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NEW YORK (WABC) — Health experts are stressing the need to vaccinate quickly as the more contagious South African variant has 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:

Nets, Knicks, Rangers to welcome fans back to Barclays, MSG with restrictions
No more cardboard cutouts, and no more empty stands. New York City sports teams are about to welcome back fans during the coronavirus pandemic, albeit with restrictions. Nearly a year after the NBA shut down, the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks will welcome roughly 2,000 fans each to their respective games Tuesday night.

2 more vaccine megasites opening, state to provide busing
The state is opening two more COVID vaccination sites in New York City, and beginning Wednesday, the sites at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and York College in Queens will be able to vaccinate up to 3,000 people a day. Governor Andrew Cuomo toured the Medgar Evers site Monday, when he also announced the MTA will run enhanced bus service to connect residents of the boroughs to the two vaccination sites. Vaccines given out at the state-run sites are by appointment only and are not part of the state’s weekly allocation. Booking opened Saturday morning for residents of the adjacent neighborhoods only. After one week, scheduling will open to all residents of the borough.

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.

Connecticut adjusts vaccine rollout to age-based system
Gov. Ned Lamont is making a major change to Connecticut’s vaccination rollout schedule. He announced plans Monday to move to a mostly age-based system in an effort to make the rollout less complicated.

Beginning March 1, anyone aged 55 to 64 will be allowed to get a COVID-19 vaccine. They’ll be followed by other groups of residents by age. However, school staff, including teachers, will be allowed to get vaccinated in March.

$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.

Famed rock producer finds 2nd act as bed and breakfast innkeeper
Folks looking to get out of the house and take a break during this pandemic have headed to a bed and breakfast in Massachusetts that offers peace and serenity at this stressful time. But what makes this place truly unique is the innkeeper: A former music business insider with plenty of stories to tell.

US COVID-19 death toll surpasses 500K milestone amid race to vaccinate
The United States has surpassed 500,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, according to an accounting by Johns Hopkins University.

NYC movie theaters can soon reopen for 1st time amid pandemic
Movie theaters across New York City will soon be able to reopen for the first time since they were shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting March 5, theaters in New York City will be allowed to reopen at 25% capacity, which is in conjunction with the rest of New York state. COVID precautions such as assigned seating will be in place and theaters cannot exceed 50 people per screen.

NJ houses of worship, religious services increase capacity
Governor Phil Murphy announced houses of worship and religious services can operate at 50% capacity effective immediately.

Teachers key to COVID-19 infections in 1 district, CDC study finds
A new study finds that teachers may be more important drivers of COVID-19 transmission in schools than students. The paper released Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies nine COVID-19 transmission clusters in elementary schools in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta in December and January. That included one cluster where 16 teachers, students and relatives of students at home were infected. In only one of the nine clusters was a student clearly the first documented case, while a teacher was the first documented case in four clusters. In another four, the first case was unclear. Of the nine clusters, eight involved probable teacher-to-student transmission. Two clusters saw teachers infect each other during in-person meetings or lunches, with a teacher then infecting other students.

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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