February 1 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton and Kara Fox, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, February 2, 2021
3 Posts
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11:51 p.m. ET, January 31, 2021

Covid-19 hospitalizations drop, but January has been the deadliest month of the pandemic

From CNN's Christina Maxouris and Holly Yan

Paramedics arrive with a Covid-19 patient at the emergency department of Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, California, on January 28.
Paramedics arrive with a Covid-19 patient at the emergency department of Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, California, on January 28. Bing Guan/Bloomberg/Getty Images

For the first time in almost two months, fewer than 100,000 Americans are hospitalized for Covid-19.

The United States on Sunday reported 95,013 Covid-19 hospitalizations, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. And 97,561 patients were hospitalized Saturday. The last time the number was below 100,000 was December 1.

Yet the seven-day average of new cases is still about the same as it was December 1. Even worse, the average number of daily deaths is more than double what it was then.

January has been by far the deadliest month of the pandemic: At least 95,245 people died from Covid-19 in January, surpassing December's total of 77,486 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

"Right now it's the worst of possible worlds. It's the winter. It's getting cold out, people are together more, there's still a critical number of people in the United States who don't wear masks, who don't social distance," said Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the Food and Drug Administration's vaccine advisory committee.

"I think the next six weeks or two months are going to be rough. I think we could have another 100,000, 150,000 deaths."

He's not alone in that prediction. About 120,000 more Americans could die from Covid-19 over the next two months, according to the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

So health experts are urging all Americans to double down on wearing masks and keeping their distance from others.

And while vaccine makers and officials scramble to get more Americans vaccinated, they're racing against the spread of highly contagious strains of coronavirus that are now in the US.

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11:51 p.m. ET, January 31, 2021

White House open to scaling down stimulus checks to families making more than $150,000 in Covid-19 relief bill

From CNN's Pamela Brown and Caroline Kenny

A federal coronavirus stimulus check from the United States Treasury in 2020.
A federal coronavirus stimulus check from the United States Treasury in 2020. William Sawalich/Shutterstock

President Joe Biden is open to some negotiation on his $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package, a senior administration official told CNN, but the $600 billion counterproposal announced by some Republican senators Sunday is "not going to scratch the itch."

The White House is specifically open to considering scaling down stimulus checks for families making more than $150,000 per year, the official said, but the administration is not considering cutting off months of unemployment insurance access or money going to schools.

The official told CNN that if the Republican counterproposal moved forward, lawmakers would have to return to negotiating again in two months, which could happen in an even harsher political landscape. The official said that while the Biden administration is open to their relief package being smaller than $1.9 trillion, they're not considering a $600 billion plan.

The Republican relief package represents the most significant response yet to the White House's planned package, though with a price tag more than a trillion dollars less than the Democratic plan, the GOP proposal will likely face opposition from congressional Democrats.

The counterproposal includes a total of $160 billion for vaccine development and distribution, testing and tracing, and treatment and supplies, including the production and deployment of personal protective equipment. It also includes a new round of direct payments for "families who need assistance the most," extends enhanced federal unemployment benefits at the current level and provides $4 billion to bolster behavioral health and substance abuse.

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11:50 p.m. ET, January 31, 2021

WHO team investigating pandemic visits wet market, receives flu data

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh and Sandi Sidhu

The World Health Organization team is briefed outside of the Huanan Seafood Market on the third day of their field visit in Wuhan, China, on January 31.
The World Health Organization team is briefed outside of the Huanan Seafood Market on the third day of their field visit in Wuhan, China, on January 31. Ng Han Guan/AP

A team of World Health Organization investigators in China researching the origins of the coronavirus tell CNN they now have months of Chinese influenza data which might contain vital clues as to the early spread of the virus.

On Sunday, the team visited the wet market thought to be central to the disease's spread: The now disinfected and shuttered Huanan seafood market in the city of Wuhan, where an initial cluster of pneumonia-like illnesses were noticed by doctors in mid-December 2019. The market has become the anecdotal "ground-zero" for Covid-19, even though later studies have suggested it may have begun elsewhere.

Peter Ben Embarek, the leader of the WHO team and a food safety specialist, told CNN that "even if the place had been to some extent disinfected, all the shops are there -- and the equipment is there. It gives you a good idea of the state of the market in terms of maintenance, infrastructure, hygiene and flow of goods and people." The team was able to talk to locals and workers, said Ben Embarek. He cautioned it was too early in their investigations to draw conclusions.

"It's clear that something happened in that market," Ben Embarek said. "But it could also be that other places had the same role, and that one was just picked because some doctors were clever enough to link a few sporadic cases together."

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