CDC Urges Schools to Reopen; Cuomo Under Fire: Virus Update
Volunteers line up during a vaccination simulation at Kawasaki City College of Nursing in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. (Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg)

CDC Urges Schools to Reopen; Cuomo Under Fire: Virus Update

Schools should use masks and social distancing to safely resume in-person learning as soon as possible, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Friday. President Joe Biden sought to rally support for his $1.9 trillion relief package during a bipartisan meeting at the White House with mayors and governors.

A U.S. program to vaccinate nursing home residents and staff is moving slowly toward completion in the coming weeks. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s top aide told lawmakers the administration withheld nursing homes’ Covid-19 death toll to avoid a federal investigation.

The World Health Organization is reviewing reports that people in South Africa who already had Covid-19 are being reinfected with the more-transmissible variant discovered there.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases exceed 108 million; deaths pass 2.3 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 159 million shots given worldwide
  • U.S. Spotlight: Covid cases drop in hard-hit states, heralding more improvement
  • Yellen takes ‘go big’ message to G-7 to aid economic recovery
  • Surprise tax bills await in pandemic-affected filing season
  • What to know about severe reactions to Covid vaccines: QuickTake

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on cases and deaths.

CDC Urges Schools to Reopen; Cuomo Under Fire: Virus Update

Ohio Adds 4,000 Backlogged Deaths (4:36 p.m. NY)

Ohio reported 2,559 deaths on Friday, as it adds a recently discovered backlog of 4,000 virus fatalities that Governor Mike DeWine called “a failure of reconciliation.” The backlogged deaths are significant: the state’s total fatalities on Thursday were just over 12,500. The deaths will be added over several days, showing what DeWine called in a news conference on Thursday “a distorted number” of daily fatalities. DeWine and the state’s chief health official declined to say how the error occurred.

Canada Imposes Hotel Quarantines (4:44 p.m. NY)

As of Feb. 22, travelers arriving in Canada will soon have to foot the bill for a pricey hotel stay, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday. On arrival to Canada, airline travelers will be required to spend the first three days of a 14-day quarantine at a supervised hotel for a cost that’s expected to be upwards of C$2,000 ($1,580 USD).

They’ll also need to pay for a Covid-19 test at the airport, and for another test near the end of the full quarantine. Rules for travelers arriving by land have also been tightened. “These border measures will help stop the spread of Covid-19 and new variants,” Trudeau said.

Nursing Home Vaccine Push Heads for Completion (3:56 p.m. NY)

A U.S. program to vaccinate nursing home residents and staff is moving slowly toward completion in the coming weeks, with the goal of wrapping up the effort by late next month.

The federally run program contracted with major pharmacy chains around the U.S. Launched in December, it was meant to speed vaccines to the most vulnerable people in the U.S. But disruptions over the winter holidays and the challenge of going from facility to facility vaccinating older people have added at least a month to the timeline.

Brazil Cities Run Out of Covid Shots (3:09 p.m. NY)

Brazilian cities including Rio de Janeiro risk halting vaccinations against as the supply of shots runs out and prospects for the delivery of new doses remain murky.

On the eve of Carnival, local authorities are begging people stay home to avoid an explosion of cases. Festivities were canceled in Rio and Sao Paulo, where governor Joao Doria also scrapped the holiday for civil servants, but there’s concern travel and large gatherings over the four-day weekend will increase transmission.

Aide Says Cuomo Concealed Covid Deaths (3:05 p.m. NY)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s top aide told lawmakers the administration withheld nursing homes’ Covid-19 death toll to avoid a federal investigation, prompting Republicans to accuse him of a cover-up and demand his resignation.

Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa told Democratic leaders that the state rebuffed an August legislative request for the tally. She told lawmakers that former President Donald Trump had been tweeting about New York’s nursing-home deaths and “turned this into a giant political football,” according to a partial transcript released by the governor’s office Friday.

Biden Showcases Stimulus With Local Leaders (2:50 p.m. NY)

President Joe Biden sought to rally support for his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package during a bipartisan meeting at the White House with mayors and governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo.

“The federal government has a major role to play here,” Biden told reporters Friday in the Oval Office meeting. He said local and state leaders “are all on the front lines, they’ve been dealing with this crisis since day one.”

The meeting was intended to highlight the bill’s $350 billion provision for state and local governments, some of which have seen tax revenue decline sharply during the pandemic.

Nevada Casinos Can Welcome More Guests (2:46 p.m. NY)

Nevada began lifting restricting on thousands of businesses and public facilities. Bars, restaurants and casinos can now allow guests at 35% of capacity indoors, up from 25% earlier. Events may now host 100 people, up from 50. Restrictions may be lifted further in a month, the state said.

“After making it through the very difficult winter surges and the pause, Nevadans want and deserve predictability about what our path forward will look like,” said Governor Steve Sisolak said in a statement.

N.J. Eases Rules for Watching Youth Sports (2:44 p.m. NY)

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy lifted restrictions Friday on parents and guardians attending youth sporting events. Up to two parents or guardians can now attend indoor or outdoor youth sports practices and competitions, but no other spectators are permitted. Indoor youth sporting events are capped at 35% capacity or 150 people. He said school districts can still impose stricter guidelines and supersedes the state’s guidance on spectators. “With our metrics trending in the right direction, we feel comfortable taking this step,” Murphy said.

CDC Urges Schools to Reopen (2:10 p.m. NY)

Schools should use masks and social distancing to safely resume in-person learning as soon as possible, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Friday.

Whether students should physically attend school has been among the most contentious issues of the U.S. pandemic response. The stakes are high for President Joe Biden, who has made ending the coronavirus crisis a central goal.

Many children in the U.S. have been learning online for almost a year, as last spring many U.S. schools were closed to thwart the spread of the coronavirus. Some teachers have opposed reopening classrooms because of health concerns.

WHO Reviews Reports of Reinfection From Variant (1:14 p.m. NY)

The World Health Organization is reviewing reports that people in South Africa who already had Covid-19 are being reinfected with the more-transmissible variant recently discovered there, said Soumya Swaminathan, the group’s chief scientist.

At a press briefing, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the group’s mission to China has not prompted it to rule out any hypotheses as to the root of the pandemic. The mission, he said, “has added important information that takes us closer to understanding the origins of the virus,” particularly on the early days of the pandemic.

The number of cases of Covid-19 globally has declined for the fourth week in a row and the number of deaths for the second week in a row, Tedros said.

FDA Agrees Moderna Can Boost Vaccine in Each Vial: NYT (1:08 p.m. NY)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has told Moderna it can put as much as 40% more vaccine in each vial, the New York Times reported, citing people familiar with the company’s operations.

Federal officials want Moderna to submit more data showing the switch won’t compromise vaccine quality. Two people familiar with Moderna’s manufacturing said retooling production lines to accommodate the change could be done in fewer than 10 weeks, or before the end of April.

N.Y. Extends Restaurant, Bar Hours (12:10 p.m. NY)

Governor Andrew Cuomo allowed restaurants and bars in New York to stay open an hour longer starting Sunday, citing declines in infection rates and hospitalizations. Closing time will be extended to 11 p.m. statewide, Cuomo said in a statement.

New York City’s trailing one-week average rate of positive Covid-19 tests has fallen to 4%, the lowest since Dec. 26 and a fraction of the 26% rate seen in early January, Cuomo said.

New York state added 8,404 new cases in the latest daily update and another 135 deaths. The number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients fell to 7,068, the fewest since Christmas Day.

U.K. Variant Spreads in Italy (11:53 a.m. NY)

A recent study of 3,984 coronavirus infections in Italy showed that 18% were the more-transmissible strain first found in the U.K., according to Giovanni Rezza, the head of prevention at Italy’s Health Ministry. Silvio Brusaferro, president of the ISS public health institute, said the U.K. variant could potentially replace the “traditional” virus in Italy in five or six weeks.

Italy reported 13,908 new cases on Friday, compared to 15,146 on Thursday, and 316 deaths.

Amazon Sues N.Y. Attorney General Over Covid Protocols (10:39 a.m. NY)

Amazon.com Inc. is suing the New York State attorney general, arguing that she’s exceeding her authority in seeking to penalize the company for alleged failures in its pandemic safety protocols and treatment of workers at New York City warehouses.

In a complaint filed Friday in Brooklyn federal court, Amazon says Attorney General Letitia James’s office has threatened to sue if the retail giant doesn’t comply with a list of demands, which include subsidizing public bus service and reducing production targets required of workers in its warehouses.

Merkel Acknowledges Mistakes in Pandemic Fight (10:28 a.m. NY)

Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged making mistakes in reacting to a spike in coronavirus infections and by not preparing Germany well enough for the vaccine rollout.

The response in the fall was “too hesitant,” and the government was too slow to require face masks during the first wave of the pandemic, the German leader said Friday in an interview with ZDF television. She defended her strategy of procuring Covid-19 vaccines through the European Union, but admitted she should have explained the ramp-up better.

U.S. to Pay $1.95 Billion for Added Pfizer Vaccine (9:31 a.m. NY)

The U.S. will pay $1.95 billion for an additional 100 million doses of the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE Covid-19 vaccine that President Joe Biden announced on Thursday. The amount is consistent with agreements made for the prior 200 million doses brought by the government, Pfizer said in a statement Friday.

Biden said the government was also acquiring 100 million doses of the vaccine made by Moderna Inc.

U.K. Outbreak Slows (8:43 a.m. NY)

The U.K. government said it is “confident” the country’s coronavirus epidemic is shrinking, as the reproduction rate of the disease dropped to levels last seen in July.

The latest so-called R number for the U.K. is between 0.7 and 0.9, according to official estimates published Friday, down from 0.7 to 1.0 last week. The last time the upper end of the range was below 1 was on July 31 last year, after the first wave of infections.

New data released Friday from the Office for National Statistics also showed coronavirus infections fell for a fourth week, with around one in 80 people in England having the disease in the period to Feb 6. That’s down from around one in 65 people the previous week.

Microsoft System Blamed for N.J. Vaccine-Booking Glitches (6 a.m. NY)

Five weeks of stumbles by Microsoft Corp. on New Jersey’s Covid-19 vaccine-booking software have left the state pushing for daily fixes on almost every part of the system and doubting it will ever operate as intended, according to members of Governor Phil Murphy’s administration.

Swedish Outbreak Forces Northvolt to Cut Factory Staffing (6 p.m. HK)

An outbreak of Covid-19 has forced battery-cell producer Northvolt AB to reduce staffing at the construction site of its first large-scale factory in Skelleftea, Sweden. The privately-held company will temporarily halve the number of workers at the site to about 500 as a result of the virus, spokesman Jesper Wigardt confirmed by phone.

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