28 states plus DC are now allowing teachers to receive Covid-19 vaccines
From CNN's Yon Pomrenze, Evan Simko-Bednarski & Elizabeth Stuart
Two more states have started allowing all or some teachers and school staff to receive the Covid-19 vaccine starting today, bringing the total to 28 states plus Washington, DC.
The additional states are Alaska, where all teachers are now eligible, and North Dakota, where some counties are now vaccinating group 1B, which includes K-12 teachers.
Though some states have announced they are prioritizing teachers, vaccine availability remains a concern across the country.
There are 22 states where teachers are still not eligible to receive the vaccine as a specific group — although some educators might fall into the current age group that state is vaccinating.
Here are the states where all or someteachers are eligible:
Here are the states where teachers are not yet eligible:
9:02 a.m. ET, February 15, 2021
4 million people flew in the US over the weekend, despite warnings from health officials
From CNN's Pete Muntean
This weekend has been one of the busiest for pandemic air travel in more than a month. Transportation Security Administration figures show that 946,458 passed through security at airports on Sunday. That means more than four million people have flown since Thursday. More than 1.1 million people flew on Friday alone.
Airlines have been concerned that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would mandate that passengers get tested for coronavirus before their trips, something that could suppress travel numbers. On Friday, the CDC said it was not considering pre-departure testing at this time.
The White House met with airline executives on Friday following industry uproar over the possibility of testing domestic travelers for the coronavirus, sources told CNN.
The CDC has been warning people not to travel.
"If someone must travel, they should get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before the trip," the agency said. "After travel, getting tested with a viral test 3-5 days post-travel and staying home and self-quarantining for 7 days, even if test results are negative, is a recommended public health measure to reduce risk."
9:14 a.m. ET, February 15, 2021
Millions of Americans could soon lose unemployment benefits. Here's where the US stimulus bill stands.
From CNN's Lauren Fox and the Capitol Hill team
In less than a month, unemployment benefits will begin to lapse for millions of American, putting the pressure squarely on Congress – and Democratic leaders – to usher through a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill in less than a month.
The next four weeks will test Democratic unity and require the party’s progressives and moderates to put aside clear philosophical differences over the scope of what is needed for the recovery right now.
It will also cement a reality for President Biden: his first major push in Congress isn’t going to be a bipartisan one. Instead, a process is fully underway that will allow Democrats to pass this bill through the Senate with just 51 votes.
Bottom line: Congress is out this week, but the quiet work of pulling together the Democrats’ opening offer at Covid relief continues this week with the House on track to pass their portion of the $1.9 trillion proposal as soon as next week. Read more about the proposal here.
In the next few days, the House Budget Committee will put together the final bill based off of the section by sections that committees passed last week. This will ensure Democrats are in a place to be able to get the caucus on board and pass the bill as soon as next week.
The immediate obstacles: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a five-vote margin on this bill. This isn’t the spring of 2020 when the economy was cratering and the uncertainty of the virus was so paralyzing for the country that lawmakers came together in a matter of weeks to pass the largest stimulus bill in history with unity.
The scrutiny on this package – even by some Democrats – is more intense. That doesn’t mean that a few Republicans won’t cross the aisle and vote for it, giving Pelosi perhaps more room to move the legislation on the floor, but watch members comments over the next several days while they are home on recess to get a clue for how much a lift this is going to be for the House Speaker.
The Senate problem: In the last several weeks, House Democrats haven’t been working in a vacuum as they transformed Biden’s proposal into legislative text. Senate Democratic aides from Finance have been consulting with House Ways and Means. The Senate’s HELP Committee has been working closely with the House Education and Labor panel.
Aides have been in close contact and Democratic senators have made it clear – both through private nudging and public comments–what they need in the House bill to make it workable on their side. Still, House and Senate Democrats aren’t in complete unity right now. The expectation is that changes to the House bill will happen in the Senate, but not in a formal committee mark up like you saw last week in the House. Instead, the current plan for Democrats is to bring their bill – with some potential changes that have been ironed out privately– directly to the Senate floor. That could happen as the week of March 2. But, Democrats in the Senate will have two weeks to pass their bill before unemployment benefits lapse. And, if they pass a different bill than the House, the House will have to pass it again before March 14.
For those counting at home, that is 27 days – less than a month – to figure this out.
Peru’s Foreign Minister resigns over Sinopharm vaccine scandal
From CNN’s Claudia Rebaza and Hira Humayun
Peru’s Foreign Affairs Minister Elizabeth Astete resigned on Sunday evening after announcing she received a dose of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials and before the country began its vaccination rollout.
In a statement released on social media, Astete said that after being in contact with several officials who had tested positive for Covid-19 in December 2020 and January 2021, she had accepted an offer to receive a dose of the Sinopharm vaccine on January 22 from what she understood to be “the remaining doses of the batch held by the Cayetano Heredia University.”
Astete, 68, cited travel obligations for work and having to undergo Covid-19 testing after being in contact with people who had tested positive as factors that influenced her decision to get vaccinated in January.
In a statement, Astete said:
As a result of the recent disclosure about the vaccination of (former) President Vizcarra and his wife, as well as the understandable impact that this news had on public opinion, I am aware of the serious mistake I made, which is why I decided not to receive the second dose." “I have submitted my resignation from the post of Foreign Affairs Minister to the President of the Republic.”
Astete’s resignation comes after local media reported last week that former President Martin Vizcarra and his wife, Maribel Diaz Cabello, were vaccinated while in office last October and did not disclose this information to the public.
On Thursday, Vizcarra said he had volunteered as one of the 12,000 people who were part of the Sinopharm vaccine trials.
But on Saturday, Cayetano Heredia University (UCH) -- the leading university in charge of that trial -- released a statement clarifying that Vizcarra and his wife were not part of the vaccine trial, which began in September.
Peru's President Francisco Sagasti accepted Astete’s resignation on Sunday night and said on Twitter that the Health Minister had ordered an investigation into senior public officials getting doses of the vaccine.
"With the transparency and firmness that characterizes our Government, we will publish the results of the investigation and the information provided by Cayetano Heredia University's Center for Clinical Studies," Sagasti said.
Sagasti also confirmed the resignation of Vice Health Minister, Luis Suárez Ognio after local media reported that he also got vaccinated.
Speaking to local radio RPP on Sunday night, Sagasti expressed his indignation with the scandal and said that the doses that were used to vaccinate government officials were donated by Sinopharm -- and were not part of the batch used for the trials led by UCH.
Peru became the first Latin American country to distribute China’s Sinopharm vaccine on February 9. Although other agreements have been finalized with Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/Astrazeneca, China's Sinopharm vaccine is the only Covid-19 vaccine currently being distributed in the country.
8:35 a.m. ET, February 15, 2021
UK PM Boris Johnson says the government's plan to lift lockdown will be “cautious but irreversible”
From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that the government's plan to lift England’s Covid-19 lockdown will be “cautious but irreversible” and that on February 22 he will set out the earliest possible dates for reopening the economy.
Members of Johnson’s Conservative party called on him to end lockdown by the end of April, when the UK’s nine top-priority groups are due to have had a first dose of coronavirus vaccine.
The letter, which was signed by dozens of Johnson’s party members over the weekend, argued once the priority groups are protected, “there is no justification” for restrictions to remain and stressed that UK’s "national priority" should be reopening schools by March 8.
When asked Monday if the government was planning to reopen primary and secondary schools in that time frame, Johnson said “no decisions have been taken on that sort of detail yet.”
"We will do everything we can to make that happen but we've got to keep looking at the data, we've got to keep looking at the rates of infections, don't forget they're still very high," he said.
In January, British teachers unions criticized the UK’s government for the "chaotic reopening" of schools that was followed by a swift announcement that the reopening would be delayed.
On Monday, Johnson said that "we've got to be very prudent and what we wanted to see is progress that is cautious but irreversible."
"I think that's what the public and people up and down the country will want to see," he said.
Johnson added that on February 22, "if we possibly can, we will be setting out dates... the dates...by which we hope we can do something at the earliest."
"If because of the rate of infection, we have to push something off a little bit to the right, delayed for a little bit we won't hesitate to do that. I think people would much rather see a plan that was cautious but irreversible and one that proceeds sensibly in accordance with where we are with the disease."
The UK has so far been successful with its vaccine rollout. On Sunday the UK government announced that it had met its first vaccination target by administering 15 million vaccine doses to its top four priority groups by February 15. Those groups include everyone over 70, frontline health and social care workers, those living in care homes and the clinically extremely vulnerable by February 15.
The UK has so far been successful with its vaccine rollout. On Sunday the UK government announced that it had met its first vaccination target by administering 15 million vaccine doses to its top four priority groups by February 15. Those groups include everyone over 70, frontline health and social care workers, those living in care homes and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
The British government now plans to give a first dose to remaining priority groups and adults over 50 by the end of April.
7:52 a.m. ET, February 15, 2021
Ski resorts in Tyrol, Austria will require visitors to present a negative Covid-19 test
From CNN’s Nina Avramova in London
Skiers will need to provide a negative Covid-19 test to visit the slopes in Austria’s Tyrol province as of Monday, according to a statement on the local authority’s website.
Here are the rules:
The Covid-19 test that must be provided can not be older than 48 hours
Children under the age of ten and people undertaking ski touring are exempt from the regulation.
People who have been ill with Covid-19 in the past six months also do not need to provide a negative Covid-19 test, but instead will have to show a doctor’s certificate.
The Austrian alpine province has seen one of Europe’s worst outbreaks of the South African coronavirus variant, with 176 confirmed cases of the mutation and an additional 294 suspected cases, government figures from Sunday show.
In order to prevent the import of coronavirus variants, Germany has implemented border controls -- including limits of transport and mandatory test and quarantine requirements for travelers -- with Tyrol.
People hoping to ski across other parts of Europeare facing additional restrictions as well, as ski lifts remain open in many resorts in Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Bulgaria, Norway and Sweden.
The skiing season has been crushed in France, Italy, and Germany, however, where governments have decreed the risk of spreading the virus is too high.
With few tourists able to travel, many top winter sports destinations have been deserted, resulting in billions of euros in revenue losses.
Italy’s ski resorts were due to open on Monday but the government has decided to continue to bar the sites from opening until March 5 in an effort to stop the spread of the UK variant.
The Italian Health Ministry said it would begin compensating ski lift operators and restaurant owners in skiing areas as soon as possible.
7:26 a.m. ET, February 15, 2021
After months of despair, there’s good news when it comes to the UK’s vaccine rollout
From CNN's Scott McLean and Florence Davey-Attlee in Basingstoke, England
The UK government says it has successfully met its first vaccination target after administering 15 million vaccine doses to its top four priority groups by February 15. The groups include everyone over 70, frontline health and social care workers, those living in care homes and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
The UK has reported more than 117,000 deaths and more than 4 million coronavirus cases to date, and its government has been widely criticized for its pandemic response -- especially in the early stages of the outbreak last year.
Last spring, the British government had one of the highest national death tolls globally, having dragged its feet to impose lockdown restrictions, shown reluctance to enforce rules and following futile attempts to track and trace the spread of the virus.
Its border was also still wide open, and the government was throwing money at a rotating cast of private sector consultants to secure basic personal protective equipment (PPE) -- an effort that appeared more successful at generating controversy than securing supplies.
But the government's foresight in backing coronavirus vaccines has turned into one of the most surprising success stories of the pandemic.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson celebrated the moment on Sunday, calling 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," he said on Twitter.
UK experts attribute their vaccination success to a series of big bets on then-unproven vaccines and a decision to do it alone, rather than joining the European Union's procurement effort, in order to bypass bureaucratic hoops that left the EU lagging behind.
The British government also plans to give a first dose to the remaining risk groups and adults over 50 by the end of April.
France now lets workers eat at their desks under new coronavirus rules
From CNN’s Saskya Vandoorne in Paris
France has scrapped a law banning workers to eat lunch at their desks in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19, according to a decree published Sunday.
The new rule temporarily overturns a longstanding law that protected what was once considered a sacrosanct part of the day, “la pause déjeuner” -- the lunch break.
Employers were previously forbidden to allow their workers “to have their meals in the workplace," under the French labor code.
The temporary decree applies to offices with over 50 employees and where the layout of the canteen does not allow for social distancing.
People must be between one or two meters (around 6.6 feet) apart when not wearing a face mask.
As it continues to battle the pandemic, France has implemented a slew of coronavirus measures and restrictions -- but it has stopped short of imposing a third lockdown.
Restaurants, bars and cafes have been closed since the end of October and a nationwide 6 p.m. CET curfew remains in place.
In total, France has reported over 3.46 million cases of coronavirus, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
2,254,688 people in France have received their first injection and 647,173 have been fully vaccinated since the country began its vaccine rollout in late December.
5:05 a.m. ET, February 15, 2021
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine sharply reduces symptomatic Covid-19 in the real world, Israeli researchers say
From CNN Health's Arman Azad
Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine appears to reduce symptomatic coronavirus infections by more than 90% in the real world, Israeli researchers said Sunday.
The findings, while preliminary, suggest that the vaccine remains remarkably effective in a mass vaccination campaign -- outside the carefully controlled conditions of a clinical trial.
The Clalit Research Institute, part of a large Israeli health system, analyzed data on 1.2 million people, about half of whom had received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Researchers compared patients who received the vaccine with similar individuals who hadn't.
The rate of symptomatic Covid-19 -- meaning people who were infected with the coronavirus and felt sick -- decreased by 94% among people who received two doses of the vaccine, according to a press release from Clalit. The rate of serious illness decreased by 92%.
Full details of the study weren't immediately available, and the research hasn't yet been peer-reviewed. Still, the findings are consistent with data from Pfizer's own vaccine trial, which found that the vaccine conferred 95% protection against symptomatic Covid-19.
In the Pfizer trial, researchers randomly assigned patients to receive either the vaccine or a placebo. Then they looked to see how many people got sick in each group, and found that the vaccine sharply reduced illness.
Pfizer's study was a randomized controlled trial, the gold standard in clinical research. The Israeli study, on the other hand, was observational, meaning researchers didn't randomly pick who got the vaccine and who didn't.
That can pose problems; people who choose to get vaccinated, for example, may also be more likely to take other steps to protect themselves.
Researchers said they tried to account for those types of effects, however. And observational studies are important because they can offer certain insight into how well vaccines protect people under real-world conditions.