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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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.

10:55 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

CNN's Stephanie Elam will answer your questions about vaccines as California's rollout hits snags

California’s infection and hospitalization rates are falling, but the state’s vaccine rollout has hit snags. CNN's Stephanie Elam is in Los Angeles answering your questions on the pandemic. Leave your questions for her below.

10:41 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Pre-flight announcements are changing on many US airlines due to Covid-19

From CNN's Liz Stark and Pete Muntean

A United Airlines plane takes off at Los Angeles International Airport in California on October 1, 2020.
A United Airlines plane takes off at Los Angeles International Airport in California on October 1, 2020. Mario Tama/Getty Images

With a federal transportation mask mandate now in effect to protect against the coronavirus, airlines are adjusting their announcements to remind passengers of the new changes to federal law.

The new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mask order requires people to wear a mask while using any form of public transportation, including on board planes, trains, buses, boats, subways, taxis and ride-shares, as well as inside airports and other transportation hubs. The order went into effect Monday at 11:59 p.m ET.

Several airlines confirmed to CNN that they have changed their pre-boarding and pre-departure announcements to remind travelers that they are required to wear face masks.

Here's some of them:

  • American Airlines - An American Airlines spokesperson tells CNN that the carrier has changed preflight announcements that passengers hear at the gate and on-board flights to reflect the new federal rule. American also says passengers claiming a medical exemption must ask for airline approval and show proof of a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of their flight—a caveat laid out in a CDC order published last Friday. American is also updating its rules on bandanas and gaiters, now more restricted under the new federal rules.
  • Delta Airlines - A spokesperson for Delta Air Lines told CNN travelers were going to hear announcements about the mask requirement on board aircraft prior to departure starting Tuesday, and in other places in airports starting Wednesday. Spokesperson Morgan Durrant said in a statement that the announcements will be similar to this: “As a reminder, federal law requires each person to wear a mask at all times throughout the flight, including during boarding and deplaning. This is required even if you have received the COVID-19 vaccine or a negative COVID-19 test. Refusing to wear a mask is a violation of federal law and may result in removal from the aircraft and/or penalties under federal law.”
  • Southwest Airlines - Southwest Airlines spokesperson Brian Parrish also confirmed the airline’s announcements have been updated to reflect the new mask order. “As part of the new federal mask mandate, public announcement verbiage delivered by Southwest’s Ground Operations Team prior to boarding, along with announcements delivered by Southwest Flight Attendants onboard the aircraft, have been updated to remind travelers that federal law now requires individuals to wear a mask over their nose and mouth at all times and that refusal to wear a mask is a violation and will result in denial of boarding and may result in removal from the aircraft and/or penalties under federal law,” Parrish said in a statement. 
  • United Airlines - A spokesperson for United Airlines confirmed to CNN that the airlines’ announcements have changed “slightly, to reflect that this is now a federal law, not just a United policy.” 

10:29 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Africa will receive nearly 90 million vaccines from COVAX by February

From CNN’s Lauren Kent and Arnaud Siad

A volunteer receives an injection at a hospital in Soweto, South Africa, on June 24, 2020, as part of Africa's first participation in a Covid-19 vaccine trial developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.
A volunteer receives an injection at a hospital in Soweto, South Africa, on June 24, 2020, as part of Africa's first participation in a Covid-19 vaccine trial developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. Siphiwe Sibeko/Pool/AP

Africa is to receive nearly 90 million Covid-19 vaccines in February in what will be the continent’s “largest ever mass vaccination campaign,” the World Health Organization announced in a statement on Thursday.

In the statement, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said: “Africa has watched other regions start COVID-19 vaccination campaigns from the side-lines for too long. This planned roll-out is a critical first step to ensuring the continent gets equitable access to vaccines.”

“We know no one will be safe until everyone is safe,” he added.

Most vaccines will be from the AstraZeneca/Oxford AZD1222 vaccine and subject to the vaccine being listed for emergency use by WHO. The WHO is currently reviewing the vaccine and the outcome of the review is expected soon.

The statement adds that around 320,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine — which has received WHO Emergency Use Listing — have been allocated to four African countries —  Cabo Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia, which are able to store and distribute doses at minus 70 degrees Celsius.

The initial phase of 90 million doses will support countries to immunize 3% of the African population most in need of protection, including health workers and other vulnerable groups in the first half of 2021, the statement adds.

The WHO says it aims to vaccinate at least 20% of Africans by providing up to 600 million doses by the end of 2021, according to the press release.

9:27 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

SNAP recipients say they need more benefits to put food on their tables as the pandemic rages on

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Veronica Bedico.
Veronica Bedico. CNN

During the pandemic, an increasing number of families are turning to government support and food banks to feed their families.  

“It was life or death. We were either going to starve or we were lucky enough to qualify for SNAP benefits,” Veronica Bedico, an unemployed mother of three, told CNN’s Vanessa Yurkevich. 

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is Bedico’s lifeline, she said. The number of Americans on food stamps, or SNAP, has grown by more than 20% during the pandemic, Yurkevich reported. 

“I would like for the administration to remember that we're real people. And that we're not, you know, welfare queens that are just taking advantage of the system. I am a real person who had a real job. And now I need help so that I can provide for my children during this hard time,” Bedico said. 

Stacy Dean, the deputy under secretary for food, nutrition and consumer services at the US Department of Agriculture, said that the government is reviewing the program due to increased demands. 

“It is supposed to be enough, but many experts and more fundamentally, the families who use it are worried that it just isn't enough. So we're actually taking a look at that now to see if adjustments are needed to make it so that families can afford a basic diet with our benefits,” Dean said. 

At the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, those on SNAP tell Yurkevich they need more food. 

“I get like 200 bucks, and you know, I can make it stretch, but … once it's gone, it's gone,” SNAP recipient Kenya Edwards said.

Watch more:

9:10 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Black Americans travel farther distances to get Covid-19 vaccinations, study finds

From CNN's Delano Massey

Black residents are significantly more likely than White residents to live more than a mile from the closest vaccination facility, according to an analysis measuring barriers to vaccine access.

The analysis released Thursday by the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy and West Health Policy Center is an update to the open-access VaxMap, which was created in December to measure vaccination facility density and driving distance of all residents to locations where Covid-19 vaccines will be administered.

Researchers analyzed 69 counties across the US. These counties are especially concentrated in Georgia, Missouri, Louisiana, Virginia, Texas and Alabama. A third of them are in urban areas, including Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Detroit, New Orleans and New York City.

Coming off the heels of the CDC's report this week that only 5% of Covid-19 vaccine recipients in the first month of the rollout have been Black, the study's authors hope the findings "will equip the new administration and state and county governments with information about where greater support is needed." 

Nearly three-quarters of the counties with these racial disparities in vaccine access also have a high rate of new Covid-19 infections with a daily average of more than 50 new cases per 100,000 during November 2020 to January 2021, the analysis found.

Black people are less likely than White people to live near a pharmacy, clinic, hospital or health center that can administer Covid-19 vaccines, the researchers said.

"Pharmacies should be easy to access, but in some places there's low capacity or low density, and the flood gates are opening," said Lucas Berenbrok, Pharm.D., assistant professor at the Pitt School of Pharmacy and first author of the study. "When barriers are present, like driving times, there needs to be a plan to reach those people. We can't forget about them."
9:03 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Covid-19 vaccine inequality could cause “deadly consequences," experts warn

From Samantha Tapfumaneyi

A health care worker administers a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a drive-thru vaccination site in Fontana, California, on February 2.
A health care worker administers a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a drive-thru vaccination site in Fontana, California, on February 2. Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Around 70% of the total coronavirus vaccine doses administered globally have been in the 50 wealthiest countries compared to only 0.1% administered in the 50 poorest countries, according to analysis by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

The IFRC described the disparity as alarming and said it could result in “deadly and devasting” consequences, warning that if large areas across the globe remain unvaccinated, the virus will carry on circulating and mutating. 

“This is alarming because it is unfair, and because it could prolong or even worsen this terrible pandemic,” Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the IFRC, said. 
“We are all rowing the same boat. We cannot sacrifice those at highest risk in some countries so that those at lowest risk can be vaccinated in others,” he added. 

In an effort to tackle the imbalance in vaccine distribution across the globe, the IFRC announced on Thursday a new 100 million Swiss franc ($110 million) plan that aims to support the immunization of 500 million people against Covid-19.  

8:52 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Denmark and Norway join European nations recommending against AstraZeneca vaccine for older people

From CNN’s James Frater, Arnaud Siad and Vasco Cotovio

An Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine vial in Boston, England, on January 18.
An Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine vial in Boston, England, on January 18. Darren Staples/Getty Images

Denmark and Norway have joined a slew of European nations saying they won't give the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to people over 65, their national health agencies confirmed on Thursday.

Both cited a lack of data available on the use of the vaccine in older groups.

"We have reviewed the documentation, and until we have seen more data on efficacy among the elderly, it is our recommendation that the vaccine from AstraZeneca should first and foremost be an offer for people under 65," Bolette Søborg from Denmark’s National Board of Health said in a statement.

“We want to make sure we have the best data and background for the vaccine policy at the national level,” a spokesperson for the Norwegian Institute of Public Health told CNN.

On Wednesday, Belgium recommended not administering the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to people over the age of 55, following similar decisions in France, Germany, Austria and Sweden which restricted its use for people under 65. 

Also on Wednesday, Switzerland declined to authorize the vaccine for any age group, saying data submitted by AstraZeneca were "not yet sufficient to permit authorization" of the vaccine. 

In response to Switzerland’s decision, an AstraZeneca spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday: “AstraZeneca has now been granted a conditional marketing authorization or emergency use in close to 50 countries, spanning 4 continents, including most recently in the European Union.”
“We are confident that our vaccine is effective, well-tolerated, and can have a real impact on the pandemic,” the statement added.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) – the EU’s regulator -- has approved the vaccine without an age restriction. 

In a statement made when granting conditional marketing authorization of the vaccine, the EMA said that in spite of a lack of data, protection was expected in older adults. 

8:44 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Another 779,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as Covid-19 continues to slam economy

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

Another 779,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits on a seasonally adjusted basis in the last week of January, the Labor Department said Thursday, stressing once again that the jobs recovery isn't in great shape.

Still, it was a sizable decrease in claims from the prior week. Last week's claims figure was 812,000, still several times the number during the same period last year, before the pandemic brought the nation to a standstill. 

On top of regular jobless benefits, 348,912 workers filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which is available for people such as the self-employed or gig workers.

Added together, 1.2 million workers filed first-time claims for benefits without adjusting for seasonal swings.

Continued claims, which count people who have filed for at least two consecutive weeks of aid, stood at 4.6 million.

January wasn't a great month for the jobs recovery, and Friday's jobs report for the month isn't expected to bring much better news.

While economists predict 50,000 jobs were added last month, a reversal from the staggering loss in December, the unemployment rate is expected to stay flat at 6.7%. It hasn't budged since November.