A version of this story appeared in the February 15 edition of CNN’s Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.
US President Joe Biden spent his first full day in office yesterday signing at least 10 executive orders, memorandums and directives focused on tackling the coronavirus pandemic, likening the measures to “a full-scale wartime effort” during remarks at the White House.
The WHO mission had found several signs of the more wide-ranging 2019 spread, including establishing for the first time there were more than a dozen strains of the virus in Wuhan already in December, its lead investigator, Peter Ben Embarek, told CNN. The team also had a chance to speak to the first patient Chinese officials said had been infected, an office worker in his 40s, with no travel history of note, reported infected on December 8.
The slow emergence of more detailed data gathered on the WHO’s long-awaited trip into China may add to concerns voiced by other scientists studying the origins of the disease that it may have been spreading in China long before its first official emergence in mid-December.
The mission also gathered 13 different sequences of the virus, and if examined with wider patient data in China across 2019, could provide valuable clues about the geography and timing of the outbreak before December. Ben Embarek said: “Some of them are from the markets… Some of them are not linked to the markets,” which includes the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, thought to have played a role in the virus’ first spread.
Changes in a virus’s genetic makeup are common and normally harmless, occurring over time as the disease moves between and reproduces among people or animals. Ben Embarek declined to draw conclusions about what the 13 strains could have meant for the disease’s history before December.
Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is at the center of an escalating controversy over Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes, how they were counted and how his administration handled requests for that data.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED
Q: Is it possible to get Covid-19 from the Covid-19 vaccine?
A: Vaccine distribution in states and cities across the US is slowing down because of winter storms that left more than a third of the continental US with below-zero temperatures Monday.
But while people have been reinfected with the South African variant, it appears as though the vaccine is better at preventing reinfection than a previous natural infection, he added.
The South African variant is more problematic than the variant first identified in the UK, Fauci said, “in the sense that we know less about it vis a vis whether it transmits more readily or not.” However, it is known that it evades the protection from some monoclonal antibodies, and it somewhat diminishes the effectiveness of the vaccine, Fauci said, but there is “still some cushion left so that the vaccine does provide some protection against it.”
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WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
Blaze at facility of world’s biggest vaccine maker
Researchers have identified a batch of similar troubling mutations in coronavirus samples circulating in the US, they said Sunday in a pre-print report. The mutations all affect the same stretch of the spike protein – the knob-like extension on the outside of the virus that it uses to dock onto the cells it infects, and the fact that these variants have turned up so often in databases means they are probably very prevalent, the researchers wrote.
WHO gives green light to Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine
Vaccine rollout is a much-needed win for UK after bungling its pandemic response
The UK has emerged with the third-highest vaccination rate in the world behind Israel and the UAE – a positive turnaround for a country criticized for mismanaging every other stage of the pandemic, Scott McLean and Florence Davey-Attlee report. On Sunday, a day ahead of schedule, it hit its target of offering 15 million vaccine doses to its top four priority groups. The groups include everyone over 70, frontline health and social care workers, those living in care homes and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
Ambulance crews report drop in Covid callouts in hard-hit Wales as vaccine rollout gathers pace
Auckland goes into lockdown as New Zealand and Australia get first batches of Pfizer vaccine
Two of the three new Covid-19 cases in New Zealand, which sent its city of Auckland into lockdown this weekend, are confirmed to be a variant of the virus first detected in the UK. Auckland’s cases prompted Australia to suspend its quarantine-free travel bubble for people coming from New Zealand. Both nations have been relatively successful in containing their Covid-19 outbreaks due to stringent measures.
The US just saw its lowest Covid-19 daily case count since October
ON OUR RADAR
- The African Union has secured 270 million vaccine doses for African countries, with at least 50 million shots available from April to June.
- Biden aides told congressional allies to expect Covid relief package with a roughly $2 trillion price tag.
- Operation Warp Speed chief scientific adviser Moncef Slaoui has submitted his resignation at the request of the incoming Biden administration, a source with knowledge of the events tells CNN.
- Turkey has authorized emergency use of China’s Sinovac vaccine, with mass rollout to begin today.
- California hospital fined more than $40,000 after Santa Clara County says it delayed reporting Covid-19 outbreak.
- Yes, Martha Stewart received her first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine near a facility named for her, but rest assured, she says she didn’t jump the line.
- England’s soccer Premier League tells teams that handshakes, high fives and hugs must be avoided and that swapping of shirts after the game is now prohibited.
- A nurse who works with Covid patients just won a $1 million lottery jackpot.
No tests before domestic flights
The CDC told CNN that it is not recommending a Covid-19 testing requirement before domestic air travel, after federal officials said last week that it was being considered.
The giant winter storm in the US has left more than 5 million people without power, creating another possibly dangerous situation for millions of Americans who are sheltering due to the pandemic and don’t typically see freezing temperatures.
What teenagers really like is for us to be around and asked to be available, but not to have an agenda, but when they’re ready to talk to know where to find us. – Lisa Damour, clinical psychologist
In today’s episode, Dr. Gupta answers listeners’ questions about the vaccine, from new avenues of distribution to the question on everyone’s mind: What am I allowed to do now that I’ve had my shots? Listen now.