February 12 coronavirus news

By Rob Picheta, Tara John, Cristiana Moisescu, Hannah Strange, Brett McKeehan and Brad Lendon, CNN

Updated 12:03 a.m. ET, February 13, 2021
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5:54 p.m. ET, February 12, 2021

US Department of Education releases Covid-19 handbook along with CDC guidelines for reopening schools

From CNN's Maggie Fox

The US Department of Education released a handbook with detailed strategies to help schools follow new guidance for reopening from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a top official said Friday.

The CDC issued school opening guidance that stresses mask use; social distancing; handwashing; cleaning facilities and improving ventilation; and contact tracing, isolation and quarantine.

To help schools, the Department of Education issued the first in a series of handbooks, Donna Harris-Aikens, senior adviser for policy and planning for the department, told a CDC news briefing.

“All of our handbooks could supplement the CDC operational strategy with practical examples, and roadmap. We want to give educators and schools the tools they need to implement mitigation strategies to help safely reopen for in-person learning,” Harris-Aikens said.

One example: using signs to remind students to wear masks, she added.

There’s also guidance on how to keep students physically distanced, Harris-Aikens said.

“For example, the handbook talks through a variety of strategies around podding. Podding can actually reduce the spread of Covid by keeping students together into a pod that stay together all day with a core teacher and aide -- and we acknowledge that this strategy is actually easier in elementary schools than it would be in middle and high school."

“The handbook also discusses ways to get creative about laying out classrooms, and using auditoriums and cafeterias for instruction," she added.

4:54 p.m. ET, February 12, 2021

Trudeau: Canadians need to stay 'hunkered down' a little longer

From CNN’s Paula Newton

Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on February 12.
Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on February 12. David Kawai/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The spread of new variants and a sluggish vaccine rollout has Canadian officials urging caution even as new cases and hospitalizations from COVID-19 drop. 

“The new variants that are more communicable, more easily transmitted, are increasingly out there so we need to stay careful,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a press conference Friday.

“Nobody wants a third wave to start, particularly not one comprised of new, more communicable variants that can cause real challenges,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau also announced details of stepped-up international border restrictions. 

International travelers arriving in Canada by air will have to pre-book a government-approved, quarantine hotel, at their own expense, starting February 22nd. There are exemptions for essential travel. 

Air passengers will also be tested at airports when they arrive. The quarantine is likely to last about 3 days or until the traveler’s COVID-19 test comes back negative. Those who test negative can continue with a 14-day quarantine at home or an appropriate quarantine location. 

In addition, before entering Canada either by land or air, travelers will have to show proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test 72 hours before arriving. 

"We're trying to keep people safe and keeping Canadians safe from the viruses and discouraging all nonessential travel and ensuring that if people do have to travel, they're doing the things that we can be certain are going to prevent the virus from spreading," said Trudeau. 

There have only been a few hundred cases of the variants identified in Canada so far, most of them the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the UK. 

However, public health officials have been warning that the incidence of variants could double every 10 to 14 days and that means there is a risk of a third wave of the pandemic hitting Canada. 

“These past weeks have been very challenging, but we've made great progress and are now almost two-thirds of the way down this curve. But we'll need to keep putting the brakes on the spread of new virus variants of concern in Canada,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer during a COVID-19 update on Friday.

3:41 p.m. ET, February 12, 2021

Nearly a third of adults are undecided about the Covid-19 vaccine, analysis shows

From CNN Health’s Lauren Mascarenhas

A medical technician fills a syringe from a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Bates Memorial Baptist Church on February 12 in Louisville, Kentucky.
A medical technician fills a syringe from a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Bates Memorial Baptist Church on February 12 in Louisville, Kentucky. Jon Cherry/Getty Images

When it comes to the Covid-19 vaccine, about 31% of adults say they plan to “wait and see” how it works for other people before deciding whether to get vaccinated themselves, according to a report released by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Friday.

Because they are still undecided, KFF says that group is a smart target for vaccine education. To do that, the foundation notes that it’s important to understand the group is not a monolith and concerns about getting vaccinated vary. 

About half of those in the “wait and see” group are White, 16% are Black and 19% are Hispanic. A majority say they are worried that they or a family member will get sick from coronavirus. 

Over half of the “wait and see group” view getting vaccinated as a personal choice and just 40% see vaccination as a responsibility to protect others.

The “wait and see group” are also politically diverse; 42% identify as Democrats or Democratic leaning and 36% identify as Republicans or Republican leaning. 

About 67% of “wait and see” Republicans view the decision to get vaccinated as a personal choice, relative to 43% of Democrats. 52% of “wait and see” Democrats believe everyone has a responsibility to protect the health of others while just 29% of “wait and see” Republicans believe the same.

About half of Republicans who want to “want and see” believe the seriousness of the pandemic has been exaggerated 

Black and Hispanic adults who plan to “wait and see” are very concerned about the prospect of personally getting sick or having a family member getting sick from coronavirus. However, many are skeptical of the vaccine and the health care system at large.  

About 61% of Hispanic adults and 59% of Black adults in the “wait and see” group said they were concerned that they might get coronavirus from the vaccine. About 57% of “wait and see” Black adults expressed distrust in the health care system and KFF noted that the lower levels of trust are associated with lower uptake of the vaccine. 

Many who say they plan to “wait and see” said that a close friend or family member getting vaccinated would be most likely to sway their decision.

3:05 p.m. ET, February 12, 2021

CDC releases new recommendations on reopening schools, with five key strategies

From CNN Health's Elizabeth Cohen and Jacqueline Howard

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is seen in Atlanta on December 10, 2020.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is seen in Atlanta on December 10, 2020. Jason Armond /Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday released guidelines for reopening schools, including “five key mitigation strategies” for returning to in-person school safely.

Those five key strategies are: the universal and correct wearing of masks; physical distancing; washing hands; cleaning facilities and improving ventilation; and doing contact tracing, isolation and quarantining.

The CDC says vaccination and testing “provide additional layers of COVID-19 prevention in schools,” but don’t describe them as key strategies.

"With the release of this operational strategy, CDC is not mandating that schools reopen. These recommendations simply provide schools a long-needed roadmap for how to do so safely under different levels of disease in the community," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in prepared remarks for the agency’s news briefing on Friday. 

"We also know that some schools are already providing in-person instruction and we want them to be able to continue to do this, but we know that some are not following the mitigation strategies we know work," Walensky said. "For these schools, we are not mandating that they close; rather, we are providing these recommendations and highlighting the science behind them to help schools create an environment that is safe for students, teachers and staff."

Walensky added that while each strategy is important, CDC recommends "prioritizing the first two" -- wearing masks and physical distancing.

“These two strategies are incredibly important in areas that have high community spread of Covid-19, which right now is the vast majority of communities in the US," Walensky said.

2:29 p.m. ET, February 12, 2021

New York has now given 2 million vaccine doses

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

People wait in line to enter the coronavirus vaccination site at Yankee Stadium on February 5 in New York City.
People wait in line to enter the coronavirus vaccination site at Yankee Stadium on February 5 in New York City. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

New York has now administered 2 million vaccine doses -- over 130,000 of which have been given in the last 24 hours -- according to NY Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

The state's vaccination sites have administered 90 percent of the first dose vaccinations they has received, and 82 percent of first and second doses, the Governor said.

While the federal government has increased weekly supply by over 20% over the course of the next three weeks, his office said “New York's vast distribution network and large population of eligible individuals still far exceed the supply coming from the federal government.”

Approximately 7 million New Yorkers are eligible for vaccinations. 

1:26 p.m. ET, February 12, 2021

France’s health authority recommends single vaccine dose to those previously infected

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy

A nurse fills a syringe with a vial of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine at the Pasteur Institute, in Paris, on January 21.
A nurse fills a syringe with a vial of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine at the Pasteur Institute, in Paris, on January 21. Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images

France’s health authority has become the first to recommend that only one dose of the coronavirus vaccine be administered to people previously infected with coronavirus.

In a press release published Friday, the French National Authority for Health argued that people infected with Covid-19 keep an “immunity memory” and should only require one dose of a vaccine. Health authorities recommended that the vaccination be carried out after a 3-month delay from the person's infection date, but "preferably closer to a 6-month delay."

The government has yet to adopt the health authority’s recommendation.

France began its vaccination campaign on December 27, and there are currently three vaccines authorized for use – Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Moderna – which are all two-dose vaccines.

1:01 p.m. ET, February 12, 2021

Italy extends travel ban between regions, as four regions tighten Covid-19 restrictions

From CNN's Livia Borghese in Rome

Italy is extending its travel ban between regions by another week to February 25, the government said. The travel ban does have some exceptions, including travel for health reasons or for emergencies.

Additionally, the regions of Tuscany, Abruzzo, and Liguria, as well as the province of Trento, will tighten coronavirus restrictions, according to an Italian Health Ministry statement. These regions will be placed into Italy's middle tier of restrictions -- called “orange zones" -- meaning that museums will close and restaurants and bars can only open for takeout services.

Areas where clusters of the UK variant have been discovered, such as the city of Perugia, will also have increased restrictions, according to the Health Ministry. Nearly one in five coronavirus infections in Italy are from the UK variant, according to a Health Ministry study released Friday. 

The UK variant “is likely to become the prevalent one in the coming months,” said the Health Ministry press release, adding that an estimated 17.8% of cases nationwide are from the UK variant of the virus.

On Friday, Italy recorded a further 13,908 new cases of coronavirus and 316 additional deaths, according to the latest government data. 

12:29 p.m. ET, February 12, 2021

Vitamin C and zinc don't help Covid-19 patients, study finds

From CNN Health’s Maggie Fox

Vitamin C and zinc don’t do anything to help coronavirus patients, a Cleveland Clinic team reported Friday.

Their research is the first major randomized study looking at the popular supplements, given under medical supervision, and it found even high doses did nothing to help patients recover from Covid-19.

The team at the Cleveland Clinic health system randomly assigned 214 patients to get varying doses of ascorbic acid, commonly known as vitamin C, and zinc, between April and October of last year. 

“In this randomized clinical trial of ambulatory patients diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 infection, treatment with high-dose zinc gluconate, ascorbic acid, or a combination of the two supplements did not significantly decrease the duration of symptoms compared with standard of care,” the team wrote in the journal JAMA Network Open.

“Most consumers of ascorbic acid and zinc are taking significantly lower doses of these supplements, so demonstrating that even high-dose ascorbic acid and zinc had no benefit suggests clear lack of efficacy,” Dr. Milind Desai of the Cleveland Clinic and colleagues wrote. 

“In addition, administering supplements with unproven benefit can be detrimental due to adverse effects. Zinc has been shown to cause a metallic taste, dry mouth, and gastrointestinal intolerance in high doses. Ascorbic acid can cause gastrointestinal intolerance, and in the current study, a significantly higher proportion of patients in the ascorbic acid subgroups reported adverse effects, including nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.”

12:14 p.m. ET, February 12, 2021

What it's like outside a Walgreens getting ready to administer Covid-19 vaccines to the public

Last week, the Biden administration announced it will begin direct shipments of coronavirus vaccines to retail pharmacies, expanding points of access for Americans to receive shots as concerns about variants of the virus expand.

Jason Carroll is outside one Walgreens pharmacy in New Britain, Connecticut, as they begin to administer Covid-19 vaccines to the public.

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