Coronavirus Now: COVID-19 Updates for January 21

As of January 21, confirmed cases of COVID-19 now number more than 97 million around the world, including more than 24 million cases in the United States and more than 413,000 U.S. deaths. You can see a breakdown of coronavirus cases throughout the world and within the U.S. on the map and chart above.

Below you’ll find updates on the latest news about the coronavirus.

January 21 News Updates

U.S. Surge May Have Peaked

In some good news, a number of researchers believe the current surge in the U.S. may have peaked, NPR reported. Ali Mokdad of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said that the numbers are very slowly coming down. Hospitals are still overwhelmed, but the number of hospitalized patients nationwide is decreasing. This doesn’t mean there won’t be another surge in the future, but the current one may be on a downward trend. However, it will need to maintain the trend for several weeks before the CDC says the outbreak peaked.

Biden Signs 10 Executive Orders to Combat COVID-19

Dr. Anthony Fauci shared that President Joe Biden issued a directive to remain a member of the World Health Organization, CNBC reported.

Fauci also said: “President Biden will issue a directive later today which will include the intent of the United States to join COVAX and support the ACT-Accelerator to advance multilateral efforts for Covid-19 vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostic distribution, equitable access, and research and development.”

Biden’s 10 executive orders, CNBC reported, include mandating masks on public transportation and federal property, requiring international travelers to have a COVID-19 test before entering the U.S., using the Defense Production Act to compel companies to produce PPE, tests, and vaccines. Trump’s administration previously used the act to compel the production of ventilators and supplies.

Biden’s administration will also give funding for distributing vaccines, direct FEMA to set up vaccination centers, establish a COVID-19 Response Office, improve federal data collection, establish a new treatment development program, establish a new pandemic testing board, collect scientific data on school reopenings, and ensure harder hit communities have equal access to vaccines, masks, treatments, and the like.

Italy May Sue Pfizer Over Vaccine Delays

Italy plans to sue Pfizer over vaccine delays, The New York Times reported. Pfizer and BioNTech reportedly are delivering fewer doses to EU countries this week than expected because they’re changing the production process.

Italy’s special commissioner for the pandemic, Domenico Arcuri, said Pfizer won’t be able to make up the shortfall the following week, and they worry this will slow the vaccination program.

Eli Lilly’s Antibody Treatment May Reduce Nursing Home Deaths

Eli Lilly’s antibody treatment may reduce nursing home deaths, AP reported. Residents and staff saw a 57% lower risk of getting COVID-19, while residents alone who got the IV treatment saw an 80% lower risk of contracting COVID-19. The one-time treatment has an emergency use authorization for people ages 12 and up who have mild or moderate cases. Eli Lilly wants the use expanded for treating or preventing COVID-19 in nursing homes.

China Puts Tens of MIllions Into Lockdown

Ahead of a big holiday season and with a surge in the virus, China has instituted a lockdown of tens of millions, CBS News reported. China is also building a quarantine camp with 4,000 isolation units in the Hebei Province outside of Beijing. The isolation center will hold close contacts and secondary contacts of COVID-19 patients. Each room is 194-square-feet and has a bathroom, 5G WiFi, a TV, desks, chairs, and a bed.

In the Hebei Province, there have been 800 locally transmitted cases in January. Authorities will test all 11 million residents of Shijiazhuang within three days and have locked down the city until then.

Vaccine Updates

GettyA woman leaves Life Care Center of Kirkland on February 29, 2020, in Kirkland, Washington.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead for COVID-19, has said that WHO doesn’t believe the new coronavirus variant in the UK will have any negative impact on the vaccine, Global News reported. WHO’s emergency expert, Mike Ryan, said multiple variants have been identified over the last few months, but none have had greater severity or diminished the vaccine’s efficacy.

Results from Pfizer’s (and Germany’s BioNTech) vaccine trial point to the vaccine being more than 90% effective, The New York Times reported in early November. Some Pfizer trial participants said the side effects are worse than the flu shot, CNBC reported, although they’re not as bad as getting severe COVID-19. One participant said his chills were so bad that he cracked a tooth. Another said he had a low-grade fever and fatigue equivalent to having the flu. He was better by the next day.

The UK warned that people with serious allergic reactions to a vaccine, medicine, or food — or who have had near-fatal allergic reactions — shouldn’t get the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine, based on two reactions seen on the first day of publicly available vaccinations, AP News reported. Investigators are looking into exactly what happened to the recipients, who are NHS staff members and carried EpiPens for severe allergies. Both received treatment and recovered.

The FDA is investigating allergic reactions to the Pfizer vaccine in multiple states, The Hill reported in December. There were five reactions, including in Alaska. The FDA isn’t sure what’s causing the reactions, but is considering polyethylene glycol as a possible source. The FDA maintains that most Americans with allergies are safe to get the vaccine.

Two people have tested positive for coronavirus after getting the vaccine. However, because it can take people weeks to develop antibodies after getting the vaccine, this has no bearing on the vaccine’s efficacy. The first dose of the Pfizer vaccine also gives about 50% protection, with that rising to 95% after the second dose. Read more in Heavy’s story here.

In mid-November, company data indicated that Moderna’s vaccine was 94.5% effective, CNN reported. Out of 15,000 participants who got the vaccine, only five developed COVID-19 and none were severely ill. Out of 15,000 given a placebo, 90 developed COVID-19 and 11 had a severe form of the disease. Side effects like body aches and headaches were reported in some participants.

Moderna (and CanSino) both stopped giving high doses for the second dose because of the side effects, StatNews reported. Moderna’s current vaccine uses the lower dose for the second dose.

New data released in mid-December shows that Moderna’s vaccine is highly protective, The New York Times reported. The vaccine had an efficacy of 94.1% in a trial with 30,000 participants. Side effects were not dangerous but were unpleasant, including fever, headache, and fatigue. These occurred after the second dose most commonly and people may need to take a day off work after getting the vaccine. No one who received the vaccine in trials developed severe COVID, although 30 people in the placebo group did. Three people developed Bell’s palsy in the vaccine group (and one did in the placebo group), but it was not at a higher rate than would be expected in the general population without a vaccine.

Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines use mRNA, which teaches the body’s immune system to make antibodies to the protein spikes. This would be the first mRNA vaccine on the market.

On November 19, it was announced that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine clinical trials showed it was safe and triggered a good immune response in people of all ages, CNBC reported. The vaccine (ChAdOx1 nCoV-19) had few side effects, according to The Lancet. The vaccine was about 62% effective in people who got two full doses, BBC reported in late November. Another trial showed about 90% efficacy in 3,000 people who got a half-dose first and then a full dose the second time rather than two full-sized doses, which is being studied in more detail. The Oxford vaccine is made from an adenovirus that was modified to help human cells create the spoke protein so the immune system can recognize it, Nature reported.

AstraZeneca is also testing a component of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in its own clinical trials, according to a press release. The Russian vaccine uses two inoculations based on two different human adenovirus vectors, delivering genetic material from the coronavirus’ spike.

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, Sky News reported. The vaccine will start to be rolled out on January 4. People receiving this or the Pfizer vaccine will get their second dose about 12 weeks after the first.

Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccine is 92% effective after evaluating 16,000 participants, The Indian Express reported. Russians who receive the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine are being asked not to drink alcohol for two months after, the New York Post reported. This is the amount of time they said it takes the vaccine to be effective and alcohol can be a strain on the body’s immune response, the experts said.

Novavax announced that in its Phase 1 vaccine trial for NVX-CoV2373, antibodies were induced in 100% of participants, The Motley Fool reported. The vaccine had mild side effects, typically worse with the second dose. On November 9, it was granted fast-track designation by the FDA and is in late-phase clinical development. this vaccine uses a proprietary MatrixM adjuvant. It’s not using an mRNA vaccine, ScienceMag reported. Instead, Novavax is using a baculovirus to insert a gene for the spike protein, harvesting the spike proteins and using that in an adjuvant.

Inovio is working on a vaccine called the INO-4800 DNA vaccine. Inovio announced positive results from two Phase I clinical trials in early July. The Phase 1 trial was expanded to include older participants in June and July. On November 16, Inovio announced that it was starting the Phase 2 portion of its Phase 2/3 trial. This is a nucleic-based vaccine that will be stable at room temperature for more than a year and doesn’t need to be frozen.

Kaiser Permanente in Washington began enrolling Phase 3 volunteers for Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary Janssen’s vaccine, KPWashington Research reported in late October. These trials are sponsored by NIAID. KPWHRI has also been testing a Moderna vaccine. Janssen’s vaccine uses a human adenovirus to express the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Johnson & Johnson had to temporarily pause trials for a safety concern for its modified adenovirus vaccine (similar to Oxford’s.) It has a Phase III study in place for 60,000 volunteers, The Indian Express reported.

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline vaccine early trials were disappointing, The New York Times reported in mid-December. The vaccines didn’t produce a good immune response in older participants, although it did in people under 50.

Coronavirus Trends in the United States

An interactive map from shows recent trends in deaths per state over the last 14 and 7 days, using seven-day averages from Johns Hopkins’ data. You can view the full map here. Green means the trend is decreasing, red means the deaths are increasing. Circles show the prior 14 days and triangles show the prior seven days. When using the map, be sure and read the “Map Tips” in the upper left corner to learn how to turn overlay layers on and off. The map legend can also be found under “Map Tips.”

Open this map full screen.

If you are concerned about your symptoms, talk with your doctor right away.

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