February 8 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Kara Fox and Christopher Johnson, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021
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2:11 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

US reports nearly 87,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Alta Spells in Atlanta

The United States reported 86,928 new Covid-19 infections and 1,268 additional virus-related fatalities on Sunday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The national tally now stands at 27,006,413 coronavirus cases and 463,470 deaths.

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

Vaccines: At least 59,307,800 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 41,210,937 shots administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

See CNN's live tracker here.

1:55 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

Heartbreak and anger as China discourages travel for Lunar New Year

From CNN's Nectar Gan, Lily Lee and David Culver

A traveler wearing a protective mask walks toward Beijing Capital International Airport ahead of the Lunar New Year in Beijing, on February 2.
A traveler wearing a protective mask walks toward Beijing Capital International Airport ahead of the Lunar New Year in Beijing, on February 2. Yan Cong/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Normally at this time of year, hundreds of millions of Chinese people would be packing highways, trains and planes on homebound trips to celebrate the Lunar New Year with their family.

But this year, the largest annual human migration on Earth has been put on hold, following the Chinese government's call to avoid "nonessential" trips during the holiday period to prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus.

That is a lot to ask: The Lunar New Year, also known as Spring Festival in China, is the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar -- the equivalent of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve combined.

For many Chinese who left their hometowns for better job opportunities in big cities, it is the only chance they may get to see their families this year. Parents who left children behind in villages so they could work may face another 12 months without them.

To discourage people from traveling, China's National Health Commission has imposed new rules that require people returning to rural areas to produce a negative Covid-19 test taken within the previous seven days, and to spend 14 days in "home observation" upon arrival.

Some local governments have added their own, stricter rules: For example, in some places, returnees need to spend two weeks in a government-approved quarantine hotel, instead of remaining under observation at home with their families.

The new restrictions have provoked fury on social media, with some questioning the government's policy at a time when many people had hoped to go home.

"I would like to ask, did you seriously think about it and look into it before making this policy?" one person posted on Weibo, China's Twitter-like service.
"Do medical conditions in the vast rural areas allow everyone to have a coronavirus test every 7 days? Doesn't the gathering for coronavirus tests bring a bigger risk of infection? In addition, the state only gives us 7 days of statutory holiday, and now you ask returnees to be isolated for 14 days. What are your brains made of?"

Read the full story:

1:33 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

Quarantine hotel worker tests positive for Covid-19 in Australia's Melbourne

From CNN's Chandler Thornton

A quarantine hotel worker in the Australian city of Melbourne tested positive for Covid-19, according to Victoria State's health department.

The employee worked at the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport and tested positive for the virus on Sunday, a news release from the department said.

Authorities did not indicate whether the quarantine hotel was connected to any of the Australian Open players or staff.

This comes after a single Covid-19 case at a quarantine hotel in Melbourne forced organizers of the Australian Open to quarantine 507 players, officials and support staff, just four days before the start of the tennis tournament. The Open began Monday after all players returned negative Covid-19 results.

1:06 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

China reports no new local Covid-19 cases for first time since December

From CNN's Beijing bureau 

A medical staff member takes a throat swab sample for nucleic acid detection in Xinle City, China, on February 5.
A medical staff member takes a throat swab sample for nucleic acid detection in Xinle City, China, on February 5. Sipa USA

China recorded zero new locally-transmitted Covid-19 cases from Sunday, according to the country's National Health Commission (NHC.) This is the first time since December 16 the country saw no new local cases.

The NHC reported 14 new total cases from Sunday, all of which were imported.

Some context: Last month, China saw a rise in locally-transmitted cases from an outbreak in Hebei province.

Following the outbreak, China imposed some of the toughest restrictions in the province since the country largely contained the spread of the coronavirus in March, with mass testing and lockdown measures to suppress the outbreak.

12:44 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

After weeks of drama and setbacks, the Australian Open kicks off

From CNN's Angus Watson and Ben Westcott

Naomi Osaka of Japan plays a forehand in her women's singles first round match against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia during day one of the 2021 Australian Open, on February 8.
Naomi Osaka of Japan plays a forehand in her women's singles first round match against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia during day one of the 2021 Australian Open, on February 8. Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Thousands of tennis fans descended on Melbourne Park to watch stars including Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams kick off the Australian Open on Monday, after a three-week postponement and high drama over the quarantine of players.

Spectators came out in force on an unusually overcast and chilly summer morning, relishing in the fact that they are some of the few people on the planet able to attend live sports during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is only mandatory to wear a mask indoors at the event, but many milling around outside were also seen with face coverings.

Many sporting events around the world have been forced to either postpone or suspend competitions due to the virus and enact strict limits on attendance or ban fans altogether.

The Australian Open organizers expect up to 400,000 fans to attend the tournament this year in a socially distanced manner, around half the number that were at last year's competition.

"It's quite phenomenal it's actually happening" said Australia's Pat Cash, a two-time runner-up in the Australian Open men's singles, who now coaches China's Qiang Wang.

The presence of fans at Melbourne Park wouldn't have been possible if Australia hadn't brought its local coronavirus epidemic under control in 2020 with strict public health measures. Australia's government quickly closed its borders in March at the start of the pandemic, banning non-residents from entering the country, and put in place mandatory hotel quarantine of 14 days for incoming travelers.

Read the full story:

12:16 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

Australia's New South Wales reports positive Covid-19 case in person released from 14-day quarantine

From CNN's Chandler Thornton

A person tested positive for Covid-19 two days after being released from 14 days of hotel quarantine in Australia's New South Wales, according to state health officials.

"The person from the Wollongong area returned two negative tests during their quarantine period, and the source of the infection is under investigation," New South Wales Health Department announced in a news release Monday. "The person did not have any symptoms but underwent testing as part of the recently enhanced day-16 follow-up."

NSW Health said there is no indication the person was infected in the "hotel quarantine setting" and said preliminary investigations indicate the virus was likely acquired overseas.

NSW recorded no new local Covid-19 cases two new imported cases from Sunday.

The state has recorded 4,934 cases since the start of the pandemic.

1:35 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

US surpasses 27 million Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Haley Brink and Keith Allen

There have been at least 27,004,715 total cases of coronavirus in the United States and at least 463,437 people have died from Covid-19 since the pandemic began, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University

 JHU recorded the first case of coronavirus in the United States on January 21, 2020:

  • 97 days later, on April 27, 2020, the US hit 1 million cases 
  • 103 days later, on August 8, 2020, the US hit 5 million cases 
  • 92 days later, on November 8, 2020, the US hit 10 million cases
  • 29 days later, on December 7, 2020, the US hit 15 million cases 
  • 24 days later, on December 31, 2020, the US hit 20 million cases 
  • 23 days later on January 23, the US to hit 25 million cases
  • 7 days later on January 30, the US hit 26 million cases 
  • 8 days later, on February 7, the US hit 27 million cases

Another 20 countries have reported over 1 million total Covid-19 cases, according to JHU: 

  • India has over 10 million total cases 
  • Brazil has over 9 million total cases 
  • The United Kingdom, Russia, and France have over 3 million total cases each
  • Spain, Italy, Turkey, Germany and Colombia each have over 2 million total cases 
  • Argentina, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, Iran, Ukraine, Peru, Indonesia, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands all have over 1 million total cases each

This post was updated to reflect JHU's latest tally.

8:24 p.m. ET, February 7, 2021

South Africa pauses AstraZeneca vaccine rollout after study shows it offers less protection against variant

From CNN's Jamie Gumbrecht, Sharif Paget and Naomi Thomas

South African health officials said Sunday they're pausing the country's rollout of AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine after a study showed it offered reduced protection from the Covid-19 variant first identified there.

During a briefing on Sunday, South Africa Minister of Health Dr. Zweli Mkhize said the hold would be temporary while scientists figure out how to most effectively deploy the AstraZeneca vaccine. Mkhize said South Africa will move forward with the deployment of vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson.

Early data released Sunday suggest two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine provided only "minimal protection" against mild and moderate Covid-19 from the variant first identified in South Africa.

The study, which has not been released, included about 2,000 volunteers who were an average of 31 years old; about half received the vaccine and half received a placebo, which does nothing.

Viral neutralization against the B.1.351 variant was "substantially reduced" when compared to the earlier coronavirus strain, researchers said in a news release. The vaccine's efficacy against severe Covid-19, hospitalization and death were not assessed.

Details of the study by researchers from South Africa's University of Witwatersrand and others, as well as from the University of Oxford, were shared in a press release. The results have been submitted for peer-review and a preprint will be released soon, Oxford said.

AstraZeneca's response: In a statement on Sunday, an AstraZeneca spokesperson said the company is "working closely with the South African Ministry of Health on how best to support the evaluation against severe disease of the B.1.351 variant, and start to bring this vaccine to the South African people should it prove to be successful."

The statement said the company believes its vaccine will still protect against severe disease from the new B.1.351 variant, particularly when the dosing interval is eight to 12 weeks.

In a previous statement, the company said it is working with Oxford University to adapt the vaccine against the B.1.351 variant so "it is ready for Autumn delivery should it be needed."

Read more:

8:22 p.m. ET, February 7, 2021

WHO panel will meet Monday to discuss AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

The World Health Organization’s independent panel on vaccinations will meet on Monday to discuss the AstraZeneca vaccine and studies assessing how effective it is against the virus variant first identified in South Africa, Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19, said on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday. 

A spokesperson for AstraZeneca told CNN on Saturday that a small trial found the company’s Covid-19 vaccine provides limited protection against mild disease in cases caused by the B.1.351 variant. The study has not yet been peer-reviewed or published.

When asked if she was concerned about AstraZeneca’s vaccine and the variant, Van Kerkhove told CBS’s Margaret Brennan that there were a number of studies underway to look at immune responses. 

There are “some preliminary studies suggesting reduced efficacy. But again, those studies aren’t fully published yet,” Van Kerkhove said.

“Our independent panel group on vaccinations is meeting tomorrow to specifically discuss the AstraZeneca vaccine as well as the results coming out of South Africa to determine what does this mean in terms of the vaccines going forward,” Van Kerkhove said. 

She added that it’s critical to have more than one safe and effective vaccine: “We cannot rely on only one product.”