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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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.

12:02 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

CNN's Laura Jarrett is answering your questions as minorities face hurdles to vaccination

CNN's Go There is in New York as minorities face hurdles to vaccination.

For example, last month, a Covid-19 vaccination site in a Latino neighborhood in New York City hard hit by the pandemic saw an overwhelming number of White people from outside the community show up to get the shot this month, laying bare a national disparity that shows people of color are being vaccinated at dramatically lower rates.

Laura Jarrett is answering your questions.

Watch more:

12:07 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

FC Bayern Munich star Thomas Müller to miss FIFA Club World Cup Final after positive Covid-19 test

From CNN’s Aleks Klosok

Thomas Müller reacts during the DFB Cup second round match between Holstein Kiel and FC Bayern Munich at Wunderino Arena on January 13, 2021 in Kiel, Germany.
Thomas Müller reacts during the DFB Cup second round match between Holstein Kiel and FC Bayern Munich at Wunderino Arena on January 13, 2021 in Kiel, Germany. Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

FC Bayern Munich and Germany star Thomas Müller has been ruled out of Thursday’s FIFA Club World Cup Final after Bayern confirmed Müller had tested positive for Covid-19.

The Bavarian club said in a statement that Müller was promptly isolated following his positive test.

The club added that the entire team was tested again on Thursday and no further positive cases were recorded.

Bayern face Mexico’s Tigres in Doha, Qatar, with the game kicking off at 1pm ET on Thursday.

The German champions are looking to become just the second team since FC Barcelona in 2009 to win all six domestic and international titles in a calendar year.

They already hold the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, German Super Cup, Bundesliga and German Cup titles.

11:35 a.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Anti-inflammatory drug shown to reduce risk of death for hospitalized Covid-19 patients 

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Tocilizumab, an intravenous anti-inflammatory drug used for rheumatoid arthritis, has been shown to reduce the risk of death for patients hospitalized with severe Covid-19, as well as reducing the risk of ventilation and the amount of time until discharged from hospital.

The preliminary results came from the RECOVERY trial, which has been testing potential Covid-19 treatments since March 2020. 

Tocilizumab was added to the trial in April 2020. The results have not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal, but are expected to be made available in a preprint. 

For the trial, 2,022 patients were randomly allocated tocilizumab and compared with 2,094 patients who received standard care. 

“There were 596 deaths amongst the people in the tocilizumab group, 29%, and there were 694 deaths, 33%, in the usual care group. So that is a reduction in the risk of deaths of around about a sixth or a seventh,” Martin Landray, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, and deputy chief investigator of the RECOVERY trial, said during a briefing on Thursday. 

“An absolute difference of four in a hundred,” Landray said. “You need to treat about 25 patients in order to save one patient, one life.” 

Landray said that the benefits were consistent in every group of patients studied. 

The drug was also shown to have a benefit for people who were not on mechanical ventilation at the start of the trial, with the risk of progressing to mechanical ventilation or death reducing from 38% to 33%. 

On February 3, the US National Institutes of Health released treatment guidelines saying that for patients in the intensive care unit, “there are insufficient data to recommend either for or against the use of tocilizumab or sarilumab for the treatment of Covid-19.” Sarilumab is a similar treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. For those not requiring ICU-level care, they recommended against the use of the drugs except for a clinical trial. 

Read more here:

11:25 a.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Austrian hotspot for South African variant deploys 1,200 troops to contain virus spread

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt

A board with hygiene instructions is pictured at the valley station of the Hochzillertal cable car in Kaltenbach in Tyrol, Austria on February 4, 2021
A board with hygiene instructions is pictured at the valley station of the Hochzillertal cable car in Kaltenbach in Tyrol, Austria on February 4, 2021 EXPA/AFP/Getty Images

The Austrian Alpine province of Tyrol -- which has seen one of Europe’s worst outbreaks of the South African coronavirus variant -- is deploying 1,200 police officers and soldiers to try and contain the spread of the virus, local authorities told CNN Thursday. 

Starting Friday at midnight and lasting for 10 days, the reinforcements will be deployed to Tyrol’s border checkpoints to ensure that anyone trying to leave the province can prove they have a negative coronavirus test no more than 48 hours old, Tyrol police spokesman Stefan Eder told CNN.

Eder added that children, freight traffic and travellers transiting through Tyrol are exempt from this regulation.

The province has currently detected 438 cases of the South African coronavirus variant, according to Tyrol's local government on Thursday.

The South African variant has a mutation, called E484K, which could help the virus partly escape the effects of vaccines.

11:09 a.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Wear at least one mask, but double masking helps get a tighter fit, says Fauci

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Kena Betancur/Getty Images
Kena Betancur/Getty Images

People should definitely wear one mask, but double masking improves fit, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie on the Today show on Thursday.

The CDC on Wednesday released new data that showed layering a cloth mask over a medical procedural mask could block 92.5% of potentially infectious particles by creating a tighter fit and eliminating leakage. 

“At a minimum, wear a mask,” Fauci said. “This is what [the CDC] are saying, make sure you wear a mask. So you wear a mask, then you want it to fit better. So, one of the ways you could do it, if you would like to, is put a cloth mask over.” 

He demonstrated how this works by putting two masks on himself and showing the places where two masks help better prevent leakage, and he told Guthrie that he, on occasion, has double masked.  

“One mask at least, but if you want to really be sure, get a tighter fit with a second mask.” 
10:53 a.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Cuba says it has made 150,000 doses of a promising vaccine candidate

From CNN's Patrick Oppmann

Cuban government scientists say they have produced 150,000 doses of their most promising vaccine candidate, the communist party newspaper Granma reported Thursday.

Cuba has been working with Iran to develop the Soberana 2 vaccine.

Phase 3 trials will begin in March and the vaccine could be ready for widespread use in April, according to Granma, quoting Cuban scientists. 

While Cuba has not begun vaccinating people outside of the clinical trials, officials say they expect to give the vaccine to the island’s total population of 11 million by the end of 2021.

In recent weeks, the country has experienced its highest spike in Covid-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with the largest concentration of cases being in Havana. The island has a total of 34,922 confirmed cases and 249 Covid-19 related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

11:14 a.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Cancelation of Germany's carnival will result in $1.8 billion loss nationwide, economic institute says

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt and Claudia Otto

The cancelation of Germany’s popular annual carnival celebrations, which involve stage events, stalls and parades, will lead to a nationwide loss of 1.5 billion euro ($1.8 billion), according to the Cologne-based German Economic Institute (IW).

Retailers and hotels will suffer the greatest economic losses, according to IW. It estimates about 330 million euro ($400 million) will be lost in the retail sector, the bulk of it from lost revenue in costume sales.

The hotel industry, which would typically take high numbers of bookings at this time of year for the celebrations, will lose an estimated 160 million euro, IW said in a press release on Monday.

Germany remains under a strict lockdown which Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday would extend until March 7 at the earliest.

Germany’s carnival season -- known as Fasching -- is particularly popular in the country’s western region, and festivities are often centred in the city of Cologne.

Due to pandemic restrictions, Cologne's events will be broadcast this year and feature no dance groups, while musicians will be made to social distance as they perform. 

9:59 a.m. ET, February 11, 2021

WHO Africa encourages use of AstraZeneca vaccine despite variants

From CNN's Bethlehem Feleke in Nairobi 

Blood is drawn from a clinical trials patient for the AstraZeneca test vaccine at the University of Witwatersrand' Soweto's Chris Sani Baragwanath Hospital facility outside Johannesburg on Nov. 30, 2020.
Blood is drawn from a clinical trials patient for the AstraZeneca test vaccine at the University of Witwatersrand' Soweto's Chris Sani Baragwanath Hospital facility outside Johannesburg on Nov. 30, 2020. Jerome Delay/AP

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Africa has backed the use of the  Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 even in countries reporting variants of the disease.

"While a vaccine that protects against all forms of Covid-19 illness is our biggest hope, preventing severe cases and hospitalizations which overwhelm hospitals and health systems is crucial," Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said at a press briefing Thursday.

The second wave of Covid-19 in Africa, which peaked in January, was more deadly than the first wave, according to Dr. Moeti. "Deaths have increased by 40% in the last 28 days compared to the previous 28 days," she noted.

The spike in deaths on the continent has left health workers and healthcare systems "dangerously overstretched," she said. 

With the rollout of vaccines, "if cases remain mostly mild and moderate and don't require critical care then we can save many lives," Dr. Moeti added. 

In addition to increased deaths, variants of Covid-19 are spreading across the continent, with seven other countries now reporting the B.1.351 variant that was first detected in South Africa, including Ghana, Kenya, Comoros, Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia. 

Two people who traveled from Tanzania to the UK were found to be carrying the variant linked to South Africa, although Tanzania has not updated Covid-19 data since late April and denies the virus exists in the country. 

Vaccines are not yet being extensively administered in Africa but WHO expects substantive rollouts to begin in March.

Separately, WHO acknowledged two fatal cases in a new Ebola outbreak in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 200 contacts are being traced.