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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1:09 p.m. ET, February 22, 2021

Biden will order flags flying over federal property to half-staff to mark 500,000 US Covid-19 deaths

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced that President Biden will order all flags flying over federal buildings to fly at half-staff for five days to mark the “solemn milestone” of 500,000 American deaths from Covid-19.

“Later today, the President, the first lady, the Vice President and the second gentlemen will mark the solemn milestone of 500,000 American lives lost to Covid-19. They will ask all Americans to join in a moment of silence during a candle lighting ceremony at sundown,” Psaki said at Monday’s White House press briefing. “President Biden will also deliver remarks and order all flags on federal property to be lowered at half-staff for the next five days.”

Psaki said Biden’s remarks will “will highlight the magnitude of loss that this milestone marks for the American people and so many families across the country."

The White House official also said Biden would "speak to the power of the American people to turn the tide on this pandemic by working together, following public health guidelines and getting in line to be vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.”

12:53 p.m. ET, February 22, 2021

Spain has administered more than 3 million vaccine doses, health officials say

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in London

Spain has administered more than 3 million vaccine doses, the Spanish Health Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

According to the health ministry, at least 1,197,061 have received two doses of the vaccine.

Most of the doses administered are of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine (2,837,196), followed by the Moderna (132,433) and the Oxford / AstraZeneca (120,722) vaccines.

12:14 p.m. ET, February 22, 2021

New York City has administered over 1.5 million vaccine doses, mayor says

From CNN's Laura Ly

A medical worker prepares the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in the Bronx, New York, on February 10.
A medical worker prepares the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in the Bronx, New York, on February 10. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York City has administered over 1.5 million vaccine doses to date, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference Monday.

Despite vaccine shipping delays due to winter weather last week, de Blasio said the city is still on track to achieve its goal of fully-vaccinating five million New York City residents by June 2021. 

On Monday, the city reported a 7.2% Covid-19 positivity rate. At least 252 new Covid-19 patients have been hospitalized, for a hospitalization rate of 4.09 per every 100,000 residents, de Blasio said. 

New York City is working on putting out a report “within the next few days” to discuss the new Covid-19 variants and their prevalence in the city, Dr. Jay Varma, the city’s Senior Advisor for Public Health, said Monday. Varma said city officials plan to update these reports periodically.

1:39 p.m. ET, February 22, 2021

Boris Johnson lays out a 4-month timeline for easing UK Covid-19 restrictions

House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images
House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson just announced a roadmap for gradually easing Covid-19 restrictions.

Here's a look at what's in the plan, according to Johnson:

  • March 8: Schools finally reopen across England, and limited outdoor social interaction, such as sitting on a park bench with one other person, will return.
  • March 29: Groups of six can meet outside and two households can mix.
  • No earlier than April 12: Non-essential retail, such as hairdressers, gyms, museums, zoos and theme parks can open. Social contacting rules will remain in place for indoor activities, meaning that they can only be attended with your own household. 
  • No earlier than May 17: Most social contacting rules will be removed. Groups of up to 30 will be able to meet outdoors in a public space or private garden. Pubs and restaurants will be allowed to serve indoors, though the rule of six will apply. Indoor entertainment will also be allowed to resume, with venues allowed to host up to 1,000 people. Spectators will be allowed to return to live outdoor sports, with up to 10,000 allowed to attend the largest venues such as Wembley Stadium.
  • No sooner than June 21: Most social contacting rules will be removed and nightclubs can reopen. Personal life events like weddings will have no limitations if things go well.

Watch the announcement:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misreported the day most social contacting rules will be removed. It is no sooner than June 21.

10:58 a.m. ET, February 22, 2021

UK prime minister warns there will be more deaths as he announces "cautious" exit from lockdown

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

Leon Neal/Getty Images
Leon Neal/Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned there will be more deaths from Covid-19 as the country “cautiously, but irreversibly” exits lockdown. 

“We cannot escape the fact that lifting lockdown will result in more cases, more hospitalizations and sadly more deaths,” he told lawmakers in the UK Parliament as he announced his roadmap toward lifting restrictions. 

“No vaccine can ever be 100% effective, not everyone will take them up and like all viruses, Covid-19 will mutate,” he explained. “There will always be some vulnerable people that will not be affected by vaccines.”

Still, the prime minister added that the country could not “persist indefinitely” with lockdown restrictions that were crippling the British economy.  

“Today’s measures will apply in England but we’re working closely with the devolved administrations,” he also explained. “We’re able to take these steps because of the resolve of the British public and the extraordinary success of our NHS in vaccinating 17.5 million across the UK.”



10:52 a.m. ET, February 22, 2021

Georgia opens four Covid-19 mass vaccination sites across the state

From CNN's Tina Burnside

Starting today, mass Covid-19 vaccination sites are set to open in Georgia allowing for increased vaccine access across the state. 

During a news conference on Monday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said although the state has administered vaccines to 1.7 million residents including 763,000 seniors, the vaccine demand continues to vastly outpace supply. 

Chris Stallings, director of Georgia Emergency Management Agency, said the sites which are scattered across the state will administer shots to as many as 1,100 people per day. 

10:16 a.m. ET, February 22, 2021

Treasury secretary says a successful US economic recovery would be "pre-pandemic levels of employment”

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks on February 5.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks on February 5. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen discussed the road to economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, saying a successful recovery to her “would be if we could get back to pre-pandemic levels of employment.”

“We need to make sure that those who are most affected are not permanently scarred by this crisis,” Yellen said during an interview with the New York Times' DealBook DC Policy Project on Monday.

Responding to concerns that President Biden’s proposed relief package is spending money “inefficiently,” Yellen said the American Rescue Plan has targeted assistance in a number of ways. However, she said targeted assistance might not reach all American’s who need it, such as those who have dropped out of the workforce and aren’t eligible for certain assistance programs.

"The truth is there are pockets of pain that go beyond what can be reached in those highly targeted ways," she said, adding that the $1,400 direct payment checks would help to make sure that “pockets of misery that we know exist out there,” also receive help.

Yellen echoed the administration’s stance that the danger is going to small on economic relief, not too large. “If you don’t spend what is necessary to get the economy back on track, that has a fiscal cost as well,” Yellen said.

She also discussed the new design for the $20 dollar bill with Harriet Tubman on it, and said one of the reasons for the delay is making sure there are proper anticounterfeiting measures in place. "I promise I will do everything I possibly can to expedite this and I would like to see Harriet Tubman honored on our currency,” she said.

9:47 a.m. ET, February 22, 2021

Fauci explains comments about wearing masks into 2022 

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens as President Joe Biden speaks during a visit at the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, in Bethesda, Md.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens as President Joe Biden speaks during a visit at the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, in Bethesda, Md. Evan VucciAP

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said again on Monday that Americans might be wearing masks into 2022, and although there may be far less spread of the coronavirus, people must be prepared for the possibility of another surge of cases. 

On Sunday, Fauci told CNN’s Dana Bash on State of the Union that it was possible that people could be wearing masks into 2022. 

“The point I was trying to make is that people ask you to make a projection when there are so many variables in there that are unpredictable,” Fauci told Gayle King on CBS This Morning on Monday.

“So, when I said we might be, I didn’t say we absolutely are going to be wearing them, I’m saying it is quite conceivable that if we actually go into the fall and the winter and there is still a degree of virus in the community, despite the fact that many people have been vaccinated – we certainly will likely, very likely be much better off then than we are now – but it is conceivable that there will be enough virus in the community that in order to be extra safe, we may have to be wearing masks under certain circumstances," he continued.

“That’s the only point that I was making, I was not trying to scare people. I’m saying we’ve got to be prepared, that variables are there and we can get another surge,” Fauci added.

While he said that he doesn’t think there will be another surge, and he hopes there won’t be, the United States has to be prepared for one. 

“That’s what I meant by don’t just give up on public health measures, because we’re going in the right direction,” Fauci said. 


9:41 a.m. ET, February 22, 2021

Vaccine rollout is linked to a "substantial" drop in risk of Covid-19 hospitalization in Scotland

From CNN’s Sarah Dean and Chloe Adams

A military doctor administers a Covid-19 vaccine to an Edinburgh resident on February 4.
A military doctor administers a Covid-19 vaccine to an Edinburgh resident on February 4. Andrew Milligan/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Covid-19 vaccination rollout has been linked to a substantial fall in the risk of admission to hospitals from the disease in Scotland, according to early data from a study on the effect of the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca shots in the community. 

Researchers compared hospital admissions among those who have had their first dose and those who have not.  

By the fourth week after receiving the initial dose, the Pfizer vaccine reduced the risk of hospital admission from Covid-19 by up to 85%. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalization by up to 94%.

The preliminary study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, is the first to look at the two vaccines’ effect on preventing severe illness resulting in hospitalization across an entire country, with previous efficacy results coming from clinical trials.

The EAVE II project, carried out by researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, Strathclyde, Aberdeen, Glasgow and St Andrew’s and Public Health Scotland (PHS), analyzed a dataset covering almost the entire Scottish population of 5.4 million.  

Researchers analyzed data for every week between December 8 and February 15. During this period 1.14 million vaccines were administered (some 650,000 people got the Pfizer shot and some 490,000 had Oxford-AstraZeneca) with 21% of the Scottish population receiving a first dose, according to a University of Edinburgh press release. 

Among those aged 80 years and over -- one of the highest risk groups -- vaccination was associated with an 81% reduction in hospitalization risk from Covid-19 in the fourth week, when the results for both vaccines were combined, according to the press release. 

“These results are very encouraging and have given us great reasons to be optimistic for the future. We now have national evidence -- across an entire country -- that vaccination provides protection against Covid-19 hospitalizations,” lead researcher Aziz Sheikh, director of the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute, said in the release.

Roll-out of the first vaccine dose now needs to be accelerated globally to help overcome this terrible disease.”

The researchers say the findings are applicable to other countries that are using the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines but caution that the data does not allow for comparisons between the two vaccines. “We haven't done a direct comparison between the two,” Sheikh said during a Monday news press conference.

Dr. Jim McMenamin, national Covid-19 incident director for PHS, stressed that the results are from a single dose, rather than a complete course of the vaccine. He said the bottom line is the team are “very encouraged” by the national data that shows the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines “are providing substantial protection against the risk of hospital admissions.

“No matter which of the two vaccines that any of our population are receiving, on the basis of the information that we're presenting ... there's encouragement, about the effect of both vaccines,” he added.