The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and the Omicron variant

By Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 9:12 PM ET, Tue February 1, 2022
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9:10 p.m. ET, February 1, 2022

Surgeon general feels "more optimistic" than ever that the end of the pandemic is within reach

From CNN’s Jen Christensen


US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Tuesday that he is more optimistic that the end of the Covid-19 pandemic is within reach.

“It can be easy to just feel frustrated and tired, and those are absolutely understandable feelings at this point, starting year three of this pandemic, but I actually feel more optimistic, Wolf, about the future, about getting back to some sense of normal, more so now than I did at any other point during the pandemic,” Murthy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. 

Murthy said he is optimistic because vaccines work to prevent severe disease and death, even with the more contagious Omicron variant. There are more medicines to treat Covid-19 than ever before. There are also better evidence-based strategies to use masks and tests. Production of both, he said, has picked up.

“This puts us in a much better place to be prepared, for not just Omicron but for future variants that may arise,” Murthy said.  

It’s still important for people to take precautions in public spaces, especially indoors, and wear masks. “But as more people get vaccinated and the case numbers come down overall, we will be able to peel back on some of those restrictions,” Murthy said. 

Murthy couldn’t give an exact timeline on when the country will get back to normal. 

“We all want to be able to predict a specific timeline. I don't know the exact answer to that. I know that if you are vaccinated and boosted … the faster we're going to get there.”
Here is CNN's Wolf Blitzer discussing with the US Surgeon General when the pandemic will end:
8:43 p.m. ET, February 1, 2022

Now is the time for White House to release guidance on transitioning out of the pandemic, expert says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Now seems to be the right time for the Biden administration to analyze and release guidance on how the United States might transition out of the pandemic, Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told CNN on Tuesday.

That guidance, Benjamin said, could come from a "higher authority" than the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such as the White House Covid-19 Task Force as a whole.

"This is not CDC's responsibility. They will be part of the process, but this is much bigger than CDC because this pandemic has been much bigger than just one agency," Benjamin said. He added that such guidance should include scenarios and models of where the pandemic might be headed and how to address what could happen next.

"While CDC can provide some leadership there -- they can provide the science, they can provide the evidence, and maybe they can do the modeling, because that involves so much of a society that's got to come at a higher authority -- maybe the Covid Task Force pulls that together and lays it out for the nation."

Some state governors also are calling for guidance to be issued.

A bipartisan group of governors told President Joe Biden that the country needs to "move away from the pandemic," Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said at the White House on Monday, adding that they asked for "clear guidelines" on how to return to what we used think of as normal.

"I think the governors are right to begin asking the question: What's the endgame? And I'm glad to see that that's being asked, and I'm glad to see that's being asked in a bipartisan manner," Benjamin said Tuesday.

"There's so many public policy decisions involved with this. CDC is only one of the entities that needs to be involved in this, and it really is a whole of government discussion," Benjamin said. "By the way, it's a whole of government discussion at the federal, state and local level. The governors need to be part of that discussion, too."

It is not unusual that there has been no guidance issued, because "we're still in the middle of a hurricane," Benjamin said, but he hopes the nation has a "lull" in the Omicron wave right now to develop the guidance on moving forward.

"What I would suggest what we do is, we look and we imagine some possible futures of where the disease might go, and then we plan the transition according to those various scenarios," Benjamin said.

8:27 p.m. ET, February 1, 2022

Austrian ski jumper will miss Olympics due to Covid-19

From CNN's Jill Martin

Marita Kramer of Austria soars through the air during the first jump at the Women's FIS Ski Jumping World Cup in Ramsau am Dachstein, Austria, on December 17, 2021.
Marita Kramer of Austria soars through the air during the first jump at the Women's FIS Ski Jumping World Cup in Ramsau am Dachstein, Austria, on December 17, 2021. (Georg Hochmuth/AFP/Getty Images)

Austrian ski jumper Marita Kramer will not be able to compete in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing due to positive Covid-19 tests, according to Kramer and the Austrian team.

Kramer, 20, said in a social media post that she tested positive for the virus before leaving for Beijing. She said she went home and had a subsequent test, which was also positive. This would have been her first Winter Olympics.

“No words, no feelings, just emptiness,” Kramer wrote in the post. “Is the world really this unfair? The last years I have prepared towards the olympics. I have put so much energy & time in it, to make my dreams come true. Now it feels like my dreams are gone within 1 day.”
7:29 p.m. ET, February 1, 2022

Here's a look at the latest figures on Covid-19 cases in US children 

From CNN's Jen Christensen

Pfizer and BioNTech announced Tuesday that they are requesting emergency use authorization for their two-dose Covid-19 vaccine for children age 6 months up to 5 years.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is already authorized for use in people as young as 5 and would be the first Covid-19 vaccine available for the youngest children. The companies are continuing to test a three-dose version of the vaccine in this younger age group.

The move comes "in response to the urgent public health need in this population," the companies said in a news release.

Here's a look at some of the latest figures on Covid-19 cases in US children:

  • There were 808,013 new Covid-19 cases reported among children in the US last week, down from the record number the week before but still triple the peak level of the Delta surge last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics said Monday.
  • There were at least 1.15 million new child cases reported for the week ending Jan. 20, the first time the number topped 1 million since the AAP began tracking cases.
  • The trend among children follows the more general nationwide trend. Cases for all ages are down 30% since last week and 39% from the peak of the Omicron variant surge, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
  • For the week ending Jan. 27, children made up 22.8% of the total reported weekly cases (kids are 22.2% of the US population). This marks the 25th week in a row that more than 100,000 US children have been diagnosed with Covid-19.
  • There have been over 3.5 million child cases reported in January alone. Since the start of the pandemic, 11.4 million children have tested positive.
  • For states that report hospitalizations by age, the total numbers stayed about the same last week, with kids generally making up between 1.6% and 4.4% of those who needed to be treated at a hospital for Covid-19.
  • In states reporting deaths by age, up to 0.25% of child Covid-19 cases resulted in death, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. 
  • At least 1,218 children have died from Covid-19 in the United States since the start of the pandemic, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Track Covid-19 cases in the US here.

CNN's Jamie Gumbrecht contributed reporting to this post. 

6:37 p.m. ET, February 1, 2022

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says he tested positive for Covid-19 and is "experiencing mild symptoms"

From CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced Tuesday that he had tested positive for Covid-19 and is "experiencing mild symptoms."

"This afternoon, I tested positive for COVID-19, and I am experiencing mild symptoms," the Maryland Democrat said in a statement released Tuesday night. "Thankfully, I am fully vaccinated and already received my booster shot."

Hoyer, 82, said he will work from home this week while he isolates and will use proxy voting. 

"I look forward to returning to the Capitol once my isolation period is over to continue carrying out the important work of leading House Democrats as we govern responsibly For the People," he said. 

See Hoyer's tweet with the statement:

6:10 p.m. ET, February 1, 2022

Virginia attorney general's legal opinion forces state universities to end vaccine mandates for students

From CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi

The largest public universities in Virginia have ended their Covid-19 vaccine mandate following the legal opinion issued by state Attorney General Jason Miyares.

Originally the mandate required students seeking to attend class in person or students looking to enroll to be vaccinated for Covid-19. However, institutions including Virginia Tech, George Mason, the University of Virginia, and Virginia Commonwealth University announced updates in their policies for the ongoing spring semester on Monday.

Released on Friday, Miyares' opinion stated that state colleges and universities can not legally require the Covid-19 vaccine for students unless it is specifically included in the commonwealth's existing legislature on required immunizations for institutions of higher education.

Several state universities in Virginia have noted that the bulk of their student populations is already fully vaccinated.

"Given our high vaccination rate, the continued decline of the omicron variant, the Governor's recent executive orders and directives, and the recent Attorney General's opinion, we will now strongly encourage vaccination protocols for all Mason students, faculty, and staff, though we no longer require them," said George Mason President Gregory Washington in a message to the school's community.

Tim Sands, Virginia Tech's president, noted that federal regulations may still require students "who work in specific settings to be vaccinated, receive the booster when eligible, and upload their health information."

In Charlottesville, a statement from Virginia's top officials noted that "the issue is moot for us at UVA, at least for the time being," as 99% of the students had adhered to the school's prior vaccine and booster requirement deadline.

"Because we have such a small number of students who have not yet received the booster, we decided early last week — based on the advice of our student affairs team — that we will not disenroll students who have not yet received their booster, but will continue to encourage them to do so," the statement also said.

At VCU officials announced that the pre-existing Feb.1 deadline for submission of booster status is no longer a requirement.

Additional public universities in Virginia, including James Madison University, the College of William & Mary, and Old Dominion University, have also announced the end of the school's vaccine requirements.

5:37 p.m. ET, February 1, 2022

FDA committee will meet Feb. 15 to discuss authorizing Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine for children under 5

From CNN Health’s Jen Christensen

The US Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee will meet Feb. 15 to discuss Pfizer and BioNTech’s request for an emergency use authorization of their vaccine for children as young as 6 months old.

The virtual meeting will give scientists a chance to go over the available clinical trial data and make a recommendation on whether the vaccine would be appropriate for this age group. The meeting is open to the public and will be streamed live on YouTube and on the FDA website. Meeting materials will be available at least two days before. 

"Having a safe and effective vaccine available for children in this age group is a priority for the agency and we're committed to a timely review of the data, which the agency asked Pfizer to submit in light of the recent Omicron surge," acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a news release. “Children are not small adults. Because they're still growing and developing, it's critical that these vaccines are evaluated in well-designed and well-conducted clinical trials.”

Woodcock said that in the meantime, the best way to protect children in this age group is to make sure everyone around them who is eligible is vaccinated and to use other prevention measures such as social distancing and masking.

The FDA green lit the vaccine for children ages 5 through 11 in October. Children 12 to 15 are also eligible to get a booster shot. Although 8.7 million Covid-19 vaccines have been given to US children who are eligible, children are still the least vaccinated of any age group.

5:05 p.m. ET, February 1, 2022

Are you ready to get your young kids vaccinated for Covid-19? We want to hear from you

Pfizer and BioNTech are requesting emergency use authorization from the FDA for their two-dose Covid-19 vaccine for kids age 6 months up to 5 years. 

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is already authorized for use in people as young as 5 and would be the first Covid-19 vaccine available for the youngest children. The companies are continuing to test a three-dose version of the vaccine in this younger age group.

Parents, are you ready to get your young kids vaccinated? Have you been avoiding activities out of fear your children would get Covid? What will the vaccine mean for your family?

Share your story with us in the form below:

CNN's Jamie Gumbrecht contributed reporting to this post. 

5:46 p.m. ET, February 1, 2022

Pfizer and BioNTech submitting data to FDA following request for emergency use of vaccine for kids under 5

From CNN Health’s John Bonifield

Medical companies Pfizer and BioNTech have begun a rolling submission of data to the US Food and Drug Administration. The move comes at the FDA's request following Pfizer and BioNTech seeking emergency authorization for use of the Covid-19 vaccine for children less than five years old.

The two companies expect to complete the EUA submission in the coming days. Additionally, Pfizer and BioNTech say that data on a third vaccine dose — when administered at least eight weeks after a second dose — is expected to be available within a few months. That data will also be shared with the FDA.

“Ultimately, we believe that three doses of the vaccine will be needed for children 6 months through 4 years of age to achieve high levels of protection against current and potential future variants," said Albert Bourla, Pfizer's Chairman and CEO, in a press release.

"If two doses are authorized, parents will have the opportunity to begin a COVID-19 vaccination series for their children while awaiting potential authorization of a third dose,” Bourla continued.

Watch CNN's Jake Tapper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta discuss kids under five getting vaccinated: