February 22 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Eoin McSweeney and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 1:45 AM ET, Tue February 23, 2021
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3:50 p.m. ET, February 22, 2021

The pandemic is heading in the right direction but "there is still much work to do," CDC director says

From CNN's DJ Judd

from the White House
from the White House

At the beginning of today’s Covid-19 briefing, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky touted encouraging numbers in declining new cases, deaths, and hospital admissions, but also offered a note of caution. 

“We continue to see trends head in the right direction, but cases, hospital admissions, and deaths remain at very high levels," Walensky said. 

New cases, according to Walensky, have declined steadily for five weeks, with the current seven-day average down 74% from its peak on January 11. Today’s seven-day average, Walensky said, is now at 66,000 cases per day and is comparable to last summer’s peak. 

As far as new hospital admissions go, today’s seven-day average of 6,500 marks a 60% decline from a peak on January 9 and is the lowest rate of new hospital admissions since last fall.

At 1,900 deaths per day, the seven-day average of deaths is down 39% from the prior seven-day average, making it the lowest that number has been since the beginning of December. 

Still, Walensky noted, "This seven-day average is counterbalanced by the stark reality that this week, we will surpass one half million Covid-19 deaths in the United States, a truly tragic reminder of the enormity of this pandemic, and the loss it has afflicted on our personal lives and our communities."

“While the pandemic is heading in the right direction there is still much work to do," she added.

3:49 p.m. ET, February 22, 2021

White House adviser says all vaccine doses delayed by weather will be delivered by mid-week

From CNN's Jason Hoffman 

Senior adviser Andy Slavitt speaks during a White House briefing on January 27.
Senior adviser Andy Slavitt speaks during a White House briefing on January 27. White House via AP

Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House Covid-19 response team, said that all backlogged doses of coronavirus vaccines that were delayed due to winter weather last week will be delivered by mid-week.

Slavitt said once the weather began to improve, there was “an all-out, around-the-clock effort from our teams and partners” to get back on track with vaccine shipments.

“Thanks to that and many more, those efforts, today alone we plan to deliver seven million doses. This is a combination of catchup from last week's doses that were delayed from the weather and doses going out as a normal part of today's normal distribution,” Slavitt said during a Covid-19 response briefing on Monday. “We now anticipate that all backlog doses will be delivered by mid-week.”

However, Slavitt cautioned that getting the vaccines delivered is just the first step, and it will still take some time for vaccine distribution sites to catch up.

“We encourage vaccination sites to follow that same lead of those who are working extended hours to catch up on deliveries by scheduling more appointments to vaccinate the anxious public as quickly as possible,” Slavitt said.

He noted that Texas’ seven-day average of administered Covid-19 doses decreased by 31% in the past week due to winter weather impacts.

3:10 p.m. ET, February 22, 2021

The US House Budget Committee voted to advance their Covid relief bill. Here's what comes next.

From CNN's Lauren Fox and Annie Grayer

The House Budget Committee voted 19 to 16 Monday to advance President Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package. The committee will continue to hold votes on non-binding resolutions, but this is the official step triggering the legislation to go to the House floor for a vote later this week.

One Democrat, Lloyd Doggett, joined Republicans in voting against the relief package. CNN has reached out to Doggett’s office to learn more.

The package includes:

  • Direct aide to small businesses
  • $1,400 direct checks to Americans making less than $75,000 annually
  • An increase in the child tax credit
  • Direct funding to state and local governments
  • More money for vaccine distribution
  • Funding for schools both at the secondary and higher education level

The more than 590-page bill marks the first major piece of legislation to be advanced under the Biden administration and is the first opportunity for congressional Democrats to legislate with control of all three branches of government.

What comes next: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have a narrow margin to pass the bill later this week, unable to lose more than five votes. Buoying the bill’s chances is the fact many members on both the moderate and progressive side do not have an appetite to torpedo the Biden administration’s first major ask. 

The task in the Senate could be more difficult as two Democratic moderates – Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – have made it clear they are not comfortable voting for a coronavirus relief bill that includes an increase in the minimum wage to $15 over five years.

The provision, which was in the House bill, may not survive a budget process that requires every section of the bill to meet a strict set of rules. Lawmakers may learn as soon as Tuesday evening whether or not the provision is allowed under reconciliation, the process that allows Democrats to pass their bill with just 51 votes.

2:48 p.m. ET, February 22, 2021

Florida surpasses 30,000 resident deaths from Covid-19 since start of pandemic

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch

Florida has reported more than 30,000 residents deaths from Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to state data.

The state has reported 1,872,923 cases and 30,065 deaths among residents since the start of the pandemic. An additional 530 non-residents have also died, state officials say.

Florida currently ranks fourth in the nation for cases and deaths behind California, New York and Texas, according to Johns Hopkins University data. 

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

2:30 p.m. ET, February 22, 2021

Chain drug stores urge White House to "more fully supply" Covid-19 vaccine to pharmacies

From CNN's John Bonifield

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores is urging the Biden administration to more fully supply pharmacies with Covid-19 vaccine, saying demand for vaccines is “stratospheric.”

In a letter sent to the White House and obtained by CNN, the association said only 1 million of 73 million total Covid-19 doses distributed throughout the nation to date were part of the soft launch of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program on Feb. 11.

The program was established as a collaboration between the federal government and 21 national pharmacy networks to increase access to Covid-19 vaccines.

The Biden administration recently announced doses allocated to the program would double.

"We truly appreciate this week's announcement that the allocation for this program will double to 2 million doses per week but with only 6,500 pharmacies included in this soft launch, the increase in vaccine doses per store per week still falls short of community demand," Steven Anderson, the association's president and CEO, wrote to Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for Covid response, and Jeff Zients, White House Covid response coordinator.

Anderson said public demand for Covid-19 vaccine appointments at pharmacies has been "stratospheric," with reports of some pharmacies receiving 1,000 attempts at online appointments for every one appointment made available by a dose of vaccine.

"Acknowledging existing supply limitations, we urge a re-balancing of vaccine allocation to mitigate the situation and allow this critical program to be more fully jumpstarted as anticipated in the National Strategy," Anderson wrote.

In the letter, the association said many people who are most vulnerable and at-risk to Covid-19 use pharmacies as a primary point to access healthcare. The association said many pharmacies stand ready to launch mobile Covid-19 vaccination clinics into communities of targeted populations.

"We ask the Administration to fully leverage this program because it is designed to maximize the vaccination capacity of the nation's extensive pharmacy network while holding pharmacies accountable through program performance metrics," Anderson told the White House officials in his letter.

The nation's Covid-19 vaccine supply is still limited. States have also been requesting more doses of vaccine.

2:15 p.m. ET, February 22, 2021

US health officials urge countries to share Covid-19 vaccine resources to ensure global accessibility

From CNN's Ashley Ahn

Top US public health officials backed the World Health Organization’s call for more attention to equitable distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine during a WHO briefing Monday.  

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the United States should not only focus on equitable production and distribution of vaccines domestically, but should also prioritize global accessibility to vaccines. 

“We (must) realize that this is a global pandemic, requiring a global response,” Fauci said. “An outbreak in any part of the world is an outbreak for the entire world.” 

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, also urged countries to share resources to help ensure vaccine accessibility in developing countries.  

“It's encouraging to see how many vaccines are being used worldwide, and to know that more are on their way, but just like one player on a football team cannot win the game alone, we cannot beat this pandemic one country at a time,” she said. 

Some more context: President Biden on Friday unveiled a $4 billion US commitment to COVAX, the global effort to provide vaccines to poor countries. The plan includes a $2 billion contribution to the fund and a commitment to spending another $2 billion contingent on contributions from other countries.

Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, declined to comment on whether the Biden administration will follow other G7 leaders who committed to sharing vaccine doses with poorer countries. 

1:57 p.m. ET, February 22, 2021

About 64 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the US

From CNN'S Deidre McPhillips

Elizabeth Griffin receives a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine in Brooklyn, New York, on February 22. 
Elizabeth Griffin receives a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine in Brooklyn, New York, on February 22.  Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

More than 64 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States, according to data published Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reported that 64,177,474 total doses have been administered – about 85% of the 75,205,940 doses delivered. That’s about 1.1 million more administered doses reported since yesterday.

About 13% of the US population — more than 44.1 million people — have now received at least one dose of vaccine, and nearly 6% of the population – about 19.4 million people —have been fully vaccinated with two doses, CDC data shows.

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

1:51 p.m. ET, February 22, 2021

West Virginia reports 36 straight days of decreasing Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s LaCrisha McAllister

West Virginia has had 36 straight days of active Covid-19 cases dropping in the state, Gov. Jim Justice said during a briefing Monday.

New positive Covid-19 cases are down to 248 in the last 24 hours, marking the first time since Nov. 12 that confirmed active cases have been below 9,000, Justice said. There were 15 new Covid-19 deaths this week, bringing the state’s pandemic death toll to 2,263.

Three cases of a new Covid-19 variant have been confirmed in West Virginia, Justice said. The state’s chief health officer, Dr. Clay Marsh, said the variant cases originated in the UK.

Justice further stated that there has been a total of 435,972 administrations of the first and second doses of the vaccine. 

Justice also said Monday that he has called on the state’s Board of Education to require in-person instruction five days per week for students in K through 8 grades.

On Friday, the governor lessened social distancing restrictions — increasing bar and restaurant capacity to 75% of seating. He also raised the capacity on small businesses and retail stores from two to four people per 1,000 square feet. Grocery stores may now have up to six people per 1,000 square feet. Justice also raised the state’s social gathering limit from 25 to 75 people.

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


2:01 p.m. ET, February 22, 2021

Go There: CNN answers your questions about the pandemic from an Atlanta mass vaccination site

Mass vaccination sites open today throughout Georgia. CNN’s Ryan Young is outside the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, where he answered viewers' questions about the vaccines and pandemic.