CDC Suggests Tests for U.S. Flights; NYC Dining: Virus Update
Shoppers look at bouquets at a flower market ahead of Lunar New Year in the Mong Kok area of Hong Kong. (Photographer: Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg)

CDC Suggests Tests for U.S. Flights; NYC Dining: Virus Update

New York City indoor dining will resume Friday, two days earlier than planned, to take advantage of the full Valentine’s Day weekend. The Citi Field baseball stadium will open Wednesday as a mass vaccination site, with doses reserved for Queens residents and food-delivery drivers.

AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine is worth using in areas hit by mutated strains of the virus, World Health Organization officials and partners said, countering concerns about reduced effectiveness that arose in a recent test.

China pushed back a target to inoculate 50 million people by almost two months amid concerns over supply and hesitancy among the population around vaccines. Coronavirus infections continued to slow across the globe, with India reporting fewer than 100 fatalities for the third day in a row.

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CDC Suggests Tests for U.S. Flights; NYC Dining: Virus Update

CDC Head Suggests Tests for U.S. Air Travelers (2:10 p.m. NY)

The director of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention suggested that testing people for the coronavirus before U.S. domestic flights could help reduce transmission, as she urged state and local leaders to maintain steps to limit Covid-19’s spread.

Requiring travelers to receive a negative coronavirus test before boarding domestic flights could be “another mitigation measure,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Monday during a press briefing. She didn’t say whether the CDC will move forward with the policy, which the Biden administration is actively considering.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Axios the discussion is ongoing and the decision will be “guided by data, by science, by medicine, and by the input of the people who are actually going to have to carry this out.”

GOP’s Wright Dies After Cancer, Covid (12:30 p.m. NY)

Representative Ron Wright, a Texas Republican, died Sunday after battling cancer and Covid-19, becoming the first sitting U.S. lawmaker to pass away after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Wright, 67, represented a district that stretched south and southeast of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area and was a member of the House committees on Foreign Affairs and Education and Labor.

NYC Indoor Dining to Resume Friday (11:40 a.m. NY)

Indoor dining in New York city will open at 25% capacity starting on Friday, Feb. 12, not Valentine’s Day as originally planned, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. Restaurant owners asked for the date to be moved up to take advantage of the entire weekend, he said.

Citi Field Megasite Opening Wednesday (10:50 a.m. NY)

The New York Mets’ Citi Field baseball stadium will open Wednesday as a mass vaccination site. Half of the doses will be reserved for Queens residents, while the rest will be for taxi and food-delivery drivers, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

A similar setup at the Yankee Stadium opened on Friday for Bronx residents, and there was high demand there over the weekend, de Blasio said.

New York City has administered 997,844 vaccine doses so far, according to de Blasio, and has the capacity to give 500,000 doses a week if it had more doses from the federal government, the mayor said.

“We need supply to keep making these efforts go further,” de Blasio said at a briefing.

Russia Death Toll Worse Than First Reported (10:10 a.m. NY)

Russia’s death toll from Covid-19 in 2020 was nearly three times the level previously reported by the government, and accounted for half of all excess deaths last year, according to official data.

The Federal Statistics Service reported 44,435 deaths linked to Covid-19 in December in a statement Monday, lifting the full-year total to 162,429. The number of deaths in 2020 reported by the government’s virus response center was 57,555.

NYC Middle Schools to Reopen Feb. 25 (10:10 a.m. NY)

New York City middle schools will reopen for in-person learning Feb 25, school officials said Monday.

Teachers and other school staff will report for work Feb. 24, said Education Department spokeswoman Miranda Barbot. About 62,000 students in grades 6 through 8 have opted for in-person learning. That will bring the total of students who signed up for in-person schooling to about 250,000 of the city’s 1 million public school students.

The hybrid program mixes in-school with at-home learning. About 70% of the city’s students have enrolled in all-remote instruction. No date has been set for a return of high school students, although Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that remains a goal for this school year.

Germany Urges Caution (8:30 a.m. NY)

Germany needs to keep coronavirus restrictions in place for the time being as new infections are likely to remain above the government’s target in coming days, according to Health Minister Jens Spahn.

Germany’s contagion rate is “coming down, and it’s coming down in an encouraging way,” Spahn told reporters on Monday.

“But as things stand, it’s certainly not the case that everything can be the same again from Feb. 15 as it was in October,” he added, referring to the period before the current three-month shutdown.

CanSino’s Vaccine Shows 66% Efficacy (7:50 a.m. NY)

CanSino Biologics Inc.’s experimental coronavirus shot demonstrated an efficacy rate of 66% at preventing symptomatic cases, making it the latest vaccine candidate to show some protection against Covid-19.

It is also 90.98% effective in preventing severe disease, Faisal Sultan, Pakistan’s health adviser, said in a Twitter post on Monday.

S. Africa Seeks J&J Vaccines, Offered Sputnik (7:38 a.m. NY)

South Africa is in talks with Johnson & Johnson to buy an additional 20 million doses of the company’s vaccine and has been offered supplies of Russia’s Sputnik V shot, according to a presentation the health ministry made to the cabinet.

The presentation was dated Jan. 28 and it couldn’t be confirmed whether any of the details have since changed.

South Africa will temporarily halt the rollout of AstraZeneca’s vaccine and accelerate its supply of shots from Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer after a trial showed the shot had limited efficacy against a new variant of the virus first identified in the country late last year.

Austria Battles South African Mutation (7:15 a.m. NY)

Austria’s alpine province of Tyrol emerged as the European region most afflicted by a vaccine-resistant mutation of Covid. One year after a superspreading event at its Ischgl ski resort, Tyrol is struggling to contain the South African mutation of the virus.

Almost 300 cases have been confirmed with another 200 suspected, according to a broadcast interview on Monday with virologist Andreas Bergthaler. That rate of infection is three times more than in the U.K. and higher than anywhere else on the continent, he said.

Austria is tightening controls at its borders with Germany, Switzerland and Italy starting Monday to increase enforcement of existing travel restrictions, according to the Interior Ministry.

Ireland Polices Travel Close to Border (7 a.m. NY)

Ireland extended its system of fines to include travelers crossing the border between the north and south of the island on non-essential journeys. People found crossing the 310-mile (500-kilometer) frontier running from near Derry in the north to Dundalk in the south without good reason can be fined 100 euros ($120). Ireland currently bans travel more than 5 kilometers from home.

China Pushes Back Vaccination Target (6:29 p.m. HK)

China’s new vaccination plan, which was recently communicated to health officials, shifted the timeline for reaching 50 million shots to the end of March, people familiar with the matter said. Bloomberg and other media reported in December that China intended to reach that target by the Lunar New Year holiday, which starts this Thursday.

A representative for China’s National Health Commission said the country is not likely to reach 50 million shots before the New Year holiday, but that “the vaccination process is proceeding as planned.”

Portugal: Astra Shot Preferable for Under 65 (5:46 p.m. HK)

Portugal said that until new data is available, AstraZeneca’s vaccine should be “preferably” used for people age 65 and younger. Still, the vaccination of older people should not be delayed if only the Astra shot is available, the Directorate-General of Health said on Monday. The country has already been administering Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

France Faces ‘Difficult’ Spring, Fontanet Says (4:16 p.m. HK)

France, which has opted against a lockdown even as coronavirus variants increase in the population, may experience “difficult” months in March and April, Arnaud Fontanet, an epidemiologist who advises the government, told RMC radio.

Starting in May, as the weather warms and a significant portion of the most fragile are protected by vaccination, the situation should improve, he said. The U.K. variant must be tracked “very very closely,” and probably makes up about 20% of French cases currently, he added.

Tokyo Sees Fewest New Cases Since November (2:15 p.m. HK)

Tokyo reported 276 new infections as an easing trend in the Japanese capital continues. While the beginning of the week typically brings lower tallies, the number is the smallest for a Monday since Nov. 16.

The Japanese government is considering lifting the state of emergency in 10 prefectures early depending on the virus situations ahead of the expiry date of March 7, Asahi reported, without attribution.

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