By MORGAN WINSOR, ERIN SCHUMAKER, EMILY SHAPIRO and ROSA SANCHEZ, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 97 million people worldwide and killed over 2 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 is developing Thursday. All times Eastern:
Jan 21, 4:33 pm
Fauci: ‘Best-case scenario’ is 85% of Americans vaccinated by end of summer
Dr. Anthony Fauci said his “best-case scenario” is getting 85% of Americans vaccinated by the end of summer.
“If we get 70% to 85% of the country vaccinated, let’s say by the middle of the summer, I believe by the time we get to the fall, we will be approaching a degree of normality,” Fauci at Thursday’s White House press briefing.
“If we get 75% to 80% vaccinated we could have a degree of herd immunity to get us back to normal,” Fauci said. “The concern I have is people who have vaccine hesitancy who don’t want to get vaccinated. We need to do a lot of good outreach.”
Fauci added that he believes President Joe Biden’s goal of 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days “is quite a reasonable goal.”
Jan 21, 4:22 pm
Texas public health doctor accused of stealing vaccine vial
A Texas doctor is accused of stealing a vaccine vial that contained nine doses, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said.
Dr. Hasan Gokal of Harris County Public Health allegedly took the vial while working at a county vaccination site on Dec. 29, Ogg said.
Gokal was fired and has been charged with theft by a public servant, prosecutors said.
“He abused his position to place his friends and family in line in front of people who had gone through the lawful process to be there,” Ogg said in a statement. “What he did was illegal and he’ll be held accountable under the law.”
Jan 21, 3:23 pm
Biden signs executive actions to combat pandemic
President Joe Biden on Thursday signed executive actions related to the coronavirus pandemic including: establishing a testing board to direct help where it’s needed most; mandating masks in airports and on certain modes of transportation; and requiring travelers coming to the U.S. from other countries to test negative before arriving.
The president said he’s also advocating for stricter workplace standards and is directing the Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services to provide guidance to schools on how they can reopen safely.
Biden said his plan also begins with an “aggressive” vaccination campaign.
“Rollout has been a dismal failure thus far,” he said. “I understand why many governors, mayors, county officials, tribal leaders feel like they’re left on their own without a clear national plan to get them through the crisis.”
“We’ll move heaven and Earth to get more people vaccinated for free and create more places for them to get vaccinated … and to increase vaccine supply and get it out the door as fast as possible,” he said.
Jan 21, 2:49 pm
Illegal home gatherings in UK could result in hefty fines
In the United Kingdom, those who attend house gatherings with more than 15 people — in violation of lockdown rules — will face hefty fines beginning next week, Interior Minister Priti Patel said Thursday.
First-time offenders face a fine of 800 pounds (around $1,097 USD). The fine will double for each repeat offense to a maximum of 6,400 pounds (around $8,779 USD).
More officers are on dedicated patrols “taking targeted action against those small few who are letting everybody down,” said Martin Hewitt, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council.
ABC News’ Christine Theodorou contributed to this report.
Jan 21, 2:30 pm
Fauci gets 2nd vaccine shot
Dr. Anthony Fauci got his second vaccine shot on Tuesday, he told reporters at the White House Thursday afternoon.
Fauci said he “felt under the weather for about a day,” but now feels fine.
ABC News’ Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.
Jan 21, 12:27 pm
United aims to have voluntary testing at all of its hubs by February
United Airlines, which reported a $7.1 billion net loss for 2020 in an earnings call Thursday, said it expected to have voluntary COVID-19 testing available at all of its hubs by February.
The airline said it is also working with local governments to classify its employees as essential workers for vaccinations, “both for their safety and the safety of [its] customers.”
The carrier said it expects 2021 capacity to be down at least 51% versus the first quarter of 2019.
United said following vaccine distribution, business demand will take 18 to 24 months to recover.
Executives said they expect the “inflection point” in travel recovery to occur in the second half of 2021, but it could happen sooner depending on the pace of vaccine distribution.
Jan 21, 12:02 pm
Eli Lilly drug may help prevent infections at nursing homes
The pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly released new data showing that a laboratory-made protein delivered by infusion may help prevent infections at nursing homes.
A phase 3 trial found that nursing home residents who got the monoclonal antibody drug were 80% less likely to develop symptomatic COVID-19 compared to nursing home residents who got a placebo infusion.
Among all the study participants (including residents and staff), those who got the drug were 57% less likely to develop symptomatic COVID-19.
The Eli Lilly drug, called bamlanivimab, has FDA emergency authorization to treat people already sick with COVID-19 who might need to be hospitalized. The company says it will work with regulators to potentially expand this authorization to include nursing home residents and staff to help prevent outbreaks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that those who’ve had monoclonal antibody treatment wait 90 days until getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
Jan 21, 11:23 am
California sees decline in cases, hospitalizations
In hard-hit California, the daily number of new cases fell below 20,000 on Wednesday, and the number of patients in hospitals is also on the decline, California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mark Ghaly, told “GMA3: What You Need To Know.”
Ghaly said he attributes the progress “to the ongoing work of Californians to pay attention to the virus. After what was a hard Thanksgiving holiday, I think the regional stay-at-home order that the governor put in place made a difference over the winter holidays … we’re starting to see that pay off now.”
“Almost to the day, three weeks after putting [stay-at-home orders] into place in some of the hardest hit areas, we started to see the numbers come down,” he said.
The state’s stay-at-home orders are enacted when a region’s ICU capacity falls below 15%. Stay-at-home orders are currently in effect in three of the state’s five regions: Southern California, the Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley.
Vaccinations are also ramping up.
“The governor gave us a million-vaccine challenge over 10 days that ended last week,” Ghaly said. “And we saw a radical increase going from about 40,000-47,000 vaccines given in a day at the beginning of that challenge to over 110,000 vaccines given a day across the state.”
California leads with the U.S. in cases with over 3 million people diagnosed.
Jan 21, 10:36 am
Glastonbury Festival canceled for 2nd year running due to pandemic
Glastonbury Festival, the largest greenfield music festival in the world, has been canceled for the second year in a row due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“With great regret, we must announce that this year’s Glastonbury Festival will not take place, and that this will be another enforced fallow year for us,” the festival’s organizers, Michael and Emily Eavis, said in a statement Thursday. “In spite of our efforts to move Heaven & Earth, it has become clear that we simply will not be able to make the Festival happen this year. We are so sorry to let you all down.”
The world-famous event typically takes place over the course of five days on the organizers’ dairy farm in the village of Pilton in southwest England, with star-studded lineups that attract around 200,000 attendees each year. Last year’s festival, the 50th anniversary with Paul McCartney due to headline, was also canceled because of the pandemic.
“As with last year, we would like to offer all those who secured a ticket in October 2019 the opportunity to roll their £50 deposit over to next year, and guarantee the chance to buy a ticket for Glastonbury 2022,” the organizers said. “We are very appreciative of the faith and trust placed in us by those of you with deposits, and we are very confident we can deliver something really special for us all in 2022!”
Jan 21, 10:00 am
South African government minister dies from COVID-19
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Thursday that one of the ministers in his cabinet has died from COVID-19.
Jackson Mthembu, minister in the presidency, died earlier Thursday from complications related to the disease, according to Ramaphosa. He was 62.
“Minister Mthembu was an exemplary leader, an activist and life-long champion of freedom and democracy,” Ramaphosa said in a statement. “He was a much-loved and greatly respected colleague and comrade, whose passing leaves our nation at a loss.”
Statement by President @CyrilRamaphosa on the passing of Minister Jackson Mthembu
It is with deep sorrow and shock that we announce that Minister in The Presidency, Jackson Mthembu passed away earlier today from COVID-related complications. https://t.co/iQ5AysAtNZ pic.twitter.com/dS6K6Olkhu
— Presidency | South Africa 🇿🇦 (@PresidencyZA) January 21, 2021
Mthembu played a prominent role in South Africa’s COVID-19 response and was often the public face during press briefings. He had announced via Twitter on Jan. 11 that he tested positive for COVID-19.
Since the start of the pandemic, South Africa has confirmed more than 1.3 million cases of COVID-19, including at least 38,854 deaths. The country has the highest tally of confirmed cases in Africa, accounting for 41% of the continent’s diagnosed infections, according to the latest data from the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jan 21, 9:12 am
US withdrawal from the WHO ‘was very disconcerting to everybody,’ Fauci says
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on the coronavirus pandemic, said rejoining the World Health Organization was “very important” and that the country’s withdrawal from the United Nations agency “was very disconcerting to everybody.”
“It’s going to be really very important. When you’re dealing with global pandemic, you have to have an international connectivity, and for us to not be in the WHO was very disconcerting to everybody, all the member countries including the health officials here in the United States,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC News’ Michael Strahan in an interview Thursday on Good Morning America.
Earlier Thursday, Fauci announced via video link to the WHO’s executive board in Geneva that the United States will remain a member, will fulfil its financial obligations to the organization and will stop reducing its staff there.
Fauci also told the board that U.S. President Joe Biden will issue a directive Thursday that shows the country’s intent to join the COVAX Facility, a global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries regardless of income.
The announcement came just hours after Biden, who was sworn-in Wednesday, signed an executive order reversing former President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the WHO. Trump had accused the organization of failing to correctly respond to the coronavirus pandemic and of allegedly giving too much power to China.
“The official announcement that we are rejoining, we’re going to live up to our financial commitments and a whole bunch of other things, it was really a very good day. I mean, the response I’m getting from my colleagues all over the world is really very refreshing,” Fauci said on GMA.
Fauci, who is Biden’s chief medical adviser on the coronavirus pandemic, said he will meet with the president later Thursday to brief him on the U.S. outbreak and the vaccine situation.
“The president has made this his top priority,” he said. “His goal is to get 100 million people vaccinated within the first 100 days of his presidency. I mean, I feel fairly confident that that’s going to be not only that but maybe even better.”
Fauci said the contractual agreements the U.S. has made to procure COVID-19 vaccines will help meet that goal, along with new initiatives to open community vaccination centers and make the vaccines available in pharmacies. He said Biden may also use the Defense Production Act “wherever he needs it.” The 1950 wartime law requires private companies to prioritize any product orders from the federal government over others.
“As he says, he’s going to do everything that he needs to do to make sure we have a successful roll out of the vaccines, get it into peoples arms and get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can,” Fauci said. “I think we can look forward to having more companies supplying vaccines in addition to the two now that are doing it, namely Moderna and Pfizer.”
Fauci said an RNA virus like the novel coronavirus can be expected to mutate but some of the new strains that have emerged are “concerning” and must be followed “very, very carefully.”
“There are some concerning variants, there’s one in the U.K. and we have that right now in the United States. It appears to be transmitted more efficiently, it doesn’t appear to be more virulent,” he said. “We’re looking very carefully to make sure that our vaccines that we’re distributing and putting into peoples arms [are] going to continue to protect against those variants.”
Jan 21, 9:09 am
900,000 Americans filed for unemployment insurance last week
Some 900,000 workers in the United States lost their jobs and filed for unemployment insurance last week, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday.
This is a decrease of 26,000 jobless claims compared to the previous week.
The Department of Labor said Thursday that nearly 16 million people were still claiming some form of unemployment benefits through all government programs as of the week ending Jan. 2. During the same week last year, that figure was 2.2 million.
The coronavirus pandemic as well as measures to curb the virus’ spread have gutted the U.S. labor market. Before the pandemic hit, in February 2020, the national unemployment rate was at a half-century low of 3.5%. As of last month, the unemployment rate was 6.7%.
Jan 21, 7:33 am
CDC projects up to 508K virus deaths in US by mid-February
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now projects that the country will have recorded up to 508,000 COVID-19 deaths by mid-February.
The CDC on Wednesday published its latest national ensemble forecast, which predicts that 17,000 to 29,300 new fatalities from COVID-19 will likely be reported in the week ending Feb. 13. A total of 465,000 to 508,000 deaths from the disease are projected to be reported nationwide by this date.
Last week’s national ensemble forecast predicted there would be a total of 440,000 to 477,000 COVID-19 deaths reported nationwide by Feb. 6.
Jan 21, 4:40 am
Fauci announces US will remain member of WHO
The United States will remain a member of the World Health Organization.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, made the announcement during a WHO executive board meeting Thursday morning.
“I am honored to announce the United States will remain a member of the World health Organization,” he said.
The news came hours after President Joe Biden signed an executive order reversing former President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the United Nations agency.
Trump previously moved to withdraw the country from the WHO, accusing the organization of failing to correctly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and of allegedly giving too much power to China.
Now, under Biden, the U.S. will stop reducing staff at the WHO, and will pay its financial obligations to it, Fauci said at the WHO meeting.
Fauci also said that Biden Thursday will order the U.S. to support projects to deploy COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics to people in need around the world.
Jan 21, 4:09 am
US reports over 178,000 new cases
There were 178,255 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the United States on Wednesday, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
The latest daily case count is far less than the country’s all-time high of 298,031 newly confirmed infections on Jan. 2, Johns Hopkins data shows.
An additional 4,231 fatalities from COVID-19 were registered nationwide on Wednesday, just under the peak of 4,462 new deaths on Jan. 12, according to Johns Hopkins data.
COVID-19 data may be skewed due to possible lags in reporting over the holiday weekend and earlier holidays.
A total of 24,438,720 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 406,147 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, then reaching 200,000 on Nov. 27 before nearing 300,000 on Jan. 2.
Jan 21, 12:44 am
New CDC director extends eviction ban until end of March
Rochelle Walensky, the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who began her role after President Joe Biden’s inauguration Wednesday, released a statement saying she is extending the eviction ban due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a protective public health measure, I will extend the current order temporarily halting residential evictions until at least March 31, 2021,” she said in the statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to our nation’s health. It has also triggered a housing affordability crisis that disproportionately affects some communities.”
She said that as cases continue to rise, it’s important to “keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings — like shelters — where COVID-19 can take an even stronger foothold.”
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.