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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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. 

10:19 a.m. ET, February 14, 2021

Communities with lower transmission rates will have more "flexibility" to reopen schools, CDC director says

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN's Jake Tapper that she believes school reopening "is directly related to how much disease is in the community." 

She said its important for communities to lower the rate of Covid-19 transmission to safely reopen schools.

"We have more flexibility in opening schools as our disease rates come down," Walensky said. 

Walensky continued: "So I would say this is everybody's responsibility to do their part in the community to get disease rates down so we can get our schools opened."

 

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

UK has administered 15 million first doses of Covid-19 vaccine, minister says

From CNN’s Mia Alberti

A health worker administers a Covid-19 vaccine in St Albans, England, on February 8.
A health worker administers a Covid-19 vaccine in St Albans, England, on February 8. Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

The United Kingdom has administered 15 million first doses of Covid-19 vaccine, the minister in charge of the program, Nadhim Zahawi, tweeted Sunday.

"We will not rest till we offer the vaccine to the whole of phase 1," Zahawi wrote, referring to priority groups set out by the government.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it a "significant milestone" and an "extraordinary feat." 

"In England I can now tell you we have now offered jabs to everyone in the first four priority groups, the people most likely to be severely ill from Coronavirus, hitting the first target we set ourselves," Johnson wrote.

The British government also plans to give a first dose to the remaining risk groups and adults over 50 by the end of April.

11:04 a.m. ET, February 14, 2021

Everyone who wants a Covid-19 vaccine will be able to get one by the end of summer, CDC director says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

People line up to receive Covid-19 vaccinations at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on January 30.
People line up to receive Covid-19 vaccinations at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on January 30. Irfan Khan/The Los Angeles Times/Shutterstock

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on “Fox News Sunday” that she anticipates every American who wants a Covid-19 vaccine will be able to get one by the end of summer.

“We anticipate by the end of the summer, we will have enough vaccine in order to vaccinate the entire US population that is eligible,” Walensky told Fox News’ Chris Wallace, adding that her primary concern remains vaccine hesitancy.

Once there is enough vaccine, Walensky said, “we very much need to make sure that everybody rolls up their sleeves when it’s their turn, when they’re eligible.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Thursday said that “open season” for vaccination could begin in April, and the majority of Americans could be vaccinated by the middle or the end of the summer.

9:53 a.m. ET, February 14, 2021

Covid-19 cases have declined sharply. Experts say these factors will determine what happens next

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

A tray of syringes filled with Covid-19 vaccine is seen in Los Angeles, on February 11.
A tray of syringes filled with Covid-19 vaccine is seen in Los Angeles, on February 11. Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Despite declining Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, experts warn: when it comes to the pandemic, the US is not yet out of the woods.

According to the latest model from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, another 130,000 Americans are projected to die of the virus over the next three and a half months,

And while Covid-19 numbers may be trending in the right direction now, there are four key factors that will determine how the next months unfold, the IHME said in a briefing accompanying its model.

The two first factors are things that will help drive pandemic numbers down. They are increasing vaccinations and declining seasonality – referring to the pattern of lower transmission that's likely in the US during the spring and summer months.

"Two factors, however, can slow or even reverse the declines that have begun," the IHME team said.

The first factor is the spread of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the UK and experts warned could become the dominant strain in the US by spring. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows more than 980 cases of the variant have so far been detected across 37 states.

The second factor, according to the IHME team, is "increased behaviors that favor COVID-19 transmission."

"Transmission has been contained over the winter through mask wearing, decreased mobility, and avoidance of high-risk settings such as indoor dining," the team said. "As daily case counts decline and vaccination increases, behaviors are likely to change towards increased risk of transmission."

That's why experts say now is not the time for the US to let down its guard, even as a growing list of governors loosen Covid-19 restrictions.

Read the full story here.