February 4 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Jo Shelley, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, February 5, 2021
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3:53 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Hispanic people reported more mental health issues during pandemic than other racial or ethnic groups

From CNN's Jen Christensen

American adults reported more problems with depression, new or increased substance use and suicidal thoughts during the Covid-19 pandemic, but even higher levels of Hispanic people reported these mental health issues, according to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reports of certain mental and substance use disorders are not generally higher for one racial or ethnic group or another, according to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published by the CDC Thursday, although racial and ethnic minority groups typically have less access to treatment.  

During this pandemic, a larger number of people have reported feeling depressed. In 2019, the National Health Interview Survey found that about 7% of adults reported feelings of depression; by April-May of 2020, 23.5% of adults reported depression. 

For Hispanic people, the numbers reporting depression were even higher in April-May of last year, nearly 29% of Hispanic people reported feelings of depression during this time period. More than twice as many Hispanic people as White people reported problems with depression.

Hispanic people were also four times as likely to report having problems with suicidal thoughts than people in the Black community. About 40% of Hispanic survey respondents reported an increase in substance use to help cope with the stress of the pandemic, compared to about 15% of all other respondents.

Compared to any other racial or ethnic group, Hispanic adults also reported higher amounts of psychological stress related to not having stable housing and not having enough to eat.

The CDC said more public health measures are needed to address the mental and behavioral health consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and the interventions need to be tailored for racial and ethnic minority groups.

“The mental health and psychosocial needs of U.S. adults, including persons in racial and ethnic minority groups, are an important consideration when promoting community resilience and preserving access to and provision of services during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the report said.

2:55 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Fauci hopes Covid-19 vaccinations for older children can start in late spring or summer

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with reporters in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Washington.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with reporters in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Washington. Alex Brandon/AP

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he hopes there will be data to support Covid-19 vaccinations for older children by the late spring or summer. 

“I am hoping we will have the data to support initiating COVID-19 immunizations for children (beginning with older children ages 12-17) by late spring or summer. We will progress to younger age groups as we have more data. This will help reduce virus transmission,” he tweeted from the White House Covid-19 Response Team account during a question and answer session. 

When asked if it’s safe for children to go about their lives if all adults are vaccinated but children aren’t, Fauci said that “the situation in your community is a key factor here,” adding that while virus levels are high in the community, everyone needs to take steps such as wearing masks and social distancing.

2:47 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

LGBTQ community may be more vulnerable to Covid-19, CDC says

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

People who are part of the LGBTQ community may be more vulnerable to getting Covid-19 and may be more susceptible to a severe form of Covid-19, according to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The LGBTQ community experiences more health disparities compared to their straight counterparts, in part due to sexual stigma and discrimination. These health disparities make them more susceptible, a CDC team said in a study published in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published Thursday.

Data from the 2017 to 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the CDC’s national health-related telephone survey, shows people who are a part of the LGBTQ community, regardless of race or ethnicity, report higher numbers of health conditions that make people vulnerable to more severe forms of Covid-19. These include heart disease, asthma, hypertension, cancer, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes and smoking. 

“Because of longstanding social inequities and higher prevalence of several underlying health conditions, sexual minority populations might be vulnerable to COVID-19 acquisition and associated severe outcomes, and this vulnerability might be magnified when coupled with other demographic characteristics such as race/ethnicity,” the report said.

But there is a data gap and much is unknown, the CDC said. Sexual orientation and gender identity information is not consistently captured by standard Covid-19 data collection system. A handful of states did start collecting this information, although it was several months into the pandemic. 

In July, California announced it would collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity to better understand the impact of the pandemic on these populations. Illinois also started to collect this information. Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, and several other jurisdictions are taking steps to collect this information, the report said, but the data is not yet available. 

The CDC encouraged all jurisdictions to collect information on sexual orientation and gender identity during the pandemic. 

“Attention to potentially larger disparities at the intersec­tions of sexual orientation and race/ethnicity is critical to ensuring health equity for all, including subpopulations whose circumstances often remain uncaptured despite acknowledg­ments of their distinct importance and needs,” the report said.

2:43 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

More than 1 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Michigan

From CNN's Hollie Silverman  

Healthcare workers arrive to distribute second doses of the Pfizer BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine to residents at a senior living facility in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. 
Healthcare workers arrive to distribute second doses of the Pfizer BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine to residents at a senior living facility in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021.  Emily Elconin/Bloomberg/Getty Images

More than one million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in Michigan as of Thursday, with 1,076,545 doses administered, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said during a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Every resident living in a nursing facility in Michigan who wants a vaccine has been given the opportunity to receive their first dose, Whitmer said.

"Every shot in the arm is a step forward towards ending the Covid-19 pandemic once and for all," Whitmer said. 

The goal is to vaccinate 70% of the population for those 16 and older, the governor said.

2:30 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

CNN's Stephanie Elam answers your questions about California's vaccine rollout and reopening plan 

A COVID-19 vaccine poster directs motorists to the website: "VaccinateLACounty.com" outside the mass vaccination site at the parking lot of L.A. County Office of Education headquarters in Downey, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. 
A COVID-19 vaccine poster directs motorists to the website: "VaccinateLACounty.com" outside the mass vaccination site at the parking lot of L.A. County Office of Education headquarters in Downey, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021.  Damian Dovarganes/AP

California’s infection and hospitalization rates are falling, but the state’s vaccine rollout has hit some snags due to supply struggles as officials try to control the pandemic and reopen schools.

California is opening two mass Covid-19 vaccination sites as part of a federal pilot program to quickly boost the number of available doses. The state is now administering about one million doses of the vaccine each week, Gov. Gavin Newsom said yesterday, a rate two to three times higher than the initial rollout.

The state is trying to speed up inoculations and jump start its economy as it emerges from a regional stay-at-home order that shuttered many nonessential businesses.

CNN's Stephanie Elam reports from Los Angeles on the situation on the ground and answers your questions about the pandemic.

Watch the report:

CNN's Cheri Mossburg contributed reporting to this post.

2:24 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

NBA will hold an All-Star Game in 2021, reversing original decision

From CNN's David Close

Reversing an earlier decision to not hold an All-Star game in 2021, the National Basketball Association will host the mid-season showcase in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 7, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA’s previously announced All-Star Game weekend in Indianapolis, Indiana, scheduled for Feb. 12 to 14, 2021, was postponed to 2024.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said at the time, "While we are disappointed that the NBA All-Star Game will not take place in Indianapolis in 2021, we are looking forward to the Pacers and the city hosting the game and surrounding events in 2024."

The schedule for this year's NBA 72-game season – 10 games fewer than usual – was released in two segments. Only the first segment, which is currently playing out through March 4, has been released. 

The NBA had originally slated March 5 to 10 as an All-Star break but without a game being played.  

2:07 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Covid-19 variants from South Africa and Brazil are hard to detect in the US, expert says

From CNN’s Michael Nedelman and Andrea Diaz

The United States has identified hundreds of cases of a more contagious strain first linked to the UK — but two others, linked to South Africa and Brazil, are much harder to find, according to Dr. James Lu, president of a company called Helix, whose Covid-19 tests have helped identify many of these cases.

It’s the latter two strains that may be more concerning when it comes to vaccine efficacy and reinfection, experts say.

Part of the reason why we’ve found so many cases of B.1.1.7 — the strain first detected in the UK — is because of a testing glitch that picks up one if its mutations. 

Not all samples with this glitch are the B.1.1.7 strain, since this mutation can exist on its own. And not all brands of PCR tests show this glitch, called S gene dropout. But it has been used to screen for potential cases of the variant, which must then be confirmed through genetic sequencing.

“S gene dropout gives us a really good way to enrich for the samples of B.1.1.7,” Lu told CNN. “That said, if you were just sampling randomly across the country, it's much harder to detect.”

The mutation that causes this glitch is not present in the strains first spotted in South Africa and Brazil. 

Beyond appearing more transmissible, these two strains also contain a different mutation that scientists worry could help the virus escape some of the antibody protection from vaccines or previous infection. Even so, experts say they expect vaccines will still work against the variants — especially when it comes to preventing severe disease and death. 

“They're not detectable with our level of sampling today,” Lu said of variants linked to South Africa and Brazil. “So, most of the time, if we're finding it, it’s serendipity right now. But that will change if they become more prevalent.”

Last week, the first US cases of the strain linked to South Africa were found in South Carolina. According to a state health official, these two cases were found during routine sequencing, but “the predominant strain that we are still seeing in our surveillance sequencing is the standard, or normal,” version of the virus. Maryland has also reported a handful of cases. 

At least two cases of the P.1 strain linked to Brazil have been found in the US, as well. Both cases live in the same household in Minnesota, and one had recently traveled to Brazil, according to the state’s health department.

In comparison, more than 540 cases of B.1.1.7 have been found in 33 states, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The US has been ramping up efforts to sequence at least 7,000 samples per week, according to the CDC. But experts have said we should be aiming much higher — somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 samples per week, given current case counts.

2:08 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Italy recommends AstraZeneca vaccine for people under 55

From CNN’s Livia Borghese

A laboratory technician supervises capped vials during filling and packaging tests for the large-scale production and supply of the University of Oxfords COVID-19 vaccine candidate, AZD1222, conducted on a high-performance aseptic vial filling line on September 11, 2020 at the Italian biologics manufacturing facility of multinational corporation Catalent in Anagni, southeast of Rome
A laboratory technician supervises capped vials during filling and packaging tests for the large-scale production and supply of the University of Oxfords COVID-19 vaccine candidate, AZD1222, conducted on a high-performance aseptic vial filling line on September 11, 2020 at the Italian biologics manufacturing facility of multinational corporation Catalent in Anagni, southeast of Rome Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images

Italy will administer the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to people under 55 years old. They will start administering the vaccine to schoolteachers, army and police forces, prison staff and inmates.

The decision follows a Wednesday meeting between the government and regional governors to discuss the country’s vaccine campaign guidelines, the press office for the Ministry of Regional Affairs said Thursday.  

People over 55 years old, especially those over 80s and the most vulnerable, will receive shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, the press office added.

Vaccines need to be approved by the Italian Medicines Agency before they can be distributed in Italy.

On Tuesday, the Italian Medicines Agency, Aifa, said they needed more data on the AstraZeneca vaccine. In a news release they said:

”Pending further studies, the indication concerning AstraZeneca vaccine remains preferentially for the population between 18 and 55 years and without serious illnesses.” Before recommending the vaccine for those over 55, the agency will wait for “further evidence on the benefit/risk ratio of the AstraZeneca vaccine” for that age group.

The news comes as Italy’s total Covid-19 death toll surpassed 90,000 on Thursday, according to official data.

The AstraZeneca vaccine was approved by the agency on Jan. 30th. 

12:47 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Cuba will implement a nightly curfew in Havana to combat Covid-19 spread

From CNN's Patrick Oppmann

A woman walks near a graffiti with the Cuban flag in Havana, on January 12, 2021.
A woman walks near a graffiti with the Cuban flag in Havana, on January 12, 2021. Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images

Cuba's capital city Havana will implement a nightly curfew starting Friday, according to the island's state-run media. 

People will not be able to leave their homes after 9 p.m. local time without special permission, according to Luis Torres, the president of Havana's defense council, as reported by the government Radio Rebelde station.

Officials did not say how long the curfew would last. 

Cuba is experiencing its highest spike in Covid-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with the largest concentration of cases being in Havana. The island has a total of 30,345 confirmed cases and 225 Covid-19 related deaths according to John Hopkins University.