Vaccine Pledges Unmet; CDC Sounds Alarm on Variant: Virus Update
A member of the Mexico Vaccination Brigade monitors people arriving to receive a dose of the Pfizer BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine at the Centenario Hospital Miguel Hidalgo in Aguascalientes, Mexico. (Photographer: Mauricio Palos/Bloomberg)

Vaccine Pledges Unmet; CDC Sounds Alarm on Variant: Virus Update

The Covid-19 variant that emerged in the U.K. and sparked concerns of faster spread could become dominant in the U.S. as soon as March, U.S. public-health researchers said in a report.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will run out of vaccines by next week due to supply shortages. New York state will receive 50,000 fewer doses next week than it did the week before, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. Other states, including New Jersey, Oregon and Colorado, said they are not receiving enough vaccine.

The world hit a frightening Covid-19 benchmark, with 2 million people dead and few expectations for infections to start dropping soon. The U.K. said it will require all visitors from overseas to have a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of travel.

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Vaccine Pledges Unmet; CDC Sounds Alarm on Variant: Virus Update

Colorado Governor Says States ‘Lied To’ on Vaccines (3:56 p.m. NY)

An incompetent, outgoing Trump administration “lied to” all of the nation’s governors about the existence of a Covid-19 vaccine reserve for second doses, contrary to statements this week by Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials, the governor of Colorado said.

“My guess is it’s gross incompetence,” Jared Polis, a Democrat, said at a news Friday conference in Denver. “I’m not going to attribute the motive of vengeance. I am going to say gross incompetence, but I you know could err on the side of my optimistic human nature.”

Polis said the state anticipates receiving a combined 69,800 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for next week, about the same as this week, though, the governor also estimates Colorado medical providers could safely stretch that supply to 77,950 shots.

L.A. Opens More Big Vaccination Venues (3:51 p.m. NY)

Los Angeles County said it would open five more large-scale Covid-19 vaccination sites, including ones at famed concert venue the Forum, Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park and the Pomona Fairplex, site of the county fair. The sites will each be able to accommodate about 4,000 people a day. They are in addition to the Dodger Stadium facility, which the county opened Friday.

Los Angeles, the nation’s most-populous county with some 10 million residents, is still working through the hundreds of thousands of health care and other essential workers set to receive the vaccine in the first tier of eligible people. The region has seen a surge recently with total cases since the pandemic began expected to top one million this weekend.

Italy Warns Pfizer on Supply Cut (3:03 p.m. NY)

Italy’s virus emergency czar Domenico Arcuri said Friday he’s warned Pfizer that it faces potential unspecified action for temporarily reducing shipments of its Covid-19 vaccine to Italy and other European countries.

“Today Pfizer unilaterally announced that starting from Monday it will deliver to our country about 29% fewer vaccine vials than the schedule it had shared,” Arcuri said in a statement demanding the restoration of the original allocation. Arcuri added that he “asked Pfizer to review its intentions and hopes not to be forced to have to otherwise protect the right to health of Italian citizens.”

Illinois Loosens Some Restrictions (2:45 p.m. NY)

Illinois eased restrictions on three regions following a sustained drop in Covid-19 hospitalizations and cases on Friday but most regions including Chicago still need to see more declines before mitigation measures are relaxed and activities such as indoor dining are allowed again, Governor J.B. Pritzker told reporters.

Pritzker had upped statewide restrictions starting a few days before Thanksgiving to curb a surge around the holidays. Certain regions have seen improvements and the statewide seven-day positivity rate also has fallen to 6.5% from 8.6% a month ago, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data.

The state will open up vaccination to those 65 and over as well as front-line essential workers on Jan. 25. Chicago and state officials on Friday also announced the first case in Illinois of the U.K. variant.

Apple to Close More Stores (2:30 p.m. NY)

Apple is closing more than 20 retail stores across Texas, Georgia and North Carolina after Covid-19 cases continued to spike in those states. The technology giant is also temporarily closing its stores in the Washington, D.C., area ahead of the Presidential inauguration next week.

The company closed more than 50 stores in California last month. Many in Utah, Tennessee, Arizona and South Carolina also remain closed. It has also shut several stores in London.

Oregon Governor Furious at Vaccine ‘Deception’ (2:20 p.m. NY)

Oregon Governor Kate Brown complained Monday that the federal government made false promises about increased shipments of vaccines -- shots that were to be given to the state’s teachers and people over 65.

“Last night, I received disturbing news,” she tweeted Friday. “States will not be receiving increased shipments of vaccines from the national stockpile next week, because there is no federal reserve of doses.”

N.J. Wants More Vaccines (2:10 p.m. NY)

New Jersey is receiving less than a fourth of the Covid-19 vaccines doses that it could be administering each week, according to state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

The state could use 470,000 doses weekly, but expects about 100,000 -- 53,000 by Pfizer/BioNTech and 53,000 by Moderna, Persichilli said Friday at a virus press briefing. That’s about the same as it has been getting every week this month, she said.

“That number needs to be a multiple of what it is,” Governor Phil Murphy said.

Fast-Spreading Covid Variant Seen Becoming Top U.S. Strain (1:43 p.m. NY)

The Covid-19 variant that emerged in the U.K. and sparked concerns of faster spread could become dominant in the U.S. as soon as March, U.S. public-health researchers said in a report.

Steps should be taken to reduce its transmission, including increased genomic surveillance and adherence to public-health measures like testing and mask-wearing, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday in the report.

“Increased SARS-CoV-2 transmission might threaten strained health-care resources, require extended and more rigorous implementation of public-health strategies, and increase the percentage of population immunity required for pandemic control,” the report said.

Plasma Therapy Shows No Benefit, Researchers Say (1:35 p.m. NY)

A large, national study in the U.K. examining convalescent plasma as a therapy for Covid-19 was ended after a finding that the treatment touted by U.S. President Donald Trump doesn’t work.

The University of Oxford research was part of a clinical trial named Recovery that’s investigating different Covid-19 treatments. The only arm of the study stopped was one probing the effectiveness of a therapy using plasma from people who have recovered from the virus. A monitoring board said on Thursday there was no point in continuing, the university said in a statement.

France Hospitalizations, ICU Stays Creep Up (1:32 p.m. NY)

France’s reported cases increased by 21,271 to 2.87 million on Friday, with the seven-day rolling average of infections remaining near 18,000.

The number of hospitalizations and Covid patients in intensive care continued their increase of recent days, rising to the highest in more than three weeks, according to data from health authorities. Deaths linked to the virus rose by 636 to 69,949, with the number including several days of data from nursing homes.

The nation vaccinated 70,514 people on Friday, fewer than Thursday’s 71,049. In total, 388,730 people have been vaccinated.

Spain Cases Hit Record (1:11 p.m. NY)

Spain’s new cases rose to a daily record of 17,039, from 16,676 on Thursday. The country’s 14-day infection rate climbed to 575.1 per 100,000 people from 522.7 the previous day.

The Madrid region announced plans to bring forward a curfew to 11 p.m, from midnight starting Jan. 18. Restaurants will need to close by 10 p.m.

Global Deaths Pass 2 Million, Led by U.S. (12:48 p.m. NY)

The world hit a frightening Covid-19 benchmark, with 2 million people dead and few expectations for the numbers to start dropping any time soon. The U.S. has been the biggest contributor.

With the rollout of the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine and the Moderna Inc. shot going slowly in the U.S., and virtually non-existent in many parts of the world, the odds of controlling the outbreak before the summer at the earliest are slim.

Covid has already killed more people than malaria and tuberculosis combined in the past year, and is nearing the numbers seen from AIDS, which peaked at 2.3 million in 2005.

Vaccine Pledges Unmet; CDC Sounds Alarm on Variant: Virus Update

N.Y. to Receive Fewer Doses, Cuomo Says, as State Hits Record Cases (12:38 p.m. NY)

New York will get 50,000 fewer doses next week from the federal government than it did the week before, despite increasing the number of people eligible for the vaccine this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a briefing on Friday.

The federal government didn’t boost the disbursement of the doses in proportion to the amount of people who could now get the shot, Cuomo said. Most distributors are already fully booked, and are booking appointments 14 weeks in advance, he said.

Seven million people in New York are now eligible to get the vaccine and they are chasing 250,000 doses a week, he said. The state previously was receiving 300,000 doses a week, which doesn’t include second doses.

“What they did was like opening the flood gates of eligibility,” he said. “All of this volume, it has to go through the point of a needle, literally and figuratively.”

The state has distributed 74% of its allocation, or 827,715 doses to date, he said. Of those, 731,285 were first doses and 96,430 were second doses.

Statewide, 324,671 coronavirus tests were conducted on Thursday, a record high, Cuomo said. Nearly 20,000, or 6.14% of the tests, were positive, also a record. There were 183 virus-related fatalities and 8,808 hospitalizations, according to state data.

U.K. Says All Visitors Need Negative Virus Test (12:23 p.m. NY)

The U.K. said it will close its travel corridors, meaning all visitors from overseas will require a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of travel to enter Britain.

Visitors may be checked when they arrive in the U.K. and could face substantial fines if they don’t comply, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a televised press conference on Friday.

WHO Doesn’t Recommend Vaccination as Proof for Travel (12:05 p.m. NY)

The World Health Organization Emergency Committee on Covid-19 is recommending that countries don’t require proof of vaccination from incoming travelers, as the impact of inoculations in reducing transmission is yet unknown. Nations should instead implement coordinated, evidence-based measures for safe travel.

Italy to Tighten Restrictions; Cases, Deaths Slow (12 p.m. NY)

Italy registered 16,146 new virus cases on Friday, from 17,246 the day before, and 477 deaths, compared with 522 on Thursday. The positive test rate dropped from 10.7% to 5.9%.

Italy’s government plans to tighten restrictions on the movement of people and shop openings, according to a health ministry official. Meanwhile the country has reached 1 million Covid-19 vaccinations, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Twitter on Friday.

NYC Will Run Out of Vaccines Next Week, Mayor Says (11:32 a.m. NY)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will run out of vaccines by next week due to supply shortages.

“I’m telling you at this rate, there will not be any doses available in New York by next week,” de Blasio said in an interview with WNYC. “If we don’t get a serious supply, we’re going to have to freeze the appointment system. That would be insane after all the progress we’ve made.”

Hospitals across the city have canceled or stopped scheduling appointments for people to get the Covid-19 vaccine. New York state’s website says appointments remain available at sites including the Javits Center, but error messages pop up when trying to schedule a vaccine.

Maine Cases Break Record (10:55 a.m. NY)

Maine reported a record 830 cases on Friday, the third consecutive day with new infections exceeding 800, state data show. Like many states, Maine announced this week it will expand eligibility for vaccinations, and several health-care providers said they would begin inoculations for people 70 years and older.

Pfizer to Cut Covid Vaccine Deliveries as It Renovates Factory (10:47 a.m. NY)

Pfizer Inc. has notified countries around the world that it will deliver fewer doses of its Covid-19 vaccine in the next three to four weeks as it works to renovate a factory in Belgium.

The renovations will serve to boost capacity from mid-February, according to statements from Norway, Germany and the company. The factory, in Puurs, supplies vaccine to all countries in the world outside of the U.S., the German Health Ministry said.

Norway Warns of Vaccination Risks for Sick Patients Over 80 (10:35 a.m. NY)

Norway said Covid-19 vaccines may be too risky for the very old and terminally ill, the most cautious statement yet from a European health authority as countries assess the real-world side effects of the first shots to gain approval.

Norwegian officials said 23 people had died in the country a short time after receiving their first dose of the vaccine. Of those deaths, 13 have been autopsied, with the results suggesting that common side effects may have contributed to severe reactions in frail, elderly people, according to the Norwegian Medicines Agency.

England Covid Outbreak May Be Slowing as Johnson Says Stay Home (9:40 a.m. NY)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Britons not to go out this weekend even as the coronavirus outbreak showed signs of slowing.

Government figures suggest the so-called R-rate -- estimating how many people each infected person passes the disease to -- has fallen slightly in England and may even be below 1 in London.

The capital has been one of the worst hit regions by the fast-spreading new strain of the virus and was under the toughest pandemic restrictions in November and much of December. When the R value is above 1, the disease is spreading exponentially.

Former FDA Head Kessler to Help Lead Covid Vaccine Effort (8:45 a.m. NY)

David Kessler, a former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is President-elect Joe Biden’s choice to help lead efforts to develop and distribute Covid-19 drugs and vaccines.

Kessler, who serves as a co-chair of the Covid-19 task force for Biden, will be chief science officer of the pandemic response program, according to an emailed statement from Biden’s transition team. He’ll replace Moncef Slaoui, a scientist and former executive at British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline Plc.

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