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Coronavirus live updates: US reports over 137,000 new cases

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(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 95.6 million people worldwide and killed over two million of them, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Here’s how the news is developing Tuesday. All times Eastern:

Jan 19, 9:48 am
Norway says no evidence that Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine increased risk of patients’ deaths

Norway’s national public health institute said Tuesday that there is currently no correlation between receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and an increased risk of death among 23 people who died after getting the shot.

The deceased were “severely frail patients” who died within six days after vaccination in the Scandinavian country, and the incidents “do not imply a casual relationship between COVID-19 vaccination and death,” according to Dr. Sara Viksmoen Watle, chief physician at the Norwegian Institute for Public Health.

“When we vaccinate the eldest and sickest who often have several underlying conditions we expect high mortality in this population. Hence, we also expect deaths following vaccination,” Watle said in a statement Tuesday. “We do not yet know if these deaths are due to the vaccine or other causes, but we cannot exclude that common side effects may have led to a more severe course for some patients.”

The Norwegian Medicines Agency and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health are investigating the deaths.

“So far, there are no statistical analyses that indicate that coronavirus vaccination has had an increased risk of death among those vaccinated,” Watle said, after noting that the fatal incidents will be examined “in relation to the expected number of deaths among the nursing home population.”

“In order to be able to interpret this information, it is important to see the full picture,” she added. “Nursing home residents are at very high risk of a severe disease course or dying from COVID-19, and have therefore been prioritised for vaccination. A large proportion of those who live in nursing homes have severe underlying conditions or are in the last stages of life. Life expectancy in nursing homes is relatively short and on average, more than 300 people die in Norwegian nursing homes every week.”

Jan 19, 8:05 am
Americans can expect travel restrictions to tighten ‘if anything,’ incoming CDC director says

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said she will “hit the ground running” and suggested there might be more travel restrictions in store.

“We need to reset the stage here. We need to make sure the country, the people understand that this pandemic is now going to be addressed with science, with trust, with transparency, with communication of exactly where we are to the American people,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview Tuesday on Good Morning America.

Walensky, the chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, will be sworn in Wednesday as director of the CDC — an appointment that does not require Senate confirmation.

“I will be sworn in tomorrow, but the work has been happening since I was named,” Walensky said, “and we’ve been working really hard to make sure we can come in and hit the ground running and make sure that we can get this country back to health.”

Walensky said the incoming administration’s plan to vaccinate 100 million people against COVID-19 within the first 100 days of Biden’s presidency is “really ambitious but doable.” The key is making sure there are enough people on the ground to administer the vaccines, understanding the supply and how many doses are going to which states, and making vaccines accessible to all people.

“All of that plan is underpinned with equity,” Walensky said. “We need to make sure that we’re equally and equitably getting the vaccine across this country.”

In one of his last orders, outgoing President Donald Trump announced Monday that he was rescinding entry bans imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic on most visitors from Brazil and much of Europe effective Jan. 26. However, Biden’s spokesperson Jen Psaki said the incoming administration won’t be lifting the bans.

Walensky agreed with the move to reject Trump’s order and said there may be more travel restrictions introduced.

“If you look at the fatalities of 400,000 that we’re likely to hit today, if you look at our cases across this country, I don’t think now is the time to encourage people to get on international fights, to encourage people to mobilize,” Walensky said. “I think now is the time to really buckle down, double down our efforts. And so I don’t expect that we’ll be lifting travel restrictions and, if anything, I think we can expect that they might tighten, especially in the context of variants that we’re hearing about.”

Jan 19, 7:24 am
Israel sees record rise in cases despite mass vaccination

Israel confirmed 10,222 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, its highest daily tally since the pandemic began, suggesting the country’s mass vaccination campaign hasn’t kicked in yet.

The record figure translates to a nationwide positivity rate in COVID-19 tests of 10.2% However, one promising sign is that the number of critically ill patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across Israel has remained steady over the past few days.

Israel’s cumulative totals now stand at 562,167 confirmed cases and 4,049 deaths from the disease, according to the latest data from the Israeli Ministry of Health.

Official figures show 25% of Israel’s general population — nearly 2.2 million people — have received the first of two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 5% — more than 420,000 — have received their second dose.

The Israeli government is expected to meet Tuesday afternoon to determine whether to extend the current lockdown, which has been in place since Jan. 8 and is slated to end Jan. 21.

Jan 19, 7:17 am
1 in 8 people in England have had COVID-19, data suggests

An estimated one in eight people in England have already been infected with the novel coronavirus, according to antibody data from the U.K. Office for National Statistic’s COVID-19 Infection Survey.

The survey estimates that 12.1% of the population in England would have tested positive for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 on a blood test in December 2020, suggesting they had the infection in the past.

“The estimate is weighted to be representative of the overall population and suggests that an average of 5.4 million people aged 16 years and over in England would have tested positive for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 during this time,” the report said. “This equates to 1 in 8 people aged 16 years and over.”

That estimate was one in 10 people in Wales, one in 13 people in Northern Ireland and one in 11 people in Scotland, according to the survey.

Meanwhile, a regional analysis of antibody data for England found that the highest positivity was seen in Yorkshire and The Humber, followed by London and the North West, according to the survey.

The survey, which was launched in the United Kingdom in mid-April of last year, measured several factors: how many people test positive for COVID-19 at a given point in time, regardless of whether they report experiencing symptoms; the average number of new infections per week over the course of the study; and the number of people who test positive for antibodies, to indicate how many people are ever likely to have had the infection.

The U.K. — an island nation of 66 million people made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — has confirmed more than 3.4 million cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, including more than 89,000 deaths. There were 37,535 new cases and 599 additional fatalities from the disease confirmed in the last 24 hours, according to the latest data published on the U.K. government’s website.

Jan 19, 5:50 am
Eighteen family members test positive after holiday party in Pennsylvania

One family’s holiday gathering in Pennsylvania has turned out to be a superspreading event, according to a report by Philadelphia ABC station WPVI-TV.

Darlene Reynolds, 55, said she woke up with a scratchy throat on Dec. 26, the day before relatives from as far as Canada were planning to come over for a holiday party at her home in the Milmont Park section of Ridley Township.

“I had no fever because I kept checking it,” Reynolds told WPVI. “I said, ‘I’ll keep a distance since I have a tiny little cough.'”

Soon after the party, people started getting sick.

“We were sick, but we didn’t know we had COVID. We could’ve had the flu, but it was scary,” Reynolds told WPVI. “We got tested and we tested positive.”

In total, 18 family members ranging in age from 1 to 62 contracted COVID-19. Reynolds said both her husband and their son were hospitalized.

Jan 19, 5:25 am
100 doses of Moderna vaccine batch flagged by California officials administered at mass vaccination event

Just hours after California’s top epidemiologist recommended pausing the use of COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna’s lot 041L20A due to “possible allergic reactions” that are under investigation, Mendocino County officials discovered that the batch in question was used at a mass vaccination event in San Diego.

“The county has reviewed the lot numbers administered through our mass vaccination clinics as well as the inventory stored in our freezer. Upon further review, we are confirming that 100 doses of Mendocino County Public Health’s Moderna vaccine associated with the batch the state is concerned with were used at a vaccination event at the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds on January 7th,” Mendocino County vaccine coordinator Adrienne Thompson said in a statement Monday night.

According to Thompson, all 100 doses were administered at the event and comprised a separate order from the state. No adverse reactions occurred.

“County staff will be contacting all 100 individuals that received a vaccine with this lot number to alert them of the recall,” Thompson said. “No other side effects have been noted from use of this vaccine.”

Mendocino County’s public health officer, Dr. Andrew Coren, said events such as this are not unexpected because these are new vaccines, and it should not deter the public from getting vaccinated.

“This isolated event has not increased the percentage of vaccine reactions, which continue to be about one person in 100,000,” Coren said in a statement Monday night. “Getting vaccinated continues to be the best way for all of us to help move beyond this virus and return to a normal way of life.”

Jan 19, 4:17 am
US reports over 137,000 new cases

There were 137,885 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the United States on Monday, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

It’s the lowest daily case count that the country has seen since Dec. 25. Monday’s tally is also far less than the country’s all-time high of 302,506 newly confirmed infections on Jan. 2, Johns Hopkins data shows.

An additional 1,382 fatalities from COVID-19 were registered nationwide on Monday, down from a peak of 4,462 new deaths on Jan. 12, according to Johns Hopkins data.

COVID-19 data may be skewed due to possible lags in reporting over the holidays followed by a potentially very large backlog.

A total of 24,078,773 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 399,003 have died, according to Johns Hopkins data. The cases include people from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and other U.S. territories as well as repatriated citizens.

Much of the country was under lockdown by the end of March as the first wave of the pandemic hit. By May 20, all U.S. states had begun lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The day-to-day increase in the country’s cases then hovered around 20,000 for a couple of weeks before shooting back up over the summer.

The numbers lingered around 40,000 to 50,000 from mid-August through early October before surging again to record levels, crossing 100,000 for the first time on Nov. 4, then reaching 200,000 on Nov. 27 before topping 300,000 on Jan. 2.

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