Coronavirus Vaccine Updates: South African variant found in 12 states

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- Health experts are stressing the need to vaccinate quickly as the more contagious variant first detected in South Africa as been confirmed in 12 states.

There is some hope though, as the average number of daily cases of COVID has plunged 74% since January. The average number of deaths is also down 38% in the last five days.

Johnson & Johnson says they will deliver 20 million single shot doses by the end of March, if the FDA grants emergency authorization, which could happen as early as this weekend.

Meantime, researchers at a lab in Alabama are now working on a COVID vaccine in the form of a nasal spray. Human trials begin this week.

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Here are more of today's headlines:



Glasses wearers less likely to get COVID, study says
Wearing glasses might give you an extra layer of protection against COVID. A new study out of India found people who wear glasses are three times less likely to get the virus.

Researchers suggest that's because they're less likely to touch their eyes-- which can be a significant route of infection.

105-year-old survives COVID, offers advice to long life
A woman in Ocean County who tested positive for COVID-19 on her 105th birthday last month has recovered and now has some words of advice.

Lucia DeClerck said Tuesday she's feeling wonderful. She has now lived through two World Wars and two pandemics, and at 105 years old, she is even getting the hang of Zoom.

New Yorkers should wear 2 masks until at least June: Mayor
In New York City, which was the U.S. epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring, the mayor is asking residents to wear two masks until at least June.

"Through June, keep doing exactly what you are doing," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday. "Not just wear a mask, wear two. Social distancing, get tested monthly. If you do have a case in your home, have the person safely separate."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month that layering a well-fitting cloth mask over a surgical mask is likely beneficial. Research suggested that when a person "double masks" -- wearing a polypropylene surgical mask with a cloth mask on top -- and the people around them did the same, the risk of transmitting the virus falls more than 95%. The benefit fell to 80% if only one person wore the double mask.

NYC middle school staff, students to return for in-person learning
The return of in-person learning for staff and students at a New York City middle school.

""We are pleased that middle school students will soon join elementary and D75 students in returning to in-person learning, and we commend the city for committing to provide vaccines to all in-person staff to ensure their ongoing safety," CSA President Mark Cannizzaro announced in a statement. "The city has assured us that they will continue to build testing capacity in school buildings and improve their ability to inform students and staff of building or classroom closures within a reasonable timeframe. We are hopeful that they will enhance and expand their protocols, as they have so far struggled to keep up while elementary and D75 school buildings have been open."

2nd case of South Africa variant on LI
A second case of the coronavirus variant first found in South Africa has been identified in New York, and like the first case, it is a resident from Nassau County. Governor Andrew Cuomo said 18 new cases of the UK variant were identified in New York, raising the state total to 54 known cases.

COVID relief bill with 3rd stimulus check poised for House floor vote
The House Budget Committee voted Monday to advance President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion relief package, setting up the legislation aimed at fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout to go to the House floor for a vote later this week. The package includes direct aid to small businesses, $1,400 direct checks to Americans making less than $75,000 annually, an increase in the child tax credit, direct funding to state and local governments and more money for vaccine distribution. The bill also includes funding for schools both at the secondary and higher education level.

However, in order for any package to become law it must pass both the House and the Senate. in the Senate, Democratic and Republican staffers will sit down as soon as Tuesday with Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough to hash out whether the $15 minimum wage is allowed under the budget reconciliation process, which would allow the package to pass with just 50 votes as opposed to 60 votes. MacDonough's decision will determine the outcome of the next steps for Biden's stimulus package and whether a minimum wage increase is included.

Barclays Center, MSG welcoming Nets, Knicks fans Tuesday
The Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks will host their first home games with fans in nearly a year at Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden, respectively, Tuesday night, as coronavirus restrictions ease in New York. The arenas have been used for voting over the past year, but otherwise, it's been quiet. And it's not just basketball fans who are excited, as owners of nearby businesses are anxious for an increase in customers.

2 new COVID vaccine megasites target low-income city neighborhoods
For the most part, vaccine distribution is left up to each state. In New York, attention is turning to lower-income neighborhoods with high COVID rates. That's why Governor Andrew Cuomo toured the new mass vaccination site at Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights, which opens Wednesday. Nationwide and in New York, African Americans have been getting vaccinated at lower rates than white people. The state is also opening a vaccine center Wednesday at York College in Jamaica. Both new sites opening Wednesday are by appointment only for people living in those neighborhoods. They aim to vaccinate up to 3,000 people a day at each location.

CT rolls out new, age-based vaccination plan
Going forward, vaccine distribution in Connecticut will be prioritized based on age rather than underlying medical conditions. Beginning March 1, people aged 55 to 64 can sign up for an appointment. Beginning March 22, those aged 45 to 54 will be eligible. People aged 35 to 44 can begin scheduling on April 12, and those between 16 and 34 will become eligible on May 3. People older than 65 and frontline health care workers are already eligible.

Johnson & Johnson says it will be able to provide 20 million COVID-19 vaccine doses by end of March
Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson says it will be able to provide 20 million U.S. doses of its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine by the end of March, assuming it gets the greenlight from federal regulators. J&J disclosed the figure ahead of a Congressional hearing on Tuesday looking at the country's vaccine supply. White House officials cautioned last week that initial supplies of J&J's vaccine would be limited. COVID-19 vaccine could cause mammogram result confusion, doctors say. The company reiterated that it will have capacity to provide 100 million vaccine doses to the U.S. by the end of June. That supply will help government officials reach the goal of having enough injections to vaccinate most adult Americans later this year. On a global scale, the company aims to produce 1 billion doses this year.

Rapper who died of COVID honored in Bronx
A rapper was honored in his hometown one year after he died from COVID-19. Frederick Thomas, known to fans as Fred the Godson, died last April after several weeks in the hospital at the age of 41. Friends and family braved the snow and rain Monday to see the corner of Leggett Avenue and Kelly Street be re-named in his honor.

$1 billion in unpaid NYC rent due to COVID pandemic: Check your neighborhood
One billion dollars. That's how much tenants haven't been paying in rent in New York City alone since the pandemic started. Landlords can't evict people in New York right now, due to a moratorium. But many of them have been filing the paperwork to do so as soon as they are legally able. 7 On Your Side Investigates found big disparities in the eviction notices that have already been filed, which are affecting more people in minority communities and in the area's poorest neighborhoods.

Top 7 COVID vaccine questions answered
You had questions about COVID-19 vaccines and 7 On Your Side is getting you answers from doctors on the front line of the pandemic.

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