February 15 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Brad Lendon, Kara Fox and Mary Ilyushina, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, February 16, 2021
37 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
5:14 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

Las Vegas providing free Covid-19 vaccinations to utility workers and people over 70

From CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian

As Nevada rolls out its new approach to reopening dubbed “Nevada’s Roadmap to Recovery”, Las Vegas announced it is making vaccination appointments available for people over the age of 70 and utility workers starting Wednesday.

Utility workers eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine include those who are employed by providers of gas, power, water and sanitation services, according to a statement from Las Vegas City Council.

The free Covid-19 vaccinations will be provided in partnership with the Southern Nevada Health District and will be administered to the aforementioned groups from Wednesday through Friday at the Chuck Minker Sports Complex.

The clinic at the Chuck Minker Sports Complex will have a limit of administering 1,100 vaccine doses a day. 

4:35 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

In letter to Biden, governors say some federal vaccine distribution efforts are creating confusion

From CNN's Greg Wallace and Kevin Liptak

President Joe Biden speaks in the Oval Office of the White House on February 11 in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden speaks in the Oval Office of the White House on February 11 in Washington, DC. Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images

The National Governors Association wrote to President Biden on Monday requesting better coordination between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and states on vaccine distribution.  

The bipartisan group of governors raised alarm with two areas of confusion: first, the numbers the agency publicly reports for vaccine distribution, and second, a recently-launched program where the federal government sends vaccines directly to pharmacies.  

The group said the issues with public reporting of vaccine distribution has been ongoing “since last year” – the days of the Trump administration and has created “unnecessary confusion.” State officials have said the publicly reported numbers of vaccines allocated by the federal government differed from what was actually on the ground in their states. Both numbers differ from the actual vaccines health care providers have administered into arms.  

The governors also wrote they are concerned that they don’t have visibility into some of the federal government’s distribution efforts within their states, and that in some cases, the federal government and the states are allocating vaccine to the same pharmacies.

“If the federal government distributes independently of the states to these same entities without state coordination and consultation, redundancy and inefficiency may very well follow,” the governors wrote. 

CNN has reached out the to the White House for a response.

4:12 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

89% of US children live in "high transmission" communities under CDC guidelines for school reopening

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 89% of children in the US live in a county considered a red zone with high levels of Covid-19 transmission under new school opening guidelines shared by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, according to a CNN analysis of federal data.

Red, or “high transmission,” communities are defined by the CDC as counties 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.

When the CDC guidance was released on Friday, closer to 99% of children lived in red zones, according to CNN’s analysis. The CDC says school districts should re-assess weekly, noting that transmission levels will change over time. 

The CDC guidelines stress five key mitigation strategies:

  1. Requiring masks
  2. Physical distancing
  3. Handwashing
  4. Maintaining clean facilitie
  5. 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.

If schools in “high transmission” communities cannot “strictly implement all mitigation strategies,” the CDC says all extracurricular activities should be virtual. Plus middle and high schools should stick with virtual learning in these red zones, and elementary schools should maximize physical distance through hybrid learning or reduced attendance.

About 115,000 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.

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

Population data is from the US Census Bureau’s five-year American Community Survey 2019 estimates.

4:06 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

Covid-19 deaths top 47,000 in California

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

Transporters Miguel Lopez, right, and Noe Meza prepare to move a body of a COVID-19 victim to a morgue at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles on January 9.
Transporters Miguel Lopez, right, and Noe Meza prepare to move a body of a COVID-19 victim to a morgue at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles on January 9. Jae C. Hong/File/AP

California added 6,487 new Covid-19 cases Monday, the lowest daily increase since early November, according to state data, another sign the disastrous holiday surge continues to recede even as the state become the first in the nation to surpass 47,000 deaths. 

While Mondays often reflect lower case numbers due to weekend reporting lags, California has seen a steady decline in new cases after peaking at the beginning of the year with several days over 50,000 additional cases.

Health officials also reported 200 additional deaths Monday, bringing California to 47,043 total fatalities. The daily average over the past two weeks is well over 400 deaths, another number declining significantly. At the beginning of February, California was averaging 542 deaths each day.

California’s positivity rate stands at 4.3% today, nearly 10 points lower than the 14% marked in early January, which was the highest since widespread testing began in the state.

Hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions have also fallen steadily over the past month. Currently about 9,300 of those infected with Covid-19 are receiving in-patient treatment with 2,650 of those in intensive care units.

Note: These numbers were released by the California Department of Public Health and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database, which is drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project. 

4:02 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

West Virginia has fully vaccinated more than 140,000 people, governor says

From CNN’s Anna Sturla

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice speaks during a briefing on February 15.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice speaks during a briefing on February 15. Governor Jim Justice/Youtube

West Virginia has fully vaccinated 140,540 residents, with a total of 391,186 doses administered in the state, Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday. 

Justice said 250,646 residents have received their first dose.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reported two deaths and 301 new cases of Covid-19 over the last 24 hours, Justice added. The state had a daily percent positivity rate of 5.19%, he said.

The governor celebrated that none of the state's counties were marked "red," the highest-alert tier. He also marked a decrease in long-term care facility outbreaks.

Justice reported that there were 43 inmate and 14 staff Covid-19 cases in the state's correctional system, which included 24 in the Southern Regional Jail.

Note: These numbers were released by the state’s health agency, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project. 

3:51 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

Colombia receives first batch of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines

From CNN's Stefano Pozzebon and Mitchell McCluskey

Presidencia de Colombia
Presidencia de Colombia

Colombia received 50,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Monday, President Iván Duque announced.

It is the first batch of vaccine doses Colombia is scheduled to get from Pfizer/BioNTech.

“Today is a day to mourn those who passed away because of this painful illness […] but today shows this is the answer of a resilient country," Duque said from Bogotá’s International Airport where he personally observed and welcomed arrival of the vaccines.  

Duque said the country may receive up to 1.6 million doses over the next 30 days, thanks to bilateral deals with Pfizer/BioNTech and Sinopharm, as well as vaccines provided by the Covax mechanism.

“This is a titanic effort from our nation,” Duque said.

The distribution of the vaccine was set to begin on Saturday, but officials say they may begin rolling it out a few days earlier.

Colombia has reported at least 2,195,039 Coronavirus cases and 57,605 deaths so far, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

3:43 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

Vaccine advisers are keeping a close watch on new variants circulating the US

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

Dr. Wilbur Chen speaks during an interview on February 15.
Dr. Wilbur Chen speaks during an interview on February 15. CNN

Vaccine advisers say they’re keeping a close eye on the emergence of new variations of the coronavirus.

Researchers reported Sunday that they identified seven troubling new coronavirus variants circulating in the US – all affecting the same portion of the virus’ spike protein, near a region that may affect virulence. 

These new variants bear watching, Dr. Wilbur Chen, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Maryland Medical School, told CNN Monday.

Chen is also a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices

“As we see more and more of these variants and more mutations accumulating on that spike protein at the ever-important region called the receptor binding domain – that's a very specific part of the spike protein – that's where we fear there will be increased severity, but also the ability for the virus to potentially evade our diagnostic measures, perhaps monoclonal antibodies and vaccines as well,” Chen told CNN’s Brianna Keilar.

He said this doesn’t necessarily mean that vaccines won’t work against new variants.

“It's not like an on and off switch, where if we see variations, all of a sudden the vaccine just does not work at all,” he said. “It's more like a gradation. We're seeing that the mRNA-based vaccines have that 95% efficacy, but the more variants that we see, mutations on the face of the spike protein, we can see the efficacies decrease.”

He said the US will want to closely monitor these variants.

“We certainly want to preserve the full efficacy of these vaccines by preventing more variant viruses, but again, these vaccines are effective and they continue to be useful,” he said.

2:36 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

WHO gives emergency use listing to AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

A health worker prepares a dose of Covishield, AstraZeneca/Oxford's Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine made by India's Serum Institute, at an army hospital in Colombo on January 29.
A health worker prepares a dose of Covishield, AstraZeneca/Oxford's Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine made by India's Serum Institute, at an army hospital in Colombo on January 29. Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

The AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine was listed by the World Health Organization for emergency use on Monday, meaning that it can be rolled out globally through COVAX.

“Today we have even more reason to be hopeful of bringing the pandemic under control,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news briefing in Geneva on Monday. “Today, WHO gave emergency use listing to two versions of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, giving the green light for these vaccines to be rolled out globally through COVAX.”

Tedros explained that the “two versions” are the same vaccine being manufactured by two different producers – AstraZeneca-SKBio and the Serum Institute of India. They require separate reviews and approvals, as they are being made in different production plants.

Emergency use listing assesses the quality, safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines and is a prerequisite for the vaccines to be part of the COVAX supply, as well as allowing countries to expedite their own regulatory approval, according to a WHO news release, also on Monday.

For the two AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines, WHO assessed the quality, safety and efficacy data, risk management plans and programmatic suitability in less than four weeks. On Feb. 8, the vaccine was reviewed by WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), who recommended the vaccine for all groups age 18 and above.

SAGE recommended use of the vaccine for all people ages 18 and older, and that the two doses are administered eight to 12 weeks apart. Their interim recommendations say that it has an efficacy of 63.09% against symptomatic infection.

Along with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, these are the second and third vaccines to receive emergency use listing by WHO, Tedros said. Experts say they could have a major global impact because they cost less and are more easily distributed, since they do not have ultra-cold chain requirements.

1:37 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

Illinois surpasses 20,000 coronavirus-related deaths 

From CNN's Gregory Lemos and Brad Parks 

The Illinois Department of Public Health Monday reported 41 new Covid-19 related deaths, bringing the total number of lives lost in the state since the pandemic began to 20,002, according to a statement from the department.  

The department reported 1,420 new cases of Covid-19 and a 3.5% positivity rate. There are 1,789 people hospitalized with Covid-19, 389 patients in the ICU and 184 on ventilators.

Nearly 1.2 million people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in the state of Illinois since health department began tracking data, according to the statement.