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February 10 coronavirus news

CNN's Omar Jimenez answers your questions about a tentative deal to return to in-person learning in Chicago
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California overtakes New York as US state with most Covid-19 deaths 

Funeral service workers load the casket of a person who died after contracting Covid-19 into a hearse at East County Mortuary on January 15, in El Cajon, California. 

California has surpassed New York as the US state with the highest number of Covid-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

As of Wednesday, California has reported a total of 45,351 Covid-19 fatalities – eclipsing New York’s total of 45,312 deaths.

The grim designation comes after a catastrophic surge of new infections over the holidays in California led to a record wave of deaths that has lingered into February, even as new Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations have fallen in recent weeks. On Wednesday, state data showed a rolling daily average of nearly 500 deaths.

“This is a heart-wrenching reminder that Covid-19 is a deadly virus, and we mourn alongside every Californian who has suffered the tragic loss of a loved one during this pandemic,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Though California has the highest number of total deaths, many other states have a higher rate of deaths per capita. New Jersey has the highest rate, followed by New York, which was hit hard early in the pandemic.

California saw a surge in new cases in the fall, soaring from a total of 1 million just before Thanksgiving to more than 3 million by mid-January.

The mounting death toll in California comes despite the state’s accelerated vaccine rollout. “Deaths continue to be devastating,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday at the opening of the state’s largest mass vaccination center at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, which will administer up to 15,000 doses each day.

Los Angeles will temporarily close all vaccination sites because it has run out of vaccines

Hundreds line up to get Covid-19 vaccine shots at Dodger Stadium on Monday, February 8, in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles will temporarily close five Covid-19 vaccination sites, including one of the nation’s largest at Dodger Stadium, due to a lack of vaccine doses, Mayor Eric Garcetti said on Wednesday.

“We don’t have enough vaccines,” Garcetti said at a news conference, as he explained that the vaccine doses aren’t arriving soon enough.

The sites will shut on Friday and Saturday, and Garcetti says he hopes to reopen them by Tuesday or Wednesday.

“These closures, unfortunately, are inevitable,” he said, adding that the city will have exhausted its supply of the Moderna vaccine for first dose appointments.

While the city has been administering about 13,000 doses a day, only 16,000 new doses arrived this week. So far, the city has administered more than 293,000 doses across the five sites.

Biden's 100-day plan to reopen schools meets with a messy reality

A teacher works with a student with a plexiglass shield dividing them at Freedom Preparatory Academy on February 10, in Provo, Utah.

President Joe Biden’s pledge to reopen most American schools within his first 100 days in office is in danger of going off the rails as teachers’ unions hold firm on their demands for new safety measures amid conflicting messages from the administration and public health leaders.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was pressed again on Wednesday to give a clear definition of what the administration would consider a successful return, after suggesting 24 hours earlier that “teaching at least one day a week in the majority of schools by day 100” could be the bar.

This time around, Psaki said it was Biden’s “objective … for all schools to reopen, to stay open, to be open five days a week, for kids to be learning,” but did not commit to a clear benchmark.

Nearly a year into the unprecedented national experiment in remote learning, millions of children are still at home, with no expected return date. Studies show them falling behind, with low-income or Black and Latino children hurting the worst – but the science is unclear on how, or when, they can safely return to classes, even as some teachers get vaccinated and schools districts work to fit classrooms for reopening.

There is scant information on the effects of bringing students back together, in close quarters, could have on the communities they reenter after leaving the building. And Though Biden promised to nationalize the response, some of the messaging from the White House has added to the confusion.

Read more:

Federal authorities investigate distribution of fake N95 masks

US federal authorities are investigating the distribution of counterfeit 3M N95 masks sold to hospitals and medical facilities nationwide, according to Homeland Security officials.

The sale of fake personal protective equipment, which have also gone to health care providers, has been an ongoing issue during the pandemic amid pent-up demand for supplies – especially counterfeit N95 masks which are misleadingly labeled as 3M products. 

There are active investigations in more than five states, and that number is expected to increase, Francis said. 3M has worked with authorities in multiple states to confirm that the counterfeit masks are not real 3M products.

The Associated Press first reported on the government’s investigation. 

The counterfeit products have come into health systems in part through fake solicitations. “These are businesses or individuals that are acting as if they’re medical supplies and acting as if they’re real, legitimate products,” explained Special Agent Brian Weinhaus of Homeland Security Investigations. 

“There’s so much demand for these products… they’re going outside of their normal channels to try and find them. When they see something that appears to be legitimate, they’re jumping it.” 

 Here’s how to identify a fake mask:

These photos were from a CBP seizure of 400 counterfeit 3M N95 respirators at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, DC in April 2020.

Fake N95 masks have flooded the market. Here's how to tell the difference

CDC releases new guidance on Covid-19 vaccine second doses

Educational staff at Kettering City Schools receive the Covid-19 vaccine as a part of Ohios Phase 1B vaccine distribution in Dayton, Ohio, on February 10.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance on Wednesday offering “best practices” for managing second doses of Covid-19 vaccine and making sure people get their second shots so that they are fully vaccinated.

The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use in the United States are administered as two doses, 21 and 28 days apart, respectively.

“If it is not feasible to adhere to the recommended interval, the second dose may be scheduled for administration up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose,” according to the new guidance posted to the CDC’s website.

The guidance notes that “jurisdictions and providers must carefully manage vaccine inventory to ensure completion of the vaccine series. At present, jurisdictions receive sufficient supply of doses to vaccinate all persons who receive a first dose.”

Local health officials were told on Tuesday during a phone call with the White House that the guidance provided recommendations around what to do if patients miss their second-dose appointments, Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, told CNN on Wednesday.

“This guidance that is coming out is intended to share how health departments – and others who are distributing the vaccine – can deal with people who miss their second appointments and how long they should save that vaccine for that patient,” Freeman said.

“This guidance is meant to provide some protocols that health departments can use so that they can address missed appointments.”

Canadian province of Newfoundland goes from Covid-free sanctuary to "circuit-breaker" type lockdown

Newfoundland is facing its largest Covid-19 outbreak so far — a chilling discovery for a province that sacrificed large parts of its economy and prohibited most visitors from entering the past 10 months, in the hopes of containing any major outbreaks.

The province’s chief medical officer, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, said Wednesday that “complacency” had allowed case numbers to spiral:

“I believe that going so long with low case counts of Covid led to complacency and we are now seeing the repercussions.”

Canada’s easternmost province reported just 53 new Covid-19 cases Wednesday for a population of about a half million people. Still, the province is shell-shocked and has imposed a strict “circuit-breaker” lockdown.

Adding to the 53 new cases are 32 presumptive cases that have yet to be confirmed. The province now has 110 active cases of Covid-19 and that is enough for officials to shutdown parts of the province including widespread closures in the St. John’s metro area, Newfoundland’s capital.

New daily case numbers are expected to rise for days to come as the provincial officials warn residents of a ‘rough period’ ahead.’

New daily case numbers are expected to rise for days to come as the provincial officials warn residents of a ‘rough period’ ahead.

“This is what Covid does, it’s a bit disappointing to see the number of contacts that people have had. I think we really need to do better when it comes to reducing those contacts,” said Dr. Fitzgerald.

All schools in the St. John’s area are now closed for at least 2 weeks, non-essential businesses have been closed to in person shopping and dine-in restaurants must close. In addition, Newfoundland residents have been told to stay home when possible and avoid any private, social gatherings.

Upwards of 1,500 people have been told to self-isolate and officials say they are investigating hundreds of possible contacts.

The outbreak comes at a crucial time for the province, as residents go to the polls to elect a new premier in just a few days. But public health officials say the election will not be postponed and that they will ‘find a way’ to keep everyone safe during the vote.

South African variant of Covid-19 detected in California for first time

Two cases of the South African Covid-19 variant have been detected in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday. Both cases were identified in the Bay Area, one in Santa Clara and the other in Alameda County.

The discovery of the South African strain is in addition to 159 cases of the UK variant and 1203 incidents of the West Coast variants identified thus far in the Golden State.

Thirty labs across the state are working to sequence genomes and potentially uncover additional cases of variants, Newsom said.

The variant of the coronavirus first identified in South Africa could be resistant to vaccines and raise the bar for herd immunity, health officials have said. The first two confirmed cases of the variant in the US were detected last month in South Carolina.

New Mexico will end mandatory quarantine for travelers from high-risk states

As the rate of new coronavirus cases drops in most of the state, New Mexico’s governor says it will be dropping its mandatory quarantine rule for most out-of-state travelers.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) said in a press release Wednesday:

“New Mexicans have sacrificed to make this recent progress, and I encourage all New Mexicans and visitors to our state to maintain vigilance in the coming weeks.”  

The current quarantine rules will expire Thursday. They required that people coming to New Mexico from 48 other states isolate for 14 days after arriving.

Only travel from Hawaii was exempted from the rule, since that state has a positivity rate of lower than 80 cases per million residents.

Double masking can significantly improve protection, CDC website now says

A man wears two masks as he walks in Times Square in New York on April 6.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website now reflects the agency’s new mask data showing double masking can significantly improve protection. The data was published in a CDC report on Wednesday. 

The site uses colorful illustrations to outline different types of masks and educates the public on how to “Improve How Your Mask Protects You.”

It describes wearing two masks- a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask for better fit and extra protection. The CDC still encourages the use of a single cloth mask that is multi-layered.

Also suggested on the site: wearing masks with a nose wire and using a mask fitter or brace to prevent air leakage from gaps in loose masks. 

The website now instructs to the public to ensure the snug fit of a mask by cupping their hands outside the edges of a mask to make sure no air is flowing out of the sides or top.

The page tells consumers to avoid masks with gaps or exhalation valves or vents.

Beginning in January 2021, the CDC tested two simple methods, double masking and knotting, to evaluate mask performance protection. Researchers found the effectiveness of cloth and medical procedure masks can be improved by ensuring they are well fitted to the contours of the face to prevent air and particles from escaping from gaps around the mask’s edges.

Researchers found that layering a cloth mask over a medical procedural mask, such as a disposable blue surgical mask, can block 92.5% of potentially infectious particles from escaping by creating a tighter fit and eliminating leakage.

Researchers also found that overall performance of medical procedure masks alone can be improved by folding mask edges inward and knotting ear loop strings where they meet mask fabric to reduce gaps. A knotted medical mask can block 63% of aerosols that may contain coronavirus, a significant improvement from blocking only 42% of particles when unknotted.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 06: A man wears a double mask as he walks in Times Square on April 6, 2020 in New York City. The COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. is approaching 10,000. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

Double masking can block 92% of infectious particles, CDC says

New York arenas and stadiums can open this month with capacity limits and negative tests for spectators, Cuomo says

The Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2013.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that large entertainment and sports venues will be able to re-open with a 10% capacity limit from from February 23.

Venues will need to get approval from the Department of Health and spectators will have to test negative for Covid-19 up to 72 hours before the event.

The department is already inspecting venues and the Barclays Center has been approved to re-open on February 23 for the Brooklyn Nets’ home game against the Sacramento Kings, Cuomo’s office said.

The decision builds on the pilot program in use at the Buffalo Bills’ home games during the NFL playoffs, which saw a limited number of fans allowed.

“Live sports and entertainment have long been engrained in the fabric of New York and the inability to hold events has only added to the isolation we have all felt at the hands of this virus,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“Thankfully, our pilot program to reopen Buffalo Bills games to fans was an unparalleled success and now we are taking that model and expanding it to other large venues across the state to not only reinvigorate local economies, but also help bring some fun and joy back into people’s lives as safely as possible,” he said.

Socially distanced seating, mask-wearing and contact tracing information is required for venues wishing to re-open.

Elsewhere, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced during his daily press briefing he will soon open a vaccination site at Empire Outlets for residents of Staten Island.

New York City is also hoping to partner with the state to open the Barclays Center as a Brooklyn-only vaccination site, de Blasio said. The city is also partnering with a number of organizations in an effort to vaccinate Holocaust survivors right away, he added.

CNN's Omar Jimenez answers your questions about schools and the Covid-19 pandemic

More schools across the US are returning to in-person learning as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

CNN’s Omar Jimenez is on the scene in Chicago, where teachers have voted to come back to classrooms. 



All the coronavirus in the world would fit inside a cola can with room to spare, mathematician estimates

All the coronavirus particles in the world would easily fit inside a single can of cola, a British mathematician has estimated. 

Kit Yates, a co-director of the Centre for Mathematical Biology at the University of Bath in the UK, set out to calculate the total volume of SARS-CoV-2 currently in circulation by estimating the number of people harboring the virus, how much of it they have, and how big the virus itself is. 

He was startled by his own finding, he told CNN.

“It’s astonishing to think that all the trouble, the disruption, the hardship and the loss of life that has resulted over the last year could constitute just a few mouthfuls,” Yates told CNN Wednesday.

“It’s supposed to be a bit of a light-hearted look at the situation. It’s been a nice outlet for me since I am largely preoccupied by reporting on the pandemic as part of my role on Independent SAGE here in the UK,” he said.

Independent SAGE – the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies - is a group of scientists who provide independent advice to the UK government and public amid the crisis. 

Yates used statistical and epidemiological modelling by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent global health research center at the University of Washington in Seattle, which estimates the number of people infected with the virus each day at around 3 million. 

Using data from a pre-print study carried out by scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and the University of California at Berkeley in the USA, Yates calculated peak viral loads range from one billion to 100 billion virus particles per gram, with estimates of the diameter range of SARS-CoV-2 80 to 120 nanometres. One nanometre is a billionth of a meter. 

Germany’s partial lockdown extended until March, but states will decide on school openings themselves 

A closed and empty salon is seen in Dortmund, Germany, on January 19.

Germany’s partial national lockdown will be extended till March 7, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the state prime ministers of the 16 federal states agreed on Wednesday evening.

Officials made an exception over the opening of the schools and childcare centres, which has proven to be a controversial subject. The government will leave it up to federal the states to handle those issues themselves.

Merkel said at a press conference: “I have had certain ideas of my own leading up to March 1, but we live in a federal state, there are very important state sovereignties, so the states will decide the school openings.”

Merkel added that even though the number of new infection is low, at only 8,072, the decision to keep the current lockdown restrictions came because of concern over the spreading of the new coronavirus mutation, which she said could lead to a serious aggravation of the situation.

“With the uncertainty of the spread of viral mutations, the next loosening of restrictions can take place at a stable seven-day incidence of no more than 35 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants,” Merkel said.

“This next opening stage should include the opening of retail limited to one person per 20 square meters, in addition to museums and galleries and the opening of the still closed body services.”

Hairdressers will be allowed to open from March 1 with hygiene measures in place. 

White House announces new mass vaccination centers in Texas

The White House Covid-19 response team announced it would be building three new mass vaccination sites in the state of Texas, which will be capable of administering more than 10,000 shots a day. 

“Today I’m pleased to announce that we’ll partner with the state of Texas to build three new major community vaccination centers, in Dallas, Arlington and Houston, communities hit hard by the pandemic,” Jeff Zients, Coordinator of the Covid-19 response team said at a briefing on Wednesday. 

The sites in Houston and Arlington are at two NFL stadiums, the NRG Stadium and AT&T Stadium respectively.

In an interview that aired before the Super Bowl on Sunday, US President Joe Biden said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had offered all the NFL Stadiums up as vaccination sites. The vaccination site in South Dallas will be at Fair Park, home to the Texas State Fair. 

“Together these sites will be capable of administering more than 10,000 shots in arms a day,” Zients said. He added that federal teams would be deployed to work with the state and local jurisdictions on this effort.

Zients said they expect the sites to begin administering shots the week of February 22.

Fully vaccinated people can skip Covid quarantines, CDC says

People who have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus – meaning they have recieved two doses of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine– can skip quarantine if they are exposed to someone infected with the virus, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

“Fully vaccinated persons who meet criteria will no longer be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19,” the CDC said in updates to its webpage with guidance on vaccination.

“Vaccinated persons with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria,” the CDC added.

The criteria: They must be fully vaccinated – having had both shots with at least two weeks having passed since the second shot. But the CDC says protection may wear off after three months, so people who had their last shot three months ago or more should quarantine if they are exposed. They also should quarantine if they show symptoms, the CDC said.

“This recommendation to waive quarantine for people with vaccine-derived immunity aligns with quarantine recommendations for those with natural immunity, which eases implementation,” the CDC said.

People who have been vaccinated should still watch for symptoms for 14 days after they have been exposed to someone who is infected, the CDC said.

“At this time, vaccinated persons should continue to follow current guidance to protect themselves and others, including wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often, following CDC travel guidance, and following any applicable workplace or school guidance, including guidance related to personal protective equipment use or SARS-CoV-2 testing,” the agency said.

PAHO sees "improving trends" in a pandemic in the Americas

The Pan American Health Organization has registered improving developments in the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne said on Wednesday.

“After many weeks of increases in Covid cases and deaths, we are starting to see improving trends in some of the more heavily affected countries, including the US and Brazil. There are also positive signs in Panama, Costa Rica, Chile, and Argentina,” Etienne said during PAHO’s weekly online briefing.

Etienne also warned that the trends are “cause for hope, but not for celebration,” and that the number of Covid-related deaths continued to increase in the Americas over the last seven days.

Particularly concerning are hotspots in Central America and the Amazon tri-border region between Brazil, Colombia, and Peru, Etienne also said. 

Boris Johnson welcomes WHO support for Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and UK's dosing regimen

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson poses for a photograph with a vial of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at Wockhardt's pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Wrexham, Wales, on November 30.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has welcomed the World Health Organization’s backing for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and for the UK’s spaced-out dosing strategy that had been the subject of intense debate in medical circles.

Johnson encouraged any eligible Brits who hadn’t taken up an offer of a vaccine to do so, as he confirmed Britain has inoculated more than 13 million people – about a fifth of its population.

“Let me stress that these vaccines are safe and effective, and it was good to see the World Health Organisation today confirm its support for the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine for use in everyone over the age of 18 and, obviously, anyone over 65,” Johnson said at a press briefing.

The WHO earlier recommended the vaccine for use, including for the elderly, after some countries recommended it not be given to over 65s until more data is released.

Dr. Joachim Hombach, executive secretary of WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization said “the immune response in people above 65 is almost the same as in younger people, and this makes us very confident.”

At his briefing, Johnson highlighted the WHO “also supporting the 12-week interval between the two doses,” the unorthodox approach the UK has followed. “Indeed, they say the longer interval provides greater protection,” Johnson said.

White House not recommending double masking at this time, considering a "range of options" to get masks to Americans

White House press secretary Jen Psaki enters the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House for a news briefing on February 10.

The White House isn’t at this time recommending that people wear two masks to prevent coronavirus, but is considering a “range of options” when it comes to getting masks to Americans, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday.  

Psaki told reporters during a press briefing that reports that two masks protect better than one were based on a “study, which was a reflection of the importance of well-fitting masks, something that many of our health and medical experts have talked about.” 

“It doesn’t actually issue definitive guidance on one mask versus two mask,” Psaki continued. “Obviously if that’s something they were to issue as official guidance, we listened to our health and medical experts.” 

She said the study shows “that if a person has a loose fitting mask that they should consider options to improve that fit.”

Asked if there was a plan for the administration to send masks to Americans, Psaki said there were “a range of options under consideration on to how to ensure that people who need masks the most, people who need this type of protection the most, receive it, but no decision has been no final decision has been made.”

Last week, White House chief of staff Ron Klain said the administration hoped to resurrect a proposal from the Trump administration to mail face masks to every American in an attempt to stop the spread of Covid-19.

WHO, UNICEF call out inequitable global distribution of Covid-19 vaccines

Top officials at the World Health Organization and UNICEF on Wednesday called out the inequitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines across the globe, which has seen wealthier countries vaccinating millions and poorer countries vaccinating no one. 

“Of the 128 million vaccine doses administered so far, more than three quarters of those vaccinations are in just 10 countries that account for 60% of global (gross domestic product),” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, and Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF, said in a joint statement.

“As of today, almost 130 countries, with 2.5 billion people, are yet to administer a single dose.”

They said the current approach is a “self-defeating strategy” that will “cost lives and livelihoods” and give the virus further opportunity to mutate and evade the vaccines.

To ensure that vaccine rollouts begin in all countries in the first 100 days of 2021, the officials said it is imperative that governments share vaccines with other countries after they have vaccinated their own health workers and populations at the highest risk of severe disease.

They also called on vaccine manufactures to allocate the limited vaccine supply equitably by taking steps to scale up production and by transferring technology to other manufacturers to make additional supply.

“We need global leadership to scale up vaccine production and achieve vaccine equity,” the statement said. “COVID-19 has shown that our fates are inextricably linked. Whether we win or lose, we will do so together.”

Norway extends border closures to the end of February

Customs officers and policemen check drivers at the border between Norway and Sweden in Swinesund on March 16, 2020.

Norway is extending border closures to the end of February, its Justice Minister announced on Wednesday.

The border closures, which have been in place since January 29, prohibit nearly everyone who does not reside in Norway from entering the country.

“This has major consequences for many families and individuals who are not allowed to meet their loved ones. And then, of course, it has enormous consequences for Norwegian businesses and industry,” said Norwegian Minister of Justice and Public Security Monica Mæland on Wednesday. 

“At the same time, we are in a situation where the pandemic has taken a new direction, with mutated viruses that infect more people and infect more quickly.”

“We must make sure we have control and limit the infection as much as possible, and that means, and of course, to limit the import of infection,” Mæland added.

“The infection situation in Europe, and especially elsewhere than Europe, indicates that we must continue to limit the number of people travelling to Norway as much as we can.”

As of Tuesday, Norway has recorded 65,338 Covid-19 cases and 592 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the latest government data.

The country has also recorded several cases of the coronavirus variants that were first identified in the UK and South Africa. As of Tuesday, Norway’s Public Health Institute has reported 436 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant that was first identified in the UK and 10 cases of the B1.351 variant that was first identified in South Africa.

About 20,000 pregnant women have received Covid-19 vaccines so far, 'with no red flags,' Fauci says

Tens of thousands of pregnant women have been vaccinated against Covid-19 so far and there have been “no red flags” in their reactions to the vaccine, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to President Biden, said during a White House briefing on Wednesday.

Fauci said that children and pregnant women were not included in the original clinical trials for the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccines, which are now authorized for emergency use in the United States.

Some clinical trials including pregnant women and children will be starting or are already underway, he said.

“But I want to point out that since the EUA (emergency use authorization) and under the EUA, approximately 20,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated with no red flags, as we say, and this is being monitored by the CDC and the FDA,” Fauci said on Wednesday.

“With regard to children and pregnant women, as I mentioned on a prior discussion with this group, the fact remains that we will be starting clinical trials, and some have already started. We will not need to do tens of thousands of people,” Fauci said.

“We will need just enough measured in hundreds to thousands for safety and whether or not we induce an immune response that is equivalent to the immune response that has been proven to be protective under the trials that have now shown to be 94% to 95% effective.”

WHO recommends AstraZeneca vaccine for adults over 18 and in countries where new variants are circulating

A health worker holds up a vial of Covishield, AstraZeneca-Oxford's Covid-19 vaccine, in Yangon, Myanmar, on January 27.

The World Health Organization’s recommendations for the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca

Covid-19 vaccine, AZD1222, include all people ages 18 and older, including older adults.

In a briefing on Wednesday, Dr. Joachim Hombach, executive secretary of WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization said:

The new recommendations were published on Wednesday and note that there are some populations for which data are limited or do not exist – including children, pregnant women, lactating women and other groups. “Until such data are available, vaccination of individuals below 18 years of age is not recommended,” the guidance says.

“The available data on AZD1222 vaccination of pregnant women are insufficient to assess vaccine efficacy or vaccine-associated risks in pregnancy. However, it should be noted that AZD1222 is a nonreplicating vaccine,” it says. It added that the “WHO does not recommend pregnancy testing prior to vaccination. WHO does not recommend delaying pregnancy because of vaccination.”

For women who are breastfeeding, the guidance says that “a lactating woman who is part of a group recommended for vaccination, e.g., health workers, should be offered vaccination on an equivalent basis.” It also said that it does not recommend discontinuing breastfeeding after vaccination

At the same briefing, the WHO also recommended the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in countries where variants of the coronavirus are circulating.

The group of expert advisers looked at two aspects of the circulation of the variants in relation to the AstraZeneca vaccine, Dr. Alejandro Cravioto, chair of WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization,Cravioto explained.

In the United Kingdom, Cravioto said preliminary analysis showed a slightly reduced efficacy against the variant first spotted there. The analysis also showed a limited reduction in titers of neutralization, which means the vaccine is still having a good effect protecting people infected with that variant.

In South AfricaCravioto said preliminary analysis showed “a marked reduction” in vaccine effectiveness against mild or moderate disease in a variant first spotted there. The analysis also showed a reduction in neutralizing antibody levels. However, he said the study was small and didn’t allow assessment of the vaccine against severe infection. He noted there is indirect evidence that there is still protection against severe disease.

EU drug regulator says it has not received an application for Russia's Sputnik V vaccine

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has not been asked to approve the Russian Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V, the regulatory agency said Wednesday, saying it was responding to inaccurate reports that it had.

The EMA said in a statement that has given scientific advice to the maker of the vaccine.

“EMA is in dialogue and collaborating with the company to define the next steps. The developers have expressed their interest that the vaccine be considered for a rolling review,” the regulator said.

Hungary will this week become the first European Union country to start distributing the vaccine, it announced on Tuesday.

The Sputnik vaccine is already approved for use in Russia, Belarus, Serbia, Argentina, Bolivia, Algeria, Venezuela, Paraguay, Turkmenistan, Hungary, UAE, Iran, Guinea, Tunisia, Armenia and the Palestinian territories and has so far been administered to more than 2 million people worldwide.

These 8 US states have done the most digging for coronavirus variants

Only eight US states have genetically sequenced more than 1% of their total coronavirus cases during the pandemic, compared to a national average just under 0.4%, according to data updated late Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

They include:

  • Hawaii (2.7%)
  • Maine (2.3%)
  • Washington (2.2%)
  • Wyoming (2.1%)
  • Utah (1.6%)
  • Oregon (1.3%)
  • New Mexico (1.0%)
  • New York (1.0%).

Meanwhile, 18 states have sequenced less than 0.1% of their confirmed cases.

The states with the highest raw numbers of sequences are Texas, with more than 15,500; California, with more than 13,000; and New York, with nearly 8,500. Six states report fewer than 100 sequences each.

These numbers come from sequences in a publicly accessible database from January 2020 to present, and may not represent the full number of samples that have been analyzed.

US labs have submitted 99,000 sequences of the coronavirus – less than 0.4% of its total cases – to a genomics database known as GISAID. In comparison, the UK has submitted nearly 220,000 – just over 5.5% of its total cases.

The US has been ramping up its sequencing efforts and is on track to process at least 7,000 samples per week, according to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. But more sequencing is needed to track the spread of variants across the country.

“Once we have more sequencing that’s happening, we’ll have a better idea as to how many variants there are and what proportion are out there,” Walensky said during a White House briefing Monday.

Experts have previously told CNN that the US should aim to sequence 5% to 10% of cases, in line with sequencing efforts in the UK. Given cases over the past seven days, this would amount to roughly 38,000 to 76,000 sequences in a week.