January 12 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Ivana Kottasová, Florence Davey-Attlee and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, January 13, 2021
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6:41 p.m. ET, January 12, 2021

UK coronavirus variant has now been found in at least 50 countries

From CNN’s Michael Nedelman

Caution tape sits in front of the Good Samaritan Society nursing home on December 30, 2020 in Simla, Colorado. A Colorado National Guard soldier who was deployed at an ongoing COVID outbreak at the nursing home tested positive for a COVID-19 variant.
Caution tape sits in front of the Good Samaritan Society nursing home on December 30, 2020 in Simla, Colorado. A Colorado National Guard soldier who was deployed at an ongoing COVID outbreak at the nursing home tested positive for a COVID-19 variant. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

A new variant of coronavirus first discovered in the UK – known as  B.1.1.7 or VOC 202012/01 – has been found in at least 50 countries, as well as in Hong Kong and Taiwan, according to the World Health Organization.

Experts say that while the variant appears to be more transmissible than other strains, there is no evidence it’s deadlier or causes more severe disease.

“Since first detected on 14 December 2020, VOC 202012/01 has been detected in 50 countries, territories and areas across five of the six WHO regions to date. In England, the variant has been detected in all regions and almost all local authorities,” WHO said in its weekly report on the pandemic.

This is a separate variant from one first identified in South Africa, which has been detected in 20 countries, WHO said.

“It is well known that viruses constantly change through mutation, and so the emergence of new variants is an expected occurrence. Many mutations have no impact on the virus itself while some could be detrimental to the virus and few may result in an advantage to the virus,” WHO said.

In the United States, the variant has been detected in at least 11 states including hotspots like New York, California and Florida.

6:25 p.m. ET, January 12, 2021

WHO scientists urge more sequencing to find coronavirus variants

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

More scientists in more countries need to be collecting and sequencing samples of coronavirus to help the world keep an eye out for dangerous new mutations, World Health Organization scientists said Tuesday. 

“Our collective goal is to get ahead of the game and have a global mechanism to quickly identify and study variants of concern and understand their implications for disease control efforts,” said Dr. Ana Maria Henao Restrepo, head of WHO’s Research and Development Blueprint. 

“So far an astounding 350,000 sequences have been publicly shared, but most come from just a handful of countries. Improving the geographic coverage of sequencing is critical for the world to have eyes and ears on changes to the virus,” said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on Covid-19.

WHO sponsored a virtual meeting of 1,750 experts Tuesday, and said helping increase the global capacity for running genetic sequences of viruses is a priority. 

“Better surveillance and laboratory capacity to monitor strains of concern needs to be accompanied by prompt sharing of virus and serum samples via globally agreed mechanisms so that critical research can be promptly initiated each time,” WHO said in a statement.

Some background: New variants have been spotted in Britain and South Africa that appear to be more easily transmitted, although the pattern of mutations in each do not appear to make the virus otherwise more dangerous.

But scientists note that the more people become infected with coronavirus, the more opportunities it will have to change into new forms, and some of them may end up causing more severe disease.

5:33 p.m. ET, January 12, 2021

Georgia governor says state is making significant improvement in vaccine distribution

From CNN’s Lindsay Benson and Jason Morris

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, left, speaks during a press conference in Atlanta on January 12.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, left, speaks during a press conference in Atlanta on January 12. CNN

Georgia is making “significant progress” in administering the Covid-19 vaccine, according to Gov. Brian Kemp. 

He said that he “knew there was going to be logistical challenges” to meet the demands for the vaccine rollout, and said they are planning large-scale vaccine distribution sites to help. 

“Our goal is to make sure that we’re getting every dose that we have in an arm. We’ve made great progress since Friday, but we have to make more progress this week,” Kemp said at a news conference with Kathleen Toomey, the state's public health director.

“Over the last week the number of vaccines administered in Georgia has increased by 102,183, which is a 97% increase,” Kemp said, stressing that with Operation Warp Speed they expect to be able to vaccinate all residents in Georgia nursing homes by the end of this month. 

Kemp said he is “encouraged by the obvious demand for the vaccine,” but said he knows it is impossible to vaccinate everyone immediately. 

“Yes the phone lines will be busy, yes the websites will certainly crash. There is simply, vastly more Georgian’s that want the vaccine than can get it today. This is no doubt frustrating,” Kemp said.       

“Thursday of this week will mark one month since we received our first vaccine allocation, and there will continue to be roadblocks ahead as we roll this out. And there will be mistakes made. There will be waiting and many obstacles we will have to work to overcome in the days ahead.  But can also commit to the people of this state that we are working around the clock to get vaccines in arms as quickly and as safely as we can,” he added.

Kemp is asking residents to be patient as the state works to get as many people vaccinated as possible when the supply becomes available from the federal government.  

4:47 p.m. ET, January 12, 2021

CDC will require all air travelers to US to show negative coronavirus test starting Jan. 26

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

Passengers walk through a terminal at Dulles International airport in Dulles, Virginia on December 27, 2020.
Passengers walk through a terminal at Dulles International airport in Dulles, Virginia on December 27, 2020. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Air travelers to the US will have to show a negative coronavirus test before they may board a flight, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. The new order takes effect Jan. 26. 

The CDC expressed concern about new variants of the virus that appear to be more transmissible, although dozens of such cases have already been found across the US.

“Variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to emerge in countries around the world, and there is evidence of increased transmissibility of some of these variants. With the US already in surge status, the testing requirement for air passengers will help slow the spread of the virus as we work to vaccinate the American public,” the CDC said in a statement.

“Air passengers are required to get a viral test (a test for current infection) within the three days before their flight to the U.S. departs, and provide written documentation of their laboratory test result (paper or electronic copy) to the airline or provide documentation of having recovered from COVID-19,” the statement said.

The CDC said the airlines must confirm the negative test and if a passenger doesn't take one, the airline should not let them board.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in the statement that while testing does not eliminate all risk "when combined with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer, healthier, and more responsible by reducing spread on planes, in airports, and at destinations."

3:53 p.m. ET, January 12, 2021

More than 9 million people in the US have received the first dose of coronavirus vaccine, CDC says

From CNN’s Maggie Fox and Michael Nedelman

Nurse Patti Ward inoculates a fire fighter with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at UMass Memorial Hospital in Marlborough, Massachusetts on January 12.
Nurse Patti Ward inoculates a fire fighter with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at UMass Memorial Hospital in Marlborough, Massachusetts on January 12. Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

More than 9 million people have received the first dose of their coronavirus vaccine and more than 27 million doses have been distributed, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

The CDC’s regular report on vaccine distribution and administration shows 27,696,150 vaccine doses have gone to states and territories and 9,327,128 doses have gone into people’s arms. That means one-third of vaccines that have been delivered have been given to people.

The CDC said 951,774 residents of long-term care facilities have been vaccinated, with nearly 4.4 million doses sent out to the facilities – which were designated to be the first sites covered under vaccine rollout.

Officials of Operation Warp Speed defended the slow rollout of vaccines on Tuesday, saying states were sticking too rigidly to guidance designating health care workers and nursing home residents to be vaccinated first. They said the rollout would speed up soon and asked states to open up vaccination to everyone 65 and older and to younger people with chronic conditions.

3:42 p.m. ET, January 12, 2021

Nearly 2.3 million children in US have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic

From CNN's Jessica Firger

Close to 2.3 million children in the US have tested positive for Covid-19 as of Jan. 7, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Children represent 12.5% of all cases in the US, a rate of 3,055 cases per 100,000 children in the population, the academy said. 

The group said 171,000 new cases have been identified through testing in children just last week alone. 

The weekly report is based on data collected by the AAP and the Children's Hospital Association from 49 states, New York City, Puerto Rico and Guam. In most states, the definition of "child" age range was 0-19.

Only 10 states provided information on testing. In those states, children made up between 6%-17.8% of total state tests, and between 7.1%-25.9% of children tested positive for Covid-19. 

The good news is that data also reflects what public health experts have been saying for some time. Children are less likely than adults to be hospitalized for Covid-19 and die from the illness. Based on the information provided by 24 states and New York City, children represented 1.2%-2.8% of total reported hospitalizations for Covid-19. Only 0.2%-3.1% of all cases of Covid-19 in children required hospitalization. 

Among the 42 states providing data on Covid-19 mortality, 13 states reported zero deaths in children related to the virus. States that did report deaths saw no more than 0.2% of deaths in children among all confirmed cases of Covid-19. 

"At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children. However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects," the AAP wrote in a statement. 
3:24 p.m. ET, January 12, 2021

CDC will require negative Covid-19 test for international passengers flying to US

From CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen

The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to sign an order today or tomorrow requiring all international airline passengers to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test before boarding flights to the US, a federal health official tells CNN.

The order will go into effect two weeks after it’s signed by the CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield. The new requirement was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The rule is expected to be similar to one put in place last month for passengers from the UK to the US, which requires that passengers have a negative test within three days of boarding their flight.

For the UK requirement that went through last month, airlines can be subject to criminal penalties if they fail to comply, and passengers can be subject to criminal penalties if they willfully give false or misleading information. 

An airline industry group has expressed support for the new measure. 

“[We are] writing to express our support for a [CDC] proposal to control the spread of COVID-19, including variants of the virus, by implementing a global program to require testing for travelers to the United States,” the industry group Airlines for America wrote to Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 4. 

3:14 p.m. ET, January 12, 2021

CVS expects to administer 20 to 25 million Covid-19 vaccines per month, company official says

From CNN’s Samira Said

Donna Ko, a pharmacist for CVS, prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Soldier's Home in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on December 29, 2020.
Donna Ko, a pharmacist for CVS, prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Soldier's Home in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on December 29, 2020. Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

CVS expects to administer around 20 to 25 million coronavirus vaccines per month, a company official said Tuesday.

“When we get into the retail phase, we'll do almost a million vaccines a day,” outgoing CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo said at the JP Morgan 39th Annual Health Care Conference. 

It will be about 20 to 25 million coronavirus vaccines per month, said Karen Lynch, the incoming CEO of CVS Health. 

“We have over 90,000 clinicians, through our pharmacists, through our pharmacy techs, through our nurses and nurse practitioners, to be able to administer the vaccine, and we do expect that we can administer 20-25 million vaccines per month once the federal program opens up,” Lynch said. 

“We expect the federal program to open up shortly, and we are ready in our CVS pharmacies, to administer the vaccine.”

So far, CVS has held over 8,000 vaccine clinics in long-term care facilities, and has administered more than 700,000 vaccines, Lynch said. As of Monday, about 10% of total vaccines administered in the United States had been administered by CVS, she said.

Lynch takes over as CEO of CVS Health on Feb. 1.

2:54 p.m. ET, January 12, 2021

UK variant found in 1% of Covid-19 positive tests in France, health minister says

From CNN's Barbara Wojazer

French Health Minister Olivier Veran speaks during a session of questions to the government at the National Assembly in Paris on January 12.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran speaks during a session of questions to the government at the National Assembly in Paris on January 12. Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images

A preliminary study in France shows the UK variant has been found in around 1% of positive coronavirus tests, Health Minister Olivier Véran told senators during a hearing on Tuesday.

Véran was citing the preliminary results of a study carried out by epidemiologist Bruno Lina on thousands of PCR tests from Thursday and Friday.

He added that the cases were scattered across the country and there was no concentration of cases in any single region.

The study will be repeated regularly to allow the government to monitor the growth of the variant and potential clusters, Véran said.

France reported at least 19,753 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours on Tuesday. 

According to numbers from the health agency, at least 189,834 people have been vaccinated in France so far.