February 9 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Kara Fox, Christopher Johnson and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 6:29 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021
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8:03 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

More than 940 reported cases of concerning variants in the US, CDC says

CNN Health’s Michael Nedelman

At least 944 cases of coronavirus strains first spotted in the UK, South Africa and Brazil have been reported in the United States, according to data updated Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The vast majority of these cases, 932, are the more contagious variant known as B.1.1.7, which was originally detected in the UK. This variant has been found in 34 states, including 343 cases in Florida, 156 in California and 59 in New York.

In addition, there are nine cases of a strain initially seen in South Africa, called B.1.351 -- six in Maryland, two in South Carolina and one in Virginia. 

Lastly, the P.1 strain first linked to Brazil, has been discovered in two cases in Minnesota and one in Oklahoma.

The CDC says this does not represent the total number of such cases circulating in the US, but rather just those that have been found by analyzing positive samples. The agency cautions that its numbers may not immediately match those of state and local health departments.

Read more:

6:29 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

Elton John and Michael Caine star in video encouraging Brits to get vaccine

By CNN's Rob Picheta

from NHS
from NHS

Elton John and Michael Caine have released a video encouraging Britons to get vaccinated for Covid-19, as the country prepares to widen its rollout to younger adults.

The video, backed by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), sees John “audition” for a role in a vaccine information campaign.

The legendary British singer tries out a Michael Caine impression but fails to impress the casting team -- before Caine himself makes a cameo. Both celebrities have already been vaccinated against the coronavirus, the NHS said.

Their appeal for more Brits to get inoculated comes as the UK looks to widen its rollout. Britain has already vaccinated more than 12 million people with at least one dose, and is now asking people aged 70 and over in England who haven’t been vaccinated to book an appointment.

“I wanted to take part in this film to help show people the benefits of getting vaccinated and how it helps protect ourselves and the people we love,’ John said. “So, I hope we can all come together and do our bit in the fight against this wretched disease.”

In the video, the 73-year-old sings his 1980s hit “I’m Still Standing” after pretending to receive a shot. The spoof also sees Caine, 87, tell viewers the vaccine doesn’t hurt -- before adding his trademark phrase, “Not many people know that.”

“Well over nine out of ten people aged 75 and over have already taken up the offer of their NHS Covid vaccination, and now we want to encourage everyone in the high priority groups to do so,” chief executive of NHS England Simon Stevens said. “That’s why we’re grateful to Sir Elton and Sir Michael for helping the NHS promote vaccine uptake.”

The government has pledged to offer a vaccine to everyone in its four highest-risk groups by mid-February.

But while take-up has been high, community protection can only be achieved when a vast majority of the population has been vaccinated and scientists have warned of the challenges posed by misinformation and vaccine hesitancy in achieving that milestone.

7:19 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Jumping hurdles for a second dose of Covid-19 vaccine

By CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Terri Lynn in Naples, Florida said that she had to embark on a repeat three-hour road trip for her second dose. Elsie Morales in New York said that her grandmother is still waiting for her second dose -- and it's a week overdue. Both are among some of the people in the United States who have faced challenges with scheduling appointments for second doses of Covid-19 vaccine.

"There is some confusion out there," Lynn said. "I'm just telling my friends and people I know to stay focused and read what you can and empower yourself."
When Lynn learned in January that the Publix supermarket chain was beginning to offer Covid-19 vaccinations in some of its stores in Florida, she immediately booked an appointment online for herself and her husband Mark Young.
They are in the prioritized age group of 65 and older in the state of Florida, and Lynn said that she was "ecstatic" they were going to get vaccinated. However, getting to their appointments was a challenge.

Read the story:

4:03 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

France extends state of health emergency until June as country’s death toll tops 80,000

From CNN's Sandrine Amiel in Paris

Health Minister Olivier Véran
Health Minister Olivier Véran Lionel Urman/Sipa USA

French lawmakers Tuesday approved a bill to extend the country’s state of health emergency until June 1, as the country’s death toll topped 80,000. 

The law allows the government to enact restrictions -- including a lockdown -- to limit the spread of COVID-19 nationwide. The current state of emergency was due to expire on February 16. 

The extension was narrowly approved with 278 votes in favor, 193 votes against and 13 abstentions. 

It comes as Health Minister Olivier Véran told public broadcaster France Info on Tuesday that the country could avoid a third lockdown, despite the warnings of the scientific community. 

"It is of course possible that we will never go into lockdown again," Véran said. “It is desirable.”

“Lockdown is not a choice of ease, of safety. Lockdown is a choice of necessity when the epidemic situation is beyond our control. Today this is not the case,” the minister continued. 

The number of new infections in France has stabilized on a high plateau in recent weeks with an average of 20,000 cases per day, Véran said.

New infections on Tuesday were slightly below that weekly average, with an additional 18,870 confirmed cases, according to the French public health agency.

France's coronavirus death toll reached 80,147 on Tuesday as the French public health agency reported 724 new deaths.

France has been criticized for the slow rollout of its vaccination campaign, with 2.2 million vaccinations recorded so far.

3:07 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

California sees lowest daily case increase in nearly three months

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg


California reported another 8,251 new Covid-19 cases Tuesday, the lowest daily number since mid-November, according to state health data.

Plummeting cases have led to a 33% drop in hospitalizations and 26% fewer ICU admissions over just the past two weeks.

“Deaths continue to be devastating,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday, as the state reported an additional 327 fatalities resulting from the coronavirus. The rolling average number of deaths remains just below 500 per day.

Newsom was in Santa Clara for the opening of the state’s largest mass vaccination center at Levi’s Stadium, which will be set to administer 15,000 vaccines each day.

“The goal is pretty straightforward. The goal is to design a system that has only one limitation and that’s supply,” said Newsom, explaining that scarcity of Covid-19 vaccines remains prevalent. California expects to receive slightly more than a million doses for each of the next three weeks. 

Safely returning to in-person learning before the end of the school remains a top priority for Newsom, and one that he asserts is attainable. Until the availability of vaccine increases, Newsom suggests people “do the math and be honest” about the likelihood of specific groups like teachers all being inoculated.

“It’s very unlikely that we'll be able to accomplish that because of the scarcity of the vaccine without taking away from vast majority of others including seniors and the most medically vulnerable, and that’s the unfortunate position we’re all in,” Newsom said.

California’s legislature continues to consider Newsom’s $6.6 billion proposal to reopen schools, an effort that would provide a statewide standard including testing, personal protective equipment, ventilation, and mental health support in addition to the academic needs of students.

An announcement on those guidelines is expected soon, along with an outline for school sports to resume.

2:20 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Canada eases some COVID-19 restrictions but further locks down its international borders

From CNN’s Paula Newton in Ottawa

Canada is further restricting non-essential travel in and out of the country, even as it gradually eases Covid-19 restrictions. 

After weeks of lockdowns and containment measures, Canada is having some success in controlling the second wave of the virus but its borders will remain essentially closed for some time government officials say. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that starting next week, anyone arriving in Canada by land will need to show a negative test within 72 hours of attempting to enter Canada.  

Only Canadian citizens, permanent residents and essential travelers are currently allowed into Canada, although there have been some exceptions on compassionate grounds. Beginning next week, non-essential travelers that cross into Canada at a land border without a negative test could be fined thousands of dollars.  

“You can’t prevent someone who’s standing at a land border crossing from entering Canada because technically they’re already on Canadian soil when they’re speaking to that customs officer," Trudeau during a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday. 

"That’s why what we can do is in cases of no test to show apply a stiff penalty, a fine and demand and ensure a rapid and complete follow up to make sure that they are getting tested, that they are being properly quarantined, that they are not putting at risk the safety of other Canadians by returning home without a clear, negative test."

In January Canada began requiring all air passengers to show a negative PCR-based Covid-19 test before boarding a Canada-bound flight. 

Canadian public health officials say while new daily cases of Covid-19 continue to fall and hospitalizations are down about 15% in the last week, new variants and a slow vaccine rollout could mean that a resurgence of the virus is still possible. 

“I think we’re all worried about the arrival of new variants and the impact that could have on even as we are working hard to get everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible. There are real questions about what the impacts these variants will have both on spread of Covid-19 and on the impact of the vaccines,” explained Trudeau adding that’s why Canada is adding further restricting travel.

Canada has detected only a few hundred cases of new variants but public health officials say already there is evidence of community spread in at least three provinces.

1:52 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Hungary to become first EU country to roll out Russia's Sputnik vaccine this week

Hungary will this week begin inoculating people with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, among others, becoming the first European Union country to do so, officials there said Tuesday.   

“We will be inoculating using four vaccines beginning this week; vaccination using the Russian Sputnik V vaccine is beginning in Budapest,” Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller said at an online press conference. 

Müller told reporters that 560 general practitioners in Budapest are being asked to select five people each from their respective practices, who will then receive the Sputnik V vaccine at the designated vaccination points. Some 2,800 doses of the vaccine are currently available, and only to those without chronic illness. 

Hungary does “not have huge amounts of this vaccine available,” Müller said. 

According to a statement from the Hungarian News Agency (MTI), 85,410 doses of the Pfizer vaccine will arrive in Hungary on Tuesday. A further shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine is expected on Thursday, and 21,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine will also be arriving on Thursday. 

Doctors will receive a list of registered people who are eligible to be vaccinated, and vaccination of the oldest patients will be organised at GP’s clinics. 

A total of 291,396 people have been vaccinated in Hungary to date, and 110,395 have also received their second shot. 

In reply to a question, Müller said the British variant of the virus has so far been detected in 24 samples, but that the Brazilian and South African mutations have not yet been discovered in Hungary. 

1:19 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Federal judge issues a permanent injunction on Covid-19 capacity limits for houses of worship in New York

From CNN's Lauren del Valle

A federal judge in Brooklyn issued a permanent injunction on capacity restrictions in houses of worship across the state of New York, in an order published on Tuesday. 

Eastern District of New York Judge Kiyo Matsumoto granted a permanent injunction against part of an executive order issued by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, which limits gatherings in houses of worship to 25% capacity or a maximum of 10 people in "red zone" clusters, and to 33% capacity with a maximum of 25 people in the city's "orange zones."

In October, the Orthodox Jewish organization Agudath Israel filed a lawsuit against Governor Cuomo, arguing that capacity restrictions on houses of worship in red and orange zones violate the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution.  

The judge denied the group's request for a temporary restraining order against the Covid-19 restrictions. Agudath Israel then pursued an appeal.

In December, a federal appeals court blocked Cuomo's restrictions on religious gatherings, saying the restrictions "are not narrowly tailored to stem the spread of Covid-19." That decision came after the US Supreme Court ruled in November that Jewish and Catholic houses of worship faced "far more restrictive" Covid-19 regulations than businesses. The appeals court ruling addressed per person limits on houses of worship, saying the state must justify imposing 10- or 25-person limits on houses of worship but not on certain secular businesses.

As a result, the federal court in this case eventually granted a preliminary injunction in January on the 10- and 25-person occupancy limits, according to Tuesday's order.  

Counsel for Governor Cuomo agreed to an injunction against the enforcement of the percent-based capacity limits for houses of worship in the zones. 

Cuomo's administration has renewed the executive order five times since October -- without modifying the restrictions on houses of worship. While it remains effective through February 26, the governor's counsel said on Monday that the governor plans to amend the order to remove houses of worship by the end of the month and had asked the judge to issue a preliminary injunction -- rather than a permanent one -- over concerns for future litigation from "aggressive" plaintiff counsel.

Now the governor’s counsel and Agudath Israel have until March 1 to inform the federal court whether the case can be closed, court records show.

12:48 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

New York City will start vaccinating residents with underlying conditions next week

From CNN’s Jennifer Henderson

A healthcare worker administers a Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in New York, on February 5.
A healthcare worker administers a Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in New York, on February 5. Angus Mordant/Bloomberg/Getty Images

New York City residents with underlying conditions will be able to get vaccinated beginning Monday 15 February, Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, Commissioner of New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said during a press conference Tuesday. 

Residents will need to provide medical documentation of their underlying condition, a note from their physician or an attestation designating that the person has underlying health conditions that make them eligible.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced during the press conference that New York City now has administered 1,032,158 vaccinations.

The city is also reporting 251 patients admitted to the hospital with suspected Covid-19, with a confirmed positivity rate of 72.31% and a hospitalization rate of 5.18 per 100,000 people, de Blasio said.

There are 3,587 new cases of Covid-19 on a seven-day average and the citywide positivity rate on a seven-day rolling average is 8.09%, he added.