California Tops 3 Million Cases; N.Y. Supply Woes: Virus Update
Doses of the Moderna Inc. Covid-19 vaccine at the Delta Health System The Medical Center drive-thru site in Greenville, Mississippi, U.S. (Photographer: Rory Doyle/Bloomberg)

California Tops 3 Million Cases; N.Y. Supply Woes: Virus Update

U.S. President Joe Biden plans to re-engage with the World Health Organization and will dispatch the government’s top infectious-disease expert to speak to the group this week, a move seen as a strong repudiation of former President Donald Trump.

Some shipments of Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine are being replaced after they got too cold in transit. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city was forced to reschedule 23,000 vaccination appointments due to a delay in the delivery of 103,000 doses of the Moderna shot.

Germany’s coronavirus deaths reached a record and Chancellor Angela Merkel extended restrictions, warning of possible travel curbs and ratcheting up rules for wearing face masks to keep out new strains. Spain reported the most new cases since the pandemic began.

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California Tops 3 Million Cases; N.Y. Supply Woes: Virus Update

Texas Posts Most New Cases in 2 Weeks (4:17 p.m. NY)

Texas recorded more than 25,000 new virus cases, the highest daily total since Jan. 5, state health department figures showed. Fatalities increased by 310.

The new-case tally was the state’s third-highest since the pandemic emerged. Hospitalizations were virtually unchanged at almost 14,000, the data showed. Three Texas hospital regions with a combined population of almost 1 million had zero intensive-care beds available.

Cuomo Warns of Looming N.Y. Shortage (3:35 p.m. NY)

New York state is averaging 65,000 vaccinations a day as it works to ensure the shots are fairly distributed, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

The federal government plans to send about 250,000 shots to New York next week, well below the 329,849 shots allocated last week, Cuomo said Wednesday at a press briefing. He has been urging the U.S. to increase supply, and said his attempt to purchase the vaccine directly from Pfizer Inc. isn’t allowed under federal emergency-use guidelines.

Statewide, nearly 1.2 million doses have been administered, or 86% of those received, Cuomo said. The state has about 145,780 doses left, he said.

“At this rate we’re going to be out in two days,” the governor said.

The state is allocating the vaccine first by region, then by percentage of eligible group, then for more effective providers, Cuomo said. In each area, 21% will go to health-care workers, 52% to those ages 65 and older, and 27% essential personnel, he said.

Amazon Offers Help With Vaccinations (3 p.m. NY)

Amazon.com Inc. is offering to help the Biden administration accelerate the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, including to its own employees.

In a letter dated Wednesday, Dave Clark, the incoming chief executive officer of Amazon’s retail unit, offered his congratulations to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. He reiterated a request Amazon made to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month asking that the company’s more than 800,000 U.S. front-line workers receive vaccines at the “earliest appropriate time.”

Clark said Amazon has a contract with an occupational health provider to administer vaccines at its facilities. “We are prepared to move quickly once vaccines are available,” he wrote.

“Additionally, we are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration’s vaccination efforts,” Clark went on. “Our scale allows us to make a meaningful impact immediately” in the fight against the disease, he wrote.

France’s ‘Lost’ Ski Season (2:34 p.m. NY)

France is unlikely to reopen ski lifts this season due to the risks posed by the pandemic, Tourism Minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said Wednesday.

“We are moving toward a lost season,” he said at a press conference. The government will continue to provide financial support to the industry and possibly to suppliers to mountain resorts.

France reported 26,784 new virus cases over the past 24 hours, 13% more than the previous day.

California Tops 3 Million Cases (2:18 p.m. NY)

California has surpassed 3 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus, state health department data show. That’s the most of any U.S. state and exceeds the reported infections in countries including France, Italy, Spain and Mexico, according to Johns Hopkins University data. More than a million cases are in Los Angeles County, home to about a quarter of the state’s residents.

California reported 694 new deaths Wednesday, the second-highest daily tally since the pandemic began. Still, there are signs that the state’s outbreak is improving after a record surge that strained health-care systems and spurred new lockdowns. Hospitalizations have dropped 8.9% from a Jan. 6 peak, while the 14-day average rate of positive tests has fallen to 11.3% from 12.9% two weeks ago.

“We didn’t see as significant a bump over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays as we expected,” Mark Ghaly, California’s secretary of health and human services, said at a briefing Tuesday.

Spain Reports Record New Cases (1 p.m. NY)

Spain reported 18,500 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, the most since the pandemic began, reflecting the relaxation of restrictions during the holiday period.

New cases rose from 15,578 on Tuesday as the country recorded 464 deaths in the past 24 hours. The infection rate rose to 736 per 100,000 while the rate of hospitalization also increased to 20%.

Spain’s regions eased some restrictions during Christmas, allowing people to meet indoors in limited numbers. Even though some regions have since tightened the rules, the country hasn’t brought back a national lockdown like the ones seen in France or the U.K.

U.K. Suffers Deadliest Day (12:30 p.m. NY)

The U.K. suffered its worst day in the pandemic, with more than 1,800 deaths recorded in 24 hours, as Boris Johnson’s chief scientific adviser warned some hospitals now look “like a war zone.”

The record daily toll takes the total number of people who have died within 28 days of a positive test in the U.K. to 93,290. Almost 40,000 patients are now receiving treatment in U.K. hospitals.

The average number of new cases has been falling since early January, an indication that the number of people dying will follow soon.

Some Moderna Shipments Replaced (11:43 a.m. NY)

Some shipments of Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine are being replaced after they became too cold in transit, pharmaceutical distributor McKesson Corp. said in a statement Wednesday.

McKesson, which is distributing Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine in the U.S., learned Monday that some of the deliveries it sent Sunday were too cold upon arrival. The company attributed the issue to gel packs used in shipping the shots getting too cold.

NYC Delays Vaccinations After Shortage (10:27 a.m.)

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is rescheduling 23,000 vaccine appointments because of a supply shortage.

The mayor cited Moderna Inc. specifically, saying the drug manufacturer and its distributor told the city the 103,000 doses it was expected to receive Tuesday will be delayed by a number of days. About half of that supply was intended to be given as second doses.

“We have an immediate and profound problem,” de Blasio said in a Wednesday briefing.

New York still plans to hit its goal of 1 million vaccinations by the end of the month. “We can do it if we get the vaccine,” de Blasio said.

Moderna didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

U.K. Plans Extension of Job-Support Measures (9:15 a.m. NY)

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is drawing up plans to extend support for jobs in the months ahead as the pandemic lockdown continues to damage businesses and threaten a surge in unemployment, according to people familiar with the matter.

The government’s flagship 60 billion-pound ($82 billion) furlough program, paying as much as 80% of workers’ wages, is due to expire at the end of April but Sunak is weighing various options to support jobs into the summer, the people said.

Biden to Mend WHO Ties (8:59 a.m. NY)

Biden plans to send Anthony Fauci to speak to the World Health Organization in a strong repudiation of Donald Trump’s snubs since the start of the pandemic.

The incoming administration plans to participate in the WHO executive board meeting this week, with Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, heading the delegation and speaking. Once the U.S. resumes its engagement with the WHO, the new administration will work with the body to strengthen and reform the group, according to a fact sheet released by the Biden transition team.

Swiss Extend Job Furlough Program (8:03 a.m. NY)

Switzerland is modifying its job furlough program, taking into account the persistence of a pandemic that has forced a renewed closure of shops and restaurants.

The government in Bern said it wanted to reduce the hurdles for companies claiming compensation for idle workers, in a bid to ensure they have enough liquidity and prevent a rise in unemployment.

Mongolian Health Minister Resigns After Protests (7:34 a.m. NY)

Mongolia’s health minister resigned amid protests in Ulaanbaatar against the government’s response to the pandemic.

Protesters gathered at Sukhbaatar Square voiced anger at strict lockdowns and businesses closures without financial support.

German Minister Says Vaccine Delay ‘Irritating’ (6:30 a.m. NY)

German Health Minister Jens Spahn described as “irritating” last week’s decision by Pfizer Inc. to cut vaccine deliveries as it upgrades a factory in Belgium.

“I understand that short-term construction work must be done to increase medium- and long-term capacity, but it’s very, very unsatisfactory that this was communicated to us overnight,” Spahn said at a news conference in Berlin.

“This has led to anger not just in Germany but in almost all the countries except the U.S. that are supplied by Pfizer and BioNTech,” he added, referring to the German company that jointly developed the shot. It’s important that lessons are learned, according to Spahn.

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