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Jan. 14 Coronavirus updates: China reports first coronavirus death since May

A team of experts from the World Health Organization has arrived in the Chinese city of Wuhan on a mission to investigate the origins of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Image: A worker in protective coverings directs members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team on their arrival at the airport in Wuhan
A worker in protective coverings directs members of the World Health Organization team on their arrival in China on Thursday.Ng Han Guan / AP

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

In the U.S., members of Operation Warp Speed recommended that states should expand access to Covid-19 vaccines to everyone 65 and older, as well as adults with underlying health conditions.

Meanwhile, after months of delays, a team of experts from the World Health Organization has arrived in the Chinese city of Wuhan on a mission to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

China has resisted calls for an international inquiry into the source of the virus — conscious of the negative stigma the country has already suffered in the now global pandemic — but has agreed to let a WHO team in.

Refugees in Jordan receive Covid-19 vaccine

Jordan became one of the first countries to provide vaccines to registered refugees, according to a UNHCR statement Thursday.

Jordan’s national vaccination campaign, which came into effect this week, includes anyone living on Jordanian soil. Citizens and residents as well refugees and asylum seekers are entitled to receive vaccinations for free.

The first confirmed Covid-19 case among refugees in Jordan was reported last September. Since then almost 2,000 refugees living in refugee camps have tested positive for the virus, the statement added.

Jordan is home to the second highest share of refugees per capita in the world, with 1.3 million coming from Syria. The Arab nation aims to vaccinate 20 percent of its population in the coming months after procuring three million doses.

France imposes earlier curfew and tightens border control

Yasmine Salam and Reuters

France will impose a nationwide 6 p.m. curfew on Saturday for at least 15 days, French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced Thursday. Additional stricter measures include requiring travelers from outside the European Union to have a negative Covid-19 test and self-isolate for a week upon arrival.

Unlike the U.K., the French government has repeatedly favored curfews in an attempt to mitigate viral spread. France was already subjected to an 8 p.m. curfew.

France has the seventh highest death toll in the world. The government is especially concerned by the more-transmissible coronavirus variant first detected in Britain, which now accounts for approximately one percent of new cases.

Teachers are using TikTok, media to help students learn

Three dozen mayors ask Biden for direct shipments of vaccine


Mayors of some three-dozen U.S. cities have asked the incoming Biden administration to send Covid-19 vaccine shipments directly to them, bypassing state governments, saying local officials were best positioned to ramp up lagging inoculations.

The move came as Biden, who takes office next Wednesday, readies a $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposal intended to bolster the nation's response to the virus and galvanize the slow rollout of vacciness

"While it is essential to work with state and local public health agencies, healthcare providers, pharmacies, and clinics, there is a need to be nimble and fill gaps that are unique to each local area," said the letter from 37 mayors, including those of New York City, Los Angeles and Seattle.

A Biden transition official declined to comment on the letter, but said Biden would speak about his vaccination plans on Friday.

California hospital fined over Covid outbreak traced to inflatable Christmas costume

A California hospital is facing a potential $43,000 fine from county health officials for alleged delays in reporting a Covid-19 super-spreader event linked to an inflatable Christmas tree costume.

Healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente on Tuesday denied any delay in reporting the Covid-19 cases connected to a Christmas party at its San Jose Medical Center's emergency department.

"The suggestion that we are anything other than forthcoming with our reporting is inaccurate," Kaiser Permanente said in a statement to NBC News, adding it has "maintained consistent communications with multiple state and local agencies regarding COVID-19 cases at our facilities."

The fine issued on last Tuesday is $1,000 for each delayed report of a positive case, but since early January the number of infections connected to the Christmas event has ballooned from 43 to over 90.

Click here to read the full story. 

Biden lays out $1.9 trillion Covid relief package with $1,400 stimulus checks

Dartunorro Clark

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to lay out his $1.9 trillion relief package in a primetime address on Thursday — which will focus on a new round of stimulus checks to struggling Americans and an ambitious vaccine distribution plan to control the deadly pandemic.

Biden will ask the new Democratic-controlled Congress to approve the “American Rescue Plan.” A chunk of the funds —$416 billion— will help launch a national vaccination program with a goal of vaccinating 50 million Americans and reopening schools in the first 100 days of his administration.

His speech comes as the pandemic continues to worsen. According to NBC News' Covid-19 data tracker, there have been 384,375 deaths and more than 23 million cases in the U.S.

Click here to read the full story. 

It takes time after both doses of Covid vaccine to 'build immunity,' doctor says

1 in 3 L.A. residents have been infected with Covid-19, new modeling shows

LOS ANGELES — As Los Angeles County rapidly approaches 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases, new modeling data suggests 1 in 3 residents have been infected with Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.

The estimate is based on scientific modeling and would mean that 3 million of L.A. county's 10 million residents have, at some point, contracted the virus.

The modeling also suggests that about 1 in 115 residents are currently infectious to others. One week ago that estimate was 1 in 125 people. 

On Wednesday, the county's public health director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, said L.A. has experienced a 1,000 percent increase in Covid-19 cases since Nov. 1. She also warned that the region has not yet seen the full scope of the full post-holiday surge.

Dr. Ruth, 92, gets first dose of Covid-19 vaccine

Renowned sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, who will turn 93 later this year, received her first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at New York City's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, according to an Instagram post Thursday.

Westheimer said she normally attends a book fair at the Javits Center, but "this time I came and I just got my shot."

"I was a little scared to tell the truth," she added. "It's nothing, so I'll be back here for the second shot in February."

WHO scientists arrive in China to investigate virus' origins

A team of scientists arrived in China on Thursday for a much-anticipated investigation led by the World Health Organization to investigate the origins of the coronavirus.

The researchers landed in Wuhan, the city where the virus was thought to have emerged, and will now undergo a two-week quarantine. The investigation comes more than a year after the coronavirus was first identified and was held up by delays from Chinese officials — a move that drew uncharacteristic criticism from WHO leadership earlier this month.

Few details about the trip have been made public, but the scientists are expected to probe where the coronavirus came from and how it spilled over into humans.

The research delegation includes biologists and infectious disease experts from nine different countries, including the United States, Japan and Germany. Fifteen scientists were expected land in Wuhan Thursday, but two researchers remain in Singapore after testing positive for coronavirus antibodies, according to the WHO. Those individuals will now undergo additional testing, agency officials said in an update on Twitter

Read the full article here.

U.K. bans travel from all of South America and Portugal over Covid variant

Travel to the U.K. from all of South America and Portugal will be banned from Friday over concerns about the Brazilian coronavirus variant, Britain’s government said Thursday. Panama and Cape Verde will also be included in the ban. 

Travel from Portugal would be suspended “given its strong travel links with Brazil - acting as another way to reduce the risk of importing infections," Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter, although he said that hauliers from the southern European country would be exempt to allow the transport of essential goods.

British and Irish nationals and those with U.K. residence rights would be allowed to return but they should self-isolate for 10 days along with their households, he added.  

New Jersey to give smokers early access to Covid vaccine

New Jersey announced Wednesday that smokers will be among its residents who get early access to Covid-19 vaccines.

The state expanded its vaccination program to include all those over 65 and people with underlying health conditions, like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. The state also put smokers on that list.

"Smoking puts you at significant risk for an adverse result from Covid-19," New Jersey health commissioner Judith Persichilli said at press conference announcing the new guidelines. 

New Jersey, which was one of the first states in the country to experience an intense Covid-19 outbreak, has recorded more than 600,000 Covid cases and 20,000 deaths.

Rep. Adriano Espaillat tests positive for Covid-19

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., said Thursday that he has tested positive for Covid-19 and is quarantining at home. 

In a series of tweets and a statement released by his office, Espaillat said he received the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and understands that the effects “take time.” 

“I have continued to be tested regularly, wear my mask and follow the recommended guidelines,” he said. “I will continue my duties representing New York’s 13th congressional district remotely until I have received clearance from my doctor.”

Espaillat spoke on the House floor during the impeachment proceedings Wednesday but wore a mask. 

Three other House Democrats have also tested positive since sheltering in place with lawmakers who refused to wear masks during the violent rioting at the U.S. Capitol last week.

1 person dies every 6 minutes: How L.A. became the nation's largest coronavirus hot spot

LOS ANGELES — In Los Angeles County, 10 people on average test positive for the coronavirus every minute. Every six minutes, someone dies from Covid-19, according to county public health data.

The startling figures come as California’s most populous county rapidly approaches 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic started last year.

According to the county public health officials, more than 958,400 people in L.A. have been infected with the virus and nearly 13,000 people have died as of Wednesday. The numbers are equally sobering across the state. California has nearly 2.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 31,000 deaths as of Wednesday, according to NBC News counts. A more contagious variant of the virus has also been detected in the region.

Epidemiologists and elected officials are confronted with an uncomfortable question as L.A.’s Covid-19 crisis metastasizes: How did Los Angeles become the center of the pandemic?

Click here to read the full story.

Weekly initial jobless claims soar to 965,000

The latest weekly initial jobless claims soared to 965,000 last week, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Labor, as the economy struggles to contain the fallout from rising coronavirus infection rates across the country.

Last week's figure is far higher than economists' forecasts of 800,000 claims, and is the largest total since last August, when the economy made a brief recovery over the summer. 

First-time jobless claims have remained below 1 million for five straight months, after hitting a record total of 7 million in late March. However, the weekly figure continues to be around four times higher than the pre-pandemic average.

Read the story here.

Close to 4,000 reported dead in the U.S., one million vaccinated

The U.S. counted 3,976 reported Covid-19 deaths, 234,158 cases and about one million total vaccinations Wednesday, according to NBC News' tally.

The country averaged 3,381 deaths per day the past week, the highest average yet during the pandemic.

In total, 23.1 million people have been infected and 385,698 have died, as of Thursday morning.

More than 10 million have begun vaccinations, according to the CDC.

Pope Francis receives first Covid vaccine dose

Claudio Lavanga

Claudio Lavanga and Patrick Smith

ROME — Pope Francis has been given a Covid-19 vaccine, the Vatican confirmed Thursday.

The director of the Vatican press office, Matteo Bruni, said in a statement that both the Pope and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI received their first doses. It was not clear which of the approved vaccines was administered.

Pope Francis said he was due to get the jab and urged others to get vaccinated in a TV interview this week. “I think that ethically we should all receive a vaccine,” said the pope, 84. “It’s an ethical choice because you are playing with your health, your life, but also the lives of others.”

Germany reports highest daily death toll

The Associated Press

BERLIN — Germany’s disease control agency has reported the highest single-day death toll from Covid-19.

The Robert Koch Institute said Thursday that 1,244 deaths from coronavirus were confirmed in Germany until midnight, taking the total number to 43,881 since the start of the pandemic.

Data showed there were also 25,164 new cases confirmed in Germany by midnight.

German officials are considering tougher restrictions to curb the continued rise in infections in the country.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Germany has risen over the past two weeks from 23.36 new cases per 100,000 people on Dec. 30 to 26.03 new cases per 100,000 people on Jan. 13.

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.