Coronavirus updates: Advisory group has new recommendations for Pfizer vaccine

By MORGAN WINSOR and ERIN SCHUMAKER, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 86.1 million people worldwide and killed over 1.8 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 developed Tuesday. All times Eastern:

Jan 05, 11:14 pm
White House Task Force pushes for vaccinations for people over 65

The White House Coronavirus Task Force is calling on states to push ahead with vaccinations, particularly among senior citizens, according to a new report obtained by ABC News.

States should not “delay the rapid immunization of those over 65 and vulnerable to severe disease,” the report said. It also recommended creating vaccination sites with EMTs on hand to deal with any allergic reactions and using nursing students to help with the rollout.

“No vaccines should be in freezers but should instead be put in arms now; active and aggressive immunization in the face of this surge would save lives,” the memo said.

Operation Warp Speed officials announced on Tuesday that 19,141,175 vaccine doses have been delivered so far. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data shows 17,020,575 doses have been distributed and 4,836,469 Americans have received a dose.

Jan 05, 10:47 pm
Texas congressman reveals positive test

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) announced Tuesday night he tested positive for the coronavirus.

Brady, 65 and the ranking GOP member of the House Ways and Means Committee, tweeted he is quarantining and will begin treatment Wednesday.

“As recommended, I received a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Dec 18 & also recently tested negative for Covid on New Year’s Day,” he tweeted.

Jan 05, 7:01 pm
Los Angeles County reaches 11,000 COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations hit critical levels

COVID-19 deaths in Los Angeles County have reached 11,000 as hospitalizations have increased to critical levels, according to Los Angeles County health officials.

As of Tuesday, officials identified 840,611 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County and a total of 11,071 deaths.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County Director of Public Health, said the county must continue to wear masks and social distance and not just wait for the coronavirus vaccine.

“As a community, we must commit to stopping the spread of COVID-19 in its tracks so that we can save as many lives as possible. Roll out for COVID-19 vaccine continues in the phases recommended by the State and CDC as supply allows,” Ferrer said in a statement Tuesday. “And while vaccines are a powerful tool, we do not need to wait for vaccine to stop new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and death. We can do that now.

“It takes every business and every resident to purposefully follow public health directives and safety measures. Please stay home and leave only for essential work or essential services,” Ferrer said.

The county reported 224 new COVID-related deaths Tuesday along with 13,512 new cases. L.A. County has had more than 1,000 new COVID-19 deaths in less than a week, according to health officials. There are a record 7,898 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in L.A. County and 21% of those are in intensive care units.

“Health care workers and hospitals continue to be taxed and overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients,” the L.A. County Health Department said in a statement Tuesday. “The devastating impact of the pandemic is disrupting emergency medical care due to the sheer volume of COVID-19 patients and staffing limitations. These challenges will get worse if we don’t slow COVID-19 spread.”

Jan 05, 5:43 pm
Florida partners with Publix supermarkets on COVID-19 vaccine sites

Florida will join forces with Publix supermarkets to launch additional COVID-19 vaccinations sites, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday.

Publix, the state health department and Florida’s division of emergency management will work together on a pilot program at 22 Publix locations in Citrus, Hernando and Marion counties. According to the governor’s office, Publix will receive 15,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine through the partnership.

By-appointment vaccinations are slated to start Jan. 8. They will start accepting appointments on Jan. 7.

-ABC News’ Rachel Katz contributed to this report.

Jan 05, 4:53 pm
5th state reports UK virus variant

Georgia has detected a case of the new coronavirus variant known B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, state health officials announced Tuesday.

The patient is an 18-year-old man with no travel history, who is currently isolated at home.

“The emergence of this variant in our state should be a wake-up call for all Georgians,” Dr. Katheen Toomey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Even as we begin roll out of a COVID-19 vaccine, we must not let down our guard and ignore basic prevention measures — wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands frequently.”

While preliminary evidence suggests that the new variant is more contagious than the old one, it is not believed to cause more severe illness or to be more deadly. Cases of the new variant have also been detected in Colorado, California, Florida and New York.

-ABC News’ Brian Hartman contributed to this report.

Jan 05, 2:25 pm
COVID-19 test used by Congress prone to false negatives: FDA

After the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning on Monday that COVID-19 tests produced by the company Curative carry the risk of “false negative results,” attending physician of the U.S. Congress Dr. Brian Monahan sent a memo notifying Capitol Hill employees that the Capitol’s testing system uses Curative tests.

In the Jan. 4 memo obtained by ABC News, Monahan described the Curative test as “the most accurate available” according to information he’d received to date and noted that the risk of a false negative “is a problem for all coronavirus tests.”

“The FDA notice does not raise any doubts about the accuracy of a positive test result,” Monahan added. “We expect to have additional information in the coming days from the FDA and our expert consultants with regard to any concerns about the ongoing use of this test for the Capitol community.”

-ABC News’ Mariam Khan and Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.

Jan 05, 1:44 pm
WHO advisory group issues new recommendations for Pfizer vaccine

The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE), an advisory group to the World Health Organization, updated its guidance for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday.

SAGE’s recommendations to the WHO director-general, who will ultimately decide whether to approve them, included recommending two doses of the Pfizer vaccine within 21-28 days, with provisions made for countries in extraordinary circumstances.

The group also recommended that that vaccine only be given in settings where allergic reactions can be treated. Since there’s not yet enough safety data available on pregnant women, the group only recommends the vaccine for pregnant women in settings where benefits outweigh risks, such as for pregnant health care workers who are exposed to the virus.

People who have had COVID-19 and recovered should get vaccinated, according to SAGE.

“We are in a race to save lives right now,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said Tuesday. “Caseloads are so high in several countries that hospitals and intensive care units are filling up to dangerous levels.”

“New variants, which appear to be more transmissible, are exacerbating the situation,” Tedros added.

Jan 05, 12:55 pm
30% of NYC public hospital workers declined COVID-19 vaccine: Mayor

A third of health workers in the New York City public hospital system declined COVID-19 vaccines, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday, as he tried to explain the city-run hospitals’ lagging vaccination numbers.

“It’s a real issue and we’ve got to look it in the eye,” de Blasio said. “It’s understandable that after all the pain of 2020 a lot of people are worried and in general folks have been through so much. We’ve got to understand. We’ve got to win trust for the vaccine.”

The mayor also pushed back on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s threat to fine hospitals that fail to use their vaccine allotment within seven days.

“They don’t need the threat of fines,” de Blasio said. “If the state of New York says, you get [a] $1 million fine if you move too quickly and [a] $100,000 fine if you move too slowly, that doesn’t get anyone anywhere.”

Jan 05, 12:01 pm
9 states report record hospitalizations

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia all reported record COVID-19 hospitalizations Monday, according to an ABC News analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project.

When hospitalizations rise, deaths tend to follow, according to health experts. With the spread of more contagious COVID-19 variants, more people will “end up dying from this virus,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, warned during an interview with Good Morning America on Tuesday.

Even with delays in reporting because of the holidays, hundreds of thousands of Americans are still testing positive each day. Monday marked two consecutive months that the U.S. has recorded more than 100,000 new cases every day.

Jan 05, 11:32 am
Browns’ head coach tests positive for COVID-19

The head coach for the Cleveland Browns, Kevin Stefanski, has tested positive for COVID-19, the Browns announced in a Twitter statement Tuesday.

The football team’s contingency plan is to have special teams coordinator Mike Priefer serve as acting head coach. The news comes just before the Browns’ first NFL playoff game in 18 years on Sunday.

 

 

In addition to Stefanski, two coaching staff members and two players tested positive. The team’s facility is currently closed for contact tracing purposes.

Jan 05, 10:25 am
Los Angeles County ambulances told not to transport patients with low chance of survival

As hospitals across Los Angeles County reach capacity, ambulance crews have been told not to transport patients with little chance of survival.

The Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency issued the order Monday with immediate effect, saying “adult patients in blunt traumatic and nontraumatic out-of-hospital cardiac arrest” shall not be brought to the hospital if they cannot be resuscitated in the field due to the “severe impact” of the coronavirus pandemic on the health care system. That includes victims of heart attacks, gunshot wounds, stabbings and car crashes.

Los Angeles County has the highest tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths of any county in the United States, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Data posted by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health shows there were 7,697 people who remained hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday.

Jan 05, 8:19 am
Arizona has world’s highest rate of COVID-19, data shows

Arizona currently has the highest rate of COVID-19 infections per capita of any region in the world, according to a graph created by 91-DIVOC, which used data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

91-DIVOC is an online data visualization project created by Wade Fagen-Ulmschneider, a teaching associate professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The graph, which is updated daily with data collected by Johns Hopkins University, shows that the southwestern U.S. state has an average of 112.1 newly confirmed cases per 100,000 people a day over the past week.

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic has the highest infection rate of any country, with a seven-day average of 96.7 new cases per 100,000 people a day. The United States as a whole has a seven-day average of 65.4, the sixth highest of any country, the graph shows.

Arizona’s Department of Health Services has reported more than 561,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, including over 9,000 deaths. The state has seen a surge in new cases over the past week, which would account for the per capita ranking, according to ABC Phoenix affiliate KNXV-TV.

Jan 05, 6:52 am
Retired CT state trooper who was among first to respond to Sandy Hook shooting dies of COVID-19

A retired Connecticut State Police trooper, who was among the first to respond to the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, has died of COVID-19, officials said.

Patrick Dragon, 50, of Brooklyn, Connecticut, died Saturday at Hartford Hospital in the state’s capital, according to the Connecticut State Police, which announced his death in a Facebook post Monday night.

The Foster Police Department in the Rhode Island town of Foster, where Dragon was working as a dispatcher, confirmed his death “after a valiant battle with COVID.”

Foster Police Chief David Breit described Dragon as “a great person, kind, caring and a friend to all who met him.”

“There are not enough words, to describe the kind of a person that Patrick was,” Breit wrote in a Facebook post Sunday morning.

The East Brooklyn Fire Department in the Connecticut town of Brooklyn, where Dragon served for 34 years, most recently as a deputy chief, also announced his death.

“We cannot express how deeply he will be missed and wish to extend our deepest condolences to the Dragon family,” the department wrote in a Facebook post.

Jan 05, 4:31 am
Seychelles records first death from COVID-19

Seychelles has recorded its first death from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The patient was a 57-year-old Seychellois man who was hospitalized on New Year’s Eve at a COVID-19 isolation and treatment center on Perseverance Island, just north of the capital Victoria. He died from complications of his illness on Sunday evening, according to a press release from Seychelles’ Ministry of Health.

“This is the first such death occurring in Seychelles and comes amid an uptick of new COVID-19 cases,” the health ministry said in a statement. “This first loss is deeply felt by all the health workers and community in general. It further strengthens the resolve to intensify efforts to prevent further transmission.”

In the wake of the country’s first coronavirus-related fatality, Seychellois health authorities announced a string of new restrictions at a press conference Monday, including the closure of all public swimming pools, retail stores and many restaurants. Grocery stores and hardware shops can remain open.

Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan warned that the “situation is deteriorating,” with more than a dozen new cases confirmed over the previous 24 hours.

“It is easy to put COVID-19 under control if we all take precautions,” Ramkalawan told reporters Monday. “We should all be wearing our mask, it is an easy thing to do.”

Seychelles, an Indian Ocean archipelago located off the coast of East Africa with a population of just under 100,000, has reported 322 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to the latest data from the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jan 05, 3:20 am
US reports over 180,000 new cases

There were 180,477 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the United States on Monday, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Monday’s tally is less than the all-time high of 297,491 new cases, which the country logged on Jan. 2, Johns Hopkins data shows.

An additional 1,903 deaths from COVID-19 were also registered nationwide on Monday, down from a peak of 3,750 on Dec. 30, 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 20,823,345 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 353,621 of them 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 and reaching 200,000 for the first time on Nov. 27.

Jan 05, 2:45 am
Mexico approves Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine

A COVID-19 vaccine developed by England’s University of Oxford and British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has been authorized for emergency use in Mexico.

Mexico’s Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS), a decentralized regulatory body of the country’s health ministry, announced its decision to approve the shot in a statement Monday evening.

Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Marcelo Ebrard took to Twitter to praise the approval, calling it “very good news.”

It’s the second COVID-19 vaccine to be approved in the Latin American nation. Mexico authorized a vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for emergency use on Dec. 11, just before the United States did so as well.

Mexico has reported more than 1.4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, including at least 127,757 deaths, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

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