US reports more than 4,000 new Covid-19 deaths for first time during the pandemic
From CNN's Alta Spells
More than 4,000 Covid-19 deaths were recorded in a single day in the United States for the first time on Thursday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
At least 4,051 deaths tied to Covid-19 have been reported, according to the university.
Note: The number is part of an ongoing tally, so it could rise before the end of the day.
10:46 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021
Australia to begin Covid-19 vaccine rollout in February
From CNN's Hilary Whiteman in Brisbane, Australia
Australia will begin its Covid-19 vaccine rollout in February, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday.
The first doses will be administered in mid-to-late February to priority groups, including quarantine and border workers, frontline healthcare workers and residents in aged and disability care, Morrison said in a news conference.
“We anticipate optimistically that we would hope to start the vaccination with around 80,000 vaccinations a week,” Morrison said. “And then seeing that build up over the next four to six weeks.”
He said according to that timetable, 4 million Australians should be vaccinated by the end of March.
Thursday’s announcement brings forward the rollout for a second time this week. On Wednesday, health officials announced the first doses would be administered in early March. The original plan was for a rollout in mid-March.
On Tuesday, Morrison said the distribution of vaccines wouldn’t be rushed and the country’s regulators wouldn’t “cut corners.”
"I don't think Australians just want us sending out, willy-nilly, vials of vaccines that haven't been tested, which is the normal process that happens with any TGA-approved vaccine."
10:19 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021
US officials renew public health emergency declaration for coronavirus pandemic
From CNN Health's Maggie Fox
The US Health and Human Services Department will renew the public health emergency declared almost a year ago at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday.
“I just renewed the Covid-19 national public health emergency declaration, effective January 21, 2020. Our work to combat the virus will continue, as will our work to ensure a peaceful and orderly transition,” Azar said via Twitter.
HHS said an emergency declaration gives state, tribal, and local health departments more flexibility to request that HHS authorize them to temporarily reassign state, local, and tribal personnel.
Azar first declared the emergency on January 31, 2020 and has renewed it regularly since.
State governors have also been declaring public health emergencies due to the pandemic.
9:53 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021
Australia's Greater Brisbane to go under 3-day lockdown to stop spread of UK Covid-19 strain
From CNN’s Sophie Jeong
Australia’s Greater Brisbane will enter a three-day lockdown to stop the spread of the United Kingdom strain of Covid-19 after a cleaner from a quarantine hotel tested positive for the UK variant, according to a statement from the Queensland government.
The cleaner was unknowingly infectious from last Saturday and tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday, according to a media release from Queensland’s Department of Health.
From 6 p.m. Friday, January 8, until 6 p.m. Monday, January 11, people in areas of Brisbane, Moreton Bay, Ipswich, Redlands and Logan will be required to stay at home, with some exceptions. More than 2.2 million people live in Greater Brisbane, with many of them living in Brisbane city, one of the country's most populous cities.
Exceptions include essential education and work, providing care to an immediate family member, essential shopping and exercising with no more than one other person. Masks will also need to be worn in those areas except if people are at home.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said there are no second chances with this pandemic.
“I’m asking people to have a long weekend at home,” she said. “We have learned from Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales that a short, sharp lockdown is better than a long one.” She added “Three days is better than 30.”
9:28 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021
Changes to Covid-19 vaccine dosing won't solve US' problem with rollout, Fauci says
From CNN Health's Lauren Mascarenhas
The United States doesn't have a problem with the supply of Covid-19 vaccines -- the issue is with the administration of them, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday.
Changes to vaccine dosing won’t solve that, according to the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“Right now, we don't have a problem that we need more vaccines,” Fauci said at an event hosted by BlackDoctor.org, an online health resource dedicated to African Americans. He said the problem lies in the effort to “logistically get the vaccine in the arm of people.”
With an eye to speeding up vaccine rollout in the US, some have suggested using half-doses of vaccines or delaying the time between first and second doses.
Second dose: The science shows optimal protection is provided by administering a second dose 21 days after the first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine and 28 days after the first shot of the Moderna vaccine, said Fauci.
Second doses are on hold for people to complete their vaccinations, and some governors have asked the federal government to release those doses so more people can receive a first shot, potentially delaying the second one. Fauci dismissed the idea of letting people wait longer between doses.
“To stretch out, and you don't get your second dose for maybe three or four months -- there's no scientific data that proves that,” Fauci said. “Since we want to maintain our credibility and do things right, according to the science, we want to do it exactly the way it was shown in the clinical trial.”
Some have also suggested using a half dose of the vaccines, to vaccinate more people with some degree of protection. Fauci said this wouldn’t solve the problem either. The US Food and Drug Administration has also rejected that idea.
“You hear a lot about half dose. You hear a lot about extending one dose. Don't be concerned about that,” Fauci added. “Do what's recommended by the FDA.”
9:05 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021
Colombia reports record number of new Covid-19 cases
From CNN's Stefano Pozzebon in Bogota, Colombia
Colombia reported a record 17,576 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed infections in the Andean nation to 1,737,347, the country's Health Minister announced Thursday on Twitter.
The total death toll is now 45,067.
The announcement came as Colombia's two largest cities, Bogota and Medellin, both issued total lockdown measures for the next four days due to a resurgence of the pandemic.
8:36 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021
US reports more than 130,000 coronavirus hospitalizations
From CNN's Haley Brink
The United States reported 132,370 current Covid-19 hospitalizations on Thursday, according to the Covid Tracking Project (CTP).
This is the second highest number of current hospitalizations reported in a single day and the 37th consecutive day that the US has remained above 100,000 current hospitalizations.
The highest hospitalization numbers according to CTP data are:
Jan. 6, 2021: 132,464
Jan. 7, 2021: 132,370
Jan. 5, 2021: 131,215
Jan. 4, 2021: 128,206
Jan. 3, 2021: 125,562
8:16 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021
UK introduces mandatory Covid-19 testing for all arrivals
In the statement, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the changes would take place from “next week.” Passengers will be required to present a negative Covid-19 test result 72 hours prior to departure for entry into the UK, along with a “passenger locator form.”
Passengers who fail to comply with pre-departure testing will be subject to a £500 ($680) fine and those arrivals not from countries on the government’s travel corridor list will still have to self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of test result.
The measures are intended to protect the country against emerging new variants of the coronavirus.
One new variant first identified in the UK prompted a wave of travel restrictions from other countries in December, and has been linked to a recent surge in cases in England.
8:01 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021
US governors urge federal government to release "reserved doses" of Covid-19 vaccine
From CNN's Mirna Alsharif
A coalition of governors sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Operation Warp Speed Chief Operating Officer General Gustave Perna urging the federal government to distribute "reserved doses" of the Covid-19 vaccine to states that need them.
The coalition included Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (MI), Gov. Gavin Newson (CA), Gov. Laura Kelly (KS), Gov. J.B. Pritzker (IL), Gov. Tim Walz (MN), Gov. Andrew Cuomo (NY), Gov. Tony Evers (WI) and Gov. Jay Inslee (WA).
"According to publicly reported information, the federal government currently has upwards of 50% of currently produced vaccines held back by the administration for reasons unknown," reads the letter released Thursday evening. "The failure to distribute these doses to states who request them is unconscionable and unacceptable. We demand that the federal government begin distributing these reserved doses to states immediately."