Coronavirus Pandemic

Virus Updates: All Americans Could Have Access to Vaccines by April; Calif. Surpasses NY Death Toll

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Efforts to immunize as many people as possible are underway in most states, and many key indicators show signs of improvement since the deadly winter surge, however deaths continue to mount across the country.

California edged past New York with the most death from the coronavirus. California’s death toll reached 45,496, surpassing New York’s toll of 45,312 on Thursday.

Elsewhere, the variant of the coronavirus that first emerged in the U.K., and has since been identified in over 50 countries, could become the dominant form of the virus worldwide, according to the head of the U.K.’s genetic surveillance program.

The U.S. has reported more than 27 million coronavirus cases and 472,000 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to a tally by NBC News.

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from the U.S. and elsewhere:

Fauci Predicts Most People in US Will be Able to Start Vaccinations by April

Dr. Anthony Fauci predicts by April it will be “open season” for vaccinations in the U.S., as supply boosts allow most people to get shots to protect against COVID-19.

Speaking to NBC’s “TODAY” show, Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert who serves as chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, says the rate of vaccinations will greatly accelerate in the coming months. He credits forthcoming deliveries of the two approved vaccines, the potential approval of a third, and moves taken by the Biden administration to increase the nation’s capacity to deliver doses.

He says, “by the time we get to April,” it will be “open season, namely virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated.”

He cautioned it will take “several more months” to logistically deliver injections to adult Americans but predicted herd immunity could be achieved by late summer.

California Surpasses New York in Coronavirus Deaths

California has edged past New York with the most death from the coronavirus. California’s death toll reached 45,496 Thursday, surpassing New York’s toll of 45,312, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The development comes as other coronavirus numbers show improvement in California. The most recent seven-day test positivity rate has fallen to 4.8%, according to the state's Department of Public Health.

The most recent daily number of confirmed positive cases was 8,390, down from 53,000 in December.

However, California is grappling with vaccine shortages to inoculate substantial numbers of its nearly 40 million residents.

Los Angeles is temporarily closing five mass vaccination sites, including Dodger Stadium, for lack of supply. Smaller mobile vaccination clinics will continue their work in LA, according to Mayor Eric Garcetti. The city expects more supplies next week.

UK Coronavirus Variant 'on Course to Sweep the World,' Leading Scientist Says

A variant of the coronavirus that first emerged in the U.K., and has since been identified in over 50 countries, could become the dominant form of the virus worldwide, according to the head of the U.K.’s genetic surveillance program.

“The new variant has swept the country and it’s going to sweep the world, in all probability,” Professor Sharon Peacock, director of the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium, said.

“In the future, I think the key is going to be if something (a variant) is particularly problematic with the vaccines,” she told the broadcaster’s Newcast podcast.

The group that Peacock heads up was created in April 2020 and brings together highly-respected experts and institutes to collect, sequence and analyze genomes of the virus, as part of the U.K.'s pandemic response. To date, it has tracked the genetic history of more than 250,000 samples of the virus.

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AstraZeneca Working to Adapt Vaccine to New Strains

AstraZeneca said Thursday it's working with the University of Oxford to adapt its COVID-19 vaccine to protect against new strains of the virus as public health officials raise concerns about mutations that may make the virus more resistant to existing vaccines.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker worked with Oxford to develop one of the first COVID-19 vaccines authorized for widespread use. AstraZeneca said it hopes to cut the time needed to produce large amounts of any new vaccine to between six and nine months.

The comments came as Astra-Zeneca said fourth-quarter net income rose to $1.01 billion from $313 million in the same quarter a year earlier. Drug sales increased 11% to $7.41 billion, driven by a 24% increase in cancer treatments.

The company posted $2 million of revenue from its COVID-19 vaccine, which it has pledged to supply on a non-profit basis during the pandemic, and said it would begin reporting sales of the vaccine separately beginning in the next quarter.

CDC: Fully Vaccinated People Don't Need to Quarantine If Exposed to COVID

People who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to quarantine if they are exposed to the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday in updated guidance on its website.

Quarantine is typically recommended for healthy people who have been exposed to the virus. During quarantine, people are asked to isolate from others for one to two weeks to see whether they develop symptoms of COVID-19. By not exposing others, quarantining can help stop the spread of the disease.

In the updated guidance, the CDC said such quarantining is not necessary for fully vaccinated people within three months of having received their last doses as long as they do not develop any symptoms. "Fully vaccinated" means that at least two weeks have passed since a person has received the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a single-dose vaccine.

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Cuomo: Large NY Venues Can Reopen Feb. 23 With Testing; Barclays to Host Fans That Day

Declaring New York state's demonstration with the Buffalo Bills an "unparalleled success," Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday he will extend the testing- based program to any large stadium or arena later this month, NBC New York reports.

Fans who provide a negative PCR test within 72 hours of an event will be able to attend music shows and performances as well as baseball, soccer, football and basketball games. Arenas can open to the public on Feb. 23.

Certain rules and restrictions apply to start, Cuomo said. There is a strict 10 percent capacity limit in arenas and stadiums with more than 10,000-person total capacity. Venues have to submit their plans to the State Department of Health for approval. Core mitigation efforts like mask-wearing, temperature checks and mandatory assigned seating to ensure social distancing will also be required.

The state's inspection efforts of eligible venues has been underway, which is why Barclays Center has already been cleared to reopen on the first day it can, Feb. 23. The Brooklyn stadium will host fans for the Nets game against the Sacramento Kings.

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