The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and the Omicron variant

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT) January 27, 2022
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5:58 p.m. ET, January 27, 2022

Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit looking to challenge National Guard vaccine requirements

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a news conference on August 16, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a news conference on August 16, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. (Becky Bohrer/AP)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy of Alaska is joining the lawsuit filed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott which aims to challenge National Guard vaccine requirements.

The requirement, initiated by the Biden administration, says that all members of the National Guard must be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Dunleavy and Abbot, two GOP governors for a pair of predominantly Republican states, filed an amended complaint in the Eastern District of Texas on Tuesday which adds Dunleavy as a plaintiff in the case.

“The federal government has no authority to make health decisions for National Guard members who are at work under state authority,” Dunleavy said via press release on Thursday.

The lawsuit marks a second attempt to leverage the courts to avoid the National Guard vaccine requirement, as Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma saw his request rejected by a federal judge.

5:47 p.m. ET, January 27, 2022

Health care workers in 25 states and DC face deadline for first Covid shot under Biden vaccine mandate

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

Health care workers covered by the Biden administration's vaccine mandate in 25 states and the District of Columbia are facing a Thursday deadline for receiving the first or primary shot of their immunization regime.

There is a later deadline for those in other states where the mandate was frozen until a January Supreme Court decision approved it.

The 25 states where covered health care workers must get their first or primary shots by the Jan. 27 deadline are: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Those health care workers must then be fully vaccinated by Feb. 28, according to the administration's guidance.

The mandate is being implemented by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is under the US Department of Health and Human Services. It covers health care workers at facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid.

More context: Earlier this month the Supreme Court blocked President Joe Biden's vaccine and testing requirement aimed at large businesses, but it allowed a vaccine mandate for certain health care workers to go into effect nationwide.

1:57 p.m. ET, January 27, 2022

Third dose of mRNA vaccine boosts protection from hospitalization in immunocompromised, study finds

From CNN’s Anokhi Saklecha

A third dose of an mRNA vaccine provides increased protection against hospitalization with Covid-19 in people with conditions that compromise their immune system — as well as in those who don’t have such conditions — according to a study published Thursday in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Research has found that people who have weakened immune systems because of conditions like certain cancers, AIDS or organ transplants may not have had a complete immune response from the standard two doses of an mRNA Covid-19 vaccine.

The new study followed 2,952 hospitalized adults – 1,385 who were Covid-positive and 1,567 who were negative for Covid-19 — and compared vaccine effectiveness among those who had received two doses of the mRNA vaccine and those who had gotten three. The third vaccine was defined as a full dose in immunocompromised people or a booster dose in those without immune-compromising conditions. 

The researchers found that a third dose increased vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization from 69% to 88% among the immunocompromised and 82% to 97% among those without immune-compromising conditions. 

“These findings underscore the importance of immunocompromised adults obtaining a third mRNA vaccine dose ≥28 days after the second vaccine dose and of immunocompetent adults receiving a third (booster) dose currently recommended ≥5 months after the second dose,” the authors state, in alignment with current CDC guidelines. 

The study was conducted between August and December 2021, a period in which Delta was the dominant Covid-19 variant, though Omicron cases were emerging. Hence, all-variant conclusions cannot be drawn from this study. However, the authors reference early evidence suggesting that third mRNA vaccine doses “elicit markedly stronger neutralizing antibody responses to the Omicron variant compared with responses to 2 vaccine doses.” 

12:14 p.m. ET, January 27, 2022

EU regulators approve Paxlovid antiviral pill for those at risk of severe Covid-19

From CNN's Amy Cassidy

Boxes of the antiviral pill Paxlovid.
Boxes of the antiviral pill Paxlovid. (Kobi Wolf/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

The Covid-19 oral antiviral pill Paxlovid has been approved for use in the European Union for those at risk of severe disease, the bloc’s medical regulators announced Thursday.  

The human medicines committee of the European Medicines Agency recommends the pill, developed by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, be granted conditional marketing authorization, according to an EMA news release. 

This makes it the first oral antiviral pill to be recommended in the bloc for treating Covid-19, the EMA said. It follows authorization in the US and the UK.

The EMA’s approval comes after its committee evaluated a study of Covid-19 patients which indicated the treatment “significantly reduced hospitalisations or deaths in patients who have at least one underlying condition putting them at risk of severe Covid-19.”

The EMA continued: “Over the month following treatment, 0.8% (8 out of 1,039) of the patients receiving Paxlovid were hospitalised for longer than 24 hours, compared with 6.3% (66 out of 1,046) of those who received placebo. There were no deaths in the Paxlovid group and 9 deaths in the placebo group.”

Paxlovid combines a new antiviral drug named nirmatrelvir and an older one called ritonavir and is administered as three pills given twice a day for five days.


11:53 a.m. ET, January 27, 2022

Virginia school board reverses mask mandate, putting it in compliance with governor’s executive order

From CNN’s Paradise Afshar 

A Virginia school board voted to reverse their mask mandate during a special meeting Tuesday. 

The Chesterfield County Public Schools voted 3-2 to amend its existing Covid-19 mitigation plan "to include providing parental choice for face masks,” according to its website

The vote puts the school board in compliance with an executive order signed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, which bans universal mask mandates in schools.  

The school board’s updated mask policy goes into effect today. 

Chesterfield County Public Schools, which sits about 30 minutes from Richmond, has several migration strategies in place to combat Covid-19 in schools, including ventilation systems and cleaning protocols, according to its website. 

High-quality masks are also available at all 64 schools within the system's boundaries, which serves more than 63,000 students.  

Earlier this week, seven Virginia school boards filed a lawsuit with the Circuit Court for the County of Arlington that challenged the constitutionality of Youngkin's executive order.  

Additionally, a group of parents of public school students in Chesapeake filed a lawsuit last week asking the commonwealth’s Supreme Court to block the executive order.

12:18 p.m. ET, January 27, 2022

Child masking may help keep child care programs open, study finds

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

 (Tiffany Hagler-Geard/Bloomberg/Getty Images)
 (Tiffany Hagler-Geard/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Policies in home- and center-based child care programs that require children over age 2 to wear a mask may be lowering their risk of closing due to Covid-19, according to a study published Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

The study found that programs that adopted a child masking policy early lowered the risk of closure because of Covid-19 by 13%, and those that stuck with it for a year had a 14% lower risk of closure.  

To conduct the study, researchers at multiple departments at Yale and Columbia universities examined data from more than 6,000 child care programs in the US. Baseline data was collected in May and June 2020, and then followup data was collected in May and June 2021. 

“Early adoption of child masking in May to June 2020 was associated with a 13% reduction in Covid-19–related childcare program closures during the 1-year follow-up,” the authors wrote. 
“Continued endorsement of child masking at both the May to June 2020 and May to June 2021 timepoints was associated with a 14% reduction in Covid-19 childcare closures when controlling for other risk mitigation strategies, such as social distancing, symptom screening, outside drop-off, and temperature monitoring,” they added.

The use of a six-foot distancing program was not associated with a reduced risk of closure at baseline, but programs that continued with the policy saw a 7% reduction in closure risk. 

Over the course of the study, programs that required child masking increased from 8.6% of the study population during the baseline sample to 32.7% a year later. Just over 6% of programs studied required masking at both survey points. 

“Most childcare professionals who affirmed child masking also reported their program engaged in multiple other risk mitigation behaviors consistent with this comprehensive approach,” the authors wrote. 

“Surprisingly, we did not find an association between adult masking alone and the prevention of Covid-19–related childcare closures. One possible explanation is that programs that did not endorse strict masking policies were less concerned about Covid-19 in general and less likely to close when there were Covid-19 exposures or cases in the program,” according to the authors.

The study noted that while some concerns have been voiced over the social and developmental impacts of masking on young children, “how quickly children adapt and recognize other emotional cues, such a body language, is not known.”

“Evidence suggests that school-age children can identify most emotions in masked faces. Two-year-old children recognize spoken words better through an opaque mask compared with a clear face shield, suggesting verbal communication to infants is not harmed by face masks,” the authors wrote.
10:47 a.m. ET, January 27, 2022

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau in isolation after Covid-19 exposure

From CNN’s Paula Newton

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday, January 26.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday, January 26. (David Kawai/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Thursday that he is isolation after an exposure to Covid-19. 

“Last night, I learned that I have been exposed to COVID-19. My rapid test result was negative. I am following @OttawaHealth rules and isolating for five days. I feel fine and will be working from home. Stay safe, everyone – and please get vaccinated,” Trudeau tweeted.

Trudeau is fully vaccinated and boosted. He has not reported having contracted Covid-19 during the pandemic, but his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, tested positive for the virus in March 2020. 

Trudeau did not disclose how he was exposed. He met in person with several members of his cabinet Wednesday. He also has three school-age children.

9:55 a.m. ET, January 27, 2022

Downing Street has not yet received the report into alleged lockdown parties

From CNN's Luke McGee, Niamh Kennedy and Sharon Braithwaite

(Rob Pinney/Getty Images)
(Rob Pinney/Getty Images)

Downing Street has not yet seen or received a copy of the much-anticipated report by senior civil servant Sue Gray into alleged lockdown gatherings, a spokesperson for the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday. 

Speaking to journalists during a lobby briefing, the spokesperson didn't rule out the report being published next week, emphasizing however that the timeline is very much out of Downing Street's hands.

The report is set to first be published in the House of Commons, followed by a statement from the Prime Minister to Parliament, the spokesperson added.

Downing Street has reserved the right to not publish the entire report if parts of it potentially interfere with the London Metropolitan Police's investigation or other security matters, according to the spokesperson. 

When asked if the report will be published in full, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said "of course," without providing a timetable.

Pushed on whether there will be any redactions, Johnson said:

“I can't go beyond what I said yesterday, but I stick completely by what I've said to the House of Commons. But what I hope people understand is that while we wait for all that to go on we've got to get on and the government is getting on with our work.” 

When asked if he was delaying the report, Johnson said, "absolutely not, but you'll just have to, I'm afraid, you've got to let the independent inquiries go on.''

Johnson told lawmakers Wednesday that he wouldn't resign over the party scandal.

9:17 a.m. ET, January 27, 2022

New Delhi parents push for reopening schools after more than 600 days of closures

From Esha Mitra in New Delhi

Schoolchildren use hand sanitizer and have their temperature checked before entering their classrooms in New Delhi on November 1.
Schoolchildren use hand sanitizer and have their temperature checked before entering their classrooms in New Delhi on November 1. (Money Sharma/AFP via Getty Images)

A delegation of parents have led a petition with more than 1,600 signatures asking for the government to open schools in New Delhi, which have been shut for more than 600 days during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Schools first closed in the national capital territory on March 1, 2020, due to the pandemic. Many were allowed to reopen on Nov. 1, 2021, but were again shut just 16 days later due to high pollution levels.

As schools began to reopen in November and early December, India's third wave forced them to again close. 

On Wednesday, the delegation met with Delhi's Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who afterward released a statement calling for the government to allow schools to open. 

“We closed schools when it was not safe for children but excessive caution is now harming our children. A generation of children will be left behind if we do not open our schools now,” Sisodia said in a tweet Wednesday.

The deputy chief minister's office said in the statement that the New Delhi government would recommend the reopening of schools to the New Delhi Disaster Management Authority in a meeting on Thursday.  

“Our children lack a voice, they lack a vote, and unlike spa lobbies or restaurant lobbies who have been pushing for reopening, someone needs to speak up on behalf of our children,” Dharini Mathur, one of the parents demanding the reopening of schools, told CNN. 

On Wednesday, New Delhi reported 7,498 new Covid-19 cases, a decline from the more than 20,000 cases it reported earlier this month, according to local health bulletins.

Overall, India reported more than 286,000 cases over the past day — down from a record of over 533,000 cases on Jan. 14 — and 573 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.