February 10 coronavirus news

By James Griffiths, Adam Renton, Kara Fox, Christopher Johnson and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 6:34 a.m. ET, February 15, 2021
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12:01 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

UK coronavirus variant has been reported in 86 countries, WHO says

From CNN Health's Andrea Diaz

The coronavirus variant B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom on September 20, has now been reported in 86 countries, the World Health Organization says.

In its weekly epidemiological update, WHO says the variant B.1.1.7 has shown an increase in transmissibility, and some evidence of increase in disease severity based on preliminary findings. As of February 7, an additional six countries have reported cases of this variant. 

In the UK, for example, Covid-19 test samples of this strain increased from 63% in the week of December 14 to 90% in the week of January 18, WHO noted.

Other variants: Additionally, WHO has also been monitoring two additional coronavirus strains that are actively spreading: B.1.351, initially seen in South Africa, and the P.1 strain that was first identified in Brazil.

As of February 7, the B.1.351 strain has been reported in 44 countries , while the P.1 strain has been reported in 15 nations, WHO says. 

Some context: Scientists are not surprised to see the coronavirus changing and evolving but they fear that a variant could mutate to the point that it causes more severe disease, bypasses the ability of tests to detect it or evades the protection provided by vaccination. 

South Africa this week paused its rollout of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine after a study showed it offers less protection against the B.1.351 variant.

11:48 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

FDA authorizes new Eli Lilly monoclonal antibody duo

From CNN Health’s Maggie Fox

In this file photo, an employee at Eli Lilly works on an antibody treatment for Covid-19.
In this file photo, an employee at Eli Lilly works on an antibody treatment for Covid-19. Source: Eli Lilly

The US Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization to a new version of Eli Lilly and Co’s antibody treatment for coronavirus that adds a second monoclonal antibody to one already authorized, the company said Tuesday.

The new treatment adds etesevimab or LY-CoV016 to the already authorized bamlanivimab or LY-CoV555 to make a double-antibody version -- one that might be more protective, the company says. Rival Regeneron has a dual antibody-cocktail on the market already.

Monoclonal antibodies are lab-engineered versions of highly targeted human antibodies chosen for their specific ability to neutralize, in this case, coronavirus.

"Bamlanivimab and etesevimab, administered together, are authorized for emergency use for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients (12 years of age and older weighing at least 40 kg) with positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 viral testing, and who are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization,” the FDA said in a statement.

Some experiments had indicated that variants of the coronavirus that have developed mutations could evade the effects of Lilly’s single antibody.

"The EUA is based on Phase 3 data from the BLAZE-1 trial, announced January 26, 2021, which demonstrated bamlanivimab and etesevimab together reduced the risk of COVID-19 hospitalizations and death by 70 percent. These data replicate earlier results, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, in a much larger group of patients,” Lilly said in a statement.

“Additionally, the outcomes seen with bamlanivimab and etesevimab together are consistent with the reduction in risk of hospitalization or ER visits seen with bamlanivimab alone. The most common adverse event more often reported for patients receiving bamlanivimab and etesevimab together versus placebo was nausea on the day of infusion.”

8:09 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Covid-19 cases declined 17% worldwide last week, WHO says

From CNN's Health's Andrea Diaz

A health worker takes a coronavirus antigen rapid test swab at the new coronavirus test center in the Orangery of the Schoenbrunn Palace on February 4 in Vienna, Austria.
A health worker takes a coronavirus antigen rapid test swab at the new coronavirus test center in the Orangery of the Schoenbrunn Palace on February 4 in Vienna, Austria. Alex Halada/AFP/Getty Images

For the fourth week in a row, the number of new cases of Covid-19 reported across the globe have declined, according to data from the World Health Organization.

In its weekly epidemiological update, WHO says more than 3.1 million new cases of Covid-19 were reported last week, which is a 17% decline from the previous week.

This is the lowest number of cases worldwide since the last week of October, about 15 weeks ago.

The United States accounted for the highest number of new Covid-19 cases, with 871,365. However, this figure is a 19% decline in cases from the previous week. Brazil, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom were also among the nations reporting the highest number of new cases worldwide, WHO noted. 

Out of all the regions, Africa saw the greatest decline in cases (22%), compared to WHO's previous week update, while the Eastern Mediterranean saw the smallest (2%).

The number of new deaths reported globally went down for the second week in a row, with 88,000 new fatalities reported last week, a 10% drop compared to the previous week. 

Overall, new cases in the Americas accounted for more than half of all new cases worldwide, with more than 1.5 million new cases and over 45,000 new deaths.

Globally, there have been at least 105.4 million Covid-19 cases and 2.3 million deaths since the start of the pandemic.

CNN is tracking worldwide cases.

1:49 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

Johnson & Johnson CEO says he thinks people will need an annual Covid-19 vaccine for many years to come

From CNN Health’s Jen Christensen

The Chief Executive Officer of Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that people may need an annual Covid-19 shot for many years to come in order to be protected against variants of the virus.

“Unfortunately, as (the virus) spreads it can also mutate,” Alex Gorsky told CNBC’s Meg Tirrell Tuesday during the network’s Healthy Returns Spotlight event. “Every time it mutates, it’s almost like another click of the dial so to speak where we can see another variant, another mutation that can have an impact on its ability to fend of antibodies or to have a different kind of response not only to a therapeutic but also to a vaccine.”

Johnson & Johnson asked the US Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorization for its vaccine on Thursday. 

Experts say the J&J Covid-19 vaccine has advantages over others since it is a single shot and can be stored at regular refrigerated temperatures. Pfizer’s and Moderna's authorized vaccines both require two doses. The Pfizer vaccine needs to be kept in at deep freeze temperatures. 

Clinical trials showed J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine was 66% effective in preventing moderate and severe disease. It was 85% effective overall at preventing hospitalization and 100% at preventing death in all regions where it was tested. The vaccine has also been tested against some of the variants. In South Africa it was 57% effective and in Latin America it was 66% effective.

The FDA could authorize the J&J vaccine as early as the end of this month. 

6:34 a.m. ET, February 15, 2021

WHO says an "intermediary host species" is most likely how Covid-19 was introduced to humans

From CNN's Chandler Thornton in Hong Kong

Peter Ben Embarek attends a news conference to wrap up a visit by an international team of experts from the World Health Organization in the city of Wuhan, in China's Hubei province on February 9.
Peter Ben Embarek attends a news conference to wrap up a visit by an international team of experts from the World Health Organization in the city of Wuhan, in China's Hubei province on February 9. Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

World Health Organization expert Peter Ben Embarek said that the team investigating the origins of the coronavirus in Wuhan have identified two scenarios that most likely caused the transmission of Covid-19 to the human population.

"Our initial findings suggest that the introduction through an intermediary host species is the most likely pathway and one way that will require more studies and more specific targeted research," Ben Embarek said during a news conference on Tuesday.

He added that the possibility of transmission through the trade of frozen products was also likely.

Ben Embarek also noted two other hypotheses the team had probed while investigating the origin of the virus.

One hypothesis was a "direct zoonotic spillover," meaning, direct transmission from an animal reservoir to a human. 

"The hypothesis of a direct spillover from an original animal source into the human population is also a possible pathway and is also generating recommendation for future studies," he said.

The fourth hypothesis was the possibility of a laboratory-related incident, but that this was the least likely of the four to be the cause of the virus' introduction to humans.

Findings suggest that the laboratory hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population," Ben Embarek said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Peter Ben Embarek’s name on second and subsequent references. It’s been updated.

7:48 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

With new Covid-19 variants, easing restrictions now would be "incredibly risky"

From CNN's Holly Yan and Christina Maxouris

Covid-19 numbers are getting better. But letting your guard down could be an open invitation for highly contagious variants to trample the US -- erasing the progress made.

"We're ... seeing what happens in other countries when these variants take over," emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen said. "There is (an) explosive surge, even when the countries are basically in shutdown."

The warning comes as more Americans believe there's no big risk in returning to pre-Covid life, according to a new poll.

An Axios-Ipsos poll published Tuesday showed 66% of those surveyed said they thought the risk of returning to pre-Covid life was moderate or large. That's the lowest percentage since October.

The groups least likely to see Covid-19 as a risk were people ages 18 to 29 (58%) and Republicans (49%).

But a majority of those vaccinated -- 76% -- still see coronavirus as a high risk.

Americans shouldn't assume the vaccine rollout means it's OK to get lax with safety measures. In fact, ditching precautions now would be "incredibly risky," said Dr. Richard Besser, former acting director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It is absolutely essential that we continue to do steps beyond vaccination to keep this under control," Besser said.
"The reason for that is that the more this virus is allowed to spread in our communities, the more we're going to see these variants spreading," he said.
"And if the vaccines aren't as effective against some of these variants, then we could see the gains that we're so excited about right now, we could see those reversed in a very short amount of time."

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