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COVID-19 live updates: South Africa halts AstraZeneca vaccines due to new variant



(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 106 million people worldwide and killed over 2.3 million, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Here’s how the news is developing Monday. All times Eastern:

Feb 08, 11:20 am
Republican Congressman dies of COVID-19

Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas, has died of COVID-19, his office confirmed on Monday. Wright, who had lung cancer, was diagnosed with the coronavirus on Jan. 21 and admitted to Baylor Hospital in Dallas.

Wright, who died on Feb. 7, was 67 years old.

“Over the past few years, Congressman Wright had kept a rigorous work schedule on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and at home in Texas’ Congressional District 6 while being treated for cancer,” his office said.

Wright is the second lawmaker to die after testing positive for COVID-19. In late December, GOP Rep.-elect Luke Letlow of Louisiana passed away at age 41, just days before he was due to be sworn in.

Feb 08, 11:04 am
Delta to block out middle seats through April

Delta will continue blocking out middle seats and limiting capacity on flights because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline announced in a statement Monday. The extra space will last through April 30, 2021.

“We’ll continue to reassess seat blocking in relation to case transmission and vaccination rates,” Bill Lentsch, chief customer experience officer, said in a statement.

Delta, which has blocked out seats and limited capacity on flights since last April, is currently the only U.S. airline still blocking out middle seats because of the virus.

Feb 08, 10:33 am
Some UNC classes to go virtual due to crowds flooding street after basketball win

Some UNC-Chapel Hill classes have the option to go virtual for nearly two weeks after university officials received hundreds of complaints following Saturday night’s crowd that rushed Franklin Street.

“As you are no doubt aware, last night hundreds of Carolina fans — many, presumably students — flooded Franklin Street to celebrate our men’s basketball victory over Duke,” university officials wrote in a statement. UNC-Chapel Hill students have agreed to adhere to COVID-19 rules like state gathering restrictions, mask-wearing and physical distancing, the officials noted.

“Those standards do not include exceptions for winning basketball games,” the officials said.

The timing of the crowd fell the weekend before students returned for in-person learning for spring semester. While in-person instruction will continue Monday, faculty are allowed to teach virtually and return to in-person learning on Feb. 17, according to the university. Students who attend in-person classes are required to be tested twice a week.

Feb 08, 9:43 am
South Africa halts AstraZeneca vaccines due to new variant

South Africa halted its rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine following trial results that found the vaccine provided “minimal protection” against mild-to-moderate sickness from the new virus variant spreading in South Africa. The trial did not assess whether the AstraZeneca vaccine protects against severe illness and death caused by the new variant, known as B.1.351.

On Monday, an AstraZeneca spokesperson said that the company believes its vaccine will protect against severe disease caused by the B.1.351 variant.

“This was a small study with predominantly young (average 31 years) healthy adults, where severe disease is not predominant. No severe disease or hospitalization was observed in the vaccine or control participants,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“We are working closely with the South African Ministry of Health on how best to support the evaluation of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca against severe disease of the B.1.351 variant, and how to bring this vaccine to the South African people,” the spokesperson added.

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