U.S. Cases Fell 61% Last Month; WHO Issues Warning: Virus Update
A nurse prepares a dose of Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s CoronaVac vaccine at the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute in Nonthaburi, Thailand. (Photographer: Andre Malerba/Bloomberg)

U.S. Cases Fell 61% Last Month; WHO Issues Warning: Virus Update

A new Covid variant detected in New York is being watched “very, very closely” by U.S. health officials, Anthony Fauci said. Johnson & Johnson is looking for manufacturing partnerships to increase supply of its vaccine, which was cleared Saturday by U.S. regulators.

The European Commission is set to unveil a proposal this month for a digital vaccine passport, which could ease a return to normality for those who are immunized. But critics say it may be discriminatory and infringe on privacy.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson moved to reassure the public over the emergence of a Brazilian variant. Italy will tighten curbs in some cities, Oslo will close restaurants and shops, and Finland has triggered a state of emergency. France needs another four to six weeks before the government can start lifting curbs, President Emmanuel Macron signaled.

Key Developments:

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U.S. Cases Fell 61% Last Month; WHO Issues Warning: Virus Update

California Has a Plan for Opening Schools (4:45 p.m. NY)

California Governor Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders said they’ve struck a deal that would push school districts in the most-populous U.S. state to begin reopening by April.

The state would hand out more than $6 billion for related costs including personal protective equipment, ventilation upgrades and Covid testing. To make up for lost learning, the school year might extend into summer.

U.S. Cases Fell 61% in February (3:50 p.m. NY)

Covid-19 infections in the U.S. had the biggest monthly decline in February, plunging 61% to about 2.42 million, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg show. That helped lower the death count from January by 25% to 71,772. Overall, almost 514,000 Americans have succumbed to Covid-19 and about 28.7 million residents -- or 8.7% of the population -- have been infected by it.

U.S. Cases Fell 61% Last Month; WHO Issues Warning: Virus Update

Twitter to Label Misleading Vaccine Tweets (3:10 p.m. NY)

Twitter said it will label tweets that may contain misleading information around Covid-19 vaccinations.

France Allows Astra Shot for Elderly (3 p.m. NY)

France expanded its guidelines for AstraZeneca Plc’s coronavirus vaccine, saying it can now be used to immunize the elderly.

All three vaccines currently in use, including Astra’s, show “remarkable efficacy,” Health Minister Olivier Veran said.

France and other European Union countries such as Germany originally advised giving the Astra vaccine only to people under 65, saying there wasn’t enough clinical-trial data on efficacy in older people.

NYC Variant Draws Concern From Fauci (1:40 p.m. NY)

A new Covid-19 variant detected in New York City that’s now traveled through various neighborhoods is being watched “very, very closely” by U.S. health officials, Anthony Fauci said on Monday.

The variant, known scientifically as B.1.526, likely started off in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, Fauci, a top adviser to President Joe Biden on the pandemic, said. It is one of five concerning variants now being tracked nationally by health officials.

WHO Warns of Infection Rebound (1:15 p.m. NY)

Global cases rose for the first time in almost two months in the past week, mainly in the Americas, Europe and Southeast Asia, the World Health Organization said. Part of the reason is that countries are easing restrictions, people are letting their guard down and variants are spreading, WHO officials said at a media briefing Monday.

People should continue to limit contacts, avoid crowds and practice hygiene measures as vaccines are being rolled out.

“If the last week tells us anything, it’s that this virus will rebound,” said Maria van Kerkhove, the group’s technical lead officer on Covid-19. “This virus will rebound if we let it. We cannot allow it to take off again.”

No Outdoor Dining in Austria Until Easter (12:55 p.m. NY)

Austria extended lockdown measures for the majority of the country on Monday following government meetings with scientists, opposition parties and provincial governors in Vienna. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz ruled out even outdoor dining until Easter as incidence rates in eastern regions of the country doubled to about 200 over the past month. Only restaurants and cafes in the far-western province of Vorarlberg got the go-ahead to reopen from March 15 after infections fell.

Pennsylvania Eases Restrictions (11:45 a.m. NY)

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said he was easing restrictions, including revising maximum occupancy limits for indoor and outdoor events, as well as ending out-of-state travel restrictions.

Outdoor events are now allowed a maximum of 20% occupancy, regardless of venue size, the governor said. Attendees and workers must keep six feet (1.8 meters) apart. Indoor venues can have 15% occupancy.

J&J Looks for Partners to Boost Supply (11:15 a.m. NY)

Johnson & Johnson is looking for manufacturing partnerships to increase supply of its Covid-19 vaccine that was cleared Saturday by U.S. regulators, Chief Executive Officer Alex Gorsky said.

J&J will deliver 3.9 million doses of its one-shot vaccine within the next 24 to 48 hours, Gorsky said Monday in a telephone interview. The company wants to speed up its timeline of supplying enough vaccines to immunize 20 million Americans by the end of the month and a total of 100 million by the end of June, he said.

NYC Mayor Wants More Shots for Residents (11 a.m. NY)

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said many of the shots at large, state-run vaccination sites in the city aren’t going to local residents. He said 43% of shots at the massive vaccine site at the Javits Center convention site have gone to non-city residents. Three quarters of shots at the Aqueduct Race Track in Queens, which is near one of the hardest-hit parts of the city, have gone to people who don’t live in the city, he said.

Poland May Buy Chinese Vaccines (10:30 a.m. NY)

The Polish government will discuss the potential purchase of Covid-19 vaccines with its Chinese counterparts, according to a readout from a Monday phone call between Presidents Andrzej Duda and Xi Jinping. Details of possible supplies will be figured out by special working group.

Poland has already administered 8.39 doses of Covid-19 vaccine per 100 people, one of highest ratio in the EU, according to Bloomberg tracker.

EU Vaccine Passports Draws Closer (10:05 a.m. NY)

The European Commission will unveil a proposal this month for a “digital green pass,” which will provide proof that a person has been vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19 or has received a negative test.

“The proposal’s aim will be to facilitate travel within the European Union based on this medical data that will be available in this green digital pass,” Commission spokesman Eric Mamer told reporters in Brussels on Monday.

But countries including France have raised objections on the grounds that the policy may be discriminatory against those not vaccinated and infringe on personal data.

France’s Curbs Set to be Extended (7:30 a.m. NY)

France needs another four to six weeks before the government can start lifting restrictions, Agence France-Presse reported on Monday, citing comments made by President Emmanuel Macron. The country is already implementing a nationwide curfew that runs from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., but officials have warned that more curbs might be needed.

Finland’s State of Emergency (7:15 a.m NY)

Finland declared a state of emergency, allowing the government to shutter bars and stop dining at restaurants for three weeks from March 8. It’s preparing an aid package to the affected businesses.

In addition, the government may use emergency powers to restrict people’s movements at a later point, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said.

Iran’s New Cases Hit Three-Month High (7 a.m. NY)

Iran recorded 108 deaths from coronavirus in the last 24 hours, the highest since Jan. 4 and the first time in seven weeks that the country surpassed 100 Covid-19 deaths in one day. The number of daily new cases rose by 8,510, the highest since December 11, the Health Ministry reported. Iran now has 60,181 deaths from the virus with more than 1.6 million infections.

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