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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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.

Watch more:

11:50 a.m. ET, February 12, 2021

UK Covid-19 full-range R rate falls below 1 for the first time since July

From CNN's Samantha Tapfumaneyi in London

The UK’s Covid-19 reproduction number (R) is now estimated at between 0.7 and 0.9, the country's Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said on Friday.

This is the first time the full range of the R rate has fallen below 1 since July 2020, according to PA Media.

The R number falling to between 0.7 and 0.9 means that “on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 7 and 9 other people,” explained the DHSC on its website.

 Last week, the R number was between 0.7 and 1.0, with the DHSC saying it was “confident" the epidemic was shrinking.


11:25 a.m. ET, February 12, 2021

Coronavirus antibody tests results vary a lot depending on when people get them, study finds

From CNN Health’s Maggie Fox

Antibody tests designed to tell people whether they’ve had a previous coronavirus infection vary greatly in their results depending on when people take the tests and who the people are, researchers reported Friday.

People who had recently been infected were more likely to test negative on an antibody test, the team at the University of California, San Francisco found. They found 112 days after a person was diagnosed with coronavirus appeared to be the optimal time for an accurate antibody test result.

“The sensitivity of the antibody test varied by sex and age, with significantly higher sensitivity among males than among females,” the team wrote in the journal JAMA Network Open.

The team looked at 486 patients who were diagnosed using polymerase chain reaction or PCR testing – the gold standard for coronavirus testing – and who later came back for antibody tests.

“The sensitivity was highest at 126 days after positive RT-PCR results for males and 133 days after positive RT-PCR results for females. The sensitivity also varied significantly by age group, with the highest sensitivity among patients aged 50 to 59 years,” the researchers wrote.

Testing too soon, they said, might lead to a false negative result. Test types varied greatly in their accuracy, also, the team said.

11:55 a.m. ET, February 12, 2021

Iran reports more cases and deaths, as it begins Russian vaccine rollout

From CNN’s Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Kareem Khadder in Jerusalem 

Health care staff treat a Covid-19 patient in the intensive care unit at Firouzabadi Hospital in Tehran, Iran, in December 2020.
Health care staff treat a Covid-19 patient in the intensive care unit at Firouzabadi Hospital in Tehran, Iran, in December 2020. Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Iran reported 7,298 new daily coronavirus cases on Friday, bringing the country's total number of cases to 1,503,753, Iran’s health ministry spokesperson said. 

The new Covid-19 related case infection numbers were announced by the spokesperson, Sima Sadaat Lari, in a news conference on state TV. 

The country also reported 65 new related Covid-19 deaths, which took its death toll to 58,809 on Friday.

The health ministry said 3,729 patients remain hospitalized in ICU. 

Iran is the Middle East country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic in total cases and deaths.  

On Tuesday, Iran began its rollout of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, according to a live broadcast on state television. 

Health Minister Saeed Namaki said the top priority groups for vaccination are doctors and nurses working in intensive care units of hospitals. 1,000 vaccine shots are being given on a daily basis to medical staff and people over the age of 65, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported on Friday. 

The country has continued to keep restrictions in place to avoid a larger outbreak of cases. 

11:50 a.m. ET, February 12, 2021

Cases fall in Israel, which is on track to ease restrictions on February 23

From CNN's Andrew Carey and Amir Tal in Jerusalem

A medical worker holds a Covid-19 test sample in Petah Tikva, Israel, in October 2020.
A medical worker holds a Covid-19 test sample in Petah Tikva, Israel, in October 2020. Chine Nouvelle/Sipa/Shutterstock

Israel’s coronavirus data is moving in the right direction, with the number of people in serious condition from the disease dipping under 1,000 for the first time in several weeks, according to information from the country's Health Ministry.

A total of 985 people are currently in a serious condition with Covid-19. And in another sign that Israel’s vaccine drive could be starting to have an effect, there are now fewer Covid-19 hospitalizations among the over-60s than there are among the under-60s, according to Professor Eran Segal from Israel’s respected Weizmann Institute.

Data on cases and hospitalizations in Israel is being closely watched around the world, as the country jumped into an early lead globally in administering shots to its citizens.

The over-60s were the first demographic in Israel to receive the coronavirus vaccination and more than 90% of that age group have now either been vaccinated or been infected with the virus already, Egal says.

Israel’s reproduction rate is also falling and currently stands at 0.88, comfortably below the important level of 1. The positivity rate on tests also continues to decline, currently at 6.7%

Speaking on the Kan broadcaster Friday, Israel’s coronavirus czar, Nachman Ash, says the country is on track for a significant easing of restrictions on economic activity on February 23, though he did not go into details of exactly which parts of the economy he foresaw opening up on that date.

He also indicated that possession of what is often termed a “green pass” -- proof of vaccination or of having recovered from the disease -- could be used to determine access to certain activities. 

Entry to essential services, like shops, would be available to everybody, he said, but for non-essential activity, like attending cultural events or eating out in restaurants, priority would likely be given to those with a green pass.

More than 3,750,000 people in Israel have now received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, of which nearly 2,400,000 have received their second dose as well.

11:23 a.m. ET, February 12, 2021

Trump's Covid-19 condition was worse than his team let on

Then US President Donald Trump leaves the White House for Walter Reed medical center on October 2, 2020, after his Covid-19 diagnosis.
Then US President Donald Trump leaves the White House for Walter Reed medical center on October 2, 2020, after his Covid-19 diagnosis. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Former US President Donald Trump's condition with Covid-19 became so concerning last year that there was talk of putting him on a ventilator, according to what Trump told one person at the time, raising questions over whether the White House downplayed the seriousness of his situation.

The new details of what happened while Trump was hospitalized at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in October were first reported by The New York Times on Thursday. CNN reported at the time that Trump had received supplemental oxygen, citing a source with knowledge of Trump's treatment.

The details invite new scrutiny over waffling remarks by Trump's physician, Dr. Sean Conley, who last year refused to directly answer reporters' questions about whether Trump was on oxygen, repeatedly emphasizing that he was not "right now." When he was asked if Trump had received it at all, Conley said: "He has not needed any this morning, today at all." Asked if he had ever been on supplemental oxygen as part of his treatment, Conley said: "Right now he is not," adding, "Yesterday and today, he was not on oxygen."

Here's what else you need to know on Friday...

Q: With coronavirus variants here, should I still get the vaccine?

A: Absolutely, says CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen. The efficacy of vaccines against new variants will need to be continually studied, and it's possible that as more mutations and variants emerge, we will need booster shots, or even an annual vaccine like the flu shot, which is updated every year.

But we simply don't know when these booster shots might come out, Dr. Wen said. "It may be months, and the booster shots may require that you first have completed the vaccine series. If you have the opportunity to get the vaccine now, you should do so to protect yourself. Remember that the vaccines we have are still effective against the variants." Read here for more information from Dr. Wen.

Fans banned from Australian Open after state records 13 Covid-19 cases: The Australian state of Victoria will lock down for five days in a bid to curb the spread of a more contagious coronavirus variant, meaning the Australian Open in Melbourne will go ahead without fans during what is usually its busiest few days.

Pfizer shot triggers strong immune response to new variants: A study has found that people who have received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine show strong immune responses to the Covid-19 variants first identified in the UK and South Africa.

WhatsApp and sermons: How some Britons are getting more Black people and other ethnic minority groups to take a vaccine: According to data from OpenSAFELY, Black people in the most vulnerable age group of over 80 were around half as likely to be vaccinated as their White counterparts in late January, even though Black people are disproportionately impacted by the virus, Christopher Johnson writes.

A version of this story appeared in the February 12 edition of CNN's Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.

9:40 a.m. ET, February 12, 2021

A year into the pandemic, the US has conducted more tests than it has residents

From CNN’s Amanda Watts and Haley Brink 

A person is tested for Covid-19 in Randolph, Massachusetts, on January 5.
A person is tested for Covid-19 in Randolph, Massachusetts, on January 5. Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Over a year since the first Covid-19 test was conducted in the United States, the nation has conducted more Covid-19 tests than it has US residents, according to Covid Tracking Project data. 

There have been 330,086,893 total test results as of Thursday – both positive and negative – according to CTP data. CTP started tracking testing in the US on January 22, 2020.

Testing across the United States is not standardized and each state reports their totals differently. Some states count tests by unique people, while others count specimens. Some states count antigen tests, while others do not. These fluctuations across the states often give an unclear picture of just how many tests are being conducted on a daily basis.  

Experts have maintained throughout the pandemic the importance of testing and contact tracing to help lower the spread of Covid-19. 

The US has seen a steady decline in testing since it peaked on January 21, 2021, CTP data shows. “The testing decline we’re now seeing is almost certainly due to a combination of reduced demand as well as reduced availability or accessibility of testing. Demand for testing may have dropped because fewer people are sick or have been exposed to infected individuals, but also perhaps because testing isn’t being promoted as heavily,” CTP said in a post on Thursday.  

8:39 a.m. ET, February 12, 2021

Germany, fearing new coronavirus variants, imposes border checks with Austria and Czech Republic

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová, Nadine Schmidt and Claudia Otto

A German Federal Police officer checks a driver arriving from Austria at the border between Kufstein, Austria, and Kiefersfelden, Germany, on February 9.
A German Federal Police officer checks a driver arriving from Austria at the border between Kufstein, Austria, and Kiefersfelden, Germany, on February 9. Peter Kneffel/picture alliance/Getty Images

Central Europe has become the continent's latest coronavirus hotspot, with Austria struggling to contain an outbreak of the new variant first identified in South Africa and neighboring Czech Republic facing hospital bed shortages on top of a political crisis over lockdowns.

The worsening situation in the Austrian province of Tyrol and the Czech Republic forced Germany to announce new border controls with both countries to contain the spread of the disease. German Health Minister Jens Spahn said the new rules, which will come into effect on Sunday, were "unavoidable."

''To protect the population from virus mutations -- this is why the federal government decided yesterday to declare the Czech Republic, Tyrol and Slovakia as coronavirus variant areas," Spahn said at a news conference Friday.

"This means there will be a ban on transportation -- and without exceptions tests must be made before entering Germany -- and there is an obligation to quarantine.'

Coronavirus cases have been falling in Germany recently despite the new, more contagious variants. On Friday, the country recorded 9,860 new infections -- a drop of 3,048 cases compared to the same day last week. Austria and the Czech Republic have not seen similar drops in cases.

The Tyrol government said Wednesday that as of Tuesday, it had identified 438 confirmed and suspected cases of the South African variant. Scientists are concerned about this strain because its mutations appear to reduce the efficacy of some of the coronavirus vaccines.

In an attempt to contain the spread of the variant, local authorities deployed 1,200 police officers and soldiers. Starting Friday at midnight and lasting for 10 days, they will be deployed to Tyrol's border checkpoints to ensure that anyone trying to leave the province has a negative coronavirus test no older than 48 hours, Tyrol police spokesman Stefan Eder told CNN.

Read the full story: