January 29 coronavirus news

By Zahid Mahmood, Hannah Strange, Julia Hollingsworth and Adam Renton, CNN

Updated 0514 GMT (1314 HKT) January 30, 2021
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3:17 p.m. ET, January 29, 2021

Novavax working on booster shot in response to coronavirus variants

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Alastair Grant/AP
Alastair Grant/AP

Biotechnology company Novavax is developing booster shots to help its Covid-19 vaccine protect against newly emerging variants of the coronavirus.

On Thursday, the company announced its vaccine, known as NVX-CoV2373, was found to have an efficacy of 89.3% in a Phase 3 clinical trial conducted in the UK and the vaccine appeared to demonstrate clinical efficacy against some variants of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the announcement also noted:

"Novavax initiated development of new constructs against the emerging strains in early January and expects to select ideal candidates for a booster and/or combination bivalent vaccine for the new strains in the coming days. The company plans to initiate clinical testing of these new vaccines in the second quarter of this year."
2:16 p.m. ET, January 29, 2021

The National Guard is supporting US vaccination efforts in 38 states

From CNN's Michael Conte and Ellie Kaufman

Washington National Guard personnel prepare to administer Covid-19 vaccinations in Wenatchee, Washington, on January 26.
Washington National Guard personnel prepare to administer Covid-19 vaccinations in Wenatchee, Washington, on January 26. David Ryder/Getty Images

National Guard troops are supporting vaccination efforts in 38 states across the country, giving over 51,000 shots a day.

At least 22,900 members of the National Guard are supporting Covid-19 response efforts at over 260 sites nationwide, Major Gen. Jerry L. Fenwick, director of the Office of the Joint Surgeon and National Guard Bureau, said in a briefing with reporters on Friday.

An additional 44,000 troops are serving in “other domestic operations,” he added.

When asked about how many troops who were sent to Washington, DC, tested positive for Covid-19, DC National Guard Deputy Surgeon General Lt. Col. Paul Tumminello said that it’s “about 2%” of the deployment “at any given time.”

“We’re running folks in and out all the time,” he told reporters on a call, “because of this constant ebb and flow of folks and people… that number is a constant number to kind of chase.”

National Guard Adjutant Generals of Washington, California and Michigan also provided an update on Friday about how they are supporting the Covid-19 response in their respective states, including administering Covid-19 tests in each state, assisting with vaccinating populations in each state and providing additional food for each state.

Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, the adjutant general of California, said that 1,484 National Guard members are on duty in the state of California supporting Covid-19 testing sites.

In Michigan, Major Gen. Paul D. Rogers, the state's adjutant general, said National Guard troops in his state have administered over 215,000 Covid-19 tests and 40,000 vaccinations since Dec. 16. They have also distributed 27 million pounds of food.

Maj. Gen. Bret D. Daugherty, the adjutant general of Washington, said there are between 800 and 1,000 National Guard members deployed in the state right now supporting the Covid-19 response. Their team is “capable of administering about 1,000 shots per day per team,” Daugherty said. He added that they have administered 9,000 shots in the past four days.

1:09 p.m. ET, January 29, 2021

New York will receive 16% more vaccine doses starting next week, governor says

From CNN's Brian Vitagliano

Health workers prepare to administer Covid-19 vaccines at a vaccination site in Harlem, New York, on January 15.
Health workers prepare to administer Covid-19 vaccines at a vaccination site in Harlem, New York, on January 15. Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images

New York State will receive 16% more vaccine doses for the next three weeks starting next week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a news conference today.

Cuomo said New York has used all of the allocation that the state has received from weeks 1 through 6 and is now starting to use the 250,400 doses that have been arriving this week.

The governor has asked local governments not to schedule vaccine appointments until they have the allocations in hand.

A mass vaccination site will be opening at Yankee Stadium, but Cuomo did not confirm a date when it will come online.

If the positivity rate continues to hold, New York City can resume indoor dining at 25% capacity on Feb.14, Valentine’s Day, Cuomo said.

Cuomo announced “safe marriage receptions” can resume March 15, following certain guidelines. All patrons that attend an event will have to be tested, venues cannot exceed 50% capacity up to 150 people, and the event must be approved by local health department, Cuomo said.

“We are developing guidance much like marriage receptions where you can do testing and monitoring, and the local health department can monitor it,” Cuomo said 

Cuomo said the numbers are going down: “The post-holiday surge reduction continues," he said.

The New York State positivity rate is 4.65%, the lowest since December 11th, Cuomo said. At least 12,579 positive cases have been reported, there have been 151 deaths, according to the governor, and 73% of all hospital workers have been vaccinated to date.

 

12:10 p.m. ET, January 29, 2021

Coronavirus variants projected to be more dominant in US by the end of March, Fauci says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

from the White House
from the White House

The coronavirus variants circulating globally are projected to become more dominant in the United States by the spring, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a White House news briefing.

"The fact is, when you have a virus that has ability to transmit more efficiently than the wild type in the community — sooner or later, by pure viral dynamics itself — it will become more dominant than the wild type," Fauci said.

"We have a situation where there have now been reported in very specific places, in South Carolina for example, the isolate or the mutant that is the 351 [B.1.351, the Covid-19 variant first spotted in South Africa]," Fauci said. "That seems to have a very good fitness for spread, so whether or not that's going to ultimately take over in the sense of being dominant is unclear by now. The projection that is made with regard to the UK [variant] is that probably by the end of March, the beginning of April, it actually will become more dominant in this country."

12:09 p.m. ET, January 29, 2021

"We should be treating every case as if it's a variant," CDC director says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

from the White House
from the White House

Every Covid-19 case in the United States now should be treated as if it is caused by one of the newly identified coronavirus variants, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a White House news briefing on Friday.

"By the time someone has symptoms, gets a test, has a positive result and we get the sequence, our opportunity for doing real case control and contact tracing is largely gone," Walensky said. "So I think and I believe that we should be treating every case as if it’s a variant during this pandemic right now." 

 

11:42 a.m. ET, January 29, 2021

Fauci calls coronavirus variants "a wake-up call" for all of us

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

from White House
from White House

The emergence of coronavirus variants is a "wake-up call," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a White House news briefing on Friday.

Multiple variants of the virus that causes Covid-19 are circulating around the world, including the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom, B.1.351 first identified in South Africa and P. 1 variant first identified in Brazil.

"When these variants were first recognized, it became clear that we had to look at, in vitro in the test tube, whether the antibodies that were induced by the vaccines that we had available would actually neutralize these new mutants," Fauci said.

Recent studies from vaccine makers Johnson & Johnson and Novavax have shown some protection against variants.

"What we know now from this study —namely the J&J and the Novavax study — that antigenic variation, i.e. mutations lead to different lineage, do have clinical consequences," Fauci said. 

"This is a wake-up call to all of us," Fauci said. "We will continue to see the evolution of mutants. … We have to be nimble in order to adjust readily to make versions of the vaccine that are actually specifically directed to whatever mutation is actually present at any given time."

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that the first two cases of the of the B.1.351 variant, which was officially first detected in South Africa, were identified in South Carolina and announced yesterday – and the cases were identified in different parts of the state and are not believed to be linked.

Walensky added that earlier this week, Minnesota identified the first US case of the P. 1 variant, which recently emerged in Brazil.

11:32 a.m. ET, January 29, 2021

White House Covid-19 adviser praises 7 states on vaccine administration

From CNN's Besty Klein

White House Covid-19 senior adviser Andy Slavitt praised a select group of states on their vaccination deployment efforts.

“I want to call out seven states that have already provide first vaccinations to more than 10% of their populations: Alaska, West Virginia, New Mexico, Connecticut, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Well done,” Slavitt said during Friday’s virtual Covid-19 briefing.

Five of those states — Alaska, West Virginia, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota  — are led by Republican governors.

Slavitt said the administration is accelerating the process of vaccinating the country “as quickly and as safely as possible,” noting that the seven-day average of 1.2 million vaccines administered per day is “a base to build from in the coming days, weeks, and months.”

The challenges the administration faces, he said, are “increasing the supply of vaccines safely and more rapidly and speeding up the time it takes to administer them efficiently, and more importantly, equitably.”

11:39 a.m. ET, January 29, 2021

CDC director says US is ramping up surveillance and sequencing of Covid-19 variants

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

from White House
from White House

US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that officials continue to remain concerned about Covid-19 variants.

The US is “rapidly ramping up surveillance and sequencing activities as we work to closely monitor and identify variants as they emerge,” she said during a White House coronavirus briefing.

“We also know viruses mutate, and they tend to mutate in ways that are advantageous to the virus. We expected this. And this is why I feel compelled to underscore for you the need for each of us to remain steadfast in our commitment to taking all of the appropriate steps to protected ourselves and our communities,” she said. 

Walensky said that now is not the time to travel, and she encouraged all Americans to wear masks, practice social distancing and get vaccinated when it is available. 

More on the variants: At least four coronavirus variants have been identified. Scientists are not surprised to see the coronavirus changing and evolving — it's what viruses do, after all. And with so much unchecked spread across the US and other parts of the world, the virus is getting plenty of opportunity to do just that.

What scientists most fear is that one will mutate to the point that it causes more severe disease, bypasses the ability of tests to detect it or evades the protection provided by vaccination. While some of the new variants appear to have changes that look like they could affect immune response, it's only by a matter of degree.

11:37 a.m. ET, January 29, 2021

Young widows who lost their husbands to Covid-19 are separated by the pandemic but connected in grief

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

CNN
CNN

Pamela Addison’s husband Martin was going to take her to a lighthouse for their sixth anniversary. It was a surprise. But she only found out about it after he had died of Covid-19.

“I felt so alone after Martin died. So I thought I was the only young widow,” she said.

She wrote about her story in her local paper. When Kristina Scorpo read it, she decided to reach out.

“She knows exactly how I feel, and I know exactly how she feels,” Scorpio said.

Scorpo’s husband Frank died on Easter Sunday. Their baby boy was just six months old. Her older son was not even five.

“When I opened up [Scorpo’s] card, I think one of the first things she said is, ‘you're not alone.’ And at that moment, the weight of feeling alone was like, lifted because now there was someone else who understood,” Addison said.

That’s what gave her the inspiration to start an online group called "Young widows and widowers." Soon, the group became the place to go for Whitney Parker and Diana Ordonez to go. 

Ordonez’s husband Juan was taken to the hospital in the middle of the night as he battled Covid-19. He never came home. For their five-year-old daughter Mia, it changed everything. 

“She tells me, ‘I’m afraid something is going to happen to you. I'm afraid you're going to die.’ And so she, you know, she just can't go to sleep,” Ordonez said.

“For weeks after he passed, I would wake up suddenly in the middle of the night and I would reach for my phone thinking I missed the call from the hospital. And then you realize, no, you know, he already passed. You have to like tell yourself the story again,” she added.

Parker’s husband Leslie called her from the hospital crying and said he was scared. Two days later, she heard he had died. When she told her daughter, she said:

“She’s so much like her dad. So logical. Like, ‘well, you know, daddy's not here, but I don't think he wants us to be sad all the time.’ And I am like, ‘yeah, that's true. How are you teaching me about grief?’”

The women have never met but even in isolation, group members talk together to grieve their losses and support each other in healing, a reminder that Covid-19 claims lives but also devastates the lives of many loved ones in its wake.

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