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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4:06 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Western Australia reports no new cases for fourth straight day of lockdown

From CNN's Chandler Thornton

Western Australia has reported zero new locally-transmitted Covid-19 cases for the fourth day in a row, according to State Premier Mark McGowan.

This comes four days after the premier announced a hard lockdown for Perth metropolitan area and the Peel and South West regions of the state after a hotel security guard tested positive for Covid-19.

"I can confirm this morning that WA has recorded a fourth straight day with no new local cases of COVID-19 detected," the state premier tweeted Thursday. 

The state saw a record number of people who tested for the virus on the first day of the lockdown and McGowan said the testing numbers remain high.

"I have a very important ask as we approach the end of our short-sharp lockdown - if you have any symptoms, PLEASE GET TESTED," McGowan tweeted.

The state's lockdown, which covers more than 2 million people, is set to expire Friday.

3:33 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

The US coronavirus death toll could reach 530,000 this month. That would be one every minute of the pandemic

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

There could be up to 534,000 Covid-19 deaths in the United States by February 27, according to an ensemble forecast by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- which would amount to about one death for every minute of the pandemic.

The US recorded its first death from coronavirus on February 29, and since then the toll has reached at least 450,681 people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Variants and vaccines: Wednesday's forecast of another 80,000 people dying over this month comes as health experts race to ramp up vaccinations to get ahead of the more transmissible variant strains, which they fear could send cases surging once again.

The best way to prevent variants from dominating the pandemic, said director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, is to prevent the replication of the virus through quick vaccination and health measures to prevent spread.

Currently, the US is not vaccinating at a rate fast enough to get ahead of the variants, he said, but "we're getting better and better," Fauci told NBC News on Wednesday.

The number of variants in the US and how quickly they are spreading can be difficult for researchers to trace because of the amount of genetic sequencing it takes throughout the country, according to New York City's health adviser Jay Varma.

"I think the safest thing to do is for us to plan on the assumption that there are a lot more cases than the variants than we know about," Varma said.

Read the full story:

3:23 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Prisoners in Massachusetts are getting their Covid-19 vaccines — and reduced sentences

From CNN's Maria Morava and Saba Hamedy

Prisoners in Massachusetts have a special incentive to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

If they receive both doses, watch and read educational materials and submit a form for approval, they could shorten their sentence, the Department of Corrections said in a memo.

The incentive is made possible by a Massachusetts law, which states that prisoners are "eligible to earn deductions from sentences and completion credits, collectively known as good conduct deductions, for participation in and completion of programs and activities" outlined in the law.

Prisoners who complete the required steps are eligible for a total of seven and a half days of "earned good time," according to a memo from Department of Correction Commissioner Carol A. Mici.

"I have determined that receiving the vaccine is significantly valuable to rehabilitation and will therefore be offering Earned Good Time," Mici wrote.

Prisons remain infection hot spots: There have been 368,271 Covid-19 cases and 2,256 related deaths among incarcerated people to date, according to the Covid Prison Project, which monitors Covid-19 in correctional facilities across the US.

"If we just purely look at the epidemiology of Covid-19 where the outbreaks have been, it's really hard to ignore jails and prisons," Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein, co-founder of the project, told CNN last month. "They've really been the epicenter in many ways."
2:50 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Using rapid tests in schools can cut coronavirus infection by half, study finds

From CNN's Keri Enriquez

A medical assistant processes a sample from a Covid-19 rapid antigen test at a senior nursing home in Froendenberg, Germany on January 22.
A medical assistant processes a sample from a Covid-19 rapid antigen test at a senior nursing home in Froendenberg, Germany on January 22. Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images

Weekly screening of all students, teachers, and staff using rapid antigen tests can reduce in-school infections by 50% for high schools and 35% for primary schools, a new study found.

The different results between high schools and primary schools are due to high schoolers having a greater number of contacts and higher rates of transmission, according to the study by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Department of Health and Human Services

How the study was conducted: From October to December 2020, 20,000 rapid antigen tests were distributed to K-12 schools in six pilot cities across the United States.

Each city used these tests to develop independent school testing programs aligned with guidelines developed by Johns Hopkins University and Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy.

Schools had to decide how often to test, if testing should take place on or off school grounds and how to approach staff and students opting out of testing.

Other findings: The analysis also found that monthly testing showed a 5% reduction in infections, while twice weekly testing showed a 20% reduction. It also found that testing only teachers and staff is less effective, and the impact is greater in high schools, where students typically attend multiple classes in a day.

Social distancing by 6 feet or more can reduce infections by 88%, and universal masking by 40%, the study said.

2:27 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Italian regulators approve 2 monoclonal antibodies for coronavirus treatment

From CNN’s Antonia Mortensen in Milan and Duarte Mendonca

The Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) authorized two monoclonal antibody treatments for coronavirus on Wednesday, according to Italian news agency ANSA.

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system's ability to fight off harmful pathogens such as viruses. 

The two monoclonal antibody therapies, made by the US companies Regeneron and Eli Lilly, can be used with some conditions and for a limited category of patients, according to ANSA.

Eli Lilly and Regeneron argue that their treatments can play an important role in the pandemic, even as more people get vaccinated.

Monoclonal treatments have a lot of advantages -- they work right away, unlike a vaccine that takes a few weeks to kick in. And Regeneron has been testing its treatment as a way to protect people vulnerable to infection after someone in their own home has tested positive.

1:52 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

US reports more than 119,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Joe Sutton in Atlanta

The United States reported 119,235 new Covid-19 cases and 3,796 virus-related deaths on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU) data.

According to JHU's tally of cases, at least 26,554,794 coronavirus infections have been identified in the US, resulting in at least 450,681 fatalities.

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases.  

Vaccine drive: At least 55,943,800 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 33,878,254 shots administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

See CNN's live tracker here.

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

COVAX announces plan to distribute more than 330 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to developing nations

From CNN's Nectar Gan

The COVAX initiative for equitable global access to Covid-19 vaccines has announced its plan to distribute more than 330 million doses to developing nations in the first half of 2021.

In an interim distribution plan published Wednesday, the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility said the doses will cover an average of 3.3% of the total population of the 145 countries participating in the initial round of distribution.

The COVAX initiative was launched in April last year to ensure the rapid and equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines to rich and poor countries alike and the vaccination of high-risk groups.

Led by the World Health Organization and numerous other international health groups, it has since been joined by 190 countries, but was shunned by the United States, partly because former President Donald Trump did not want to work with WHO.

The first round of distribution includes 336 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine -- 240 million made by the Serum Institute of India and 96 million by AstraZeneca -- as well as 1.2 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

But the plan is "non-binding and may be subject to change," with the actual allocation and distribution dependent on a series of caveats, from WHO's emergency use approval to the readiness of countries to receive and administer the vaccines, the document said.

Vaccine allocation: According to COVAX, the vaccines will be allocated to participating countries proportional to their population size. India, for example, will receive the highest amount -- 97 million doses of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India.

North Korea is also among the list, due to receive nearly 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. Pyongyang claims the country has not contracted a single case of Covid-19 -- which experts say is likely untrue.

Some wealthy, self-financing countries were also included in the initial distribution plan, such as South Korea, Canada, New Zealand and Singapore.

Read the full story:

1:25 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

It's too soon to dump masks, even for people who have been vaccinated, doctors say 

From CNN’s Christopher Rios

A mask lies in the snow outside an apartment building on December 23, 2020 in White Plains, New York.
A mask lies in the snow outside an apartment building on December 23, 2020 in White Plains, New York. John Moore/Getty Images

Experts from the Infectious Disease Society of America are urging the public to continue wearing masks, even after they have been vaccinated. 

Clinical trial data shows that the AstraZeneca vaccine could not only reduce the risk of severe disease, but reduce overall transmission of the virus, said the company. But experts caution the public against extrapolating these findings to other vaccines or abandoning mask use altogether. 

“We think it gives us some forward transmission benefits and risk reduction, but it is not 100%,” said Dr. Joshua Barocas, an infectious diseases specialist at the Boston University School of Medicine.

There's still a lot we don't know -- such as the prevalence of Covid-19 variants, the herd immunity threshold, and speed of vaccine roll-out, said Dr. Ricardo Franco of the Center for AIDS Research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. 

In the meantime, the experts urged the public to continue following evidence-based practices to limit the spread of the virus, like wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands, and getting vaccinated.

“This game is at halftime,” said Franco. “We got off a big deficit. We tied the game at halftime. We need to keep pushing and not give the virus a chance to play well in the second half.” 

12:54 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

More than 8,000 people are waiting for Covid-19 facilities in Japan

From CNN's Junko Ogura and Chie Kobayashi in Tokyo

More than 8,000 people across the 10 Japanese prefectures under a state of emergency are waiting for space in either a Covid-19 hospital bed or isolation facility after testing positive for the virus, health officials said Wednesday.

Prefectures are in charge of local protocols of where and when to move people who test positive for Covid-19.

The 8,767 people reported in Wednesday’s numbers includes people with mild or no symptoms who are waiting for space in an isolation center. 

The 10 prefectures under the emergency order are Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Osaka, Kobe, Hyogo, Aichi, Gifu and Fukuoka.

The state of emergency will continue through March 7. Under these restrictions, companies must facilitate work from home where possible, and restaurants must close by 8 p.m. Sports and entertainment events in Japan are also required to limit the number of attendees.