Coronavirus updates: Herd immunity by fall ‘ambitious,’ says surgeon general nominee


By MORGAN WINSOR, ERIN SCHUMAKER and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 98.7 million people worldwide and killed over 2.1 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 developed over the weekend. All times Eastern:

Jan 24, 7:58 pmMexican president tests positiveMexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced on Twitter Sunday evening that he contracted the coronavirus.Obrador said his symptoms are mild and he is undergoing medical treatment.”As always, I’m optimistic. We’ll all get by,” the 67-year-old president tweeted.Obrador had repeatedly refused to wear a mask and resisted calls for mask mandates and other restrictions despite the growing number of cases in the country.Jan 24, 7:12 pmUS hospitalizations continue to decreaseThere are 110,628 people currently hospitalized in the U.S., the fewest since Dec. 14, the COVID Tracking Project reported.The tracking project said that hospitalizations are decreasing across the country.”For the first time since November 3rd, no state has over 600 people per million hospitalized with COVID-19,” the tracking project tweeted.

Jan 24, 3:17 pmNew Zealand reports first community COVID-19 case since NovemberThe New Zealand Health Ministry announced Sunday it recorded its first coronavirus case from within the community in three months.New Zealand has been reporting positive cases in managed isolation, which requires anyone who travels into the country, both citizens and non-citizens, to go into a 14-day quarantine in a designated facility. There have been no cases from within the community since November.The female patient traveled in Spain and the Netherlands late last year for work, according to officials.”While in the Netherlands she was in contact with family members, who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19,” the health ministry said in a statement.The patient arrived in Auckland on Dec. 30 following a trip from the United Kingdom with a layover in Singapore, according to the Health Ministry. The patient stayed at a hotel during her 14-day quarantine and tested negative on Jan. 2 and Jan. 10, according to the Health Ministry.”The person started developing mild symptoms on 15 January and these progressively got worse. The person had a test taken on Friday 22 January and self-isolated at home,” the Health Ministry said in a statement.The patient’s roommate hasn’t shown any symptoms so far, but has been tested and is isolating at home, according to the Health Ministry.The Health Ministry said it is contact tracing and carrying out rapid genome sequencing to see if there’s a match to one of the more transmissible variants.

Jan 24, 2:49 pm

Chicago Public Schools delays return for in-person teachers following union vote

Chicago Public Schools announced Sunday they will postpone the in-person start for kindergarten through eighth grade teachers after the Chicago Teachers Union announced voted over the weekend to continue remote work.

Teachers were scheduled to report to in-person learning on Monday, but that was pushed back to Wednesday, according to CPS. “While we agree with our labor partners on many aspects of a smooth expansion of in-person learning, our discussions are ongoing. To ensure we reach a resolution without a disruption to student learning, we’ve agreed to push back the return of K-8 teachers, staff to Wed, 1/27,” CPS said in a statement.

Kindergarten through eighth grade are slated to return to in-person learning on Feb. 1. Pre-K and special education students have been going to in-person classes since the beginning of the month.

In a statement, the union said that there was concern among members regarding the rise in COVID-19 cases and the small number of students who have opted to return to in-person learning.

Chicago Public Schools said 37% of parents surveyed intend for their kids to return, according to ABC station WLS. The union noted that the number of eligible students who can currently return to in-person is also low.

“But the fact of the matter remains this: 19% of students have returned. The district doesn’t need anywhere near all of our membership to return to meet that need,” CTU said in a statement.

Some parents who wished to have their children return to class in person took up their pleas directly to the union this weekend.

“Parents should not be vilified or bullied for needing a choice to return to in-person learning,” Sarah Sachen told WLS.

Jan 24, 11:29 am

Herd immunity by fall an ‘ambitious goal,’ says nominee for surgeon general

The possibility of obtaining herd immunity by the time summer is over and a new school year begins may be an “ambitious goal,” Vivek Murthy, President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. surgeon general, told George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday.

“I think what — I think we can see improvement,” Murthy said. “I think we can see reductions in cases and hospitalizations and deaths. I think we can see many more people immunized.”

The “important thing” will be getting as many people vaccinated as possible, Murthy added.

“The more people we vaccinate, the better we will do, the fewer outbreaks we will see, the sooner we can get back to our way of life,” he said.

Murthy also emphasized the importance of dispelling misinformation as well as continuing to take the necessary precautions, such as wearing masks and avoiding indoor gatherings.

“Then I think we can be on a path to not only turning the pandemic around, but, most importantly, getting our schools open, our workplaces back up and running, and regaining our way of life,” he said.

Jan 24, 11:07 am

US surpasses 25 million positive cases

The U.S. has surpassed 25 million cases of COVID-19, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

The national total confirmed case count currently sits at 25,003,695.

Last week, the U.S. surpassed 400,000 deaths from the virus. The death toll is currently at 417,463 in the U.S. and at 2,122,766 worldwide.

The number of global confirmed cases is nearing 100 million, currently sitting at 98,853,428.

-ABC News’ Joshua Hoyos

Jan 24, 9:51 am

Over 20 million vaccine doses administered in US

There have now been more than 20 million vaccine doses given out in the U.S., the CDC reported on Saturday.

The milestone was reached 23 days after the goal set by former President Donald Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed to reach that number of doses by the end of 2020.

President Joe Biden’s administration has pledged to distribute 100 million doses in the first 100 days, as well as ramp up production of materials to administer vaccines amid an increase in demand and shortages of supply at the state level.

-ABC News’ Ahmad Hemingway contributed to this report.

Jan 23, 11:45 pm

University of Michigan pauses all sports after positive tests

The University of Michigan has paused all athletics, including men’s and women’s basketball, for at least 14 days following “several” positive tests by people within the Michigan Athletic Department. The positive tests were also for the so-called U.K. variant, a more-contagious version of the virus. The decision to pause athletics was made in part due to the fact the tests were for the B.1.1.7 variant.

The decision was made not by the school but by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The athletic programs will not be able to play or practice during the period.

“Canceling competitions is never something we want to do, but with so many unknowns about this variant of COVID-19, we must do everything we can to minimize the spread among student-athletes, coaches, staff, and to the student-athletes at other schools,” Athletic Director Warde Manuel said in a statement.

Jan 23, 7:47 pmWeekly average cases in US back to ‘pre-Thanksgiving levels’New COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are seeing a “very encouraging” drop, according to The COVID Tracking Project.The number of weekly cases decreased 21% as of Saturday, the tracker said. There were “more modest but very welcome” drops in COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations as well.


The weekly view today shows cases down 21%, with more modest but very welcome drops in hospitalizations and deaths. The 7-day average for cases has returned to pre-Thanksgiving levels. Tests are slightly down, possibly because most of the backlogs have now been resolved.

— The COVID Tracking Project (@COVID19Tracking) January 24, 2021

The seven-day average for cases is back to “pre-Thanksgiving levels,” though the group noted there are still nearly three times as many new cases daily compared to the summer peak.


Jan 23, 5:55 pmLA County crosses 15,000 deathsLos Angeles County has crossed 15,000 deaths, with about one-third of those deaths happening in 2021.Health officials reported 269 deaths in the county on Saturday. LA remains the hardest-hit county in the United States. LA County has more than twice as many cases (1,064,887) as the second-highest in the nation (Arizona’s Maricopa County; 444,431, according to Johns Hopkins University).The county said 5,106 people have died since Dec. 30.There was a little bit of good news in LA, however, as the county is following national trends of dropping hospitalizations. The number of people in hospitals with COVID-19 dropped under 7,000 for the first time since Dec. 29, according to the health department.”Many people continue to spread this virus and, tragically, now more than 15,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, said in a statement. “While we are seeing some positive data in daily new cases and hospitalizations, we are far from out of the woods. It is critically important we slow COVID-19 spread to decompress the strain on our healthcare system and save lives.”ABC News’ Matthew Fuhrman contributed to this report.

Jan 23, 1:00 pmNew deaths, cases on declineWeek-to-week comparisons show new deaths and new cases are on the decline nationwide, according to an internal Department of Health and Human Services memo obtained by ABC News.Thirty-one states and territories are in a downward trajectory of new cases, according to the memo. Twenty states and territories are in an upward trajectory of new cases while five jurisdictions are at a plateau.The U.S. saw 1,318,915 new cases from Jan. 16 to Jan. 22 — a 20.3% decrease from the previous week.There were 21,442 deaths reported from Jan. 16 to Jan. 22, which was a 7.7% decrease from the week before.The national test-positivity rate also dropped, falling from 11.9% to 10.4% in week-to-week comparisons, the memo said.ABC News’ Josh Margolin contributed to this report.

Jan 23, 12:15 pmIndoor dining returns to ChicagoIndoor dining resumed in Chicago on Saturday as the city moved to “Tier 1” of reopening “due to recent progress in the fight against COVID-19,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.Indoor dining is limited to 25 people or 25% capacity with tables six feet apart.All bars and restaurants must close at 11 p.m.”We have long pushed for the careful resumption of limited indoor dining, and I am thrilled that we have made enough progress … to reopen our businesses and bring workers back,” Lightfoot said in a statement, according to ABC Chicago station WLS.

Jan 23, 10:40 amNorth Carolina identifies its 1st case of UK variantNorth Carolina has identified its first case of the coronavirus’ United Kingdom variant, state health officials said.The variant was confirmed in an adult in Mecklenburg County.The U.S. has 195 confirmed cases of the variant across 21 states, according to North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services.ABC News’ Josh Hoyos contributed to this report.

Jan 22, 8:21 pmCases falling week-over-week in most states: COVID Tracking ProjectCOVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are going down across the country.In 44 states, the seven-day average of new cases has dropped over 10% since last week, The COVID Tracking Project reported Thursday. Daily cases are rising in only one state — Virginia.In 24 states, the number of current hospitalizations decreased by more than 10% from a week ago, it found. Everywhere else in the nation, hospitalizations are relatively flat.

Jan 22, 6:50 pmUnited CEO wants to make vaccines mandatory for employeesUnited Airlines’ top executive said he would like the airline to require COVID-19 vaccination for employees.”I think the right thing to do is for United Airlines, and for other companies, to require the vaccines,” CEO Scott Kirby said during an employee town hall Thursday. “That said, we have to have the logistic challenges worked out … and we need some others to show leadership, particularly in the health care industry.”Kirby told employees that if other companies mandate vaccines, “You should probably expect United to be amongst the first wave of companies that do it as well.”For now, United is urging employees to get the vaccine as soon as possible, according to an internal memo obtained by ABC News.On an earnings call yesterday, an executive said the company has been working with local governments “to move our employees up in prioritization of essential workers for vaccination, both for their safety and the safety of our customers.”-ABC News’ Gio Benitez

Jan 22, 2:49 pmNew Jersey confirms 1st cases of UK variantTwo people — a man and a child — were identified as the first cases of the United Kingdom variant in New Jersey, officials said. The Ocean County man, who is in his 60s, had no travel history or clear exposures to others who were ill, said the state’s Health Commissioner, Judy Persichilli. He developed symptoms on Dec. 29 and was tested one week later. His “symptoms have since resolved and he was never hospitalized,” Persichilli said.The child, who had traveled to northern New Jersey, was tested on Jan. 11 in New York City and is asymptomatic, she said.ABC News’ Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

Jan 22, 2:30 pmCalifornia reports highest daily death tollCalifornia reported its highest daily death toll since the start of the pandemic with another 764 lives lost.The state reported 23,024 new cases on Friday.

Jan 22, 2:01 pmSevere allergic reactions rare but possible with Moderna vaccineA CDC report released Friday indicates that the risk of severe allergic reactions with Moderna’s vaccine is low. Severe, life threatening allergic reactions were seen in 2.5 cases per million people receiving the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the report said. Of the 4,041,396 first doses given as of Jan. 10, there were 1,266 (0.03%) reports of “adverse events,” the report said. Among those, 108 “adverse events” were considered as possible cases of severe allergic reaction, including anaphylaxis. Ten cases were determined to be anaphylaxis (a rate of 2.5 anaphylaxis cases per 1 million doses) including nine people with a documented history of allergies or allergic reactions, the report said.

Jan 22, 1:43 pmUK variant may be associated with higher mortality, Boris Johnson saysMore people are testing positive for the United Kingdom’s variant of the coronavirus, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday “there is some evidence that the new variant may be associated with a higher degree of mortality.”U.K. Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty stressed that the data is uncertain and there is a chance the new variant is increasing infections and mortality.The U.K. has seen record daily death tolls several times this week.There were 1,401 deaths in the last 24 hours.

Jan 22, 1:00 pmNew York running out of vaccines today but more on the way: CuomoNew York state has used 97% of its allocated vaccine doses so far (for weeks 1 through 5) and will run out of doses by the end of the day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.Week 6 doses are currently being delivered, the governor said.New York’s positivity rate has fallen to 5.65%, Cuomo said. Hospitalizations are also on the decline.

Jan 22, 10:32 am’Patient No. 1′ in US is now ‘back to his normal life’On Jan. 20, 2020, the first COVID-19 patient in the United States, known as “patient No. 1,” was brought to a Washington state hospital.Dr. George Diaz, the head of infectious diseases at Providence Regional Medical Center in Seattle, treated that patient. Diaz would later learn how to isolate COVID-19 patients properly, how to protect hospital staff and how to treat the illness.”We used Remdesivir, which was a new anti-viral at the time. He was the first patient to receive this drug in the world, and he had a good response to treatment,” Diaz told ABC’s Nightline.”Patient No. 1″ was treated for five days before being released from the hospital, Diaz said. One year later, he is “doing great,” Diaz said.”He’s fully recovered and back to his normal life,” Diaz said. “Many people survive the illness but have lots of medical problems afterwards. Fortunately, Patient One recovered well.” Jan 22, 10:10 amFrance to require negative COVID-19 test for all arrivals by boat or planeFrench President Emmanuel Macron announced that all travelers arriving by boat or plane will have to test negative for COVID-19 before entering the country.The new measure, which goes into effect Sunday, includes visitors from within the European Union as well as those outside the regional bloc. They must take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test up to three days before departure and provide evidence of a negative result before they travel, according to a statement from Macron’s office released late Thursday.People traveling for essential reasons, such as cross-border or ground transportation workers, will be exempt from the requirement. People arriving from other EU member states by train or car will also be exempt.France has the sixth-highest tally of diagnosed COVID-19 cases in the world, after the United States, India, Brazil, Russia and the United Kingdom, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.The European nation of 67 million people confirmed another 22,848 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, along with an additional 358 fatalities from the disease. That brings the cumulative totals to 2,987,965 cases and 71,998 deaths, according to the latest data from France’s public health agency.

Jan 22, 9:03 amFauci says lack of truthfulness from Trump administration ‘very likely’ cost American lives

When asked during an interview Friday on CNN’s New Day about whether the Trump administration’s lack of truthfulness in some cases regarding the coronavirus pandemic had cost American lives, Dr. Anthony Fauci said “it very likely did.”

“I don’t want that, John, to be a soundbite, but I think if you just look at that you can see that when when you’re starting to go down paths that are not based on any science at all,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s John Berman. “Particularly when you’re in the situation of almost being in a crisis with the number of cases and hospitalizations and deaths that we have — when you start talking about things that make no sense medically and no sense scientifically, that clearly is not helpful.”Fauci, who was a member of former President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, had disagreed with Trump on how to approach the pandemic. At one point, Trump suggested he was considering firing Fauci.

“There’s no secret, we’ve had a lot of divisiveness,” Fauci, who is now the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, told CNN. “We’ve had facts that were very, very clear that were questioned. People were not trusting what health officials were saying.”Jan 22, 9:00 amNFL invites vaccinated health care workers to Super Bowl The National Football League announced Friday that it’s inviting 7,500 vaccinated health care workers to attend the Feb. 7 Super Bowl in Florida “to thank and honor them for their continued extraordinary service during the pandemic.”

Jan 22, 6:12 amReports that Japan is looking to cancel Tokyo Olympics are ‘categorically untrue,’ government saysReports that the Japanese government has privately concluded that the upcoming Tokyo Olympics will have to be canceled are “categorically untrue,” according to Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat of the Headquarters for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”The renewed schedules and venues for the Tokyo 2020 Games, starting with the Opening Ceremony on July 23 this year, were determined at the IOC Session in July last year. All parties involved are working together to prepare for the successful Games this summer,” the cabinet secretariat said in a statement Friday. “We will implement all possible countermeasures against COVID-19 and continue to work closely with the IOC, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in our preparations for holding a safe and secure Games this summer.”The statement follows a report published Thursday evening by British newspaper The Times, which cited “a senior member of the ruling coalition” who said there is agreement that the Games are doomed and the focus now is on securing the event for the Japanese capital in the next available year, 2032.The 2020 Summer Olympics were supposed to kick off in Tokyo last year on July 24. But in late March, amid mounting calls to delay or cancel the upcoming Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japan’s prime minister announced that the event would be held a year later due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Games are now scheduled to open in Tokyo this summer on July 23, but doubt has surfaced as Japan — and much of the world — grapples with a resurgence of COVID-19 infections.

Jan 22, 5:21 amUS reports over 188,000 new casesThere were 188,952 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the United States on Thursday, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.Thursday’s case count is lower than the country’s all-time high of 298,031 new cases, which were confirmed on Jan. 2, Johns Hopkins data shows.An additional 3,955 fatalities from COVID-19 were registered nationwide on Thursday, down from a 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 24,631,890 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 410,349 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 22, 4:26 am’There is no plan B’ for Tokyo Olympics, IOC chief saysDespite rising COVID-19 infections in Japan, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said Thursday that there is “no reason whatsoever” to believe the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on July 23 as planned.”This is why there is no plan B and this is why we are fully committed to make these games safe and successful,” Bach told Japanese news agency Kyodo in an interview Thursday.However, Bach admitted he could not guarantee that the stands would be full or rule out the possibility that the Games would be held without spectators, according to Kyodo.The 2020 Summer Olympics were supposed to kick off in Tokyo last year on July 24. But in late March, amid mounting calls to delay or cancel the upcoming Games, the International Olympic Committee and Japan’s prime minister announced that the event would be held a year later due to the coronavirus pandemic.Now, Japan is facing a resurgence of COVID-19. The country of 126 million people reported the highest number of new cases in the Western Pacific region last week. The infection rate — currently at 32.8 cases per 100,000 people — increased by 4% over the previous week, according to the World Health Organization’s latest COVID-19 weekly epidemiological update.The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare confirmed 5,662 new cases of COVID-19 as well as an additional 87 fatalities from the disease on Thursday, bringing the cumulative totals to 348,646 cases and 4,829 deaths.Japanase Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and 10 other prefectures due to climbing case counts and growing death tolls.Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.