Live Updates

February 15 coronavirus news

Severe winter weather slows vaccine effort in some states
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What you need to know

  • The US has administered nearly 53 million vaccine doses, and more states are loosening Covid-19 restrictions – but experts warn the country is not yet in the clear.
  • More than 600,000 Americans will have died of the virus by June 1, according to the latest prediction by a prominent forecast model.
  • More evidence suggests the UK variant is linked to more severe disease researchers say.

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New Zealand reports no new Covid-19 cases for second straight day

Motorists queue at the Otara testing station on February 15 after a positive Covid-19 case was reported in Auckland.

No new Covid-19 cases were reported in New Zealand yesterday, a positive sign after Auckland – the country’s most populous city – went into lockdown because a family of three tested positive for the UK variant.

Authorities decided to mandate that most people in Auckland stay home for three days and test thousands of residents to ensure the contagious variant of the coronavirus was not spreading within the community.

More than 15,000 swabs were taken nationally Monday. None of the 5,818 processed came back positive,  Director-General of Health Dr. Ashely Bloomfield said.

Bloomfield said officials are still investigating the source of transmission for the couple and their child. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday one of the trio works in a facility handling laundry for airlines, and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff told CNN that authorities believe the individual’s employment may be “the connection” to the virus.

Close contacts of the family, including colleagues of the father, did not test positive. Fourteen of 36 close contacts from the child’s high school tested positive.

More results are expected to continue to come in during the day Tuesday. 

Colombia to begin Covid-19 vaccinations on Wednesday

A soldier stands guard as DHL company vans transport a batch of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to the Free Trade Zone to be stored in freezers on February 15, in Bogota, Colombia.

Colombia will begin its Covid-19 vaccination campaign on Wednesday, President Ivan Duque said on Monday. 

Duque said during his daily televised address that the government had decided to move the vaccination schedule forward from Saturday. The campaign is beginning weeks after neighboring countries like Chile and Argentina started theirs.

Colombian health care workers will be the first to receive the vaccine.

Colombia received its first shipment of 50,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Monday.  

Duque said the government had decided to kick-start the vaccination campaign in two small cities in rural Colombia, Monteria and Sincelejo, to signal that the vaccines are destined for the entire country. 

 Major cities like Bogotá, Medellin and Cali will begin to vaccinate residents on Thursday. 

Veronica Machado, a nurse in the intensive care unit at Sincelejo University Hospital, will be the first Colombian to receive her first inoculation on Wednesday, Duque said.

Colombia’s Covid-19 outbreak is the second-worst in Latin America, according to a tally of confirmed cases by Johns Hopkins University.

To date, 2,198,549 cases and 57,786 deaths have been reported in Colombia, according to Johns Hopkins

What's behind New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Covid-19 controversy

Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is at the center of an escalating controversy over deaths in nursing homes, how they were counted and how they handled requests for that data.

Cuomo was lauded early in the outbreak for his forthright news conferences and passionate pleas for more medical equipment from the federal government. He published a book in October titled, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic.”

Now, however, he’s facing bipartisan calls for an investigation and limitations on his executive powers after a top aide said the administration delayed the release of data on Covid-19 deaths of long-term care facility residents because of concerns about a potential federal investigation by the Trump administration, at a time when former President Donald Trump was personally threatening Cuomo.

At the heart of the matter is the question of whether New York could better have prevented the state’s nearly 46,000 deaths, the second-highest total of any US state so far, and whether the decision to discharge recovering residents from hospitals back to nursing homes increased infections among vulnerable elderly residents.

Here’s everything you need to know about the controversy:

governor andrew cuomo 1214

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Covid-19 controversy, explained

Australian regulators grant provisional approval for AstraZeneca vaccine

Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration provisionally approved the Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

It is the second vaccine to receive such approval – regulators have already provisionally approved the Pfzier/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office said Monday the country had received more than 142,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 80,000 of which will be released starting February 22. Approximately 50,000 will go to states and territories frontline quarantine and health workers, and 30,000 will go to aged care, disability care residents and health care workers.

Australia has secured 53.8 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, Morrison’s office said in a statement.

Gorillas at the San Diego Zoo made a full recovery from Covid-19

Western lowland gorilla, Winston, at San Diego Zoo Safari Park, on February 11.

Eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo have made a full recovery after contracting Covid-19 last month, the zoo said. 

The western lowland gorillas caught the West Coast variant of the coronavirus, zoo officials say, despite team members adhering to all recommended biosecurity precautions.

All eight gorillas at the zoo were secluded after the diagnosis, with some showing symptoms that included “mild coughing, congestion, nasal discharge and intermittent lethargy,” the zoo said in an online update.

Zoo officials credit the gorillas recuperation to “the highest standard of care” offered by the zoo’s veterinary team, wildlife care professionals, and a collaboration with a wide array of colleagues and partners.

“We’re so grateful for the outpouring concern and support we’ve received while the troop safely recovered,” said Lisa Peterson, executive director of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “We’re thrilled to share the joy that this beloved troop brings to our community and to our guests.”

San Diego Zoo has committed to sharing documentation of the coronavirus in its gorillas with hopes that it will help “provide important information regarding scientific understanding of the virus and its effects on great apes.”

The gorillas are now on view for visitors.

3 sailors on a US aircraft carrier tested positive for Covid-19

Three sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday, the US Navy said in a statement.  

“These Sailors, who have not experienced any symptoms, as well as all identified close contacts are currently isolated aboard the ship in accordance with Navy and CDC guidance. Shipboard health professionals conducted a thorough contact investigation and all identified close contacts have tested negative for COVID-19,” the Navy said in a statement

Last year, the same aircraft carrier was home to a significant outbreak of the virus – more than 1,000 of the ship’s nearly 4,900-member crew who tested positive for the coronavirus.

recent Department of Defense Inspector General investigation found the leadership of the USS Theodore Roosevelt failed to put in place measures to stop a Covid-19 outbreak on board the aircraft carrier and exacerbated a growing problem by releasing sailors too early from quarantine last year.

The Navy said Monday that this time, the ship is “following an aggressive mitigation strategy in accordance with Navy and CDC guidelines” and USS Theodore Roosevelt is underway and remains fully operational.

More than 486,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the US

A hospital worker places a sticker on a body bag holding a deceased patient at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles on January 9.

There have been at least 27,690,574 cases of coronavirus in the US and at least 486,286 people have died from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally of cases.

So far today, Johns Hopkins University has reported 50,292 new cases and 950 new deaths.  

At least 70,057,800 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 52,884,356 total doses of the vaccine have been administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases.  

Las Vegas providing free Covid-19 vaccinations to utility workers and people over 70

As Nevada rolls out its new approach to reopening dubbed “Nevada’s Roadmap to Recovery”, Las Vegas announced it is making vaccination appointments available for people over the age of 70 and utility workers starting Wednesday.

Utility workers eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine include those who are employed by providers of gas, power, water and sanitation services, according to a statement from Las Vegas City Council.

The free Covid-19 vaccinations will be provided in partnership with the Southern Nevada Health District and will be administered to the aforementioned groups from Wednesday through Friday at the Chuck Minker Sports Complex.

The clinic at the Chuck Minker Sports Complex will have a limit of administering 1,100 vaccine doses a day. 

In letter to Biden, governors say some federal vaccine distribution efforts are creating confusion

President Joe Biden speaks in the Oval Office of the White House on February 11 in Washington, DC.

The National Governors Association wrote to President Biden on Monday requesting better coordination between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and states on vaccine distribution.  

The bipartisan group of governors raised alarm with two areas of confusion: first, the numbers the agency publicly reports for vaccine distribution, and second, a recently-launched program where the federal government sends vaccines directly to pharmacies.  

The group said the issues with public reporting of vaccine distribution has been ongoing “since last year” – the days of the Trump administration and has created “unnecessary confusion.” State officials have said the publicly reported numbers of vaccines allocated by the federal government differed from what was actually on the ground in their states. Both numbers differ from the actual vaccines health care providers have administered into arms.  

The governors also wrote they are concerned that they don’t have visibility into some of the federal government’s distribution efforts within their states, and that in some cases, the federal government and the states are allocating vaccine to the same pharmacies.

“If the federal government distributes independently of the states to these same entities without state coordination and consultation, redundancy and inefficiency may very well follow,” the governors wrote. 

CNN has reached out the to the White House for a response.

89% of US children live in "high transmission" communities under CDC guidelines for school reopening

Children arrive for class on December 7, 2020, in New York City.

About 89% of children in the US live in a county considered a red zone with high levels of Covid-19 transmission under new school opening guidelines shared by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, according to a CNN analysis of federal data.

Red, or “high transmission,” communities are defined by the CDC as counties where there were at least 100 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people or a test positivity rate of at least 10% during the past seven days.

When the CDC guidance was released on Friday, closer to 99% of children lived in red zones, according to CNN’s analysis. The CDC says school districts should re-assess weekly, noting that transmission levels will change over time. 

The CDC guidelines stress five key mitigation strategies:

Requiring masks Physical distancing Handwashing Maintaining clean facilitie Contract tracing

It also recommends different strategies based on how much transmission there is in the surrounding community, and has a color-coded guide with areas of high transmission colored red; substantial transmission colored orange; moderate transmission coded yellow; and low transmission as blue.

If schools in “high transmission” communities cannot “strictly implement all mitigation strategies,” the CDC says all extracurricular activities should be virtual. Plus middle and high schools should stick with virtual learning in these red zones, and elementary schools should maximize physical distance through hybrid learning or reduced attendance.

About 115,000 children in the US live in a county considered “low” or “moderate transmission” where the CDC recommends K-12 schools open for full in-person instruction.

More on the analysis: The CNN analysis used the latest federal data on new case rates and test positivity rates, published Sunday by the US Department of Health and Human Services, to determine each county’s risk threshold according to CDC guidelines.

Population data is from the US Census Bureau’s five-year American Community Survey 2019 estimates.

Covid-19 deaths top 47,000 in California

Transporters Miguel Lopez, right, and Noe Meza prepare to move a body of a COVID-19 victim to a morgue at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles on January 9.

California added 6,487 new Covid-19 cases Monday, the lowest daily increase since early November, according to state data, another sign the disastrous holiday surge continues to recede even as the state become the first in the nation to surpass 47,000 deaths. 

While Mondays often reflect lower case numbers due to weekend reporting lags, California has seen a steady decline in new cases after peaking at the beginning of the year with several days over 50,000 additional cases.

Health officials also reported 200 additional deaths Monday, bringing California to 47,043 total fatalities. The daily average over the past two weeks is well over 400 deaths, another number declining significantly. At the beginning of February, California was averaging 542 deaths each day.

California’s positivity rate stands at 4.3% today, nearly 10 points lower than the 14% marked in early January, which was the highest since widespread testing began in the state.

Hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions have also fallen steadily over the past month. Currently about 9,300 of those infected with Covid-19 are receiving in-patient treatment with 2,650 of those in intensive care units.

Note: These numbers were released by the California Department of Public Health and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database, which is drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project. 

West Virginia has fully vaccinated more than 140,000 people, governor says

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice speaks during a briefing on February 15.

West Virginia has fully vaccinated 140,540 residents, with a total of 391,186 doses administered in the state, Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday. 

Justice said 250,646 residents have received their first dose.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reported two deaths and 301 new cases of Covid-19 over the last 24 hours, Justice added. The state had a daily percent positivity rate of 5.19%, he said.

The governor celebrated that none of the state’s counties were marked “red,” the highest-alert tier. He also marked a decrease in long-term care facility outbreaks.

Justice reported that there were 43 inmate and 14 staff Covid-19 cases in the state’s correctional system, which included 24 in the Southern Regional Jail.

Note: These numbers were released by the state’s health agency, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project. 

Colombia receives first batch of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines

Colombia received 50,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Monday, President Iván Duque announced.

It is the first batch of vaccine doses Colombia is scheduled to get from Pfizer/BioNTech.

“Today is a day to mourn those who passed away because of this painful illness […] but today shows this is the answer of a resilient country,” Duque said from Bogotá’s International Airport where he personally observed and welcomed arrival of the vaccines.  

Duque said the country may receive up to 1.6 million doses over the next 30 days, thanks to bilateral deals with Pfizer/BioNTech and Sinopharm, as well as vaccines provided by the Covax mechanism.

“This is a titanic effort from our nation,” Duque said.

The distribution of the vaccine was set to begin on Saturday, but officials say they may begin rolling it out a few days earlier.

Colombia has reported at least 2,195,039 Coronavirus cases and 57,605 deaths so far, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Vaccine advisers are keeping a close watch on new variants circulating the US

Dr. Wilbur Chen speaks during an interview on February 15.

Vaccine advisers say they’re keeping a close eye on the emergence of new variations of the coronavirus.

Researchers reported Sunday that they identified seven troubling new coronavirus variants circulating in the US – all affecting the same portion of the virus’ spike protein, near a region that may affect virulence. 

These new variants bear watching, Dr. Wilbur Chen, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Maryland Medical School, told CNN Monday.

Chen is also a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices

“As we see more and more of these variants and more mutations accumulating on that spike protein at the ever-important region called the receptor binding domain – that’s a very specific part of the spike protein – that’s where we fear there will be increased severity, but also the ability for the virus to potentially evade our diagnostic measures, perhaps monoclonal antibodies and vaccines as well,” Chen told CNN’s Brianna Keilar.

He said this doesn’t necessarily mean that vaccines won’t work against new variants.

“It’s not like an on and off switch, where if we see variations, all of a sudden the vaccine just does not work at all,” he said. “It’s more like a gradation. We’re seeing that the mRNA-based vaccines have that 95% efficacy, but the more variants that we see, mutations on the face of the spike protein, we can see the efficacies decrease.”

He said the US will want to closely monitor these variants.

“We certainly want to preserve the full efficacy of these vaccines by preventing more variant viruses, but again, these vaccines are effective and they continue to be useful,” he said.

WHO gives emergency use listing to AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine

A health worker prepares a dose of Covishield, AstraZeneca/Oxford's Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine made by India's Serum Institute, at an army hospital in Colombo on January 29.

The AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine was listed by the World Health Organization for emergency use on Monday, meaning that it can be rolled out globally through COVAX.

“Today we have even more reason to be hopeful of bringing the pandemic under control,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news briefing in Geneva on Monday. “Today, WHO gave emergency use listing to two versions of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, giving the green light for these vaccines to be rolled out globally through COVAX.”

Tedros explained that the “two versions” are the same vaccine being manufactured by two different producers – AstraZeneca-SKBio and the Serum Institute of India. They require separate reviews and approvals, as they are being made in different production plants.

Emergency use listing assesses the quality, safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines and is a prerequisite for the vaccines to be part of the COVAX supply, as well as allowing countries to expedite their own regulatory approval, according to a WHO news release, also on Monday.

For the two AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines, WHO assessed the quality, safety and efficacy data, risk management plans and programmatic suitability in less than four weeks. On Feb. 8, the vaccine was reviewed by WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), who recommended the vaccine for all groups age 18 and above.

SAGE recommended use of the vaccine for all people ages 18 and older, and that the two doses are administered eight to 12 weeks apart. Their interim recommendations say that it has an efficacy of 63.09% against symptomatic infection.

Along with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, these are the second and third vaccines to receive emergency use listing by WHO, Tedros said. Experts say they could have a major global impact because they cost less and are more easily distributed, since they do not have ultra-cold chain requirements.

Illinois surpasses 20,000 coronavirus-related deaths 

The Illinois Department of Public Health Monday reported 41 new Covid-19 related deaths, bringing the total number of lives lost in the state since the pandemic began to 20,002, according to a statement from the department.  

The department reported 1,420 new cases of Covid-19 and a 3.5% positivity rate. There are 1,789 people hospitalized with Covid-19, 389 patients in the ICU and 184 on ventilators.

Nearly 1.2 million people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in the state of Illinois since health department began tracking data, according to the statement.  

Novavax testing new version of its Covid-19 vaccine to specifically target variant

The biotechnology company Novavax told CNN on Monday that its scientists are testing a new version of its Covid-19 vaccine in the lab that specifically targets the coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa.

As part of this research, the scientists are hoping to determine whether the new vaccine would serve as a booster shot to the original vaccine that has already been developed, or as a bivalent vaccine administered on its own, meaning it would target two strains of the coronavirus, both the original and the variant first identified in South Africa. 

Once lab testing is complete, the new vaccine could move to clinical trials – but a timeline is still in the works and the research is still very early.

In a previous announcement in January, the company said, “Novavax initiated development of new constructs against the emerging strains in early January and expects to select ideal candidates for a booster and/or combination bivalent vaccine for the new strains in the coming days. The company plans to initiate clinical testing of these new vaccines in the second quarter of this year.”

Novavax expects full enrollment of Covid-19 vaccine trial this week

Researchers at the UW Medicine Retrovirology Lab at Harborview Medical Center work on samples from the Novavax phase 3 Covid-19 clinical vaccine trials on February 12 in Seattle.

The biotechnology company Novavax told CNN on Monday that it expects to announce this week that its PREVENT-19 trial has reached full enrollment.

The trial will include about 30,000 adults across 115 locations in the US and Mexico to test whether the company’s investigational vaccine prevents Covid-19 disease. 

Novavax announced in January that early results from a Phase 3 trial in the UK show its coronavirus vaccine has an efficacy of 89.3%. 

As the US trial for Novavax’s coronavirus vaccine reaches full enrollment, the company told CNN on Monday that its vaccine is still on track to possibly receive authorization for emergency use in the US by summer. 

UK prime minister urges patience, says "threat from this virus remains very real"

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks during a Covid-19 media briefing in Downing Street on February 15 in London.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for patience and warned the “threat from this virus remains very real” despite the UK reaching its target of giving 15 million people a first dose of the vaccine by Feb. 15. 

Speaking during a Downing Street news conference on Monday, Johnson said he would be setting out a roadmap out of lockdown next week but “we want this lockdown to be the last.” He said he wants the progress to be “cautious and irreversible.”

“We still don’t have enough exact data on the effectiveness of vaccines on reducing spread of infection,” Johnson warned, adding “we don’t have all the hard facts that we need.” 

He said the level of infection remains very high and there are still more people in hospitals with Covid-19 than at the peak last April. “So this moment is a huge step forward but it’s only a first step,” Johnson cautioned.

The government’s next target is to offer vaccines to its top nine priority groups — including everyone over the age of 50 — by the end of April.

More than 485,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US

There have been at least 27,645,547 cases of coronavirus in the US, and at least 485,414 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

So far today, Johns Hopkins University has reported 5,265 new cases and 78 new deaths.  

At least 70,057,800 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 52,884,356 total doses of the vaccine have been administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases.  

Go There: CNN answers your question from London about the UK variant and new hotel quarantine policy 

The UK’s mandatory hotel quarantine for travelers arriving from some countries — including South Africa, Portugal and South American nations — went into effect today

Non-UK residents from these countries will be refused entry. British citizens and permanent residents will be picked up straight from the airport and transferred to government-provided accommodation where they will begin their mandatory stay.

CNN’s Go There is in London, where international correspondent Scott McLean answered CNN viewers’ questions about the UK variant and new quarantine policies.

Watch:

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Fauci was worried about contracting Covid-19 at Trump White House

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during an interview on February 14.

In an interview that aired on “Axios on HBO” Sunday, Axios Managing Editor Margaret Talev asked Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, if he ever worried about contracting the coronavirus himself.

At age 80, Fauci is considered at high risk for serious disease and death if he were to get sick with Covid-19.

“I think you’d have to be oblivious not to consider the fact that if you get infected, that you are already in the category of someone who has a high-risk of having a serious outcome,” Fauci said. “I didn’t fixate on that, but it was in the back of my mind, because I had to be out there. I mean, particularly when I was going to the White House every day when the White House was sort of a super-spreader location. I mean, that made me a little bit nervous.”

Iraq reports new cases of a “rapidly spreading” coronavirus variant

A medical worker tests blood samples for Covid-19 at a hospital in Najaf, Iraq, on February 15.

Iraq has reported its first new cases of what it says is a rapidly spreading coronavirus variant, after several infections were recorded, including children, the Health Minister Hassan Al Tamimi said in a news conference on TV on Monday.

Al Tamimi did not specify which variant was detected, or how many cases had been identified, but warned of its danger amidst a “remarkable increase in infections”.

“The results of lab tests showed a remarkable increase in the number of infections with the new variant, including a number of cases in children,” he said.

On Monday, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported at least 2,798 new confirmed coronavirus cases. It brings the total number of cases in Iraq to at last 646,650, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Health.

Iraq on Saturday had announced a series of restrictive measures “in light of the increasing number of infections among citizens,” to contain the spread of coronavirus, according to a statement released by the Iraqi cabinet.

The statement said Iraq will impose a full curfew on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays of each week between Feb. 18 through March 8.

28 states plus DC are now allowing teachers to receive Covid-19 vaccines

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 some teachers are eligible:

Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Delaware Hawaii Idaho Illinois Iowa Kansas Kentucky Maryland Michigan Minnesota Nebraska Nevada New York North Dakota Ohio Oregon Pennsylvania Tennessee Utah Virginia West Virginia Wyoming Washington, DC

Here are the states where teachers are not yet eligible:

Connecticut Florida Georgia Indiana Louisiana Maine Massachusetts Mississippi Missouri Montana New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico North Carolina Oklahoma Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Texas Vermont Washington Wisconsin

4 million people flew in the US over the weekend, despite warnings from health officials

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.”

Millions of Americans could soon lose unemployment benefits. Here's where the US stimulus bill stands. 

The exterior of the US Capitol on February 13.

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.

Read more about the stimulus bill here.

Peru’s Foreign Minister resigns over Sinopharm vaccine scandal 

In this photo released by the Peruvian presidency, then Foreign Minister Elizabeth Astete is pictured during the inauguration ceremony of the new cabinet of President Francisco Sagasti, at the presidential palace in Lima, Peru, on November 18, 2020.

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:

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.