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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2:38 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

There are now 19 cases of the UK Covid-19 variant in Georgia, health department says

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch

There are now 19 known cases of the UK Covid-19 variant B.1.1.7 in Georgia, the Department of Health said in a news release

The cases are in individuals ages 15 to 61. Eight are male and 11 are female, the release said.

The cases live in metro Atlanta – Carroll, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett, and Paulding counties. DPH is working to identify close contacts of the individuals, and will monitor them closely.

The Department of Health is not releasing any other information on the individuals.

2:14 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Russia extends UK flight ban until Feb. 16

From CNN’s Mary Ilyushina

Russia has extended a ban on flights to and from the United Kingdom until Feb. 16, Russian state media reported citing the country’s coronavirus task force. 

"In order to prevent import and spread of novel coronavirus infection in Russia the task force has decided to extend the suspension of flights with the UK,” TASS reported. “To ensure the protection of public health, the restrictions have been extended until 23:59, February 16, 2021.”

Russia imposed the flight ban on Dec. 22 in light of the new coronavirus variant circulating across the UK and several other countries. 

2:32 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

German Chancellor says everyone in the country will be offered a vaccine by Sept. 21

From Claudia Otto and Stephanie Halasz

German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a news conference in Berlin on February 1.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a news conference in Berlin on February 1. Hannibal Hanschke/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said everyone in the country would be offered a coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 21. 

Speaking at a news conference after a virtual meeting with pharmaceutical company representatives and the state prime ministers of the German states, Merkel said the vaccine would need to be available for 73 million adults. 

“We basically need a good management for citizens when vaccination appointments will be handed out. There is a national vaccination strategy, this strategy will now also include a national vaccination plan, and according to this plan we will predict delivery dates to the best of our knowledge,” Merkel said. 

Speaking at the same news-conference, the Hamburg mayor Peter Tschentscher warned that the vaccine situation would remain tight in the first quarter. 

And Markus Soeder, Prime Minister of Bavaria, said coronavirus was a serious stress test for the population. He warned not to endlessly look back and analyze mistakes. 

2:32 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

South Africa eases strictest Covid-19 restrictions as infection rates drop

From CNN’s David McKenzie

A man walks past a closed liquor store in Newtown, Johannesburg, on December 29, 2020.
A man walks past a closed liquor store in Newtown, Johannesburg, on December 29, 2020. Phil Magakoe/AFP/Getty Images

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa announced several measures to ease Covid-19 restrictions as infection rates continue to drop in the country. 

“We have recorded our lowest daily increase in infections since the beginning of December last year,” he said Monday, adding that hospital admissions have dropped considerably in recent days.  

Ramaphosa announced that public spaces, pools, and rivers will now open and he rescinded the ban on alcohol sales and transportation – with certain restrictions. Ramaphosa also announced an easing of a nationwide curfew to between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. local time as well as certain restrictions on religious gatherings. 

South Africa had been hit by a significant second wave of the virus driven by a more infectious variant identified late last year. Tighter restrictions were put in place in late December. 

Ramaphosa was on hand earlier Monday in Johannesburg to receive one million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute in India. 

1:36 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

More than 1 in 5 US Covid-19 deaths were reported in January

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

Employees move bodies into refrigerated semi-trucks at the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner on January 14 in Tucson, Arizona.
Employees move bodies into refrigerated semi-trucks at the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner on January 14 in Tucson, Arizona. Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

More than 441,000 people in the United States have died of Covid-19 since the pandemic began about a year ago. About 22% of those deaths – more than 95,000 – were reported in January, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. 

December was the second deadliest month with more than 77,000 reported deaths, followed by April with nearly 61,000 reported deaths. 

More than half of all Covid-19 deaths were reported in those three months: January 2021, December 2020 and April 2020. 

The seven-day average of new cases has dropped nearly every day since reaching a peak on Jan. 8, but reported deaths remain high. In January, there were more than 3,000 deaths reported each day, on average. 

1:29 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

New York state positivity rate is down for the 24th straight day, governor says

From CNN's Brian Vitagliano

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press conference on February 1.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press conference on February 1. State of New York

New York state positivity rate is 4.8%, which is the 24th straight day of decline, according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The positivity rate is the percentage of people who test positive for the virus of those overall who have been tested.

Speaking at a news conference today, Cuomo said 141 New Yorker’s passed away yesterday due to Covid-19, “Remember these are not just numbers, these are 141 number of deaths,” he said.

New York state has vaccinated approximately 1.69 million residents according to the governor. “We are basically exhausting our week to week allocation, waiting for my supply from the federal government, we have much more distribution in place than we have supply,” Cuomo said Monday.

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

1:27 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

New US security directives require airlines, airports to report those who disobey mask rules

From CNN's Greg Wallace

People wait for a flight at an international terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport on January 25 in New York City.
People wait for a flight at an international terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport on January 25 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Airlines and airports across the US will now be required to report to federal authorities any instances of passengers or patrons disobeying the new federal mask mandate, according to documents obtained by CNN.  

The documents are the security directives issued to airlines and airports by the Transportation Security Administration this weekend to carry out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mask order, and President Joe Biden’s executive order.  

The directive instructs officials to submit the “full name and contact information” of anyone not complying with the order to the TSA, as well as the “circumstances related to the refusal to comply.”  

Airlines should make “best efforts to disembark the person who refuses to comply” with the mask mandate, the directive says. 

The directive says that failure to comply with the mask rules at the airport “may result in the removal and denial of re-entry” of violators. 

The order takes effect at 11:59 p.m. ET Monday.  

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.