February 5 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Jo Shelley, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 12:42 AM ET, Sat February 6, 2021
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12:22 a.m. ET, February 5, 2021

It's too soon for people to have a choice about which Covid-19 vaccine they get, Fauci says

From CNN's Andrea Diaz

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a White House briefing in Washington, DC, on January 21.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a White House briefing in Washington, DC, on January 21. Alex Wong/Getty Images

It’s too soon for people to think they might be able to pick and choose among coronavirus vaccines, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Even with Johnson & Johnson asking the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of its vaccine, there’s just not enough vaccine available, Fauci told CNN on Thursday.

"I don't think right in the beginning they will, because right now, the demand is far excess of the supply. So, people will, I think, gladly take whatever is available to them," Fauci said. 

If the Johnson & Johnson vaccine wins an EUA, that would make three vaccine brands on the US market: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.

"As we get through February, into March, and April, and May, when the amount of vaccine becomes much more plentiful, there is certainly a possibility that people will know that this particular vaccine is maybe given in the pharmacies, and this you might get in a clinic, or in your doctor's office, or wherever. They could potentially have a choice," Fauci said.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are very similar and require two doses. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine uses a different approach and only needs one shot to work.

12:03 a.m. ET, February 5, 2021

Australian Open warm-up matches resume after no new Covid-19 cases found

From CNN's Angus Watson in Melbourne

Play resumes at Melbourne Park in Australia, on February 5.
Play resumes at Melbourne Park in Australia, on February 5. Jack Thomas/Getty Images

Warm-up matches for the Australian Open tennis tournament resumed on Friday, after all of Thursday’s fixtures were canceled to make way for coronavirus testing. 

The Australian state of Victoria recorded no local cases of Covid-19 after conducting 14,612 tests on Thursday, according to its health department on Friday.

"These are in some respects the best possible outcomes we could have hoped for,” said state premier Daniel Andrews.

Andrews added that wastewater tests in Melbourne have also not shown signs of Covid-19.

The testing blitz comes after one person connected to the Australian Open tested positive this week, canceling games and forcing 507 tennis players, staff and officials to isolate and get tested on Thursday.

The case broke a run of 28 days with no community transmission in the state of Victoria. 

The Australian Open is scheduled to begin Monday.

11:20 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

San Quentin prison, linked to Covid-19 outbreak, fined more than $400,000 for violations

From CNN's Sarah Moon

An aerial view of San Quentin State Prison is seen in California, on July 8, 2020.
An aerial view of San Quentin State Prison is seen in California, on July 8, 2020. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California's San Quentin State Prison, where a deadly coronavirus outbreak was reported last summer, has been fined more than $400,000 for workplace safety violations.

The state's Department of Industrial Relations' division of occupational safety and health (Cal-OHSA) issued nearly 15 violations, culminating in a $421,880 fine -- one of the highest penalties issued by the state for Covid-19 violations.  

The prison failed to report infections or deaths of employees, according to the violation. From June to July, there were five instances of employees hospitalized with Covid-19.

Inspectors also found that there were no “suitable cleansing agents” in the employee restroom. The eyewash station was also inaccessible.  

The citations come just days after the state’s inspector general released a report saying the prison’s “deeply flawed” detainee transfers contributed to the outbreak. 

“San Quentin State Prison has made many improvements and already remedied several of the citations in the eight months since Cal-OSHA visited the institution. The visits took place last June and July, and we have worked with Cal-OSHA representatives throughout the pandemic to ensure regulations were met and concerns addressed expeditiously,” the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said in a statement.

San Quentin State Prison, located about 20 miles north of San Francisco, has confirmed 2,151 cases and 28 related deaths -- the highest number of fatalities among the state’s prison system.

More than 40% of inmates there have tested positive for Covid-19 in the past two weeks, according to the CDCR. 

10:25 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

FDA schedules meeting to consider Johnson & Johnson vaccine

From CNN's Maggie Fox

The US Food and Drug Administration has scheduled a meeting of vaccine advisors to discuss Johnson & Johnson’s request for emergency use authorization (EUA) for its coronavirus vaccine.

The FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) will meet on February 26.

Johnson & Johnson said earlier Thursday it had applied for the EUA on behalf of its Janssen Biotech vaccine-making subsidiary. The timing means the FDA would not decide on authorization before the end of the month. 

“In terms of timing for convening the VRBPAC meeting following the submission of the EUA request, this amount of time will allow the FDA to thoroughly evaluate the data and information submitted in the EUA request before the meeting and to be prepared for a robust public discussion with the advisory committee members,” the FDA said in a statement.

The FDA added that it cannot predict how long it would take to made a decision, but that the agency would review the request "as expeditiously as possible ... while still doing so in a thorough and science-based manner."

The meeting will be livestreamed on the agency's YouTube, Facebook and Twitter channels, and from the FDA website.  

10:11 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Influential model forecasts more than 630,000 US Covid-19 deaths by June 1

From CNN's Maggie Fox

An estimated 631,000 Americans will have died from Covid-19 by June 1, according to the latest forecast from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. 

The team behind the influential forecast model said a lot depends on the vaccine rollout and the spread of variants. A worst-case scenario could see the death toll go as high as 703,000.

“The balance between new variant spread and associated increased transmission and the scale-up of vaccination in our most likely scenario suggests continued declines in daily deaths through to June 1,” it said. 

As of Thursday night, the US had reported more than 455,000 Covid-19 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The IHME cited a poll showing an increase in the number of Americans willing to get vaccinated, from 54% to 66%. 

“Daily deaths have peaked and are declining. By June 1, 2021, we project that 123,600 lives will be saved by the projected vaccine rollout,” the IHME said.

How to save more lives: If 95% of Americans wore masks, 44,000 more lives would be saved, the IHME said. Currently, mask use is at about 77%. 

And people need to stay put even if they have been vaccinated, the IHME said. If vaccinated people start moving and traveling as normal, 17 states could see rising daily deaths again by April and May.

“The best strategies to manage this period of the pandemic are rapid scale-up of vaccination, continued and expanded mask-wearing, and concerted efforts to avoid rebound mobility in the vaccinated. Some states are lifting mandates rapidly, which poses a real risk of increased transmission as new variants spread and vaccination rates remain comparatively low,” the IHME warned.

9:05 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

More than 600 coronavirus variant cases have been identified in the US, CDC says

From CNN's Michael Nedelman

The United States has reported at least 618 cases of coronavirus variants across 33 states, according to data posted Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The vast majority (611) of these cases are the more contagious variant known as B.1.1.7, which was originally detected in the United Kingdom. Florida has the highest count, with 187 cases, and California follows with 145. The rest are scattered across a few dozen states.

In addition, there are five cases of the variant called B.1.351, which was initially seen in South Africa. Two cases are in South Carolina, and three in Maryland.

Lastly, Minnesota has identified two cases of the P.1 strain, first linked to Brazil.

The CDC says this does not represent the total number of such cases circulating in the US, but just those that have been found by analyzing positive samples.

8:21 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Johnson & Johnson asks FDA to authorize its Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Jen Christensen

Johnson & Johnson officially asked the US Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine Thursday.

"Today's submission for Emergency Use Authorization of our investigational single-shot COVID-19 vaccine is a pivotal step toward reducing the burden of disease for people globally and putting an end to the pandemic," Dr. Paul Stoffels, Chief Scientific Officer at Johnson & Johnson, said in a statement.

As the FDA looks at the results, it will schedule a public meeting of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, an independent group of experts who will also look at the data and make a recommendation that the agency takes into consideration when it makes a decision.

If the FDA decides to authorize the vaccine, next the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meets to discuss whether the vaccine should be given to Americans and if so, who should get it first.

This same regulatory process for Pfizer took a little over three weeks. For Moderna it was a little more than two.

One dose: The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a little different than the other Covid-19 vaccines. The vaccine, made through a collaboration of J&J's vaccine division, Janssen Pharmaceutical, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, is delivered in a single shot. Pfizer and Moderna's require two. It's considered versatile since it is considered stable for up to three months kept in regular refrigerated temperatures and doesn't need the deep freeze like Pfizer's.

Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine was shown to be 66% effective in preventing moderate and severe disease in a global Phase 3 trial, according to the company. The vaccine is 85% effective overall at preventing hospitalization and death in all regions where it was tested.

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8:19 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

A barber's positive Covid-19 test causes scare for the Kansas City Chiefs, reports say

From CNN's Jill Martin

Could you imagine if several of the Kansas City Chiefs -- including quarterback Patrick Mahomes -- had not been able to practice or play in Super Bowl LV against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of a haircut?

The Chiefs got a Covid-19 scare a week before the Super Bowl when it was learned that a barber giving members of the organization haircuts had tested positive for Covid-19, according to multiple reports.

Twenty members of the Chiefs, including Mahomes, other players and staff members, were in line to get haircuts on Sunday when the barber's test results came back, according to ESPN.

ESPN, citing unnamed sources, reports that Chiefs backup center Daniel Kilgore was in the chair getting a haircut when the positive test result for the barber was learned. Both he and the barber were wearing masks, according to the report.

Kilgore on Wednesday posted a picture on Twitter with the hashtag #NewProfilePic, showing him with what looked like half of a cut. However, according to ESPN, Kilgore did indeed finish his haircut since he was in close contact.

Kilgore and wide receiver Demarcus Robinson were added to the Chiefs' reserve/Covid-19 list on Monday. They could still play Sunday if they register five consecutive negative tests.

Read more:

8:16 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Some states begin easing restrictions as Covid-19 hospitalizations and cases decrease

From CNN's Amir Vera, Jason Hanna, Madeline Holcombe and Michael Nedelman

There is some encouraging news in the fight against Covid-19 as more vaccines are being distributed and several states announced they will ease certain coronavirus restrictions amid decreasing case levels and hospitalizations, but despite the promising developments experts insist Americans need to remain cautious, especially with the arrival of differing variants in the United States.

On Thursday, Stefan Pryor, Rhode Island's Secretary of Commerce, said that starting Friday indoor dining will be allowed at 50% capacity. Catered events, he added, will allow up to 30 people indoors and 50 people outdoors with testing.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker said that starting Monday all businesses limited to operating within 25% capacity can raise that threshold to 40%, including restaurants.

The two states joined New Jersey, which on Wednesday announced it will ease indoor gathering limits and lift the 10 p.m. curfew for restaurants, citing decreasing Covid-19 spreading rates and hospitalization rates. Starting Friday, indoor gathering capacity limits, including for indoor dining, will be raised to 35% from 25%.

And last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that if the coronavirus positivity rate continued to decline -- as of Jan. 29 the rate was at 4.6%, the lowest since Nov. 28 -- the state could resume indoor dining at 25% capacity beginning February 14.

Despite the hopeful news, experts insist Americans need to remain cautious: The emergence of these virus mutations -- first detected in the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.1.351) and Brazil (P.1), respectively -- could mean another surge in cases, according to Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

"What we need to do is anticipate this is coming, and I understand this is hard for the public. They're saying give me a break, I'm tired of this. But the bottom line is we have to be prepared for what I feel is certain is coming, and that's the challenge we have right now," Osterholm said Thursday on CNN's "New Day."

It will take much more than a vaccine to "keep this variant at bay and not have potentially a major surge in just the weeks ahead," Osterholm said, referring to the UK variant.

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