January 18 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Sharon Braithwaite and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, January 19, 2021
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10:41 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Morocco bans more flights after detecting first case of Covid-19 variant

From CNN’s Sharif Paget in Atlanta

Morocco reported its first case of the coronavirus variant first detected in the UK and has restricted flights from four additional countries to contain its spread, state-run news agency Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP) said Monday.  

The variant was detected at the Tangier-Med Port in a Moroccan national who had been in Ireland and arrived on a ship from Marseille, France, MAP reported, citing the kingdom's Health Ministry. 

The infected person is not displaying symptoms and was placed in isolation in Casablanca, the ministry added. The patient and his contacts are being treated in accordance with the nation's health protocols.

Flight ban: According to MAP, the Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that Morocco will suspend flights from Australia, Brazil, Ireland, and New Zealand from Tuesday, January 19, "after "the discovery of a suspicious case of coronavirus variant."

The kingdom has now restricted travel from a total of seven countries because of concerns over the variant.  

Morocco has reported 460,144 total Covid-19 cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. In Africa, only South Africa has recorded more cases.

10:02 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

New US Covid-19 cases declined 11% this week, but expert says we shouldn't let our guard down

From CNN Health’s Deidre McPhillips

New Covid-19 cases in the United States have been trending down since hitting a peak last week, but experts say it’s too soon to be overly optimistic. 

The US recorded 1.5 million new Covid-19 cases in the past seven days, according to the most recent data from Johns Hopkins University, an 11% drop from the previous week. Cases declined in 35 states week-over-week, and 18 states saw a drop in the number of deaths.

But with a longer range view, last week’s apparent improvement falls much closer to average. Over the past month, the number of new Covid-19 cases recorded each day has ranged from nearly 101,000 to more than 302,000; over the past seven days, new cases averaged about 218,000 daily. 

“These kinds of fluctuations, on a statistical basis, aren’t sustainable,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert with Johns Hopkins University, told CNN.  
“The virus has established itself in the human population and it’s not going anywhere,” he said. “We’re going to see a lot of transmission until we cross the threshold for herd immunity.”

It’s still too early in the vaccine rollout to see the effects on a national scale, Adalja told CNN, and new, potentially more contagious strains of the virus pose an added threat. 

“I wouldn’t let our guard down,” Adalja said. “Biologically speaking, nothing is changing.”

Track US cases:

9:35 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

China and WHO acted too slowly on Covid-19, pandemic response panel says

Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.
Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark. Getty Images

An independent panel has criticized China and the World Health Organization (WHO) for "early shortcomings" in the initial response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, established by WHO in May 2020, is co-chaired by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

In an interim report released on January 18, the panel called for an overhaul of global health alert and response systems, saying the current system is "not fit for purpose."

The report criticized WHO for not declaring an international public health emergency until January 30, 2020 saying that "early shortcomings" in the global and national response to Covid-19 may have contributed to the pandemic.

China was also criticized by the panel for "lost opportunities to apply basic public health measures at the earliest opportunity."

"What is clear to the Panel is that public health measures could have been applied more forcefully by local and national health authorities in China in January," the report said.
9:04 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

CDC reports more than 120 US cases of Covid-19 variant first identified in UK

From CNN Health’s Michael Nedelman

At least 122 cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom have been found in 20 US states, according to data posted Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This includes at least:

  • 46 cases in Florida
  • 40 in California
  • 6 in Colorado
  • 5 in Minnesota
  • 4 each in Indiana and New York
  • 2 each in Connecticut, Maryland and Texas
  • 1 each in Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming

The CDC says this does not represent the total number of cases circulating in the United States, but rather 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, known as B.1.1.7, appears to spread more easily, there's no evidence that it's any more deadly or causes more severe disease, according to CDC. It has also been found in more than 50 countries.

8:22 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

New York mayor calls for UK travel ban to curb spread of Covid-19 variant

From CNN's Maggie Fox

In this April 14, 2020 file photo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wears a bandana over his face while speaking at a food shelf organized by The Campaign Against Hunger in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn.
In this April 14, 2020 file photo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wears a bandana over his face while speaking at a food shelf organized by The Campaign Against Hunger in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. Scott Heins/Getty Images

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that the Covid-19 variant first identified in the UK is the biggest challenge facing New York City and called for a ban on travel from Britain.

“Right now, this UK variant is the number one challenge we face,” de Blasio told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “Our healthcare leadership here in New York City, they say we are racing against time to vaccinate the maximum people before that UK variant spreads like wildfire.”

Health experts say the new variant, also known as B.1.1.7, is likely more contagious but not more deadly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week the spread of B.1.1.7 could accelerate the spread of the virus in the United States.

Mayor de Blasio said he’s against lifting coronavirus-related restrictions on travel into the US. In fact, he said he’s in favor of shutting down travel from the UK to the US.

“I hope President-elect Biden would put a travel ban on Britain until we get to a much greater point of vaccination in this country,” he said. 

“We just can't take the chance.”

7:57 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Vaccine lot under investigation in California has more than 330,000 doses

From CNN's John Bonifield

A dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is administered.
A dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Mario Tam

 A lot of vaccines that’s been held up in California while health officials check it out accounts for more than 330,000 doses allocated to 287 providers, a state health official said Monday.

Health officials in California are telling medical providers across the state not to administer doses from one lot of Moderna's coronavirus vaccine while they investigate possible severe allergic reactions last week in a number of people after they got shots at a community vaccination clinic.  

More than 330,000 doses from the lot were distributed to 287 providers across the state from Jan. 5-12. Tens of thousands of doses may have already been administered, but the number of unused does is unknown, according to Darrel Ng, a spokesperson for the California Department of Public Health.  

CDPH said Sunday that fewer than 10 people at a clinic in San Diego who received Covid-19 shots from the lot required medical attention over the span of 24 hours. The state said it was not aware of anyone at any of the other 286 sites who had similar allergic reactions after receiving vaccine from the lot.  

CDPH said it recommended pausing the entire lot "out of an extreme abundance of caution," noting that there are not immediate replacement doses in addition to what had already been ordered. 

San Diego County said 30,000 doses from the lot were pulled from its supply. On Monday, in a statement, Santa Clara County said 21,800 doses from the lot had been allocated to the county, and that none of them had been administered.

California's decision to hold back doses of vaccine carries its own risks, especially since allergic reactions can be monitored and treated and, in this case, they occurred at only one location, one expert said.

"There are going to be people who either aren't getting this vaccine or aren't getting their second doses of vaccine, which then puts them at risk in a situation where we have a virus which is rapidly spreading in the country," said Dr. Paul Offit, who heads the vaccine education center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

"There's going to be another probably roughly 100,000 people that die over the next couple of months, and among those people could be those who are not getting this vaccine because of 'an abundance of caution,’"Offit told CNN.

7:33 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Trump expected to lift Covid-19 travel restrictions, source says

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

Signs warn travelers of Covid-19 in New York’s LaGuardia Airport on November 24, 2020 in New York City.
Signs warn travelers of Covid-19 in New York’s LaGuardia Airport on November 24, 2020 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Before he leaves office Wednesday, a White House official confirms President Trump is expected to lift coronavirus-related travel restrictions imposed on much of Europe and Brazil starting Jan. 26.

On Monday, the White House released the text of a new executive order, which states "the Secretary has advised me to remove the restrictions applicable to the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and the Federative Republic of Brazil, while leaving in place the restrictions applicable to the People's Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Iran. I agree with the Secretary that this action is the best way to continue protecting Americans from COVID-19 while enabling travel to resume safely."  

However, the incoming Biden administration says the order will not be implemented.

Incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted tonight, "With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel." 

She added: "On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26. In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19." 

The Trump order, which now seems dead on arrival, also states that the restrictions will be lifted to coincide with a new policy that requires travelers from those nations to have a negative Covid test before being allowed to travel to the US, writing, "On January 12, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order, effective January 26, 2021, requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 for all air passengers arriving from a foreign country to the United States. The Secretary has explained that this action will help to prevent air passengers from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and the Federative Republic of Brazil from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 into the United States, as it is the Secretary's understanding that the vast majority of persons entering the United States from these jurisdictions do so by air." 

More than 398,000 people in the US have died from Covid-19 since the pandemic started.

5:39 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

A third of people hospitalized for Covid-19 end up coming back, UK study finds

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

A third of people treated in hospital for coronavirus infection end up coming back, and more than one in 10 die later, British researchers report.

Many of those who end up back in the hospital have a variety of problems that indicate long-term damage to the heart, the kidneys, the liver and other organs, the researchers reported.

The team at Britain’s Office for National Statistics, University of Leicester and elsewhere studied data on nearly 48,000 people treated in hospitals up through August. They were followed for an average of 140 days, or just under five months.

“Nearly a third of people post COVID-19 hospital discharge were re-admitted and more than one in 10 died,” the team wrote in a preprint study – one not reviewed by a medical journal but posted online.

“Secondly, rates of post-discharge multi-organ dysfunction were elevated in individuals with COVID-19 compared with those in the matched control group,” they added. This suggested they had damage beyond their lungs. Diabetes and severe heart events such as heart attacks were especially common, the team wrote.

People 70 and older and ethnic minorities were especially vulnerable to this long-term damage, the researchers said.

The findings fit in with other studies that indicate many people who survive a bout of severe coronavirus end up with longer-term health conditions that can turn deadly, the researchers said.

4:48 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

More than 4 million people have received a Covid-19 vaccine in the UK

From CNN’s Duarte Mendonca and Samantha Tapfumaneyi

A nurse administers a Covid-19 vaccine at Blackburn Cathedral on Monday, January 18, in Blackburn, England. 
A nurse administers a Covid-19 vaccine at Blackburn Cathedral on Monday, January 18, in Blackburn, England.  Peter Byrne/Pool/Getty Images

More than four million people across the United Kingdom have received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, the UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday.

“I'm very glad to report that as of midnight last night, we have now vaccinated 4,062,501 people across the United Kingdom and we're currently vaccinating more than double the rate per person per day than any other country in Europe,” Hancock said.

Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, Hancock went on to say that the latest data shows the country has “vaccinated more than half of those over 80, as well as half of our elderly care home residents." 

Hancock said there are 37,475 people in UK hospitals with Covid-19 — the highest number throughout the pandemic. He reiterated that someone is being admitted to hospital every 30 seconds.