Coronavirus updates: US tops 4K daily deaths for second time; California lifts shelter order for 13 counties; Texas has 2M cases

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USA TODAY is keeping track of the news surrounding COVID-19 as a pair of vaccines join the U.S. fight against a virus that has killed 380,000 Americans since the first reported fatality in February. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates surrounding the coronavirus, including who is getting the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, as well as other top news from across the USA TODAY Network. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates directly to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions for everything you need to know about the coronavirus.

In the headlines:

► California has lifted a stay-at-home order for 13 northern counties with improving hospital conditions, but most of the state’s population remains under tight restrictions in the pandemic. The state on Tuesday lifted the order in the Sacramento region – a rare turn of good news as the state pushes through what Gov. Gavin Newsom called its “most intense surge” of the coronavirus.

► The U.S. topped 4,000 daily coronavirus deaths Tuesday for the second time, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The first time was Jan. 8. 

► Scientists have identified a mutation that may decrease the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. The mutation, first spotted in South Africa two months ago, has since spread to 12 other countries.

► Recent analysis of late-stage trials found China’s COVID-19 candidate vaccine, CoronaVac, has an overall effectiveness of 50.38%, the Butantan Institute said Tuesday in Sao Paulo, Brazil. While the vaccine meets the threshold for regulatory approval, it’s a disappointing descent from early results that showed it was 78% effective.

► Texas has become the second state to surpass 2 million COVID-19 cases, a milestone passed in June for the nation. California was the first state to report the marker in December.

► Travelers flying into the United States from international destinations will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flight, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. The policy will go into effect Jan. 26.

► Los Angeles County is asking residents to wear masks at home if they go out for work or to get groceries, the Los Angeles Times reported, as the region nears 1 million virus cases.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 1.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 380,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 91 million cases and 1.9 million deaths.

📘 What we’re reading: U.S. hospitals are on the brink – but COVID-19 isn’t slowing down. “Absolutely, it’s what we feared,” the chief health care officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges told USA TODAY. Read more here.

What will COVID-19 look like in the future? Possibly another common cold, study says

SARS-CoV-2 “could join the ranks of mild, cold-causing … human coronaviruses in the long run,” according to a model developed by Emory University and Penn State University scientists.

The model, published Jan. 12 in the peer-reviewed journal Science, compares the deadly virus to four common cold coronaviruses plus the SARS and MERS viruses, which surfaced in 2003 and 2012, respectively.

Researchers determined from the model that if the coronavirus continues to circulate in the general population and most people are exposed to it from childhood, it could be added to the list of common colds.

Study authors concede the model makes some assumptions about the coronavirus and common colds that is not known yet, but a the take-home message is “the critical need for broad-scale vaccination may wane in the near term,” said Ottar Bjornstad, study author distinguished professor of entomology at Penn State University.

Some states speed up vaccine distribution while others push back on federal changes

Facing a slower-than-hoped coronavirus vaccine rollout, officials around the nation shifted gears Tuesday to accelerate the delivery of shots to more people. 

The U.S. government is asking states to speed up COVID-19 vaccinations to people over 65 and others at risk instead of holding back vaccines for a second dose. The government will also stop holding back the required second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

The change had immediate effects in New York where Gov. Andrew Cuomo expanded the vaccine eligibility requirements to follow the new CDC guidelines. Idaho will implement the guidelines Feb. 1 Gov. Brad Little said. Pennsylvania and New Jersey are other states that say they’re “immediately” expanding vaccination guidelines to include patients 65 and older. 

However, other states are pushing back on federal guidance citing supply concerns. Rhode Island Department of Health spokesman Joseph Wendelken said the state does not plan on expanding vaccinations to people 65 and older, citing supply concerns. Iowa’s health department said the state may consider adopting new guidelines “once we have reasonable confidence that supply meets the demands of this broader eligibility criteria.” 

Hospitals face COVID-19 surge, staff shortages and rising deaths

Four states with the largest share of hospital beds occupied with COVID-19 patients – California, Arizona, Nevada and Georgia – are struggling to keep pace with the unprecedented surge. 

In Los Angeles, public hospitals are preparing to shift to crisis mode, and the county has instructed ambulances to not send patients to overburdened hospitals if they can’t be revived in the field. More than two dozen Georgia hospitals have no available beds in intensive care units, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

While public health officials are optimistic widespread vaccination will provide a glimmer of hope this spring, there’s no respite now for doctors and nurses in overburdened emergency rooms and intensive care units. 

– Ken Alltucker

More lawmakers test positive for COVID-19 after US Capitol riot

Multiple lawmakers have said they tested positive for the coronavirus after Wednesday’s riot in the Capitol. The latest is Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.

“I just received a positive COVID-19 test result after being locked down in a secured room at the Capitol where several Republicans not only cruelly refused to wear a mask but recklessly mocked colleagues and staff who offered them one,” Jayapal wrote Tuesday on Twitter. 

Fellow Democratic Reps. Brad Schneider of Illinois and Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey have also tested positive after being forced into the secured room during the Capitol siege.

On Sunday, the attending physician for Congress said elected officials and their staff  were potentially exposed to someone infected with COVID-19 while the Capitol was locked down during an armed incursion by pro-Trump rioters. Dozens of lawmakers have been infected with the virus during the pandemic.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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