National News from ABC

COVID-19 updates: US daily death average falls below 2,000 for first time in month

jonathanfilskov-photography/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.8 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 935,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

About 64.7% of the population in the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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

Feb 21, 4:29 pm
New Zealand will only lift COVID restrictions ‘well beyond’ omicron peak, prime minister says

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday the country will only lift COVID-19 restrictions when it is “well beyond” the omicron peak.

During a Post-Cabinet press conference, Ardern said COVID-19 cases are expected to double every three to four days with a peak expected in mid-to-late March.

“It’s likely then that, very soon, we will all know people who have COVID or we will potentially get it ourselves,” she said.

Restrictions currently include unvaccinated people not being allowed to enter restaurants and bars, students being required to wear masks and events such as weddings being limited to 100 guests, or 25 guests if there are unvaccinated people in attendance.

Ardern also addressed protesters who have been occupying the grounds of the parliament building over the last week in protest of COVID rules.

“Everyone is over COVID. No one wants to live with rules or restrictions. But had we not all been willing to work together to protect one another, then we all would have been worse off as individuals, including losing people we love,” she said.

Ardern continued, “We all want to go back to the way that life was, and we will, I suspect sooner than you think. But when that happens, it will be because easing restrictions won’t compromise the lives of thousands of people, not because you demanded it.”

Feb 21, 3:24 pm
Maui ends vaccination requirement for indoor restaurants and gyms

Maui announced Monday it is ending its requirement for people to be fully vaccinated to enter indoor restaurants and other businesses.

“Beginning February 21, 2022, proof of vaccination or testing will no longer be required for indoor service at restaurants and bars,” according to a statement on the island’s website.

People using fitness centers and gyms will also not need to know show proof of vaccination.

This makes Oahu the last island in Hawaii to still require people to be fully vaccinated to enter restaurants, bars and gyms.

However, the County of Maui still requires masks to be worn indoors, and out-of-state travelers must show proof of vaccination to avoid a mandatory five-day quarantine.

Feb 21, 1:52 pm
Boris Johnson announces end of remaining COVID restrictions in England

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Monday the end of all remaining COVID-19 restrictions in England.

This includes the requirement that people who test positive for COVID-19 self-isolate, and officials will no longer perform contact tracing.

People who do contract the virus will still be advised to stay home, but they will not receive any financial support from the government for missing work, a measure that was introduced during the pandemic.

Additionally, free lab PCR tests will only be available to the elderly and the immunocompromised while free rapid tests will no longer be distributed by the government.

“We now have sufficient levels of immunity to complete the transition from protecting people with government interventions to relying on vaccines and treatments as our first line of defense,” Johnson said in a speech to the House of Commons.

Johnson acknowledged that the virus “has not gone away,” noting that Queen Elizabeth II tested positive for COVID-19 Sunday, but added the country needs to “learn to live with this virus and continue protecting ourselves and others without restricting our freedoms.”

Feb 21, 12:51 pm
US daily death average falls below 2,000 for first time in a month

The daily average of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. fell below 2,000 for the first time in nearly a month over the weekend.

In the last week, the average has declined by about 15.3% to approximately 1,920 virus-related deaths every day.

Although the average remains high, experts say deaths are a lagging indicator and the country may finally see sharp drops after several weeks of increases.

Additionally, the daily average of COVID-19 cases has fallen to 103,000 per day, reaching its lowest average since early December.

Since the country’s peak in early January, the average of new infections in the U.S. has dropped by 87%.

Feb 21, 12:19 pm
Justin Bieber tests positive for COVID, cancels shows

Justin Bieber has tested positive for COVID-19, his manager, Scooter Braun, confirmed Sunday.

It comes just two days after the 27-year-old singer kicked off his world tour “Justice” in San Diego Friday that had been rescheduled from 2021.

“Rest up Justin. Excited to see you back doing what you love,” Braun wrote on Instagram.

Bieber was forced to cancel a show in Las Vegas Sunday, which has been rescheduled for June 28, 2022, as well as a Tuesday show in Glendale, Arizona, for June 30.

“Justin is of course hugely disappointed, but the health and safety of his crew and fans is always his number one priority,” a statement read.

“The tour launch in San Diego was a massive success, and Justin is excited to bring this spectacular show to his … fans as soon as possible,” the statement continued.

Feb 21, 10:50 am
COVID infection rate at Winter Olympics was 0.01%

The COVID-19 infection rate at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics was 0.01%, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said Monday.

Since Jan. 23, more than 1.8 million COVID tests were performed, and 437 people tested positive, according to a press release.

Of those positive tests, 98 were among athletes, 87 were among team officials and the remaining 252 were among “stakeholders.”

Bach said in a statement that the closed-loop system used by the Games “has been one of the safest places on this planet, if not the safest.”

“The message to the world is that, if everybody is respecting the rules in solidarity, you can even have such a great event like the Olympic Games under the terms of a pandemic,” the statement continued.

Feb 21, 9:45 am
Australia reopens its borders after nearly two years

Australia welcomed back international travelers Monday after the country reopened its borders for the first time in nearly two years.

The country had banned most non-residents without travel exemptions from visiting since March 2020.

“From 21 February 2022, all visa holders who are fully vaccinated for international travel purposes can travel to Australia without a travel exemption,” according to a statement from the government’s Department of Home Affairs.

“Unvaccinated visa holders will still need to be in an exempt category or hold an individual travel exemption to enter Australia,” the statement continued.

According to Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan, 56 international flights will arrive in Australia Monday, including from the U.S., Canada, Great Britain and Japan.

Feb 21, 7:24 am
New York delays booster mandate for health care workers

New York health officials announced the state will delay enforcement of its booster requirement for health care workers in an effort to avoid potential staffing issues.

The mandate had been scheduled to go into effect on Monday.

“While we are making progress with 75% of staff received or are willing to receive their booster, the reality is that not enough healthcare workers will be boosted by next week’s requirement in order to avoid substantial staffing issues in our already overstressed healthcare system,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement on Friday. “That is why we are announcing additional efforts to work closely with healthcare facilities and ensure that our healthcare workforce is up to date on their doses.”

In three months, the state will reassess whether additional steps will be needed to increase booster uptake among healthcare workers, officials said. The original vaccination requirement for healthcare workers remains in effect.

“The vaccine and booster are critical tools to keep both healthcare workers and their patients safe, and we continue to urge everyone to get vaccinated and receive a booster dose when eligible,” Bassett said.

The state said it will work closely with hospitals to increase booster rates among healthcare workers.

-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulous

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Now Playing On X101

Download The X101 App