The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Sharon Braithwaite, Meg Wagner and Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNN

Updated 12:08 a.m. ET, January 23, 2021
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10:52 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Lack of information, financial support has left US states struggling with vaccine rollout, expert says

From CNN Health’s Lauren Mascarenhas

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. Glen Stubbe/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS/Sipa USA

A lack of information and financial support has left US states struggling to manage a slow Covid-19 vaccine rollout, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said Friday.

Around the US, those eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine are reporting that they are struggling to access it.

“I am eligible in Minnesota to get a vaccination also, and I can’t find one,” Osterholm told CNN. “I want to share that frustration loud and clear.”

Osterholm said states don’t have the information or resources needed to plan for vaccinations.

“We have no clue often just how much is coming and when, and so that makes it very difficult to plan for these clinics,” he said.
“And then once it's out here, basically that is up to the states, who have had very little support financially to hire additional people to develop the kind of electronic record systems that can make it so that people aren't being frustrated by software programs not working, telephone lines not working,” he added.

It’s not just the states that have been left in the dark, said Osterholm, who served as a member of President Joe Biden’s transition coronavirus advisory board.

“I can just say that having been part of the team that we never saw a plan that was written in even one page of a plan that came from the Trump administration about this,” he said. “That’s not a partisan comment. That's just the truth.”

9:34 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

For the first time in the pandemic, parts of Hong Kong are under lockdown

From CNN's Pauline Lockwood

A resident receives a mandatory Covid-19 test by a health worker at a testing site in the Jordan area of the Yau Tsim Mong district of Kowloon in Hong Kong, on January 22.
A resident receives a mandatory Covid-19 test by a health worker at a testing site in the Jordan area of the Yau Tsim Mong district of Kowloon in Hong Kong, on January 22. Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong is imposing a temporary lockdown on residents in coronavirus hotspots -- a first in the city’s battle against Covid-19.

In a statement released early Saturday, the Hong Kong government made a "restriction-testing declaration", which requires residents from parts of the bustling neighborhood of Jordan to stay in their premises and undergo compulsory testing arranged by the government. 

Jordan, in the Kowloon peninsula, is a dense and thriving urban area with high-rise apartments, businesses and restaurants. The lockdown area includes Temple Street, home to the iconic night market popular with tourists. 

Residents from buildings in the designated area will be prohibited from leaving their homes until testing has been completed. The government says the compulsory testing is expected to take 48 hours. 

Hong Kong’s Secretary for the Environment, Wong Kam-sin, said in a news conference Saturday that water from the pipes of several buildings in the area was being tested to ascertain whether the coronavirus is spreading through sewage. 

In a separate statement Saturday, the Hong Kong government announced that roads in the “restricted area” would be closed to traffic. 

Hong Kong recorded 61 new Covid-19 on Friday, including 55 local transmissions. 

7:59 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Biden coronavirus advisers confident more vaccine is coming

From CNN’s Nicholas Neville and Maggie Fox

President Biden’s coronavirus advisers are confident more vaccine is coming, Dr. Vivek Murthy, who is the nominee for Surgeon General, said Friday.

The transition team started speaking with companies making the vaccines to try to get an idea of how much supply was really available and how quickly production could be stepped up, Murthy told a webcast sponsored by the US Conference of Mayors.

“We've been deeply involved in conversations with the companies on a very regular basis and those were conversations that, frankly, started even before the election to try to understand just more closely what the supply was, what the challenges were, what the roadblocks were to getting even more supply accelerated, what the potential failure spots would be that we need to look out for and plan for,” Murthy said.

“Those conversations, I think, have given us more confidence that there is more supply coming, and that it will continue to steadily increase over the next few months,” Murthy added.

“And part of what we've talked about also is the importance of making that data as clearly available and transparent so that mayors and the general public can also see a lot of what we're seeing as well, can have some confidence about what the supply looks like over the coming weeks.”

State and local leaders want and need to know, so they can plan, he said.

“One of the most clear pieces of feedback that we got from governors and echoed by mayors as well was that they needed more information on when the supply was coming. They needed more than four or five days notice, that they needed ideally several weeks notice so they can plan accordingly and set up their operations, and we heard that loud and clear,” Murthy said.

“So, I think what you will see in the coming weeks is a greater focus on that transparency around supply so that you have a better sense of what we're seeing, and also so that you have a sense of what supply also will be coming to your state over the coming weeks. “

8:23 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Atlanta mayor says she's getting daily calls from people desperate to get the vaccine

From CNN's Hollie Silverman

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks with CNN on Friday, January 22.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks with CNN on Friday, January 22. CNN

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told CNN Friday night that she receives calls from people "desperately looking for the vaccine" daily.

"I'm getting calls on a daily basis from people saying they just can't find it," the mayor said.

Bottoms said the city is currently vaccinating their public safety personnel and will next move onto sanitation workers, but residents who qualify are having a difficult time accessing doses of the vaccine. 

"I'm just not seeing an abundance of vaccine," Bottoms told CNN.

The mayor explained that the metropolitan area of Atlanta didn't receive as much as she thought it should when compared to more rural areas. 

"Something that did concern me is that the metropolitan area didn't get as much of the vaccine at the beginning of the distribution as I had hoped that we would receive. A lot of it went to other places throughout the state," she said. "Even some of the small communities, I've seen reports of complaints that certain health systems didn't get vaccines."

The mayor said she and other mayors are hopeful the new White House administration may be able to help with distribution issues.

"I am very hopeful the leadership from the White House that we now have that there will be more coordination and the vaccine will be widely distributed in the communities that need it most," Bottoms said.

Watch here:

7:17 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Panama confirms first case of Covid-19 variant detected in South Africa

From CNN's Kiarinna Parisi  

The first positive case of the Covid-19 variant detected in South Africa has been confirmed in Panama, Ministry of Health officials announced in a statement Friday. 

"This is a 40-year-old passenger, born in Zimbabwe, who entered the country on January 5 from South Africa and had previously made a stop over in the Netherlands before arriving in Panama," the statement said.

After testing positive, the patient was kept in isolation, complying with Panama's protocol, according to the Ministry of Health.

To date, Panama has registered at least 4,944 deaths related to Covid-19 and about 305,752 confirmed cases.

7:13 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Miami Heat will employ Covid-19 detection dogs to screen fans at basketball games

From CNN's Kevin Dotson

The Miami Heat announced that beginning Jan. 28, a limited number of fans will be in attendance at Heat home games.

The Heat will adopt many of the policies that other sports organizations have used to allow fans to attend games, but they’ve added one very unique extra: Covid-19 detection dogs.

How it works: A specially trained dog will screen every fan in line before continuing with the entry process to the American Airlines Arena.

Other policies include the standard mandatory mask policy, physical distancing, and no food service.


7:09 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Vaccinating all Los Angeles County residents could take a year, county health official says

From CNN's Sarah Moon

Staff and volunteers distribute the Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday, January 19, in Inglewood, California.
Staff and volunteers distribute the Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday, January 19, in Inglewood, California. Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

At the current rate Los Angeles County is receiving its doses of the coronavirus vaccine, it would take up to a year to vaccinate all of its adult residents, Dr. Paul Simon, L.A. County chief science officer for the Department of Public Health, said in a briefing Friday.

The county has an extremely limited supply of doses and is expected to receive only 150,000 doses next week, Simon said. At this rate, “the vaccination efforts will likely extend well into 2022.”

If allocations double, vaccinations for adults in Los Angeles County could be completed by the end of 2021, he added.

By the numbers: As of Thursday, at least 441,000 doses of the vaccines have been administered in the county.

With the lower number of doses arriving next week, Simon said he expects the county’s mass vaccination sites to be operating at less than max capacity and provide about 2,000 to 2,400 doses of the vaccine a day.

According to a news release from the public health department, the county “has only received enough vaccination supply to inoculate 1 in 4 people who are currently eligible.”

Simon said that two million people in the county are currently eligible for the vaccine, which includes about 800,000 health care workers and 1.3 million residents who are 65 years and older.

He repeatedly asked residents for their patience as the county continues to work hard to get more people vaccinated.

Los Angeles County on Friday reported 9,277 new cases of the virus and 256 additional deaths.

The public health department said the amount of new cases this week are “considerably lower,” with a 30% decrease in the seven-day average of daily cases from last week. The test positivity rate has also dropped to 12.7% from 20.8% on Jan. 1, a 39% drop in three weeks.

To date: Los Angeles has a total of 1,054,802 confirmed cases and 14,894 deaths. With over 10 million residents, Los Angeles County is the most populous county in the nation.

5:25 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Publix expands vaccinations to nearly 400 locations across three states

From CNN's Natasha Chen

Publix has expanded its Covid-19 vaccination efforts to nearly 400 locations across three states, according to statement from the grocery store and pharmacy chain.

Publix is currently offering Covid-19 vaccinations in three out of seven states where they operate stores. That includes 108 locations in Georgia, 42 locations in South Carolina and 242 locations in Florida.

“More demand than supply is the Achilles’ heel,” said Maria Brous, Publix director of communications. 

As an example of overwhelming demand, Brous said new appointments became available in Florida on Friday morning. The open 48,900 appointment slots were taken in less than three hours. At any given time, 300,000 users were in the online waiting room, attempting to schedule an appointment.

Brous said the Publix website has not crashed since appointments first became available.

Brous told CNN that there is uncertainty in the consistency and quantity of vaccine shipments they will receive. As a result, Publix does not add appointment availability until a new shipment has arrived and the doses have been verified. An announcement is then made one day ahead of any new appointments becoming available online.

Publix works with each state’s governor on which areas to serve, and eligibility and residency requirements.  

5:11 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

UK coronavirus variant may be linked to "higher degree of mortality," prime minister says

From CNN's Nada Bashir, Samira Said and Michael Nedelman

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a coronavirus press conference at 10 Downing Street on January 22, in London.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a coronavirus press conference at 10 Downing Street on January 22, in London. Leon Neal/Getty Images

The coronavirus variant first identified in the UK “may be associated with a higher degree of mortality” in infected patients, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday during a news briefing at Downing Street.

“I must tell you this afternoon that we’ve been informed today that, in addition to spreading more quickly, it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant – the variant that was first identified in London and the South East – may be associated with a higher degree of mortality,” Johnson said. 

Researchers are still looking at the data and there is still a lot of uncertainty.

Patrick Vallance, the UK government's chief scientific adviser, said it looks like the variant is more deadly when looking at the total population that becomes infected.

"If you took somebody in their 60s — a man in their 60s — the average risk is that for 1,000 people who got infected, roughly 10 would be expected to, unfortunately, die with the virus. With the new variant, for 1,000 people infected, roughly 13 or 14 people might be expected to die," he said.

Vallance said the increase in risk would affect all age groups.

This evidence comes from several groups in the UK that found an increased risk of death for people infected with the variant compared to people infected with other forms of the coronavirus. In four analyses cited by a government advisory group, these estimates ranged between roughly 1.3 and 1.9 times higher risk of death. At least one analysis among hospitalized patients did not.

The advisory group, known as NERVTAG, concluded there is a “realistic possibility” that variant is linked to a higher risk of death. However, the researchers said the absolute risk of death for an individual remains low, and more data will be needed to provide definitive proof. For example, in some cases the data came from less than 10% of all deaths reported.

Vallance stressed that "there's a lot of uncertainty around these numbers and we need more work to get a precise handle on it. But it obviously is of concern that this has an increase in mortality, as well as an increase in transmissibility, as it appears of today."

He noted that when it comes to patients who are hospitalized with Covid-19, there is not an increased risk of mortality.

“When we look at data from hospitals, so patients who are in hospital with the virus, the outcomes for those with the original virus or the new variant look the same,” he said.

UK Prime Minister Johnson said "both the vaccines we’re currently using remain effective both against the old variant and this new variant."