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Jan. 13 Coronavirus updates: US crosses 4,000 deaths in a day for second time

Officials recommend states give vaccine to anyone 65 and up as death toll tops 380,000.
Image: A Palestinian student has his temperature checked as he enters his reopened school in the southern Gaza Strip
A student has his temperature checked as he enters school in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday.Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters

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

Outdoor NFL stadiums and Major League Baseball ballparks across the country are being repurposed as states work to administer the Covid-19 vaccine en masse.

The move comes as members of Operation Warp Speed recommended that states should expand access to Covid-19 vaccines to everyone 65 and older, as well as any adult with an underlying health condition that might raise the risk for complications of Covid-19.

African Union purchases 270 million Covid vaccine doses

Yasmine Salam and Reuters

The African Union has purchased a provisional 270 million Covid-19 vaccine doses from manufacturers for member states to bolster its efforts to combat the pandemic.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who chairs the continental union of 55 countries, vowed that at least 50 million vaccine shots will be available starting this April, in a statement released by his office after meeting with Africa's vaccine task force. The vaccines will be supplied by Pfizer, Astrazeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

The news comes as African nations are battling a second wave of COVID-19. Cases have risen to at least 3.1 million and the death toll is at 74,600 across the continent.

China reports first Covid death since May

China has recorded its first Covid-19-related death in more than seven months, according to figures released by the country's National Health Commission Thursday.

The death was recorded in Hebei province Wednesday, as China recorded its biggest jump in cases in over 10 months. The latest figures come as approximately 28 million people are in lockdown across China, the majority in Hebei province.

It took just 39 new coronavirus cases for health authorities in China to put almost 11 million people into lockdown in the city of Shijiazhuang last week. China has been praised for its handling of the pandemic, as much of the world struggled to keep infection rates low. 

Lebanon imposes all-day curfew as the coronavirus spins out of control

The Associated Press

BEIRUT— Lebanese authorities began enforcing an 11-day nationwide shutdown and round the clock curfew Thursday, hoping to limit the spread of coronavirus infections spinning out of control after the holiday period.

For the first time, residents were required to request a one-hour permit to be allowed to leave the house for “emergencies,” including going to the bakery, pharmacist, doctor, hospital or airport.

Authorities came under pressure to take a tougher approach after the country's hospitals ran out of beds with daily infections reaching an all-time high of 5,440 cases last week in the country of nearly 6 million people.

He unknowingly had Covid-19. Now his blood contains rare antibodies.

Curtis Bunn

With his roommate in dire health from the coronavirus last spring, it did not take much for John Hollis to believe he would also contract the highly infectious, deadly disease. He was so concerned about what could happen that he penned a letter to his teenage son, Davis, in case "things went downhill fast," Hollis said.

It turned out that Hollis unknowingly already had Covid-19 and may have unwittingly infected his roommate.

Read the full article here.

Workplace outbreaks rise in Los Angeles County

NBC News

The Covid-19 surge in Los Angeles County is contributing to a rise in outbreaks at workplaces, including grocery stores, warehouses and manufacturing plants, public health officials said Wednesday.

In just over a month, outbreaks at these worksites increased from nine a week on Nov. 1 to 44 a week on Dec. 6, nearly a fivefold jump, they said in a statement. 

The nation's largest county is also experiencing a rise in outbreaks in schools and daycare settings, where they increased from about 20 in mid-November to 70 by mid-December, the health officials said.

"As the percentage of people who are positive with COVID-19 increase, there is a larger pool of infected people walking around without symptoms who now expose a greater and greater percentage of people to this virus," they said.

About 14,000 people in the county are testing positive everyday, and 10 percent to 12 percent of them will become sick enough to require hospitalization, they said.

Team from WHO heads to China in search of virus origins


SINGAPORE — An international team of scientists led by the World Health Organization was set to arrive in the central Chinese city of Wuhan on Thursday to investigate the origins of the coronavirus that sparked the pandemic.

The United States, which has accused China of having hidden the extent of its initial outbreak a year ago, has called for a "transparent" WHO-led investigation and criticized the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts have done the first phase of research.

Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO's top expert on animal diseases that cross to other species, who went to China on a preliminary mission last July, is leading the 10 independent experts, a WHO spokesman said.

UN: Herd immunity unlikely in 2021 despite vaccines

The Associated Press

GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s chief scientist warned that even as numerous countries start rolling out vaccination programs to stop Covid-19, herd immunity is highly unlikely this year.

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said this week it was critical countries and their populations maintain strict social distancing and other outbreak control measures for the foreseeable future. In recent weeks, Britain, the U.S., France, Canada, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands and others have begun vaccinating millions of their citizens against the coronavirus.

“Even as vaccines start protecting the most vulnerable, we’re not going to achieve any levels of population immunity or herd immunity in 2021,” Swaminathan said. “Even if it happens in a couple of pockets, in a few countries, it’s not going to protect people across the world.”

Scientists typically estimate that a vaccination rate of about 70 percent is needed for herd immunity, where entire populations are protected against a disease. But some fear that the extremely infectious nature of Covid-19 could require a significantly higher threshold.

Nurse who works in Covid-19 unit wins $1 million in North Carolina lottery

A North Carolina nurse who works in the Covid-19 unit at a long-term care facility received a welcome surprise when she won $1 million in the state lottery.

The nurse, Terri Watkins, had entered the $300,000,000 Supreme Riches second-chance drawing but didn't think she would actually win.

“I’m a nurse and I work in the Covid unit at a long-term care facility. Just seeing some of the things that I’ve had to see, I am very thankful," she said. "I had been praying for something to help me with this situation. It really is a great thing. I’m very blessed.”

As of now, Watkins said she is still considering how she'll spend the money. She said a new home would be nice, but she wants to "take time and put it in the right place.”

Click here to read the full story. 

Nearly 200 arrested in Los Angeles County by ‘superspreader’ task force

underground party on Jan. 9, 2021.
underground party on Jan. 9, 2021.Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department arrested 182 people on Jan. 9, the agency announced on its Facebook page Monday. 

The arrests were made by the agency’s superspreader task force at two underground parties, which violated the county’s Covid-19 safety protocols. All 182 people who were arrested were cited and released, the department said

“Sheriff Alex Villanueva has made it clear he will seek out & take law enforcement action against ALL underground party events occurring anywhere within Los Angeles County,” the department wrote on its Facebook page. “The goal of these enforcement actions is to reduce the spread of #COVID19 and the risk to our vulnerable populations.” 

Los Angeles County is currently seeing a surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths. The county has reported more than 945,000 cases and more than 12,000 deaths from the virus.

California to begin offering Covid vaccine to residents 65 years and older

California will begin offering the coronavirus vaccine to residents who are 65 years and older, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday. 

The state's announcement comes one day after members of Operation Warp Speed recommended expanding access to the vaccine for anyone in this age group.

"There is no higher priority than efficiently and equitable distributing these vaccines as quickly as possible to those who face the gravest consequences," he said. "To those not yet eligible to start receiving vaccines, your turn is coming."

California has been particularly hard hit by a monthslong surge that had brought the state's coronavirus tally to more than 2.7 million cases and 31,000 deaths as of Wednesday.

U.S. counts 23 million Covid-19 cases

The United States has recorded over 23 million Covid-19 cases, crossing the threshold Wednesday afternoon after a relentless winter surge in states across the country. 

According to a NBC News analysis, Covid cases have ticked up over the past two weeks in more than 30 states. Only three states — Tennessee, Idaho and South Dakota — are experiencing slight declines in case rates.

Texas also became the second state, after California, to report over 2 million cases.

Pharmacies say they could do more to distribute vaccines. States are listening.

Retail pharmacies are stepping in to help speed up Covid-19 vaccinations much earlier than anticipated after calls for states to take more advantage of their networks and experience.

Independent and chain drug stores weren't supposed to take a large role in distributing the vaccines until later stages, when doses will be much more widely available. But the halting rollout so far has sent governors scrambling for alternatives to hospital systems and local health departments, which have been handling most vaccinations so far.

New York this week is expanding distribution to hundreds of pharmacies throughout the state so health care workers or people ages 75 and older have more options to get vaccinated.

"They know how to do this," Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said at a briefing Friday. He said 1,200 pharmacies had committed to help speed distribution, in addition to other health care providers.

Read the full story here.

The United States logged another 4,000 Covid-19 deaths Tuesday

The U.S. crossed the 4,000-person Covid-19 death mark for the second time Tuesday as the pandemic continues to rage across the country.

A total of 4,052 people died from Covid-19 Tuesday, according to NBC News' tally. The country surpassed 4,000 deaths for the first time on January 7, when 4,110 people died. New daily deaths have risen 21 percent over the last two weeks.

The country also recorded 225,618 new cases. New cases have risen almost 19 percent in the last two weeks.

Overall, 22,959,377 cases and 381,773 deaths have been recorded in America since the start of the pandemic.

The following states set single-day case or deaths records Tuesday:

  • Alabama: 226 dead
  • Arizona: 335 dead
  • Mississippi: 98 dead
  • Missouri: 258 dead
  • New York: 19,679 cases
  • Oregon: 54 dead
  • Wyoming: 33 dead (tie)

China evacuates some villages in an effort to contain coronavirus outbreak

Rachel Elbaum and Reuters

Around 20,000 people from about a dozen villages in China have been moved to centralized isolation sites on Wednesday, according to China’s state-controlled CCTN news.

The residents of the villages in the Hebei province, where there is currently an outbreak, were taken by bus to hotels, schools and other sites to quarantine, according to the report.

China posted its biggest daily jump in Covid-19 cases in more than five months on Wednesday. It has as a result stepped up containment measures that have seen four cities put under lockdown. The National Health Commission reported a total of 115 new confirmed cases on the mainland, compared with 55 on Tuesday, the highest daily increase since July 30.

'An error in judgment': Bruce Willis spotted maskless in LA pharmacy

Actor Bruce Willis is speaking out after he was photographed entering and exiting a Los Angeles Rite Aid without a mask.

"It was an error in judgment," Willis told People magazine in a statement. "Be safe out there everyone and let's continue to mask up."

After weeks of spiking Covid-19 rates, California is now experiencing a plateau in its rate of new infections, according to an analysis by NBC News.

However, Covid-19 rates remain stubbornly high across southern California.

Full lockdown in Lebanon sparks panic buying in supermarkets

The Associated Press

Yasmine Salam and The Associated Press

Lebanon is set to enter an 11-day, 24-hour curfew on Thursday morning amid a sharp surge in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks. Authorities on Monday announced the tightened restrictions that will prevent residents from going outside to buy groceries.

The announcement prompted panicked supermarket buying with scenes from images on social media showing packed stores, empty shelves and lines through the parking lot.

Hospitals meanwhile, are at maximum capacity, reporting a shortage of respirators and medical supplies.

U.K. variant spreading in France

The Associated Press

PARIS — France’s government scientific adviser is expressing strong concern over the variant of the coronavirus that is circulating widely in the U.K. and is now spreading in France.

Dr. Jean-François Delfraissy, president of the scientific council that advises the French government on the virus, said on news broadcaster France Info that a two-day study based on 100,000 positive tests showed that about 1% of people were infected with the more contagious variant that has been discovered in the U.K.

“In any case, we’ll see an extension (of the variant), but we’re going to try to slow it down,” he said.

France is engaged in a “speed race” to vaccinate the most vulnerable people, he added.

South Korean religious leader acquitted over virus cases

The Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean court has acquitted a religious sect leader of charges that he deliberately disrupted the government’s anti-virus response early last year after thousands of his worshippers were infected with the coronavirus.

However, the Suwon District Court on Wednesday found the 89-year-old Lee Man-hee guilty of separate charges that he embezzled more than $5 million in church funds and organized unauthorized worship services in public spaces. His three-year prison term will be suspended for four years.

Lee’s church, the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, issued a statement denying his wrongdoings and confirming plans to appeal. Kang Susana, a prosecutor in Suwon, said her office would decide whether to appeal after analyzing the ruling.

Prosecutors had sought a five-year prison term for Lee, who was arrested in August before his release on bail in November. They accused Lee and his church of violating the country’s infectious disease law by deliberately hiding some of the church’s membership and under-reporting its gatherings to avoid broader quarantines following the outbreak around the southeastern city of Daegu in February and March last year.

But the court said it was unclear whether the church’s failure to provide a full list of its membership was a crime. The collection of such basic information isn’t part of the specific boundaries of contact tracing spelled out by the law, the court said.

More than 5,000 of South Korea’s 70,212 coronavirus cases were linked to Lee’s church.

'Substantial rates' of mental trauma among ICU workers in England, new study reveals

A study published in the United Kingdom on Wednesday found "substantial rates of probable mental health disorders" among intensive care workers during the pandemic.

It surveyed 709 doctors, nurses and other staff in England and found that almost half displayed symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, severe depression or anxiety, or "problem drinking."

Around one in seven reported thoughts of self harm or feeling they would be "better off dead," according to the study led by King's College London. It conducted the surveys in June and July and its peer-reviewed results were published Wednesday.

The U.K. is currently struggling with one of the worst outbreaks in the world, with a faster infection rate and higher deaths per capita than the U.S. and most other countries.

Protesters in Israel demonstrate against prime minister's handling of pandemic

Image: Protesters shout during a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's alleged corruption, the postponement of his trail and his handling of the Covid-19 crisis outside his residency in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
Protesters shout during a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's alleged corruption, the postponement of his trail and his handling of the Covid-19 crisis outside his residency in Jerusalem on Tuesday.Ronen Zvulun / Reuters