January 28 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Zahid Mahmood and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, January 29, 2021
40 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
1:13 p.m. ET, January 28, 2021

South Carolina detects first US cases of Covid-19 variant first seen in South Africa

From CNN's Michael Nedelman

South Carolina officials have announced the United States’ first two confirmed cases of a more contagious coronavirus strain first spotted in South Africa.

There is no known travel history or connection between the cases, both adults, according to a release Thursday from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. 

One case was confirmed to the department late yesterday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the other was identified by the state’s public health laboratory while testing samples over the past several days.

The variant – also known as B.1.351 – has raised concerns over being more transmissible than other versions of the virus, and potentially evading the immune protection offered by antibodies. Experts say they believe vaccines will still be effective against the variant.

“The arrival of the SARS-CoV-2 variant in our state is an important reminder to all South Carolinians that the fight against this deadly virus is far from over,” Dr. Brannon Traxler, the health department’s interim public health director, said in a statement Thursday.

The variant has been detected in over 30 other countries, according to the World Health Organization.

Elizabeth Cohen reports:

11:59 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

New York undercounted Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes by about 50%, according to report

From CNN's Lauren del Valle 

The New York State Department of Health undercounted Covid-19 deaths among nursing home residents by approximately 50%, a new report released by the state's Attorney General Letitia James says.  

The report released Thursday morning preliminarily concluded the underreported deaths based on a survey of 62 nursing homes, a roughly 10% sample of total facilities across the state. 

The report, without identifying nursing homes by name, details discrepancies of as many as 29 deaths in a single facility underreported to the public by the Department of Health.  

"A facility reported five confirmed and six presumed COVID-19 deaths at the facility as of August 3 to DOH. However, the facility reported to OAG a total of 27 COVID-19 deaths at the facility and 13 hospital deaths – a discrepancy of 29 deaths," the report says. 

James' office continues to investigate the discrepancies, according to the report.  

"OAG is investigating those circumstances where the discrepancies cannot reasonably be accounted for by error or the difference in the question posed." 

CNN reached out to the Department of Health and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office for comment but has not immediately heard back.  

12:08 p.m. ET, January 28, 2021

New York public defenders demand access to Covid-19 vaccines for inmates

From CNN's Sonia Moghe and Evan Simko-Bednarski

A vial of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine in Queens, New York, on January 11.
A vial of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine in Queens, New York, on January 11. Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg/Getty Images

A consortium of public defenders is demanding New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo inoculate inmates in the state against Covid-19, and calling New York's failure to do so thus far an example of "arbitrary and irrational disregard for people simply because they are incarcerated." 

The demand is made in a letter delivered to the governor Thursday and signed by attorneys representing public defenders offices representing all five boroughs and Long Island. 

"Your refusal to allow state and local health authorities to provide the vaccine to this high risk population recklessly endangers the lives of all New Yorkers by creating hotbeds for viral transmission," the letter reads, "but most cynically and cruelly disregards the lives of the predominantly Black and Latinx people who comprise the incarcerated population."

"Having taken and maintained custody of thousands of people, the State has an affirmative duty to protect their health and safety," the letter continues.

The state is currently inoculating people in the phase 1b category, which includes correctional officers working in state prisons.

The letter is signed by attorneys representing the Legal Aid Society of New York, Brooklyn Defender Services, New York County Defender Services, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, The Bronx Defenders, Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County, Legal Aid Society of Nassau County, Center for Appellate Litigation, Appellate Advocates and the Office of the Appellate Defender.

In the letter, the defenders' offices ask for a meeting with the governor to discuss immediate implementation of vaccinations.

"If you do not change your policy, we will have no choice but to seek legal remedies for our clients," they write.

12:02 p.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Reopening New York City indoor dining will be up to the state, mayor says

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

People dine outdoors under a plastic tent at a restaurant on the Upper West Side in New York on December 30, 2020.
People dine outdoors under a plastic tent at a restaurant on the Upper West Side in New York on December 30, 2020. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the decision on indoor dining will ultimately be up to the state and governed by “data and science.”

The mayor said he and the Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke Wednesday morning, adding he respects the state's role in making decisions. 

“What I believe in is focusing on the data and the science, I know the governor does too," he said.

“What I also feel as a human being, as a New Yorker, of course I want our restaurants to come back strong,” he added. “Restaurants are a big part of my life.”

The mayor continued: “I want to see them survive and I want to see the people who work in the restaurants have their livelihoods.”

“We all want to see indoor dining come back,” adding “it has to be governed by the data and the science.”

11:03 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Biden officials expected to meet with Covid-19 vaccine distributors today

From CNN's MJ Lee

Members of the Biden administration’s Covid-19 team are expected to hold a call with top officials representing major coronavirus vaccine distributors later today, CNN is told by a source familiar with the planned meeting. 

This comes within days of the administration announcing that it would be increasing the allocation of Covid-19 vaccines to states starting next week and announced plans to significantly ramp up vaccine supply with the goal of fully vaccinating 300 million Americans by the end of the summer. 

This call is expected to be a forum where distributors of the Covid vaccine can pose any questions they might have to the Biden administration on the White House’s vision for distributing vaccines across the country as efficiently as possible, as top Biden advisers have continued to say that they did not inherit a working federal distribution plan from the Trump administration. 

Going back to the transition, the Biden’s team has been in regular contact with various parties in the industry.

10:20 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

EU orders inspection of AstraZeneca's Belgium site following vaccine delivery delays

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy and James Frater

Belgian health authorities – at the request of the European Commission – conducted “an inspection” of AstraZeneca’s Belgian production facility Wednesday “to ensure that the delay in the delivery of the vaccines is indeed due to a production problem at the Belgian site,” France Dammel, spokesperson for Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said in a statement.

“Belgian experts are looking into the elements obtained during this inspection visit, together with Dutch, Italian and Spanish experts,” Dammel said, adding that the report is expected in a few days. 

Last week, AstraZeneca told the European Commission and EU member states that it intends to supply the bloc with fewer vaccine doses than previously agreed. 

In June 2020 AstraZeneca entered into a partnership with French manufacturing company Novasep to produce its vaccine supply.

10:46 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Department of Defense receives FEMA request for military to boost Covid-19 vaccinations across US

From CNN's Barbara Starr

A person in Tucson, Arizona, receives the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine on January 15.
A person in Tucson, Arizona, receives the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine on January 15. Cheney Orr/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The Pentagon has received a request from Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide assistance to President Biden’s efforts to boost Covid-19 vaccinations across the country in the first 100 days of the new administration, according to two defense officials.

Both departments are now in intensive discussions on how the military can help FEMA including the possibility of sending up to 10,000 troops to vaccination mega-hubs.

The effort could involve using both active duty and National Guard forces. Part of the discussion is agreeing on what are the most urgent tasks they can handle, the officials said.

The Department of Defense has added a 2:30 p.m. ET briefing today on their Covid-19 efforts.

9:17 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Epidemiologist outlines "red flags" he still sees with variants, testing and vaccinations in US

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, on January 28.
Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, on January 28. CNN

Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, warned that the next six to 14 weeks will bring “something that we haven't even come close to experiencing yet.”

Osterholm said on CNN’s “New Day” that he is worried about the variants circulating in the United States.

“If we even hope we can get 100 million vaccine doses in people by the end of March … that means only about 12% of the population will still be protected,” he said.

On the heels of cities like Los Angeles easing some coronavirus restrictions, Osterholm said that he understands pandemic fatigue, but thinks we are about to see “the darkest of days.”

“Now is not the time to ease up, because again, we will be pumping the brakes after the car is wrapped around the tree if we do that,” he said. “And so I can't put it in any more stark terms, but I fear that's what will happen. It is only when our hospitals are overrun, and that seems to be the benchmark right now.”

While Osterholm lauded the Biden administration’s plans to tackle the pandemic and says they are working on tracking variants, he worries that Covid-19 testing staff are being transferred to vaccinate people.

“We have got to do both” testing and vaccinations, he said.  


8:46 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

German vaccine commission recommends AstraZeneca's vaccine should not be given to people over 65

From CNN’s Claudia Otto 

Germany's vaccine commission has recommended that the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford should not be given to people over 65 years old, the German Interior Ministry said Thursday in a statement. 

According to the statement, a study by the Standing Committee on Vaccination at Germany’s Robert Koch Institute has found there is insufficient data on the effectiveness of the vaccine for this age group. 

“It is not possible to make a statement for the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine in people over 65 years of age,” the statement said.