February 16 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Brad Lendon, Zamira Rahim, Mary Ilyushina and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 10:49 p.m. ET, February 17, 2021
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1:40 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Fauci says timeline for mass vaccinations could shift "maybe into mid-to-late May and early June"

 From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto Tuesday he thinks the process of widespread vaccinations will likely start in the spring and large portions of the public will be able to be vaccinated by the end of the summer.

Fauci acknowledged that previous estimates had placed vaccine availability for the general public closer to the end of April. He said vaccine availability to large parts of the public could depend on the Johnson & Johnson candidate, which has not yet been given emergency use authorization but is in the process.

“If you start talking about when vaccine would be more widely available to the general population, I was hoping that that would be by the end of April, namely, have gone through all the priorities and now say, OK anyone can get it,” Fauci said. “That was predicated on J&J, the Johnson product, having considerably more doses than now we know they’re going to have.” 

“So, that timeline will probably be prolonged, maybe into mid-to-late May and early June, that’s fine,” Fauci said.

Johnson & Johnson will have fewer than 10 million vaccine doses available if the US Food and Drug Administration authorizes it for emergency use in the coming weeks, a federal health official told CNN earlier this month. 

The official said the number of doses available would be in the single-digit millions, but that number would ramp up to 20 or 30 million doses by April. 

The FDA has scheduled its meeting of independent experts to evaluate the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and make a recommendation on Feb. 26.


11:04 a.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Moderna has supplied 45.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to US

From CNN's John Bonifield

A medical worker prepares a vial of the Moderna vaccine to be administered at Bible-Based Fellowship Church on February 13, in Tampa, Florida.
A medical worker prepares a vial of the Moderna vaccine to be administered at Bible-Based Fellowship Church on February 13, in Tampa, Florida. Octavio Jones/Getty Images

Moderna has supplied 45.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to the United States, the company announced Tuesday.

The company said data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows about 25.5 million doses of its vaccine have been administered across the nation.

An additional 33.2 million doses have been filled into vials and are going through final production and testing before being released to the government, according to the company's latest supply update. 

Some of the doses have not been released due to delays.

"Short term delays in the final stages of production and release of filled vials at Moderna’s fill and finish contractor Catalent have recently delayed the release of some doses, but these delays are expected to be resolved in the near term and are not expected to impact monthly delivery targets," the company said in a press release.

Moderna said it expects to deliver 100 million doses by the end of March, followed by an additional 100 million doses by the end of May and another 100 million doses by the end of July.

10:59 a.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Dr. Fauci: Decline in Covid-19 cases should not make Americans complacent

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

As Covid-19 cases continue to decline in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci says it’s still important to remain careful.

“We’ve just got to be careful about getting too excited about that because we do have the challenge of variants,” he told CNN. “One of the things that we need to make sure we do is we don't get complacent when we see those numbers go down.”

Americans must continue with public health measures until the case count is “so low that it is no longer a threat,” he urged.

The decline in cases, continued public health measures and ongoing vaccinations could together help the US go in the right direction, he added.

While experts watch out for the variants, Fauci said the variant originating from the UK is likely to get dominant in the United States by the end of March but the vaccines being administered protect against that, which is “good news.”

The process of widespread vaccinations will likely start in the spring and large portions of the public will be able to be vaccinated by the end of the summer, he told CNN.

Watch the interview here:

10:08 a.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Severe Covid-19 infection may also be linked to eye damage, study suggests 

From CNN's Christopher Rios

A new study suggests that Covid-19 may cause damage to the eyes in critically ill patients.  

For the study, published in the journal Radiology, researchers reviewed magnetic resonance imaging of 129 patients presenting with severe Covid-19 in France between March 4 and May 1. 

Advanced imaging tests showed nine of the 129 (7%) patients had one or several irregularities at the back of the eyes. The irregularities could indicate possible damage or blockage of blood vessels, small bleeds in the eye or disruption of nerve fibers. 

All but one of the affected patients had damage in both eyes. 

But due to the lack of “systematic ophthalmological examination” of patients in the ICU, researchers were limited by data and unable to correlate their radiographic findings with vision changes. 

Researchers think these findings may be caused by widespread blood clotting in small vessels and disruption of an enzyme that protects the eye from damage. They also suggest the finding could be linked to increased pressure in the eyes caused by positioning ICU patients face-down (prone position) when on mechanical ventilation. 

Further research is needed to determine exactly what is causing damage to the eye in these critically ill patients and how this damage changes with time, the researchers said.

But the current study suggests that doctors should consider screening patients with severe Covid-19 for ocular problems.  

“Our data support the need for screening and follow-up of patients to provide appropriate treatment and improve the management of potentially severe ophiological manifestations,” the authors said.

9:55 a.m. ET, February 16, 2021

White House Covid-19 adviser says drop in US cases could be "misleading" in face of variants

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Andy Slavitt, White House Covid-19 senior adviser, said on MSNBC Monday the drop in Covid-19 cases could be “misleading,” and the virus could have “a lot of surprises in store for us.”

Among those surprises are the variants, he said, noting that the variant first identified in the UK – or B.1.1.7 – is more virulent. 

“I think we should be assuming that the next wave of case growth, to the extent that we have it, is going to be with B.1.1.7, and that’s something that I think everybody has to be even more cautious about,” he said. “It’s nice to see the numbers of cases drop, but it could be misleading.” 

Increases in cases aren’t inevitable if people protect themselves, he said, urging people to continue to wear masks and follow guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Ultimately, science will win here, ultimately, we will beat this,” Slavitt said. “But I don’t think we’re anywhere close to out of the woods.”


9:48 a.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Connecticut identifies first case of Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa

From CNN’s Alec Snyder

The Connecticut Department of Public Health has detected its first positive case of the B.1.351 variant of Covid-19, according to a Monday DPH release.

The strain, first identified in South Africa, was detected “in a Connecticut patient who is currently hospitalized out of state with the virus,” the release said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed in a Monday press conference that a New York hospital was treating a Connecticut-based patient who had contracted the variant.

The patient is between 60 and 70 years old and has not traveled recently, according to the DPH release, but it did not identify the patient’s sex or whether that individual has any underlying health conditions.

Connecticut DPH and local health officials are “coordinating with officials in New York” and all contact tracing efforts have been completed, the release said. 

The state has already confirmed 42 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, the release stated, which is believed to have originated in the United Kingdom.

9:20 a.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Chile has vaccinated more than 2 million people

From CNN's Florencia Trucco and Mitchell McCluskey

A healthcare worker administers a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac to a teacher at a vaccination center in Santiago, Chile, on February 15, 2021.
A healthcare worker administers a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac to a teacher at a vaccination center in Santiago, Chile, on February 15, 2021. Martin Bernetti/Getty Images

Chile has vaccinated more than 2 million people, the ministry of health announced on Monday.

A total of��2,092,453 people received at least the first dose, the ministry said. 

Chile's mass vaccination campaign began on Feb. 4, with the country distributing the Pfizer/BioNTech and Sinovac vaccines to healthcare workers, the elderly and educational personnel.

The first vaccine doses arrived in the country in December and were given to medical workers beginning Dec. 24. 

"We will not lower our arms until we vaccinate them all. Together we will make 2021 the year of hope and the recovery of our dreams and life projects," President Sebastián Piñera said on Twitter. 

Chile has recorded 779,541 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 19,624 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.


11:05 a.m. ET, February 16, 2021

US needs to conduct more sequencing to track homegrown variants, virologist says 

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

People enter a COVID-19 testing site on February 13, in Seattle, Washington.
People enter a COVID-19 testing site on February 13, in Seattle, Washington. David Ryder/Getty Images

Researchers said they have identified a batch of similar mutations in coronavirus samples circulating in the United States. Virologist Jeremy Kamil, an author on the study, said “there’s really no excuse” why the US hasn’t done more sequencing to glean additional data on the virus. 

The genetic stretch that is mutated, or changed, is called 677. The researchers identified seven similar mutations at 677 — each one appearing to have arisen independently, they wrote in a pre-print report.

“Our study identified seven [mutations], but there's a giant family tree of the coronavirus in humans as it spilled into us. And our country has really not done enough to keep up to date or keep up tabs on what the virus is doing,” Kamil, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Louisiana State University Health Shreveport, told CNN’s John Berman. 

“I think the bigger message is that we need to be doing a better job — and a more even job — sequencing the virus so we can know whether there are changes to be concerned about or not,” he said. 

Kamil also stressed that there is no evidence yet that these variants are making the virus more transmissible or dangerous, and they should not have an effect on vaccines. 


8:34 a.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Dutch government appeals court decision after judge orders lifting of Covid-19 curfew

From CNN’s Mick Krever

The Dutch government has filed an “urgent appeal” after a court ruling ordered officials to “immediately” lift a curfew intended to reduce coronavirus infections.

The restriction has been in effect nightly from 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. since January 23.

“The curfew is a far-reaching violation of the right of freedom of movement and privacy and limits [indirectly] among other things the rights to freedom of assembly and demonstration. This makes a very diligent decision-making process necessary," the judge said in the Tuesday ruling.

Later the court said the government had appealed the decision.

“The State has asked the court to suspend the decision of the preliminary relief judge pending the final decision on appeal,” the court said in a statement.
“That is to say that the State wants the curfew to remain in effect until the Hague court makes a definitive ruling on the question of whether the curfew should be annulled.”

The request to suspend the decision will be heard in person at 4 p.m. local time on Tuesday (10am ET).

The court will only hear arguments on whether or not to keep the curfew in effect while the appeal is being heard; it will not rule today on the appeal itself.

A lifting of the curfew would have “serious consequences” for fighting the pandemic, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a hastily schedule news conference on Tuesday.

If the government is forced to remove it because it was not put into place under the “correct legal basis,” Rutte said, “that does not mean that this measure is not necessary.”

The curfew is a means. The curfew is not a goal,” he said. “And that goal is to keep that virus, the coronavirus, as much as possible under control, so that we can get all our freedoms back soon, but in a safe way.”

Whether or not a court allows the curfew to stay in place pending appeal, Rutte urged people in the Netherlands to stay at home during the 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. curfew hours.

“I ask everyone to abide by the curfew, at least until later this week when there is more clarity in that case,” he said.