The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Ben Westcott, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso, CNN

Updated 10:19 p.m. ET, February 26, 2021
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4:44 p.m. ET, February 26, 2021

Open a window to reduce virus spread, CDC tells schools in new ventilation recommendations

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted new recommendations Friday on the importance of good ventilation in preventing coronavirus spread in schools and daycares. Its top recommendation: Open a window.

It’s the first time the agency has separately emphasized the role ventilation plays in helping or preventing the spread of the virus, which is transmitted in tiny particles called aerosols, as well as via larger articles.

“If safe to do so, open windows and doors,” the CDC advises. “Even just cracking open a window or door helps increase outdoor airflow, which helps reduce the potential concentration of virus particles in the air. If it gets too cold or hot, adjust the thermostat. Do not open windows or doors if doing so poses a safety or health risk (such as falling, exposure to extreme temperatures, or triggering asthma symptoms),” it adds.

“Open windows in transportation vehicles. Use exhaust fans in restrooms and kitchens.”

Mask use can prevent the virus from getting into the air in the first place, the CDC said on the newly posted web page. But good ventilation is also important. 

“Use child-safe fans to increase the effectiveness of open windows. Safely secure fans in a window to blow potentially contaminated air out and pull new air in through other open windows and doors,” it adds. “Consider having activities, classes, or lunches outdoors when circumstances allow.”

The new guidance also addresses heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. “Set HVAC systems to bring in as much outdoor air as your system will safely allow,” it suggests. “Increase the HVAC system’s total airflow supply to occupied spaces when you can. More air flow encourages air mixing and ensures any recirculated air passes through the filter more frequently.”

Filtration is also important, but filters should not reduce airflow.

4:25 p.m. ET, February 26, 2021

California will receive over 380,000 Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine doses by next week

From CNN’s Jessica Myers 

Gov. Gavin Newsom
Gov. Gavin Newsom KFSN

California is anticipating a delivery of 380,300 Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine doses by next week, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in a news conference Friday.

According to Newsom, the state is administering more vaccines than it is receiving. About 1.4 million vaccines doses are being administered on a weekly basis and the goal is to ramp it up to four million doses once there’s enough supply.

So far, the state has administered 8.2 million doses of vaccine.

“There’s bright light at the end of the tunnel,” said Newsom, a phrase the governor has been sharing to reflect declining Covid-19 case numbers, deaths, and hospitalizations.

One month ago, there were 17,000 active Covid-19 cases in the state and cases are now down by more than a third at 5,400, Newsom said. The positivity rate has also dropped from 7.9% to 2.7%.

The governor on Monday announced that 34,000 doses would be redistributed to hard-hit agricultural communities in the state, like in California's Central Valley, increasing doses up by 60% with 11 new vaccination sites in the area.

Newsom was joined by state lawmakers and actor George Lopez during today's news conference at a vaccination site in Fresno, California.

Remember: The Johnson and Johnson vaccine has not yet received emergency use authorization in the US. Food and Drug Administration vaccine advisers are meeting today to discuss the potential emergency authorization of this third coronavirus vaccine for the US public.

It's the next step in a process that could end with the new vaccine's rollout early next week. As with the two currently authorized vaccines, advisers and federal agencies are meeting over a weekend to try to get the vaccines to the US public as soon as possible.

CNN's Maggie Fox contributed reporting to this post.

4:47 p.m. ET, February 26, 2021

It's important to take "hard line" on minimum wage hike, Democrat says of US Covid-19 relief bill

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

US Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar said it is “unacceptable” that the Senate parliamentarian has ruled against including a $15 minimum wage increase in the Covid-19 relief bill.

The House will vote on their bill tonight with the increase included, but the Senate is expected to have to strip the minimum wage provision out when it votes on the Covid-19 bill next. Then eventually the House will have to pass that bill again at the end of the process.

“It is unacceptable, I believe, for us to continue to come up with excuses on why we can't do the right thing for the American people,” Omar said to CNN’s John King in an interview today. 

When asked if progressives could stop the package, Omar said “it's really important for us to use every single opportunity we have to engage in this fight to provide an actual path to increasing the minimum wage.” 

“People have been waiting for a really long time. This is our one chance that we get, and I think it's really important … We might succeed. If not, we have to look at the options in the House when the bill returns to us,” she added. 

Omar said that the minimum wage hike has been campaigned on for over a decade, and voters expect lawmakers to keep their promises on it. 

“I think it is really important for us to draw a hard line on what it means to fight on behalf of the American people. This majority wasn't given to us to sit on the sidelines,” Omar said. 

Watch the interview:

3:48 p.m. ET, February 26, 2021

Now is "wrong moment" to try and change time between vaccine doses, CDC official says

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

Now is not the time to experiment with changing the two-dose schedule set for the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in conversation with the Journal of the American Medical Association on Friday.

Outside factors such as emerging variants make it difficult to try and extend the time between doses right now, Messonnier said.

��The vaccines have been studied and approved, authorized, recommended as a two-dose schedule. Our programs are built on that. We’ve communicated that to the public,” she said. “I just don’t think that there is enough science yet to tell us that it’s a moment to change what we know to be an effective regimen."

“For me right now, it’s the wrong moment to dial back. We’re looking at the science carefully,” Messonnier said, adding that this and other questions will be discussed Monday at a meeting of the CDC's vaccine advisers.

3:40 p.m. ET, February 26, 2021

3 key things to know about the US Covid-19 stimulus legislation being voted on in the House today 

Analysis from CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

As the pandemic continues to impact the US, the major order of business for President Biden and Congress is to pass a $1.9 trillion Covid relief package before the round of unemployment benefits and other aid approved in December lapse, again leaving millions of Americans short of help.

What's riding on this negotiation is the $1,400 stimulus checks proposed by Biden even before he took office, as well as that extra federal unemployment money. Democrats have said they will get a bill signed by mid-March.

Here are three key things to know about the legislation proposed by House Democrats that will be voted on today:

  1. It's massive. The latest package will run to about $1.9 trillion on top of about $4 trillion already approved under former President TrumpSee where that money went here.
  2. It's sweeping. The new bill would touch everything from direct stimulus payments and extending unemployment insurance to propping up the airline industry, giving new money for vaccines and helping troubled school districts. The House version also currently includes a federal minimum wage increase to $15 — though that provision will not make it into the Senate version after the parliamentarian determined it could not be passed by a simple majority, under Senate rules.
  3. It's controversial. Republicans say it's too big and want something smaller, or that Congress should wait to see how the Covid pandemic progresses before deciding to send additional aid. Democrats are split over whether to include the minimum wage hike, which is a top priority of progressives but opposed by moderates in the party.

But getting the proposal — proposals, really, since there will be different versions between the House, Senate and White House that must be reconciled — passed into law will test Biden's calls for unity.

3:22 p.m. ET, February 26, 2021

US House majority leader says maybe "one or two" Democrats will vote against Covid relief bill tonight

From CNN's Annie Grayer, Clare Foran and Lauren Fox

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters that “one or two” Democrats could vote against the Covid relief bill tonight, but is confident the bill will pass.

“I expect to have overwhelming Democratic support for it,” Hoyer said. “Expecting unanimity all the time is a little tougher.”

Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader, who is the only remaining House Democrat who voted against the $15 minimum wage bill in 2019 that is still a member of Congress, told reporters he is “not so sure” he will be voting for the package tonight.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn told CNN’s Manu Raju that not all Democrats will vote for the bill tonight but it will pass. He said they can only afford to lose three votes.

More on the House relief package: Progressives have fought to include a minimum wage increase in the legislation, but that effort was dealt a major blow on Thursday when the Senate parliamentarian ruled against including the increase in the Covid relief bill, an aide familiar with the process and two sources with direct knowledge of the situation tell CNN.

As a result, when the House passes their bill with the increase included, the Senate is expected to have to strip the minimum wage provision out and then eventually, the bill would go back to the House and face another vote.

3:37 p.m. ET, February 26, 2021

Countries making deals with vaccine manufacturers undermines COVAX, WHO director says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

UNTV
UNTV

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, on Friday said that countries making deals with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers providing vaccines to COVAX are undermining the effort to vaccinate people around the world. 

“We need to accelerate the supply and distribution of vaccines, and we cannot do that if some countries continue to approach manufacturers who are producing vaccines that COVAX is counting on,” he said. “These actions undermine COVAX and deprive health workers and vulnerable people around the world of life-saving vaccines.” 

Tedros did not name any countries making such deals.

COVAX is an entity run by a coalition that includes the Vaccine Alliance known as Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), and is funded by donations from governments, multilateral institutions and foundations.

Its mission is to buy coronavirus vaccines in bulk and send them to poorer nations that can't compete with wealthy countries in securing contracts with the major drug companies.

Two countries – Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire – have now received vaccine doses from COVAX and the Serum Institute of India, Tedros said, and more doses will go to more countries in the coming weeks. 

There’s progress toward the target of starting vaccination in all countries in the first 100 days of the year, “but that progress is fragile,” he said. 

He said that now is the time to do everything to scale up production, including licensing, technology transfer and intellectual property waivers, when necessary.

While Tedros said that he understood that governments have an obligation to protect their people, the best way to do it is to suppress the virus everywhere at once. 

Tedros said that the distribution of diagnostics, oxygen and dexamethasone also needs to be accelerated, as “although vaccines are a very powerful tool, they’re not the only tool.” 

2:53 p.m. ET, February 26, 2021

Here's what action is expected today on the latest US Covid-19 stimulus bill 

From CNN's Clare Foran, Lauren Fox and Annie Grayer

The House of Representatives is expected to vote Friday evening to approve President Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package, a major step toward enacting the first legislative priority of the new administration as the devastating fallout from the spread of Covid-19 has left Americans in dire need of further relief.

The package advanced by House Democrats includes direct aid 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, funding for schools and more money for vaccine distribution.

It is expected to pass on a party line vote as House Republicans have urged their members to vote against the package and are seeking to limit defections.

Republicans have argued that the legislation overreaches and serves as a liberal wish list of agenda items and complain that they have been locked out of the process for crafting the measure.

Democrats counter that they are willing to work with Republicans, but will not water down the plan and say they have a mandate to take sweeping action to address the pandemic now that they control Congress and the White House.

What happens next: If the bill passes in the House, it will then be up to the Senate, which is using the reconciliation process. The process allows lawmakers to bypass the 60-vote threshold typically required for breaking filibusters and moving legislation forward. Whatever version the Senate approves would also have to pass through the House.

Current expanded unemployment benefits run out March 14. That's the date by which Democrats have said they must have the Covid relief bill passed into law.

"We are on track to get this bill done and get it on the President's desk before the expiration of the enhanced unemployment benefits, which is March 14," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday.

See full breakdown of what's in the most recent bill proposed in the House is here.

CNN's Zachary B. Wolf contributed reporting to this post.

2:03 p.m. ET, February 26, 2021

About 70.5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the US

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images

About 70.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States, according to data published Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The CDC reported that 70,454,064 total doses have been administered, about 75% of the 94,300,910 doses delivered. 

That’s about 2.2 million more administered doses reported since yesterday, for a seven-day average of nearly 1.6 million doses per day. 

More than 14% of the US population – more than 47 million people – have now received at least one dose of vaccine and nearly 7% of the population – about 22.6 million people – have been fully vaccinated with both shots, CDC data shows. 

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