COVID-19 tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)
Total U.S. confirmed cases: 77,058,413 (76,855,298)
Total U.S. deaths: 909,070 (905,568)
Total global cases: 401,536,661 (398,153,499)
Total global deaths: 5,767,326 (5,753,698)
New York dropping mask mandate
Gov. Kathy Hochul is dropping New York’s stringent indoor mask mandate, according to the New York Times. The newspaper reports that the state will end a requirement that businesses ask customers for proof of full vaccination or require mask-wearing at all times.
Quoting three people with knowledge of the move, the Times says the decision will eliminate a major source of friction among residents of the state, especially in more conservative areas of New York.
The report says the governor will let the mask mandate lapse since the rise in COVID-19 cases appears to have peaked. However, there's less certainty over whether Hochul will drop a separate mask mandate in New York schools that is set to expire in two weeks.
FDA issues warning about some COVID-19 tests
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning people not to use the E25Bio COVID-19 Direct Antigen Rapid Test. The agency said the test has not been authorized, cleared, or approved by the FDA for distribution for use in the United States, and it may include false labeling representing that the test is authorized by the FDA.
The E25Bio COVID-19 Direct Antigen Rapid Test may also be sold under the trade name E25Bio SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Test Kit.
“The FDA is concerned about the risk of false results when using this test because E25Bio has not provided the FDA with adequate data demonstrating that the test's performance is accurate,” the FDA said in an update.
Johnson & Johnson reportedly halts vaccine production
Published reports state that Johnson & Johnson is stopping the production of its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine. The reports follow the company’s decision late last year to end production of the vaccine at a plant in Leiden, Netherlands.
The company did not comment on the plant closure reports, but it said in a statement to CBS News that it has "millions of doses of our COVID-19 vaccine in inventory" and "we continue to fulfill our contractual obligations.”
The vaccine is widely used overseas, especially in developing nations, where officials prefer a one-shot vaccine over AstraZeneca’s two-shot requirement.
Around the nation
Texas: Officials in McLennan County report that new cases of COVID-19 have dropped drastically across Central Texas. They say they’re cautiously optimistic that things are improving. "We're excited to see our numbers decreasing, but it's still a little too early to say if we are out of the woods," Lashonda Malrey-Horne, director of the McLennan County Health District, told 25 News.
Colorado: Deaths from COVID-19 remain elevated nationwide, but Colorado is an exception. The state has one of the lowest overall COVID-19 death rates in the country. With 195 deaths per 100,000 residents, Colorado ranks 41st overall, in between the rates of Virginia and Nebraska.
Connecticut: Gov. Ned Lamont is recommending that the statewide mask mandate for schools and daycare centers be discontinued at the end of February. However, he said masking requirements will be left up to local officials and schools boards after Feb. 28.
Minnesota: The University of Minnesota athletic department has announced that there will be no extension of its vaccination mandate for fans to attend the school’s sports events. Since Jan. 26, fans have been required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to attend events with more than 200 spectators.
Virginia: The Virginia Beach School Board resumed a debate this week over masking guidelines, with some teachers pushing for tighter restrictions. Currently, the board allows parents to “opt out” of the rule that requires students to mask up in class.