Please Note

The Washington Post is providing this important information about the coronavirus for free. For more free coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter where all stories are free to read.

As new coronavirus cases in the United States rise precipitously after the holidays, health experts are urging states and the federal government to speed up vaccine distribution, which has proved a logistical nightmare.

“In large metro areas such as Boston, Washington, D.C., and Houston, we need to be vaccinating at least 10,000 people every day for the next eight months to stay on target,” vaccine expert Peter Hotez wrote for The Washington Post. “We are not even close to that,” he added.

Here are some significant developments:

Sign up for our coronavirus newsletter | Mapping the spread of the coronavirus: Across the U.S. | Worldwide | Vaccine tracker | Has someone close to you died of covid-19? Share your story with The Washington Post.

3:45 a.m.
Link copied
link

At CES this year: Smart masks, stickers to detect covid, robot comfort cats

SAN FRANCISCO — At CES, the tech industry’s biggest showcase, covid-19 has inspired new products to power extreme digital living. Here comes a big WiFi update, smart masks and even robot comfort cats.

The pandemic has also forced the event online. Instead of gathering 171,268 geeks in Las Vegas for a week of gadget demos, schmoozing and hiking conference halls, CES this year is all virtual, featuring thousands of competing Zoom streams at all times of day and night. We warmed up our webcams and watched hours of product presentations so you don’t have to.

Sure, the news may be focused on fighting a killer virus and America’s constitutional crisis. But in a way, consumer tech has never been more relevant. Hear us out: Sales for the U.S. tech industry hit historic highs in 2020 according to the NPD Group, rising 17 percent because so many people were buying notebooks, tablets, headphones, TVs and smartwatches.

3:00 a.m.
Link copied
link

Hunting pastime spikes during pandemic. Conservationists are glad. Here’s why.

Conservationists and wildlife officials have spent years trying to stave off the decline of hunting in America. In 2020, they finally saw a glimmer of hope.

“I’ve been working on this issue for 15 years,” said Matt Dunfee, the director of special programs at the Wildlife Management Institute, a national conservation nonprofit group that focuses on restoring wildlife populations. “All I needed was a pandemic.”

For decades, the number of hunters — who are mostly older, White males — has steadily dwindled. That’s led to a loss of conservation funding at state wildlife agencies, which largely rely on license sales to support their budgets. But, unexpectedly, officials in nearly every state have reported a moderate-to-massive spike in hunting in 2020.

“I’d say that the pandemic definitely played a role in getting me out in the woods,” said Senna Redin, a Minnesota resident who harvested a deer after hunting for the first time in 2019.

2:15 a.m.
Link copied
link

Vaccine requirements for travel would be ‘discrimination,’ global tourism group says

Following indications by lawmakers and at least one airline that vaccination against the coronavirus could become a requirement for international travel, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) on Monday said mandating inoculations would be discriminatory.

In a Reuters panel discussion where health experts also expressed a long road to global herd immunity, the head of the organization called for global prioritization of “vulnerable groups,” and admonished those touting potential vaccine requirements for a return to travel.

“We should never require the vaccination to get a job or to travel,” WTTC chief executive Gloria Guevara said in the Reuters video panel. “If you require the vaccination before travel, that takes us to discrimination.”

1:30 a.m.
Link copied
link

President of Portugal tests positive for coronavirus

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa of Portugal has tested positive for the coronavirus just two weeks before he seeks reelection on Jan. 24, his office confirmed Monday.

The 72-year-old president, who is ahead in the polls, will self-isolate at his official residence in Lisbon and has informed the president of parliament, Prime Minister António Costa and Health Minister Marta Temido of his diagnosis, his office said in a statement shared on his official website.

De Sousa has canceled public appearances, including a presidential debate on Tuesday and a meeting with health officials to discuss details of a planned lockdown, Reuters reported.

De Sousa previously tested negative for the coronavirus on Wednesday after coming in close contact with an adviser who was infected and so decided to resume work, according to local news reports.

Portugal’s government is considering tougher restrictions and a potential new lockdown as it faces an alarming surge of cases. A daily record of 10,027 new cases was confirmed Wednesday, according to official reports.

More than 7,800 people have died of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in this European nation of about 10 million.

“If the very likely evolution [of the pandemic] is confirmed next week, we will have to adopt more restrictive measures as it has happened in other European nations,” Costa told reporters last week.

“General confinement measures could be adopted,” he said.

12:51 a.m.
Link copied
link

Experts predict what the 2021 housing market will bring

A bright spot in an otherwise dreary 2020 was the residential real estate market. After briefly retrenching at the beginning of the pandemic, home sales soared. A lack of homes on the market and low mortgage rates caused prices to skyrocket. Rising prices lifted home values, creating more wealth for homeowners.

But not everything was rosy. As of this month, 5.2 percent of mortgages, or 2.7 million, are in forbearance, according to Black Knight. That represents $547 billion in unpaid principal.

Experts are forecasting increased demand from buyers who delayed purchasing homes due to the pandemic. The ability to tour homes and close on purchases virtually will make buying a home simpler in 2021.

12:00 a.m.
Link copied
link

Three gorillas infected with coronavirus at San Diego Zoo

Three gorillas at the San Diego Zoo have been infected with the coronavirus, the first reported gorilla cases in the United States, the Agriculture Department announced Monday.

While other animals have been infected with the virus, scientists have expressed concerns about the virus in primates because of their biological similarities with humans, noting primates are susceptible to human respiratory diseases, sometimes fatally.

Gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park were tested after two began coughing.

The three infected gorillas are “expected to fully recover,” according to a news release from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a USDA agency that tracks and reports on confirmed cases of the coronavirus in animals.

Scientists have found some viruses that cause mild symptoms in people have sickened and killed apes in several African nations.

Authorities suspect an asymptomatic staff member with the coronavirus infected the gorillas, the statement said.

The gorillas tested as presumptive positives for the virus at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, which then reported the results to state and federal officials.

As of November, 119 animals had tested positive for the coronavirus in the United States — mostly dogs and cats but minks, lions and tigers as well. Four tigers from New York were the first animals confirmed to have the virus, in March, according to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service database.

Most of the cases are presumed to be animals that had close contact with a person with the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no proof that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus to people but still advises socially distancing pets from non-household members and isolating pets from people with the virus.

11:15 p.m.
Link copied
link

Indiana becomes 9th state to detect U.K. covid-19 variant

The variant strain of covid-19 first identified in the United Kingdom has now been detected in Indiana, state health officials announced Monday.

More than 60 cases of the variant strain have been identified across nine states since it was first detected stateside two weeks ago in Colorado. The U.K. variant is believed to be at least 50 percent more contagious than the common strain, though health experts do not believe it causes more severe infection.

Indiana State Health Commissioner Kris Box noted in a statement Monday that viruses commonly mutate and that the best defense is to practice good hygiene and social distancing.

“Because this strain of the virus can be transmitted more easily, it’s more important than ever that Hoosiers continue to wear their masks, practice social distancing, maintain good hygiene and get vaccinated when they are eligible,” Box said.

Indiana is not as severely overloaded by the virus as hard-hit states like Arizona, California and Oklahoma, but its rate of new daily infections skews on the higher end with roughly 80 new cases daily per 100,000 people. Indiana’s infection rate is higher than its neighboring states Illinois, Michigan and Ohio; only Kentucky’s daily infection rate is worse.

Nearly 194,000 Indiana residents have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, with nearly 24,000 fully inoculated with both doses, according to the Indiana Department of Health.

11:00 p.m.
Link copied
link

Vitamin D sales are up. But experts still don’t know whether it can prevent or treat the coronavirus.

Interest in vitamin D supplements has spiked during the pandemic as many people have sought ways to improve their immune health. According to Nielsen data from December, sales for vitamin D supplements increased 41.5 percent year over year. But while more research has emerged suggesting a possible connection between vitamin D deficiencies and cases of covid-19, experts say there is not yet sufficient evidence to support taking supplements to prevent or treat the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“We don’t want to come to premature conclusions or kind of pin our hopes on the wrong mechanism,” said Hana Akselrod, an infectious-disease physician at George Washington University. “On the research side, we want to be as specific as possible about what actually gets people better or protects them from infection.”

Here is what we know so far about vitamin D and covid, and why experts are urging people to approach using supplements with caution in the absence of clear data from clinical trials.

10:30 p.m.
Link copied
link

With ‘worst weeks’ still ahead for Britain, Boris Johnson weighs tougher measures

LONDON — With infections rising throughout Britain, England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, warned Monday that the next few weeks could be the “worst” of the pandemic, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked the public for “maximum vigilance.” Tougher measures could be necessary if cases continue to rise, he said.

Speaking to the BBC, Whitty said Britain is in greater danger from the virus than before and urged the public to alleviate pressure on the country’s increasingly overburdened National Health Service by “minimizing the amount of unnecessary contacts.”

The new, highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus, which has been reported in more than 30 countries, is “everybody’s problem,” he said, adding that “the next few weeks are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers into the NHS.”

His warning came as Johnson said nationwide lockdown measures could be tightened if people failed to adhere to restrictions asking people to stay at home except for necessary travel.

“We’re going to keep the rules under constant review,” Johnson said Monday during a visit to a vaccination center in Bristol, England.

9:45 p.m.
Link copied
link

Wall Street retreats from record highs amid virus, political uncertainty

U.S. markets snapped their record-breaking streak Monday as investors waded through political and economic uncertainty amid the worsening pandemic.

Stocks got off to a strong 2021 start, with all major U.S. indexes notching back-to-back days of record closes at the end of last week — despite the assault on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob — as investors focused on the potential for greater government spending after the White House transition. But calls for the impeachment of President Trump raised the specter that the Biden administration could be kneecapped from the outset, at a time when the economic recovery is faltering and daily coronavirus infections and deaths are setting records.

9:00 p.m.
Link copied
link

Congresswoman tests positive for coronavirus after sheltering with some maskless lawmakers during siege of Capitol

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, a 75-year-old cancer survivor, has tested positive for the coronavirus after taking shelter in a room with other lawmakers, some of whom refused to wear masks, during last week’s violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

“I received a positive test result for COVID-19, and am home resting at this time,” she said in a statement. “While I am experiencing mild, cold-like symptoms, I remain in good spirits and will continue to work on behalf of my constituents.”

Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) said she believes she contracted the virus while in protected isolation during the riot. Many lawmakers were sheltered in a large committee room together as the mob stormed the Capitol.

8:15 p.m.
Link copied
link

Voices from the Pandemic: ‘The truth is, nobody told us what to be ready for’

Voices from the Pandemic is an oral history of covid-19 and those affected. Roger Desjarlais, manager in Lee County, Fla., on the unanticipated challenges of rolling out the vaccine.

We’re trying to get this vaccine into people’s arms as fast as we can, but everyone seems to have a better solution than the ones we’re using. I’m not very popular right now. I’ve been called incompetent more times in the last month than I have in my whole career.

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t expect for us to be managing this rollout at the county level. For whatever reason, I made the assumption back in the fall that when vaccines became available, it would be handled by some combination of federal and state government. Each state was left to figure this out. The state handed the operations piece on to the county. That’s not what I anticipated.

7:35 p.m.
Link copied
link

Lebanon to enforce 24-hour curfew as cases surge after the holidays

BEIRUT — One week after enforcing a three-week lockdown, Lebanon introduced stricter measures Monday to combat an alarming surge in the number of cases in the small Mediterranean country.

Lebanon, which has an estimated 6 million residents, has had nearly 220,000 cases of the coronavirus — approximately 3.7 percent of its population. Its daily number of infections rarely rose above 2,000 until late December, when a record number of cases became the norm. Last week saw over 30,000 cases.

The holiday season, stretching from Christmas until the New Year, is widely celebrated in Lebanon by Christians and Muslims alike, and many did not comply with restrictions on gatherings. The government even allowed parties or gatherings as long as they registered with a website. It is still common to see people without face masks. Clubs were open but with a ban on dancing.

The government is torn between keeping the country open to avoid a complete economic collapse, which Lebanon is already on the brink of, and shutting down the country to avoid a collapse of the health sector. Medical committees from large hospitals have announced they will no longer take any non-emergency and non-coronavirus cases and called on other hospitals to dedicate all their available beds for covid-19 patients.

The new lockdown, which goes into effect Thursday and ends Jan. 25, puts in place a 24-hour curfew, allows for delivery of groceries and food and brings down the airport’s traffic to 20 percent. Those exempt include medical workers, employees of oil and wheat sectors, journalists and people who work in fields such as telecommunication, water and electricity.

Bank branches, which have placed unlawful capital controls over the past year and have limited people’s access to their own money, will be closed.

Suzan Haidamous contributed to this report.