Sweeping COVID restriction rollbacks worry health experts

Health officials are urging caution as states begin some of the biggest rollbacks in restrictions since the pandemic began. Nikki Battiste reports.

Video Transcript

NORAH O'DONNELL: Good evening, and thank you for joining us. We are going to begin tonight with the rapid move to start loosening coronavirus restrictions and a new warning that those changes could lead to another deadly spike in cases. Tonight, Dr. Anthony Fauci says he is concerned that a recent drop in infections nationwide has now stalled and could start climbing again.

New research from the CDC appears to back that up, suggesting that in places where in-person dining is allowed, the death rate from COVID goes up. At the same time, scientists at the CDC say they now have evidence that masks work, leading to fewer infections and deaths.

Meantime tonight, state lawmakers in New York are moving to strip Governor Andrew Cuomo of the emergency powers he's used to keep restrictions there in place. The move comes on the heels of allegations that his administration covered up the reporting of COVID deaths at nursing homes and as the governor is facing accusations of sexual harassment from three women. Tonight we have more of our exclusive interview with one of those women, Charlotte Bennett. She says that not only did the governor harass her, but when she reported it, his legal counsel said the allegations didn't need to be investigated.

So we'll get to that in just a moment. But we're going to begin with those new warnings about reopening. CBS's Nikki Battiste is in New York City. Good evening, Nikki.

NIKKI BATTISTE: Good evening. Here in New York, movie theaters were allowed to open today at 25% capacity. Some showings at this one have sold out and may be a sign people are ready to get back to normal. But the CDC says now is not the time to let our guard down.

Across America, glimpses of a post-pandemic life. Tonight, Arizona ending restrictions on bars and restaurants and allowing baseball fans in time for spring training. Connecticut announcing plans to lift capacity limits on most businesses, and Atlanta ready to host the NBA All-Star Game with fans pouring in from out of state.

- God bless, I hope so. I would love to see business improve.

NIKKI BATTISTE: But normalcy may be much further off. Tonight, a very different timeline from Dr. Anthony Fauci on Instagram Live.

ANTHONY FAUCI: The logistic constraint of getting the vaccine into people's arms will probably take an additional few months. So we project that anyone who wants to get vaccinated will have gotten vaccinated by the time we get to the end of the summer and the beginning of the fall.

NIKKI BATTISTE: And as states like Texas and Mississippi roll back mask mandates, a sobering new study from the CDC, which looked at counties that allowed indoor dining and those with mask mandates. It found that those with restrictions had far lower rates of illness and death.

ROCHELLE WALENSKY: It also serves as a warning about premature lifting these prevention measures.

NIKKI BATTISTE: As for prevention, there is promising news as 2 million Americans are now getting a vaccine dose every day on average. That's more than double from Inauguration Day. And in rural Kentucky, a UPS truck dropped off Johnson & Johnson vials to this tiny 25-bed hospital yesterday. The vulnerable include 90-year-old Alberta Thomas.

ALBERTA THOMAS: As soon as I found out about this shot, I said, I will get that one. I will get that one. It was top priority.

NIKKI BATTISTE: State-run mass vaccination sites at Yankee Stadium and the Javits Center got a boost from the addition of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Both sites have begun taking overnight appointments to meet demand. Norah.

NORAH O'DONNELL: Nikki Battiste, thank you.