Pope's personal doctor dies from Covid-19 complications
From CNN’s Livia Borghese in Rome
Pope Francis' personal doctor, Fabrizio Soccorsi, has died as a result of “complications due to Covid,” the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano announced on Saturday.
Pope Francis chose Soccorsi as a personal doctor in 2015, the news outlet said. He was 78 years old when he died.
Soccorsi was hospitalized in Rome on December 26 for a previous oncological disease, according to the Italian Bishop’s Conference newspaper Avvenire. It’s unclear exactly when he was last in direct contact with Pope Francis.
In an interview with Italy's Canale 5 channel set to air on Sunday night, Pope Francis said the Vatican will begin Covid-19 vaccinations next week and he is in line to take it.
US Quarterback Aaron Rodgers pledges $500,000 to help small businesses
From CNN's Lauren M. Johnson
Aaron Rodgers is showing his charitable side by throwing $500,000 to the Barstool Fund, a non-profit organization helping small businesses struggling in the pandemic.
Barstool President Dave Portnoy hosted the Green Bay Packers' quarterback on an Instagram live Friday not knowing what Rodgers wanted to discuss. But shortly into the conversation, Rodgers made his intentions known by matching Portnoy's gift to the fund.
"I've been following you for a while, and I love the brand and what you guys have done. But this far exceeds anything you have ever done," Rodgers said. "I just want to get involved. The videos everyday are so inspiring. I'm in. I want to be in the same amount you put in, $500,000."
The Barstool Fund has raised more than $21 million to help small businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and shares videos of recipients on social media. Several celebrities have given money already.
The country of 1.35 billion people is embarking on one of the world's most ambitious mass immunization programs ever undertaken, with plans to inoculate 300 million frontline workers, and elderly and vulnerable people by August. Preparations have been months in the making.
On Saturday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting to review the status of Covid-19 in the country along with the preparedness for the vaccination rollout, according to a statement from the Ministry of Health.
Phase one aims to vaccinate around 30 million healthcare workers and frontline workers.
Phase two will prioritize 270 million people 50 years of age and older, or those aged under 50 with co-morbidities.
The country conducted its third nationwide dry-run on Friday across 615 districts covering 4,895 session sites in 33 states and Union Territories.
More than 61,000 program managers, 200,000 vaccinators, and 370,000 other vaccination team members have been trained so far.
India on Saturday recorded 18,222 new Covid-19 cases and 228 deaths for the last 24 hours, bringing the nationwide total to 10,280,841 virus cases and 150,999 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health.
"This is our most dangerous time." US Covid-19 deaths are at unprecedented levels
From CNN's Christina Maxouris, Jason Hanna, Paul Vercammen and Dakin Andone
The weekly tallies of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the United States have never been higher,and state officials are warning of more alarming patterns following the holiday season.
The total number of Americans infected with the virus surpassed 22 million Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University data, and more than 372,000 have died.
From the states: Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the state was seeing a "real and significant increase in cases and our positivity rate from people's gatherings around the holiday."
"This surge that we're in right now is at least twice the rate, the seriousness, of the previous surges that we have seen," the governor said Friday.
This is our most dangerous time."
Colorado's state epidemiologist, Dr. Rachel Herlihy, on Friday warned of "early signs" of a rise in Covid-19 cases. "We are starting to see the impact of the holidays show up in our data," she said. Health experts believe about one in 105 residents are currently contagious, Herlihy added.
US Capitol riot: Health officials are also concerned Wednesday's storming of the US Capitol may have consequences for the pandemic.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the riot would likely be a "surge event" that will have "public health consequences."
"You had largely unmasked individuals in a non-distanced fashion, who were all through the Capitol," Dr. Robert Redfield told the McClatchy newspaper group. "Then these individuals all are going in cars and trains and planes going home all across the country right now."
So I do think this is an event that will probably lead to a significant spreading," he added.
Record cases and deaths: In the nine days since the start of 2021, the US has recorded more than 2 million new Covid-19 cases and more than 26,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The nation has averaged about 247,200 Covid-19 cases a day over the past week as of Friday -- an all-time high, and more than 3.7 times greater than a summertime peak set in late July, Johns Hopkins data shows.
Canadians call out leaders for breaking their own Covid-19 rules
From CNN's Lindsay Isaac and Paula Newton
Canadians who have endured a travel ban, 14-day quarantines and weeks-long lockdowns are angry with politicians and government workers who are flouting the very health guidelines they helped put in place.
After telling Canadians to hunker down and cancel holiday plans, more than a dozen high-profile politicians, public health leaders and even a hospital CEO have been caught taking vacations.
What followed were confessions, demotions, resignations and a ferocious, if uncharacteristic outcry from Canadians.
In Alberta, where the Covid-19 case numbers are among the highest in the country, eight politicians have admitted to traveling abroad.
Many Canadians have also been outraged by what seems like a deliberate plan by some to hide their vacation plans.
Ontario's finance minister, Rod Phillips, lost his job after a video message posted on Christmas Eve thanking his constituents for obeying lockdown turned out to be pre-recorded.
"For politicians who have been preaching to us to restrict our activities, to restrict our social gatherings, to see our elderly loved ones through iPad and glass windows, for them to then ignore the sacrifice of others for their personal pleasure, (it) is hard to articulate how deeply disturbing that is," said Dr. Alan Drummond in an interview with CNN from his medical office in Perth, Ontario. "It truly feels like an insult."
China keeps promising its African allies that coronavirus vaccines for the continent are a priority. But where are they?
Analysis from CNN's Jenni Marsh
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi concludes his tour of Africa this weekend without making a single concrete vaccine commitment to a continent hoping a benevolent Beijing will help inoculate its population out of the global coronavirus pandemic.
Last year, as Covid-19 tore across the globe and wealthy countries began to pre-order stockpiles of vaccines for their citizens, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged that African vaccinations were a "priority" for Beijing.
His commitment followed mass donations of masks, testing kits and medical equipment to the continent by Beijing and private individuals, such as billionaire entrepreneur Jack Ma.
Now, with negative sentiment towards China hardening in Western democracies due to trade wars and human rights issues, African allies -- which have crucial voting rights at major international bodies -- have arguably become an even more vital bloc for China to keep on side with its so-called vaccine diplomacy.
While a cold chain vaccine air bridge from Shenzhen, in southern China, to Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, has been established, and manufacturing capabilities are being set up to make Chinese shots in Cairo, Wang's trip made it no clearer when Africans can expect to receive a Chinese vaccine -- or on what terms.
Biden’s plan to release all Covid-19 vaccine doses could be risky, but context is important, says former FDA official
From CNN Health’s Lauren Mascarenhas
President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to release all available Covid-19 vaccine doses immediately could be risky, but it’s important to take it in context, former US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official Dr. Norman Baylor said Saturday in an exclusive interview with CNN's Michael Smerconish.
Both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines require two doses, 21 and 28 days apart, respectively. Second doses are currently on hold by the federal government and released according to the vaccine schedule for people to complete their two-dose regimen.
“Giving the one dose and delaying the second dose beyond what was discovered in the clinical trials, we take a risk of those individuals not necessarily being protected sufficiently,” said Baylor, former director of the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review (OVRR).
He noted that the only efficacy data available on these vaccines is from the clinical trials, which followed the outlined dosing regimen. However, the context around Biden’s plan is important, Baylor added.
“You have to have an idea of when is that second dose coming. Is that second dose coming 21, 28 days after you give that first dose?” he said. “Maybe it'll come in five weeks – and there's a little room for plus and minus with days – but you have to contextualize the whole plan before you can just dismiss it completely.”
11:17 p.m. ET, January 9, 2021
United States reports over 130,000 Covid-19 hospitalizations
From CNN's Hollie Silverman
The United States reported 130,777 current Covid-19 hospitalizations onSaturday, according to the Covid Tracking Project (CTP).
It is the fifth highest number of hospitalizations reported in the country and the 39th consecutive day that the US has remained above 100,000 current hospitalizations.
The highest hospitalization numbers according to CTP data are:
January 6, 2021: 132,464
January 7, 2021: 132,370
January 8, 2021: 131,889
January 5, 2021: 131,215
January 9, 2021: 130,777
The weekly tallies of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the US have never been higher,and state officials are warning of more alarming patterns following the holiday season.
More than two million new Covid-19 cases and 24,000 deaths were reported in the first nine days of 2021 in the US, according to the Johns Hopkins University Covid tracker.