January 27 coronavirus news

By Zahid Mahmood, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton and Hannah Strange, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021
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2:16 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

New York governor says there are 42 known cases of the UK Covid-19 variant reported across the state

From CNN's Ganesh Setty

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker announced Wednesday there are currently 42 known cases of the highly-contagious UK variant statewide across nine counties and New York City. 

“We don’t know what exactly what is going on with the new strains. And the concept of not knowing is very troubling for me,” Cuomo continued. 

So far, the state has collected roughly 2,800 samples for genomic testing since early December, Zucker added.

Cuomo noted how the real “nightmare scenario” is not necessarily community spread of this new variant, but evidence of a vaccine-resistant viral mutation. 

Nevertheless, the governor reiterated that the state will change its policies based on the present facts.

 “If the facts change, I have no problem looking the people in the eye and saying ‘the facts changed, our plan has to change,’” he said.

1:32 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

New federal move will add to list of people who can administer coronavirus vaccines

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

Advanced registered nurse practitioner Erin Forsythe administers a Covid-19 vaccine at a pop-up clinic in Seattle on Sunday.
Advanced registered nurse practitioner Erin Forsythe administers a Covid-19 vaccine at a pop-up clinic in Seattle on Sunday. Grant Hindsley/AFP/Getty Images

The federal government is amending rules to help broaden the list of people who can administer coronavirus vaccines, White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients said Wednesday. 

States have been exploring ways to temporarily license more people to give out vaccine, and Zients said the US Health and Human Services Department would act to make that easier. The hope is to speed up vaccination rates.

“HHS will amend the current Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act – otherwise known as the PREP Act – to permit doctors and nurses who have recently retired or become inactive to administer shots, and to permit anyone currently licensed to vaccinate in their state to administer shots across state lines,” Zients told a White House coronavirus briefing.

“As the President said, we need to increase the number of places people can get vaccinated. And at the same time increase the number of vaccinators. This action by HHS will help get more vaccinators in the field," he added.

1:21 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Republican governor praises Biden team for vaccine allocation response

From CNN's John Harwood

At the Biden administration’s first coronavirus briefing today, adviser Andy Slavitt said “we hear you” in response to Maryland GOP Governor Larry Hogan’s call for increased coronavirus vaccine supply.

Hogan has answered in kind, praising the improvement in responsiveness on the crisis from Biden’s administration compared to Trump’s. Yesterday, Biden Covid coordinator Jeff Zients had informed the nation’s governors on a call that they could expect a 16% boost in vaccine support for the next three weeks.

“Governors appreciated that precision,” a Hogan aide told CNN. “Shows increased attention to detail and planning.”

12:52 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Biden's Covid task force says there is no vaccine stockpile

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

Syringes filled with the Covid-19 vaccine wait to be administered at a community health center in Los Angeles on Monday.
Syringes filled with the Covid-19 vaccine wait to be administered at a community health center in Los Angeles on Monday. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

Andy Slavitt, the senior adviser to the White House Covid-19 response team, said Wednesday that the White House is not keeping a stockpile of vaccines but is rather sending doses to states as they get ordered, keeping only a few days’ worth in reserve.  

“Now we've gotten several questions on this so I want to be clear, as you heard us announce yesterday, any stockpile that may have existed previously, no longer exists,” Slavitt said during the first briefing from the Biden administration’s Covid response team. 

Slavitt said the administration is maintaining “a rolling inventory of two to three days of supply that we can use to supplement any shortfalls in production and to ensure that we are making deliveries as committed.”

He added that the administration is "passing doses directly along to states very much in real-time as they order them."

The announcement is similar to what was learned in the final days of the Trump administration when it was revealed there was no reserve of second vaccine doses available for release.

Slavitt added that the Biden administration didn’t inherit a fully developed strategy or the infrastructure needed to make vaccines readily available to Americans but he said the administration has been hitting its target goal of 1 million vaccinations per day to meet the President’s commitment of 100 million shots administered in 100 days.

Despite that, Slavitt made a point to level with Americans, saying the administration currently faces two constraining factors on vaccine distribution: getting supply quickly enough and the ability to administer vaccines once they are produced and at distribution sites.

“We are taking action to increase supply and increase capacity, but even so, it will be months before everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one,” he said.
12:58 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

New York governor lifts some Covid-19 restrictions

From CNN’s Ganesh Setty

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced during an ongoing news conference today that he will lift restrictions in nearly all the state’s existing orange and yellow micro-cluster zones, citing the decline in the percent positivity and hospitalization rates statewide following the winter holiday Covid-19 surge. 

“I think at this point it’s safe to say the holiday surge was anticipated, the holiday surge did happen, but the holiday surge is over,” the governor said. 

Cuomo said restrictions will be lifted for all zones except for four yellow zones in New York City: The Bronx, Washington Heights, Queens, and Newburgh. 

State officials implemented the micro-cluster restrictions based on the severity of each clusters’ outbreak, with red being the highest. There are currently no New York counties in the “red zone,” according to the governor’s website. 

The governor added that he will be meeting with city health officials in New York City and aims to release a reopening plan for the city’s restaurants “by the end of this week.”

“I fully understand how difficult it is that they’re closed, not just for the restaurants but all the people who are employed there. On the flip side is how fast this virus can take off,” Cuomo said. 

12:12 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Covid-19 variant first seen in UK has now been detected in at least 70 countries, WHO says

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

A coronavirus variant first seen in Britain has been detected in at least 70 different countries, according to the World Health Organization’s weekly epidemiological report. 

This report added 10 countries to the list where this variant, known as B.1.1.7 or VOC 202012/01, has been detected. According to WHO, incidences of this variant are declining in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands. 

Other strains: A variant first identified in South Africa has been detected in 31 countries, according to the WHO. South East Asia is the only WHO region that has not reported a case of this variant so far. It’s widely known as B.1.135.

Variant P.1, first identified in Brazil, has been detected in eight countries. This report adds six countries to the last update on variants. 

12:01 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Portugal suspends all flights with Brazil, extends flight ban with UK

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

The Portuguese government has announced that it will suspend all flights with Brazil starting on Jan. 29, due to the detection of new strains of Covid-19.

“The government has decided to suspend flights from and to Brazil, from 00h00 of January 20, taking into account the epidemiological evolution on a global scale, the rise in the number of infections with the virus SARS-CoV-2 in Portugal and the detection of new strains of the virus,” the government said in a statement on Wednesday. 

The suspension will be in place at least until Feb. 14, and it applies to all commercial and private flights, except those for humanitarian purposes. 

In its statement, the government also announced that flights to and from the UK would remain suspended until Feb. 14, extending a previous ban that came into effect last Saturday and that was set to last until Feb. 5. 

12:11 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Germany considering further travel restrictions and dramatic reduction in air traffic 

From CNN's Claudia Otto

A medical worker in Schönefeld, Germany, takes a Covid-19 swab sample from a passenger at a testing station in Berlin Brandenburg Airport on November 26, 2020.
A medical worker in Schönefeld, Germany, takes a Covid-19 swab sample from a passenger at a testing station in Berlin Brandenburg Airport on November 26, 2020. Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Germany is considering further travel restrictions and a dramatic reduction in air traffic due to fears about new mutations of coronavirus, an Interior Ministry spokesperson told CNN.

The Interior Ministry is in talks with the German federal government to consider halting all unnecessary travel. 

"The threat posed by the numerous virus mutations requires us to also consider drastic measures and discuss them in the Federal Government," said Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer in a statement. "These include significantly stricter border controls, especially at the borders to high-risk areas, but also the reduction of air traffic to Germany to almost zero, as Israel is currently doing to prevent the introduction of the virus mutation."

"People expect us to protect them as best we can from an explosion in the number of infections," he added.

A decision at the national level could be considered if no satisfactory measures are decided at the EU level, according to the ministry. 

12:05 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Oklahoma is trying to return its hydroxychloroquine stockpile 

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

Oklahoma state officials are trying to return the state's $2 million stockpile of hydroxychloroquine back to the medical distributer, according to Oklahoma Attorney General's Office Communications Director Alex Gerszewski. 

"We are working with the department of health to try to return the stockpile," Gerszewski confirmed to CNN in an email Thursday.  

Gerszewski did not provide further details on the effort. 

Some context: Hydroxychloroquine was initially pushed by former President Trump, but over the summer, the FDA reversed its emergency use authorization for the drug's use to treat Covid-19 after a series of studies showed not only that it did not help coronavirus patients but might be harmful, CNN has reported. 

On May 12, 2020, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt "enacted an Executive Order that removed all restrictions regarding prescriptions for Hydroxychloroquine," according to The Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy. 

Previously, the state had required a waiver for prescribing the drug to prevent shortages early on in the pandemic, according to Stitt's executive order back in March.  

CNN has reached out to the Oklahoma Department of Health but has not heard back.