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Jan. 19 Coronavirus updates: US reports over 400,000 coronavirus deaths

More than 2 million people have been recorded killed by the virus worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Image: Doctors use an ultrasound scan to examine the lungs of a COVID-19 patient at the new Nurse Isabel Zendal Hospital in Madrid
Doctors use an ultrasound scan to examine the lungs of a Covid-19 patient at a hospital in Madrid, Spain on Monday.Bernat Armangue / AP

Live coverage on this blog has ended, please click here for NBC News' latest coverage of Covid-19.

More than 400,000 people have died of the coronavirus in the U.S., according to an NBC News tally early Tuesday. It's a milestone that seemed unimaginable at the start of the pandemic a year ago.

As U.S. health officials rush to vaccinate as many vulnerable people as possible, Covid-19 continued to spread at record high rates, with the United States facing a risk of new mutant virus strains spreading from the U.K., Brazil, South Africa as well as new strains emerging in the U.S.

DOJ closes early Covid insider trading case of GOP Sen. Richard Burr, lawyer says

Dartunorro Clark

Michael Kosnar

Dartunorro Clark and Michael Kosnar

The Justice Department closed its insider trading probe into Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., his lawyer said in a statement on Tuesday.

Burr faced calls to resign last year after reports that the powerful Intelligence Committee chairman privately warned well-connected donors of the dire impacts of the coronavirus pandemic while also selling off up to $1.6 million of his own stocks.

“Senator Burr is pleased that the Department of Justice has completed a thorough review of this matter and closed it without further action," Alice Fisher, Burr’s lawyer, said in a statement. "As the country continues to concentrate efforts on battling the challenges presented by COVID-19, Senator Burr’s focus will remain on the safety and security of North Carolinians and the United States as a whole.“

The DOJ also confirmed the investigation has been closed. 

Michigan nurse sings 'Amazing Grace' at Covid nationwide memorial

Joe Biden consoles country as U.S. tops 400,000 Covid-19 deaths

On the eve of his inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden stepped into the role ceded to him by departing President Donald Trump and led the nation in mourning the 400,000 people across the United States who have died in the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden was introduced at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool by Lori Marie Key — a Michigan nurse on the Covid-19 front lines — who sang "Amazing Grace."

"To heal we must remember," Biden said after he acknowledged the risks and sacrifices nurses have made during the pandemic. "It's hard sometimes to remember. But that's how we heal. It's important to do that as a nation."

Click here to read the full story.

Supermarket chain Aldi to pay U.S. workers who get COVID-19 vaccination


German supermarket chain Aldi on Tuesday became the latest firm in the grocery sector to offer incentives for U.S. employees getting a COVID-19 vaccine, saying it would give up to four hours of pay to those who choose to receive inoculations.

The retailer, which has more than 2,000 stores in 37 U.S. states, said it would cover costs associated with vaccine administration and implement on-site vaccination clinics at its warehouse and office locations.

Dollar General Corp last week offered frontline employees a similar incentive after they get the vaccine, while grocery delivery company Instacart said it would pay $25 to more than half-a-million gig workers if they chose to take time off to get vaccinated.

Aldi said it was working with officials across the United States to get workers priority access to the vaccine, joining other companies including Inc and Uber Technologies Inc lobbying to move workers closer to the front of the line for vaccinations.

However, conflicting state and local guidelines on how shots will be administered and to which workers have made the process of navigating the vaccine rollout confusing for corporations and industry bodies.

Most corporations globally have so far been quiet on whether they would try securing doses for employees, even as some Indian firms are considering buying COVID-19 shots outright for their employees, once the vaccines become available commercially.

2.5 million U.S. children have tested positive for Covid-19 since pandemic started

More than 211,000 children were reported to have Covid-19 between Jan. 7 and Jan. 14, in the largest weekly increase since the pandemic began in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.

"The data — while limited because of its reliance on how each state reports its cases — underscores the urgent need to control the virus in communities so students may return safely to in-school learning," the groups said in a joint statement.

In total, as of Jan. 14, roughly 2.5 million children have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. It appears that severe illness related to Covid-19 is still rare among children, however.

U.S. could see more than 566,000 coronavirus deaths by May, model suggests

A widely cited model developed by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington is projecting that the United States could see more than 566,000 coronavirus deaths by May.

The model — which takes into account a number of scenarios based on masking mandates, rapid vaccine distribution and other behavioral changes — suggests that deaths in the U.S. won’t start leveling off until early March. Covid-19 fatalities in the country have been rising steadily since August and the U.S. surpassed 400,000 deaths on Tuesday. 

The model developed by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation was criticized early in the pandemic for including high degrees of uncertainty, which can result in imprecise predictions. Though the model underestimated the number of Covid-19 deaths nationwide in the first wave of infections, the projections have since proven to be fairly accurate. Last fall, the institute predicted that Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. could total more than 378,000 by January.

There have been more than 2 million Covid-19 deaths recorded globally, and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation is projecting that the world could see nearly 1 million more deaths by May 1.

NYC mayor says city will hit zero vaccine doses by Friday

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference Tuesday that the city has just 92,000 first doses of Covid-19 vaccine left, projecting it will hit zero by Friday.

De Blasio, a Democrat, said the city urgently needs federal support to keep up with demand. 

"It means if we don't get more vaccine quickly — a new supply of vaccine — we will have to cancel appointments and no longer give shots after Thursday for the remainder of the week at a lot of our sites," the mayor said.

Al Roker gets vaccinated live on "TODAY"

Maura Hohman

The weatherman Al Roker received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine live on the "TODAY" show Tuesday, after lucking into an appointment through New York's busy online booking system.

Roker qualified to be vaccinated in New York because he's over 65 years old.

On Tuesday's show, he explained that he kept logging into the New York State Department of Health website over the weekend, and he finally snagged an appointment at Manhattan's Lenox Hill Hospital.

Lenox Hill made 300 appointments available on Sunday morning, and they were all claimed within 10 minutes.

"I kept hitting refresh, refresh, refresh on the browser and finally got in," he said. "Luck of the draw."

Before getting an injection of the Pfizer-BioNTech dose from nurse Jessica Callard, Al asked Lenox Hill's medical director, Dr. Daniel Baker, whether the vaccine was safe.

"The clinical trials really showed its efficacy. We've seen hundreds of thousands of doses since, and everybody's doing rather quite well," Baker said.

Click here to read the full story.

No evidence patients who receive vaccine have increased risk of death, say Norway health officials

There is no evidence to suggest patients who receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have an increased risk of death, Norweigan health officials said Tuesday.

It comes after a report published by the Norwegian Medicines Agency said 23 frail elderly people with severe underlying diseases had died six days after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine. 

“So far, there are no statistical analyses that indicate that coronavirus vaccination has had an increased risk of death among those vaccinated,” Sara Viksmoen Watle, senior physician at the Norweigan Institute of Public Health (NIPH), said in a statement online.

Watle said officials could not rule out that common vaccine side effects — such as headaches, fevers and joint pain — “may have led to a more severe course for some patients” and that officials were investigating the deaths to understand "the full picture."

A large proportion of nursing home residents, who have been prioritized for vaccination, “have severe underlying conditions or are in the last stages of life,” Watle said, adding that on average more than 300 people die in nursing homes in Norway every week.

Moderna 'cooperating' with Calif. officials amid possible allergic reactions to vaccine

Moderna says it is "fully cooperating" with California public health officials after some people were treated for possible allergic reactions to one lot of the company's Covid-19 vaccine.

"The company is fully cooperating with [the California Department of Public Health] in investigating these reported adverse events," Moderna said in a statement Tuesday, adding that it was not aware of "comparable adverse events" from other centers in the state that had vaccinated people from the same batch.

California epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan has said "fewer than 10 individuals required medical attention over the span of 24 hours" amid reports of possible allergic reactions.

Biden Covid adviser challenges Cuomo's letter to buy vaccine directly from Pfizer

Emily DeCiccio, CNBC

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to Pfizer on Monday asking if the state of New York could buy vaccines directly from the company. Last week, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made a similar request to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

Cuomo said the federal government is sending his state 50,000 fewer doses of the vaccine than the week before. The state was getting fewer doses as the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionexpanded vaccine eligibility to anyone over the age of 65 on Jan. 12.

President-elect Joe Biden’s Covid Advisory Board member Dr. Celine Gounder on Monday slammed the Trump administration’s piecemeal Covid response as some states across the U.S. scramble to get the vaccine doses they need.

“I think we’ve already had too much of a patchwork response across the states,” Gounder said in an interview on “The News with Shepard Smith.”

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U.S. teen jailed in Cayman Islands for breaking Covid protocols receives reduced sentence

An American college student who broke the mandatory 14-day quarantine protocol for visitors in the Cayman Islands received a reduced jail sentence after her lawyer filed an appeal arguing that the punishment was “particularly harsh.”

A spokesperson for the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal told NBC News in an email that the jail time for Skylar Mack, 18, and her boyfriend, Vanjae Ramgeet, 24, was cut from four to two months on Tuesday.

The lawyer for the couple said the two were incredibly sorry for their actions.

Click here to read the full story.

Zoom funerals, outdoor classes: Jails are evolving amid Covid, but what happens afterward?

Keri Blakinger, The Marshall Project

When his father died last year of an overdose, Rodney Watson thought he would miss the funeral and his last chance to say goodbye — not because of the pandemic, but because he was in jail. Watson, 36, was awaiting trial in Houston after shooting and wounding his brother during a fight, an act he swears was unintentional.

In the past, Watson’s incarceration could have forced him to miss the elegant church funeral with the white roses and the military burial where they played Smokey Robinson. He wouldn’t have heard his family tell him they loved him and it would be all right.

But under a new practice adopted by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, he was able to watch it all in November on a Zoom video call from inside the jail.

In Houston and a handful of other cities and states, the pandemic has pushed the criminal legal system to reimagine itself a bit, delivering services in ways that might have seemed unthinkable a year ago, from outdoor vocational programs to art classes via Google Hangouts. These are cutting-edge changes that have been a lifeline for incarcerated people craving contact with their families and opportunities to better themselves. But they come with risk: Families of prisoners fear corrections officials will use the technology to replace in-person interactions even after the pandemic ends.

Click here to read the full story.

U.S. counts 1,600 reported Covid-19 deaths, 151,000 cases

The U.S. reported 151,571 Covid-19 cases and 1,696 deaths Monday, according to NBC News' tally.

The 220 deaths reported Tuesday morning brought the U.S. death tally to more than 400,000 people. It took five weeks for the U.S. to tally the last 100,000 deaths, it took 12 weeks to tally the 100,000 before that, and 16 weeks the 100,000 before that.

In all, more than 1.7 million people have been fully vaccinated and more than 12 million have received their first dose.

3 more Covid cases linked to Australian Open arrivals

The Associated Press

Two players are among the three latest Covid-19 cases that have emerged from testing conducted on passengers who arrived on charter flights bringing people to Melbourne for the Australian Open.

Tournament director Craig Tiley said the players weren't considered to be contagious, though, and hadn't been taken out of the regular quarantine hotels.

The first six positive tests were reported over the weekend and connected to flights from Los Angeles, Abu Dhabi and Doha, Qatar.

All passengers on those flights, including 72 elite tennis players, were classified by local health authorities as close contacts of people infected with the coronavirus and forced into hard lockdown. That means they're not allowed to leave their hotel rooms for the mandatory 14-day quarantine period. The six infected people, including a member of the aircrew on one flight and two coaches on different flights, were transferred to a medical hotel.

The Victoria state government announced three new positive tests on Tuesday, the first to involve players.

China battles Covid-19 outbreak as vaccine rolled out in Shanghai

Image: People sit at a vaccination site in Shanghai, China after receiving a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
People sit at a vaccination site in Shanghai, China after receiving a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. The country is battling the worst outbreak of Covid-19 since March, with more than 100 new cases reported for a seventh day on Tuesday.Aly Song / Reuters

Around 1 in 8 people in England estimated to have Covid-19 antibodies, new data shows

An estimated 1 in 8 people in England had antibodies against the coronavirus during December, suggesting they have had Covid-19 previously, according to data released Tuesday by the Office of National Statistics.

The data showed that an estimated 12.1 percent of people aged 16 years and over in England had antibodies last month. The figures for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were lower, with 8.9 percent in Scotland, 9.8 percent in Wales and 7.8 percent in Northern Ireland.

The number of people testing positive for antibodies has been steadily rising since August when it stood at 5.5 percent. The U.K. has recorded more than 90,000 coronavirus deaths, one of the highest per-capita rates in the world.

Fed by a mutant strain of coronavirus, the pandemic gathered strength in Britain in December. The government imposed a lockdown in an effort to control the virus, with retail and schools closed, and indoor socializing not permitted.