Coronavirus live updates: New variant confirmed in California

By ROSA SANCHEZ, ERIN SCHUMAKER, IVAN PEREIRA and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 82.2 million people worldwide and killed over 1.7 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 Wednesay. All times Eastern:

Dec 30, 8:25 pm
US breaks record with over 3,900 new deaths

The U.S. reported 3,903 deaths on Wednesday, a new record for daily fatalities, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

Hospitalizations also reached a record high with 125,220 and there were 225,671 new cases, according to the tracking project.

“Holiday reporting delays are still markedly affecting testing, case, and deaths figures,” the group tweeted.

The COVID Tacking Project said the death count included a backlog of 200 fatalities from Washington state.

“Even without this backlog, today’s total would still be the highest to date,” the tracking project tweeted.

It warned that more data disruptions are expected with the New Year’s Day weekend.

Dec 30, 7:11 pm
Texas reports new record daily death count

Texas health officials announced a record 326 deaths on Wednesday.

The previous record was set on July 23 with 278 deaths, according to health data.

The state had 17,458 new daily cases and 11,992 hospitalizations, according to the health department. There are currently 602 intensive care unit beds remaining in Texas, health officials said.

Dec 30, 7:10 pm
Arizona gov issues exec order to speed up vaccinations

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order Wednesday to speed up access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the state.

The Arizona Department of Health Services will take the lead in the vaccination rollout under the order. The department is tasked with establishing and delivering a statewide implementation model.

Currently, Arizona counties are responsible for their own implementation plans.

“This is a health emergency, and we need all levels of government and our health system operating as such. Vaccines don’t do any good sitting in a freezer,” Ducey said in a statement.

The state health department will have the authority to establish private distribution sites, according to the executive order.

There is no statewide data for vaccinations. The executive order mandates that all counties display their vaccination numbers on their websites and share the info with the state health department.

Maricopa County, which leads the state with over 314,000 cases, has administered at least 36,000 doses as of Wednesday, according to the county’s health department.

Dec 30, 6:25 pm
National Guard to assist LA medical examiner as deaths exceed 10,000

Los Angeles County officials said the National Guard will be deployed next week to assist the medical examiner’s office with its growing number of COVID-related deaths.

Hilda Solis, the chair of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, said six guardsmen will arrive on Jan. 4.

“They will be assisting until the end of January. It might be extended if warranted,” she said at a news conference.

The deployment comes as the county recorded 274 additional deaths Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 10,056.

“The average number of deaths is about 150 people a day,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said at a news conference.

ABC News’ Michelle Mendez contributed to this report.

Dec 30, 6:10 pm
New variant confirmed in California

The new COVID-19 variant, which was confirmed in one person in Colorado on Tuesday, has now been detected in Southern California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday.

Health officials in San Diego later said at a press conference the variant was found in their city, and the 30-year-old man had no history of travel, just like the person in Colorado. He has not been hospitalized, but contact tracing is underway and more cases are expected, officials said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said to Newsom, “I am not surprised that you have a case and likely more cases in California and we will likely be seeing reports from other states.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it expects “there will be additional cases that are likely to be detected.”

“Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time,” the CDC said.

The variant doesn’t appear to cause more severe disease or mortality, but does appear to have a higher transmission rate, the CDC said.

This comes as hard-hit California has reached a new record daily death toll with 432 fatalities reported in the last 24 hours, officials said Wednesday. This equals approximately one person dying every three minutes.

The Golden State has 20,612 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, including 4,389 people in intensive care units.

ICU capacity remains at 0% in the Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions.

ABC News’ Jenna Harrison contributed to this report.

Dec 30, 6:05 pm
CDC predicts 424,000 deaths by Jan. 23

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its forecast for coronavirus-related deaths over the next four weeks.

The agency, which used 33 models, predicted 12,400 to 24,300 new deaths will likely be reported between now and the week ending Jan. 23.

“The national ensemble predicts that a total of 383,000 to 424,000 COVID-19 deaths will be reported by this date,” the CDC said.

By comparison, the population of New Orleans is 391,000, according to U.S. Census data.

ABC News’ Brian Reiferson contributed to this report.

Dec 30, 4:13 pm
New variant confirmed in California

The new COVID-19 variant, which was confirmed in one person in Colorado on Tuesday, has now been detected in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it expects “there will be additional cases that are likely to be detected.”

“Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time,” the CDC said.

The variant doesn’t appear to cause more severe disease or mortality, but does appear to have a higher transmission rate, the CDC said.

This comes as hard-hit California has reached a new record daily death toll with 432 fatalities reported in the last 24 hours, officials said Wednesday. This equals approximately one person dying every three minutes.

The Golden State has 20,612 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, including 4,389 people in intensive care units.

ICU capacity remains at 0% in the Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions.

ABC News’ Jenna Harrison contributed to this report.

Dec 30, 3:20 pm
Limited number of Buffalo Bills fans can attend playoff game

A limited number of Buffalo Bills fans — 6,700 people — will be permitted to attend the team’s home playoff game in January as part of a larger experiment to see if businesses can safely reopen, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.

Each fan would have to test negative before attending and follow strict policies on distancing and face coverings. “No tailgating, no mass gatherings,” Cuomo said.

Postgame, there will be contact tracing, Cuomo said.

The state health department will closely monitor if positive cases emerge among fans who attended the game.

This game will serve as a pilot to try to see how businesses can “smartly and safely reopen,” Cuomo said.

ABC News’ Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

Dec 30, 2:32 pm
Feds acknowledge pace of vaccines isn’t what they hoped, predict escalation in coming weeks

Operation Warp Speed’s Moncef Slaoui and Gen. Gus Perna acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that vaccination numbers aren’t high as they hoped, but they anticipate an escalation in the coming weeks.

Officials said 14 million doses have been shipped to states and another six million would arrive next week.
 
So far, only 2 million shots have been logged in a federal system.

“We agree that the number is lower than what we hoped for,” Slaoui told reporters.
 
“We would like to invite anybody who has energy to participate and help us further improve administration of the vaccine to come to the table, with your sleeves up and come up and help us with specific ideas,” Slaoui said.

Perna said the administration was working through the details but that he wasn’t concerned. He said he expects that between Jan. 8 and Jan. 15, the number of shots given will ramp up dramatically as more pharmacies come on board.

“Essentially it’s been just 12 days. There’s two holidays. There’s been three major snow storms,” Perna said. “There is everybody working through, you know, how to do the notification, how to make sure we’re administering it the right way, how to ensure that it stays in accordance with the cold chain… And here’s what I have confidence in: Every day everybody gets better. And I believe that uptake will increase.”

ABC News’ Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.

Dec 30, 2:16 pm
Hospitalizations have jumped 36% this month

There are 124,686 Americans currently hospitalized with COVID-19 — a national record. In the last month, the number of patients hospitalized has increased by 36%, according to ABC News’ analysis of data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project.

Over 5.8 million COVID-19 cases have been reported so far in December — approximately 2.4 million cases more than November, which was the second worst month on record.

California is leading the nation with the highest average of daily cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days, followed by Arizona, Tennessee and Delaware, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 
ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report.

Dec 30, 1:54 pm
Hospitalizations have jumped 36% this month

There are 124,686 Americans currently hospitalized with COVID-19 — a national record. In the last month, the number of patients hospitalized has increased by 36%, according to ABC News’ analysis of data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project.

Over 5.8 million COVID-19 cases have been reported so far in December — approximately 2.4 million cases more than November, which was the second worst month on record.

California is leading the nation with the highest average of daily cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days, followed by Arizona, Tennessee and Delaware, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dec 30, 12:41 pm
New variant ‘very likely exists in many states,’ Colorado governor says

After a Colorado man was determined Tuesday to have the COVID-19 variant detected in the United Kingdom, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said the new variant “very likely exists in many states.”

“We don’t yet have a good idea how prevalent it is” in Colorado or the U.S., Polis said at a news conference Wednesday.

The man, in his 20s, is believed to be the first known case of the variant in the U.S. He has mild symptoms and is recovering, Polis said. The man has had no travel history and is in isolation, officials said.

There is another possible case of the variant that has not been confirmed, State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said Wednesday.

Both individuals are National Guard personnel who were sent to a nursing home where there was an outbreak, she said. National Guard personnel arrived at the facility on Dec. 23. There’s no evidence that the variant is circulating in that facility but testing is ongoing, Herlihy said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it expects “there will be additional cases that are likely to be detected in the coming days.”

“Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time,” the CDC said.

The CDC added that the U.K. variant doesn’t appear to cause more severe disease or mortality, but warned it does appear to have a higher transmission rate.

“I’m proud that we detected it here in Colorado as quickly as we did,” Polis said.

Dec 30, 11:48 am
Floridians wait in line overnight for vaccine

Some Floridians took chairs and blankets to wait in line in Fort Myers overnight for a chance to get the vaccine.

Vaccinations are being offered to high-risk front-line health care workers and people 65 and over, the Fort Myers News-Press reported.

Dec 30, 8:38 am
Sunday predicted to be busiest travel day of pandemic

On Tuesday, 1,019,347 million people traveled through U.S. airports, according to the TSA.

Experts predict that this Sunday will be the busiest travel day of the pandemic.

Dec 30, 6:35 am
Tuesday was deadliest day in US during pandemic

The United States reported 3,725 deaths on Tuesday, breaking the previous single-day total of 3,656 set on Dec. 16, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The current numbers may not give the complete picture as the holidays have significantly impacted data, with many states having not reported numbers or have given incomplete updates.

December has already been determined to be the worst month on record for cases, hospitalizations and deaths, surpassing the high numbers seen in April.

Dec 30, 5:49 am
UK grants emergency authorization for AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine

A COVID-19 vaccine created by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford has been approved for emergency use in the United Kingdom.

The U.K. Department of Health and Social care announced that it has accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to authorize the vaccine for use.

“This follows rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA, which has concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness,” the Department of Health and Social care said in a press release.

It is the second vaccine approved for use in the U.K. following the rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

 

 

The first doses will be released by the company on Wednesday, with a plan to begin administering the vaccine early next week, AstraZeneca said in a statement.

The National Health Service will prioritize giving the first doses of the newly approved vaccine to those in the most high-risk groups.

The vaccine will be given in two doses, with four to 12 weeks between doses, the U.K.-based pharmaceutical company said.

Dec 29, 9:47 pm
US sees record hospitalizations

COVID-19 hospitalizations have hit a record high in the U.S.

There are 124,686 people currently hospitalized, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

 

 

There were also 194,512 new cases and 3,283 deaths reported on Tuesday, though the tracker noted that there are delays in both figures due to the holidays.

“Current hospitalizations remains our most stable state-reported metric during holiday disruptions, and it will be our best guide to reality until states work through all Christmas + New Year’s backlogs,” it said.

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