January 23 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Brett McKeehan and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 12:26 a.m. ET, January 24, 2021
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7:22 a.m. ET, January 23, 2021

The UK has the "highest death rate" in the world

From CNN’s Haley Brink and Rob Picheta

The United Kingdom currently tops the global list of highest deaths per 100,000 residents, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

The country reported its highest ever single day death toll on Wednesday with 1,820 daily new deaths reported, and has been averaging about 1,240 daily new deaths over the last seven days.

Country-by-country comparisons are imperfect, given that they rely on data from each individual nation.

But the UK's recorded death toll, from a population of 66 million, far outweighs the record tolls in other major countries, including the US, on a per capita basis.

So far the United Kingdom has tallied 96,166 total deaths since the pandemic began. 

Countries with the highest deaths per capita

  1. United Kingdom: 142.53
  2. Czech Republic: 140.91
  3. Italy: 139.34
  4. United States: 125.35
  5. Spain: 117.80
6:24 a.m. ET, January 23, 2021

What "vaccine passports" mean for your summer vacation

From CNN's Barry Neild

The words "vaccine passport" have a reassuring ring to them, perhaps conjuring up the image of a sleek, embossed document with watermarked pages and official stamps of approval. Flourished at border controls, it would open travel doors that, for so many of us, have been closed by Covid-19.

Some destinations -- including the Seychelles, Cyprus and Romania -- have already lifted quarantine requirements to visitors able to prove they're vaccinated. Others, such as Iceland and Hungary, have opened up to people who've recovered from Covid-19.

This raises the prospect that proof of inoculation or immunity could be the golden ticket to rebooting travel and seems good news for people eager to book summer vacations after months of lockdown, particularly as vaccine rollouts gather pace.

They could open up the restaurants, bars, cinemas and other leisure and entertainment facilities whose closure over the past year have left many teetering on the edge of -- or already victim to -- financial ruin.

Tech companies such as IBM are also trying to get in on the act, developing smartphone apps or digital wallets into which individuals can upload details of Covid-19 tests and vaccinations. These are gaining support from major travel industry players.

5:09 a.m. ET, January 23, 2021

FDA gives approval for syringes to extract an extra dose from vials of the Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Travis Caldwell

A pharmacist prepares a syringe of the Pfizer BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine in Tucson, Arizona, on January 15.
A pharmacist prepares a syringe of the Pfizer BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine in Tucson, Arizona, on January 15. Cheney Orr/Bloomberg/Getty Images

As the US set a new daily record for Covid-19 inoculations and states clamored for more vaccine supplies, Pfizer and the FDA said pharmacists and health practitioners can in some cases extract an additional dose from each vial.

Originally, each vial of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine was designed to contain five doses, but some pharmacists reported they could extract six doses when using certain syringes.

As a result, the FDA approved an updated label that states: "Low dead-volume syringes and/or needles can be used to extract six doses from a single vial. If standard syringes and needles are used, there may not be sufficient volume to extract a sixth dose from a single vial."

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said this increase in doses per vial "provides an additional 20% capacity." The New York Times first reported Pfizer's plans to base its vaccine commitment on doses instead of vials.

However, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said Friday the ability to garner the sixth dose with these syringes does not exist everywhere.

"Many places have them," Gupta told CNN's John Berman, "but not every place."

3:56 a.m. ET, January 23, 2021

US reports more than 186,000 new coronavirus cases

The United States reported 186,891 new Covid-19 cases and 3,655 virus-related deaths on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The US has so far reported a total of 24,818,779 cases and 414,004 fatalities, according to the university's tally.

At least 39,892,400 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 19,107,959 shots have been administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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

CNN is tracking US cases here:

2:59 a.m. ET, January 23, 2021

Vaccine distribution "shouldn't be the 'Hunger Games'," says Utah governor

From CNN Health’s Maggie Fox

Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox speaks during a briefing at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, on January 8.
Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox speaks during a briefing at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, on January 8. Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News/Pool/AP

US vaccine distribution is a mess because of poor communication and a backlog caused by the federal government’s partnership with retail pharmacies, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said Friday.

“That Walgreen’s and CVS partnership with the federal government, that’s where all the backlog is in every state right now,” Cox, a Republican, told CNN.

The Trump administration contracted with the two pharmacy chains to deliver coronavirus vaccines to long-term care facilities across the country. But Cox said it was not distributed evenly.

“Long-term care facilities in Utah, they have way too much vaccine. We estimate they have 15 to 16,000 extra doses that they don't need and can't use right now. So, we're taking that back and we're giving it to our local health departments and it will be gone next week,” Cox said. “Next week we will run out of doses on Wednesday. That's going to happen every week until we get more."

States need more insight into the manufacturing process to know what is coming so they can plan, Cox said.

"This shouldn't be the 'Hunger Games' like it was with PPE, right. That was ridiculous and we all had to play that game," he added.

Cox was referring to the competition between states early in the pandemic when the federal government forced them to compete for supplies such as personal protective equipment.

“We're all in this together. Governors are in this together. We just need insight from the federal government and the manufacturers,” Cox said. “Trust is competence and ethical behavior, and we're excited to see if we get those two things.”

2:06 a.m. ET, January 23, 2021

US CDC reports almost 200 cases of UK coronavirus variant

From CNN Health’s Michael Nedelman

At least 195 cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in the UK have been identified across 22 US states, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

States with most cases of the new variant:

  • California: 72
  • Florida: 50
  • New York: 22

The following states have reported fewer than seven cases each: Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The CDC says the tally does not represent the total number of cases circulating in the US, but rather just those found by analyzing positive samples. The agency cautions that its numbers may not immediately match those of state and local health departments.

The variant -- which is known as B.1.1.7 and appears to spread more easily -- has also been found in at least 60 countries worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

1:11 a.m. ET, January 23, 2021

Long-term Covid-19 symptoms "could be an issue," Fauci warns

From CNN Health's Andrea Diaz

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a White House press briefing in Washington, D.C., on January 21.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a White House press briefing in Washington, D.C., on January 21. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Long-term Covid-19 symptoms should be taken seriously as they could be an issue as more people contract the virus, the top US infectious disease expert says.

"This is a real phenomenon. I myself am personally dealing and helping a number of people who have a post-acute Covid-19 syndrome," Dr. Anthony Fauci told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Friday.  "They are virologically okay -- the virus is no longer identified in them, but they have persistence of symptoms that can be debilitating."

Fauci said some of the symptoms his patients have include extreme fatigue, muscle aches, temperature dysregulation and "brain fog," where it's difficult for them to focus or concentrate.

"We take it very seriously for the simple reason that even if a small fraction, and it appears to be more than just a small fraction, of people have persistent symptoms, when you look at the 24-25 million people in the United States who have been infected ... and globally when you have approaching 100 million people having been infected, this could be something that really could be an issue," Fauci said. 

Some context: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, joint pain and chest pain as the most commonly reported long-term symptoms. Others, such as "brain fog," depression and headache, are also reported among coronavirus long-haulers.

"While most persons with Covid-19 recover and return to normal health, some patients can have symptoms that can last for weeks or even months after recovery from acute illness. Even people who are not hospitalized and who have mild illness can experience persistent or late symptoms," the US CDC says.

11:58 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Update on Johnson & Johnson vaccine expected within weeks, Fauci says

From CNN Health's Andrea Diaz

News about how well the single-dose coronavirus vaccine by Johnson & Johnson works could come in two weeks, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert.

"I don’t want to get ahead of them, but I have to tell you I would be surprised if it was any more than two weeks from now that data will be analyzed, and decisions would be made,” Fauci told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Friday . 
"The data will be analyzed in the similar fashion, the way we analyzed it with the Moderna and the Pfizer candidate,” added Fauci, who as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has helped with some of the clinical trials involving the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna secured emergency use authorization (EUA) from the US Food and Drug Administration in December. Johnson & Johnson is widely expected to be the third company to apply for an EUA for a coronavirus vaccine in the US.

11:21 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Fauci says he was blocked from appearing on MSNBC’s Maddow show by Trump administration

From CNN Health's Andrea Diaz

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with reporters at the White House, in Washington, DC, on January 21.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with reporters at the White House, in Washington, DC, on January 21. Alex Brandon/AP

Top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has revealed the reason behind his absence from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show throughout the coronavirus pandemic: the Trump administration blocked him.

"I've been wanting to come on your show for months and months. You've been asking me to come on your show for months and months, and it's just gotten blocked," Fauci told Maddow during a live interview Friday.
"I mean let's call it what it is -- it just got blocked because they didn't like the way you handle things, and they didn't want me on. I mean it was so clear," added Fauci, who has made a point of appearing on media outlets large and small, as well as blogs, webcasts and before community groups to explain the pandemic.

But when he asked to go on Maddow, a show with a definite left-leaning bent and highly critical of the Trump administration, Fauci said the answer would be "don't do it." 

Fauci said he doesn't expect to see the same treatment from the Biden administration. 

"I think you're going to see a lot of transparency,” said Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy of Infectious Diseases and who will continue as a White House adviser.

“You might not see everybody as often as you want, but you're not going to see deliberate holding back of good people when the press asks for them ... It was a tough situation. It really was."