January 19 coronavirus news

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Inside the lab that discovered new Covid-19 variant in South Africa
03:10 - Source: CNN
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Colombia's defense minister is in intensive care due to Covid-19

Colombia’s Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo, who tested positive for Covid-19 on January 12, is in the ICU, sedated and on ventilator support, according to a statement from the country’s presidency released on Tuesday.

Holmes Trujillo has been diagnosed with “viral pneumonia due to SARS-CoV-2,” the statement said.

“At the moment (the minister’s) health condition is stable with a positive response” to the health treatment (being) provided, according to the statement. It did not say what treatment the minister was being given.

The Ministry of Defense first announced on January 12 that Holmes Trujillo had tested positive for the virus, saying he would continue with his duties virtually. However, a day later the minister was taken to the hospital, where he has remained since Wednesday.

On Monday, General Commander of the Military Forces Luis Fernando Navarro Jimenez was appointed acting defense minister until Holmes Trujillo is able to resume his duties.

Variant might partially evade protection from vaccines or prior infection, early research suggests

A new study suggests someone might be able to get infected with one of the new variants of the coronavirus even if they’ve had Covid-19 before or have been vaccinated.

The variant was first spotted in South Africa in October and has now been found in more than a dozen countries.

“I think we should be alarmed,” said Penny Moore, associate professor at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa and the senior author of the study.

“Based on Penny’s data, it’s likely that the vaccine is going to be somewhat less effective, but how much less effective we don’t know,” said David Montefiore, a virologist at Duke University Medical Center.

Montefiore added that this is the first study that gives him serious doubt about whether prior infection or a vaccine will protect against a new coronavirus variant.

“This is the first time I’ve been concerned about a variant partially evading the immune response and partially evading the vaccine,” he said.

Both experts emphasized that people should still get the vaccine. It’s extremely effective against other forms of the virus and they think it likely will still give some level of protection against the new variant as well.

The study was posted on a pre-print server and has not been peer-reviewed and published in a medical journal.

This is one of the first reports to look at the variant’s effect on antibody potency. Labs around the world are furiously studying the issue and expect to report results within the next few weeks.

Read the full story:

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Related article Variant might partially evade protection from vaccines or prior infection, early research suggests

San Francisco's health department will run out of Covid-19 vaccine doses by Thursday, mayor says

Amid an increased demand for coronavirus vaccines nationwide, San Francisco’s Department of Public Health announced their vaccine supply will be exhausted by Thursday if they don’t immediately receive an additional allotment.

“All of the Department of Public Health’s remaining vaccine doses are scheduled for individuals to receive their first or second doses this week and unless we get more vaccine, the Department of Public Health will run out of our existing supply by this Thursday,” Mayor London Breed said at a news conference Tuesday.

To date, San Francisco’s Department of Public Health (DPH) has received 31,655 doses of the vaccine. A total of 28,501 San Franciscans have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 6,347 have received their second shot, according to county health data. 

“We received a fraction of the doses we requested from the state,” Public Health Director Grant Colfax said. “DPH’s allocation arriving from the state this week is only 1,775 doses.”

The entire health system in San Francisco, which encompasses the county’s health department and other private providers, have received a combined total of 102,000 vaccines to be used for both first and second doses.

Health officials warn this is not nearly enough doses to vaccinate the approximate 210,000 people designated in the state’s phase 1a tier, where primarily healthcare workers and non-hospital care workers are being immunized. San Franciscans aged 65 and older are also being vaccinated in this tier.

“The inconsistent and unpredictable flow of vaccine from the state and directly at the feet of the feds is not only impacting DPH, but our city healthcare providers as well,” Colfax said.

Covid-19 news conference interpreter dies of coronavirus

An American Sign Language interpreter for Covid-19 briefings in Hawaii has died of the novel coronavirus.

Patty Sakal’s death was noted Tuesday by Gov. David Ige and state Senate President Ron Kouchi during a coronavirus news conference. “She certainly had wonderful expressions and emotions and a great passion for her job,” Kouchi said.

Sakal found out she had the virus when trying to return from a trip to California to visit one of her daughters, according to her sister Lorna Mouton Riff in an interview with CNN affiliate Hawaii News Now. She was 62 years old.

“We made that difficult decision to take her off of the ventilator and let her go in peace,” Mouton Riff said to Hawaii News Now. 

Sakal was born to deaf parentsher sister told Hawaii News Now, and was the vice president of a non-profit organization that provides services to the hearing-impaired community in Honolulu.

In a profile issued by the state Department of Health last May, Sakal said, “Doing this allows me to honor and carry the rich Deaf heritage of ASL and Deaf culture given to me by my parents.”

Oxygen shortages in Brazil's Amazon are proving deadly

Seven Covid-19 patients hospitalized in the small city of Coari in Brazil’s Amazon region died early Tuesday after the local hospital ran out of oxygen, according to a statement on Facebook from the Coari municipal government.

As Covid-19 cases skyrocket in Brazil, oxygen shortages have forced a virtual collapse of health services over the past week in the wider Amazonas state. Premature babies have had to be evacuated from the state’s capital city Manaus, and local news have quoted nurses saying that patients died of asphyxiation due to lack of oxygen.

According to Coari City Hall, 40 cylinders of oxygen were due to arrive from Manaus on Monday, but the delivery arrived too late.

The Amazonas Health Secretariat said delays in the supply chain caused the shipment to be redirected to Tef, the nearest city with an airport equipped to support nighttime landings.

It was ultimately sent on to Coari by boat, nearly a day later than expected, according to Coari City Hall.

Read more about the situation in Amazonas:

Family members of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 line up with empty oxygen tanks in an attempt to refill them in Manaus, Amazonas state, Brazil on January 15

Related article Brazilian officials were warned six days in advance of a looming oxygen crisis in Manaus

Some South Carolina hospitals were only giving "about half" of available doses, says governor

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster told reporters on Tuesday that the state will “have to move quicker” to vaccinate people.

Due to a misunderstanding, some South Carolina hospitals had been setting aside doses for follow-up injections, ultimately only administering “about half” of the doses they should have been giving, he said at press conference in North Charleston.

“When you get that shipment in, use it as soon as possible. Don’t delay,” he added.

CDC's vaccine advisers schedule emergency meeting for next week

Vaccine advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have scheduled an emergency meeting for next week to discuss coronavirus vaccines.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) plans a meeting for Wednesday, January 27, to discuss progress in administering vaccine doses, safety of the vaccines, testing of the vaccines in children and studies on the effectiveness of the vaccine.

There is also a time slot for a Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer to present, but the name of the manufacturer is to be determined. Johnson & Johnson is expected to report on Phase 3 clinical trials for its experimental coronavirus vaccine by the end of the month.

ACIP members are not expected to vote during the one-day meeting, a CDC spokeswoman said.

Trump administration is leaving Biden with "confusing" Covid-19 vaccine numbers

States across the country say they’re running low on coronavirus vaccine supply, with many officials insisting the vaccine delivery numbers reported by the Trump administration don’t align with what they are seeing on the ground.

From New York to Tennessee to West Virginia, officials are clamoring for more doses of coronavirus vaccine. And officials in those states said that federal tallies suggesting they have thousands of doses sitting on the shelves don’t accurately reflect the supply of vaccine on hand.

The confusion around vaccine supply – and the gap between what officials said is happening locally and the numbers the Trump administration is reporting – presents an immediate challenge for the incoming Biden administration.

A source close to the Biden transition team said there is enormous concern among the incoming administration about the accuracy of the numbers that have been released by the federal government. It was only within the last few days that the transition team was given access to Tiberius, the system that shows states how many doses are available to them and allows states to determine delivery locations.

Until then, the team was working solely off numbers they received from manufacturers, unable to cross check and confirm, the source told CNN on Tuesday.

All of this means the Biden team still isn’t sure what it will be confronted with when President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Wednesday. Despite frustration, the source said Biden’s team has been hesitant to broadcast just how they were left in the dark out of concern that the Trump administration would stop cooperating altogether.

Read the story here.

Vermont Gov. will quarantine after possible coronavirus exposure at coronavirus briefing

Top Vermont officials will quarantine and be tested “out of an abundance of caution,” after a contractor who provided services at state coronavirus briefings tested positive for Covid-19.

Governor Phil Scott and Health Department Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine are among the officials who could have been exposed at the Jan 15 and Jan 19 briefings, according to a release from Scott’s office, which reads:

The briefings are conducted under state guidance, with safety protocols, including physical distancing, in place. 
However, out of an abundance of caution, because they speak at the podium for extended periods of time, Governor Scott, Dr. Levine, and other administration officials in attendance will quarantine and be tested based on guidance from the Vermont Department of Health. 

According to the release, state contact tracers have started their investigation and will provide guidance to all those who are identified as close contacts. The Governor’s Office has reached out to those in attendance at the briefings.

Scott will continue working remotely “until further notice,” the release said.

The US added 100k new Covid-19 deaths in less than half the time it took to reach the first 100k

The United States reported more than 400,000 total Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

This is the quickest the country has ever added 100,000 deaths from Covid-19 – and it occurred in under half the time it took the U.S. to report its first 100,000 Covid-19 deaths. 

Per Johns Hopkins University:

  • May 23, 2020: 100K total Covid-19 deaths, 84 days after the first death
  • September 21, 2020: 200K total Covid-19 deaths, 121 days after hitting 100K
  • December 14, 2020: 300K total Covid-19 deaths, 84 days after hitting 200K
  • January 19, 2021: 400K total Covid-19 deaths, 36 days after hitting 300K

The US currently averages 3,237 new Covid-19 deaths per day.

BinaxNOW rapid antigen Covid-19 test not as sensitive among people with no symptoms, CDC report suggests

Abbott’s BinaxNOW Rapid antigen Covid-19 test can miss positive cases, especially among people with no symptoms, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday.

The researchers compared results of Abbott BinaxNOW rapid antigen test with gold-standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests from 3,419 people tested at two Arizona community testing sites in November. All participants were given both tests.

The rapid antigen test was only able to detect infection in 64.2% of people with symptoms who tested positive by PCR. It only detected 35.8% of people with no symptoms who had tested positive on a PCR test, the researchers found.

Using PCR tests as the standard, researchers also found four false-positive rapid antigen test results among people with no symptoms. 

Among 299 people who tested positive with a PCR test, 47.5% got false negative results from the rapid antigen test.

Nevertheless, rapid antigen tests can still be a helpful screening tool to more quickly isolate people with the virus in community settings, the researchers wrote in the CDC’s weekly MMWR report.

They also noted that they studied the Abbott BinaxNow rapid antigen test, and cautioned against generalizing the results to other antigen tests.

Vaccine shipments compromised by temperature issues in Michigan

Michigan health authorities say several shipments of Moderna Covid-19 vaccine were compromised after their temperature was reported as going out of range, during shipment. 

Doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine shipped on Sunday had their temperature reported as getting too cold, according to a statement released by Michigan State Police.

Moderna vaccine distributor McKesson re-sent the majority of the 21 shipments on Monday night and expects to ship the rest by Tuesday.

The state did not indicate the exact number of doses that were in the shipments.

An additional six shipments slated for Michigan were held back to check that there were no issues with the vaccine.

“This is the first report of vaccine potentially being compromised during shipment in Michigan and we are working quickly with the distributor to have replacement vaccine shipped out,” Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy for Health Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said in a statement.

Consequently, a number of counties and vaccination centers across Michigan have been forced to cancel or reschedule vaccinations due to the shortfall of COVID-19 vaccines delivered to the state, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said at a press conference on Tuesday. 

Existing Covid-19 vaccines will likely protect from new variants, says incoming CDC director

Because the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines in the US is very high, they are likely provide some protection even against emerging variants of the virus, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, incoming director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Tuesday.

“The efficacy of the vaccine is so good and so high, that we have a little bit of a cushion,” Walensky told JAMA editor-in-chief Howard Bauchner.

With a starting point of about 95% efficacy, Walensky said that even if the vaccines are slightly less effective against new variants, they will still be more effective than most vaccines.

“It’s going to work against the variant,” she said. “Will it be 95%? Maybe. Will it be 70%? Maybe. But our flu vaccines aren’t 75% effective every year and we still get them.”

Effort to vaccinate in Arkansas' long-term care facilities is 'lagging,' says state governor

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday said the state has administered 50% of the Covid-19 vaccine doses it has received, but the vaccination of residents and staff at long-term care facilities led by Walgreens and CVS is “lagging.”

147,609 vaccine doses have been administered of the 293,600 received so far by hospitals, state long-term facilities, and other health care providers, according to state data.

But data on vaccination at long-term care facilities done by Walgreens and CVS through a federal partnership shows only 6,626 doses of the 80,700 doses allocated have been administered – about 8%.

“If you look at our long-term care, that is the federal partnership that we don’t have as much control over, that is lagging behind,” Hutchinson said, adding the pharmacies have “assured” him they will complete vaccination at long-term care facilities by the end of the month.

Fauci: We need 'all hands-on deck' to combat Covid-19 and Biden made clear that’s his 'top priority'

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who received his second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine today, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he believes President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to produce and distribute 100 million vaccines in 100 days is doable.

Biden “has made it very clear to the Covid-19 team that this is a very important goal and he’s going to do whatever it takes to get there and I feel pretty confident going to be able to do that,” Fauci said.

Fauci also addressed the US surpassing 400,000 Covid-19 deaths — a milestone he predicted months ago.

“I’m sorry that, that projection came about,” Fauci said.

“Things are going to continue to get worse before they get better. So, this is a situation where we need all hands-on deck and the President-elect has made it very clear that this is his top priority,” he explained.

Watch the moment: