February 1 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton and Kara Fox, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, February 2, 2021
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1:24 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Women and White people most likely to be vaccinated in US, new CDC data indicates

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

Safeway pharmacist Preston Young administers a Moderna COVID-19 vaccination during a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds on January 13 in Santa Rosa, California.
Safeway pharmacist Preston Young administers a Moderna COVID-19 vaccination during a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds on January 13 in Santa Rosa, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

People in the US who have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine were most likely to be female, non-Hispanic White and at least 50 years old, according to data published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Monday. 

The CDC collected data from states and other jurisdictions on the demographics of individuals who initiated vaccination in the first month of distribution, between Dec. 14 and Jan. 14.

Age and gender were identified for nearly all 12.5 million individuals who received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine in the first month of distribution. Of those, about 63% were female and about 55% were at least 50 years old.

Race and ethnicity, however, were unknown for about half of the individuals vaccinated. Six jurisdictions did not report any race or ethnicity data. But of those for whom race and ethnicity were identified, about 60% were non-Hispanic White.

About 11.5% were Hispanic or Latino, 6% Asian, 5.4% Black, 2% American Indian or Alaskan Native, and less than 1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

According to the CDC, the demographic data of those vaccinated against Covid-19 “likely reflects the demographic characteristics of the persons recommended to be vaccinated in the Phase 1a priority group,” including health care personnel and long-term care facility residents.

However, CDC also states that “more complete reporting of race and ethnicity data at the provider and jurisdictional levels is critical to ensure rapid detection of and response to potential disparities in COVID-19 vaccination.”

 Black and Hispanic people have been found to have more severe outcomes, according to CDC, and “equitable and sustainable COVID-19 vaccine administration in all populations requires focus on groups with lower vaccine receipt who might face challenges with access or vaccine hesitancy.”

1:26 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

CDC director: Covid-19 sequencing to identify new variants still not at level they need to be

From CNN’s Michael Nedelman

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater December 8, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater December 8, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

US efforts to ramp up coronavirus sequencing in order to identify concerning strains have jumped in recent weeks, but still aren’t at the level they need to be, according to the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

Speaking at a news briefing Monday, Walensky detailed how a number of public health, academic and commercial lab partners have put the US on track to sequence at least 7,000 samples weekly.

“This is a good start,” she said. “However, we recognize that more resources and capacity are needed to increase our country's sequencing surveillance and outbreak analytics capacity at the levels demanded by this crisis.”

Experts have previously told CNN that the US should aim to sequence 5% to 10% of cases, in line with sequencing efforts in the UK. Given cases over the past seven days, this would amount to roughly 52,000 to 104,000 sequences a week.

Currently, the lion’s share of sequences come from large commercial labs, which are currently analyzing about 3,000 samples per week and have committed to doubling that number to 6,000 by mid-February, Walensky said.

The CDC has also been scaling up a national program it launched in November through which public health labs across the country have been sending virus samples to the agency for sequencing and further analysis, she added. 

More than 470 cases of concerning variants have been reported so far in the United States – all but a handful being the B.1.1.7 strain first detected in the UK. The CDC estimates this strain is 50% more transmissible than earlier strains, and it has been found in at least 70 countries worldwide.

“The recent rise in number of variants detected in the United States is likely due at least in part to our expanded ability to sequence virus samples,” Walensky noted.

1:07 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

House panel probes Covid-19 outbreaks at US meatpacking plants 

 From CNN’s Alison Kosik

Rep. James Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis, has "launched an investigation into coronavirus outbreaks at meatpacking plants nationwide, which have resulted in the deaths of more than 250 employees."

Congressman Clyburn sent letters to OSHA, Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods and JBS USA, saying they are "three of the nation’s largest meatpacking companies and have each had multiple outbreaks," according to a statement from the subcommittee. 

In the letter to OSHA, Clyburn said, "OSHA failed to issue enforceable rules, respond in a timely manner to complaints, and issue meaningful fines when a company’s unsafe practices led to the deaths of employees."

And in the letters to the meatpacking plants, the chairman says "Public reports indicate that meatpacking companies … have refused to take basic precautions to protect their workers, many of whom earn extremely low wages and lack adequate paid leave, and have shown a callous disregard for workers’ health."

The statement says "The Select Subcommittee is seeking documents from OSHA and from each company related to coronavirus infections and deaths at meatpacking plants and the enforcement of worker protections by the Trump Administration."

1:05 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Arizona opens second state-run vaccination site at ASU's Phoenix Municipal Stadium

From CNN's Roxanne Garcia

Arizona has opened its second state run Covid-19 vaccination site at Arizona State University’s Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

According to the Arizona Department of Health (ADH), the drive-through site opened Monday morning. Although the stadium has the capacity to vaccinate 10,000 to 12,000 people a day, due to low supply, officials expect to currently vaccinate just 500 people daily. 

The 24/7 vaccination site at nearby Glendale’s State Farm Stadium which opened on January 11 began administering second doses Monday. 

More than 100,000 people have been vaccinated at that site in less than three weeks, according to the ADH.

State health officials say they expect to receive 160-170,000 new doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine early this week.

12:40 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

UK will protect its supply but play its part to ensure whole world can get vaccine, Health Secretary says

From CNN’s Sarah Dean

Pool
Pool

The United Kingdom will protect its supply but also play its part to ensure the whole world can get access to Covid-19 vaccines, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Monday amid global concern over vaccine nationalism and supply hoarding. 

Over half of all people in their 70s, and almost nine in 10 over-80s in the UK, have now received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, Hancock said at a Downing Street press conference.

He announced that Britain has ordered an additional 40 million vaccine doses from Valneva, which has not yet received regulatory approval, saying: “We now have over 400 million vaccine doses on order, this is obviously more than the UK population needs.”

Touching on the recent fallout with the European Union over AstraZeneca vaccine supplies, Hancock said: “My attitude has always been we protect every UK citizen as fast as we can and at the same time we are generous around the world.”

“I want to say this to our international partners, of course I'm delighted about how well this is going at home but I believe fundamentally that the vaccine rollout is a global effort,” he added.

“One of the many reasons I am so happy with the AstraZeneca contract is it not just gives us a strong supply here but because it is the only vaccine currently being deployed that is available for the whole world at cost, and because it's logistically straightforward, it can be practically deployed to the poorest parts of the world too. So we will protect UK supply and play our part to ensure the whole world can get the jab," he added.

12:33 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

The US needs to put politics aside and get "everybody rowing in the same direction" on Covid-19, says Fauci

From CNN's Jen Christensen

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks on January 21.
Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks on January 21. Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Public health doesn’t know political ideology, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at the International AIDS Society meeting Monday.

“When you’re in a public health crisis, you’ve got to pull together, everybody rowing in the same direction,” he said. “Otherwise you’re not going to stop what is now, as we all know, this historically destructive pandemic that we’re dealing with.”

The “divisive society” in the US, Fauci said, has proven that “you’ve got to separate public health measures from political ideology.”

“You can’t have arguments where wearing a mask or not wearing a mask becomes a political statement,” Fauci said. “It is a public health issue, period.”

Linda-Gail Bekker, the deputy director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the University of Cape Town South Africa, who was also at the conference, said that ideology gets in the way of good public health practices. 

“People’s lives and well-being have to transcend our ideology,” Bekker said. 

12:30 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Health expert urges vaccinations in order to deal with variants

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

Dr. Linda-Gail Bekker speaks in 2018.
Dr. Linda-Gail Bekker speaks in 2018. Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/AFP via Getty Images

All the Covid-19 vaccines have probably taken “some hit” in terms of efficacy with the variants, and that’s why its urgent that vaccinations happen as fast as possible said Dr. Linda-Gail Bekker, deputy director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

“The message has to be, let’s vaccinate while we’ve got a window of opportunity and a vaccine, several vaccines, that work against the current virus,” Bekker said at the International AIDS Society Monday.  

Trials in South Africa show that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine does seem to provide protection against the variants there, even if it is slightly diminished protection. It provided 57% protection against moderate disease in South Africa, compared to the US where it provided 72% protection, according to J&J. But globally it provided 85% protection against severe disease.

The mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are still being tested to see how they protect people from the variants, with more than 90% efficacy in clinical trials against the original virus, Bekker said, there is “a lot of headroom.”  

“Even if there is a little bit of a ding there, we will still be in a very good space in terms of efficaciousness,” Bekker said. 

“Vaccine impact is a mixture of efficacy and coverage. So what we take away from this is, if we give up a little bit of efficacy because we have a mutation to deal with, then we have to be sure to get that coverage out even more,” Bekker said. “That really just spurs us on to the urgency to get the vaccine out there as quickly as possible.”

12:08 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

White House concerned providers are holding back doses

From CNN's Betsy Klein

White House/CNN
White House/CNN

The Biden administration touted progress in Covid-19 vaccine doses being administered, but expressed concern that health care providers could essentially be hoarding second doses of vaccine that could be administered in real time, warning that that “should not happen.”

“We expect the efficiency of doses being administered will steadily improve. On January 20, states had administered 46% of their inventory. Today, that number is 62%. We are focused on this every hour of every day,” White House Covid-19 senior adviser Andy Slavitt said at Monday’s virtual press briefing.

But, Slavitt cautioned, there is concern that providers, because of a lack of predictability on supply, are holding back available doses.

“There's another thing going on that I want to alert people to, particularly the nation's providers. We believe that some health care providers are regularly holding back doses that are intended as first doses, and instead keeping them in reserve for second doses for patients. We want to be clear that we understand why health care providers have done that, but that it does not need to happen, and should not happen,” he said.

Slavitt suggested that in some cases, patients’ appointments for a first dose are being canceled, and conveyed understanding but urgency in getting first doses out as quickly as possible. 

“We completely understand that this has been a direct result of the lack of predictability many states and providers have had regarding how many doses that they would receive. That's one reason why last week, we announced that the federal government will be providing a continual three-week window in the vaccines that will be shipped. With this action, states and vaccine providers will more rapidly use their first doses to vaccinate as many people as quickly and as equitably as possible, because they now have the predictability, that the second dose will be there when the time comes,” he added.

12:03 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Biden administration to keep following two-dose schedule for Covid-19 vaccines

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

White House/CNN
White House/CNN

It is still recommended for people to get their second dose of Covid-19 vaccine on time, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a White House briefing on Monday.

"Until we have further data," Walensky said, people should continue to follow the data from trials by continuing the schedule of receiving two doses 21 days apart for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and 28 days apart for the Moderna vaccine.

"The policy is that we certainly want everyone who gets a first dose to get their second dose,"  Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to President Biden and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during Monday's briefing.

"The first priority will always be to get the people who have gotten their first doses to get their second doses," Fauci said. "A dose that’s available is going to go into someone’s arm. If a person is ready for their second dose, that person will be prioritized."