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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1:17 p.m. ET, February 10, 2021

White House not recommending double masking at this time, considering a "range of options" to get masks to Americans

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

White House press secretary Jen Psaki enters the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House for a news briefing on February 10.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki enters the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House for a news briefing on February 10. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The White House isn’t at this time recommending that people wear two masks to prevent coronavirus, but is considering a “range of options” when it comes to getting masks to Americans, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday.  

Psaki told reporters during a press briefing that reports that two masks protect better than one were based on a “study, which was a reflection of the importance of well-fitting masks, something that many of our health and medical experts have talked about.” 

“It doesn't actually issue definitive guidance on one mask versus two mask,” Psaki continued. “Obviously if that's something they were to issue as official guidance, we listened to our health and medical experts.” 

She said the study shows “that if a person has a loose fitting mask that they should consider options to improve that fit.”

Asked if there was a plan for the administration to send masks to Americans, Psaki said there were “a range of options under consideration on to how to ensure that people who need masks the most, people who need this type of protection the most, receive it, but no decision has been no final decision has been made.”

Last week, White House chief of staff Ron Klain said the administration hoped to resurrect a proposal from the Trump administration to mail face masks to every American in an attempt to stop the spread of Covid-19.

12:53 p.m. ET, February 10, 2021

WHO, UNICEF call out inequitable global distribution of Covid-19 vaccines

From CNN Health's Ashley Ahn

Top officials at the World Health Organization and UNICEF on Wednesday called out the inequitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines across the globe, which has seen wealthier countries vaccinating millions and poorer countries vaccinating no one. 

"Of the 128 million vaccine doses administered so far, more than three quarters of those vaccinations are in just 10 countries that account for 60% of global (gross domestic product)," Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, and Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF, said in a joint statement.

"As of today, almost 130 countries, with 2.5 billion people, are yet to administer a single dose."

They said the current approach is a "self-defeating strategy" that will "cost lives and livelihoods" and give the virus further opportunity to mutate and evade the vaccines.

To ensure that vaccine rollouts begin in all countries in the first 100 days of 2021, the officials said it is imperative that governments share vaccines with other countries after they have vaccinated their own health workers and populations at the highest risk of severe disease.

They also called on vaccine manufactures to allocate the limited vaccine supply equitably by taking steps to scale up production and by transferring technology to other manufacturers to make additional supply.

"We need global leadership to scale up vaccine production and achieve vaccine equity," the statement said. "COVID-19 has shown that our fates are inextricably linked. Whether we win or lose, we will do so together."

12:39 p.m. ET, February 10, 2021

Norway extends border closures to the end of February

From CNN's James Frater in London

Customs officers and policemen check drivers at the border between Norway and Sweden in Swinesund on March 16, 2020.
Customs officers and policemen check drivers at the border between Norway and Sweden in Swinesund on March 16, 2020. Vidar Ruud/NTB Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images

Norway is extending border closures to the end of February, its Justice Minister announced on Wednesday.

The border closures, which have been in place since January 29, prohibit nearly everyone who does not reside in Norway from entering the country.

“This has major consequences for many families and individuals who are not allowed to meet their loved ones. And then, of course, it has enormous consequences for Norwegian businesses and industry," said Norwegian Minister of Justice and Public Security Monica Mæland on Wednesday. 

“At the same time, we are in a situation where the pandemic has taken a new direction, with mutated viruses that infect more people and infect more quickly."

“We must make sure we have control and limit the infection as much as possible, and that means, and of course, to limit the import of infection," Mæland added.

“The infection situation in Europe, and especially elsewhere than Europe, indicates that we must continue to limit the number of people travelling to Norway as much as we can."

As of Tuesday, Norway has recorded 65,338 Covid-19 cases and 592 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the latest government data.

The country has also recorded several cases of the coronavirus variants that were first identified in the UK and South Africa. As of Tuesday, Norway’s Public Health Institute has reported 436 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant that was first identified in the UK and 10 cases of the B1.351 variant that was first identified in South Africa.

12:27 p.m. ET, February 10, 2021

About 20,000 pregnant women have received Covid-19 vaccines so far, 'with no red flags,' Fauci says

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

Tens of thousands of pregnant women have been vaccinated against Covid-19 so far and there have been "no red flags" in their reactions to the vaccine, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to President Biden, said during a White House briefing on Wednesday.

Fauci said that children and pregnant women were not included in the original clinical trials for the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccines, which are now authorized for emergency use in the United States.

Some clinical trials including pregnant women and children will be starting or are already underway, he said.

"But I want to point out that since the EUA (emergency use authorization) and under the EUA, approximately 20,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated with no red flags, as we say, and this is being monitored by the CDC and the FDA," Fauci said on Wednesday.

"With regard to children and pregnant women, as I mentioned on a prior discussion with this group, the fact remains that we will be starting clinical trials, and some have already started. We will not need to do tens of thousands of people," Fauci said.

"We will need just enough measured in hundreds to thousands for safety and whether or not we induce an immune response that is equivalent to the immune response that has been proven to be protective under the trials that have now shown to be 94% to 95% effective."

12:17 p.m. ET, February 10, 2021

WHO recommends AstraZeneca vaccine for adults over 18 and in countries where new variants are circulating

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard and Naomi Thomas

A health worker holds up a vial of Covishield, AstraZeneca-Oxford's Covid-19 vaccine, in Yangon, Myanmar, on January 27.
A health worker holds up a vial of Covishield, AstraZeneca-Oxford's Covid-19 vaccine, in Yangon, Myanmar, on January 27. Sai Aung Main/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization's recommendations for the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca

Covid-19 vaccine, AZD1222, include all people ages 18 and older, including older adults.

In a briefing on Wednesday, Dr. Joachim Hombach, executive secretary of WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization said:

The immune response in people above 65 is almost the same as in younger people, and this makes us very confident."

The new recommendations were published on Wednesday and note that there are some populations for which data are limited or do not exist – including children, pregnant women, lactating women and other groups. "Until such data are available, vaccination of individuals below 18 years of age is not recommended," the guidance says.

"The available data on AZD1222 vaccination of pregnant women are insufficient to assess vaccine efficacy or vaccine-associated risks in pregnancy. However, it should be noted that AZD1222 is a nonreplicating vaccine," it says. It added that the "WHO does not recommend pregnancy testing prior to vaccination. WHO does not recommend delaying pregnancy because of vaccination."

For women who are breastfeeding, the guidance says that "a lactating woman who is part of a group recommended for vaccination, e.g., health workers, should be offered vaccination on an equivalent basis." It also said that it does not recommend discontinuing breastfeeding after vaccination

At the same briefing, the WHO also recommended the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in countries where variants of the coronavirus are circulating.

The group of expert advisers looked at two aspects of the circulation of the variants in relation to the AstraZeneca vaccine, Dr. Alejandro Cravioto, chair of WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization,Cravioto explained.

In the United Kingdom, Cravioto said preliminary analysis showed a slightly reduced efficacy against the variant first spotted there. The analysis also showed a limited reduction in titers of neutralization, which means the vaccine is still having a good effect protecting people infected with that variant.

In South AfricaCravioto said preliminary analysis showed “a marked reduction” in vaccine effectiveness against mild or moderate disease in a variant first spotted there. The analysis also showed a reduction in neutralizing antibody levels. However, he said the study was small and didn’t allow assessment of the vaccine against severe infection. He noted there is indirect evidence that there is still protection against severe disease.

Considering all these factors, we have made the recommendation that even if there is a reduction in the possibility of this vaccine having a full impact in its protection capacity, especially against severe disease, there is no reason not to recommend it’s use, even in countries that have the circulation of the variant,” Cravioto said.
12:01 p.m. ET, February 10, 2021

EU drug regulator says it has not received an application for Russia's Sputnik V vaccine

From CNN’s James Frater

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has not been asked to approve the Russian Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V, the regulatory agency said Wednesday, saying it was responding to inaccurate reports that it had.

The EMA said in a statement that has given scientific advice to the maker of the vaccine.

“EMA is in dialogue and collaborating with the company to define the next steps. The developers have expressed their interest that the vaccine be considered for a rolling review,” the regulator said.

Hungary will this week become the first European Union country to start distributing the vaccine, it announced on Tuesday.

The Sputnik vaccine is already approved for use in Russia, Belarus, Serbia, Argentina, Bolivia, Algeria, Venezuela, Paraguay, Turkmenistan, Hungary, UAE, Iran, Guinea, Tunisia, Armenia and the Palestinian territories and has so far been administered to more than 2 million people worldwide.

12:21 p.m. ET, February 10, 2021

These 8 US states have done the most digging for coronavirus variants

From CNN Health’s Michael Nedelman

Only eight US states have genetically sequenced more than 1% of their total coronavirus cases during the pandemic, compared to a national average just under 0.4%, according to data updated late Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

They include:

  • Hawaii (2.7%)
  • Maine (2.3%)
  • Washington (2.2%)
  • Wyoming (2.1%)
  • Utah (1.6%)
  • Oregon (1.3%)
  • New Mexico (1.0%)
  • New York (1.0%).

Meanwhile, 18 states have sequenced less than 0.1% of their confirmed cases.

The states with the highest raw numbers of sequences are Texas, with more than 15,500; California, with more than 13,000; and New York, with nearly 8,500. Six states report fewer than 100 sequences each.

These numbers come from sequences in a publicly accessible database from January 2020 to present, and may not represent the full number of samples that have been analyzed.

US labs have submitted 99,000 sequences of the coronavirus – less than 0.4% of its total cases -- to a genomics database known as GISAID. In comparison, the UK has submitted nearly 220,000 -- just over 5.5% of its total cases.

The US has been ramping up its sequencing efforts and is on track to process at least 7,000 samples per week, according to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. But more sequencing is needed to track the spread of variants across the country.

“Once we have more sequencing that's happening, we'll have a better idea as to how many variants there are and what proportion are out there,” Walensky said during a White House briefing Monday.

Experts have previously told CNN that the US should aim to sequence 5% to 10% of cases, in line with sequencing efforts in the UK. Given cases over the past seven days, this would amount to roughly 38,000 to 76,000 sequences in a week.

11:42 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

Watch the CDC's new "Mask Up America" PSA

From CNN's Christopher Johnson

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Agency (CDC) has released a new public service announcement featuring iconic scenes from action movies to encourage Americans to wear masks.  

Scenes from films like "Austin Powers," "The Matrix" and "Mad Max" have been edited to include starring characters wearing masks.  

The 30-second spot asks the viewer to “SLOW THE SPREAD!” so that we can get back to “doing our favorite things.” 

Watch the video:

11:58 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

Double masking can block over 92% of potentially infectious particles from escaping, CDC study says

From CNN Health’s Keri Enriquez

A man wears two masks as he visits Times Square in New York on December 10.
A man wears two masks as he visits Times Square in New York on December 10. Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

New data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that double masking -- using a cloth mask over a medical procedure mask, like a disposable blue surgical mask -- can significantly improve protection from Covid-19. 

Researchers found that the combination of the two masks can block 92.5% of potentially infectious particles from escaping by creating a tighter fit around the face.

They also found that overall performance of medical procedure masks alone can be improved by folding mask edges inward and knotting ear loop strings where they meet mask fabric to reduce gaps.

A knotted medical mask can block 63% of aerosols that may contain coronavirus, a significant improvement from blocking only 42% of particles when unknotted. The findings were published Wednesday in the CDC’S Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Beginning in January 2021, the CDC tested the double masking and knotting methods to evaluate mask performance protection. Researchers found the effectiveness of cloth and medical procedure masks can be improved by ensuring they are well fitted to the contours of the face to prevent air and particles from escaping from gaps around the mask’s edges.

The study found that when both a source of infection and uninfected source were both fitted with double masks, the uninfected person’s exposure to potentially infectious particles was reduced by 96.4%.

When both people wore knotted and tucked masks alone, the uninfected person’s cumulative exposure to potentially infectious particles was reduced by 95.9%.

Both findings highlight the importance of a good fit to maximize mask performance to reduce exposure.

“This observation suggests that amendments to improve fit might result in equivalent improvements, regardless of the masks baseline filtration efficiency,” the researchers wrote. 

It is unclear how or if the CDC will incorporate these new findings into its mask recommendations.

The CDC team used a medical procedure mask, like blue surgical masks, and a three-layered cloth mask for a total of twelve different mask combinations. They performed tests using various combinations of no mask, double masks, and unknotted or knotted and tucked medical procedure masks.

When studying ‘double masking’ these experiments utilized one cloth over one medical mask. The researchers did not include any other combinations of masks, such as cloth over cloth, medical procedure mask over medical procedure mask, or medical procedure mask over cloth.

The study also did not provide any guidance on mask fitting. 

“The data in this report underscore the finding that good fit can increase filtration efficiency. Multiple simple ways to achieve better fit have been demonstrated to be effective,” the analysis reads.  

“Until vaccine-induced population immunity is achieved, universal masking is a highly effective means to slow the spread," it added.