February 14 coronavirus news

By Jenni Marsh, Jessie Yeung, Amy Woodyatt, Melissa Mahtani and Michael Hayes CNN

Updated 6:09 a.m. ET, February 15, 2021
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2:29 p.m. ET, February 14, 2021

Mass vaccination sites in Washington state to prioritize second doses this week

From CNN's Chuck Johnston

Washington National Guard personnel prepare to administer Covid-19 vaccinations at Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee, Washington, on January 26.
Washington National Guard personnel prepare to administer Covid-19 vaccinations at Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee, Washington, on January 26. David Ryder/Getty Images

The Washington Department of Health announced that many of the state’s mass vaccination sites will primarily focus on second doses being administered throughout this upcoming week.

“Starting next week, our Ridgefield, Wenatchee and Kennewick sites will prioritize second doses of the vaccine. These sites administer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which requires a booster shot 3 weeks or 21 days after receiving a first dose,” the DOH said in a release.

“Our Spokane location, which administers Moderna, will administer both first and second doses. Moderna’s booster shot should be given 1 month or 28 days after the first dose,” the DOH added.. 

According to the department, 41,441 people have received their Covid-19 vaccine at the state’s four mass vaccination sites since they opened in January.

2:01 p.m. ET, February 14, 2021

New York's statewide Covid-19 positivity rate remains below 4%, governor says

From CNN's Laura Ly

New York state’s Covid-19 positivity rates – both daily and seven-day average – remained below 4% on Sunday, according to a press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. 

6,593 people are hospitalized with Covid-19, marking a 29% decrease since the state’s post-holiday peak, state data shows.

107 more New Yorkers have died due to Covid-19. The state’s overall pandemic death toll is 37,118, Cuomo said.

 

2:21 p.m. ET, February 14, 2021

Teacher vaccinations are "essential" to reopening schools, CNN medical analyst says

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Dr. Leana Wen on February 14.
Dr. Leana Wen on February 14. CNN

Dr. Leana Wen, CNN medical analyst and former Baltimore health commissioner, said teacher vaccinations are essential when it comes to reopening schools, differing in opinion from guidance released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday.

The CDC guidance included five key strategies for opening schools: universal mask wearing, physical distancing, hand washing, cleaning facilities and improved ventilation. Vaccination was not included as one of them.

“I don’t really understand why we’re even having a debate about this. Of course teacher vaccinations are essential,” Wen told CNN’s Abby Phillip on “Inside Politics Sunday.”

“If we want students to be in school for in-person learning, the least that we can do is to protect the health and well-being of our teachers – especially as in so many parts of the country, teachers are already being made to go back to school in poorly-ventilated, cramped areas, with many students who may not always be masking and practicing physical distancing,” she added.

Wen’s comments are in direct contrast to what CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on CNN’s “State of the Union” earlier. Walensky said: “I’m a strong advocate of teachers receiving their vaccine, but we don’t believe it’s a prerequisite for schools to reopen.”

12:29 p.m. ET, February 14, 2021

"Mask breaching" is among the reasons behind Covid-19 transmission in schools, CDC director says

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Dr. Rochelle Walensky on February 14.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky on February 14. CNN

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, emphasized the need for masking and other mitigation measures when it comes to reopening schools safely.

Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" why schools couldn’t reopen right now if they were following all the latest CDC guidance, Walensky said, “We really don’t want to bring community disease into the classroom.”

“We also know that mask breaching is among the reasons that we have transmission within schools when it happens,” Walensky said. “So, we really need to do the hard work to make sure that there’s universal masking, there’s strict six feet of distancing between, that there’s cohorting or podding, so that there’s restriction of disease if it were to be transmitted, you know, and all of the contact tracing and whatnot that needs to be done, and all of that is really hard to put together.”

Wearing masks is one of the five key mitigation strategies included in the CDC’s new guidance for reopening schools.

11:50 a.m. ET, February 14, 2021

Precautions not vaccines are helping the current decline in case rates, former CDC director suggests

From CNN’s Ben Tinker

Dr. Tom Frieden on February 14.
Dr. Tom Frieden on February 14. CNN

Asked by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria about falling coronavirus case and death rates in the United States, Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, “I don’t think, Fareed, the vaccine is having much of an impact at all on case rates. It’s what we’re doing right: staying apart, wearing masks, not traveling, not mixing with others indoors.”

“Basically, we’re getting over a huge surge around the late-year holidays, starting with Thanksgiving and on to the December holidays. This, essentially, was an accelerator for the virus. And now cases are plummeting. They’re coming down, followed by decreasing hospitalization, followed by decreasing deaths. But they’re still high. Our case numbers are still higher than they were at higher peaks,” Frieden said on “Fareed Zakaria GPS.”

Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University indicates the 7-day moving average of daily confirmed new cases in the US is now just below 100,000 – down from a peak of about 250,000 in early January. Previous peaks, in April and July, were around 30,000 and 65,000, respectively. The last time the 7-day moving average of daily confirmed new cases in the US was below 100,000 was in October.

“So we’re nowhere near out of the woods,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, said. “And really, Fareed, we’ve had three surges. Whether or not we have a fourth surge is up to us, and the stakes couldn’t be higher – not only in the number of people who could die in the fourth surge, but also in the risk that even more dangerous variants will emerge if there’s more uncontrolled spread.”

11:19 a.m. ET, February 14, 2021

Covid-19 vaccine is better at protecting against reinfection than a previous natural infection, Fauci says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Anthony Fauci listens to US President Joe Biden, out of frame, during a visit to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, on February 11.
Dr. Anthony Fauci listens to US President Joe Biden, out of frame, during a visit to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, on February 11. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, that while people have been reinfected with the coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa, it appears as though the vaccine is better at preventing reinfection than a previous natural infection.

The variant first identified in South Africa is more problematic that the variant first identified in the United Kingdom, Fauci said, “in the sense that we know less about it vis a vis whether it transmits more readily or not.”

However, it is known that it evades the protection from some monoclonal antibodies, and it somewhat diminishes that effectiveness of the vaccine, Fauci said, but there is “still some cushion left so that the vaccine does provide some protection against it.”

He said attention needs to be paid to the fact that in South Africa there were people who were infected with the original virus, recovered and then got reinfected with the variant.

“Which tells us that prior infection does not protect you against reinfection – at least with this particular variant,” Fauci said. “Somewhat good news is it looks like the vaccine is better than natural infection in preventing you from getting reinfected with the South African isolate.”

 

10:56 a.m. ET, February 14, 2021

Fauci hopes new CDC school guidance will help alleviate teachers' concerns

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said teachers’ concerns about going back to school without being vaccinated are understandable, but he hopes the new guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help alleviate them. 

“There’s a lot of layering to the mitigations, George, and I think the point to make is it’s totally understandable, you know, teachers’ concerns, I mean, we appreciate that,” Fauci told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

There are myriad things that can be done to lower teachers’ risk, he said, and they are laid out in the CDC’s guidance document.

“This is the first time that it’s been put down in a document based on scientific observations and data over the last several months to a year, both in the United States and elsewhere,” Fauci said.

Part of this “is to indicate and to suggest strongly” that teachers are given a preference when it comes to vaccination, he added, but it is not essential that all teachers are vaccinated before a school can reopen.

“That would be optimal if you could do that, but practically speaking, when you balance the benefit of getting the children back to school with the fact that the risks are being mitigated if you follow the recommendations and these new guidelines from the CDC, hopefully, I think that will alleviate the concerns on both sides,” Fauci said.

 

10:55 a.m. ET, February 14, 2021

It is "absolutely" too early to be getting rid of mask mandates, CDC director says

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

A person opens a door that has signs about masks in New York on January 8.
A person opens a door that has signs about masks in New York on January 8. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said it it is absolutely too early to be getting rid of mask mandates.

“Absolutely,” Walensky told NBC’s Chuck Todd when he asked about states that were doing this. “We are still at about 100,000 cases a day. We are still at around 1,500 to 3,500 deaths per day. The cases are more than two-and-a-half fold times what we saw over the summer. It’s encouraging to see these trends coming down, but they’re coming down from an extraordinarily high place.”

“If we want to get our children back to school, and I believe we all do, it all depends on how much community spread is out there. We need to all take responsibility to decrease that community spread, including mask wearing, so that we can get our kids and our society back,” Walensky added.

 

10:20 a.m. ET, February 14, 2021

High-risk teachers should have options for virtual learning, CDC director says

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Dr. Rochelle Walensky on February 14.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky on February 14. CNN

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that while the vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for reopening schools, current CDC guidance does specify that those who are at higher risk should have virtual options.

The CDC on Friday released updated guidance for reopening schools.

“We have in the guidance clear language that specifies that teachers that are at higher risk – teachers and students that are higher risk, and their families – should have options for virtual activities, virtual learning, virtual teaching,” Walensky told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Walensky added guidance from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) puts teachers in the 1b category, which is the same as people over age 75.

“I’m a strong advocate of teachers receiving their vaccinations, but we don’t believe it’s a prerequisite for schools to reopen,” she said.