A version of this story appeared in the February 16 edition of Bioreports’s Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.
(Bioreports)Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is at the center of an escalating controversy over Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes, how they were counted and how his administration handled requests for that data.
He’s now facing bipartisan calls for an investigation and limitations on his executive powers after a top aide said the administration delayed the release of data on deaths of long-term care facility residents because of concerns about a potential federal investigation by the Trump administration, at a time when former US President Donald Trump was personally threatening Cuomo, Paul LeBlanc reports.
At the heart of the matter is the question of whether New York could better have prevented the state’s 46,000 deaths, the second-highest total of any US state so far, and whether the decision to discharge recovering residents from hospitals back to nursing homes increased infections among vulnerable elderly residents.
The revelations undermine Cuomo’s self-hyped reputation as a straight shooter, honed during daily press conferences last spring as Covid-19 rampaged through New York. His communicative approach provided a clear contrast to Trump’s lies and false assurances that the virus was under control and would disappear, Lauren del Valle and Eric Levenson report.
Cuomo defended his administration’s lack of transparency on Monday. He however acknowledged that a “void” of facts allowed misinformation to creep in because data requests were placed on the back burner as health officials dealt with the immediate pandemic crisis. He stressed there was no connection between the nursing home questions and his emergency powers, and that his Covid-19 legal actions are only to protect the public. “These are public health decisions,” he said. “They’re not local political decisions, and they have to be made on a public health basis.”
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED
Q: Are the US winter storms affecting Covid-19 vaccination distribution?
A: Vaccine distribution in states and cities across the US is slowing down because of winter storms that left more than a third of the continental US with below-zero temperatures Monday.
The severe winter weather sparked emergency declarations in at least seven states, including Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Texas.
Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
WHO gives green light to Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) for emergency use on Monday, meaning that it can be rolled out globally through COVAX, a coalition which aims to distribute vaccines to poorer nations. The vaccine is a key weapon in combating the virus in low and middle income countries as it’s cheaper and easier to transport and store than some of the other candidates.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the listing is for “two versions” of the same shot. He explained that it was because the vaccine was being manufactured by two different producers — AstraZeneca-SKBio and the Serum Institute of India — therefore requiring separate reviews and approvals, as they are being made in different production plants.
Ambulance crews report drop in Covid callouts in hard-hit Wales as vaccine rollout gathers pace
Wales once had the distinction of being home to some of the worst-hit areas in the United Kingdom, which itself has one of the worst death rates globally. But last Friday, it had a new focus: Completing its rollout of vaccines to the most vulnerable ahead of schedule — with greater efficiency than the already fast UK. It’s left some wondering if the vaccines might be playing a role — finally — in the drop in elderly patients in need, Nick Paton Walsh, Jo Shelley and Christian Streib report.
The US just saw its lowest Covid-19 daily case count since October
The US recorded 64,900 new infections on Sunday, the lowest figure since October. Just last month, reported infections were topping 200,000 a day, Christina Maxouris reports.
While encouraging, experts warn that the numbers are still high and people should not let their guards down as there could be another surge with new variants circulating. Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending Americans avoid travel if they can, the past weekend saw more than 4 million people flying since Thursday. And while officials are working to get more Americans vaccinated, winter storms are now delaying the process in parts of the country.
ON OUR RADAR
- Eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo have made a full recovery after contracting Covid-19 last month.
- Peru’s foreign minister has stepped down amid a furor over government officials secretly being vaccinated even before the country began rolling out doses to health care workers.
- The first Black woman to lead the World Trade Organization says she will prioritize fair trade and equal access to Covid-19 vaccines.
- A study has found that bars and Covid-19 safety rules don’t mix, in spite of government guidance and bar owners implementing safety measures.
- After Black-owned businesses closed at disproportionately high rates last year, civil rights activists and business leaders are asking the Biden administration to include targeted funding for Black entrepreneurs in the next Covid-19 relief package.
The giant winter storm in the US has left more than 5 million people without power, creating another possibly dangerous situation for millions of Americans who are sheltering due to the pandemic and don’t typically see freezing temperatures.
As people try to keep warm without power, they run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning when using unconventional heat sources such as stoves, grills or generators. Here’s what you need to know and do in order to stay safe and warm during the cold snap.
“Nobody wants to experience any side effects, but I can safely say they shouldn’t cause you alarm or be a reason, by any means, to avoid the vaccine.” — Bioreports Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta
In today’s episode, Dr. Gupta answers listeners’ questions about the vaccine, from new avenues of distribution to the question on everyone’s mind: What am I allowed to do now that I’ve had my shots? Listen now.