid-19 deaths on Wednesday, as infection numbers and hospitalizations in the state soar.

The number of fatalities is well above the two-week daily average of just under 300 deaths a day. Only once has the daily report been higher, when the state reported 585 deaths on December 31 last year. 

Hospitalizations in the Golden State have reached a new high, with 22,820 coronavirus patients admitted for treatment statewide. More than 4,700 of those patients are in intensive care units.

There were nearly 30,000 confirmed infections reported Wednesday.

The total number of Californians infected with Covid-19 has now reached 2.4 million.

3:42 p.m. ET, January 6, 2021

Fauci says no national vaccine mandate for the US, but some workplaces and schools may require it

From CNN Jen Christensen

Economic Club of Washington DC
Economic Club of Washington DC

Dr. Anthony Fauci said the US would not force people to get a Covid-19 vaccine but some employers and schools may require employees and pupils to be vaccinated.

“We’re certainly not going to have a central mandate from the federal government, but the precedent for requiring vaccinations is not new,” Fauci said. 

Speaking Wednesday at the Economic Club of Washington, DC, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said, for example, he is required by NIAID to get a flu shot if he wanted to see patients. He said he could see other institutions making such requirements. 

“I would imagine that some industrial entities, some schools and other entities might actually at the local level require that people get vaccinated before they can participate in whatever function of that institution is,” Fauci said.

“I mean, we do it already in public schools. If you don’t show a certificate of being vaccinated you’re not allowed to be in school.” 

Fauci said vaccines are hugely important in bringing Covid-19 under control.

“Vaccines are a clear home run,” Fauci said. “We have very efficacious vaccine that’s safe. The real challenge is just getting it into the arms of people.”

2:29 p.m. ET, January 6, 2021

NY Governor asks for proof of Covid-19 testing from international travelers

From CNN's Laura Dolan

A traveler is reflected in a window at LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020.
A traveler is reflected in a window at LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020. Angus Mordant/Bloomberg/Getty Images

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked the federal government to require international travelers entering the state to show proof of a Covid-19 test before entry.

Cuomo said he wanted US Customs and Border Control personnel to ask for proof at all New York airports or to allow Port Authority personnel to obtain proof.  

“Let us protect ourselves,” Cuomo said at his press conference Wednesday. “We don’t want tens of thousands of people coming through our airports every day from countries around the world who were not tested.”

In addition to making the request public at his press conference, Gov. Cuomo sent a letter with an official request to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and CDC Director Robert Redfield.

The governor says he is very concerned about the UK variant of Covid-19, which is now in New York after a case was confirmed in Saratoga on Monday. Cuomo said it appears now there’s evidence that the UK variant in Saratoga Springs was connected to UK travel.

1:02 p.m. ET, January 6, 2021

South Africa's Covid-19 variant spurred discovery of the UK's

From CNN's Elizabeth Cohen

A new Covid-19 variant circulating the UK was discovered after a tip from a South African scientist who had just identified a similar variant in his own country.

Tulio de Oliveira, a genomics expert in South Africa, asked to speak before a World Health Organization working group on December 4 about the new variant that was rapidly spreading in his country, according to an email obtained by CNN. 

He spoke to the group that day and suggested they look through their genomic databases for similar variants. 

One of the members in attendance was Andrew Rambaut, a professor at the University of Edinburgh. He found a similar variant in the UK database. 

Rambaut tweeted on December 20 that de Oliviera's discovery was like a "hint" for the UK to look for a similar variant.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead for the WHO's coronavirus response, also said de Oliveira's discovery triggered British scientists to look at the different type of variants.

"I'm just so grateful that we have this [international] collaboration," she said.

12:02 p.m. ET, January 6, 2021

UK hits winter record of 1,041 daily deaths as Covid-19 cases surge

From CNN's Nada Bashir

Britain has recorded its highest daily increase in coronavirus-related deaths since 21 April, with a total of 1,041 further deaths registered on Wednesday. 

The total death toll for patients who have died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus, since the beginning of the pandemic, now stands at 77,346 according to government figures. 

As of Wednesday, 62,322 new cases have been confirmed across the UK, bringing the country's total number of cases to 2,836,801.

Wednesday’s figures mark an increase on Tuesday, where 60,916 new daily cases were recorded, along with 830 additional deaths.

Speaking during a Downing Street press briefing on Tuesday, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said that about one in 50 people across England now has coronavirus, calling the figure “really very high.”

England is currently under a strict national lockdown as the British government struggles to curb the rise in infection.