January 21 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Sharon Braithwaite, Eliza Mackintosh, Ed Upright, Zamira Rahim and Caitlin Hu, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021
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1:16 a.m. ET, January 21, 2021

US reports more than 178,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Joe Sutton in Atlanta

The United States reported 178,255 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to at least 24,434,283 since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Another 4,229 virus-related fatalities were also reported Wednesday -- the country's second highest daily total. The Covid-19 death toll in the US now stands at 406,001.

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases

Vaccine numbers: At least 35,990,150 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 16,525,281 shots administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Track US cases: 

12:52 a.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Vaccinating all residents 65 and older may take up to 5 months, says California health official

From CNN's Sarah Moon 

Residents at the Emerald Court senior living community in Anaheim, California get the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on January 8.
Residents at the Emerald Court senior living community in Anaheim, California get the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on January 8. Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register/Getty Images

It may take up to five months to vaccinate all California residents aged 65 and older at the current rate the state is receiving its doses of the coronavirus vaccine, state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said Wednesday.

Speaking during a state vaccine advisory committee meeting, Pan said that while California has about 6.2 million residents aged 65 and older, the state is only receiving 400,000 to 500,000 doses a week of its current allocation of about 1 million.

In order to vaccinate 70% of the 65+ age group with two doses, she explained that about 8,680,000 doses would be required. 

“We’re estimating anywhere from 20 to 22 weeks,” she said. 

Pan also issued a statement advising providers to continue the use of a specific lot of the Moderna vaccine which was temporarily paused due to possible allergic reactions.

She added that the findings "should continue to give Californians confidence that vaccines are safe and effective, and that the systems put in place to ensure vaccine safety are rigorous and science-based."

"Members of my family who have qualified to receive the vaccine as health care workers or because of their age have already received the COVID-19 vaccine, and I encourage every Californian to get the vaccine when it’s their turn," Pan said.
12:35 a.m. ET, January 21, 2021

China announces travel restrictions to curb coronavirus ahead of Lunar New Year 

From CNN's Beijing bureau

People wearing protective face masks are seen at the Beijing Railway Station on January 19, ahead of the Chinese New Year travel rush.
People wearing protective face masks are seen at the Beijing Railway Station on January 19, ahead of the Chinese New Year travel rush. Wu Hong/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

China’s National Health Commission (NHC) has announced a series of domestic travel restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19 as the country prepares for mass movement of people to celebrate Lunar New Year. 

Millions of Chinese migrant workers who plan to travel back to the countryside are now required to present a negative Covid test result within seven days of departure.

They include:

  • People from medium- or high-risk areas
  • Quarantine center staff
  • Cold chain food industry workers
  • Transportation workers

People from medium- or high-risk areas are being discouraged from traveling altogether during the holiday. 

Those who do travel and have a negative test result will not have to quarantine on arrival. They will be required to monitor their health with daily temperature and symptoms checks, and undergo two other tests on the seventh and 14th day after arrival. 

The new measures will come into effect from January 28 and last until March 8. 

12:25 a.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Beijing tightens Covid-19 restrictions as one neighborhood goes into lockdown

From CNN’s Beijing bureau

A staff member in a protective suit transports supplies in a cart in Daxing district of Beijing, China on January 20.
A staff member in a protective suit transports supplies in a cart in Daxing district of Beijing, China on January 20. Chine Nouvelle/SIPA/Shutterstock

All residents in Beijing’s Daxing district have not been allowed to leave the area since Wednesday because of a rising number of Covid-19 cases, according to local officials. 

People wishing to leave the district need to provide a negative Covid-19 test taken within three days, a district notice announced. 

More than 24,000 residents around the infection hotspot in Daxing have also been asked to stay at home until further notice.

Daxing district has reported 11 confirmed cases since Sunday, according to the city’s health commission.

Schools and education facilities across Beijing will need to complete all in-person learning by Saturday, and kindergartens have been shut from today. Meanwhile, University and college students are being discouraged from leaving Beijing unless absolutely necessary. 

New cases: China’s National Health Commission reported 144 new Covid-19 cases across the country on Wednesday, including 18 imported infections. Among the 126 locally transmitted cases, 68 were reported in Heilongjiang, 33 in Jilin, 20 in Hebei, two in Beijing, two in Shanxi and one in Shandong. 

Additionally, 113 asymptomatic infections were reported nationwide, 16 of which were imported. China counts asymptomatic cases separately.

12:01 a.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Biden reverses Trump's decision to leave WHO

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

President Joe Biden signs his first executive order in the Oval Office of the White House on January 20.
President Joe Biden signs his first executive order in the Oval Office of the White House on January 20. Evan Vucci/AP

The White House released US President Joe Biden's letter reversing the Trump administration's decision to leave the World Health Organization after the new US leader was sworn in on Wednesday.

In the letter, Biden writes, "The WHO plays a crucial role in the world’s fight against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic as well as countless other threats to global health and health security. The United States will continue to be a full participant and a global leader in confronting such threats and advancing global health and health security." 

US re-engagement: US diplomats around the world have already been notified of changes they must make as they conduct American diplomacy after Biden signed a series of executive orders tonight.   

The first department wide memo sent by Acting Secretary of State Dan Smith instructed all US diplomats to re-engage with WHO and halt any staff drawdown at the UN health agency, according to the memo reviewed by CNN. 

The memo was sent shortly after Biden signed a series of executive orders, including one to reverse former President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from WHO. 

“The United States will re-engage with the World Health Organization (WHO), and resume regular engagement of US government personnel with the organization. The United States also reverses its decision to recall US government personnel from secondments to WHO,” Smith wrote on Wednesday evening.

The US had been in the process of withdrawing staff at WHO in the final months of the Trump administration. That withdrawal will now be halted and reversed. 

12:02 a.m. ET, January 21, 2021

White House press secretary outlines Covid parameters for Biden administration

From CNN's Kevin Liptak and Jason Hoffman 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a news briefing at the White House on January 20.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a news briefing at the White House on January 20. Evan Vucci/AP

The White House will require daily testing for coronavirus and N95 masks for staffers in a bid to model good pandemic behavior, according to press secretary Jen Psaki.

She said the new rules also include stringent requirements on social distancing.

Psaki said President Joe Biden "has asked us also to be models to the American people" -- a contrast to the previous administration, which largely ignored government mask and social distancing recommendations.

Psaki also said the administration will resume regular briefings with public health officials in addition to the daily White House press briefings. 

“We'll have more to share with you in the next few days, hopefully before the weekend, but what we plan to do is not just return these daily briefings … but also to return briefings with our health officials and public health officials,” Psaki said at her first White House briefing.
“We want to do those regularly, in a dependable way with data shared with all of you and with the public, so that they can also track progress we're making on getting the pandemic under control.” 

Psaki said that the White House will combat misinformation by giving accurate information to the American people “even when it is hard to hear.”

The Trump administration had briefings with health officials regularly last spring when the coronavirus pandemic initially took hold, however those briefings were often not entirely focused on the pandemic as then-President Donald Trump led them awry.

Those regular briefings ended in April after Trump suggested injecting disinfectant could be a cure for coronavirus.  

7:42 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Studies suggest vaccinated people protected from new Covid-19 variants

From CNN's Maggie Fox

New research out this week provides reassuring evidence that people vaccinated against coronavirus will be protected against emerging new variants of the virus.

Two teams tested two of the new variants against blood taken from people who had received the full two-course dose of either the Moderna or the Pfizer vaccine.

While the mutations in the new variants of the virus -- one first seen in Britain, and another first identified in South Africa -- did allow them to evade some of the immunity induced by vaccination, it was far from a complete escape, the two teams reported separately.

A team led by Dr. Michel Nussenzweig of the Rockefeller University tested plasma taken from 20 people who got two doses of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine as part of clinical trials.

They found the vaccines produced strong antibody responses, as well as cells that keep producing new antibodies for months or years.

"We measured their antibody responses to the wild-type virus. Then we took their plasmas and measured them against the variants," Nussenzweig told CNN.

Wild-type virus is the catchall name for virus generally circulating that is not changed enough to be designated a variant.

Different mutations in the viruses did allow some escape from some types of antibodies, but the bodies of the volunteers threw an army of different types of antibodies at the viruses, the team reported in a pre-print study -- not peer reviewed -- published online.

"When you start putting all these mixtures of antibodies together, what it means is that together they can take care of the variants," Nussenzweig said. Even though they had a reduced effect, overall the response was so overwhelming that it should not matter, he said.

"What we really want to do with these vaccines is keep people out of the hospital. They are extremely likely to do that, irrespective," Nussenzweig added.

Eventually, the vaccines should be updated -- but the new mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna can be changed very quickly. "Should the vaccines be tweaked?" he asked. "Probably -- but that doesn't mean that they won't be effective."

Read the full story:

7:36 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Biden's first executive order will require masks on federal property

From CNN's Maggie Fox

President Joe Biden, who plans to make the coronavirus pandemic his top priority, will begin his presidency by asking Americans to wear masks for 100 days and requiring their use on federal property.

His first executive order, the "100 Days Masking Challenge," will symbolize the administration's sharp turn from the Trump era by emphasizing recommendations by public health experts. A president cannot tell states or cities what to do, but a federal mandate will affect federal offices and federal lands and will urge states to do the same.

"This executive action will direct the agencies to take action to require compliance with CDC guidance on mask wearing and physical distancing in federal buildings, on federal lands and by federal employees and contractors," said Biden counselor Jeff Zients, who will be the administration's Covid-19 response coordinator.
"And the president will call on governors, public health officials, mayors, business leaders and others to implement masking, physical distancing and other public measures to control COVID-19," Zients added.
"This is not a political statement. This is about the health of our families, and economic recovery of our country."

Read the full story:

7:55 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

States appeal for more coronavirus vaccine doses as the US death toll moves past 400,000

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe, Jason Hanna and Maggie Fox

As state leaders clamored for more Covid-19 vaccine doses, Joe Biden became President on Wednesday with an eye toward changing approaches to the pandemic that has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the US.

Some state officials say they aren't seeing as many doses as the federal government reports distributing and the demand for the vaccine is outpacing the supply. Georgia, for example, reports adequate staff, volunteers and infrastructure but not enough doses.

"We've been getting about 80,000 doses a week, and that's not much for a state with 11 million people," Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said Tuesday.

Biden, meanwhile, has signaled he intends to alter the federal government's approach to the pandemic and public health in several ways, and one of his first acts as President, a few hours after his inauguration, was to sign an executive order mandating masks on federal property.

He also intends to restore a previously disbanded National Security Council office that would focus on pandemic preparedness and to stop the previous administration's process of withdrawing from the World Health Organization, one of his aides has said.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the agency is conducting a comprehensive review of all existing Covid-19 guidance. "The toll that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on America is truly heartbreaking," she said.

Biden took office just a day after the country surpassed 400,000 recorded deaths for the pandemic.

Across the country, hospitalizations and daily new cases and deaths have been dipping, though experts have warned that more-transmissible virus variants, including one first seen in the UK, could send cases surging again:

Read the full story: