February 5 coronavirus news

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

Updated 0542 GMT (1342 HKT) February 6, 2021
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10:11 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Influential model forecasts more than 630,000 US Covid-19 deaths by June 1

From CNN's Maggie Fox

An estimated 631,000 Americans will have died from Covid-19 by June 1, according to the latest forecast from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. 

The team behind the influential forecast model said a lot depends on the vaccine rollout and the spread of variants. A worst-case scenario could see the death toll go as high as 703,000.

“The balance between new variant spread and associated increased transmission and the scale-up of vaccination in our most likely scenario suggests continued declines in daily deaths through to June 1,” it said. 

As of Thursday night, the US had reported more than 455,000 Covid-19 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The IHME cited a poll showing an increase in the number of Americans willing to get vaccinated, from 54% to 66%. 

“Daily deaths have peaked and are declining. By June 1, 2021, we project that 123,600 lives will be saved by the projected vaccine rollout,” the IHME said.

How to save more lives: If 95% of Americans wore masks, 44,000 more lives would be saved, the IHME said. Currently, mask use is at about 77%. 

And people need to stay put even if they have been vaccinated, the IHME said. If vaccinated people start moving and traveling as normal, 17 states could see rising daily deaths again by April and May.

“The best strategies to manage this period of the pandemic are rapid scale-up of vaccination, continued and expanded mask-wearing, and concerted efforts to avoid rebound mobility in the vaccinated. Some states are lifting mandates rapidly, which poses a real risk of increased transmission as new variants spread and vaccination rates remain comparatively low,” the IHME warned.

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.

8:21 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

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

From CNN's Jen Christensen

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.

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.

One dose: The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a little different than the other Covid-19 vaccines. The vaccine, made through a collaboration of J&J's vaccine division, Janssen Pharmaceutical, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, 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.

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8:19 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

A barber's positive Covid-19 test causes scare for the Kansas City Chiefs, reports say

From CNN's Jill Martin

Could you imagine if several of the Kansas City Chiefs -- including quarterback Patrick Mahomes -- had not been able to practice or play in Super Bowl LV against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of a haircut?

The Chiefs got a Covid-19 scare a week before the Super Bowl when it was learned that a barber giving members of the organization haircuts had tested positive for Covid-19, according to multiple reports.

Twenty members of the Chiefs, including Mahomes, other players and staff members, were in line to get haircuts on Sunday when the barber's test results came back, according to ESPN.

ESPN, citing unnamed sources, reports that Chiefs backup center Daniel Kilgore was in the chair getting a haircut when the positive test result for the barber was learned. Both he and the barber were wearing masks, according to the report.

Kilgore on Wednesday posted a picture on Twitter with the hashtag #NewProfilePic, showing him with what looked like half of a cut. However, according to ESPN, Kilgore did indeed finish his haircut since he was in close contact.

Kilgore and wide receiver Demarcus Robinson were added to the Chiefs' reserve/Covid-19 list on Monday. They could still play Sunday if they register five consecutive negative tests.

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8:16 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Some states begin easing restrictions as Covid-19 hospitalizations and cases decrease

From CNN's Amir Vera, Jason Hanna, Madeline Holcombe and Michael Nedelman

There is some encouraging news in the fight against Covid-19 as more vaccines are being distributed and several states announced they will ease certain coronavirus restrictions amid decreasing case levels and hospitalizations, but despite the promising developments experts insist Americans need to remain cautious, especially with the arrival of differing variants in the United States.

On Thursday, Stefan Pryor, Rhode Island's Secretary of Commerce, said that starting Friday indoor dining will be allowed at 50% capacity. Catered events, he added, will allow up to 30 people indoors and 50 people outdoors with testing.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker said that starting Monday all businesses limited to operating within 25% capacity can raise that threshold to 40%, including restaurants.

The two states joined New Jersey, which on Wednesday announced it will ease indoor gathering limits and lift the 10 p.m. curfew for restaurants, citing decreasing Covid-19 spreading rates and hospitalization rates. Starting Friday, indoor gathering capacity limits, including for indoor dining, will be raised to 35% from 25%.

And last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that if the coronavirus positivity rate continued to decline -- as of Jan. 29 the rate was at 4.6%, the lowest since Nov. 28 -- the state could resume indoor dining at 25% capacity beginning February 14.

Despite the hopeful news, experts insist Americans need to remain cautious: The emergence of these virus mutations -- first detected in the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.1.351) and Brazil (P.1), respectively -- could mean another surge in cases, according to Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

"What we need to do is anticipate this is coming, and I understand this is hard for the public. They're saying give me a break, I'm tired of this. But the bottom line is we have to be prepared for what I feel is certain is coming, and that's the challenge we have right now," Osterholm said Thursday on CNN's "New Day."

It will take much more than a vaccine to "keep this variant at bay and not have potentially a major surge in just the weeks ahead," Osterholm said, referring to the UK variant.

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