February 17 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung and Sarah Faidell, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, February 18, 2021
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11:47 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021

Massachusetts is expanding eligibility for vaccinations, governor says

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

A man is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at La Colaborativa in Chelsea, Massachusetts on February 16, 2021.
A man is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at La Colaborativa in Chelsea, Massachusetts on February 16, 2021. Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

Individuals over the age of 65 and those 16 and older with two or more of certain medical conditions, including asthma, can begin booking appointments Thursday for vaccinations in the state of Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker's office said in a release.

Almost 1 million individuals are now eligible for vaccines, Baker’s office said.

The governor's office said that due to the "extremely high" demand for a vaccine it could take "more than a month" for all eligible individuals to secure an appointment "unless federal supply significantly increases."

The governor's office said that the state is receiving approximately 110,000 first doses per week from the federal government.

1:26 p.m. ET, February 17, 2021

New CDC reports warn that variants could lead to "rapid rise" in Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Jamie Gumbrecht

Two new reports from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that new coronavirus variants could lead to a rapid rise in the numbers of Covid-19 cases.

In one report released Wednesday, researchers from the CDC and Minnesota health department detailed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom. Earlier modeling data suggested this variant, which may be more transmissible, could become the predominant variant in the United States in March, and the CDC has urged people to take action to reduce spread.

The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report described identified B.1.1.7 cases in specimens collected from eight Minnesota residents, ages 15 to 41, from mid-December through mid-January. Five reported Covid-19-like symptoms and three were asymptomatic.

Three of the people had a history of international travel in the two weeks before they became ill, including two who traveled in West Africa and one who traveled to the Dominican Republic, and three others had traveled to California, including one who received a positive test while in California and isolated before returning to Minnesota. None had a history of travel to the UK.

Identification of these variants in Minnesota “highlights the importance of mitigation measures such as mask use, physical distancing, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces, isolation of persons with diagnosed COVID-19, quarantine of close contacts of persons with COVID-19, and adherence to CDC travel guidance,” the report says.

On Tuesday, the CDC reported at least 1,299 cases of coronavirus strains first spotted in the UK, South Africa and Brazil have been reported in the United States. The vast majority of these cases — 1,277 — are the B.1.1.7 variant originally detected in the UK. This variant has been found in 41 states and Washington, DC. Roughly a third are in Florida. Nineteen of those 1,299 are the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa.

These numbers do not represent the total number of such cases circulating in the United States, but rather, only those found by analyzing positive samples.

In a separate report released by the CDC on Wednesday, researchers from Zambia described how the detection of the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa coincided with a rapid rise of cases in Zambia – and this variant might have become the dominant strain there.

The B.1.351 variant might be circulating elsewhere in southern Africa, where many countries are reported rapid increases in Covid-19 case numbers in December and January, the report said.

“Spread of the B.1.351 variant is of public health concern because of the potential for increased transmissibility and, thus, increases in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths,” researchers wrote.

11:07 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021

At least 90 Covid-19 variant cases linked to Michigan prison, state official says 

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has identified 90 cases of the B.1.1.7 Covid-19 variant – the variant first identified in the UK – at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility (IBC) in Ionia, Michigan, according to a news release from the state's emergency management.   

The cases have been identified as "88 prisoners and two employees," the release said. 

Daily testing at IBC began this month after an employee there "was found to have the variant and the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) immediately began to test" all prisoners and staff, the release said.  

Of the first set of samples provided to MDHHS labs, 90 out of 95 "were found to have the variant," according to the release.  

"There are more than 100 lab results still pending," the release said. 

"Since the daily testing results have come in, the number of COVID-19 positive cases at the facility has been on the decline, which indicates the swift efforts undertaken to reduce the spread is working," according to the release.  

 “The MDOC will be taking extra steps to identify where this variant is present amongst staff and the prisoner population and we will continue to do everything we can to keep the prisoners, our staff and the community safe,” MDOC Director Heidi Washington said in a Feb. 10 statement about the initial variant case.  

IBC is a multi-level facility, which opened in 2001, and houses male prisoners, according to the MDOC website. 

Some more context: Michigan has 67 B.1.1.7 cases, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC cautions that its numbers may not immediately match those of state and local health departments. CNN has reached out to the state health department for more information but has not yet heard back. 

CNN's Ben Tinker contributed reporting to this post.

10:43 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021

Two DC airports to soon have onsite Covid-19 testing

From CNN's Greg Wallace and Pete Muntean

A terminal at Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD) on November 10, 2020
A terminal at Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD) on November 10, 2020 Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images

Two airports near the nation’s capital will soon become the latest to host coronavirus testing on-site.  

The Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority said Tuesday it will launch testing sites at Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport in March.  

The sites will be located before the security checkpoint and will “offer both PCR and rapid testing,” the airport authority said. 

“It’s voluntary, pre-security so technically open to the public but primarily meant for passengers," it added. 

CNN is contacting XpresCheck, the company that will run the service, for further details.  

The airport authority said it would soon announce further details including pricing. 

10:25 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021

Belgium detects first cases of P.1 variant first linked to Brazil

From CNN’s James Frater

Six cases of the P.1 Covid-19 variant, which was first linked to Brazil, have been detected in Belgium, the Brussels Regional Health Inspectorate Igen Neven told CNN on Wednesday. 

“We found last week, on Friday, a case that was confirmed as the Brazilian variant,” Neven said, adding it was from a patient, “that tested positive on 28 January.”

The case, “was discovered through in-depth analysis of the tests we perform on different variants,” she said.

“Backward tracing makes us assume that the case zero came back from Brazil on a flight on 23 December.”

Neven confirmed in total there are, “6 for Belgium of which 2 are in Brussels and at least 1 with a link to the Brussels region.”

“We are now conducting intensive contact tracing and will also be testing more widely.”

Europe’s Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said P.1 infections, and other potential variants, “may contribute to rapid epidemiological changes.”

 

10:26 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021

New York City will "run out" of vaccine doses today or tomorrow, mayor says

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

A medical worker prepares the Moderna Covid-19 vaccination at a vaccination site at Stevenson Family Health Center in the Bronx on February 10, 2021 in New York City.
A medical worker prepares the Moderna Covid-19 vaccination at a vaccination site at Stevenson Family Health Center in the Bronx on February 10, 2021 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York City has fewer than 30,000 first doses of Covid-19 vaccine on hand according to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who adds that the weather has caused delays in shipments.

“That means we’re going to run out, today, tomorrow, we’re going to run out,” he said of the limited supply.

“On top of that we’ve got the weather problem, all over the nation there’s huge storms that are now causing delays in shipment.”

Shipments of vaccine that were expected by Tuesday and Wednesday are delayed, he said. “That means we’re going to have to hold back appointments that New Yorkers need,”

de Blasio noted.

He said as many as 30,000 to 35,000 appointments or more might not be scheduled because the city does not have supply.

New York City has administered at least 1,395,956 doses, more than the total population of Dallas, Texas.

De Blasio stressed that it's all about “supply supply supply,” adding it is “not growing the way we need it to.”

He said he appreciative of the federal government “aiming high” in its pursuit of assisting in vaccination, but added the city is going to need “a hell of a lot more help.”

9:34 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021

UN secretary general calls on wealthy nations to ensure vaccines are distributed fairly across the globe

From CNN's Jonny Hallam

In this image from UNTV video, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during a U.N. Security Council high-level meeting on COVID-19 recovery focusing on vaccinations, chaired by British Foreign Secretary Dominc Raab, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, at UN headquarters, in New York.
In this image from UNTV video, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during a U.N. Security Council high-level meeting on COVID-19 recovery focusing on vaccinations, chaired by British Foreign Secretary Dominc Raab, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, at UN headquarters, in New York. UNTV/AP

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called on the international community to help ensure that everybody in the world is vaccinated as soon as possible.

Speaking at a virtual UN Security Council Wednesday, Guterres said although the vaccine is generating hope, "progress on vaccinations has been wildly uneven and unfair."

Guterres said: "Just ten countries have administered 75% of all Covid-19 vaccines. Meanwhile, more than 130 countries have not received a single dose."

He called for the equitable distribution of vaccines saying it is the "biggest moral test before the global community," and he warned that if affluent nations fail to quickly vaccinate people in all countries the pandemic will be prolonged: "If the virus is allowed to spread like wildfire in the Global South, it will mutate again and again. New variants could become more transmissible, more deadly, and, potentially, threaten the effectiveness of current vaccines and diagnostics. This can prolong the pandemic significantly, enabling the virus to come back to plague the Global North."

Guterres said, "the world urgently needs a Global Vaccination Plan to bring together all those with the required power, scientific expertise and production, and financial capacities."

He concluded by saying the world can defeat coronavirus if all nations work together to "ensure sufficient, supply, fair distribution and vaccine confidence."

9:21 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021

Increased US vaccine supply will end state-to-state discrepancies in who can get a shot, Fauci says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

A nurse takes a Moderna Covid-19 vaccine ready to be administered at a vaccination site in South Central Los Angeles, California on February 16.
A nurse takes a Moderna Covid-19 vaccine ready to be administered at a vaccination site in South Central Los Angeles, California on February 16. Apu Gomes/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Wednesday that “discrepancies and difficulties” in vaccine distribution from state to state are going to disappear as more vaccine supply becomes available. 

During the interview, CBS's Gayle King pointed out how every state is handling who gets the vaccine differently and asked if there should be a uniform process.

Fauci said there’s a need “to respect the ability and the right of the states who know their own situation well to make their own decisions,” and avoid dictating from above, but “there should be some sort of consistency, not necessarily identical, from state to state.” 

Fauci said that who can get a vaccine differs greatly from state to state.

“Hopefully that will smooth out as we get more vaccine doses,” he said. “The cure of all of this is when the supply-demand gap closes because right now the demand far exceeds the supply. As we get into the later months, April, May, June and July, as you were mentioning just a little bit ago, I think those kind of discrepancies and difficulties are going to disappear.” 
8:12 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021

Second grader says Biden made her feel she “would be safe in this pandemic” during town hall

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

An 8-year-old who President Biden addressed during CNN’s town hall last night said he made her feel better about the pandemic. 

“I was really nervous” to speak with the President, second-grader Layla said on CNN’s “New Day,” but Biden “made me feel better that I would be safe in this pandemic.” 

During the town hall, Layla Salas’ mother, Jessica Salas, told Biden that her two young children often ask her about whether they will get Covid-19 and die.

Salas said her children would like to know when they will be able to get the vaccine. She called Biden’s answer to her question “so-so.” 

Biden told Layla "don't be scared" and reassured her that children do not usually die from Covid-19, but said, "We haven't even done tests yet on children as to whether or not the certain vaccines would work or not work or what is needed."

“It was great that he comforted my child, which was huge," Salas said. "I would have loved to have heard an answer that said, ‘OK, we're going to approach the kids' vaccines right after we finish the priority, which are the adults right now.’ He didn't say that, but he did also acknowledge that they haven't started testing yet, so it’s understandable that he didn’t want to give information he was unsure about.” 

Layla and her younger brother have been virtually learning since last March, and she said she misses being in school in person. 

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