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February 2 coronavirus news

CNN correspondent on demographics of vaccine distribution

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Cold chain storage for vaccines "is a really tricky process," says Walgreens chief medical officer

Walgreens chief medical officer Dr. Kevin Ban.

The cold chain storage for coronavirus vaccines “is a really tricky process,” Walgreens chief medical officer Dr. Kevin Ban said on Tuesday.

The remarks came after Ohio health officials reported that vaccines given by Walgreens in five of Ohio’s long-term care facilities had not been stored under the proper cold storage conditions.

“It would seem that our systems failed, now we’re trying to figure out exactly what happened there, so that we can protect it from happening again in the future,” Ban told CNN. “This cold chain takes a lot of, I mean, literally, it takes cryogenic gloves, and so these things will happen. We just need to be transparent, and we need to fix them,” Ban said. 

According to Ban, none of the patients experienced any adverse side effects, and after getting in touch with the manufacturers, they learned the patients will need to be revaccinated. 

Too many vaccines: Ban added that Walgreens was left with excess vaccines due to “very high” vaccine hesitancy and the lower-than-expected occupancy in long-term care facilities. 

“We found ourselves in a situation where we had more vaccine than we needed – the last thing we would do was ever hold it – and so, immediately what we did was get in touch with the states to make sure that we were compliant with their wishes,” Ban said.

“Walgreens does not determine who gets vaccinated, we’re the last mile of this, we’re the ones who actually distribute and administer it, but only based on state eligibility.”

We need to "double down" on public health measures to fight virus variants, Fauci says

Dr. Anthony Fauci is interviewed by Chris Hayes on February 2.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that the United States needs to keep an eye on Covid-19 variants because “they could be a problem.”

“One of the wildcards that we have to keep an eye on are the mutations, the mutants that are out there, because if they become dominant that then can lead to another surge,” Fauci told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Tuesday, when asked if he was concerned about a fourth wave.

“I think if we doubled down uniformly and consistently with the public health measures, at the same time as we phase in increasing numbers of people getting vaccinated, we shouldn’t see that (fourth wave).” 

Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could limit spread of coronavirus, researchers say

A member of medical staff at the NHS Nightingale North East hospital draws up the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on January 26 in Sunderland, England.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine may reduce coronavirus transmission, rather than simply reducing the severity of disease, according to researchers.

The vaccine showed 66.7% efficacy against symptomatic disease starting two weeks after the second shot, according to a preprint posted Tuesday by researchers at the University of Oxford.

The study did not measure transmission directly, but researchers collected regular nasal swabs from participants and found that the rate of positive PCR tests fell by half after two doses of the vaccine.

If the vaccine were simply making infections more mild, PCR positivity would not change, the authors argued.

“While transmission studies per se were not included in the analysis, swabs were obtained from volunteers every week in the UK study, regardless of symptoms, to allow assessment of the overall impact of the vaccine on risk of infection and thus a surrogate for potential onward transmission,” the authors wrote.

Coronavirus vaccine trials have primarily looked at prevention of symptomatic cases of Covid-19. Previously, there has been little other public data suggesting that vaccines could prevent people from passing the infection to others.

Younger adults are the biggest spreaders of coronavirus in US, study suggests

The biggest spreaders of coronavirus in the US are adults aged 20 to 49, and efforts to control the spread – including vaccination – should focus on that age group, researchers reported Tuesday.

Children and older adults accounted for very little spread, the researchers said – suggesting that reopening schools may not contribute to spread, if transmission is controlled among younger adults, they said.

How they conducted the study: The team at Imperial College London used cell phone location data covering more than 10 million people and publicly available information on the spread of the virus to calculate which age groups were most responsible for the spread of the virus.

The results: They found that adults aged 20 to 49 accounted for about 72.2% of Covid-19 infections after schools reopened in October. Less than 5% of infections came from children, and less than 10% from teenagers.

And it might be adults aged 35 to 49 who are the biggest factor in driving the pandemic – this group accounted for 41% of new transmissions through mid-August, compared to 35% for adults 20 to 34.

Containment efforts like mass vaccination programs aimed at this age group “could bring resurgent Covid-19 epidemics under control and avert deaths,” according to the study.

Indian Health Service to direct most coronavirus funding to testing and mitigation

The Indian Health Service (IHS), which serves Native Americans in the United States, announced Tuesday it will use $1 billion of Covid-19 relief funds mostly for testing, containment and mitigation efforts.

Some $790 million will go toward testing, contact tracing, containment, and mitigation, while $210 million will be allocated to vaccine distribution and access, according to IHS.

“We will continue to work in partnership with our urban Indian organization partners to distribute these critical resources for the immediate support of our COVID-19 response,” said acting IHS director Elizabeth Fowler. 

IHS serves 2.6 million American Indians and Alaskan Natives. The agency, a division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, has so far received nearly $3 billion from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act signed by then-president Donald Trump in December.

Kentucky governor files lawsuit challenging bills limiting his emergency powers during pandemic

After the Kentucky General Assembly voted today to override a series of Gov. Andy Beshear’s vetoes on bills by the state’s Republican supermajority, which limit the governor’s emergency powers, Beshear has now filed a lawsuit seeking temporary and permanent injunction.

“Today, the General Assembly attempted to surrender to COVID-19 and accept the casualties. As your Governor, I cannot let this happen,” Beshear said in a statement Tuesday evening.

Beshear’s lawsuit seeks to stop House Bill 1, named “An Act relating to reopening the economy in the Commonwealth of Kentucky in response to the state of emergency declared by the Governor of Kentucky beginning in March 2020 and continuing throughout the year of 2021 and declaring an emergency.” 

The governor is also fighting Senate Bill 1, which limits “the effective dates of executive orders issued by the Governor to 30 days unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly and prohibit[s] the Governor from issuing a new executive order relating to the same emergency without the approval of the General Assembly.” 

The lawsuit also argues against Senate Bill 2, which, among other things, will “require administrative regulations promulgated under the section to be in effect no longer than 30 days if imposing restrictions on gatherings or imposing mandatory quarantine or isolation requirements.”

The governor’s lawsuit argues that the bills are “unconstitutional and if allowed to take effect will cause significant harm to the Governor’s constitutional duty to respond COVID- 19 and the overall public health during the pandemic.”

Large UK study confirms Covid-19 antibodies last at least 6 months

A large British study looking at coronavirus infections in real life confirms what lab experiments have shown: most people keep some antibodies to the virus for at least six months after recovery.

The study also indicates 8.8% of the UK population had been infected with coronavirus by December – but almost twice as many Blacks, 16.3%, had evidence of previous infection.

The study from UK Biobank, a biomedical database and research group, measured levels of previous infection in various population groups across the UK from the end of May to the beginning of December. It showed 99% of the participants who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 retained antibodies for three months after being infected and 88% had them for six months.

“Although we cannot be certain how this relates to immunity, the results suggest that people may be protected against subsequent infection for at least six months following natural infection. More prolonged follow-up will allow us to determine how long such protection is likely to last,” Naomi Allen, UK Biobank chief scientist, told a news briefing Tuesday.

Antibodies were found in a greater proportion of younger people compared to older participants. The researchers said 13.5% of participants under 30 had detectable antibodies, while only 6.7% of those over 70 did. And 16.3% of Black volunteers in the study had antibodies to the virus, compared to 8.5% of White participants and 7.5% of participants of Chinese ethnicity.

Allen said the team did not know whether the antibodies could provide protection against new variants of coronavirus. “I think it’s just too early to tell about the level of protection,” she said. According to a report published Monday by Public Health England, the B.1.1.7 variant spreading across the UK and the world risks becoming somewhat resistant to the immune protection offered by vaccines as it continues to mutate.

Rory Collins, head of the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, said Tuesday that people who had previously been infected should still take care and obey social distancing guidelines.

“We can’t be sure that [antibodies provide] complete protection,” Collins said, adding that scientists still did not know if people who had been previously infected could still carry and transmit the virus.

The study included 20,000 people who have been taking part in a range of Biobank studies, plus their adult children and grandchildren. UK Biobank collected monthly blood samples and data on potential symptoms from the group. By far the most common symptom detected by people who had once had Covid-19 were the loss of smell and taste. These symptoms were reported by 43% of participants with detectable antibodies. And 24% who tested positive had no symptoms at all.

Idaho relaxes some Covid-19 restrictions

Gov. Brad Little

Idaho’s governor announced Tuesday that the state is moving into Phase 3 of its pandemic recovery plan, relaxing some of its economic restrictions.

“The gathering size limitation will increase from 10 to 50 people,” Gov. Brad Little said in an address to the state Tuesday.

Bars and restaurants can operate, but only with regular table seating. People interested in holding large events must first get permission from the local health department, unless they are political or religious in nature.

“We have seen a dramatic drop in cases in the state,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn. “People are wearing their masks. People are social distancing. I think people are really trying, and I think it’s paying off.”

Idaho reverted to Phase 2 of its restriction plan in November after new Covid-19 case numbers reached record levels.

Oxford-AstraZeneca study supports spacing out doses and estimates good efficacy after one shot

Vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine

The Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine showed 66.7% efficacy against symptomatic disease starting two weeks after the second shot, according to a preprint posted Tuesday by researchers at the University of Oxford.

The new analysis adds new trial sites and a month of new data to the mix, building upon earlier results announced by AstraZeneca that its vaccine had showed an estimated 70.4% efficacy.

However, the latest analysis also suggests the vaccine may offer substantial protection after a single shot. 

The study estimates 76% efficacy up to three months following one dose. This is based on a subset of 88 symptomatic infections, split unevenly between the vaccine and placebo groups between 22 and 90 days after vaccination. The study also found relatively stable levels of antibodies during this time frame, “with minimal waning by day 90.”

Furthermore, the authors suggest there could be higher efficacy with more spaced-out doses. Among adults 18 to 55, vaccine efficacy appeared to rise when the time between shots was spaced out from less than six weeks to more than 12. However, more information is needed to know how statistically different that finding is.

Taken together, the findings may bolster the UK’s decision to recommend spacing out doses up to 12 weeks apart, according to a statement from the chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, Andrew Pollard.

Some context: AstraZeneca announced last month it had completed enrollment in its Phase 3 trial in the United States, which will serve as “the primary basis” for the company’s eventual application to the US Food and Drug Administration.

The vaccine has already been authorized in a number countries such as the UK and India, but authorization may not come in the US until late March at the earliest, according to Operation Warp Speed’s Moncef Slaoui.

California sees lowest Covid-19 case count since Thanksgiving

Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly

California on Tuesday added slightly more than 12,000 new Covid-19 cases, the lowest daily case count in a state roiled by a dramatic holiday surge since Thanksgiving, according to data from the state health department. 

“We haven’t seen a number quite like this in some time,” Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said in a news conference. Just two weeks ago, the state reported an average daily count of about 40,000 new cases.

But while state health officials are seeing signs of optimism after the darkest months yet of the pandemic, they are renewing calls to avoid gatherings ahead of the Super Bowl and Lunar New Year, cautioning it could lead to another deadly surge of the virus that has claimed the lives of more than 41,000 Californians.

Looking ahead: Hospitalizations are projected to drop by more than half over the course of the next month, Ghaly said. In the past two weeks, there has been a 29% decrease in hospitalizations with more than 14,000 patients receiving treatment. About 3,800 of those people are in intensive care units. 

Those projections have led to the regional stay-at-home orders being dropped statewide. ICU capacity projections were a driving force in those restrictions, and now the entire state is expected to be well above the 15% threshold set by the state. In stark new projections, Southern California, which has been the state’s hardest hit region, is expected to have the most ICU capacity in the state by this time next month.

But more than 1,000 instances of Covid-19 variants have been detected in California to date – two different versions of the West Coast variants along with the UK variant.  

“Variants create another wildcard,” Ghaly said, adding that the new strains are cause of genuine concern that are being closely watched as the state continues to actively sequence mutations and build up capacity to do more.

Pediatricians say they should help give Covid-19 vaccines

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is advocating for pediatricians to help give Covid-19 vaccines in the US.

In guidance released Tuesday, AAP said that pediatricians are experienced in safely vaccinating large numbers of children, teens and young adults and could play an important role in the expanded distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. 

“The AAP recognizes and supports the administration of vaccines to parents and other adults within the pediatric office and advocates for the inclusion of willing pediatric offices as vaccination sites for the general public,” AAP said in a statement. “Appropriate resources should be provided to those offices that assist in this process.”

100,000 people in the US have died of Covid-19 so far this year

More than 100,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the United States so far in 2021, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Since Jan. 1, 2021, the US has reported a total of 100,317 deaths from Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins. In total, since the pandemic began, the US has reported at least 446,272 total deaths. 

Johns Hopkins recorded the first US death from Covid-19 on Feb. 29, 2020, in Washington state. Later in the spring, two earlier deaths in California were posthumously confirmed to be from Covid-19.

It took the US until May 23, 2020 – 84 days later – to reach the first 100,000 deaths. 

Since Jan. 1, 2021, the United States has tallied the most recent 100,000 deaths in just 32 days.

The US has more deaths than any other country in the world, Johns Hopkins data shows. Brazil has tallied over 200,000 deaths. Mexico, India, and the United Kingdom have all reported over 100,000 deaths. 

You will be able to get a Covid-19 vaccine at two major pharmacies in some states starting next week

A man waits for pharmacist Joe Borge at a Walgreens in Danvers, Massachusetts, on Monday. CVS and Walgreens have been providing vaccinations in some states using those states' supplies. Soon they will get sent vaccines directly from the federal government.

CVS and Walgreens will begin vaccinations as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program starting next week, the pharmacy chains announced on Tuesday.  

CVS said the federal government will provide around 250,000 doses directly to the pharmacy chain and it will administer those doses in 11 states starting on Feb. 11.  

Walgreens said it will get around 170,000 doses, which it will administer in 15 jurisdictions starting on Feb. 12.

Here’s where they will be available:

  • CVS: The 11 states are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York (not including New York City), Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
  • Walgreens: The 15 jurisdictions are Chicago, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, New York City, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, Vermont, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

Eligibility requirements in each jurisdiction still apply for both pharmacies.

While CVS and Walgreens have been providing vaccinations in some states using supply from those states, this will be the first time the vaccine will be sent directly from the federal government.

While CVS has been providing vaccinations in some states using supply from those states, this will be the first time CVS will be sent the vaccine directly from the federal government.  

The Biden administration announced Tuesday it will begin direct shipments of coronavirus vaccines to retail pharmacies starting on Feb. 11, to about 6,500 stores that will receive a total of one million doses before eventually expanding.

French president says anyone who wants a vaccine will have it by end of summer 2021

French President Emmanuel Macron holds a video-conference meeting in Paris on Tuesday.

French President Emmanuel Macron vowed Tuesday that all French people who want the vaccine will have it by the end of summer 2021.

“That is exactly the same pace, the same method, as our German neighbors and our other European neighbors,” Macron said in a live interview with French TV channel TF1 on Tuesday. 

He added that all those in nursing homes who want a vaccine will be vaccinated by early March of this year – amounting to about 500,000 people.

Macron also announced that France would begin producing vaccines in country at four converted sites starting next month, following a meeting with representatives of the pharmaceutical industry on Tuesday.

He didn’t specify which vaccines would be produced at the new sites, but he cited as an example the impending conversion by pharmaceutical firm Sanofi of one of its facilities in Germany to produce the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine in coming months.

“Our limitation today is in our capacity to produce more vaccines on a large-scale, first for ourselves, but also for the poorest countries. Because if we don’t also vaccinate in these countries, the virus will mutate, it will unfairly hit the poorest, and then the virus will come back to our countries,” he said.

But Macron did not rule out a third lockdown, saying, “Today, the virus is circulating at a great speed. We are on what is called a plateau, we have had between 20,000 and 25,000 new cases per day for several weeks. Every day, we look very closely at the contamination figures, hospitalization and ICU figures, I will try to take the most appropriate decisions at each stage to hold together all these objectives for our country.”

More people in the US have received one dose of vaccine than have been infected with Covid-19, CDC says

The number of people who have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in the United States is now more than the number of Covid-19 cases in the US over the course of the entire pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Tuesday, the CDC reported 26,440,836 people have received one or more doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. Johns Hopkins has reported 26,384,829 cumulative Covid-19 cases in the US as of now.

According to the CDC, 6,064,792 people have received both doses of a vaccine and are fully vaccinated. This is about 1.84% of the United States.

However, Covid-19 infections across the nation are estimated to be much higher than the actual number of cases reported, the CDC says. In mid-January CDC estimated the US has actually seen 83.1 million Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began.

Remember: This is an ongoing tally. Today’s final numbers will not be available until overnight tonight. States have 72 hours to report vaccine data, so data published by the CDC may be delayed – and may not necessarily mean all doses were given on the day reported.

WHO reports 13% decline in new global coronavirus cases from last week

The number of newly reported global coronavirus cases declined by 13% in the week leading up to Jan. 31, the World Health Organization reported in an update Tuesday.

WHO says 3.7 million new cases and 96,000 deaths were reported in the week leading up to Jan. 31 – the third consecutive week of declining cases.

That brings the total to more than 102.1 million reported cases and 2.2 million deaths around the world since the pandemic began. When WHO declared Covid-19 an international public health emergency one year ago, the global count was 9,826 cases in 20 countries and 213 deaths, all in China.

The US is currently reporting the highest number of new cases, by far, followed by Brazil, the UK and Northern Ireland, France, and Russia.

WHO also included an update on Covid-19 variants in the report, noting that the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the UK has now been identified in 80 countries, the B.1.351 variant first spotted in South Africa has been identified in 41, and the P.1 variant that spread in Brazil has been identified in 10.

About 32.8 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the US, new CDC data shows

People receive Covid-19 vaccines at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Monday.

About 32.8 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States, according to data published Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reported that at least 32,780,860 total doses have been administered, about 62% of the 52,657,675 doses distributed.

That’s about 558,000 more administered doses reported since yesterday, for a seven-day average of about 1.3 million doses per day. 

About 8% of the US population – more than 26.4 million people – have now received at least one dose of the vaccine and about 6 million people have been fully vaccinated, CDC data shows. 

Remember: States have 72 hours to report vaccine data, so data published by the CDC may be delayed – and may not necessarily mean all doses were given on the day reported. 

States reallocate hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses held in federal long-term care program

States are reallocating hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses – initially set aside to vaccinate long-term care residents and staff members – through a federal partnership between the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and pharmacies including Walgreens and CVS. 

CNN has counted at least 254,750 doses being repurposed by 10 states. That is equal to more than 8% of all people who have been administered at least one dose through the federal program. 

In a call with governors last week, the Biden administration told states that they should be re-appropriating vaccines that had been earmarked for the program but hadn’t been used within a week of delivery.  

On Monday, Andy Slavitt, an adviser to the Biden administration, said the White House continues to ensure that doses are allocated to people who will use them.

“We have been working with states and with those distributors to make sure that those excess doses quickly get to the places that [they’re] needed when they exist,” Slavitt said. 

Last week, Utah reallocated 28,275 doses back into the hands of the state to be redistributed. 

The CDC told CNN at least 24 such transfers have been approved but states and jurisdictions can work directly with the pharmacies to redistribute vaccine as needed. 

Already, the states of Arkansas and New Jersey are taking back 30,000 doses each. New Jersey has also stopped the delivery of 44,000 doses that had been allocated to the federal program. The state of New York is reallocating 50,000 doses.  

In a letter posted to Twitter on Friday, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced that the state was reallocating 37,800 doses to vaccine providers in the state. “These surplus vaccines should be made available to members of the general public right away rather than at the completion of the LTC program.”  

Earlier today, the Biden administration announced they will be putting one million doses towards the first phase of the retail pharmacy program – a similar partnership between the federal government and retail pharmacies, but this time geared towards vaccinating the general public.

Palestinian medics in the West Bank receive first Covid-19 vaccines

Men in Hebron, West Bank, watch a live television broadcast as Palestinian Health Minister Mai Al-Kaila announces the start of Covid-19 vaccinations.

Palestinian medics have begun administering Covid-19 vaccines in the West Bank following the transfer of a first batch of 2,000 doses by the Israeli Ministry of Defense on Monday. 

Palestinian Authority Health Minister Mai Al-Kaila, a physician herself, was among those who administered the vaccine to front-line medical workers, before receiving a dose herself.​

About 3,000 more doses from Israel’s stock of Moderna vaccines are due to arrive in the coming days, as well as 5,000 doses of the Sputnik vaccine, according to the Health Minister. 

These will be augmented by the arrival of a further 37,000 vaccines supplied by the WHO-led Covax program, the minister added. 

A first transfer of vaccines to Gaza will take place on Wednesday, Al-Kaila said.

New England Patriots plane will shuttle health care workers to Super Bowl LV

The New England Patriots plane delivers N95 masks in Boston in April 2020.

The same New England Patriots plane that brought 1.2 million N95 protective masks to the United States from China this past spring will be used to shuttle 76 vaccinated health care workers to Super Bowl LV.

The NFL team says the “frontline heroes” will be treated to an all-expenses paid trip to Sunday’s game in Tampa, Florida, including roundtrip travel on the Patriots private plane.

Last April, Patriots owner Robert Kraft told CNN that the effort to facilitate the purchase and delivery of PPE supplies was “probably the most challenging operation our organization and team ever had to do.”

In a team issued statement, Kraft acknowledged the full-circle circumstances the pandemic fight has now presented. Kraft stating on Tuesday, “Last April, when our plane returned with masks from China, we never could have imagined the devastation this pandemic would cause, nor could we have dreamed of the heroic stories and achievements that have come to be as a result, especially the dedication of healthcare workers on the front lines and the creation of safe and effective vaccines. 

“Ten months later, it’s an honor for us to celebrate these healthcare workers by giving them a well-deserved break for a day and an opportunity to enjoy the Super Bowl, a reality that is only made possible because of the vaccines.”

Argentina asks Russia for more vaccine doses

Argentine President Alberto Fernández gets a shot of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine at a Buenos Aires hospital on January 21.

Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández spoke to Russian leader Vladimir Putin about acquiring more doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, developed by Russia’s Gamaleya Institute, according to a statement from the Argentine presidency on Tuesday.

Putin agreed to increase production of the vaccine and would meet the needs of Argentina, the statement said.

Fernández added that the results of the immunization campaign have been “excellent, with no adverse effects.”

Argentina authorized the use of the vaccine in late December and was the first country in Latin America to administer the use of Sputnik V vaccines, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund.

Argentina has already received shipments of several hundred thousand doses of the vaccine since December.

Fernández himself received the Sputnik V vaccine on Jan. 21.

An interim analysis of Phase 3 trial data published in the medical journal The Lancet on Tuesday found that Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine is 91.6% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 and 100% effective for preventing severe illness.

Argentina currently has 1,933,853 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 48,249 recorded deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

US National Park Service implements mask requirements at parks

National Park Service rangers wear face masks as they interact with visitors at the reopening of the Washington Monument in October 2020.

The National Park Service has begun implementing a mask requirement for all employees and visitors to help protect against the spread of coronavirus, the Department of Interior announced in a press release Tuesday afternoon.

The requirements require mask-wearing in NPS buildings and on park lands when visitors can’t maintain physical distance, ”including narrow or busy trails, overlooks and historic homes,” it said in a press release.

“To protect the health of those who live, work and visit our national parks and facilities, and in support of the President’s Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing, the National Park Service (NPS) today implemented a mask requirement for employees, visitors, partners and contractors,” the press release reads.

This announcement comes after President Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office requiring masks on federal property. 

Canada will produce its own vaccines by the end of 2021

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on Tuesday.

Canada says it has signed a tentative agreement with US vaccine firm Novavax to produce millions of doses of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate at a facility in Montreal.

The agreement, announced Tuesday by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is the first of several being developed as Canada says it intends to repatriate vaccine production for decades to come.

“What we’re very clear on is Canada will be developing domestic manufacturing so regardless of what could happen in the future we will have domestic production on top of all our partnerships and contracts signed with companies around the world,” Trudeau said during a news conference in Ottawa Tuesday.

He added that it was important for Canada to be “self-sufficient” in vaccine production.

Novavax is still doing clinical trials of its vaccine but submitted more data to Health Canada for review Friday. Canada has an agreement to buy 52 million doses from Novavax when and if its vaccine candidate receives Canadian approval.

Approval is not expected for weeks and any domestic production of vaccines won’t happen until fall, at the earliest.

That still leaves Canada with a significant shortage of vaccines in the short term. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, are the only vaccines approved for use in the country so far.

Both of those vaccine suppliers have significantly slowed deliveries to Canada after a combination of manufacturing delays and demands from Europe, where Canada procures its doses, to restrict vaccine exports subject to EU approval.

Canada did not attempt to procure any vaccine doses from the US after the Trump administration indicated it would not allow any vaccines to be exported.

According to public health data from the provinces and the federal government, just over 2% of Canada’s population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Provinces in Canada, who are responsible for vaccine distribution, are growing frustrated as mass vaccination sites are ready, but in many cases sit empty awaiting vaccine doses.

“They have the capacity of several thousand each per day and the possibility to ramp up past that so all of us are a little disappointed, a little frustrated, and chomping at the bit to do more and get the vaccines to us,” said retired Gen. Rick Hillier, now leading Ontario’s vaccine task force.

He added that he has lost confidence in the Pfizer supply chain as doses that were promised to Canada were not delivered.