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02:31 - Source: CNN

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Brazil's Supreme Court orders federal government to take action on severe oxygen shortage in Manaus hospitals

A patient arrives at a hospital in Manaus, Brazil, on January 14.

Brazil’s Supreme Court and a federal court in Amazonas have ordered the country’s government to work to immediately resolve a severe oxygen shortage in the coronavirus-hit state. 

Supreme Court Justice Ricardo Lewandowski ordered the federal government to take all actions within its power to alleviate the health crisis in Manaus, the Amazonas capital. 

Lewandowski instructed the government to draw up a “comprehensive and detailed” plan with strategies to deal with the deadly emergency within 24 hours. He also directed the government to immediately find oxygen and other necessary supplies for the Covid-19 patients hospitalized in Manaus. 

A federal court in Amazonas also intervened in the matter. A judge in Manaus ordered the federal government to immediately transfer all patients from the city’s public health system who may die due to lack of oxygen to places where they can get care. 

The order issued on Thursday said it was the federal government’s responsibility to send patients to other states. 

No plans to test most National Guard for Covid-19 before they deploy across Washington

National Guard members unload supplies outside the US Capitol on January 14, in Washington, DC.

The overwhelming majority of the more than 20,000 National Guard members expected in Washington, DC for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration will not be tested for coronavirus before they are deployed from states or upon their arrival in the nation’s capital, a National Guard spokesperson told CNN. 

The Pentagon has authorized up to 25,000 National Guard members to help with inauguration security.

Testing for National Guard members sent to DC is “case dependent” but not widely required, the spokesperson said, noting there are some screening procedures – such as temperature checks – in place.

“Incoming Guard men and women are screened upon departure from their individual states and upon arrival to the DC Armory according to CDC guidelines. Temperature checks and screening questions are in place; masks and social distancing are required where the mission allows,” the DC National Guard said in a statement to CNN Friday.

The National Guard encourages coronavirus testing to personnel who are symptomatic or exposed to the coronavirus.

But as CNN has consistently reported, coronavirus can be spread by people who have no symptoms and, without testing, it is impossible to know whether any of the thousands of Guard members are carrying the virus. And they are being deployed with little warning.

The troops are also arriving in large numbers with the US having had its deadliest 14 days in the pandemic. More than 3.2 million new coronavirus cases have been reported in the first two weeks of 2021, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Earlier this week, Ohio National Guard Maj. Gen. John Harris expressed his concern for deploying the National Guard in his state.

“I’ll just remind you that these National Guard folks that we’re bringing on duty were doing something else just a couple days ago and had no idea they’d be coming here,” Harris said during a news conference. “Bringing these folks together collectively – it is a real concern for us.”

Members of the National Guard are seen guarding Capitol Hill in preparation for the US Presidential Inauguration a week after a pro-Trump mob broke into and took over the Capitol, January 14, 2021, in Washington, DC.

No plans to test most National Guard for Covid-19 before they deploy across DC

Research center to immediately deliver 6 million CoronaVac doses to Brazil's health ministry 

Staff prepare CoronaVac vaccines at the Butantan biomedical production center, in São Paulo, Brazil, on January 14.

The Butantan health research institute in São Paulo will immediately deliver 6 million doses of the imported CoronaVac vaccine to the federal government following an urgent request from the Brazilian health ministry, according to a document signed by Butantan leadership and shared by the research institute with CNN.

The health ministry underscored the “urgency” of immediately providing the vaccine – which has yet to be approved by Brazilian regulators – for use in the country’s vaccination program, according to reporting first published in CNN Brasil, which posted the official health ministry document requesting the vaccines.

On Thursday, Health Minister Gen. Eduardo Pazuello said the program will start on January 20.  

Regulatory agency directors will vote this Sunday on whether to approve emergency use of CoronaVac, which was developed by the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac and tested in Brazil in partnership with the Butantan Institute.  

The Butantan Institute on Tuesday released general results of tests carried out in the country that indicate a vaccine efficacy of a 50.38%.

New pandemic model predicts 567,000 Covid-19 deaths by May 1

The influential coronavirus model at the University of Washington is projecting 192,000 people will die from coronavirus in the US between now and May 1, bringing the total to 566,720 deaths by May 1.

That’s the same number the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) projected in its last estimate, released December 23. The group says more rapid vaccination efforts can bring the number down to 553,000 and universal mask use would take it down even further to 535,000.

The forecast offers some hope for the spring.

“We expect the death toll will reach 567,000 by May 1, with a likely peak at the beginning of February,” IHME said in a statement.

“Daily deaths are expected to decline steadily after the peak, reaching below 500 a day sometime in April due to seasonality and the scale-up of vaccination. By May 1, some states may be close to herd immunity.”

The model assumes that 22% of the US population has been infected with the virus.

“Despite huge reporting lags around the holidays leading to false declines in the last week of December and subsequent overestimated increases, it appears that there are two distinct groups of states. In most of the coastal states, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are increasing, while the epidemic is trending down in much of the Midwest,” the IHME said.

But new variants could change projections. Earlier Friday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned a new variant called B. 1.1.7, first seen in Britain, could worsen the pandemic.

“If more transmissible variants spread in the US in the coming weeks, the peak could be delayed by weeks and the death toll substantially increased,” IHME said.

Either way, the worst is yet to come.

“Hospitals in many states will be under severe stress in the next four weeks. Expanding mask use, timely reintroduction of some social distancing mandates, and more rapid scale-up of vaccination remain the best options for reducing the death toll.”

The IHME team estimates 76% of Americans always wear a mask when leaving home. 

“We expect that 141 million people will be vaccinated by May 1. With faster scale-up, the number vaccinated could reach 179 million people,” the IHME said.

“Daily deaths will peak at 3,680 on February 1, 2021,” IHME said. “Daily deaths are estimated to be well below 500 a day in the month of April. By May 1, 2021, we project that 37,800 lives will be saved by the projected vaccine rollout.”

Pfizer says it has second doses of coronavirus vaccines for Americans, even if there's no stockpile

A pharmacist prepares to administer the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a senior living community in Falls Church, Virginia, on December 30, 2020.

Vaccine maker Pfizer says it has second doses of coronavirus vaccines ready to ship as needed – something that should reassure governors infuriated by the federal government’s announcement that it does not have a reserve stockpile of vaccine doses. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Friday there was no reserve stockpile, even though the Trump administration has been telling states for weeks it is holding onto second doses of vaccine to make sure people who get one dose can get the second shot on time.

Pfizer says it’s holding the vaccine doses.

“Operation Warp Speed (OWS) has asked us to start shipping second doses only recently. As a result, we have on hand all the second doses of the previous shipments to the US. We are working around the clock to produce millions more each day,” Pfizer said in a statement sent to CNN.

“We have and are continuing to work closely with OWS on our production, release and shipping schedules – to ensure Americans receive their first and second doses of the vaccine on time. We have provided OWS with a specific schedule and we foresee no issues in delivering on the commitments we have made,” the company added.

“Our facility in Kalamazoo, MI, is the primary manufacturing site of our COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. and we have shipped more than 15 million doses to destinations across the country as of today. We anticipate no interruptions in shipments at this facility, as we look to scale up our production of the vaccine to produce 2 billion doses worldwide by the end of 2021 (up from the previously communicated approximately 1.3 billion).”

Pfizer is contracted to supply the US with 200 million doses.

There is no "reserve stockpile" of Covid-19 vaccine doses left to release, HHS secretary says

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks during a news conference on January 12 in Washington, DC.

There is no “reserve stockpile” of Covid-19 vaccine doses left to release, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt Friday. 

Though the Trump administration announced this week that it would release all available Covid-19 vaccine doses instead of holding second doses in reserve, a senior administration official told CNN Friday that many of those reserves were already released last year.

 When asked whether there is in fact a reserve of second doses left to release, Azar said, “No. There’s not a reserve stockpile.”

“We now have enough confidence that our ongoing production will be quality and available to provide the second dose for people, so we’re not sitting on a reserve anymore,” he added. “We’ve made that available to the states to order.”

Pfizer has told CNN it has the vaccine doses on hand to ship when the US asks for them.

“We have on hand all the second doses of the previous shipments to the US. We are working around the clock to produce millions more each day,” Pfizer said in a statement.

Pfizer CEO supports Biden vaccination plan

President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks on his plan to administer Covid-19 vaccines at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware on January 15.

Pfizer chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said Friday he supports President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to try to speed up coronavirus vaccination in the US.

Biden laid out a broad outline Friday for vaccinating more people, saying he would try to get Congress to hire more public health professionals, would try to expand vaccination sites and would broaden the type of personnel approved to administer vaccines.

Bourla, whose company makes the first coronavirus vaccine to be authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration, applauded Biden’s words.

“This comprehensive federal plan utilizes as many doses as possible, opens up eligibility to a broader set of Americans, and ensures equity by focusing on the hardest hit communities,” Bourla said in a statement. “We are particularly aligned with the ideas of federally assisted vaccination centers, financial support to the States, mobile clinics to reach underserved urban areas and rural communities, vaccine availability in pharmacies and qualified health centers and an expanded public health workforce.”

The US is contracted to buy 200 million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine.

North Dakota governor says statewide mask mandate will be allowed to expire Monday

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum in 2017.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum on Friday announced the state health officer’s statewide mask mandate will be allowed to expire on Monday. 

Speaking during a news briefing, Burgum said that while officials are seeing lower Covid-19 numbers across the state, “we must remain vigilant.” The governor encouraged the public to keep wearing masks “as part of the important work that we need to do to contain this virus and to maintain the strong position that we’re in.” 

The mask order initially took effect Nov. 14 and was extended from Dec. 14 until Jan. 18, when it will expire, according to a news release from the governor’s office. “The extension to Jan. 18 allowed for a 14-day incubation period to pass after Christmas and New Year’s to ensure the state wouldn’t see a surge in cases,” according to the release. 

Burgum also announced the executive order that limits capacities at bars, restaurants, and event venues will be modified from requirements to recommendations. This change will also take effect Monday.  

Biden plans to ask Congress for 100,000 coronavirus jobs 

President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an event at The Queen theater on January 15 in Wilmington, Delaware.

President-elect Joe Biden promised to help vaccinate more Americans against coronavirus by approving a wider range of professionals who can administer vaccines. He also said he would ask Congress to hire 100,000 more public health professionals.

In a fact sheet released before Biden addressed the nation to lay out his coronavirus vaccination plans, the Biden transition team promised to “surge the public health workforce.”

“President-elect Biden has asked Congress to make an historic investment in expanding the public health workforce, funding 100,000 public health workers to nearly triple​ the country’s community health roles,” the fact sheet reads.

“These individuals will be​ hired to work in their local communities to perform vital tasks like vaccine outreach and contact tracing in the near term, and to transition into community health roles to build our long-term public health capacity ​that will help improve quality of care and reduce hospitalization for low-income and underserved communities.” 

State and local public health officials have said their services have lost many staff over the past 15 years and say they don’t have the personnel needed to effectively manage the pandemic. 

Biden also said he’d work to immediately expand those who are OK’d to give vaccines.

“President-elect Biden will address workforce needs by taking steps to allow additional qualified professionals to administer vaccines and strongly encourage states to use their flexibility fully to surge their workforce, including by expanding scope of practice laws and waiving licensing requirements as appropriate,” the statement reads.

“The federal government, in partnership with states, will provide appropriate training, including thorough use of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.”

The Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is a little-known branch of the US military that includes medical professionals. Many Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff are members of the Public Health Service corps.

“The president-elect will also act swiftly to amend the current COVID-19 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act declaration to permit certain qualified professionals, including retired medical professionals, that are not licensed under state law to administer vaccines to be able to do so with appropriate training in order to expand the number of qualified professionals able to administer the vaccine,” the statement added.

Biden on the state of the pandemic in the US: "We remain in a very dark winter"

President-elect Joe Biden discussed the state of the coronavirus pandemic in the US, saying the country remains in “a very dark winter.”

“Truthfully, we remain in a very dark winter. Infection rates are up we’re up to 3,000 to 4,000 deaths a day as we approach a grim milestone of 400,000 deaths in America. That’s staggering, to state the obvious,” Biden said this afternoon in Wilmington, Delaware, during a Covid-19 news conference. “[T]he vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure thus far.”

Some context: The official global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surpassed 2 million on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The tragic milestone came just over a year after the first Covid-19 death was reported in Wuhan, China.

The US has recorded by far the highest total death toll in the world, followed by Brazil, India and Mexico. But the pandemic has reached every corner of the globe, and only a few tiny, isolated nations have reported no deaths.


04:11 - Source: CNN

Better communication with states about Covid-19 vaccine allocation is needed, Biden says

President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an event at The Queen theater on January 15 in Wilmington, Delaware.

President-elect Joe Biden pledged to better communicate with states about vaccine distribution, in the hopes of having a little less confusion about how many doses are coming and when.

In a fact sheet released as Biden relayed his vaccine plan Friday, the Biden transition team pledged to make sure as many doses of vaccine are made available as possible and as fast as possible. But clear communication is also needed.