Schools may open no matter how much virus is spreading in a community, if they take the right precautions, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Friday.
As of Tuesday, CNN analysis indicated about 90% of children live in so-called red zones under the CDC’s guidance – meaning there is a high level of community spread of virus. But even in those conditions, schools can safely reopen if they take precautions, Walensky told a White House briefing.
“The first thing I just want to convey is there are opportunities for in-person learning at all stages of – all states of community spread,” Walensky told the briefing.
“As we’ve seen community spread coming down, and as we’ve seen our numbers improving right now, what I would invite the schools to do – we have actually seen many more communities leave the red zone and move into the orange zone, which actually has more opportunities for in-school opening, and for in-person learning,” she added.
“So our numbers are coming down. I would actually invite schools to lean in and to look at what is needed so that in the roadmap to try and get more and more children back to school.”
The CDC has said schools can reopen if they make sure they are mitigating the risk of spread with universal mask use, measures to keep children and staff six feet apart, frequent cleaning and disinfection and testing and contact tracing.
“So in, in the areas that remain red – and there are about two-thirds of districts now, although the numbers continue to decline – in the numbers that remain red, we say with universal masking and physical distancing and densification of classrooms, there are opportunities for in-person learning, as well as for middle and high school learning, and assuming you’re able to do the densification that we suggest,” Walensky said.
The US should have vaccine safety data on high school age kids by the beginning of fall, but probably not on younger children until early next year, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday.
Companies are just starting tests of younger age groups but have been testing their vaccines on 12 to 17-year-olds, Fauci told a White House briefing.
“You know from Pfizer that they started off with the trial of 34,000 individuals down to 16-year-olds, and then progressed it down to 12-year-olds. So what they’re going to be doing in April, starting in April, they are going to be studying 12-year-olds down to 5-to 6-year-olds,” Fauci said.
“That will take likely one year to get the information on that – likely not until the first quarter,” added Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and also chief White House medical adviser.
“However, we anticipate data on high school age individuals, namely individuals 12 years old to 17 years old, by the beginning of the fall. Maybe not exactly coinciding with the first day of school, but sometime in the fall we will have that,” Fauci added.
Companies can tests their vaccines on fewer children because they have safety and efficacy data from adults, Fauci said. “So the bottom line of all of this is as follows. It is highly likely that sometime in the fall we will have data that will give us the capability of saying the safety and comparable efficacy in children 12 to 17, 18 years old,” he added.
“But then also, with the studies that I just mentioned, to getting the information to make the decision in elementary school children, almost certainly will not be firmed down until the first quarter of 2022.”
Hear more from Dr. Fauci:
Cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the coronavirus are all dropping modestly in the United States, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday.
“We continue to see a five-week decline in Covid cases, with cases decreasing 69% in the seven-day average since hitting a peak on Jan. 11,” Walensky told a White House news briefing.
“The current seven day average of approximately 77,000 cases is the lowest reported since the end of October, but still higher than the height of last summer,” she added.
The seven-day average of new hospital admission as of Feb. 16 was 7,200, she said – a 56% decline since Jan. 9.
”The latest data indicates that deaths have declined modestly … to an average of approximately 2,700 per day,” Walensky added.
Hear more details about the numbers:
It’s too risky to go to giving a single dose of coronavirus vaccine to stretch out the supply, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday
Fauci said it takes two doses of the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines to get full immunity to coronavirus infection – and he has not changed his mind after reading an Israeli report published Thursday night that indicated a single dose could provide up to 85% protection three to four weeks later.
“We will stick with the scientifically documented efficacy and optimal response of a prime followed by a boost with the mRNA vaccines,” Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a White House briefing. “The reason is even though you can get a fair degree of, quote, protection after a single dose, it clearly is not durable,” he added.
Fauci said he worried that if large numbers of people got a single shot and had less than optimal immune responses after that single shot, they could be exposed to the virus and start incubating viral mutations. In theory, new variants could arise, he said.
“You might theoretically be inducing new variants,” he said.
Senior White House Adviser Andy Slavitt announced five new Covid-19 community vaccination centers opening in Florida and Pennsylvania in the next two weeks.
In Florida, there will be four new centers based in Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville and Tampa. Each site will have the capacity to vaccinate a total of 12,000 individuals per day, Slavitt said during Friday’s White House Covid-19 briefing.
There will be one new center based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which will have the capacity to deliver 6,000 doses of vaccine per day.
“Selection of all of these sites is based on the CDC FEMA framework that has been developed to target vaccinations to those who are most vulnerable. The goal is to launch vaccination sites that use processes and are in locations that promote equity and deploy the CDC’s social vulnerability index,” Slavitt said.
Slavitt said federal teams will be deployed “immediately” to these areas to work with state and local officials.
Delaware Gov. John Carney announced an easing of restrictions around indoor gatherings.
“Under the latest order, the limit on gatherings at businesses and other indoor spaces is increased from the current limit of 10 people. The new limit is a maximum of 25 people or 50 percent of stated fire occupancy restrictions, whichever is less,” he said in a news release Friday.
Limits for private indoor gatherings – including dinner parties, house parties, and birthday parties, remains at 10 people, the release explained.
Organizers can also submit plans to the department of health for larger events up to 150 people, according to the release.
Outdoor gatherings are limited to 50 people or up to 250 with an approved plan from the Division of Public Health.
The order signed by the governor also raises the number of people that can be included in group exercise to 15, excluding staff.
There have been at least 27,901,914 cases of coronavirus in the US and at least 493,501 people have died since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally of cases.
So far today, Johns Hopkins University has reported 5,874 new cases and 403 new deaths.
At least 73,377,450 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 57,737,767 total doses of the vaccine have been administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases.
You can see the latest Johns Hopkins University US numbers here.
The tiny remote Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean could “become the first island to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19,” the British Military said Friday.
The island – a UK overseas territory – has a population of just over 800 inhabitants.
At least 1,950 doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine arrived at Ascension earlier this week on a special support flight by the Royal Air Force.
Staff at the island’s Georgetown Hospital have begun administering the vaccine and the first people to vaccinated were hospital employee Sylvia Isaac and her husband Mervyn.
In a statement Ms. Isaac said: “I feel very privileged to be able to receive this vaccine,” and that the, “vaccination itself was quick and painless.”
“This vaccine will hopefully protect us against the worst effects of COVID-19, and also help to protect family, friends and the rest of the community,” she said.
Given the number of inhabitants the Ascension Island Government anticipates, “that first doses will be administered to all those offered it by the end of next week.”
Gov. Philip Rushbrook of Ascension said: “I am pleased to be on Ascension at this time to see first-hand the arrival and distribution of the vaccines.”
“I would like to thank personally everyone involved in making this happen.” And said the delivery of the vaccines, “represents the culmination of a lot of hard work across several UK government departments, the RAF and within Ascension Island Government.”
Royal Air Force Flying Officer George Cox, Officer Commanding Cargo said: “Places like Ascension Island are notoriously difficult to get to.”
The vaccines arrived on an A400M Atlas cargo plane as the “RAF can get out to remote locations that commercial aircraft can not necessarily access,” said Flying Officer Cox.
Where is the Ascension? A volcanic island of 33 square miles, Ascension, is approximately 1,000 miles from the coast of Africa and 1,400 miles from Brazil. Their nearest neighbors are on the island of St. Helena 700 miles to the north.
Ascension Island is part of the United Kingdom Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha and has its own Constitution is self-governing and makes its own laws.
The leaders of the G7 countries have pledged an additional $4 billion to the ACT accelerator and COVAX vaccine initiatives, reiterating their resolve to work together to beat Covid-19 and “build back better,” they said in a statement following the virtual meeting on Friday.
“We, the leaders of the Group of Seven, met today and resolved to work together to beat COVID-19 and build back better. Drawing on our strengths and values as democratic, open economies and societies, we will work together and with others to make 2021 a turning point for multilateralism and to shape a recovery that promotes the health and prosperity of our people and planet,” the statement said.
COVAX is a vaccine alliance trying to distribute vaccines to overcome inequality in access to vaccines and distribute shots to low- and middle-income countries. ACT-A is an accelerator that joins forces of various investors and organizations to develop tools to bring the pandemic closer to an end.
At the first G7 event attended by US President Joe Biden, the leaders of some of the world’s strongest economies repeated their support for sustainable development across the globe. They promised to agree concrete action on these priorities at the G7 Summit in the United Kingdom in June.
In addition to these commitments, the G7 leaders also supported the commitment by Japan to “hold the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 in a safe and secure manner this summer as a symbol of global unity in overcoming Covid-19,” they said.