February 3 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton and Jo Shelley, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021
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12:13 p.m. ET, February 3, 2021

New Jersey eases indoor dining restrictions citing declining Covid hospitalizations

From CNN’s Ganesh Setty

An outdoor dining area is set up outside a Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on October 9.
An outdoor dining area is set up outside a Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on October 9. Christopher Occhicone/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced he will ease the state’s indoor gathering limits and lift the 10 p.m. ET curfew for restaurants, citing decreasing hospitalizations and a lower rate of Covid-19 spread.

Starting Friday at 8 a.m. ET, indoor gathering capacity limits will be raised from 25% to 35%, including indoor dining. Local restrictions may still remain in place. 

The prohibition on indoor bar seating will still remain in effect, the governor said during a news conference Wednesday.  

New Jersey is the only state that has not walked back its indoor dining capacity limits once implemented, according to Murphy. Indoor dining has been capped at a 25% capacity limit since late September. 

The easing of indoor capacity restrictions to 35% also applies to religious ceremonies, political activities, funeral services, and indoor performance venues, Murphy explained. However, such gatherings may not exceed 150 individuals. 

“I feel confident in signing this order because of the recent trends in our hospitals, and our rate of transmission,” Murphy said. “While some of these numbers are still high, and we’ll get to that later, we believe that we can make this expansion without leading to undue further stress on our healthcare system.”

On Jan. 13th, there were 3,726 New Jersey residents hospitalized with either confirmed or suspected Covid-19 cases. That number has since decreased roughly 20%, the governor said.

Murphy emphasized that state health officials will continue to closely monitor the potential further spread of the highly-contagious novel coronavirus variants from South Africa and the UK.

837,225 vaccine doses have been administered so far, the governor went on to report, adding that appointment rescheduling's due to the winter storm will not create a “domino effect” on future appointments. 

Remember: These numbers were released by the state’s health agency, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project. 

11:46 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

CNN's Ryan Young reports on why some Black Americans are hesitant to get the Covid-19 vaccine

Syringes and vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be administered to frontline health care workers in Reno, Nevada, on December 17.
Syringes and vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be administered to frontline health care workers in Reno, Nevada, on December 17. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

CNN's National Correspondent Ryan Young is in Atlanta reporting on why some Black Americans are hesitant to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

According to a recent CNN analysis of data from 14 states, Black and Latino Americans are receiving the Covid-19 vaccine at significantly lower rates than White people — a disparity that health advocates blame on the federal government and hospitals not prioritizing equitable access.

The CNN analysis found vaccine coverage is twice as high among White people on average than it is among Black and Latino people. 

Black and Latino Americans are already dying of Covid-19 at three times the rate of White people and being hospitalized at a rate four times higher, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Watch Ryan Young's reporting:

CNN's Nicquel Terry Ellis and Deidre McPhillips contributed reporting to this post.

11:43 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

There is hope that Covid-19 deaths will decrease in the coming weeks, CDC director says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the US appears to be in a “consistent downward trajectory” for both Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Covid-19 cases have declined since hitting a peak on Jan. 8, dropping 13.4% to an average of nearly 144,000 cases per day from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1, according to Walensky.

“Cases are now back to the level we were before Thanksgiving,” she said.

While deaths have continued to increase, the pace appears to be slowing, she said.

“The recent decline in hospitalizations gives us hope that the number of deaths should start to decrease in the coming weeks,” Walensky added.

However, Walensky warned Americans that Covid-19 cases still remain “extraordinarily high” and people should not let their guard down, especially as variants continue to circulate. 

She said people should only gather virtually or with their immediate family for the Super Bowl on Sunday. 

CDC director say we must take prevention intervention seriously:

11:29 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

The coronavirus recession is really a "she-cession," warns US labor firm

From CNN’s Kwegyirba Croffie 

Future economic success will be compromised unless employees can bring women back to work, warned labor firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. 

Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows women accounted for all the job losses in December, losing 156,00 jobs, while men gained 16,000.

More than 2.1 million women have left the US labor market completely since the beginning of the pandemic, 20% more than the number of men, according to Challenger

Women have dropped out of the labor markets either because of lack of child care or to take care of older family members.  

Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of the firm, said:

"Alarm bells should be ringing at companies across the nation right now. The necessity of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace is at the height of importance for boards, shareholders, current employees, and consumers.”

Challenger said employers need to find ways to bring women back into the work force and keep them there, and offer leadership opportunities to help them grow.

11:24 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

World Economic Forum annual meeting postponed again, now scheduled for August

From CNN's Chris Liakos

The annual World Economic Forum, due to take place in Singapore in May, has been pushed back again.

The event will now convene from August 17 to 20.

“Although the World Economic Forum and Government of Singapore remain confident of the measures in place to ensure a safe and effective meeting, and local transmission of COVID-19 in Singapore remains at negligible levels, the change to the meeting’s timing reflects the international challenges in containing the pandemic,” the World Economic Forum (WEF) said in a news release.

WEF added that the pushback is a result of the current global travel restrictions that are making planning difficult for an in-person meeting in the first half of the year. 

Last week during the virtual Davos event, WEF expressed confidence that the in person meeting in Singapore would go ahead as planned in May.

11:22 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

Fauci suggests Johnson & Johnson vaccine could get emergency use authorization in next two weeks 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

A pharmacy technician prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine for a clinical trial in Aurora, Colorado, on December 15.
A pharmacy technician prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine for a clinical trial in Aurora, Colorado, on December 15. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine candidate got emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration within the next two weeks.

“The J&J data right now, that we discussed last week, is being reviewed with the FDA right now, so we could see literally within a week or so that they wind up getting the kind of emergency use authorization,” he told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie Wednesday. “I don’t want to get ahead of the FDA, but I would not be surprised, Savannah, if this happens within the next week or two.” 

Johnson & Johnson will be the third company to seek emergency use authorization from the FDA for a coronavirus vaccine. 

For the Pfizer vaccine, it took a little over three weeks from the time the company submitted its data to an EUA.

For the Moderna vaccine, it took a little more than two weeks. 

10:53 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

UNICEF announces deal for 1.1 billion vaccine doses for world's poorest countries

From CNN’s Christopher Rios

A health worker holds up a vial of Covishield, AstraZeneca-Oxford's Covid-19 vaccine, in Yangon, Myanmar, on January 27.
A health worker holds up a vial of Covishield, AstraZeneca-Oxford's Covid-19 vaccine, in Yangon, Myanmar, on January 27. Sai Aung Main/AFP via Getty Images

In a news briefing on Wednesday, UNICEF announced new a deal with Serum Institute of India to access 1.1 billion doses of AstraZeneca/Oxford and Novavax vaccines at approximately $3 per dose for the poorest countries. 

“This is a great value for COVAX doners,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director. “And a strong demonstration of one of the fundamental principles of COVAX.” 

COVAX is a partnership co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organization. Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

The UNICEF announcement comes as COVAX prepares to distribute 337 million vaccine doses to the world’s most in-need countries as part its first interim distribution forecast. 

10:35 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

Here are the states that are testing the most for Covid-19 variants

From CNN’s Michael Nedelman

A healthcare worker administers a Covid-19 test to a motorist in San Francisco, California, on January 9.
A healthcare worker administers a Covid-19 test to a motorist in San Francisco, California, on January 9. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Only six US states have genetically sequenced more than 1% of their total coronavirus cases during the pandemic, compared to a national average just over 0.3%, according to data posted this week by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These states include Hawaii (2.8%), Washington (2.1%), Maine (1.7%), Wyoming (1.6%), Utah (1.5%) and Oregon (1.2%).

Meanwhile, nearly half of states have sequenced less than one tenth of one percent of their confirmed cases – 24 in total.

These are the states who preformed the highest raw number of genetic sequences:

  • Texas: More than 15,000
  • California: More than 11,000
  • New York: About 7,600

Fourteen states report fewer than 100 sequences each.

These numbers come from sequences in a publicly accessible database from January 2020 to January 2021 and may not represent the full number of samples that have been analyzed.

US labs have submitted 92,000 sequences of the coronavirus – around 0.3% of total cases – to a genomics database known as GISAID. In comparison, the UK has submitted nearly 197,000 – just over 5% of its total cases.

The US has been ramping up its sequencing efforts and is on track to process at least 7,000 samples per week, according to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

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 50,000 to 100,000 sequences in a week.

10:14 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

New York City health commissioner tests positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

New York City Health Commissioner David Chokshi has tested positive for Covid-19 and is experiencing “manageable,” “mild” symptoms, he said in a statement Wednesday.

He has been in touch with the city’s Test and Trace Corps to ensure that anyone who may have been potentially exposed is offered services and care.

“This is a reminder – if we ever needed one – that COVID is still with us and we all must continue to wear masks, wash our hands, socially distance and stay home if feeling ill,” Chokshi said in a statement.