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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12:48 a.m. ET, January 20, 2021

UK Covid-19 strain detected in at least 60 countries, WHO says

From CNN's Maggie Fox

A medical worker handles samples at an express Covid-19 testing lab at Vnukovo International Airport on January 12.
A medical worker handles samples at an express Covid-19 testing lab at Vnukovo International Airport on January 12. Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS/Getty Images

To date, 60 countries across all six World Health Organization regions have reported either imported cases or community transmission of the UK coronavirus strain -- 10 more than a week ago, WHO said in a news release Wednesday.

Among the countries which have reported cases of the variant first identified in the United Kingdom are the United States, Russia, Brazil, India and Spain.

US cases: On Monday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that at least 122 cases of a the UK variant have been identified in 20 US states.

This includes at least 46 cases in Florida; 40 in California; six in Colorado; five in Minnesota; four each in Indiana and New York; two each in Connecticut, Maryland, and Texas; and one each in Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

CDC said this does not represent the total number of cases circulating in the US, 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.

12:41 a.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Beijing steps up Covid-19 measures after reporting biggest case jump in 3 weeks

From CNN’s Beijing bureau and Sophie Jeong in Hong Kong

People line up for a coronavirus test at a hospital in Beijing on January 17.
People line up for a coronavirus test at a hospital in Beijing on January 17. Andy Wong/AP

Authorities in China’s capital Beijing said they will investigate everyone entering the city from overseas and shut down two subway stations after reporting the biggest daily rise in new Covid-19 cases in more than three weeks.

Beijing reported seven new cases on Tuesday -- six in the city's Daxing district. Beijing's metro operator said it will shut down the Tiangong Yuan and Biomedical Base metro stations located in Daxing as part of the city's Covid-19 prevention measures. 

Beijing authorities said during a meeting on Tuesday that residential compounds with confirmed cases in Daxing and surrounding areas will be under close management. In addition, all individuals who entered the city from abroad since December 10 will be investigated, with an increased frequency of screening.

New cases: China's National Health Commission said on Wednesday that a total of 103 new Covid-19 cases were reported from Tuesday across the country. Northeastern Jilin province reported 46 new cases, while Hebei province surrounding Beijing reported 19 new infections.

Some 58 new asymptomatic infections, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, were also reported Tuesday. The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 88,557, while the official death toll is 4,635.

12:38 a.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Colombia's defense minister is in intensive care due to Covid-19

From CNN's Tatiana Arias

Colombian Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo delivers a news conference in Bogota on October 26, 2020.
Colombian Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo delivers a news conference in Bogota on October 26, 2020. Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images

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.

10:20 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

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

From CNN's Elizabeth Cohen

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:

10:22 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

CDC's vaccine advisers schedule emergency meeting for next week

From CNN Health's Maggie Fox

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.

8:06 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Brazilian officials were warned 6 days in advance of a looming oxygen crisis in Manaus

From CNN's Rodrigo Pedroso and Zamira Rahim

Local and federal officials in Brazil were warned of looming oxygen shortages nearly a week before crisis struck in the city of Manaus, the country's Solicitor General has revealed.

In a country already hard-hit by the coronavirus, oxygen shortages and soaring Covid-19 cases have pushed Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state, into a healthcare crisis. Nurses in the city have been quoted in local news reports as saying patients have died of asphyxiation in the city's hospitals because there is no oxygen to give them.

The Brazilian government has come under sharp criticism over its handling of the crisis. Last week, Supreme Court judge Ricardo Lewandowski ordered the government to present a response plan to solve the oxygen shortage, citing the Jair Bolsonaro administration's "omissive behavior" in addressing the emergency.

On Sunday, Bolsonaro's Solicitor General José Levi do Amaral sent a 16-page report defending the government's response to the court. The report discloses that the federal health ministry knew about the crisis six days before the situation became critical on January 14.

It also stresses that the local government in Amazonas did not inform federal authorities about the looming oxygen shortage. "The Health Ministry...became aware on (January) 8th through an e-mail sent by the product manufacturer," the report states. The provider, named in the report as White Martins, first notified the Amazonas State government, and then federal authorities, the report says.

Read the full story:

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.

Read more: