The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 10:08 a.m. ET, January 9, 2021
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4:10 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

New York City will start administering vaccine to city workers and elderly starting Monday, mayor says

From CNN's Rob Frehse

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a press briefing in New York on January 8.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a press briefing in New York on January 8. NYC Media

New York City will begin administering the Covid-19 vaccine to city workers and the elderly staring Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced.

 “New York City has heard enough,” de Blasio tweeted Friday afternoon. “We will begin administering shots to City Workers and the elderly in 1B starting on Monday.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday afternoon that while New York’s hospitals will continue to prioritize vaccinating health care workers, beginning on Monday, the additional providers will be allowed to distribute the Covid-19 vaccine to anyone belonging to groups 1A and 1B of state’s vaccination plan.

Earlier Friday, de Blasio said he was continuing to push for authorization to vaccinate those over 75 years of age, saying the state hadn’t opened up to the next category. He called the elderly population the “single most vulnerable population right this minute.”

CNN's Laura Ly contributed to this report.

4:06 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

Biden will get his second vaccine dose on Monday

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an event at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on January 7.
President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an event at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on January 7. Susan Walsh/AP

President-elect Joe Biden will receive his second dose of the coronavirus vaccine on Monday, 21 days after he received the first dose, incoming press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed in a transition briefing.

His second dose, along with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ likely to happen a week later, will both be done publicly to continue to instill confidence on the vaccine, Psaki said.

Starting Friday, up to 35 members of the incoming administration will begin to receive their vaccine in coordination with the White House Medical Unit.

5:02 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

Brazil receives requests for emergency use of two Covid-19 vaccines

From CNN's Jaide Garcia and Florencia Trucco 

Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria shows to members of the media a package of the CoronaVac vaccine at Guarulhos International Airport in Guarulhos, Brazil, on December 3, 2020.
Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria shows to members of the media a package of the CoronaVac vaccine at Guarulhos International Airport in Guarulhos, Brazil, on December 3, 2020. Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images

Brazil's National Health Regulator, Anvisa, confirmed on Friday they received two separate requests for emergency use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and the Coronavac vaccine developed by Sinovac to fight against Covid-19. 

The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) ordered two million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on an experimental basis. 

The Butantan Institute requested approval for the experimental use of the Coronavac vaccine developed by Sinovac, which showed 78% efficacy during phase 3 trials on Thursday. 

Anvisa stated in Friday's two news releases that their goal pertaining to both requests is to "make the analysis of emergency use within 10 days, discounting any time that the process may be pending information, to be presented by the laboratory." 

Anvisa also reiterated that they hold themselves accountable to scientific and regulatory procedures, which "must be followed by those who seek the authorization of vaccines to be used in the Brazilian population." 

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Sinovac, the company developing the Coronavac vaccine.

3:18 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

Rise in Covid-19 deaths in California prompts deployment of temporary morgues

From CNN's Stella Chan

Refrigerated overflow morgue trailers and containers sit outside the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner in Los Angeles on January 6.
Refrigerated overflow morgue trailers and containers sit outside the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner in Los Angeles on January 6. Bing Guan/Bloomberg/Getty Images

As California continues to make and break Covid-19 records, the state’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) is increasing storage capacity for victims’ bodies and enacting the State Multi-Casualty Plan.

Cal OES has distributed 88 refrigerated trailers, 10 leased to serve as temporary morgues and designed as such, and sent to Imperial, Los Angeles, Monterey, San Bernardino, and Sonoma counties. Another 78 were donated and sent to other hospitals and counties across the state. Those trailers will be outfitted with appropriate shelving as they were not originally designed to be used as morgues.

Cal OES will set up a temporary morgue in the parking lot at the L.A. County coroner facility to address the largest surge in fatalities. The overflow morgue comprises at least 10 trailers supplied by both the county and state, and refrigerated storage containers. 

While critical populations are receiving vaccinations during what Gov. Gavin Newsom characterized as a “surge on top of a surge,” and until hospitalizations drop, the state is anticipating the deaths, the OES says, that will only add to the existing normal rate of non-Covid-19 deaths.

2:57 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

Ireland confirms arrival of coronavirus variant

From James Frater and Zahid Mahmood

Ireland has recorded 8,248 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the highest daily increase since the beginning of the pandemic as the new coronavirus variant detected in South Africa has been confirmed in the country, according to a statement from the government’s health department.

The increase now brings the total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 to at least 135,884.

Health officials said in a statement that three cases of the coronavirus variant detected in South Africa had been confirmed in Ireland on Friday and said all of the cases were directly associated with recent travel from South Africa.

The statement urged anyone who has traveled to South Africa recently to self-isolate for 14 days and identify themselves for testing “as soon as possible.”

"While this variant has not yet been identified in many European countries, we believe the identification here reflects the extent of genome sequencing surveillance in Ireland,” Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said.

The data also shows at least 20 people have died from the virus, bringing the toll to at least 2,327. At least 1,180 people are hospitalized and at least 109 are in intensive care units.

2:21 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

FDA warns new coronavirus mutations can cause false negative Covid-19 test results in some cases

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images
Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

The US Food and Drug Administration has alerted health care providers and labs that genetic variants of the novel coronavirus — including an emerging variant first detected in the United Kingdom called B.1.1.7 — could lead to false negative Covid-19 test results.

The FDA noted in a news release on Friday afternoon that false negative results can occur with any molecular test for the detection of the virus if a mutation has occurred in the part of the virus's genome that the test examines. According to the FDA, the risk that these mutations will impact overall testing accuracy is low. If Covid-19 is suspected after a negative test, the agency recommends repeat testing with a different test.

The agency notes three Covid-19 tests authorized in the United States may be impacted by genetic variants — MesaBiotech Accula, TaqPath Covid-19 Combo Kit and Linea Covid-19 Assay Kit — "but the impact does not appear to be significant.”

Since the TaqPath and Linea Covid-19 tests detect multiple genetic targets, the overall test sensitivity should not be impacted, the FDA noted. However, if certain patterns emerge in individual results from those tests, labs might consider further genetic sequencing of specimens. That “may help with early identification of new variants in patients to reduce further spread of infection,” the FDA said in its letter to labs and health care providers, noting that the B.1.1.7 variant has been associated with an increased risk of transmission

"The FDA will continue to monitor SARS-CoV-2 genetic viral variants to ensure authorized tests continue to provide accurate results for patients," FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said in the release. SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19. 

"While these efforts continue, we are working with authorized test developers and reviewing incoming data to ensure that health care providers and clinical staff can quickly and accurately diagnose patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, including those with emerging genetic variants," Hahn said.  

"At this time, we believe the data suggests that the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines may still be effective against this strain. The FDA will continue to keep health care providers and the public informed of any new information as it becomes available."

2:14 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

White House task force says there could be a fast-spreading "USA variant" of coronavirus

From CNN's Betsy Klein

A sign Provincetown, Massachusetts, informs people of a mandatory mask zone on July 10.
A sign Provincetown, Massachusetts, informs people of a mandatory mask zone on July 10. Zach D Roberts/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The US may have its own version of a more transmissible coronavirus that might be helping fuel the already aggressive spread of the virus, the White House coronavirus task force said in its latest report to states this week.

Reports sent by the task force to states dated Jan. 3 warned of the possibility of a “USA variant” of Covid-19.

“This fall/winter surge has been at nearly twice the rate of rise of cases as the spring and summer surges. This acceleration suggests there may be a USA variant that has evolved here, in addition to the UK variant that is already spreading in our communities and may be 50% more transmissible,” reports obtained by CNN said.

The task force called for “aggressive mitigation… to match a much more aggressive virus.”

That mitigation should include the use of face masks, the task force said, and immediate vaccination of as many people as possible.

“Without uniform implementation of effective face masking (two or three ply and well-fitting) and strict social distancing, epidemics could quickly worsen as these variants spread and become predominant.”

The US has been tracking cases of a variant first identified in the UK that appears to be more easily transmitted.

The pandemic continues to rage as the nation has turned its attention to the insurrection at the US Capitol and the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, and the task force continued to warn states of “aggressive community spread” after the holiday season. 

“The United States remains at a high plateau of 140-150,000 confirmed and suspected COVID admissions per week and 120-125,000 total inpatients. Significant continued deterioration, from California across the Sunbelt and up into the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast, despite low testing rates during the holidays, suggests aggressive community spread,” the task force reports said. 

The task force reports also called for the establishment of outpatient monoclonal antibody treatment infusion sites “immediately available to save lives.”

And as the nation struggles to rapidly immunize Americans, the reports said that vaccines must “be put in arms now.” 

“Do not delay the rapid immunization of those over 65 and vulnerable to severe disease; recommend creation of high throughput vaccination sites with use of EMT personnel to monitor for potential anaphylaxis and fully utilize nursing students. No vaccines should be in freezers but should instead be put in arms now; active and aggressive immunization in the face of this surge would save lives,” the reports said. 

This week, California is the state with the most new cases per 100,000 population, followed by Arizona, Kansas, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Utah, Arkansas, West Virginia, Georgia, and Massachusetts in the top 10. 

Test positivity, an indication of rising cases to come, is highest in Oklahoma, followed by Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama. 

Arkansas has the most hospital admissions per 100 inpatient beds, followed by Arizona, Maryland, Oklahoma, Georgia, Kentucky, California, District of Columbia, South Carolina, and New Mexico.

And Kansas has the most new deaths per 100,000 population, followed by Wyoming, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi, Arizona, Tennessee, and Rhode Island.

1:53 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

Army and Air Force medical teams arrive to help with California Covid-19 surge

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

As Covid-19 patients continue to flood Southern California hospitals, a team of 20 medical providers from the US Army and Air Force have arrived to help stanch the surge in Riverside County.

“Riverside County hospitals have been stretched well-beyond their licensed capacities to treat a record numbers of patients,” said Bruce Barton, director of the County of Riverside Emergency Management Department. “These resources are critical to help our region treat more of our residents and get through this hospital surge.”

The military medical team, which consists of active duty physician assistants, nurses and respiratory care practitioners arrived Thursday to assist the Riverside University Health System (RUHS). The 439-bed hospital normally averages about 350 patients each day. An additional 121 beds have been added to accommodate the influx of patients, according to RUHS CEO Jennifer Cruikshank.

“These additional Department of Defense staffing resources come at a very important time and are breathing in a renewed energy and hope into our team that will help us continue to provide our expanded services and support the acute healthcare needs of more people in our region during this critical time,” said Cruikshank.

In addition to the military support, RUHS continues to seek additional help and is expecting additional traveler nurses to arrive soon.

1:53 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

Yeast infection in hospitalized Covid-19 patients may be linked to PPE re-use, CDC study finds 

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

A worrying fungal infection seen among hospitalized Covid-19 patients in Florida may have been caused by the reuse of personal protective equipment, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers said Friday.

They said four cases of Candida auris were probably spread because staff did not follow protocols for preventing spread of the highly infectious yeast. Hospital staff around the country have complained that PPE shortages have forced them to re-use equipment.

Candida auris is a multidrug-resistant yeast that has caused many worrying outbreaks in healthcare settings. It can infect people without causing symptoms and it also can persist on surfaces, so regular sanitation is important in keeping outbreaks at bay. 

It’s also important for staff treating patients with the infection to follow painstaking protocols.

“Investigators observed multiple opportunities for contamination of the base layer of gown and gloves during doffing and through direct contact with the patient care environment or potentially contaminated surfaces such as mobile computers,” the researchers wrote in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. “Mobile computers and medical equipment were not always disinfected between uses, medical supplies (e.g., oxygen tubing and gauze) were stored in open bins in hallways and accessed by HCP wearing the base PPE layer, and missed opportunities for performing hand hygiene were observed.”

Of the four patients infected with Candida auris, three had bloodstream infections and one had a urinary tract infection. In addition, 35 other Covid-19 patients tested positive for C. auris colonization, representing 52% of the Covid-19 patients at the time. 

Once the hospital improved cleaning practices, took equipment out of hallways, and stopped improper PPE practices, the hospital found no further transmission of Candida auris.