The U.S. vaccine rollout is picking up speed after a slow start and could be fully on track within a week or so, said Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. Officials with the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed are exploring making the vaccine available to more people by offering half-doses of a Moderna Inc. shot to people ages 18 to 55.
New infections in Arizona spiked to a record, while New York’s cases slowed a day after the state passed 1 million cumulative infections.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said tougher lockdown measures in England, including school closings, will probably be needed. Ireland reported record new cases for a second consecutive day and Norway tightened restrictions.
South Dakota Passes 100,000 Cases (5:56 p.m. NY)
South Dakota passed 100,000 infections after reporting another 703 cases on Sunday. The state reported another 12 deaths, a day after reaching 1,500 total fatalities. The state, which has resisted mask mandates and other restrictions, was among the hardest-hit in the virus wave that swept through the Midwest this fall. But cases, deaths and hospitalizations have been dropping since November.
Ghana to Reopen Schools (5:37 p.m. NY)
Ghana is reopening schools from Jan. 15, after the spread of the coronavirus prompted the government to halt all in-person learning in March. Nearly all public and private school students will resume on Jan. 15, except for some secondary school classes which will resume in March, President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a televised broadcast on Sunday.
Outbreak at California Hospital May Be Linked to ‘Air Powered’ Costume (5:15 p.m. NY)
A California hospital is investigating whether a staffer who wore an inflatable “air powered” costume on Christmas caused a Covid-19 outbreak that infected 44 staff members. The staffers at Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center tested positive between Dec. 27 and Jan. 1.
“Any exposure, if it occurred, would have been completely innocent, and quite accidental, as the individual had no COVID symptoms and only sought to lift the spirits of those around them during what is a very stressful time,” Irene Chavez, senior vice president and area manager for the medical center, said in a statement.
Denmark Extends U.K. Travel Ban (3:58 p.m. NY)
Denmark extended its ban on travelers arriving from the U.K. and also advised Danes against visiting the country on business trips due to fears over the new mutation of the coronavirus. The ban on travelers from the U.K., which covers all non-Danish citizens or citizens without a Danish residence, will last until Jan. 17, the ministry of justice in Copenhagen said in a statement on Sunday.
N.Y.C. Positive Test Rate Again Above 9% (2:40 p.m. NY)
New York City’s rolling seven-day average of positive tests topped 9% for the third consecutive day, a level that compares with less than 2% in November. New hospitalizations increased to 213 and new cases rose to 3,885, based on a seven-day average, Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted.
California’s New Hospitalizations Add to Health-Care Burden (2:15 p.m. NY)
California’s hospitalizations remained at one of the highest levels as an increase in infections following Christmas further strained the health-care system.
The state added 45,352 new cases, bringing the total to almost 2.4 million. An additional 181 new deaths were reported, with the total at 26,538. Intensive-care capacity stands at zero across Southern California as hospitals strain to add space to cater to an increased patient load.
The test positivity rate of 12.3% is also at one of its highest levels since the initial peak of the outbreak. Hospitalizations increased by 307 to 21,510. California has a stay-home order for most of the state.
The Greater Los Angeles area, epicenter of the latest wave, reported that Covid-19 hospitalizations decreased by 83 to 7,544, marking the first drop in weeks. More than one in five of these patients are in intensive care.
The county added 12,488 new cases, bringing the total to 818,639 — or almost one in every 12 people in the county of 10 million. Deaths rose by 91 to 10,773.
Norway Reimposes Curbs (2:11 p.m. NY)
Norway is tightening restrictions amid evidence that infections are rising after the Christmas and New Year holidays. Prime Minister Erna Solberg said it will be forbidden to serve alcohol in restaurants and bars, while private gatherings outside the home will be limited to five people. The measures, which also advise limiting social visits and postponing sporting and cultural events, will be in place for an initial 14 days.
France Cases Rise Amid Criticism of Vaccine Rollout (2:03 p.m. NY)
France reported 12,489 new cases on Sunday, compared with 3,466 registered on Saturday. Deaths rose by 116 to 65,037 in Sunday’s update, the smallest increase since Oct. 25.
The government is facing criticism for the slow start to the country’s vaccination campaign. It’s too soon to draw conclusions after “only six days” of vaccinations, Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari told BFM TV.
France’s goal is to inoculate 26 million people by summer, he said. That would be about 40% of the population. France expects to vaccinate 1 million people by the end of January, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on LCI.
Schools will reopen as planned on Monday, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said on BFM TV, even as worries mount about a potential surge in new Covid-19 cases after year-end festivities.
New Strain to Expand Quickly in U.S., Gottlieb Says (1:45 p.m. NY)
Incidence of the new, more infectious strain of the coronavirus will rise sharply in the U.S. over the next few months, said former Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb.
“There are some estimates that the new variant probably represents about 1% of all infections in this country. By March, it’s going to be the majority of infections. It’s going to grow quickly,” Gottlieb said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” The new variant has been found in at least three states after emerging in the U.K.
Gottlieb, a board member of Pfizer Inc., said the trend further raised the need for a more rapid rollout of the vaccination regime against Covid-19, which has been off to a slow start but is picking up pace, according to U.S. health officials on Sunday.
Moderna Vaccine Dose May Be Cut in Half (1:37 p.m. NY)
Officials from Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. government’s vaccine drive, are asking Moderna Inc. and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to cut in half the dose of the company’s Covid-19 vaccination for people ages 18 to 55 after finding that it induces the same immune response, Chief Scientific Adviser Moncef Slaoui
That would double the amount of vaccine available for the age group, while providing the same level of protection, he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
New York State Cases Slow; Cuomo Stumps for Vaccine (1:23 p.m. NY)
New York state reported 11,368 cases, after three consecutive days with more than 15,000 new infections and one day after the state passed 1 million cases. Hospitalizations ticked up to 7,963, as did the rate of positive tests, to 7.98%, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a tweet. Another 138 people died.
Cuomo spoke Sunday at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, assuring the largely Black congregation that the vaccine would be distributed fairly as he worked to overcome reluctance to take a vaccine he said is safe and effective.
“I understand that people are skeptical about government,” Cuomo said. But, he said, “We all need to have faith and trust in the vaccine.”
Ireland Hits Record for Second Straight Day (1:04 p.m. NY)
Ireland recorded almost 5,000 new infections, signaling what health authorities called a significant surge in the virus.
The government may introduce additional curbs such as reducing the distance people can travel from home to 2 kilometers from 5 kilometers (to 1.25 miles from 3 miles), Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said Sunday. Most sectors are already locked down with bars, restaurants, nonessential stores and personal services such as hairdressers shuttered.
Hospitalizations rose 16% to 685 in the past 24 hours, the country’s emergency task force said.
L.A. Spread Is Warning for Entire U.S., Mayor Says (1:01 p.m. NY)
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said household spread is driving Covid-19 in his metro area and more sparsely populated places in the U.S. should recognize the risk. “This is the darkest month we will have,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“We might not all have the same density as Los Angeles, but what’s happening in Los Angeles can and will be coming to many communities across America,” Garcetti said.
Vaccine doses haven’t arrived at the levels promised by the government, putting Los Angeles on track to deliver shots “over five years instead of over half a year at this pace,” he said.
Arizona Cases Spike (11:57 a.m. NY)
Arizona on Sunday reported 17,234 new cases, a record that far surpassed any previous single-day tally in the state. It brought the total number of cases to 556,384 since the pandemic began, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
A department spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the surge reflected a holiday backlog of cases. The state reported no new Covid-19 deaths, leaving the toll at 9,061.
Italy Cases Accelerate, Deaths Slow (11:11 a.m. NY)
Italy reported 347 Covid-19 deaths Sunday, down from 364 a day earlier, and 14,245 new cases versus 11,831 the previous day as the government struggled to tame the outbreak.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte met with leaders of his ruling coalition’s parties to discuss new measures to combat the pandemic after winter holiday travel and business restrictions expire Jan. 6.