Public health officials across the nation are bracing for a possible surge in coronavirus cases if Americans fail to take heed of warnings not to gather for Super Bowl parties Sunday.
The game itself will be played before 22,000 masked fans, many of them vaccinated health care workers, at a stadium in Tampa Bay. Experts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been among many health officials warning Americans to gather with friends over Zoom, not over bowls of guacamole in their living rooms, lest the parties ignited superspreader events across the nation.
“I’m worried about Super Bowl Sunday, quite honestly. People gather, they watch games together. We’ve seen outbreaks already from football parties,” said Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “So I really do think that we need to watch this and be careful.”
State leaders were also on alert.
“Watching the Big Game today?” tweeted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “Celebrate smart and be safe. We are seeing our positivity & hospitalizations decline thanks to the dedication of all NYers. We can’t undo that progress.”
COVID-19 has killed more than 462,000 Americans, and infections have continued to mount despite the introduction of a pair of vaccines late in 2020. USA TODAY is tracking the news. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox, join our Facebook group or scroll through our in-depth answers to reader questions.
Well worth reading: Frank Martinez and his wife, Masako, were “inseparable” until they both contracted COVID-19. They were being treated in separate hospital rooms, but two nurses brought them together for a date night.
In the headlines:
►Singer Engelbert Humperdinck is mourning his wife of 56 years, Patricia Healey, who died Thursday at age 85 after contracting COVID-19. Humperdinck, 84, announced in a social media post that his family was “heartbroken over the loss of my darling wife.”
►Inmates at a St. Louis jail set fires, broke out windows and threw things from fourth-floor windows Saturday in the latest disturbance over coronavirus concerns and restrictions that have limited visits and stalled court proceedings, officials said.
►A divided Supreme Court late Friday blocked enforcement of California’s prohibition on indoor church services during the coronavirus pandemic, the latest case in which the justices have been asked to assess measures intended to slow the spread of the virus in light of religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution.
►New coronavirus cases are on the decline in the United States following staggering post-holiday peaks last month, but experts say it’s too early for new COVID-19 vaccines to be having an impact.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 26.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 462,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 105.8 million cases and 2.3 million deaths. More than 58.3 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and about 36.8 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Cutting, bribing, stealing: Some people get COVID-19 vaccines before it’s their turn.
The nation’s top infectious disease expert said Sunday that it would not be prudent to delay second doses of COVID vaccines because it would take to long to study the impact. From “a theoretical standpoint” it would be good to know the durability of one dose, he said. But the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has been thoroughly tested for a second dose in three weeks and four week respectively, he said.
“The amount of time that it will take, the amount of people you would have to put into the study — by that time, we will already be in the arena of having enough vaccines to go around anyway,” Fauci said on NBC News’ Meet the Press. “What we have right now, and what we must go with, is the scientific data that we’ve accumulated, and it’s really very solid.”
More terminally ill patients – both with COVID-19 and other diseases – are opting to die at home rather than face the terrifying scenario of saying farewell to loved ones behind glass or during video calls. National hospice organizations are reporting that facilities are seeing double-digit percentage increases in the number of patients being cared for at home.
“What we are seeing with COVID is certainly patients want to stay at home,” said Judi Lund Person, the vice president for regulatory compliance at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. “They don’t want to go to the hospital. They don’t want to go to a nursing home.”
Virus deaths won’t be reflected in the 2020 census, a step that will have an impact on where congressional seats get apportioned, experts say. The important reference date for answering census questions was April 1, soon after U.S. deaths began. New York state, which has had about 44,000 deaths, is expected to lose a House seat because of population shifts, but it could have lost two if the census date was later, said Kimball Brace, a redistricting expert at Election Data Services. The Census Bureau releases apportionment numbers by April 30.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said Saturday that it will issue revised guidelines for indoor church services after the Supreme Court lifted the state’s ban on indoor worship during the coronavirus pandemic but left in place restrictions on singing and chanting. In the most significant legal victory against California’s COVID-19 health orders, the high court issued rulings late Friday in two cases where churches argued the restrictions violated their religious liberty. The justices said for now California can’t continue with a ban on indoor church services, but it can limit attendance to 25% of a building’s capacity and restrict singing and chanting inside.
California had put the restrictions in place because the virus is more easily transmitted indoors and singing releases tiny droplets that can carry the disease. Newsom’s office said those measures were imposed to protect worshippers from getting infected.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds will lift the state’s limited mask requirement on Sunday, along with the social distance and other limitations she had in place for businesses and social gatherings.
Her latest coronavirus emergency proclamation, issued Friday afternoon and effective 12:01 a.m. Sunday, instead “strongly encourages Iowans, businesses and organizations to take reasonable public health measures consistent with guidance from the Iowa Department of Public Health,” Reynolds’ spokesperson Pat Garrett said.
Since mid-November, Reynolds, a Republican, has required Iowans two years of age and older to wear masks if they were in indoor areas and spent 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of a person not in their households. The rule carried several exceptions. Her previous proclamation also required social distancing between groups at bars, restaurants, casinos, fitness centers and other establishments, as well as at social gatherings and sporting events.
– Ian Richardson, Des Moines Register
California is adding mass inoculation sites even as the shortage of coronavirus vaccine has local officials restricting who gets shots, with Los Angeles County saying it will limit new vaccinations to ensure second doses are available to those already in line for them.
Santa Clara County and the San Francisco 49ers said Friday they will open California’s largest vaccination site at Levi’s Stadium early next week. It eventually will be capable of injecting up to 15,000 people a day.
The Pentagon, meanwhile, announced troops will start arriving in a little over a week to run a new site at California State University, Los Angeles, opening Feb. 16. Other federal employees will head to a second 6,000-shots-a-day site at Oakland-Alameda Coliseum.
Contributing: The Associated Press