February 16 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Brad Lendon, Zamira Rahim, Mary Ilyushina and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 10:49 p.m. ET, February 17, 2021
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5:33 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Johnson & Johnson vaccine rollout now expected to be slower due to miscommunication, official says

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Sara Murray and Naomi Thomas

Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center investigational pharmacy technician Sara Berech prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine for a clinical trial on December 15, 2020 in Aurora, Colorado.
Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center investigational pharmacy technician Sara Berech prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine for a clinical trial on December 15, 2020 in Aurora, Colorado. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Once it is authorized, the rollout of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine will be slower than federal health officials initially anticipated, CNN has learned. 

The administration is still expecting single digit millions of doses if the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration. However — due to a miscommunication over the production timeline — government officials thought that number would ramp up to between 20 or 30 million doses by April. They are now expecting fewer than 20 million Johnson and Johnson doses in April, an administration official told CNN. 

This delays their expectations by about a month. Officials do still expect to get 100 million doses by the end of June to the beginning of July.

On a call with governors Tuesday, the administration said the initial flow of J&J vaccine would be in the low millions and then would ramp up substantially, according to a source familiar with the call.

Johnson and Johnson did not directly address the slower vaccine rollout, but said in a statement, “Johnson & Johnson intends to distribute vaccine to the U.S. government immediately following authorization, and expects to supply 100 million doses to the U.S. in the first half of 2021. The Company expects to have product available to ship immediately following authorization.” 

Some context: Earlier Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto that it could be mid to late May or early June before vaccines are widely available to the general population after he offered an earlier timeline last week.

“I was hoping that that would be by the end of April,” Fauci said. “That was predicated on J&J, the Johnson product, having considerably more doses than now we know they’re going to have.”

“So, that timeline will probably be prolonged, maybe into mid to late May and early June, that’s fine,” Fauci said.

The FDA has scheduled its meeting of independent experts to evaluate the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and make a recommendation on Feb. 26. It has not been authorized yet.

5:37 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Go There: CNN answers your questions about rising hate crimes against Asian Americans during the pandemic

Hate crime attacks against Asian Americans have increased during the pandemic.

More than 2,808 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate from 47 states and the District of Columbia were reported between March 19 and Dec. 31, 2020, with 7.3% of those incidents involving Asian Americans over the age of 60, according to a report by Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition documenting anti-Asian hate and discrimination amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

CNN's Kyung Lah answers your questions from Los Angeles.

Watch:

4:32 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Catch up: Here are the latest coronavirus headlines from the US

A man is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at La Colaborativa in Chelsea, Massachusetts on February 16.
A man is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at La Colaborativa in Chelsea, Massachusetts on February 16. Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

As Congress works to pass another Covid-19 relief package, the Biden administration is ramping up distribution of the vaccines. Meanwhile, the US is seeing a downward trend in new infections, but officials warn the next spike could come from virus variants.

Here is what you need to know to get up to speed.

Covid relief package timeline:

  • This coming week, the House Budget Committee will assemble a final bill based off the measures approved by at least nine committees. The full House is expected to vote on the bill by the end of next week, followed by Senate action. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she expects the package to be on President Biden's desk by March 14.
  • The measure will be part of budget reconciliation legislation which means it cannot be filibustered in the Senate.

What's in Democrat's plan:

  • The Democrat's proposal is pretty close to what Biden outlined last month. It would include $1,400 direct stimulus payments, extend two key pandemic unemployment programs, money for state and local governments and nearly $130 billion for schools, among other things.

Vaccine distribution:

  • More than 55 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's about 72% of all the doses that have been distributed.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said he thinks the process of widespread vaccinations will likely start in the spring and large portions of the public will be able to be vaccinated by the end of the summer.

Ramping up rollout:

  • The Biden administration is again increasing its weekly Covid-19 vaccine supply being sent to states, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. Officials said the administration is “increasing the vaccine supply to 13.5 million doses per week to states," Psaki said at Tuesday’s briefing, a 57% increase from inauguration levels.
  • About 2 million doses will be sent directly to pharmacies across the country this week, according to Psaki.
  • Moderna said it expects to deliver 100 million doses by the end of March, followed by an additional 100 million doses by the end of May and another 100 million doses by the end of July.

Kids and Covid-19:

  • More than 3.03 million children in the US have tested positive for Covid-19 as of Feb. 11, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Last week alone, about 99,000 new child cases were identified through testing – that's an 8% increase in the last two weeks.

Variants:

  • Andy Slavitt, White House Covid-19 senior adviser, said that while it is nice to see case numbers drop, "it could be misleading," adding the next new wave will be with the variant first detected in the UK.
  • The Connecticut Department of Public Health has detected its first positive case of the variant first found in South Africa, it said in a statement.
  • Researchers said they have identified a batch of similar mutations in coronavirus samples circulating in the United States. They stress that the US needs to do more sequencing to identify these mutations faster.
4:23 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Quest Diagnostics says it is doubling efforts to help CDC identify new variants

From CNN’s Amanda Sealy

A Children's National Hospital healthcare worker holds a Quest Diagnostics bag containing a Covid-19 swab at a coronavirus drive-thru testing site at Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, April 2, 2020.
A Children's National Hospital healthcare worker holds a Quest Diagnostics bag containing a Covid-19 swab at a coronavirus drive-thru testing site at Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, April 2, 2020. Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Quest Diagnostics said Tuesday it is now sequencing 2,000 tests a week, doubling the amount of genomic sequencing it started performing last month.

The company said it is sequencing the tests for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We are proud to support the CDC’s efforts to track new mutations in, and patterns of transmission of, SARS-CoV-2 across the United States,” Quest said in a statement.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has detailed US efforts to increase genetic sequencing of coronavirus samples in recent weeks, noting that much more is needed to get a better handle on the circulation and prevalence of variants such as B.1.1.7.

"We anticipate that we're probably going to be sequencing up to three to four more than we are already sequencing," Walensky said last week. "I think 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.”

In addition to the CDC requesting samples from states for sequencing, its website states that, “CDC has also contracted with commercial diagnostic laboratories and obtained commitments to sequence an additional 6,000 samples per week, with plans for further expansion.”

4:18 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

FEMA vaccination sites will have their own supply, acting director says

From CNN's Oren Libermann and Michael Conte

Robert Fenton testifies during a hearing before Senate Indian Affairs Committee at Dirksen Senate Office Building July 1, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. 
Robert Fenton testifies during a hearing before Senate Indian Affairs Committee at Dirksen Senate Office Building July 1, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington.  Alex Wong/Getty Images

The joint Federal Emergency Management Agency/Defense Department mass vaccination sites will have their own vaccine supplies, according to Robert Fenton, FEMA’s acting director. 

The vaccines will be in addition to the states’ allocations of vaccines.

“This is a supply that’s above and beyond what the state’s allocation is,” Fenton told reporters remotely at the Pentagon. He said FEMA has a supply of approximately 11 million doses to distribute across the states, and that number will rise to 13.5 million next week. 

Fenton also said that there were no outstanding requests for vaccination sites from states in the current pilot phase of the program.

“This is part of a pilot to build this federal capability, and we’ve reached out to states,” he said.

3:42 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

House Majority Leader says he expects Congress to give final approval of Covid relief plan week of March 8 

From CNN's Manu Raju and Annie Grayer

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer speaks to reporters while walking to the House Floor at the US Capitol on January 13 in Washington.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer speaks to reporters while walking to the House Floor at the US Capitol on January 13 in Washington. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told his colleagues in a letter that Congress may take final action on the Covid-19 relief package on the week of March 8.

That means the House will vote on the bill at the end of next week, followed by Senate action. If the Senate amends the bill, it will send it back to the House for final passage the week of March 8.

This timeframe is in line with what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week, which is that she expects the Covid-19 relief package to be on President Biden’s desk by March 14 when jobless benefits expire. 

Hoyer said the reason he changed the schedule for next week was because the Covid-19 relief package “will not be ready for a vote until later in the week,” and warned that the House “may need to remain in session through the weekend next week to complete consideration of the American Rescue Plan.”

Read about what is in the House Democrats' stimulus relief plan here.

1:52 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

More than 55 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the US, according to CDC data

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

Alejandro Uribe is vaccinated at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island on February 13.
Alejandro Uribe is vaccinated at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island on February 13. Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

More than 55 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States, according to data published Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reported that 55,220,364 total doses have been administered, about 72% of the 71,657,975 doses distributed.

That’s about 2.3 million more administered doses reported since Sunday, for a seven-day average of about 1.7 million doses per day. The CDC did not update its vaccine tracker on Monday.

Nearly 39.7 million people have now received at least one dose of the vaccine and about 15 million people have been fully vaccinated, CDC data shows.

Data published by the CDC may be delayed, and doses may not have been given on the day reported.

 

1:36 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

House will move on Biden’s stimulus package next week

From CNN's Manu Raju

The House will vote on the massive Biden stimulus package next week, according to a House Democratic leadership aide. The measure will be part of budget reconciliation legislation, which will be on the floor by the end of next week. It cannot be filibustered in the Senate.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told his members the House will now be in session Tuesday through Friday next week (not Monday through Thursday), the aide said.

Also, he announced to his colleagues the House will vote on a wilderness package and the Equality Act next week.

1:45 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

White House press secretary says Biden now owns the pandemic response

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House on February 16.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House on February 16. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

White House press secretary Jen Psaki walked a tight line Tuesday when asked if President Biden now owns the coronavirus pandemic response. Psaki answered yes — but added conditions.

“Well, certainly the President of the United States owns the response to the Covid pandemic. That's why he is focused on it every single day,” Psaki said.

“However, it's important for the American people to know what we inherited when the President came into office. And what he inherited was not enough supply, not enough vaccinators, not enough places for vaccinations to happen. Communities had been left to fend for themselves. And so that's what he's been focused on and working on," she added.

Psaki announced earlier in the briefing that the administration is again increasing the weekly Covid-19 vaccine supply being sent to states, as it works to ramp up vaccinations nearly a month in office.

She added of Biden, “But certainly, if he were standing here, he would say that's the issue he wakes up every morning and is focused on because addressing it is what’s on the minds of the American people. He's the president, it's his responsibility to focus on it.”