The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Florence Davey-Attlee, Hannah Strange and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, January 14, 2021
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10:28 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

1 in 3 people in LA County have been infected with Covid-19 since start of pandemic

From CNN's Sarah Moon

Approximately one in three residents in Los Angeles County has been infected with Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to new data published by the county.

As the county continues to experience a coronavirus surge, workplace outbreaks have also increased, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said Wednesday.

Workplace outbreaks are occurring at grocery stores, convenience stores, warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and many other workplaces where people come together on a daily basis.

“In just over a month, outbreaks at these worksites increased from 9 per week on November 1, to 44 per week on December 6 -- nearly a fivefold increase,” the department said.

The county has also experienced an increase in outbreaks in schools and daycare settings.

“While almost all the outbreaks were small and well-contained, dozens of staff and a small number of students were affected,” the department said.

It warned that these increases reflect a pattern of transmission from worksite to home and back to worksites. 

Infection rate: The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services’ epidemic model estimates that about one in 115 residents are currently infectious to others compared to one in 125 a week ago.

Hospitalizations: According to county health officials, the number of new patients requiring hospitalization due to the virus has “increased markedly in December,” but “has appeared to level off.”

“We have not yet fully seen the effect of transmission in the period from around Christmas to New Years,” they said Wednesday.

Due to the time required for new exposures to result in illness severe enough to require hospitalization, health officials explained that the extent of transmission occurring during the last 10 days in December through New Year’s remains unclear.

“This makes it difficult to reliably predict demand for hospital-based services,” they said.

Officials predict a continued shortage of ICU beds and ventilators over the next four weeks.

10:05 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

China reports first Covid-19 related death in 8 months

From CNN's Beijing bureau

China has reported its first Covid-19 related death in 242 days as daily new infections reached the highest levels since July, according to health authorities. 

The individual died on Wednesday in Hebei province, which has been at the center of China’s most recent outbreak of the coronavirus. 

China’s National Health Commission (NHC) reported 138 new Covid-19 infections for Wednesday, including 14 imported cases. Of the 124 locally transmitted cases, 81 cases are from Hebei province. 

The NHC also recorded an additional 78 asymptomatic cases detected on Wednesday. China does not include asymptomatic patients in its tally of confirmed cases.

9:50 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

As sites shift from Covid-19 testing to vaccinations, health officials warn balance is needed

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Many NFL and Major League Baseball stadiums, from New York to Los Angeles, have been Covid-19 testing sites -- and now some of those same facilities are being repurposed again as Covid-19 vaccination centers.

Yet many health officials warn that balance is needed to ensure Covid-19 testing efforts continue even as the country pushes for more coronavirus vaccinations

That balance is the crux of an issue that public health officials have grown more concerned about, Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, told CNN on Wednesday.

"Converting some of those large-scale venues from testing to vaccination, at least for the time being, makes sense -- just because we do have to start to scale up the vaccination, but I think there's a balance," Plescia said.
"We can't just switch everything over to vaccinations," he said. "We need to continue to have some resources where people can get tested."

Read the full story:

10:54 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

White House task force warns some Covid-19 strains "may have evolved into a more transmissible virus"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

The White House coronavirus task force again suggested the existence of “more transmissible” strains of Covid-19 and a “much more rapid” spread of the virus, in its weekly reports to states.

“This fall/winter surge has been at nearly twice the rate of rise of cases as the spring and summer surges. This acceleration and the epidemiological data suggest the possibility that some strains of the US Covid-19 virus may have evolved into a more transmissible virus,” the report, dated January 10 and obtained by CNN, said.
“Given that possibility, and the presence of the UK variant that is already spreading in our communities and may be 50% more transmissible, we must be ready for and mitigate a much more rapid transmission.”

Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shot down an item included in the January 3 task force state reports that suggested there was a homegrown “USA variant” of coronavirus, a misperception that began on a call with governors, an administration official told CNN.

But the official made it very clear US health officials have not determined that a US variant of the virus exists.

After the holiday season, the US is now seeing “clear continuation of the pre-holiday high rate of spread as measured by rising test positivity, increased cases, increased hospitalization rates, and rising fatalities," the report said.

There is “full resurgence” of viral spread in “nearly all metro areas,” the reports said, calling for “aggressive action.” The task force outlined measures including the use of masks that are “two or three ply and well-fitting,” as well as “strict physical distancing," and more proactive testing of young adults.

This week’s reports raised concerns about “significant, continued deterioration from California across the Sunbelt and up into the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast,” so, essentially, the entire continental US.

And as the nation lags in administering vaccinations, the task force emphasized the need to “put (vaccines) in arms now,” noting that “active and aggressive immunization in the face of this surge would save lives.”

9:15 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

CDC's ensemble forecast projects up to 477,000 US Covid-19 deaths by Feb. 6

From CNN Health's Michael Nedelman

An ensemble forecast published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now projects there will be 440,000 to 477,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by February 6.

Unlike some individual models, the CDC’s ensemble forecast only offers projections a few weeks into the future. The previous ensemble forecast, published January 6, projected up to 438,000 coronavirus deaths by January 30.

At least 384,343 people have already died from Covid-19 in the US, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

8:49 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

Turkey authorizes emergency use of China's Sinovac vaccine, mass rollout to begin on Thursday

From CNN's Gul Tuysuz in Istanbul

Turkey's Health Minister Fahrettin Koca receives the first shot after Turkish authorities gave the go-ahead for the emergency use of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by China's Sinovac Biotech, in Ankara, Turkey, on Wednesday, January 13.
Turkey's Health Minister Fahrettin Koca receives the first shot after Turkish authorities gave the go-ahead for the emergency use of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by China's Sinovac Biotech, in Ankara, Turkey, on Wednesday, January 13. Turkish Health Ministry via AP

Turkish health regulators approved the Chinese Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use on Wednesday, clearing the way for a mass vaccination program to begin on Thursday.

“The scientific data has been evaluated and 14-day testing of samples taken from the batches that have arrived have been examined in our laboratories... Emergency use authorization has been issued," the Turkish Drug and Medical Device Administration said in a statement.

Immediately after the announcement, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca received the first dose of the vaccine on live television. He told reporters that he and other members of the Pandemic Science Council are being vaccinated immediately and rollout across all 81 provinces in Turkey will begin on Thursday.

The administration did not release details about the data used to determine the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. Advanced, Phase 3 trials are ongoing in Turkey, but the vaccine is also being tested in other countries, including Brazil.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera announced on Wednesday that his country expects to receive 10 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine. Indonesian President Joko Widodo received the first shot of Sinovac vaccine on Wednesday and announced that vaccination will start across the country immediately.  

Questions over Sinovac data: On Tuesday, the government of Sao Paulo published data showing that the Sinovac vaccine was just 50.38% effective in late-stage trials in Brazil, significantly lower than earlier results showed.

While the number exceeds the threshold required for regulatory approval, it falls far below the 78% previously announced.

8:32 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

3 million new US Covid-19 cases were diagnosed in the past 13 days

From CNN's Amanda Watts and Virginia Langmaid

The United States has tallied over 3 million new Covid-19 cases in 2021 so far, John Hopkins University reports.

It took 167 days to reach the first 3 million cases, from January 22, 2020 (when JHU reported the first US coronavirus case) to July 8, 2020. 

So far, 23,044,857 cases and 384,204 deaths have been reported from Covid-19 during the entire pandemic, per JHU. 

8:08 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

MLB offers stadiums as Covid-19 mass vaccination sites

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Major League Baseball teams reached out to county and city health officials this week to offer every MLB stadium in the country as a mass vaccination site, Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, told CNN on Wednesday.

"These stadiums are wonderful areas to be repurposed for larger, mass vaccination efforts," Freeman said, but she added that testing is still a priority.

"We have so many places across the country still experiencing high levels of transmission and resurgence of disease, that we can't afford to let down the testing right now," she said. "We're too early in the vaccination process to do that, because we still need to mitigate and manage the spread of the disease, even while we're vaccinating."

Many venues -- including Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles and Yankee Stadium in New York -- already have plans underway to become Covid-19 vaccination centers.

7:39 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

CDC reports 76 US cases of coronavirus variant first identified in UK

From CNN's Michael Nedelman

At least 76 cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in the UK have been found in 12 US states, according to data posted Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This includes 32 cases in California, 22 in Florida, five in Minnesota, four in New York, four in Colorado, two in Connecticut, two in Maryland, and one case each in Texas, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin and Georgia.

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

While the variant appears to spread more easily, there's no evidence that it's any more deadly or causes more severe disease, according to the CDC. It has been found in more than 50 countries worldwide.

Experts suspect there could be many more cases in the country and have criticized the US for not doing more genetic sequencing of virus samples to surveil for mutations. Earlier this month, a CDC official told CNN the agency plans to more than double the number of samples it sequences by mid-January -- with a target of 6,500 per week.