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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12:01 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Los Angeles County adds more than 11,000 new coronavirus cases

From CNN's Jennifer Selva

Motorists queue up to take a coronavirus test in a parking lot at Dodger Stadium's drive-thru testing site in Los Angeles Monday, January 11.
Motorists queue up to take a coronavirus test in a parking lot at Dodger Stadium's drive-thru testing site in Los Angeles Monday, January 11. AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

A day after surpassing 1 million coronavirus cases, Los Angeles County reported 11,366 new infections and 108 deaths on Sunday.

According to a news release from the Los Angeles Department of Public Health (LADPH), these numbers, which are lower than any day of the past week, represent an undercount due to a lag in weekend reporting.

The numbers show:

  • The daily positivity rate has dropped in the past seven days from 16.5% last Monday, to 14% on Sunday.
  • There are currently 7,498 Angelenos hospitalized with the disease, and 23% of those are in the ICU.
  • Of the more than 5 million individuals tested since the pandemic began, 18% have tested positive.

UK variant: The LADPH announced its first confirmed case of the UK Covid-19 B.1.1.7 variant on Saturday, in a male who had traveled to L.A. County but is now isolating in Oregon. The department said it believed the more contagious UK variant was likely already spreading in the community and urged residents to "more diligently" follow safety measures.

9:37 p.m. ET, January 17, 2021

England expands Covid-19 vaccine program to people age 70 and older

From CNN's Sharif Paget 

Members of the public receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine at Lichfield Cathedral, in Staffordshire, England, on Friday, January 15.
Members of the public receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine at Lichfield Cathedral, in Staffordshire, England, on Friday, January 15. Jacob King/PA via AP

Starting Monday, England is expanding the next phase of its Covid-19 vaccination campaign to offer doses to people age 70 and older and those considered vulnerable to the virus, the UK government said in a statement issued late Sunday. 

Until now, the vaccination program has focused on two priority cohorts: people over the age of 80 and frontline health and care workers. 

“Today is a significant milestone in our vaccination programme as we open it up to millions more people who are most at risk from Covid 19," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sunday, according to the statement. 

While vaccinating the first two groups remains a priority, the statement read, vaccination sites that have enough supply can offer them to those 70 and older along with "clinically extremely vulnerable people."

“Now that more than half of all over-80s have had their jab, we can begin vaccinating the next most vulnerable groups," UK Health minister Matt Hancock said. 

"We are working day and night to make sure everyone who is 70 and over, our health and social care workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable are offered the vaccine by the middle of February," he added.

8:26 p.m. ET, January 17, 2021

Covid-19 variants may not be more deadly, but they can still cause more deaths, says Fauci

From CNN Health's Lauren Mascarenhas

More infectious Covid-19 variants that are not necessarily more deadly can still cause more deaths, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press.

“Even though on a one-to-one basis, it's not more virulent, meaning it doesn't make you more sick or more likely to die, just by numbers alone, the more cases you have, the more hospitalizations you're going to have, and the more hospitalizations you have, the more deaths you're going to have,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently warned that Covid-19 variants could accelerate the spread of the virus in the United States.

Fauci said the US is closely examining new variants, including one first identified in the UK and another, “more ominous” strain identified in South Africa and Brazil. Health experts are watching out for whether new strains could lessen the impact of Covid-19 vaccines, which would prompt some modifications to the vaccines.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it’s important for people to double down on public health measures and get vaccinated as soon as they can to prevent excess hospitalizations and deaths caused by new variants.

9:36 p.m. ET, January 17, 2021

US is facing "relentless strike" from Covid-19, says former FDA commissioner

From CNN Health's Lauren Mascarenhas

With a new variant of Covid-19 spreading across the US, the nation is facing a “relentless strike” from the virus, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said Sunday.

“I think what we're looking at is a relentless strike from this virus heading into the spring,” Gottlieb said in an interview on CBS’ Face the Nation.

The variant of Covid-19 first identified in the UK has now spread through multiple US states. While it does not appear to be more deadly, health experts believe it is likely more infectious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently warned that it could accelerate the spread of the virus in the US.

“In about five weeks, this is going to start to take over,” he said. “The only backstop against this new variant is the fact that we will have a lot of infection by then, so there’ll be a lot of immunity in the population and we will be vaccinating more people, but this really changes the equation.”

While surveillance of Covid-19 variants in the US is developing slowly, Gottlieb said data from the US and other nations shows that the number of people infected with the new variant will likely double every week.

“Whereas infections really would have started to decline in the spring -- we would have had a quiet spring -- we could have persistently high levels of infection in the spring, until we finally get enough people vaccinated,” he said.
7:40 p.m. ET, January 17, 2021

Brazil authorizes two Covid-19 vaccines for emergency use

From CNN's Rodrigo Pedroso and Caitlin Hu

Amid a devastating resurgence of the coronavirus in parts of Brazil, federal health officials have finally voted to authorize two vaccines for emergency use.

Brazilian regulatory agency Anvisa on Sunday approved both the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and the Coronavac vaccine.

Minutes later, Monica Calazans, a Black nurse from downtown São Paulo, became the first Brazilian to be vaccinated. Calazans, who is at high risk for Covid-19 complications and works in an ICU that has been at 90% capacity or above since April, exploded into tears before receiving the Coronavac shot.

"You don't understand what this means to me," she told São Paulo state governor João Doria.

Brazil is the country hit hardest by Covid-19 in Latin America. It has recorded more than 8 million cases and more than 200,000 deaths from coronavirus. While several of its neighbors have already approved vaccines for use, Brazil has seemed to lag despite its renowned public health and vaccination track record.

Coronavac, developed by Chinese company Sinovac, is now authorized for use of 6 million imported doses. It has a history in Sao Paulo state, where the local Butantan Institute conducted Phase 3 clinical trials of the vaccine. Butantan will also produce future doses.

However, Coronavac has shown a low average efficacy rate of 50.4% -- barely above the 50% minimum established by the World Health Organization. The number, which falls far below the 78% previously announced, has raised questions about the veracity of the data and fueled skepticism over the apparent lack of transparency regarding Chinese vaccines.

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8:07 p.m. ET, January 17, 2021

Expect 500,000 Covid-19 deaths by mid-February, incoming CDC director says

From CNN's Travis Caldwell and Holly Yan

In less than a year, Covid-19 has killed almost 400,000 Americans.

And in just the next month, another 100,000 lives could be lost to the disease, the incoming director of the US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention said.

"By the middle of February, we expect half a million deaths in this country," Dr. Rochelle Walensky told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday.

"That doesn't speak to the tens of thousands of people who are living with a yet uncharacterized syndrome after they've recovered," said Walensky, who was chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital before President-elect Joe Biden picked her to lead the CDC.

Some people who have had Covid-19 have suffered symptoms months after testing positive.

"And we still yet haven't seen the ramifications of what happened from the holiday travel, from holiday gathering, in terms of high rates of hospitalizations and the deaths thereafter," Walensky said.

"I think we still have some dark weeks ahead."

100 million doses in 100 days: Walensky said Sunday that the Biden administration will address "bottlenecks" in Covid-19 vaccine distribution and fulfill its goal to deliver 100 million doses in 100 days.

"I think that there are bottlenecks in different places across the entire system," Walensky told "Face the Nation."
"Different states are having different challenges -- how much is being rolled out to each state, whether those states have adequate personnel, whether those states are getting vaccine to pharmacies," she said. "Our job is to make sure that with the entire support of the federal government, that we address all of those bottlenecks wherever we are, so we can get vaccine into people's arms."

President-elect Joe Biden says his goal is to distribute 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days of office.

"We have looked carefully, and we are confident that we have enough vaccines for the 100 million doses over the next 100 days," Walensky said. "It will be a hefty lift, but we have it in us to do that."

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