February 2 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung and Adam Renton, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021
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3:36 a.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Democratic lawmakers call on Biden to provide higher quality masks to the public

From CNN's Keri Enriquez

N95 masks sit stored in a medical supply area at the Austin Convention Center on August 7, 2020 in Austin, Texas.
N95 masks sit stored in a medical supply area at the Austin Convention Center on August 7, 2020 in Austin, Texas. John Moore/Getty Images

Several Democratic lawmakers are calling on President Joe Biden to increase the supply and availability of higher quality masks, and to encourage the education of the public on which masks are most effective.

In a letter published Monday, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Rep. Adam Schiff and Rep. Ro Khanna of California urged Biden to “consider invoking the Defense Production Act to increase the supply of higher quality masks, including N95 or other medical grade masks.” 

The letter recommends the use of the United States Postal Service to distribute the highest quality medical-grade masks and the creation of pick-up locations in local communities.

The lawmakers also ask Biden to direct the CDC and FDA to “provide the public with clear, actionable, and specific information on how to discern which masks are most effective and where they can get them, as well as how to utilize existing options.”

“While many Americans understand that wearing a mask can help prevent transmission of the disease, many don’t realize that a high-quality mask can make it far less likely that the wearer will contract the disease, even if exposed to an infectious person,” the letter reads.
1:01 a.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Fauci urges vaccinations to stop new virus strains: "Viruses cannot mutate if they don't replicate"

From CNN's Christina Maxouris and Holly Yan

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. CNN

With multiple new coronavirus strains spreading across the country, Americans need to get vaccinated as quickly as possible to stop more mutations from emerging, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday.

"You need to get vaccinated when it becomes available as quickly and as expeditiously as possible throughout the country," Fauci, President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, said in a virtual news briefing with the White House Covid-19 response team. "And the reason for that is ... viruses cannot mutate if they don't replicate. And if you stop their replication by vaccinating widely and not giving the virus an open playing field to continue to respond to the pressures that you put on it, you will not get mutations."

Speaking to CNN's Wolf Blitzer later Monday, Fauci said even if someone has had coronavirus, there's a "very high rate" of being reinfected with the new variants if they become dominant.

"If it becomes dominant, the experience of our colleagues in South Africa indicate that even if you've been infected with the original virus that there is a very high rate of reinfection to the point where previous infection does not seem to protect you against reinfection," Fauci said on CNN.

He emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated to prevent severe and potentially fatal illness that may require hospitalization.

"Even though there is a diminished protection against the variants, there's enough protection to prevent you from getting serious disease, including hospitalization and deaths," Fauci said. "So, vaccination is critical."

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9:44 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Democrats say a bipartisan plan is not their priority when it comes to Covid-19 relief package 

From CNN's Ryan Nobles

Democrats on Capitol Hill are willing to allow President Joe Biden the opportunity to attempt to garner Republican support for his broad Covid-19 relief package -- but they aren't willing to wait long, or to shrink the size of the package as GOP leaders are suggesting.  

“Republicans want to climb out of a 13-foot hole with a 6-foot ladder,” said one senior aide to a Democratic senator. “We don’t have time to wait for them to get serious about the problem.”

The universal urgency felt by congressional Democrats was demonstrated by the decision to immediately introduce budget resolutions that begin the process of passing the relief package through reconciliation.

That process could take up to a month, which would give Republicans the chance to come to the table -- but also leaves open the option to get the job done without them. For Democrats, the timeline is the priority, not getting Republicans to support the plan. 

“My constituents don't call me on the phone and say, ‘I need bipartisanship’. They call me on the phone and they say ‘where can I get a vaccine?’,” said Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel of Florida.
9:43 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

More than 1 in 5 US Covid-19 deaths were reported in January

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

Employees prepare to move a body into a refrigerated semi-truck at the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner on January 14, in Tucson, Arizona.
Employees prepare to move a body into a refrigerated semi-truck at the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner on January 14, in Tucson, Arizona. Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

More than 443,000 people in the United States have died of Covid-19 since the pandemic began about a year ago. About 22% of those deaths -- more than 95,000 -- were reported in January, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. 

December was the second deadliest month with more than 77,000 reported deaths, followed by April with nearly 61,000 reported deaths. 

More than half of all Covid-19 deaths were reported in those three months: January 2021, December 2020 and April 2020. 

The seven-day average of new cases has dropped nearly every day since reaching a peak on Jan. 8, but reported deaths remain high. In January, there were more than 3,000 deaths reported each day, on average. 

9:54 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Animals unlikely to spread Covid-19 to humans, but precautions can help keep us safe, says CDC

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

There's no evidence that animals are playing a significant role in the spread of coronavirus to humans, but precautions can help keep people and their pets safe, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said Monday.

"Based on limited information available to date, the risk of animals, including pets, spreading Covid-19 to people is considered to be low," CDC official Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh said during a briefing Monday.

Evidence suggests that Covid-19 likely originated in animals before becoming widespread among humans.

"As of the middle of January, we're aware of 187 animals from 22 countries with a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection," Behravesh said, noting those numbers do not include mink on mink farms. She added that no animal deaths have yet been linked to the virus.

The CDC is closely tracking research on coronavirus infections in animals and has categorized some animals based off their risk of infection. Animals that are highly susceptible to the virus include cats, hamsters, non-human primates, rabbits, mink and deer, Behravesh said.

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7:43 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Some people are finding ways around pandemic protocols to get their Covid-19 shots early

From CNN's Scottie Andrew and Alisha Ebrahimji

If she'd waited to get vaccinated until it was her "tier's" turn, Isabela Medina wouldn't have gotten the Covid-19 vaccine until late summer.

She wasn't willing to wait.

Medina, a healthy 25-year-old, moved across the country to live with her parents on the East Coast after her work in the film industry dried up. Anxious to return to work safely, Medina decided in mid-January to go "vaccine dumpster diving."

Though a dumpster, this was not. Rather than dig through a hospital's garbage for vials, Medina staked out a grocery store pharmacy. She wanted to score a leftover vaccine.

She and a friend arrived in the early afternoon, prepared to wait. A line formed behind them. Hours later, when the day's appointments were done, pharmacy staff offered up eight leftover vaccines. Medina and her friend gleefully claimed two of them.

"I felt good about it -- and better that it didn't go to waste," she told CNN.

Medina is what has been described by many on the internet as a "vaccine hunter," or someone who stalks a pharmacy or vaccination site for leftovers.

These vaccine seekers, spurred by reports of doses being dumped and feeling antsy for the country's vaccine rollout to pick up the pace, say they want to prevent waste -- by getting their shot early.

They see it as a win-win: They get vaccinated and a precious dose of the Covid-19 vaccine doesn't end up in the trash. But their gain is also a symptom of a lack of coordination in the US vaccination plan -- the initial rollout was much slower than expected, delaying President Joe Biden's plan for "100 million vaccinations in 100 days."

The lucky -- and privileged -- few who get vaccinated early assure what they're doing isn't wrong, although it certainly feels unfair to those who don't have the time or resources to "hunt" for their own.

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