Experts Urge Super Bowl Caution as Outbreak Slows: Virus Update
Pedestrians wearing protective mask walk through the street in the Jongno district of Seoul. (Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg)

Experts Urge Super Bowl Caution as Outbreak Slows: Virus Update

New U.S. virus cases continued to signal a declining trend in the pace of infections. The daily average rise, measured over a week, fell by 20% compared to the previous week.

Public health experts advise caution on Super Bowl Sunday, worried about a spike that could reverse the outbreak’s slowing. “Don’t do that,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said, on inviting outsized crowds home to watch.

AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine does not appear to offer protection against mild and moderate disease caused by the variant first identified in South Africa, the Financial Times reported, citing a study due to be published on Monday. None of the participants in the study died or was hospitalized.

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Experts Urge Super Bowl Caution as Outbreak Slows: Virus Update

London Mosque Seeks to Overcome Vaccine Mistrust (4:43 p.m. NY)

A London mosque has become a vaccination center aimed at overcoming mistrust among Muslims about getting inoculated, the Press Association reported. An official at the London Muslim Centre said only three of 200 people contacted recently to receive the vaccine showed up for the AstraZeneca shot.

“We are telling the people that it is wise for you to take the vaccine because you are not only helping yourself but you are helping the community and beyond,” the mosque official, Asad Jaman, was quoted as saying.

Astra Vaccine Less Effective Against South Africa Variant: FT (4:29 p.m. NY)

AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine does not appear to offer protection against mild and moderate disease caused by the variant first identified in South Africa, the Financial Times reported, citing a study due to be published on Monday.

While none of the participants in the study died or was hospitalized, “a two-dose regimen of [the vaccine] did not show protection against mild-moderate Covid-19” due to the South African variant, the newspaper cited the study as saying. The study said efficacy against severe Covid-19 cases, hospitalization and deaths was not yet determined.

Advice for Covid-Year Super Bowl (3:18 p.m. NY)

The Super Bowl may not be an actual holiday but public health experts are treating it like others of this past year: a moment when Covid-19 could spread, now at a time when infections are finally falling again.

“Enjoy the Super Bowl but don’t do it with a large crowd of people in your house,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday on MSNBC. “It’s a perfect setup to have a mini-superspreader event in your house. Don’t do that.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines to avoid Covid-19 both for the thousands of people at the event itself (a spare mask is a good idea) or the millions watching it at home (best to keep it to people you live with).

Bloomberg’s CityLab calculated the possibility for exposure among the roughly 25,000 people allowed to attend the game in Tampa between home-team Buccaneers and and Kansas City Chiefs. It calculated 7,500 vaccinated health care workers, 1,488 partially vaccinated people, 4,259 with natural immunity -- leaving 11,753 attendees susceptible.

In general, clapping or foot-stomping were preferred over yelling or chanting. “There’s no rule against cheering, but that’s probably ill-advised,” the article said.

France Deaths, Cases Slow (2:52 p.m. NY)

France reported 191 new deaths, a decline, while the 7-day average of new cases fell to the lowest in two weeks, according to data from Sante Publique France. A total of 2,112,192 vaccine shots have been administered since the start of the rollout, 88% of which are the first dose, the health ministry said.

California’s Positive Test Rate, New Cases Slide (2:15 p.m. NY)

California’s 14-day positive test rate continued its descent, dropping to 6.3%, down from 12.7% a month ago and the lowest since Nov. 29. The state has administered 43.7 million coronavirus tests in total.

There were 12,394 new Covid-19 cases in California yesterday, below the 14-day rolling average of 16,844, according to the health department’s website. The number of deaths at 623 was higher than the 520 average. The total number of Covid-19 cases has topped 3.32 million, with 43,647 deaths.

Ireland Cases Hit Six-Week Low (12:50 p.m. NY)

Ireland reported the fewest new cases in six weeks, as the country received its first batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine. There were 827 new virus cases recorded Saturday. That’s the lowest since Dec. 28. The first batch of 21,000 AstraZeneca vaccines was delivered earlier in the day, with the first doses to be administered on Monday, health minister Stephen Donnelly tweeted. Ireland also reported 55 more deaths.

Covid-19 and Plasma May Boost Mutation Risk (11:45 a.m. NY)

British doctors who spent 102 days treating a cancer survivor for Covid-19 documented how the virus mutated after the man was treated with convalescent plasma.

The case study suggests the use of blood plasma donated from Covid-19 survivors may have put enough pressure on the virus to force it to evolve. The result: Less susceptibility to immune system antibodies that normally fight off infection, according to the report published Friday in the journal Nature.

Italy Cases Slow, Deaths Rise (11:31 a.m. NY)

Italy reported 13,442 cases Saturday, down from 14,218 a day earlier, while deaths increased to 385 deaths from 377 on Friday. The positivity rate fell to 4.8% from 5.3%, and patients in intensive-care units decreased by 32 to 2,110.

Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza said he signed the decree to authorize the emergency use of monoclonal antibodies, based on the indications of the country’s Aifa medicines agency and the public health institute, according to a Facebook post on Saturday. He added that thus Italy has, along with vaccines, “another way to fight Covid-19.”

U.S. Dockworkers May Get Better Vaccine Access (11:25 a.m. NY)

Dockworkers at the busiest U.S. gateway for trade with Asia may soon have better access to coronavirus vaccines, as officials on the West Coast battle congestion blamed on shortages of labor and equipment needed to handle a record influx of cargo.

“State officials here are concerned and are trying to make sure that we get distribution to the port complex,” Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach in California, said in an interview Friday. “I think it could happen in days.”

Rising infection rates threaten to worsen bottlenecks around the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, raising a damaging prospect for the U.S. economy: that cargo terminals staffed largely by unions might have to close temporarily if too many workers get sick.

U.K. Hospital Cases Below 30,000 (11:13 a.m. NY)

The U.K. said 29,326 people were being treated in hospitals with Covid-19 as of Feb. 4, the lowest since Jan. 3. The country reported 18,262 new cases on Saturday and 828 deaths, both below the previous 7-day average. The average number of deaths fell below 1,000 for the first time in about a month.

St. Louis Inmates Rise Up Again (11:05 a.m. NY)

A third disturbance broke out at a St. Louis jail, as inmates set fires, broke windows and hurled debris to the street below, according to news reports. Inmates at the jail, which now holds 633 people, have expressed worry about unsafe conditions amid the virus outbreak, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

N.Y. Hospitalizations Decline (10:45 a.m. NY)

New York state’s hospitalizations for Covid-19 were the lowest since Dec. 27, though the state still has the highest rate after Arizona. Total hospitalizations fell, to 7,804 from 7,937 the day before, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. The statewide positive test rate is 4.31%, with the seven-day average the lowest since Dec. 2, he said. The state added 11,252 new cases, the most in a week, though far fewer than the record of almost 20,000 set on Jan. 14. Another 158 people died.

Portugal’s Surge Continues to Ease (10:44 a.m. NY)

Portugal on Saturday reported 6,132 new cases, taking the total to 761,906. In each of the last seven days Portugal has reported less than 10,000 daily cases after a record 16,432 new infections on Jan. 28. The government reported 214 fatalities on Saturday, taking the total to 13,954 deaths.

The number of patients in intensive-care units fell by 13 to 891. The country’s national health service has a capacity of about 1,320 intensive-care beds, according to the health ministry.

Pace of U.S. Weekly Case Increases Falls 20%; Deaths Steady (8:18 a.m NY)

The U.S. added 131,747 new cases on Friday, an increase over the previous day but in line with the overall declining trend of new infections, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. The number brings the daily average, measured over a week, to 126,283. This is a 20% drop from the previous week’s average.

The nation added 3,625 new deaths on Friday, a substantial drop from the previous day’s 5,054, which was one of the highest on record. The number is higher than the weekly average of 3,247. Average daily deaths remained essentially unchanged this week over the last, the data show.

Poland Reports Fall in New Virus Cases (6:15 p.m HK)

Poland reported 6,026 new cases, with the number falling for a third day, as deaths increased by 367 to just short of 39,000. The government on Friday announced a partial easing of restrictions, allowing hotels, theaters, cinemas to reopen at half capacity from Feb. 12 for a two-week trial period. Meanwhile, Germany recorded over 10,000 new virus cases for a third day. Deaths rose by 690, bringing Germany’s total to over 61,000.

U.K. Eyes Road Map to Exit Virus Lockdown (5:30 p.m HK)

Britain’s hospitality sector could reopen as soon as April if pubs and restaurants agree not to sell alcohol, the Telegraph reports. Government ministers are discussing three-stage plans for lifting restrictions, including allowing some outdoor socializing from March when schools are set to return. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to announce detailed plans on Feb. 22 for Britain’s exit from lockdown.

Supreme Court Lets Some California Churches Hold Indoor Services (12 p.m. HK)

A divided U.S. Supreme Court ordered California to let indoor worship services resume at a group of suing churches, easing restrictions that officials said were needed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The Friday night orders stopped short of abolishing the Covid restrictions altogether, saying the state could impose a 25% capacity cap at church services. The justices also let California continue to ban singing and chanting at indoor services.

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