The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and the Omicron variant

By Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner, Jason Kurtz, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 8:59 p.m. ET, February 2, 2022
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3:46 p.m. ET, February 2, 2022

Unvaccinated people are 97 times more likely to die of Covid-19 than those with a booster, CDC director says

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

People who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 are 97 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than people who are vaccinated and boosted, according to data presented Wednesday by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

“Vaccination and booster doses substantially decrease the risk of death from Covid-19,” Walensky said at a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing while presenting data collected the week ending December 4.

“The number of average weekly deaths for those who are unvaccinated was 9.7 per 100,000 people, but only 0.7 per 100,000 people for those who were vaccinated. This means the risk of dying from Covid-19 was 14 times higher for people who were unvaccinated compared to those who received only a primary series. For those who were boosted, the average of weekly deaths was 0.1 per 100,000 people, meaning that unvaccinated individuals were 97 times more likely to die compared to those who were boosted.”

Walensky also presented data from CDC’s COVID-NET surveillance system showing 54% of people hospitalized for Covid-19 over the age of 65 are unvaccinated, despite only 12% of people in this age group being unvaccinated overall. Just 8% of the patients hospitalized in this dataset were vaccinated and boosted. “These same trends are seen across all age groups,” she said.

“These data show us that the percent of people who are currently hospitalized due to Covid-19 are disproportionately unvaccinated and disproportionately not boosted. Additionally, these data confirm that vaccination and boosting continue to protect against severe illness and hospitalization even during the Omicron surge.”

Track US vaccinations here

1:53 p.m. ET, February 2, 2022

Black, Hispanic, and American Indian people twice as likely to die from Covid-19 than White people, CDC data shows

CNN Health’s Deidre McPhillips

In the United States, the risk of dying from Covid-19 is roughly twice as high for Black, Hispanic, and American Indian people than it is for White people, according to new data released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.) 

Additionally, Black and Hispanic people in the US are 2.5 times more likely to be hospitalized with Covid-19 than their White counterparts. The risk for American Indians is even greater, with a likelihood 3.2 times higher than that of White people.

According to the CDC, Asian people are at a lower risk than White people as it pertains to infection, hospitalization, and death.

Recent data shows that racial disparities have diminished regarding Covid-19, as one year ago Black, Hispanic, and American Indian were four times more likely to be hospitalized, and three times for likely to die, than White people.

“Race and ethnicity are risk markers for other underlying conditions that affect health, including socioeconomic status, access to health care, and exposure to the virus related to occupation, e.g., frontline, essential, and critical infrastructure workers,” according to the CDC.

For context, further details regarding race and the Covid-19 virus can be found within this chart published by the CDC.

10:56 a.m. ET, February 2, 2022

US Army will immediately begin to separate soldiers who refuse Covid-19 vaccination

From CNN's Michael Callahan

The US Army announced Wednesday that it will begin to immediately separate soldiers from the service who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19, unless the service member has an approved exemption or pending request.

“Army readiness depends on Soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said in a statement. “Unvaccinated Soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness. We will begin involuntary separation proceedings for Soldiers who refuse the vaccine order and are not pending a final decision on an exemption.”

The order from the Army Secretary applies to “Army Soldiers, reserve-component Soldiers serving on Title 10 active-duty, and cadets.”

The statement said that the Army has "not yet involuntarily separated any Soldiers solely for refusing the lawful order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine."

It noted that as of Jan. 26, Army commanders have relieved a total of six regular Army leaders, including two battalion commanders, and issued 3,073 general officer written reprimands to soldiers for refusing the vaccination order.

9:54 a.m. ET, February 2, 2022

More than 65,000 additional Americans could die from Covid-19 over the next 4 weeks, CDC forecast shows

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

A respiratory therapist helps to treat a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Rush University Medial Center on Monday in Chicago.
A respiratory therapist helps to treat a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Rush University Medial Center on Monday in Chicago. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

An ensemble forecast from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published Wednesday predicts more than 65,000 additional people could die from Covid-19 over the next four weeks. This is the second week that deaths are predicted to have a stable or uncertain trend after predicted increases since late December. 

The CDC included projections that indicate the number of deaths will slowly rise for the first week and then decline for the remaining time. 

The forecast predicts that there could be a total of 933,000 to 965,000 Covid-19 deaths reported by Feb. 26. 

According to data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU), the coronavirus has killed 890,770 people in the United States. 

The forecast could mean an average of 2,741 Covid-19 deaths a day, up from a current average of 2,530 per day, according to JHU data. 

For the second week, hospitalizations are predicted to decrease, with 3,000 to 20,000 new confirmed Covid-19 hospital admissions likely reported on February 25. 

There are currently 128,528 people hospitalized with Covid-19, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services data. 

The forecast for cases did not predict an increase or decrease, or give a predicted number of cases.  

“Recent case forecasts have shown low reliability, with more reported cases than expected falling outside the forecast prediction intervals for 1-, 2-, 3-, and 4-week ahead case forecasts. Therefore, case forecasts will continue to be collected and analyzed but will not be summarized until sustained improvements in performance are observed,” according to the CDC. 

8:20 a.m. ET, February 2, 2022

Norway is ending most Covid-19 restrictions, prime minister announces

From CNN’s James Frater and Duarte Mendonca

Norway announced on Tuesday it would be removing “many of the infection control measures” the country has lived with during the winter, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said. 

Working from home will no longer be mandatory and the requirement for quarantine with be removed, with the exception of those who are infected. 

The decision was implemented upon reflection of Omicron’s impact, which was determined to cause “less serious illness,” as well as the success of the vaccines in Norway, leading health authorities to say the country “can live with a lot of infection.”

“We can open up even if the infection grows quickly,” Støre said. 

Despite the current optimistic mood, the country’s health ministry has maintained some measures as a cautionary approach, saying Norway “cannot let go completely”.

“The National Institute of Public Health estimates that as many as three to four million Norwegians could get [coronavirus] before the summer. In order to maintain control of such a rapid growth in infection, it is necessary to retain some measures,” the prime minister said.

“But let there be no doubt: We are entering a new phase of the pandemic. We will live with a lot of infection. We can live with a lot of infection,” Støre added.

The prime minister reiterated the need for the country to “find the right balance” in order to ”live much more normally.”

Some of the measures health authorities are keeping include the “general recommendation to keep a distance of one meter” and the use of “face masks in shops, public transport and the like, when it is not possible to keep your distance.” 

7:54 a.m. ET, February 2, 2022

Global Covid-19 deaths increase 9% over past week, WHO says

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

In the week of Jan. 24-30, new global Covid-19 deaths increased by 9% over the week before, with over 59,000 new deaths reported, according to the World Health Organization’s weekly epidemiological update published Tuesday. 

Of the six WHO regions, three reported increases in deaths: the South-East Asia Region with 41%, the Eastern Mediterranean Region with 32%, and the Region of the Americas with 16%. The European and Western Pacific Regions both reported numbers similar to the week before. Only the African Region reported a decrease at 7%. 

The United States reported the highest number of new deaths, followed by India, the Russian Federation, Brazil and Italy. 

Overall, as of Jan. 30, over 5.6 million deaths have been reported across the world. 

The number of cases reported across the world remained similar to the week before, with over 22 new million cases being reported. 

There were increases in three regions: Western Pacific (37%), Eastern Mediterranean (24%) and European (7%). The African Region reported a number similar to the week before. The Region of the Americas and the South-East Asia Region both reported decreases of 20% and 8%, respectively. 

The US also reported the highest number of new cases, followed by France, India, Brazil and Germany. 

There have been over 370 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 reported across the world as of Jan. 30. 

8:18 a.m. ET, February 2, 2022

France starts first phase of easing Covid-19 restrictions 

From CNN's Dalal Mawad

A street scene in Paris last week. The outdoor mask mandate is set to end Wednesday and working from home will no longer be mandatory but recommended.
A street scene in Paris last week. The outdoor mask mandate is set to end Wednesday and working from home will no longer be mandatory but recommended. (Benjamin Girette/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

France has entered the first phase of easing Covid-19 restrictions, as the country witnesses a stabilization of the Omicron wave.

As of Wednesday, all sports and cultural venues will be allowed to operate both indoors and outdoors without any limit to the number of people that can attend, provided they wear masks. 

The outdoor mask mandate also ends on Wednesday and working from home will no longer be mandatory but recommended.

In a second phase, starting Feb. 16, nightclubs can reopen their doors to the public. Concerts will be allowed again, as will the consumption of alcohol while standing in bars, as well as food and beverages on trains, in cinemas, and sports stadiums.  

The relaxation of Covid-19 measures comes as France is still witnessing a high number of daily Covid-19 infections, about 322,000 cases on average a day in the past week, but with a stabilization of intensive care unit cases.

“Things seem to be stabilizing,” said Jean-François Delfraissy, president of the country's Scientific Council, before the French Senate on Tuesday. 

But Delfraissy warned that the situation was still serious in some regions of France where “the peak of the wave has not passed yet."

7:57 a.m. ET, February 2, 2022

Tonga reports three new Covid-19 cases as the country goes into lockdown

From CNN's Lizzy Yee

Tonga reported three new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday as the country goes into lockdown, Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni said in a press conference, according to CNN affiliate Radio New Zealand.

The positive cases were detected in a woman and her two children. 

Tonga suffered devastation after a massive underwater volcanic eruption and tsunami on Jan. 15, and aid continues to flow in for recovery efforts.

On Tuesday, the Pacific island said it had detected two positive cases among frontline workers at a port in the capital Nuku'alofa. The recent cases are the first to be reported since November 2021, when an imported case was detected in a traveler from New Zealand. 

On Wednesday, the country entered a lockdown starting 6 p.m. local time, which will be reviewed every 48 hours, the prime minister said.

Tonga was one of only a small number of countries not to report a single Covid infection, having closed its borders in March 2020. In November 2021, a traveler flying from New Zealand tested positive but was picked up in the country's quarantine hotel system.

CNN's Helen Regan contributed to this post.

8:10 a.m. ET, February 2, 2022

32 new Covid-19 cases identified among Olympics personnel 

From CNN's Gawon Bae in Seoul 

People walk outside the "closed-loop" where a number of Winter Olympics venues are located on Saturday in Beijing.
People walk outside the "closed-loop" where a number of Winter Olympics venues are located on Saturday in Beijing. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

The Beijing Olympics Committee has identified 32 new Covid-19 cases among Olympic athletes and personnel as of Tuesday, it said in a statement on Wednesday.

Of the 32 cases, 15 were found among new airport arrivals and 17 involved people already inside the “closed-loop” system, which separates Olympic staff, stakeholders, and athletes from the public. 

Nine cases in total involved athletes or team officials, six of which were already inside the “closed loop.”

Since the official “closed-loop” system began on Jan. 23, 232 Olympics-related personnel and stakeholders have tested positive; 76 of those cases have involved athletes or team officials.

A total of 531,968 Covid-19 tests have been administered inside the “closed loop” since Jan. 23, and 9,866 people have arrived in Beijing according to the Committee. 

The Olympics kick off on Feb. 4 with the Opening Ceremony and will run through Feb. 20.