Here are the latest updates, listed in eastern time, and the most important things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic.
Some artists have had fewer places to sell their work during the pandemic.
Texas trauma surgeon Dr. Brittany Bankhead-Kendall told CBS News that of the thousands of COVID patients she has treated since March, those that have been symptomatic showed a severe chest x-ray every time. Those who were asymptomatic showed a severe chest x-ray 70 to 80% of the time. “But I will tell you that there are still people who say 'But I’m fine. I don’t have any issues,' And then you pull up their chest x-ray, and they absolutely have a bad chest x-ray,” Bankhead-Kendall told CBS reporter Nicole Nielsen. In a side-by-side of x-rays of a pair of healthy lungs, a pair of smoker’s lungs and a COVID-19 patient’s lungs, the latter showed more scarring than both of the other pairs throughout the entirety of the lungs. “Everyone’s just so worried about the mortality thing, and that’s terrible, and it’s awful, but, man, all the survivors and the people who have tested positive, this is, it’s going to be a problem,” Bankhead-Kendall said.
Watch the interview here:
As the seasons turned and colder weather started to settle across North America, businesses that relied on outdoor areas during the warmer months were faced with the inevitable decision of what to do during the winter to stay afloat. Now, some communities have stepped up to promote “winter placemaking” to lure people out into the cold to support local businesses, Axios reported. In addition to creating outdoor areas for businesses to operate, these areas have features for people to enjoy while enduring the chilly conditions, such as light shows or fire pits. The concept of winter placemaking is spreading across the continent as groups like Patronicity release blueprints for cities to follow to open up their own outdoor areas for businesses. One tactic in Edmonton, Alberta, even included the help from meteorologists. "They encouraged their local weather people to talk more positively about winter,” said Jonathan Berk, a member of the Patronicity consulting team. "Since Thanksgiving, we've been sort of going 100 miles an hour, helping communities plan, purchase products, and then implement different winter placemaking ideas," Berk told Axios.
Brazil has been one of the hardest-hit countries amid the pandemic, with more than 8.2 million total cases reported. Only the United States, more than 23 million, and India, more than 10.5 million, have reported more cases during the pandemic. Yet despite the worsening impacts of the virus, and reports of new strains in the country, beaches were jam-packed for some fun in the sun. One video showed crowds at Rio de Janeiro's Ipanema Beach, a popular tourist spot, flocking to the water to get a break from the summer heat while the shores remained packed with sunbathers. Watch the video below for more.
Tennessee started offering shots to people 75 and older on Jan. 1, however, officials aren’t making people show their I.D. As the state starts to widen the eligibility for who can get a COVID-19 vaccine, health officials are often taking people's word that they qualify, NPR reports. "We are doing everything possible to vaccinate only those 'in phase,' but we won't turn away someone who has scheduled their vaccine appointment and tells us that they are in phase if they do not have proof or ID," says Bill Christian, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Health.
In the Netherlands, lockdown measures including the closure of shops and schools will be extended by at least three weeks until Feb. 9, the government announced Tuesday. During a live press conference, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that social curbs must remain in place, according to Reuters. All schools and many stores across the country were shut in mid-December, which followed the closure of all bars and restaurants two months earlier.
As authorities continue to increase inoculation efforts, New York's Yankee Stadium is expected to join a growing number of sport stadiums, fairgrounds and entertainment venues being used as mass coronavirus vaccination sites.A 24-hour mega vaccine administering site will also be set up at the New York Mets Citi Field in Queens later this month. Officials announced Monday that Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, will soon be the first mass COVID-19 vaccination site in Orange County. According to CNN, mass vaccination sites have opened or will soon open in other parts of California, including at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, San Diego's Petco Park, and Sacramento's Cal Expo.
Many coronavirus vaccines are being thrown away because state and hospital guidelines will not allow vaccination teams to give extra doses to non-hospital employees, according to NBC News. Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told a story on a now-viral Twitter thread of something similar happening to a close colleague of his. A vaccination team arrived at their hospital to vaccinate any employees who have not been yet, but most either already had or refused a vaccination. The team has an abundance of leftover doses, that the colleague of Jha suggested could go to either patients or EMTs. Providing vaccines to non-hospital employees would have been a violation of the hospitals guidelines though.The colleague approached a higher up to get permission to use the rest of the vaccines, but by the time they received approval the vaccination team was done with their shift and the extra vaccines went to the trash. “This kind of thing is pretty rampant,” Jha said. “I have personally heard stories like this from dozens of physician friends in a variety of different states. Hundreds, if not thousands, of doses are getting tossed across the country every day. It’s unbelievable.”
Sue Joss, the CEO of the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center in Brockton, Massachusetts, said she has come up with a system to prevent letting vaccines go to waste after an employee scheduled to receive their dose on Christmas Eve did not show up and the dose had already been removed from cold storage. “We now have a waiting list of people who can come in on short notice to get a shot,” she said, which will prevent the situation of a dose going bad from a missed appointment from happening again. Sometimes that falls through too though, and they need to find someone in a rush. “One time last week, we went marching through the halls to find a patient willing to get a shot, so a dose wouldn’t go to waste,” she said.
Lichfield Cathedral in the U.K. has gone from a place of worship to a vaccination center amid the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of people -- mostly over the age of 80 -- wait in line at the cathedral for their turn to receive a dose of the vaccine after the building was transformed with field hospital style equipment, according to the BBC. The Very Rev Adrian Dorber said volunteers helped to get the cathedral up and running within just a few days. ”We've got some really well-drilled volunteers and a really capable staff, who have just kind of gone into 'battle action' and done it,” Dorber said. The U.K. plans to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February.
Canada’s most populous province of Ontario issued a stay-at-home order starting Thursday for anyone not doing essential work or seeking or giving medical care, which extends school closures. The new order will apply to two of every five Canadians including everyone in Canada’s largest city, Toronto, and the nation’s capital, Ottawa, ABC News reports.
American Airlines has become the first U.S. airline to introduce a health passport amid the coronavirus pandemic. The airline announced the move on Thursday, detailing that the passport would be through the VeriFLY app and would be available for travelers starting Saturday, Jan. 23 for travel from all international destinations. The announcement follows the U.S. government’s requirement that all passengers 2-years-old and older traveling into the U.S. must test negative for the virus within three days of departure. “We support the implementation of a global program to require COVID-19 testing for travelers to the United States, and we want to do everything we can to make travel a seamless experience for customers,” said Julie Rate, Vice President of Customer Experience at American Airlines. “We’ve received positive feedback about the app so far and look forward to more customers having the opportunity to use it.”
The United Kingdom is tightening its borders in an attempt to keep new variants of the coronavirus at bay. The changes will go into effect on Monday, suspending all “travel corridor” arrangements, or arrivals from countries that didn’t require quarantine, and requiring all passengers must have a recent negative coronavirus test and transfer immediately into isolation upon arrival, according to Reuters. The isolation period lasts for 10 days unless the passenger tests negative after five of those days. “What we don’t want to see is all that hard work undone by the arrival of a new variant that is vaccine-busting,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a news conference, adding the end of travel corridors at least until Feb. 15. There is currently no evidence that supports that any of the new variants make the released vaccines less effective.
As local health officials look for locations that can quickly be converted to vaccination clinics, abandoned retail space in malls may soon find a new purpose, according to CNN Business.Dr. Herbert Conway, the director of Burlington County Health Department in New Jersey, set his sights upon a local, shuttered Lord & Taylor while looking for a location for a vaccination “megasite.”
“Our initial idea was to identify outdoor areas, but that wasn’t ideal in the cold weather,” Conway told CNN, referring to the recommended 15-minute post-vaccination observation period. After trading in empty clothing racks for vaccination stations, the site opened with 20 lanes to vaccinate people. Renting out the space as a vaccination site has been beneficial to the mall as well. “At this point, any good use of all the fallow space they’re sitting on is a positive thing,” Victor Calanog, head of the commercial real estate economics at Moody’s Analytics REIS, told CNN.
With the unveiling of President-elect Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, many Americans are now wondering when they could see the included $1,400 stimulus check. While relief package’s total price tag may face pushback from Republican lawmakers, most analysis’s think lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will back the stimulus checks, according to NBC News. “We believe there is support for a smaller package that includes the $1,400 checks, more health care funding, support for small businesses, and some state and local aid,” Ed Mills, an analyst with investment bank Raymond James, told the news station. Alec Phillips, chief U.S. political economist with Goldman Sachs, told NBC News he thinks the package could be passed in mid-February to mid-March, should at least 10 Republican Senators support the package to avoid a filibuster. As for when the money will arrive in the wallets of hard-hit Americans, the first stimulus check, which included $1,200 to eligible adults and $500 per child, took between two weeks to several months. The second round of checks which sent $600 to each eligible adult and child took about a week to arrive.
While the relief is greatly needed among lower-income households, almost half of households with incomes above $150,000 said they needed the stimulus check for financial stability, NBC noted, citing a recent survey from Credit Karma. A TransUnion survey in November found almost 6 in 10 households are facing financial hardship amid the pandemic.
With 20% of the state’s population being 65 years old or older, Florida is experiencing a shortage of available coronavirus vaccines, and many residents are struggling to book their vaccination appointments. The state has previously vowed to prioritize seniors in terms of vaccinations, and Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Tuesday that more vaccine doses are coming to the state, as well as more vaccination locations. Nancy Smythe from Naples, Florida, is one of many who are struggling to book an appointment to receive a first dose. “It seems hopeless,” Smythe told Fox News. "You feel like you should move on with life and not try. I want a cure! I mean, I want to save my life.” She told the news agency that when she tries to book an appointment online, even using multiple devices, the appointment bookings always get filled up too quickly. Smythe is not the only on desperately trying to land an appointment. Gary Perlack was able to get an appointment, but his wife was not. ”Everybody’s scrambling," Perlack said. "I’ll be truthful. I know people who have 2 or 3 computers going, trying to get on this list, and it’s tough."
Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving is facing a massive fine and a significant loss of salary following a violation of the NBA's COVID-19 protocols. According to ESPN, Irving was fined $50,000 after a league investigation found that he was at a family member's birthday party in New Jersey and wasn't wearing a mask. He is also forfeiting his salary for two games he missed while in a period of quarantine which amounts to $816,898, ESPN reported. League protocols forbid players from “attending indoor social gatherings of 15 or more people or entering bars, lounges, clubs or similar establishments,” ESPN said. Irving is expected to return to action on Saturday when the Nets play the Orlando Magic.
With adults 65 and older becoming eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine, many are trying to figure out how to sign up for appointments without access to the internet. Various states have asked people to make appointments to get the vaccine online, but many are struggling to find alternatives without using the internet, ABC News reported. Phone lines have also become overwhelmed with people trying to make appointments. Over 9 million seniors lack internet access, which is about 16.5% of U.S. adults 65 or older, according to ABC News. Seniors of color, one of the most impacted groups from the coronavirus, has even less access to the internet with 25% of Black seniors being without internet access. Health officials have said they are trying to find new solutions to ease the confusion, including partnering with community groups to set up mobile clinics for those that live in more remote areas and to get vaccines to underserved populations.
New lockdown restrictions have begun in Portugal, resulting in additional business closures and people once again being confined to their homes. All non-essential businesses are ordered to close, remote working is required where possible and breaking the mandate will result in fines, Reuters said. Despite the new lockdown, schools remain open in the country. Portugal Prime Minister Antonio Costa assured nervous parents that keeping schools open was backed by studies showing schools did not have a major point of contagion due to coronavirus. A daily record of 159 deaths was recorded by the country on Friday, with cases reaching the second-highest ever at 10,663. The lockdown regulations will be reviewed every 15 days, but the current lockdown is expected to last a month.
Vaccine distribution in Europe faces a major setback after Pfizer said that it will temporarily cut back on the number of shipments to the continent. “This temporary reduction will affect all European countries,” Line Fedders, a spokeswoman for Pfizer Denmark said in a statement to The Associated Press. “As a consequence, fewer doses will be available for European countries at the end of January and the beginning of February.” The reduction is a result of the company woking to upgrade its production capacity so it can produce as many as 2 billion doses per year, the AP said. It is unclear if this will have an impact on the number of Pfizer vaccines available in North America.
Another grim milestone was reached on Friday as the coronavirus continues to spread uncontrollably and new variants appear in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil. More than 2 million deaths are being blamed on the virus, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University. The United States accounts for 19% of the fatalities with 389,581 deaths, followed by Brazil, India, Mexico and the U.K. In all, over 93 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed globally.
It's been a bumpy start to the massive coronavirus vaccination effort across the United States, and that's no more apparent than across parts of the South. According to The Associated Press, which cited data from the Centers for Disease Control and state health departments, only 2% of the population in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina had received an initial dose of either Pfizer's or Moderna's vaccine. Public health researchers note that one reason the South is lagging behind other parts of the country, which have vaccinated as much as 5% of their respective populations, is that the region has typically lagged in funding for public health and has a big rural population, the AP's report said. “When you combine a large percentage of rural residents who tend to be the hard-to-reach populations and have lower numbers of providers with trying to build a vaccine infrastructure on the fly, that’s just a recipe for a not-so-great response,” Sarah McCool, a professor in public health at Georgia State University told the AP.
More than 2 million vaccines have been distributed across Israel as the country continues to inoculate residents at a swift pace. Beginning next week, anyone at least 45 or older will be able to receive the vaccine, according to The Jerusalem Post. This is much different from many other countries around the world that are still limiting the vaccine to older residents, front line healthcare workers and emergency responders. Despite the promising news, the number of new cases in Israel continues to swell with more than 9,000 people testing positive on Friday, the highest daily totals so far in the pandemic.
Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Thursday that a “mega-lockdown” may be required to effectively slow the spread of the coronavirus across Germany, The National News reported. Germany has been under partial lockdown measures since November, however, that has not been enough to stop a more contagious variant of the virus, B.1.1.7, that was initially discovered in the U.K. and is now being identified all across Europe. The tighter restrictions in Germany could shut down most of the nation’s public transportation and delay the return of children to schools, who have not been able to gather for in-person instruction since before Christmas. Calls for these extensive measures come as Germany surpasses 2 million infections since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University. Germany has become the latest country in Europe to reach this benchmark, along with Spain, Italy, Turkey, France and the U.K.
President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion economic relief plan on Thursday geared toward stabilizing the U.S. economy which has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. The additional infusion of stimulus is one of the first tasks that the new administration will seek to tackle when Biden takes office next Wednesday. According to AFP, with the incoming Biden Administration, along with Democrats controlling both the House and the Senate, the U.S. could soon have its third massive pandemic aid package since the virus took hold early in 2020. Named the American Rescue Plan, the proposed relief package calls for an additional $1,400 in stimulus checks to add on to the $600 Americans have been getting following the second rescue package that was approved by Congress in December. The package also calls for $160 billion to fight COVID-19 and $170 billion for schools, AFP reported. "The return on these investment in jobs, racial equity will prevent long-term economic damage, and the benefits will far surpass the cost," Biden said, according to AFP. "In this moment of crisis... we cannot afford inaction."
President-elect Joe Biden arrives to speak at The Queen theater, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, in Wilmington. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
More than 3,700 Americans died Thursday due to COVID-19, according to numbers from Johns Hopkins University, leaving the total death toll throughout the country just shy of 390,000. Meanwhile, Southern California continues to be the country’s most significant hotspot, with The Los Angeles Times reporting on a new estimate that shows one in three L.A. County residents have contracted the coronavirus since the first case was reported in the U.S. nearly one year ago. For more on how the virus is spreading throughout the country and around the world, watch the video below.
Financial services company HSBC has recently stepped up its coronavirus safety measures, telling customers to follow mask laws or their bank accounts could be forfeited. Face masks are mandatory at all locations due to government guidelines in the U.K., meaning those not following the mandate are breaking the law. If you enter an HSBC location without a mask, service will be refused and your bank account may be withdrawn. This comes as people continue to fail covering their mouths and nose with face coverings to help slow the spread of coronavirus. The U.K. has seen an increase in cases and deaths in recent weeks, prompting the continued mandates and restrictions around the country and at government facilities. The country recently experienced their second deadliest day from COVID-19.
One month after the first coronavirus vaccine was approved by the FDA, the number of people that have received the first dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has eclipsed 10 million, according to the CDC. As of Wednesday morning, nearly 10.3 million vaccinations have been administered, including 1.1 million vaccinations at long-term care facilities. The initial rollout of the vaccine was slower than expected but has since picked up steam with 951,000 people receiving a dose of the vaccine on Tuesday alone, according to CBS News. This comes after the federal government announced earlier in the week that all doses of the vaccine can be made available for distribution.
Residents of New York hoping to get vaccinated may have to wait until late spring or early summer before they are able to get the first dose of a jab from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna. According to the New York State Department of Health, vaccination appointments are booked solid for the next 14 weeks. This surge in bookings happened after the state expanded the eligibility criteria to people 65 and older and to younger people who are immunosuppressed, CNBC said. “Over 7 million New Yorkers are now eligible for the COVID vaccine,” the Department of Health posted on its website in all capital letters. “Due to limited allocation by the federal government, limited appointments have filled up quickly.” So far, New York has received 1.7 million doses of the vaccines, but only receives around 300,000 a week, according to CNBC. “New Yorkers are showing they trust the vaccine and want to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Jill Montag, a spokeswoman for the New York Department of Health. “The challenge is we can only vaccinate as fast as the federal supply allows.”
Studies from early on in the pandemic suggested that COVID-19 lockdowns were linked to a decline in air pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, NO2 and emissions. A study published on Wednesday, however, now suggests that the impacts of COVID-19 lockdowns only had a small impact on air pollution in urban environments. The study published in the Science Advances journal suggests that the earlier studies did not account for effects of change in weather which caused them to overestimate the effect of pandemic lockdowns. "Rapid, unprecedented reduction in economic activity provided a unique opportunity to study the impact of interventions on air quality," lead study author Zongbo Shi said, according to UPI. "Emission changes associated with the early lockdown restrictions led to abrupt changes in air pollutant levels but their impacts on air quality were more complex than we thought, and smaller than we expected.”
Government officials in Lebanon have implemented a rigid new coronavirus curfew that will cover all 24 hours a day for the next 10 days, according to The Associated Press. The new lockdown measures went into effect Thursday and are the strictest measures yet that the country has enforced through the course of the pandemic. The restrictions also come at a time when infections are rapidly increasing following the holidays. The AP reported that residents cannot leave their homes unless for a defined set of reasons including "going to the bakery, pharmacy, doctor’s office, hospital or airport." In addition, residents must now seek a permit before making any of these routine trips. Lebanon's Health Ministry said that there have been nearly 232,000 cases and more than 1,700 deaths in the country of nearly 7 million, according to the AP.
In less than one year, Texas has confirmed more than 2 million cases of the coronavirus, becoming just the second state to reach this milestone after California. The Lone Star State now has more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than many countries around the world, including Germany, Mexico and Canada, according to Johns Hopkins University. Texas, like many other states, has seen a surge in cases in recent weeks, leaving hospital resources stretched thin. Only 9% of ICU beds across the state were available as of Thursday, Fox News reported. However, there is a glimmer of hope as vaccine distribution in Texas has expanded to include a larger portion of the population, including anyone that is 65 and older and those who have a chronic medical condition and are 16 or older. Previously, the vaccines were only available to healthcare workers, first responders and long-term care facilities. "Never before in the history of this state has Texas vaccinated so many people so quickly," Abbott said. "It’s stunning to see what we’ve accomplished."
A Johnson & Johnson scientist administers a vaccine shot to a test patient in the company's clinical trial (Johnson & Johnson)
A one-dose coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Jonson has completed a phase two clinical trial that is showing a promising immune response to protect people from contracting COVID-19. This is different than the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna that require two jabs administered three to four weeks apart; however, similar side effects have been reported, including fever, fatigue, headache and muscle aches. Of the 805 volunteers in the J&J trial, many produced neutralizing antibodies after 28 days, and all the participants had antibodies after 57 days, regardless of age or the size of the vaccine dose administered, according to CNBC. A phase three trial is currently underway that includes 45,000 participants with data on the trial being released later this month. This could put the one-dose vaccine on a fast track to become the third coronavirus vaccine given emergency approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
The latest figures from the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday showed that 965,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week. That is the highest number since late August, according to The Associated Press. That figure is also an increase of 181,000 applications from the week prior when 784,000 applications were processed, according to the Labor Department. The high number of jobless claims is a reminder of the painful economic effects that the pandemic continues to cause in the U.S. Pre-pandemic, weekly jobless claims were around 225,000, the AP said.
Dollar General, which has more than 157,000 employees, says it will offer workers who get the coronavirus vaccine four hours of extra pay, according to the Wall Street Journal. The retailer is among the first companies in the U.S. to incentivize staff members to get inoculated with one of the new vaccines that have been approved in recent weeks, the Journal reports. Other companies, including Verizon and CVS, have said that while they want as many workers as possible to get vaccinated, they will not require employees to get the shots.
A positive test for COVID-19 has grounded Andy Murray who was set to depart from Britain and fly to Melbourne, Australia, in the coming days for the Australian Open. The five-time Australian Open runner-up may now miss the tournament, which is scheduled to start on Monday, Feb. 8 and conclude on Sunday, Feb. 21, according to the BBC. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, players must test negative before taking a flight to Australia followed by a 14-day quarantine. Due to this timeline, Murray may not make it to Australia and finish the two-week quarantine period before the tournament begins. The BBC said that Murray is in good health and is isolating at his home in London following his diagnosis.
Pope Francis and ex-Pope Benedict have received an initial dose of the coronavirus vaccine, the Vatican announced on Thursday. According to Reuters, Francis, 84, and Benedict, 93, were among the first to receive the shots as part of a vaccination program that began Wednesday at the Vatican. Due to their age, both are considered more vulnerable to the virus. According to Reuters, there have been fewer than 30 cases in Vatican City, and most of those were among the Swiss Guard. Over the weekend Francis called on people worldwide to get the vaccine. “It is an ethical choice because you are gambling with your health, with your life, but you are also gambling with the lives of others,” he told Italy’s Canale 5 TV station, according to Reuters.
The United States saw another 3,848 deaths blamed on the coronavirus Wednesday, according to figures kept by Johns Hopkins University, and more than 224,000 new cases were reported. The highest concentration of new cases continues to be happening in Southern California and into the Southwest, with Arizona showing a high positivity rate. All told, the U.S. cumulative caseload has now topped 23 million since the first official case was reported nearly 365 days ago. For more, on how the virus is spreading in the U.S. and beyond, watch the video below.
The Phoenix Suns game on Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks was called off by the NBA after it was learned they wouldn’t have enough players cleared to participate. This makes it the third game on Wednesday’s schedule to be called off, joining Utah at Washington and Orlando at Boston. The Associated Press said the Suns, Hawks, Heat, Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers are among the teams dealing with significant roster depletion in recent days because of either positive tests, tracing — which indicates if someone has been in an unsafe amount of contact with a person who tested positive — or both. “I think the biggest thing is, obviously we want to be safe, first and foremost, but we want to figure out how we can do it,” Heat guard Duncan Robinson said. “Because recently, I think probably the biggest thing we’ve all struggled with is the uncertainty of, ‘Who’s playing? Who’s out? What are we doing? What’s this protocol? What’s that protocol?’ So, that’s been frustrating but everyone’s going through it.”
After spending about a month under stay-at-home orders, 13 Northern California counties saw the orders lifted amid improving hospital conditions. However, the state’s population remains under tight restrictions during what Gov. Gavin Newsom called its “most intense surge” of the coronavirus, according to The Associated Press. The lifting of the order means the region can resume outdoor dining and worship services, reopen hair salon and nail salons and other businesses, and increase capacity at retailers, according to the AP. Gatherings of up to three households are now also allowed. “There is a light at the end of this tunnel,” Newsom encouraged the state over social media, reminding people to continue to wear masks and stay at home as much as possible. Three of the five state regions — the San Francisco Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California — remain under stay-at-home orders as their hospitals’ intensive care capacity is pushed to the limit.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn on Wednesday defended the government’s decision to procure and approve COVID-19 vaccines in step with the rest of the European Union amid criticism that the rollout of shots across the country has been too slow, according to The Associated Press. Highlighting that the nation depends on the free movement of goods and people across EU borders, Spahen told lawmakers that it was “a question of economic sense not to vaccinate counties individually, but all of Europe.” He added that while larger countries like France and Germany could have proceeded with vaccinations alone, smaller nations would have struggled to compete for the doses they need, sparking acrimony across the EU’s 27 members, according to the AP. Germany has also signed bilateral contracts with vaccine makers that highlight only 140 million doses are expected to be delivered by BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna this year. In addition, the nation has also ordered 56 million doses from AstraZeneca and more than 100 million from other vaccine manufacturers whose products have not yet been approved in the EU.
Despite warning about travel due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, thousands of Americans still pursued year-end vacations at some of Mexico's coastal resorts along the Caribbean Sea. According to The Associated Press, the Mexican state of Quintana Roo received around 961,000 tourists during the final days of 2020 and the beginning of 2021. Nearly half of those visitors were from the U.S., the AP said. “You come here and it’s a sigh of relief from all the turmoil of the COVID,” said Latron Evans, a 40-year-old firefighter visiting from Jackson, Mississippi, told the AP. Tourism is a major part of the state's economy and reportedly accounts for 87% of Quintana Roo's gross domestic product, the AP said. The influx of American visitors helped account for a decrease in vacationers from Europe, the report said. Quintana Roo Tourism Secretary Marisol Vanegas Pérez told the AP that not only were there more Americans, but they were staying longer. The increase in tourism has health officials worried about a spike in cases in locations where the virus had been somewhat controlled. “In the most popular tourist destinations, you’re going to have epidemic activity increase again in a big way,” Dr. Mauricio Rodríguez of the medical school at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, told the AP.
Researchers in Ohio announced on Wednesday that they’ve discovered two new variants of the coronavirus that likely originated in the U.S., one of which has become the dominant strain in the state’s capital within a three-week timeframe in late December into January. The researchers stated that the U.S. mutations appear to make the virus more contagious, but it does not seem like the vaccines will be less effective against them at the moment, according to CNBC. While the one strain appears similar to the U.K. variant, the “Columbus strain” includes three other gene mutations that haven’t been seen together in SARS-CoV-2. “This new Columbus strain has the same genetic backbone as earlier cases we’ve studied, but these three mutations represent a significant evolution,” Dr. Dan Jones, vice chair of the division of molecular pathology at Ohio State and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “We know this shift didn’t come from the U.K. or South African branches of the virus.”
Japan expanded a state of emergency in Tokyo to seven more prefectures on Wednesday amid a rise of COVID-19 cases and growing sentiments to postpone hosting the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. While Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has been wary about taking measures that would hamper economic activity, governors of Osaka, Kyoto and other hard-hit prefectures asked the government to announce the emergency, according to Reuters. The declaration of a state of emergency, which would give local authorities the ability to curb movement and business and covers 55% of Japan’s population, is set to last through Feb. 7. However, a poll by public broadcaster NHK showed that 88% of respondents think that date is too early to end the state of emergency. The Summer Olympics are set for July 23 to Aug. 8, but a weekend survey by NHK found just 16% of respondents think the Games should continue, down 11 percentage points from a previous poll last month. A combined 77% think they should be canceled or postponed.
The inoculation of Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday kicked off the nation’s efforts to vaccinate one of the world’s most populated countries. Indonesia’s vaccination program will be the first large-scale use outside of China to use the coronavirus vaccine produced by Sinovac Biotech Ltd., according to The Associated Press. Officials have said that they will prioritize vaccinating health care workers, civil servants and other at-risk populations, according to the AP, and the clerical body ruled the vaccine was halal, or acceptable for use under Islamic law. The two-dose vaccine will be free for all Indonesian citizens. “The vaccine is the instrument we can use to protect us. But more importantly, the vaccine is the instrument to protect our family, our neighbor, Indonesian people and the human civilization,” Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said on Wednesday.
As coronavirus infections across the U.S. heighten, the CDC announced on Tuesday a new measure that will require nearly all air travelers to present a negative coronavirus test to enter the country, according to Reuters. The new measures will go into effect Jan. 26, requiring nearly all travelers, including U.S. citizens, to show a negative COVID-19 test within three days of departure or documentation of recovery from the virus, under an order signed by CDC Director Robert Redfield. The order does not apply to passengers who are only passing through the U.S., and the CDC is considering waiving the requirements for airlines flying to countries with with little or no testing capacity, according to Reuters.
Travelers wear masks while passing through the south security checkpoint in the main terminal of Denver International Airport late Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Previously, the requirement had only been imposed on travelers arriving from the U.K. as the more transmissible COVID-19 variant circulated. “We really have to up the ante… We have to take these mutations seriously,” Marty Cetron, director of the CDC’s global migration and quarantine division, told Reuters.
Action movie icon Bruce Willis showed up in a Los Angeles drug store on Sunday not wearing a mask, a move that prompted workers to take action by asking the actor to leave the premises. And there was photo evidence to prove Willis appeared in public without masking up, which was published by the New York’s Post gossip section Page Six. Willis, 65, issued an apology on Tuesday, telling People magazine in a statement that the decision to go into the store maskless “was an error in judgment.” The Los Angeles area has seen some of the highest numbers of new cases throughout the country in recent days and weeks, and ICUs there are in danger of becoming overwhelmed. More than 10,000 deaths in L.A. County have been blamed on COVID-19. Willis reportedly left the store without buying anything after other patrons were upset that he was not wearing a mask, despite having a bandana around his neck, and employees asked him to go. Meanwhile, unseasonably warm weather is set to envelop the L.A. area over the coming days.
The U.S. experienced one of the worst days of the pandemic on Tuesday, Jan. 12, as the nation saw deaths from COVID-19 soar past 4,000 in just one day. About 4,327 Americans died from the virus on Tuesday, a grim new 24-hour record, according to John Hopkins University, as global infections soared past 91 million. “It’s most definitely the darkest period of my entire career,” Kari McGuire, a palliative care supervisor at the St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California, told AFP. “I’ve personally had to watch people that I know, that I care for, watch their loved ones die. It’s been very difficult.” McGuire described to the news agency that the number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., which counts for a fifth of the world’s near two million coronavirus fatalities, as “astronomical.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced New York state will accept new federal guidance to open up coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older as well as younger people who are immunocompromised. Cuomo said further expanding to those 65 and older will open the eligibility to about 7 million people, but the state is only receiving about 300,000 doses per week. Cuomo criticized the move by saying the demand will quickly outstrip supply, CNBC reported. “We are going to accept the federal guidance,” Cuomo said on a conference call with reporters. “So you’re telling people today, ‘You’re eligible,’ but you’re simultaneously telling people, ‘We don’t have enough dosages to get to you for the next six months,’” Cuomo said. “Is that helpful? I don’t think so. I think it creates more frustration and more anxiety.” The weather has been chilly in New York, but according to the AccuWeather forecast, will be moderating and raise above average for this time of year this week.
The puck drops on the abridged 2021 NHL season on Wednesday, Dec. 13, a season that will be shorter-than-normal due to the coronavirus pandemic. Leading up to the season, players and staff members have been attending training camps to get ready for the re-configured season and have been tested for COVID-19 on a regular basis. However, unlike last season’s playoffs, teams will not be living in ‘bubbles’ that significantly reduce the risk of players and staff members being exposed to the coronavirus. “During the two-week period from Dec. 30 to Jan. 11, players were tested on a daily basis with a total of approximately 12,000 tests administered to in excess of 1,200 Players,” the NHL said in a statement on Tuesday. The league reported that 27 players tested positive for COVID-19, many of whom were members of one team. “The results include 17 players on the Dallas Stars – most of whom are asymptomatic and all of whom are currently recovering without complication,” the NHL said. The league will provide regular updates on the status of testing across the league throughout the season.
The nation's largest COVID-19 testing site, the Los Angeles will turn Dodgers Stadium into a mass coronavirus vaccination site by the end of this week, according to a statement from Mayor Eric Garcetti. Officials are aiming to give up to 12,000 shots per day at the site, ABC News reports. After conducting coronavirus testing for eight months, tests will no longer be offered at the stadium after Monday. "From early on in this pandemic, Dodger Stadium has been home base for our testing infrastructure, a vital part of our effort to track the spread of COVID-19, try to get ahead of outbreaks, and save lives," Mayor Garcetti said.
Just three weeks into the NBA season, the league and the National Basketball Players Association have announced additional health and safety measures as cases continue to surge across the country. The new policies apply to players and staff members around the clock and not just during games. “For at least the next two weeks, players and team staff are required to remain at their residence (when the team is in its home market) at all times except to attend team-related activities at the team facility or arena, exercise outside, or perform essential activities, or as a result of extraordinary circumstance,” the league said in a press release on Tuesday. Additionally, anyone who visits the home of a player regularly must be tested for COVID-19 at least two times per week. During games, players on the bench must wear a facemask at all times. Face coverings are also required when in the locker room, during training sessions and during any other team activity. “The league’s Health and Safety Protocols may be additionally amended during the season as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic evolves,” the NBA added.
After lack of authorization from Beijing had delayed the arrival of the 10-strong team on a long-awaited mission to investigate early infections, a World Health Organization (WHO) team of international experts tasked with investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic will arrive in China on Jan. 14, Chinese authorities announced. The National Health Commission, which announced the arrival date, delayed from its early January schedule, did not detail the team’s itinerary, Reuters reports. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “very disappointed” when experts were denied entry earlier this month, forcing two members of the team to turn back. China has been accused of a cover-up that delayed its initial response, therefore the United States has called for a “transparent” WHO-led investigation and criticized its terms, which allowed Chinese scientists to do the first phase of preliminary research. Watch the video below for more.
Malaysia's King Al-Sultan Abdullah has agreed to institute a state of emergency until August to help control skyrocketing cases of the novel coronavirus, UPI reported. "Al-Sultan Abdullah is of the view that the spread of COVID-19 in the country is at a very critical stage and there is need to decree an Emergency Proclamation," a government statement said. An independent committee of bipartisan members of Malaysia's Parliament will decide when the declaration can be lifted, UPI said. According to Johns Hopkins University, Malaysia has reported more than 141,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 500 deaths since the pandemic began.
After a slow start to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout across the country drew criticism, the Trump administration announced a change in plans on Tuesday. To increase the speed of delivery, the government will no longer hold back the required second doses of both Pfizer's and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, The Associated Press reported. Additionally, states have been told to vaccinate groups of people lower on the priority list for the vaccine, especially those who are 65 years or older and younger people with underlying conditions, the AP said. Both vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna need to be administered in two separate doses. The change to no longer withhold the second doses falls in line with what President-elect Joe Biden's administration has proposed. “We had been holding back second doses as a safety stock,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in an interview with ABC, according to the AP. “We now believe that our manufacturing is predictable enough that we can ensure second doses are available for people from ongoing production. So everything is now available to our states and our health care providers.”
Disneyland has remained closed throughout much of the coronavirus pandemic, but now officials in Orange County, California, say the sprawling theme park will be opened for a different use. The resort will become Orange County's first large Point-of-Dispensing (POD) site for COVID-19 vaccine distribution officials said in a press release Monday. At least five large pod sites will be established in the county and will have the capability to vaccinate thousands of residents every day. “The Disneyland Resort, the largest employer in the heart of Orange County, has stepped up to host the county’s first Super POD site – undertaking a monumental task in our vaccination distribution process,” said Andrew Do, the supervisor of Orange County's First District. “We truly appreciate the support of the Orange County Fire Authority, our cities, and our residents as we continue to rollout COVID-19 vaccinations throughout the county. The POD site is expected to become operational later this week. According to CNN, the county has a population of about 3.1 million and more than 190,000 people have tested positive.
New cases in Southern California are piling up so rapidly, health officials are advising residents to wear masks – even while inside their own homes. According to ABC 7, about 10 people test positive for COVID-19 every minute in L.A. County. And ICU beds are nearly at capacity. In, L.A. County alone on Monday, at least 137 people died of COVID-19 and more than 12,000 new cases were reported – about one-third of California’s new caseload for the day. These worsening numbers prompted county public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer to call on anyone who lives with an at-risk individual and leaves home for any reason to wear a mask even inside the house. "If you're a worker who's leaving every day, or [if] you're somebody who has to run the essential errands in your family, it will just add a layer of protection while we get through this surge," Ferrer said, according to LAist.
Moments after the University of Alabama won its 18th college football national title, the streets of downtown Tuscaloosa became jam-packed with thousands of exuberant fans who celebrated the school's victory despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Videos shared to social media showed fans in close quarters and crowded bars with few people wearing masks. The gatherings came despite calls from school and local officials to celebrate responsibly. According to Yahoo Sports, large crowds had been gathering well ahead of the game, with videos of large crowds in downtown Tuscaloosa surfacing around lunchtime Monday. The Crimson Tide defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes 52-24 Monday night in Miami Gardens, Florida, to claim the college football crown.
On Monday, the U.S. reported 204,652 new confirmed cases and 1,731 deaths, pushing the total death toll across the nation past 376,000 in the 11 months since the first official deaths blamed on the coronavirus were reported. Cases are accelerating the most, by far, in California, which reported more than 35,000 new infections on Monday. Texas, New York also reported high numbers of new cases on Monday. Globally, Spain and the U.K. saw the sharpest rises in new cases on Monday. For a closer look, watch the video below.
Hospitals in California are packed with patients as COVID-19 continues to spread at a grim pace with 1,163 new fatalities being reported over the weekend. This is the deadliest weekend so far since the pandemic began, causing the cumulative coronavirus-related death toll in California over to 30,000, The Associated Press reported. California has confirmed more than 2.7 million cases, the most out of any state in the U.S., but is third after Texas and New York in terms of the death toll, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University. Public health officials are pleading with residents to stay at home to do their part to slow the spread of the virus. “This is just not the time to go to the shopping mall or to a friend’s house to watch a basketball or football game,” said Los Angeles Country Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. At the current pace, California could top 3 million cases before Jan. 25, the one year anniversary of when the first case of COVID-19 was detected in the Golden State.
Eight gorillas living together at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for the coronavirus, The Associated Press said. This is the first known case of COVID-19 among such primates in the country. “Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well,” Lisa Peterson, the park’s executive director, told the AP. “This is wildlife, and they have their own resiliency and can heal differently than we do.” The infections likely were caused by a member of the park’s wildlife care team who tested positive for COVID-1, but was asymptomatic, and was in proximity to the gorillas. It has been feared by some experts that the coronavirus could spread with gorillas as they share more than 98% of the same DNA with humans, according to the AP.
The NBA has postponed Monday's game in Dallas between the Mavericks and the New Orleans Pelicans as well as Tuesday's matchup in Chicago between the Bulls and the Boston Celtics due to coronavirus-related and contact-tracing issues, ESPN reported. These two games increase the total games postponed this season to four due to coronavirus-related matters and means the league will have three straight days of postponements. The postponements come one day after Miami's game in Boston was called off because of contact-tracing issues within the Heat. "Definitely been a unique start to the year," Heat guard Duncan Robinson said Monday in an appearance on Reddit. "Been different challenges with all the protocols and new norms. I think the general sentiment is that everyone wants to play but also everyone wants to be safe first."
President-elect Joe Biden receives his second dose of the coronavirus vaccine at ChristianaCare Christiana Hospital in Newark, Del., Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. The vaccine is being administered by Chief Nurse Executive Ric Cuming. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
On Monday, President-elect Joe Biden was administered his second dose of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, three weeks after his first dose was administered on Dec. 21, The Associated Press reported. “The No. 1 priority is getting vaccines in people’s arms as rapidly as we can,” Biden said to reporters afterward. Biden was given the vaccine near his hometown in Delaware at Christiana Hospital in front of members of the media. Two doses are required for the vaccines to achieve the 95% efficacy that was found in clinical trials, according to the CDC. To date, nearly 9 million Americans have received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine from either Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech with more than 25 million doses being distributed across the country for inoculations.
New data released from a recently concluded clinical trial in London shows that two arthritis drugs are effective at treating severely sick COVID-19 patients, The New York Times reports. The findings in a paper published by the researchers show that the drugs tocilizumab or sarilumab helped reduce the death rate among COVID-19 patients that were in intensive care by about 27 percent, according to the Times. That number is compared to 36 percent of trial patients who didn't receive the drugs. The trial has yet to undergo a formal peer-review process, according to the Times. Despite that, the British government has reportedly begun telling health care providers to begin using the drugs to treat patients that are very ill. Dr. Anthony Gordon, the trial's lead researcher and a critical care physician at Imperial College London told the Times the trial was a "huge result." “Showing that drugs that are available and can be used to save lives, in this pandemic, is a wonderful achievement,” Gordon said.
BioNTech, the Germany-based company that partnered with Pfizer to develop what became the first approved vaccine for use against the coronavirus, said it will be able to increase production and crank out 2 billion doses of the vaccine by the end of 2021, AFP reported. The company announced plans to open a new factory, where 750 million doses per year are expected to be produced. In the statement, according to AFP, BioNTech said its scientists expect COVID-19 to “likely become an endemic disease” that will require a vaccine to compensate for a “naturally waning immune response.”
Another potential coronavirus vaccine has started Phase 1 trials in London that is much different than those developed by Moderna and Pfizer. The company Codagenix has begun testing a one-dose vaccine that is administered as a nasal spray, ABC News said. “This vaccine is one of the first of the next generation COVID-19 vaccines, it is a single dose, needle free, intranasal, live attenuated COVID-19 virus vaccine,” Cathal Friel, executive chairman, of Open Orphan, the company running the trials said in a statement. In addition to being a good alternative for those who do not like needles, the science behind this type of vaccine has been historically very effective, according to Codagenix CEO Robert Coleman. The vaccine, called COVI-VAC, uses a “weakened form of the naturally occurring virus that will not cause disease but will generate a strong immune response,” Coleman explained. The company believes that if COVI-VAX performs as expected, it could result in long-term immunity against COVID-19 with someone only needing one or two doses to be immune to the virus throughout their lifetime. The potential vaccine needs to pass several trials before it can be given emergency approval, so it is unclear if or when COVI-VAC will be available to the general population.
A man with a face covering walks past Tower Bridge in London, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021 during England's third national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. The government has imposed a national lockdown while allowing schools to open, with freedom to exercise and shop for food and essential items. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
The next few weeks of the coronavirus pandemic in England are also going to be the most dangerous, the country's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said on Monday. In an interview with the BBC, Whitty urged residents to minimize all unnecessary contact with others. "There's a very high chance that if you meet someone unnecessarily they will have COVID," Whitty told the BBC. About 1 in 50 people across the U.K. are said to be infected, the BBC said. Recently, health officials in Northern Ireland reportedly have seen the busiest 48 hours since the pandemic started. In England, Whitty said that there are about 30,000 people in hospitals with COVID-19 compared to about 18,000 last April. "This is everybody's problem. Any single unnecessary contact you have with someone is a potential link in a chain of transmission that will lead to a vulnerable person." "This is an appalling situation," Whitty said. According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 3 million confirmed cases in the U.K. since the pandemic began and more than 81,000 deaths attributed to the disease.
Storm Filomena, one of the biggest winter storms in years for Spain, turned deadly over the weekend as it unleashed heavy rain and record-setting snowfall in the capital of Madrid. The powerful storm wreaked havoc with travel which also reportedly complicated the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. A shipment of 350,000 doses of the vaccine produced by Pfizer and German company BioNTech that was scheduled for Madrid had to be diverted to the northern city of Vitoria, The Associated Press reported. The vaccines were scheduled to arrive at more than six separate airports across the country. José Manuel Franco, the central government's representative in Madrid, told a local news outlet that the companies were working to ensure the arrival of the vaccine shipment in Madrid, the AP said. Previously officials said that police escorts would transport the vaccines through the snow-covered roadways.
A view of Oriente square covered with snow with the Royal Palace in front in downtown Madrid, Spain, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021. A large part of central Spain including the capital of Madrid are slowly clearing snow after the country's worst snowstorm in recent memory. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
The head of the World Travel and Tourism Council publicly opposed the idea of making COVID-19 vaccinations a requirement for travelers, saying it would be akin to workplace discrimination. Many policymakers across the globe have suggested implementing such a requirement for travel and Australia’s Qantas Airways has stated that it plans to enact a vaccination requirement for its own travelers. However, Gloria Guevara, chief executive of the World Travel and Tourism Council, stated on Monday that she is opposed to the idea. “We should never require the vaccination to get a job or to travel,” Guevara said. “If you require the vaccination before travel, that takes us to discrimination.” The council represents 10% of all global employment, according to Reuters.
Rather than require vaccinations, AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes stood in support of Guevara and said global testing protocols are what is essential to travel. Dale Fisher, a professor of medicine at the National University of Singapore, said herd immunity through vaccinations is not going to happen in 2021. “The first thing we might see as we approach herd immunity with vaccines is that we’ll stop seeing this mass community transmission,” Fisher said. “But I don’t believe COVID is going away, that’s not the nature of such virus.” Additionally, he said that because not enough information is known on the vaccine, it is possible immunity will wear off. "We don't know everything that's needed to know about the vaccine yet," he said. "We can be very confident it's safe, we can be very confident it's effective in the short term. But if this all wears off after six or 12 months then there's going to be new problems arise." Hear more from Fisher in the video below.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, became the latest high-profile figures around the world to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations. The queen, who is 94, and Prince Philip, 99, were inoculated by a royal household doctor at Windsor Castle, AFP reported. More than 1.5 million in England have received vaccinations so far, AFP reported. The U.K. is currently reinstating strict lockdowns as a new variant of COVID-19 that is said to be more contagious than the original strain threatens to overwhelm the nation's health service even further. Watch the video below for more.
Days after recording some of its lowest temperatures in decades,the Chinese capital of Beijing went into a partial lockdown on Monday, AFP reported. The lockdown covers more than half a million people and is being done to snuff out a developing outbreak in the villages of Shunyi, located on the outskirts of Beijing, AFP reported. More than 20 million live in the Beijing area and officials want to curb any further spread of the virus ahead of the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday. One new infection was reported in Beijing on Monday and 32 cases of local transmission have been reported since Dec. 19. The majority of those have come in Shunyi, AFP said. The weather will be chilly in the Beijing area over the next several days, but temperatures will stay slightly above normal, according to the AccuWeather forecast.
Confirmed cases: 90,211,303
Despite over 22 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine having already been distributed to hospitals and pharmacies throughout the U.S., only 6.7 million Americans have received their first dose. According to some experts, a mass vaccination program amid a pandemic was never going to be smooth sailing, and many health care facilities are intentionally holding off on vaccinating everyone at once in an attempt to avoid too many people out of work at the same time. "We all thought that the real problem was going to be a shortage -- we would be having lines out the door -- and what we're finding is that, from what we hear nationally right now, there's still a lot of vaccine," Dr. Neil Calman, president and CEO of the Institute for Family Health, told CNN. "Every dose that's in somebody's arm is somebody that's not going to get sick with Covid. It's not doing any good trying to ration it out like this, week by week, because any dose that's sitting in a refrigerator is a life that's not being potentially saved."
Vaccine registration sites across the country have now opened, and they are filling up within minutes. The city of San Antonio, Texas, opened up vaccine registration at 9 a.m. on Saturday, and within six minutes all 9,000 slots were taken, The New York Times reported. “The registration system worked as designed, but there is far greater demand than available supply at this time,” Dr. Colleen Bridger, an assistant city manager, said. “When we receive more doses from the State of Texas, we will have more appointments available in the coming days and weeks, and we will keep the public informed about registration opportunities.” Beaumont Health, the largest health care system in Michigan, also experienced problems with their online portal residents can use to sign up. Many users were unable to enter the portal. “We’re really having to rethink how we have to do our capacity planning,” Hans Keil, the health care system’s chief information officer, said.
The Dallas Mavericks NBA team has closed their facility after two players tested positive for COVID-19. While two players have tested positive, there are four players in the COVID-19 protocols quarantining — Maxi Kleber, Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Josh Richardson, though it is not clear who among the four tested positive, USA Today reported.
Canadians who have endured a travel ban, 14-day quarantines and weeks-long lockdowns are angry with politicians and government workers who are breaking the orders they put in place. More than a dozen politicians, public health leaders and a hospital CEO have been caught taking vacations after telling Canadians to stay home and cancel holiday plans. In Alberta, eight politicians have admitted to traveling abroad. "For politicians who have been preaching to us to restrict our activities, to restrict our social gatherings, to see our elderly loved ones through iPad and glass windows, for them to then ignore the sacrifice of others for their personal pleasure, (it) is hard to articulate how deeply disturbing that is," said Dr. Alan Drummond in an interview with CNN from his medical office in Perth, Ontario. "It truly feels like an insult."
Aaron Rodgers has given $500,000 to the Barstool Fund, a non-profit organization helping small businesses struggling amid coronavirus orders. So far, the Barstool Fund has raised more than $21 million to help small businesses. Barstool President Dave Portnoy hosted the Green Bay Packers' quarterback on an Instagram live Friday not knowing what Rodgers wanted to discuss. But shortly into the conversation, Rodgers made his intentions known by matching Portnoy's gift to the fund. "I've been following you for a while, and I love the brand and what you guys have done. But this far exceeds anything you have ever done," Rodgers said. "I just want to get involved. The videos everyday are so inspiring. I'm in. I want to be in the same amount you put in, $500,000." Several other celebrities have given money as well.
As aircraft values have taken a hit this year with so few customers taking to the skies because of the pandemic, airlines like Delta are speeding up the retirement of their older aircraft. Amazon is taking advantage of the opportunity by buying used planes. Amazon says it’s buying 11 used Boeing 767-300 jetliners from Delta and Canadian airline WestJet and the numbers show the retail giant is getting a deal, CNBC reports. Amazon says the fleet dedicated to its Amazon Air arm will total about 85 planes by the end of 2022.
Dentists, retired medical workers and students are now among the people in some states that are administering vaccines in an attempt to speed up the process. According to The American Dental Association, dentists are now cleared in many U.S. states to administer vaccinations for the virus. "Dentists are already trained to provide injections in objectively more complex areas of the mouth that commonly have gag reflexes, major blood vessels, nerves and a moving tongue," the California Dental Association said, according to CNN. The first dentist to administer the vaccine was in Oregon in December. "We have been using some atypical vaccinators because we're trying to prioritize keeping our licensed nurses at the bedside," said Dr. Sarah Nafziger, professor of emergency medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "While we're rolling out vaccine, we're simultaneously dealing with a patient surge."
Eleven million people are now in lockdown in the city of Shijiazhuang in China’s Hebei province after a coronavirus outbreak that led to 39 people testing positive. Despite a seemingly small amount of cases for such a vast region, Yan Xixin, a critical care director at the Second Hospital of Hebei Medical University, said "the risk of having more infections is still there.” In addition to the lockdown, the remainder of the region was also placed under new travel restrictions that are in effect for 76 million people, NBC News reported. "With the valuable experience of Wuhan in its previous epidemic prevention, Shijiazhuang has a model for reference," Shi Mo, a graduate student in Shijiazhuang said. "We are all optimistic about the epidemic."
Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest school district, will allow some students to come back to classrooms on Monday for the first time since March, even though they aren’t sure how many teachers will show up. The Chicago Teachers Union believes it's not safe enough to return to work in person. "We must reopen our doors," CPS CEO Janice Jackson said Friday morning. "We've seen attendance, enrollment and grades drop dramatically during remote learning." Jackson said the city addressed the ventilation issues that concerned teachers, and that teachers required to work in-person who don't show up next week would see their pay docked.
As the U.S. continues its vaccination efforts, the head of the Food and Drug Administration asked states to “strongly” consider vaccinating groups that are otherwise considered to be lower priority to receive the jabs. "We've heard in the press that some folks have said, 'OK, I'm waiting to get all of my health-care workers vaccinated. We have about 35% uptake of the vaccine.' I think it reasonable to expand that,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said, suggesting that states consider rolling out vaccinations beyond healthcare workers. "I would strongly encourage that we move forward with giving states the opportunity to be more expansive in who they can give the vaccine to."
The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner is investigating the death of a 56-year-old doctor, Dr. Gregory Michael, after he received the coronavirus vaccine. According to Darren Caprara, director of operations at the medical examiner's office, they are working with the Florida Department of Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate the cause behind the death. The CDC confirmed it "is aware of a reported death in Florida of an individual who received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine about two weeks before passing away," a spokeswoman said by email Wednesday night, according to CNN. Caprara said Michael received a vaccine around December 19 and died "late January 3rd into the 4th."
Communities around the world are still struggling one year after the first cases of coronavirus were reported from the toll that the virus has taken. Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, tells CNBC that the coronavirus pandemic has created a “global education emergency.” At the peak of the pandemic “we had 1.6 billion children out of school,” Fore says. “Now, that number has fallen to maybe a quarter of a billion but we have a great number of children who do not have access to remote or distance learning.” Fore expressed she fears that “many girls will never return to school” and estimates that one out of every three children worldwide currently does not have access to in-person or remote learning.
A student wears a mask as a precautionary measure at Matribhumi school in Bhaktapur, Nepal, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. There has been one confirmed case of a new coronavirus infection in the Himalayan country. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S., believes that soon the country will be able to administer at least one million COVID-19 vaccines per day. This comes after a slower-than-expected inoculation rate across the country following the emergency approval for the use of the vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna. “Any time you start a big program, there’s always glitches. I think the glitches have been worked out,” Fauci told The Associated Press. Fauci added that Joe Biden’s goal of 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office is “a very realistic, important, achievable goal.” As of Tuesday morning, a little over 4.8 million Americans have been given the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the CDC.
To help speed up the vaccination process across the country, President-elect Joe Biden said his administration will release most available vaccine doses in order to protect more people, the Associated Press reported. This move comes in contrast to the current plan from the Trump administration which had been holding back millions of vaccine doses in order for more Americans to get a second shot, the AP said. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses. The plan specifically calls for an acceleration in the shipment of first doses and use government power to help distribute the needed second doses more efficiently, according to the AP. “The president-elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible,” spokesman T.J. Ducklo said in a statement.
The puck is set to drop for the first game of the 2021 NHL season on Wednesday, Jan. 13, but one of the best teams in the league may have to postpone their season opener due to COVID-19. On Friday, the Dallas Stars announced that six players and two staff members recently tested positive for COVID-19, putting upcoming games in doubt, according to NHL.com. The Stars were slated to play the Florida Panthers on Thursday, Jan. 14 and again on Friday, Jan. 15, followed by a Stanley Cup rematch with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 17, but these three games may end up not being played as scheduled. "As a result of the positive tests, and as an appropriate precaution, the team's training facilities have been closed, effective immediately, and will remain closed for several days while further daily testing and contact tracing is conducted,” the NHL said in a statement. "The League is in the process of reviewing and revising the Stars' regular season schedule with the expectation that the team will not open its 2020-21 season earlier than Tuesday, January 19."
The Columbus Blue Jackets are also dealing with potential issues with the coronavuris with 19 players not practicing on Friday "out of an abundance of caution and in accordance with NHL COVID-19 protocols,” according to NHL.com. It is unclear if players have tested positive for COVID-19. The Blue Jackets are set to travel to Nashville to play the Predators on Thursday, Jan. 14 for the season opener.
The NFL playoffs this year are shaping up much differently than years prior, not only because there are three wild card teams in each conference, but also due to COVID-19 protocols. As the Buffalo Bills gear up for the team’s first home playoff game since 1996, the 6,700 fans who are able to attend the game are being tested for the coronavirus, Fox News said. Only fans who have tickets and who test negative prior to the game will be able to enter the stadium come kickoff on Saturday afternoon. "It's such a great sports town, and this being our third year (of the last four) in the playoffs but not having a home (playoff) game in 26 years, it's really special for the community," said Terry Pegula, owner of the Bills. “A lot of our messaging to our fans is to just really follow the protocols that are in place." Each test costs $63 with the cost of the test being added to the price of each ticket, according to Fox News. Even with fans testing negative, they will need to wear a mask at all times when in the stadium for the highly-anticipated matchup against the Indianapolis Colts.
Buffalo is known for lake-effect snow during the first part of the winter, but fans can expect to see sunshine rather than snowflakes. AccuWeather is forecasting a high temperature on Saturday of 36 F with mostly sunny conditions and winds gusting up to 8 mph. This may be a ‘pleasant’ day by Buffalo’s standards when it comes to weather in January, but it could be a bit of a shock to the Colts, a team that regularly plays in a dome stadium when hosting opponents.
The U.S. saw a drop in jobs for the first time since April, as employers across the country cut 140,000 positions. Despite the drop in job positions, the unemployment rate remained the same at 6.7% — the first time since April it has not dropped. The losses in jobs were mainly focused in the restrained, bar, hotel and entertainment venue industries. According to The Associated Press, low income employees were the most affected. Most other sectors are continuing to add workers rather than remove them, the news outlet reported. “Hopefully it is indeed darkest before the dawn,” Leslie Preston, senior economist at TD Bank, said. “We’ve got the vaccine and the stimulus, which are imminent, and which we do expect to turn things around.”
Cyprus is entering a second lockdown since the beginning of the pandemic starting on Jan. 10 due to rising cases of COVID-19. The nation’s heath minister announced the new lockdown on Friday, which will include the closure of retail businesses, including hairdressers, beauty parlors and large department stores. They will remain closed until Jan. 31. In addition, people will only be allowed to leave their homes twice a day for reasons such as grocery shopping, getting medicine and exercise. Remote learning will also go into effect in schools, but kindergartens will remain open.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Cleveland Browns this Sunday night at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, they'll do so in front of a limited crowd of strictly family members and friends. The Steelers had been hoping for a limited crowd of around 5,500, which is similar to what they had at games in October and November, but the state would not grant their request, ESPN reported. The decision was met with disappointment from Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "I hate it for the fans," he said, according to ESPN. "I think about what Heinz Field would be like Sunday night. Anyone who has been there knows how special it would be. I hate it for them. I hate it for the Steelers, for the energy and excitement that it brings. But once again, that is what we are doing. That is what we are living in."
The weather forecast for Sunday night looks ideal for football with dry conditions expected. Temperatures at the 8:15 p.m. EST kickoff will be near 34 degrees Fahrenheit and will fall through the lower 30s during the game, AccuWeather meteorologists say. Winds will be generally light out of the northwest at less than 5 mph and should have little to no impact on the game.
Nearly 90% of counties in Florida are seeing increasing amounts of COVID-19 cases, positivity rates and high levels of community spread. Despite a significant decrease in tests performed, test positivity is on the rise in the state and hospitals are rapidly seeing new patients, according to the Orlando Sentinel. A report obtained by the Sentinel said, “Florida is in full pandemic resurgence and must increase mitigation, along with an active COVID vaccination program to decrease community spread and save lives.” Orange County, Miami-Dade and Broward counties account for 36% of all cases in the state. The Orlando-Sanford-Kissimmee area has also been labeled as a region with an increased burden of COVID-19.
Amid the country's biggest COVID-19 outbreak in six months, officials in China have banned residents from leaving the cities of Xingtai and Shijiazhuang, AFP reported. About 18 million people combined live in the two cities and their surrounding areas which are both located south of Beijing. Officials said they would "strictly control the movement of people and vehicles," with all residential estates placed under "closed management," AFP reported. Hebei province, where both cities are located, has reported 127 new infections as well as 183 asymptomatic cases in the past week, AFP said. The lockdowns come only weeks before the start of the Chinese New Year which could throw travel plans into chaos for the holiday which runs from Feb. 11-17.
Amid a summer season that has brought a return to packed beaches and festive New Year's parties, Brazil topped the 200,000 mark for deaths related to COVID-19. The bleak milestone was achieved Thursday when 1,524 new deaths were reported, according to The Associated Press. Only the U.S., which has a death toll higher than 365,000, has recorded more fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University. According to the AP, Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro and his administration reportedly approved recent large gatherings throughout the country during the holidays at a time when many other countries were locking down. Gilson Machado, the country's tourism minister, reportedly told a local radio station that gatherings of up to 300 people were acceptable.
The United States set a new grim record on Thursday by surpassing 4,000 fatalities blamed on the coronavirus over a single 24-hour period, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. All told, 4,085 Americans died from COVID-19 pushing the total death toll above 365,000 since the pandemic began. More than 274,000 cases were recorded on Thursday as well, sending the cumulative case count above 21.5 million. For more on how the coronavirus is spreading throughout the U.S. and around the world, watch the video below.
Illegal loggers and miners entering the Amazon have put the indigenous Kayapó people of Brazil at risk of COVID-19 exposure, but they say a drink made from local vines has been protecting them, Reuters reported. The natives to the Amazon have not disclosed the name of the vine they use, but say they strip the skin of the vine off and boil and strain it into a tea, which they then drink three times a day for five days, Po Yre, a 23-year-old member of the Kayapó community, said. “The medicine is very strong. When you take it, you get weak, sometimes with red eyes and a headache. But, the next day, it works. You wake up well,” Po Yre said. He tried the remedy himself after testing positive for the virus in July. According to the news outlet, villagers say the natural remedy is the best way to prevent the pandemic from wiping out indigenous populations that are receiving little government support and in some circumstances have no access to healthcare.
The coronavirus vaccine created by China’s Sinovac Biotech was reported as 78% effective in a late-stage trial in Brazil and prevented any severe cases of COVID-19, according to researchers. The findings lacked the same detail U.S. and European vaccines were able to report, which has led to many requesting further transparency from the company, Reuters reported. The vaccine is one that many developing countries are keeping a close watch on. According to the director of Brazilian biomedical center Butantan, more detailed results from the trial will be submitted to health regulator Anvisa as they request for emergency use approval. “One thing is a presentation at a news conference. It’s something else to get the data and analyze it, which is what Anvisa will do,” said Cristina Bonorino, who sits on the scientific committee of the Brazilian Immunology Society. “If it’s what they say, that’s an excellent result.”
While Berlin, Germany, may not be getting many visitors right now due to the pandemic, one tour guide is finding a way to bring the city to anyone looking to explore it — through virtual tours. Jeremy Minsberg is the Berlin tour guide that has transitioned to online tours to continue making an income during the pandemic, Bloomberg reported. Minsberg has done over 100 virtual tours so far in the city, with each tour having up to 100 participants. The tours take around two hours and cost 75 euros per hour, equivalent to about $92. “This is actually a live tour, this is not a webinar, I’m not sitting at a desk somewhere,” Minsberg told the news outlet. “I’m walking around the streets so the clients can interact with me, they can ask me questions, they can ask me personal questions, they can ask me questions about something I walked past, they can say, ‘can you slow down for a second?’” Minsberg said his online tours have also opened up an opportunity for some people who are not able to physically travel, such as the elderly or handicapped individuals, to experience the city in a new format. "This is actually a whole new niche business that could be created for people who don't have the time, don't have the ability to travel any longer."