February 23 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Eoin McSweeney and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 0714 GMT (1514 HKT) February 24, 2021
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3:19 a.m. ET, February 23, 2021

Covid-19 is likely to be a problem "for the next few winters," says England's chief medical officer

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in London

Britain's Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty attends a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street in Central London on February 22.
Britain's Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty attends a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street in Central London on February 22. Leon Neal/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Covid-19 is likely to be a problem for the next few winters -- despite vaccination programs -- the chief medical officer for England, Chris Whitty, said during a news conference Monday. 

“This is something that we have to see for the long term and, in my view, is likely to be a problem in particular during the winter for the next few winters,” Whitty said. 

The chief medical officer for England said that other respiratory diseases, for which there are vaccines, still cause a significant number of deaths every year -- and so will Covid-19

“I am afraid, for the foreseeable future, the coronavirus is going to be added to that list of things that those who are vulnerable, even despite vaccination, can be at risk of,” he said.
“We vaccinate against flu, we vaccinate against pneumococcal pneumonia and still there are cases and there are deaths. 
3:21 a.m. ET, February 23, 2021

Major challenges ahead after US hits 500,000 coronavirus deaths

From CNN's Holly Yan and Christina Maxouris

Half a million US lives have been lost to Covid-19. That's more than the number of Americans killed in World War II.

The pandemic is far from over. But Americans can steer its course -- and help prevent many more families from suffering inconsolable grief.

Good news (for now) on cases and hospitalizations:

Nationwide, the rates of new Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are declining.

The number of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 has fallen for the 40th day in a row, according to the COVID Tracking Project. And daily deaths have declined 24% this past week compared to the previous week, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Major challenges:

As numbers of new cases and hospitalizations go down, however, reports of highly contagious variants go up.

"I am worried about this variant -- the B.1.1.7 variant (first found in the UK)," said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
"If that takes over, the numbers are going to start to spiral up again. There's no end to what the death toll will look like unless we can vaccinate ahead of it."

Where the US stands on vaccinations:

More than 44.1 million Americans have received at least one dose of their two-dose vaccines, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 19.4 million have been fully vaccinated. That's about 5.9% of the US population -- far less than the estimated 70% to 85% of Americans who would need to be immune to reach herd immunity.

Some states are still grappling with vaccine delays after severe weather walloped much of the country last week. But the US will likely be caught up by the middle of this week, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Read more about the situation in the US: