COVID Live Updates: US surpasses 400K deaths; new variant in California

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- The United States has surpassed 400,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

At least 20 states are reporting new cases of the more-contagious COVID variant first found overseas, but in Los Angeles, more than one-third of COVID patients are believed to be carrying a newly-discovered California variant.

Doctors say the mutation is likely to blame for the recent explosion in cases.

Funeral homes in LA County are so overwhelmed that cemeteries can't keep up.

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Here are more of today's headlines:

Andrew Yang in quarantine
Andrew Yang, who launched an aggressive campaign with multiple public events daily since announcing a mayoral run, will be campaigning virtually for the next eight days after a member of his campaign staff tested positive.

Yang has tested negative and is not experiencing any symptoms. But he will not rejoin the campaign until he receives a negative PCR test after eight days.

CT announces tiered approach to phase 1B vaccine appointments
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced the tiered approach to Phase 1b will proceed as follows:

-Scheduling now: Individuals over the age of 75
-Scheduling next (likely early February): Individuals between the ages of 65 and 74
-Scheduling soon (likely late February or early March): Frontline essential workers and individuals with underlying medical conditions who have an increased risk for severe illness

NJ extends public health emergency for another 30 days
Governor Phil Murphy Tuesday extended the public health emergency in New Jersey for another 30 days.

The governor said New Jersey has built the capacity for an aggressive vaccination push, with four mega-sites open and two more coming online soon. As far as county-run and community-based sites, 130 are open and 100 to come online soon.

US surpasses 400,000 deaths from COVID
The US death toll from COVID-19 tops 400,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The current coronavirus death toll sits at 400,022.

18 family members get COVID-19 after holiday gathering in Pennsylvania
A family's holiday party in Pennsylvania turned out to be its own superspreader event.

It was on Dec. 26 that 55-year-old Darlene Reynolds woke up with a scratchy tickle in her throat. This was one day before she was planning to have family members come over from as far as Canada for a holiday gathering.

"I had no fever because I kept checking it - no fever, no fever, no fever. I said, 'I'll keep a distance since I have a tiny little cough,'" said Reynolds. The next day, family members arrived for the party. Soon, she said, people started getting sick.

'I deserved it': 18-year-old jailed for breaking COVID-19 quarantine says she's learned her lesson
The 18-year-old sentenced to two months behind bars in the Cayman Islands for breaking quarantine rules is now apologizing for what she did.

"It was a selfish decision. There's no reason that I can give you to grant me a second chance. I don't expect anybody to ever forgive me, but I would like for them to at least let me be able to show them that I did learn from it," Sylar Mack said in an interview with GMA.

The inequities of PPP: Megachurches receive money ahead of small businesses
With the government set to issue a new round of business loans as part of its latest COVID-19 relief bill, struggling small businesses, like Thereasa Black's gelato shop, are hoping for more than a miracle.

Black said she applied for grants and applied for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program in April, which aims to help small business owners like her stay afloat. After a painstaking application process, Black said she was approved for only $2,000. She said it wasn't even enough to cover one month's rent.

'Long-haulers': Clinics open to help people still feeling effects of COVID-19 months later
Like so much else in the pandemic, the scientific picture of so-called long-haulers is still developing. It's not clear how prevalent long-term COVID problems are or why some patients keep suffering while others do not.

Current indications are that up to 30% of patients continue to have significant problems that intrude on daily life two to three weeks after testing positive. Perhaps as many as 10% are still afflicted three to six months later, according to Dr. Wesley Self, a Vanderbilt University emergency physician and researcher who co-wrote a July report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

NYC running low on vaccine supply
Mayor Bill de Blasio said 220,000 New Yorkers were vaccinated in the city last week for a total of 455,737. He says the city has just 92,000 first doses of the vaccine left. The city will run out by Friday and be forced to shut vaccination centers down on Thursday of this week. The mayor said that if the city gets a resupply, they can vaccinate 300,000 in a week. If vaccine centers close, the city will receive a resupply on Tuesday next week and centers would reopen on Wednesday.

Port Chester schools resume in-person hybrid learning
Thousands of students in one Westchester County village headed back to the classroom Tuesday for the first time in two months after becoming an orange zone amid the coronavirus pandemic. Port Chester Public Schools returned to hybrid in-person attendance after going fully remote in November amid a spike in COVID-19 cases in the town. Still, school officials urged anyone who has recently traveled to observe the mandated New York State travel quarantine guidelines.

New York COVID vaccine struggle
Pfizer denied New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's request to buy shots directly from the drugmaker, saying they need federal permission first.

"It would be a first," he said. "Look, my job as governor of New York is to pursue every avenue and that's what I'm doing. If Pfizer would agree to sell, then we would have that conversation, but first they have to agree to sell."

Cuomo blasted the Trump administration for pushing states to increase eligibility while promising additional doses to cover demand, but those doses never arrived. The state is receiving a quarter-million vaccines per week, with more than 7 million New Yorkers now eligible. It could take 7 months to get them vaccinated before anyone else is eligible.

MTA will postpone planned fare increase
MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye said the transit agency will postpone the planned fare increase for several months. He released a statement that said in part:

"The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked economic havoc -- devastating the MTA's ridership and revenues and bringing them to levels far worse than the Great Depression. It has also hit people of color and low income communities hardest, many of whom are the very same essential workers that have been on the frontlines of this crisis and who are also most dependent on mass transit. As part of our biennial review of fare and toll policy, the MTA conducted the unprecedented level of outreach this year required, holding eight public hearings and receiving 2,100 public comments. What we heard at these hearings was that people are suffering and cannot shoulder even a modest fare increase right now."


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