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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9:05 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

More than 600 coronavirus variant cases have been identified in the US, CDC says

From CNN's Michael Nedelman

The United States has reported at least 618 cases of coronavirus variants across 33 states, according to data posted Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The vast majority (611) of these cases are the more contagious variant known as B.1.1.7, which was originally detected in the United Kingdom. Florida has the highest count, with 187 cases, and California follows with 145. The rest are scattered across a few dozen states.

In addition, there are five cases of the variant called B.1.351, which was initially seen in South Africa. Two cases are in South Carolina, and three in Maryland.

Lastly, Minnesota has identified two cases of the P.1 strain, first linked to Brazil.

The CDC says this does not represent the total number of such cases circulating in the US, but just those that have been found by analyzing positive samples.

7:53 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

24 states are now allowing teachers to receive Covid-19 vaccines

From CNN's Yon Pomrenze, Evan Simko-Bednarski, and Elizabeth Stuart

As the debate continues over how to safely bring America's kids back to school, 24 states plus Washington, DC, are now allowing all or some teachers and school staff to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

Several governors are making teachers a priority — like West Virginia, where all teachers 50 or older who expressed that they wanted the vaccine have already received it, according to Gov. Jim Justice. In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine has set a plan to have all teachers vaccinated by the end of February, with the goal of all students returning to classrooms by March 1.

Other states, like Rhode Island and Vermont, are not prioritizing any specialized groups other than health care workers, and are distributing vaccines strictly by age.

Of the 24 states that have now made teachers eligible, there is still the matter of availability. In several of those states, some counties are moving more quickly than others to reach the phase or group numbers that include educators.

Two more states, Alabama and Colorado, will include teachers among those who can be vaccinated starting on Monday.

There are 26 states where teachers are still not eligible to receive the vaccine as a specific group — although some educators might fall into the current age group that state is vaccinating.

7:12 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Roughly 35.2 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the US, according to CDC

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

A woman receives a Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in River Grove, Illinois, on February 3.
A woman receives a Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in River Grove, Illinois, on February 3. Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP/Getty Images

About 35.2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States, according to data published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reported that 35,203,710 total doses have been administered, about 61% of the 57,489,675 doses distributed.

That’s about 1.3 more administered doses reported since yesterday, which is also the seven-day average of doses administered daily.

About 8.5% of the US population – nearly 28 million people – have now received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Nearly 7 million people, or 2%, have been fully vaccinated, CDC data shows.

To note: Data published by the CDC may be delayed, and doses may not have been given on the day reported. 

6:17 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Johnson & Johnson asks the FDA to authorize its Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Jen Christensen

An investigational pharmacy technician prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine for a clinical trial on December 15, 2020, in Aurora, Colorado.
An investigational pharmacy technician prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine for a clinical trial on December 15, 2020, in Aurora, Colorado. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson officially asked the US Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine Thursday.

"Today's submission for Emergency Use Authorization of our investigational single-shot Covid-19 vaccine is a pivotal step toward reducing the burden of disease for people globally and putting an end to the pandemic," Dr. Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson, said in a statement. 

As the FDA looks at the results, it will schedule a public meeting of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, an independent group of experts who will also look at the data and make a recommendation that the agency takes into consideration when it makes a decision.

What's next: If the FDA decides to authorize the vaccine, next the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meets to discuss whether the vaccine should be given to Americans and if so, who should get it first.

This same regulatory process for Pfizer took a little over three weeks; for Moderna it was a little more than two.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a little different than the other Covid-19 vaccines. The vaccine, made through a collaboration with the company's vaccine division, Janssen Pharmaceutical, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, is delivered in a single shot. Pfizer and Moderna’s require two. It’s considered versatile since it is considered stable for up to three months kept in regular refrigerated temperatures and doesn’t need the deep freeze like Pfizer’s.

Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine was shown to be 66% effective in preventing moderate and severe disease in a global Phase 3 trial, according to the company. The vaccine is 85% effective overall at preventing hospitalization and death in all regions where it was tested.

Its efficacy against moderate and severe disease ranged from one country to another: 72% in the US, 66% in Latin America and 57% in South Africa. This was measured starting one month after the shot.

The US government has ordered 100 million doses and Johnson & Johnson said it can meet this commitment by June. 

"Upon authorization of our investigational COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, we are ready to begin shipping,” Stoffels said.

 

6:01 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Novavax takes step forward in application process for possible authorization of its vaccine

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

The biotechnology company Novavax announced on Thursday that the "rolling review" process for authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine is underway in multiple countries. 

The vaccine maker announced that it has started the process with several regulatory agencies, including the US Food and Drug Administration, European Medicines Agency, UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and Health Canada. 

Rolling review means that the company will submit some completed sections of its application for authorization instead of waiting until the entire application is finished. According to Novavax, the reviews by regulatory agencies will continue while the company completes Phase 3 trials in the United Kingdom and the United States.

"The rolling review of our submission by regulatory authorities of non-clinical data and early clinical studies will help expedite the review process and bring us that much closer to delivering a safe and effective vaccine worldwide," Dr. Gregory Glenn, president of research and development at Novavax, said in the announcement. 

"We appreciate the agencies’ confidence in Novavax based on our early data and the collective sense of urgency to ensure speedier access to much-needed COVID-19 vaccination." 

Novavax announced last week that early results from a Phase 3 trial in the UK show its coronavirus vaccine has an efficacy of 89.3%.

5:49 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Senate passes amendment to tighten eligibility of who could get stimulus check

From CNN's Ted Barrett, Ali Zaslav and Manu Raju 

A bipartisan “sweet 16” amendment on tightening the eligibility of who would qualify for the $1,400 Covid relief checks has passed the Senate by a vote of 99 to one. 

This was an amendment that members discussed at their bipartisan meeting last night and it is an example of how while most amendments today during the vote-a-rama will be partisan, others will be used to try and demonstrate there could be broad support for some changes to President Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan.

It’s the first significant vote thus far in the vote-a-rama that started this afternoon and is expected to go until sometime in the middle of the night.

While the amendment got wide support, it is not binding and does not mean that the eligibility requirements will be changed in the final Covid-19 relief bill that comes out a few weeks from now. But it expresses broad consensus to make the changes and may end up in a final bill.

The amendment doesn’t specify who not be eligible for the payments outside of saying “upper income taxpayers are not eligible.”

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was the lone vote against the measure.

  

4:56 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

People who previously had coronavirus should still get 2 vaccine doses, Fauci says 

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said people who've had Covid-19 should still get the second dose of vaccine and should follow US Food and Drug Administration guidance. 

“People who had Covid-19 should still follow the current @FDA guidance, which is two shots either 21 or 28 days apart. Although prior infection may help boost vaccination, we currently do not have enough evidence showing it would be comparable to vaccination for most people,” Fauci tweeted from the White House Covid-19 Response Team account during a question and answer session.

Some context: A preprint study posted online this week said that after getting just one shot of a Covid-19 vaccine, people who were previously infected with the virus tended to have antibody levels that were at or above those of people who had gotten both doses but never been infected. The study has not yet been peer-reviewed.

Fauci also said on Thursday that everyone who has had Covid-19 should be vaccinated. 

“If you had Covid-19, you should still get vaccinated. Because re-infection is uncommon 90 days after initial infection, you can delay vaccination until the end of that 90-day period, if desired. But vaccination is still safe after you’ve recovered from Covid-19,” he said in a tweet. 

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.