February 13 coronavirus news

By James Griffiths, Brett McKeehan and Amy Woodyatt, CNN

Updated 0516 GMT (1316 HKT) February 14, 2021
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2:07 a.m. ET, February 13, 2021

US records 97,525 more coronavirus cases and 5,323 related deaths

From CNN's Alta Spells in Atlanta

A worker checks in a person with an appointment to receive a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a CVS Pharmacy location in Eastchester, New York on February 12.
A worker checks in a person with an appointment to receive a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a CVS Pharmacy location in Eastchester, New York on February 12. Gabriela Bhaskar/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The United States recorded an additional 97,525 new coronavirus cases and 5,323 more deaths Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally.

Friday's toll includes more than 2,400 backlogged deaths from Ohio. The state's health department said on February 10 that some 4,000 deaths "may have been underreported through the state’s reporting system" and would be added to future tallies.

"Process issues affecting the reconciliation and reporting of these deaths began in October. The largest number of deaths were from November and December," the department said in a statement. "Although being reported this week, the deaths will reflect the appropriate date of death on the state’s Covid-19 dashboard."

Friday's figures bring the national total to 27,490,037 cases and 480,767 deaths, across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and US territories.

So far, at least 69,014,725 vaccine doses have been distributed, with some 48,410,558 shots administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

11:30 p.m. ET, February 12, 2021

Flights to Australian state of Victoria suspended during snap lockdown

From CNN's Angus Watson in Melbourne

Flights to Victoria have been suspended as the Australian state begins a hard five-day lockdown, Premier Daniel Andrews said Saturday. 

No flights will be allowed into Victoria until next Thursday, other than those carrying more than 100 passengers who have already commenced travel to the state.

“A lot of people will be hurting today,” Andrews said at his daily news briefing, adding “we can't have a situation where in two weeks' time, we look back and wish we had taken these decisions now.” 

Victoria recorded one additional Covid-19 case Saturday, connected to the recent Holiday Inn cluster. A total of 14 confirmed cases of the UK variant have been linked to the cluster. 

The state entered the five-day “circuit breaker” lockdown at 11:59 p.m. local time on February 12.  

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

California to expand vaccine eligibility to millions with pre-existing conditions

From CNN's Stephanie Becker and Cheri Mossburg

A health care worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination site in Las Mesa, California, on February 11.
A health care worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination site in Las Mesa, California, on February 11. Bing Guan/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The US state of California is adding millions of people to its Covid-19 vaccination priority list, including residents “at high risk with developmental and other disabilities" and those with “serious underlying health conditions."

The plan, outlined by state health officials in a briefing Friday, will begin March 15 and allow cancer patients, pregnant women, and other disabled individuals to join health care workers, seniors, teachers, and farm staff in line for a vaccine. The expansion could add as many as 6 million more Californians to the priority list.

It also broadens the ages from 65 and over to ages 16 to 64 in those categories.

California Health and Human Service Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly told reporters the March 15 start will give officials time to work out details on how to get vaccines to those with various disabilities and could include at-home visits.

Ghaly acknowledged the timing could be optimistic, cautioning “we are still dealing with the scarcity of vaccine. This week the drastic shortfall of vaccines in the state led to the closure of the mass vaccination centers in Los Angeles."

The expanded list of those eligible includes people with cancer, chronic kidney disease, oxygen-dependent heart disease, Down Syndrome, immune-suppressed organ transplant recipients, pregnant women, people with sickle cell disease, severe obesity and certain type-2 diabetes.

Ghaly expressed concern about the inequity of distribution among communities of color and low-income areas. There are plans to reach out to community clinics, public health systems and what they’re calling “trusted messengers in communities that data shows are reluctant to get vaccinated."

Senior state health officials acknowledged complaints from rural counties that they have not been given their fair share of vaccines. However, officials say these areas have historically been medically underserved and much of the early distribution was in areas with high numbers of medical workers.

Officials say the focus will now be shifting to rural areas in California’s agricultural community, which has been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic.

Officials also believe a focus on Californians with development disabilities and severe underlying conditions will allow more vaccinations in vulnerable settings, like jails, homeless shelters and areas where homeless reside.

The state estimates 13 million Californians are eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine, including 3 million health care workers, 3.4 million food and agricultural workers, 1.4 million in the education sector, a million in emergency services and more than 6 million people over the age of 65.

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

Ohio will cut off personnel vaccinations if schools don’t honor March 1 reopening agreement, governor warns

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks during a news conference in Columbus, Ohio, on February 12.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks during a news conference in Columbus, Ohio, on February 12. The Ohio Channel

Ohio officials have learned that a handful of schools indicated they will break the commitment they signed to reopen schools full-time or in a hybrid model by March 1, in return for receiving vaccines for their personnel, Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday.

“This is simply not acceptable. This is about the kids... We said to our school districts that we would take some of the precious vaccine allotted to Ohio and vaccinate teachers and other staff as long as they'd be back in school full-time or in a hybrid model no later than March 1,” DeWine said in a news conference.

DeWine warned that if schools do not intend to return by March 1, vaccines will need to be reallocated from their personnel and back to other eligible, vulnerable populations. 

The governor said the issue came to a head Friday while health workers were vaccinating personnel at Cleveland Public Schools, but heard they were not going to return by March 1.

“I expressed to the CEO, I said look, we’ll just have to cut off the vaccinations, because that’s the deal,” DeWine said.

The governor said the Cleveland Public Schools CEO had made a commitment to do everything in his power to get children back in class by March 1.

“Frankly, the purpose of this is not to threaten anybody or punish, the purpose is let's get our kids back to school, let’s get this worked out,” DeWine said. “We’re not forcing anybody to go back into school, but we felt that if we offered this (vaccinations), it might give them more comfort and feel better about going back to school.”

DeWine emphasized there is no requirement that any school in the state go back to in-person learning.

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

Almost all US kids live in Covid-19 "red" zones under new CDC school guidance

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

Children arrive for class on December 7, 2020, in New York City.
Children arrive for class on December 7, 2020, in New York City. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

About 99% of children in the US live in a county considered a “red” zone with high levels of Covid-19 transmission under new guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to a CNN analysis of federal data.

Nearly 73 million children – about 99% of the US population under the age of 18 – live in a “high transmission” community, defined by the CDC as a county where there were at least 100 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people or a test positivity rate of at least 10% during the past seven days.

In these zones, the new CDC guidelines recommend virtual learning for middle and high schools and hybrid learning or reduced attendance for elementary schools.

The CDC also stresses five key mitigation strategies: requiring masks, physical distancing, hand-washing, maintaining clean facilities and contract tracing.

It also recommends different strategies based on how much transmission there is in the surrounding community, and has a color-coded guide with areas of high transmission colored red; substantial transmission colored orange; moderate transmission coded yellow and low transmission as blue.

The CDC says school districts should reassess weekly.

If schools in “high transmission” communities cannot “strictly implement all mitigation strategies,” the CDC says all extracurricular activities should be virtual.

Fewer than 100,000 children in the US live in a county considered “low” or “moderate transmission” where the CDC recommends K-12 schools open for full in-person instruction. Most of those students live in Hawaii or Washington.

The CNN analysis used the latest federal data on new case rates and test positivity rates, published Thursday by the US Health and Human Services Department, to determine each county’s risk threshold according to CDC guidelines.