February 11 coronavirus news

By Adam Renton, Brad Lendon, Cristiana Moisescu, Laura Smith-Spark and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 2:18 a.m. ET, February 12, 2021
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4:52 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Covid-19 vaccines could be available to young children as early as September - Fauci says

From CNN’s Amanda Sealy

Dr. Anthony Fauci listens as President Joe Biden speaks during a tour of the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, on February 11.
Dr. Anthony Fauci listens as President Joe Biden speaks during a tour of the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, on February 11. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Covid-19 vaccines could be authorized for young children by September, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ProPublica.

“I would think by the time we get to school opening, we likely will be able to get people who come into the first grade,” Fauci said.

Pfizer and Moderna, the two companies currently with authorized Covid-19 vaccines in the US, have both begun trials for children, but started with older age groups.

Pfizer’s trial in children ages 12-15 is fully enrolled with 2,259 participants, and the company says it hopes to have results “in the early part of 2021 and from there, we will plan to finalize our study in 5-11 year olds.”

Moderna is still enrolling participants in its trial in children ages 12-18, though the company says it has seen an increase in enrollment and interest in its trial, adding that “we are on track to provide updated data around mid-year 2021.”

Moderna also has plans to start studying its vaccine on even younger children – 6 months to 11 years old – though the company says it will take longer to get that data.

“We're going to start soon a young children's study, but this will take much longer because we have to age deescalate and start at a lower dose. So we should not anticipate clinical data in 2021, but more in 2022,” said Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna, during an investor presentation last month.

4:33 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

US pharmacy chain Rite Aid to begin Covid-19 vaccinations on Friday

From CNN's Samira Said

Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rite Aid pharmacies will begin on Friday administering Covid-19 vaccines in seven US states and jurisdictions as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, the drug store chain said in a press release Thursday. 

Chris Savarese, Rite Aid director of public relations, said at launch the store expects to receive 116,300 doses for about 1,200 Rite Aid locations, which is about 100 doses per participating store.  

"Initially, vaccine appointments will still be difficult to schedule at any provider. However, we expect to see availability of the vaccine improve over time," Heyward Donigan, Rite Aid president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The states where Rite Aid will begin vaccinations are California, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The cities of Philadelphia and New York City, which are designated as separate jurisdictions by the federal government, are also included,

Vaccine eligibility is based on state guidelines. 

The Biden administration announced last week the federal government will begin direct shipments of coronavirus vaccines to retail pharmacies starting on February 11, with a total of 1 million doses going to about 6,500 stores before eventually expanding.

4:03 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Coronavirus deaths are more than three times higher in nursing homes with more Black residents, study finds

From CNN Health’s Lauren Mascarenhas

Nursing homes with more Black residents report a significantly higher share of coronavirus deaths, researchers reported this week.

The average number of coronavirus deaths was more than three times higher in nursing homes with the highest proportion of Black residents compared to those with the highest proportion of White residents, the researchers reported in the journal JAMA Network Open.

The team looked at Covid-19 cases and deaths among residents in 13,312 US nursing homes, using 2020 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data.

Nursing homes with the lowest proportion of White residents reported an average of 5.6 deaths, while those with the highest proportion of White residents reported an average of 1.7 deaths. In total, the data showed 51,606 deaths related to coronavirus, with an average of 3.9 deaths per facility. 

The team says that in part, the differences in those numbers are related to higher infection levels in counties home to facilities with more non-White residents. They note that nursing homes with more White residents had better resident health, higher star ratings, more nursing hours, and were located in counties with fewer coronavirus cases per capita.

To help stem future outbreaks, the researchers suggest that limited resources should be focused on supporting nursing homes with more non-White residents.

3:36 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Biden's plan to reopen schools faces hurdles

From CNN's Gregory Krieg, Katie Lobosco, MJ Lee and Sara Murray

President Joe Biden's pledge to reopen most American schools within his first 100 days in office is in danger of going off the rails as teachers' unions hold firm on their demands for new safety measures amid conflicting messages from the administration and public health leaders.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday said Biden was committed "to ensuring schools are open five days a week" -- once the proper safety measures are in place. New guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are expected on Friday, she added.

It was Psaki's third swing in 72 hours at questions over the President's definition of a successful return. Her initial suggestion, on Tuesday, that "teaching at least one day a week in the majority of schools by day 100" might be enough to clear the bar was met with a torrent of criticism from parents, teachers and administrators.

Nearly a year into the unprecedented national experiment in remote learning in the face of a growing pandemic, millions of children are still at home, with no expected return date. Studies show them falling behind, with low-income or Black and Latino children hurting the worst -- but the science is unclear on how, or when, they can safely return to classes, even as some teachers get vaccinated and schools districts work to fit classrooms for reopening.

4:08 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

More than 20% of Covid-19 infections in France caused by UK variant, Health Minister says

From CNN's Sandrine Amiel in Paris

Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP via Getty Images
Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP via Getty Images

Between 20% and 25% of Covid-19 infections in France are caused by the UK variant, Health Minister Olivier Véran said Thursday. 

"The British variant is currently responsible for one in five to one in four infections," Véran told reporters during a weekly coronavirus briefing. 

The French Health Minister said the British variant was “circulating fast” and infections of the variant have “increased by 50% every week.” The prevalence of the Brazilian and South African variants has also risen in France, making up 4% to 5% of infections, Veran said.

Véran told reporters France’s epidemic trajectory was “not ascending” but on a “slightly descending plateau.” Pressure on hospitals remains high but isn't worsening, Véran added.

On Thursday, the French Public Health Agency recorded 21,063 new coronavirus cases and a further 371 deaths in hospitals, bringing the death to 80,803. The country also reported 26,963 coronavirus patients in the hospital -- a decrease of 454 patients in the last 24 hours. The agency also reported 3,327 patients in intensive care on Thursday.

France has administered 2,113,533 first injections and 535,775 second injections of coronavirus vaccines, according to the Health Ministry.

3:04 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Ohio curfew lifted due to sustained decrease in Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced he has officially let Ohio’s curfew expire at noon today, due to a sustained decrease in Covid-19 hospitalizations. 

The governor had indicated in the past two weeks that if Ohio’s hospitalization numbers dropped below 2,500 for seven days, the curfew would be lifted.

“Now we may, in the future, we don’t know, have to put a curfew back on. We certainly hope we do not,” Governor DeWine said, noting that if hospitalizations start to rise again, the Ohio Department of Health may reinstate the curfew. 

The Governor said it is crucial that Ohioans continue safety protocols to slow the spread of Covid-19 and prevent hospitalizations from going up.

1:47 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Irish PM admits easing lockdown around Christmas was not a wise move

From CNN’s Samantha Tapfumaneyi

Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Ireland’s Prime Minister expressed regret on Thursday over the decision to ease lockdown rules in the country around Christmas.

In an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson, Micheal Martin said: “If we knew then what we knew now, now we certainly wouldn't have made that decision." 

Ireland is in lockdown again after loosening restrictions in December, which resulted in the country having one of the highest infection rates in the world by January.

Martin added that Ireland would remain in a lockdown “for quite some time” to reduce hospital numbers. 

The UK variant is now responsible for 70% of the Covid-19 cases in Ireland, Martin said.

“I think globally, we have to intensify vaccination efforts, because it's important that the entire globe gets vaccinated, not just countries who are wealthier and in a position to do it earlier,” he said.  

In addition to this, he also said the “new variants could undermine the vaccine effort” and reiterated that Ireland's goal remains to vaccinate 80% of people by September.

“It's been disrupted somewhat by issues with the AstraZeneca vaccine and its supply, and we're not getting the same level of supply that we had thought we would get at the commencement of the year and that's part of the wider EU procurement issue with AstraZeneca,” Martin conceded, but he said the country was getting higher volumes of other vaccines in the second quarter of the year.

1:07 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Serbia has one of Europe's highest vaccination rates

From CNN's Rob North

People receive the COVID-19 vaccine, at Belgrade Fair makeshift vaccination center in Belgrade, Serbia, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. 
People receive the COVID-19 vaccine, at Belgrade Fair makeshift vaccination center in Belgrade, Serbia, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021.  Darko Vojinovic/AP

Serbia currently has one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe, despite not being a member of the European Union -- and the country's Prime Minister has said directly negotiating with manufacturers has helped his country. 

Rapid vaccine procurement and a government shift to digitization is behind the nation's early success in rolling out the jabs, Prime Minister Ana Brnabić told CNN.

“Very early on, we have in Serbia made the decision to treat the vaccine procurement as a key priority for our country… we decided to go directly into negotiations with producers. We were one of the first countries in the world to sign a contract with Pfizer and we were the second country in Europe to get Pfizer vaccines,” said Brnabić, speaking to CNN's Julia Chatterley on First Move.

The Prime Minister also praised Serbia’s decision to make its government more digital around four years ago, saying it “makes the whole process very easy for citizens, very transparent and for us easy to manage.”

Brnabić referenced the European Union’s struggle to secure vaccine supplies but declined to offer up any criticism. The Western Balkans nation is currently seeking to join the EU.

“There are many, many benefits that EU member countries have that we unfortunately don’t have, including the financial support for the recovery after Covid-19,” she said. “I think at the end of the day, the EU will do good and, you know, perhaps it was a late start but I’m sure that it will come out stronger.”

12:27 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

The safest way to celebrate Mardi Gras is virtually, CDC says

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on large gatherings to include celebrating Mardi Gras, underscoring that the safest way to celebrate is virtual or with those you live with. 

“Attending large gatherings like Mardi Gras increases your risk of getting and spreading Covid-19,” the CDC said. “The safest way to celebrate Mardi Gras this year is to gather virtually, with people who live with you, or outside and at least 6 feet apart from others.”

For those who celebrate with others, the agency reiterated that outdoors is safer than indoors.

CDC suggested that those who host either an indoor or outdoor Mardi Gras party make sure that people have enough space to stay six feet apart from each other, and wear appropriate masks. 

“A costume mask is not a replacement for cloth and other masks that prevent the spread of Covid-19,” CDC said.

Mardi Gras falls on Tuesday 16 February this year.