January 20 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Sharon Braithwaite and Hannah Strange, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, January 21, 2021
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7:59 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

These coronavirus variants are keeping scientists awake at night

From CNN's Maggie Fox

At least four new variants of the coronavirus are keeping scientists awake at night.

One, first identified in southeast England, has now shown up in at least 50 countries and appears to be spreading more efficiently than older variations of the virus. Its appearance has frightened political leaders, who have closed borders and imposed travel restrictions in attempts to curb its spread.

Others, identified in South Africa and Brazil, haven't traveled as far and wide but show a constellation of mutations that have grabbed the attention of geneticists.

B.1.1.7: At the top of the list for researchers in the United States is the B.1.1.7 variant first seen in Britain. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned last week it could worsen the spread of the pandemic.

While there's nothing like the phrase "mutant new virus" to grab the attention, scientists say so far they are reassured by what they have found: The human immune system can handle the variants that have sprung up so far.

B.1.351: A variant first seen in South Africa called B.1.351 or 501Y.V2, has a different pattern of mutations that causes more physical alterations in the structure of the spike protein than B.1.1.7 does. One important mutation, called E484K, appears to affect the receptor binding domain -- the part of the spike protein most important for attaching to cells.

P.1 and P.2: Two variants of concern have shown up first in Brazil. One, called P.1., has been found in 42% of specimens in one survey done in the Brazilian city of Manaus, and Japanese officials found the variant in four travelers from Brazil. P.2, also first seen in Brazil, caused a flurry of alarm when it turned up in Britain last week in 11 people.

L425R: Finally, there's a new variant seen in California called L425R, and while it's being found commonly, it's not yet clear if it's more transmissible.

Read more about the variants:

8:38 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

US surpasses 400,000 deaths from Covid-19

From CNN's Christina Maxouris and Jason Hanna

The United States has reported at least 400,000 deaths from Covid-19 since the pandemic began, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University as of Tuesday afternoon.

That's more than the number of Americans who died in World War I, Vietnam War and the Korean War combined, and nearly as many Americans who died in World War II. It's far higher than any other country's Covid-19 death toll.

The pandemic's death toll has risen sharply in increments of 100,000 since the first coronavirus death in the United States was reported February 29 in Washington state. (Later in the spring, two earlier deaths in California were posthumously confirmed to be from Covid-19.)

  • 84 days after the first recorded death, the US surpassed 100,000 deaths on May 23, 2020.
  • 121 days later, the US surpassed 200,000 deaths on September 21, 2020.
  • 84 days later, the US surpassed 300,000 deaths on December 14, 2020.
  • 36 days later, on January 19, 2021, the US topped 400,000 deaths.

Those who've died were in focus Tuesday evening as President-elect Joe Biden, one day ahead of his inauguration in the nation's capital, attended a lighting ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial's reflecting pool to honor Covid-19 victims.

"To heal, we must remember," Biden said. "And it's hard sometimes to remember, but that's how we heal. It's important to do that as a nation."

Biden's inaugural committee invited cities and towns across the country to join in by illuminating buildings and ringing church bells "in a national moment of unity and remembrance."

All of this comes almost a year after the first Covid-19 case was confirmed in the US. And it comes after brutal surges in recent weeks, during which the US saw hundreds of thousands of new cases daily and hospitalization and daily deaths hit all-time highs.

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