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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8:57 p.m. ET, February 2, 2022

KN95 masks and Covid-19 test kits to be distributed at Super Bowl LVI and NFL events

A KN95 mask, which will be distributed to all Super Bowl attendees.
A KN95 mask, which will be distributed to all Super Bowl attendees. (Adobe Stock)

Los Angeles County officials gathered at SoFi Stadium Wednesday to discuss safety measures and protocols that will be in place at the Super Bowl on Feb. 13.

All Super Bowl attendees will be given KN95 masks, making it easier for fans to comply with county masking requirements, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said during a news conference.

Masks will also be available at all NFL events, including the Super Bowl Experience being held at the Los Angeles Convention Center this weekend. Attendees for the event will be able to take a free rapid antigen test onsite, according to Ferrer. They will also be given Covid-19 test kits to take home so they can take a test before gathering to watch the Super Bowl.

Proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test is required for entry at these events, Ferrer said. 

More than 400 automated touchless hand sanitizing stations will be available for attendees at SoFi Stadium, SoFi Stadium Senior Advisor of Facilities Russ Simons said. Simons added that they will continue to work with the health department to follow Covid-19 safety protocols. 

Simons emphasized that masks will be mandatory unless actively eating or drinking. Ambassadors will be onsite to remind attendees to keep their masks on at all times, he said.

6:26 p.m. ET, February 2, 2022

New Zealand to start phased reopening of its borders later this month, officials say

From CNN's Mitchell McCluskey

New Zealand will start reopening its borders in phase later this month, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi announced on Thursday. 

Vaccinated New Zealand citizens and visa holders can travel from Australia to New Zealand without managed quarantine starting on Feb. 27.

Two weeks later, on March 13, New Zealander citizens and visa holders in the rest of the world will be also able to return.

In July, the border will open to anyone from Australia.

Visitors from anywhere else in the world will be able to enter New Zealand by October. 

Travelers will still be required to take a Covid-19 test and self-isolate for 10 days, but will no longer have to stay at government-managed isolation facilities.

Unvaccinated visitors will still be required to go through the managed isolation.

“This is a very carefully developed plan that replaces MIQ (managed isolation and quarantine) for the vast majority of travelers while ensuring we maintain ongoing measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in our community from recent arrivals,” Hipkins said in a statement.



5:42 p.m. ET, February 2, 2022

CDC: About half of those eligible to receive a booster shot have not gotten one

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

Here’s the latest data on vaccination efforts in the US, published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Fully vaccinated: 63.9% of the total US population (all ages), about 212 million people
  • Not vaccinated: At least 19.8% of the eligible population (age 5+) has not received any dose of Covid-19 vaccine, which represents at least 62 million people.
  • Boosted: 25.7% of the total US population (all ages), about 88.6 million people
  • About half (50.6%) of those eligible to receive a booster shot have not gotten one, about 84 million people.
  • More than a third (34.6%) of seniors who are eligible to receive a booster shot have not gotten one, about 15 million people.

Note: CDC data on Covid-19 vaccinations are estimates. The agency notes that data on people who are fully vaccinated and those with a booster dose may be underestimated, while data on people with at least one dose may be overestimated. 

5:23 p.m. ET, February 2, 2022

French health minister says the country has passed peak of fifth Covid-19 wave 

From CNN's Joseph Ataman and Camille Knight

French Health Minister Olivier Veran on Wednesday said the country has passed the peak of the fifth wave of the pandemic.  

“The worst is behind us,” Veran said in an interview with CNN affiliate BFMTV, adding that "it’s a special day." 

He said that France passed the latest peak of intensive care unit admissions related to coronavirus roughly 10 days ago. 

During the pandemic, Veran has typically given television appearances wearing a surgical mask but he spoke without wearing a mask Wednesday. When asked if it was a sign of an improvement in the health situation, he said, “That's the sign I wanted to show tonight.” He also credited the good ventilation and social distancing in the studio for his decision. 

Some context: France began easing Covid-19 restrictions on Wednesday.

All sports and cultural venues will now be allowed to operate both indoors and outdoors without any limit to the number of people that can attend, provided they wear a mask. 

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

France has seen eight consecutive days of decreases in its number of new Covid-19 cases. The country recorded 315,363 cases on Feb. 2, down from its record 501,635 on Jan. 25, according to data from France's public health agency. 

Track global vaccinations here

4:28 p.m. ET, February 2, 2022

White House ready to "hit the ground running" to vaccinate kids under 5

From CNN's Betsy Klein

The White House is ready to “hit the ground running” to vaccinate children age six months to five years old as soon as Pfizer receives emergency use authorization for its Covid-19 vaccine for this age group.

“Our message to parents and families is simple: We are doing everything we can to prepare now. We’re taking all of the best practices and applying all the lessons learned over the last 12 months to ensure getting kids under five the protection of vaccine is easy and convenient and we’ll be ready to start getting shots in arms soon after FDA and CDC make their decisions,” White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said Wednesday.

Pending the US Food and Drug Administration’s authorization and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation, Zients said the administration will be “ready” and will “hit the ground running” to vaccinate the approximately 18 million children under the age of five.

Since the vaccine is specially formulated for this younger age group, the administration is “working closely” with pediatricians, states, local health departments, doctors, and pharmacies to ensure the vaccine is available at “thousands of locations nationwide” once it is authorized and recommended, Zients said. 

The US has secured “ample doses” and necessary needles and supplies to administer the shots, he added, and “following FDA authorization, we will immediately begin packing and shipping doses to states and healthcare providers” so it can be distributed to locations parents “know and trust.”

Zients acknowledged hesitancy among parents. A January Kaiser Family Foundation poll of a nationally representative sample of 162 parents released Tuesday found only 3 in 10 parents say they'll get their child under five vaccinated against Covid-19 right away.

“We know many parents are eager to get their kids the protection of the vaccine. We know others have questions. So we’re working with our partners to ensure all parents have access to the facts and information they need to make the right decision,” Zients said.


4:03 p.m. ET, February 2, 2022

Fauci: "I don’t have an easy explanation" on why fully vaccinated people have not gotten boosted

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

While data on the benefits of boosting are clear, Dr. Anthony Fauci on Wednesday said that he isn’t sure why so many people have gotten vaccinated but have not received an additional dose. 

“I'm really not sure. You're asking a good question. It's almost a psychological, sociological question,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a White House Covid-19 Response Team briefing in response to a question from Reuters’ Jeff Mason.

“Why would people who had enough understanding of the risk to go ahead and get a primary series – why we don't have more getting the booster? I don't have an easy explanation for that,” Fauci said.

“That's one of the reasons why we keep trying to put the data out, because as Dr. Walensky showed in her slide, the data are really stunningly obvious why a booster is really very important,” he said, referencing data presented by the CDC director showing a 97 times greater risk of death from Covid-19 in people who are unvaccinated versus those who are vaccinated and boosted.

“The only thing that we can do is to continue to come out with the data and to make sure the American public appreciates why it is so important for optimal protection to get boosted,” Fauci said.


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.