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Jan. 27 Coronavirus updates: Oklahoma to return $2 million worth of hydroxychloroquine

The U.S. remains the leader in recorded cases with more than 25.5 million infections.
Image: People wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus walk through a subway station in Beijing
People in Beijing walk through a subway station on Wednesday. China has given more than 22 million Covid-19 vaccine shots to date as it carries out a drive ahead of next month's Lunar New Year holiday, health authorities said Wednesday.Mark Schiefelbein / AP

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

Global Covid-19 cases topped 100 million as virus mutations continue to create new concerns, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

The milestone comes less than three months after the world hit 50 million cases, and just over a year after the first case was diagnosed in the U.S., which remains the leader in recorded cases with more than 25.5 million infections.

Live Blog

Teachers say they want the Covid-19 vaccine before they head back to the classroom

CHICAGO — Children who have been marooned at home for months by the pandemic are slowly returning to classrooms, but many teachers say they won’t go back until they’ve received the Covid-19 vaccine.

Especially in Chicago, the nation’s third-largest public school district, where teachers who were supposed to return to classrooms Wednesday worked from home again and are once more threatening to strike.

“Community spread is still so high in Chicago, and so many people are sick and dying. I don’t know how to keep myself safe in an old building with so many people," said Kirstin Roberts, a preschool teacher at the Brentano Math and Science Academy, on the city’s northwest side “I don’t understand why we have to risk our lives when we’re so close to a vaccine.”

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Thai police arrest 89 foreigners in local bar for flouting Covid-19 rules

BANGKOK — Police raided a party at a bar on a popular resort island in southern Thailand and arrested 89 foreigners for violating coronavirus regulations, officials said Wednesday.

The Tuesday night raid on the Three Sixty Bar on Koh Phangan also netted 22 Thais, including one identified as the bar’s owner and another who sold drinks there, said police Col. Suparerk Pankosol, superintendent of the provincial immigration office.

He said the gathering was illegal under a national state of emergency declared last March to combat the coronavirus.

Those arrested were from more than 10 countries, including the U.S., Britain, Switzerland and Denmark, Suparerk said. Photos of the raid distributed by police showed a dark, crowded room with casually dressed partygoers, almost all wearing face masks.

U.K. announces hotel quarantine for residents returning from 30 high-risk Covid-19 countries

U.K. nationals and residents returning from dozens of countries will have to quarantine for 10 days in government-provided accommodation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday.

In an effort to prevent new Covid-19 variants from entering the country, Johnson said travelers returning from 30 high-risk countries, including South Africa, Portugal and large parts of South America, will have to isolate in hotels on arrival.

Under England's current lockdown rules, Johnson stressed that it is "illegal to leave home to travel abroad for leisure purposes."

"In order to reduce the risk posed by U.K. nationals and residents returning home from these countries, I can announce that we will require all such arrivals who cannot be refused entry to isolate in government provided accommodation, such as hotels, for 10 days without exception," he added.

U.K. opposition leaders called for these quarantine requirements to extend to all incoming travel. "Today's announcement is too limited, it leaves huge gaps in our defenses against emerging strains," Labour's home affairs spokesman Nick Thomas-Symonds said.

Colombia will ban flights from Brazil over variant concerns

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombia will ban flights from Brazil effective Friday over concerns of a variant of the coronavirus that is circulating in that country.

Colombia President Ivan Duque on Wednesday announced the 30-day measure. No flights will take off from Colombia to Brazil either.

In addition, anyone who arrived from Brazil to Colombia between Jan. 18 and Wednesday will have to quarantine for 14 days.

The Brazil P.1 variant was first identified in four travelers who were tested at an airport outside Tokyo. It contains a set of mutations that may affect its ability to be recognized by antibodies, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Colombia has recorded more than 2 million cases and over 52,100 deaths of COVID-19.

Alabama, Alaska announce first cases of U.K. variant

Alabama and Alaska have joined a growing list of states where a Covid-19 variant first detected in the United Kingdom — and which is believed to be more transmissible — has been found.

Health officials in Alabama said Wednesday that the variant, B.1.1.7., has been identified in three Alabamians, two of whom are children under 19 and one of whom is an adult.

On Tuesday the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said testing had identified the state's first case of B.1.1.7., in an Anchorage resident who tested positive for Covid-19 in December. They and another person they lived with who also got sick recovered, and both isolated while sick, it said.

The U.K. variant has been detected in more than two dozen states.

It is believed to be more transmissible but it doesn't appear to be more likely to make someone seriously ill or to kill someone, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last week. 

Effects of gerrymandering felt in Wisconsin as governor, GOP clash over Covid restrictions

At one point during the pandemic, Black residents of Milwaukee County were six times more likely to die from the coronavirus than Wisconsin's white residents, state health officials said.

The state's governor, Tony Evers, a Democrat in his first term, issued a mask order and other mandates to protect all citizens, but the Republican-led legislature successfully sued to strike down those decisions.

The more Evers fought for Covid-19 restrictions, the more GOP resistance he faced inside the state Capitol. The state Supreme Court issued several decisions siding with Republicans in limiting Evers’ power to act during a public health emergency.

“It’s pretty shameful they didn’t want to act or didn’t seem concerned with the loss of life toward Blacks and Latinos,” Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, a Democrat, said. “It seemed like they could care less.”

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Virginia enacts Covid-19 workplace safety standards

Virginia has enacted permanent Covid-19 workplace health and safety standards to protect workers.

The standards "mandate personal protective equipment, sanitation, social distancing, infectious disease preparedness and response plans, record-keeping, training, and hazard communications in workplaces," according to a statement from the office of Virginia's Democratic governor, Ralph Northam.

“No Virginia worker should have to weigh their family’s economic security against their physical safety,” the governor's chief workforce development adviser, Megan Healy, said in the statement. “These permanent standards provide workers with essential recourse if faced with this untenable decision while giving businesses a clear understanding of the steps they must take to maintain a safe working environment.” 

The standards require all employees who interact with the public to wear masks. Employers must make hand sanitizer readily available. The new rules also lay out guidelines for returning to work after testing positive for Covid-19.

In July, Virginia became what Northam said was the first state in the nation to adopt emergency temporary workplace safety and health requirements in response to the pandemic in the absence of federal regulations. Since then, at least six other states have adopted Covid-19 workplace standards, Northam's office said. 

The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry will enforce the permanent requirements. So far, the department has received more than 13,000 complaints concerning Covid-19 workplace safety, with 100 needing a full investigation due to serious concerns and 27 employers being cited, the governor's office statement said.

Long Beach vaccine distributing outpacing the rest of California

The port city of Long Beach, in Los Angeles County, is outpacing the rest of California when it comes to vaccine distribution, Mayor Robert Garcia said during an Instagram Live discussion with Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

The city, which has its own health department, is "pretty much done" vaccinating its medical workers with more than 50 percent having received second doses as of this week. Long Beach is now vaccinating people 65 years and older, teachers and food workers. 

"We've been planning for six months," Garcia said. "I would argue we have one of the best vaccine rollouts in the state of California." 

California and Los Angeles County, in particular, continues to experience rollout difficulties amid confusion, frustration and short supplies. As of last week, L.A. has received roughly 850,000 doses but requires 4 million to complete shots for health care workers and seniors over the age of 65 who are eligible to receive the vaccine, according to public health officials. 

Both California and county public health officials have blamed dwindling supplies at the federal level for vaccine distributions problems at the local level.

Maryland gov announces $258M in additional rental relief funds

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that a total of $402 million in federal Covid-19 relief funding has been given to his state to help people struggling to cover their rent because of the pandemic.

Hogan said $258.1 million was given to the state this week alone, and an additional $143 million was sent out directly to eight jurisdictions with populations over 200,000 people, including Baltimore County.

“We continue to back one of the strongest eviction moratoriums in the country with direct relief for rental payments, legal services, and affordable housing,” Hogan said in a statement. “We look forward to working with legislative leaders to determine the best way to utilize these resources for Marylanders in need.”