ECONOMY

J&J Shot Clear for Distribution; Cuomo Under Fire: Virus Update

Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot Covid-19 vaccine was cleared for distribution after U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky formally recommended that adults 18 and older should receive it. The company said in a statement it planned to ship 100 million doses in the first half of the year.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, pushed back against any tendency to shop around or wait for a preferred vaccine of the three now approved in the U.S. Microsoft Corp. vowed to fix widespread problems with its vaccine scheduling software.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Governor Mario Cuomo should be stripped of his emergency powers, following accusations of sexual harassment and improper counting of deaths at nursing homes.

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CDC Head Signs Off on J&J Shot Approval (5:15 p.m. NY)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky formally recommended that adults 18 and older should receive Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, the agency said in a statement Sunday. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices earlier in the day voted unanimously to recommend the one-shot vaccine.

Walensky’s sign-off means that J&J’s vaccine can now be administered. The company said in a statement it planned to ship 100 million doses in the first half of the year, giving the U.S. its third approved Covid-19 vaccine.

Utah Vaccinations Canceled Over Error (4:47 p.m. NY)

Utah canceled about 7,200 vaccinations that had been scheduled because of “an error in the registration system,” according to a tweet from the Utah Department of Health. The error allowed people who were under 65 or had no pre-existing medical conditions to register, a department spokesman said, according to the AP.

Fauci Warns Against Vaccine Shopping (3:43 p.m. NY)

Anthony Fauci pushed back against any tendency to shop around or wait for a preferred vaccine among the three that are now approved for use in the U.S.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was asked on ABC’s “This Week” about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which got the go-ahead on Saturday from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The one-dose J&J shot was found to be highly effective at preventing severe Covid-19, but has a lower efficacy rate than the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc. vaccines, raising concerns that some people may opt to wait rather than being vaccinated with it. “We’ve got to get away from that chain of thought,” Fauci said on ABC.

CDC Advisers Recommend J&J Shot (3:24 p.m. NY)

Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine should be used to inoculate U.S. adults 18 years old and older, advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a 12-0 vote.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices held an emergency meeting Sunday to review J&J’s shot, which the Food and Drug Administration cleared late Saturday. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky must now sign off on the recommendation from the panel of independent doctors and immunization experts.

J&J’s vaccine can be administered once the CDC finalizes its guidelines. The first doses will soon be distributed, becoming the third Covid-19 vaccine available in the U.S.

South Carolina’s Eased Rules Start Monday (3:08 p.m. NY)

South Carolina’s restrictions will ease Monday. Alcohol sales in bars and restaurants will no longer be banned after 11 p.m., and events involving more than 250 people will no longer require state approval. The state never had a mask mandate, which Governor Henry McMaster called unenforceable. The state is, however, recommending that masks still be worn and other health and social-distancing measures be observed.

“The virus is still among us and we all must continue to make responsible decisions to take care of ourselves and our loved ones,” the Republican governor tweeted after announcing the rollback. “But those decisions are for South Carolinians to make.”

South Carolina is one of 16 states where new cases are declining even as some other states report increases, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

California Deaths Fall to 2-Week Low (2:25 p.m. NY)

California reported 158 deaths yesterday, the lowest since Feb. 15 and below the 14-day average of 367, according to the health department’s website. The state has reported 51,979 fatalities in total. There were 4,685 new cases, below the average of 5,406. California’s 14-day positive test rate dropped to 2.7%, the lowest since Oct. 20. The state has administered almost 48.5 million tests in total.

Microsoft Vows to Fix Vaccination Software (2:21 p.m. NY)

Widely-used Microsoft Corp. vaccine scheduling software that has run into difficulties in states like Iowa and New Jersey is being blamed for problems that left some residents of the nation’s capital unable to book appointments.

After three straight days of issues with the District of Columbia’s online vaccination registration, the Redmond, Washington-based technology company released a statement along with the city government acknowledging “that our efforts have fallen short” and vowing to address the problems.

France Reports Fewer Cases (2:09 p.m. NY)

France reported on Sunday 19,952 new cases in 24 hours, a low number compared to previous days, though weekend reporting is often incomplete. This comes against a background of tighter restrictions in several parts of the country, such as local lockdowns over the weekends, due to the spread of variants, and as the government is reluctant to impose a third nationwide confinement.

South Africa Eases Curbs (1:49 p.m. NY)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa eased restrictions as the rate of new infections dropped, scrapping most limits on alcohol sales, shortening a nighttime curfew and permitting larger public gatherings.

The move to virus alert level 1, from level 3, comes a year after the first Covid-19 case was detected in the country, and will remove most remaining shackles on the struggling economy, Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation on Sunday.
The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in South Africa has dropped to less than 1,500, from a peak of about 22,000 in early January.

U.K. Detects Cases of Brazil Variant (12:34 p.m. NY)

Six cases of a Brazilian coronavirus variant have been detected in the U.K., Public Health England said, warning the mutation may be more resistant to vaccines.

Two cases in England are from the same household in Gloucestershire with a history of travel to Brazil, while a third is unlinked, PHE said on Sunday in an emailed statement. Another three have been detected in Scotland, it said.

Norway Tightens Curbs on Capital (12:26 a.m. NY)

Norwegian capital Oslo will close restaurants and shops from Monday to curb an acceleration of new cases caused by virus strains, especially the one first found in the U.K. Exceptions will be allowed for pharmacies, groceries and take-away meals.

Norway has fared better during the pandemic than many other countries, including its neighbor Sweden. Still, cases in the capital have increased by about 50% in four days following a recent winter school break. The restrictions will be in place until March 15.

Germany to Revise Astra Guidance for Elderly (12:14 p.m. NY)

Germany’s STIKO health authority will soon reconsider its decision not to recommend the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 65. “There will be a new updated recommendation very soon,” head of STIKO Thomas Mertens told ZDF television late on Saturday. Last month, Germany decided to keep it’s recommendation for the vaccine to only be administered to people aged 18-64, saying there was no sufficient data for effectiveness for 65 and above.

Cuomo’s Powers Should Be Curbed, De Blasio Says (11:50 a.m. NY)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Governor Mario Cuomo should be stripped of his emergency powers, following accusations of sexual harassment and improper counting of deaths at nursing homes. The mayor said New York’s legislature “must immediately revoke the Governor’s emergency powers that overrule local control.”

“Questions of this magnitude cannot hang over the heads of New Yorkers as we fight off a pandemic and economic crisis,” de Blasio said in a statement Sunday. “It’s clear what must now take place.”

The two Democrats have become political adversaries, sparring frequently over decisions during the pandemic. At the start of the outbreak in New York, Cuomo said de Blasio did not have the authority to declare city schools shut for the academic year.

Senegal Gets First Vaccines (11:56 a.m. NY)

Senegal will take delivery of its first tranche of 324,000 doses of vaccines offered under the Covax initiative on March 3, Mamadou Ndiaye, spokesperson for the nation’s Ministry of Health, said today by phone.

Ghana last week became the first country to receive the vaccines through the World Health Organization-backed program, which aims to provide at least 2 billion doses to lower-income countries.

Italy Tightens Restrictions (11:28 a.m. NY)

Italy will tighten curbs in Milan, Turin and other areas starting Monday to counter an acceleration of the virus caused by new variants, particularly the strain first found in the U.K. People in designated medium-risk and high-risk areas, known as orange and red zones, will be barred from leaving their city or town except for work or emergency reasons. Some areas will also close schools.

The country reported 17,455 new cases on Sunday and 192 daily deaths versus 280 the day before.

South Dakota Governor Defends Covid Policy (11:18 a.m. NY)

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem defended her decision not to require business closures or other health measures to stop the spread of coronavirus in her state. South Dakota has had one of worst rates for Covid-19 deaths and infections in the country, though the virus is now on the retreat.

“We allowed people to make decisions for themselves,” the Republican governor said in an interview on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.” She said that keeping children in school and making sure people can work and “pay their bills” are among her top priorities.

U.S. Vaccines on Track After Storms (10 a.m. NY)

The U.S. set records over the last two days for vaccinations, the drive now recovered after extreme winter weather paralyzed parts of the nation, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. On Saturday, 2.4 million doses were administered, and on Friday, 2.2 million. Before the storms, doses peaked at 2 million a day on Feb. 12 and 13, the tracker shows.

In total, 72.8 million doses have been given in the U.S., with an average over the last week at 1.65 million a day.

Czechs Eager for Russian Shots (9:20 a.m. NY)

The Czech Republic won’t wait for the European Union regulator’s approval to use a Russian coronavirus vaccine, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said.

The country has taken “concrete steps” to purchase the Sputnik V vaccine and will use it if Czech health authorities approve, Babis said on Sunday in a weekly debate show on Prima TV. Local drug authorities’ assessment of the safety of the vaccine “would be sufficient” to use the shots, he said.

Heathrow Imposes Pandemic Charges (8:43 a.m. NY)

London’s Heathrow airport will charge departing passengers an extra 8.90 pounds ($12.40) in an effort to claw back costs as the coronavirus crisis depresses air travel.

Heathrow has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic since it relies on long-haul markets that have been all-but wiped out. The airport last week posted a 2 billion-pound loss for 2020 after passenger numbers tumbled 73%, a decline it says has left it unable to cover the costs of providing some services.

U.S. Deaths, Cases Decline (8 a.m. NY)

Reported U.S. cases declined on Saturday to 68,049, a daily total that’s little changed from the previous seven-day average, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.

The U.S. added 1,536 deaths, the fewest since Monday, according to the data.

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