June 15 coronavirus news

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 7:58 p.m. ET, June 15, 2021
19 Posts
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12:59 p.m. ET, June 15, 2021

New York lifts all state-mandated Covid restrictions with 70% of population at least partially vaccinated

From CNN's Laura Ly

Customers dine outdoors at Fiddlesticks Bar on Memorial Day on May 31 in New York.
Customers dine outdoors at Fiddlesticks Bar on Memorial Day on May 31 in New York. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

At least 70% of New Yorkers have now received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine dose and effective immediately, all state-mandated Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a press briefing in lower Manhattan Tuesday. 

“This is a momentous day, and we deserve it because it has been a long, long road,” Cuomo said. “We can now return to life as we know it.”

All state-mandated Covid-19 restrictions will now be immediately lifted across all commercial and social settings, including the requirements on social gatherings, capacity restrictions, social distancing, health screenings, cleaning and disinfection protocols, and contact tracing. Mask requirements will continue in pre-K settings, on public transit and in health care settings, Cuomo said. 

Cuomo noted that at one point, New York state had a Covid-19 positivity rate of 48.16% – once the highest positivity rates in the world. The governor said Tuesday that New York state now has a positivity rate of 0.40% – now the lowest rate in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

“We were alone, and it was frightening. It was like living through a science fiction movie…people abandoned New York, but others stayed and others fought,” Cuomo said. “Where are we today? We have the lowest positivity rate in the United States of America…we went literally, from worst to first.”

Cuomo said that New York state has administered more than 20.2 million vaccine doses to date and has fully-vaccinated “a larger share of adults than any other big state in the country.”

The governor also announced that all of the state’s assets, including the Empire State Building, will be lit in blue and gold Tuesday night. Additionally, firework shows will occur at 9:15 pm ET at various sites across the state Tuesday night. 

“It’s our way of saving thank you all across to the state to our essential workers,” Cuomo said.

12:54 p.m. ET, June 15, 2021

CDC labels Delta variant a "variant of concern." Here's what that means.

From CNN's Jen Christensen

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now considers the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus, also known as B.1.617.2, a “variant of concern.” 

What this means: The variant of concern designation is given to strains of the virus that scientists believe are more transmissible or it can cause more severe disease. Vaccines, treatments and tests that detect the virus may also be less effective against a variant of concern.

The CDC said the Delta variant, which was first identified in India, has attributes of increased transmissibility, potential reduction in neutralization by some EUA monoclonal antibody treatments and potential reduction in neutralization after vaccination in lab tests.

Previously, the CDC had considered the Delta variant a “variant of interest.” The World Health Organization classified the Delta variant as a variant of concern on May 10. 

A study on the Delta variant in Scotland published on Monday found that the variant was associated with about double the risk of hospitalization compared with the Alpha variant, B.1.1.7, that was first identified in the UK.

At a White House Covid-19 briefing last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci encouraged everyone to get vaccinated as quickly as possible, noting that the Delta variant is now in circulation in the United States at a rate similar to the tipping point seen in the UK, where the variant is now dominant.

Andy Slavitt, former White House senior adviser for Covid-19 response, said on CNN’s New Day today that the Delta variant is a reason to encourage unvaccinated people to “strongly consider” getting a Covid-19 vaccine, as communities with low rates of vaccine may be at risk for Covid-19 outbreaks. 

12:51 p.m. ET, June 15, 2021

FAA will continue zero-tolerance policy for unruly passengers as long as the problem continues

From CNN's Greg Wallace

Safety officials will continue their steep enforcement against a surge of unruly passengers as long as it remains a problem, Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson said Tuesday.  

“We’ll keep it in place until the rates drive back down to where we have seen them historically,” Dickson said of the zero-tolerance policy for in-flight misbehavior and violence launched in January. The agency has said the policy will remain in place as long as the Biden administration requires passengers on airplanes to wear face masks. 

The FAA has said the zero-tolerance policy means pursuing the maximum civil penalty or criminal prosecution against passengers who violate federal rules, interfering with the instructions of aircraft crews. Approximately 3,000 reports of unruly passengers have been filed this year, and 2,300 of those include face mask violations. 

“The flight crews are on the aircraft for passenger safety, and it is extremely important and critical and required to follow the flight crew instructions,” Dickson said at a virtual event hosted by the website Aviation Week. 

More on this: The agency said it has begun enforcement proceedings in 57 cases so far, and identified potential violations in 465 cases. In a normal year, the agency pursues as many as 150 violations. 

Dickson’s comments came as the FAA announced four new fines against allegedly unruly passengers. 

One passenger faces a proposed $15,500 fine for ignoring the instructions of flight attendants, who “told the passenger at least 10 times to wear his facemask over both his mouth and nose.” That passenger also drank alcohol that was prohibited under federal rules because it was not served by the airline. 

Three other passengers also face fines of between $7,500 and $10,500 for refusal to wear face masks. One “smoked an e-cigarette in the airplane lavatory,” in violation of federal rules, and another’s yelling and profanity caused a flight to be diverted, the FAA said. 

Including the four new penalties, the FAA has announced 26 fines under its zero-tolerance policy so far this year, totaling around $440,000 in proposed fines. The amounts are not final because the passengers receive a violation notice and have 30 days to respond. 

12:33 p.m. ET, June 15, 2021

All Covid-19 restrictions in Maryland will end on July 1, governor says

From CNN’s Alec Snyder

People sit at the car at Firestone Restaurant on Tuesday, November 24, 2020, in Frderick, Maryland.
People sit at the car at Firestone Restaurant on Tuesday, November 24, 2020, in Frderick, Maryland. The Frederick News-Post via AP

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Tuesday that the state will lift all Covid-19 restrictions and the state of emergency on July 1.

All mask-wearing and face covering restrictions will be lifted on that date, though individual businesses may still enforce their own requirements, Hogan said. However, there will be no mandate in Maryland to wear a mask anywhere.

Hogan also said that there will be a 45-day grace period through Aug. 15 where certain regulations will be relaxed. Expired driver’s licenses will be conditionally allowed to be renewed through that date and a moratorium on evictions will remain active until then. 

Health officials will additionally be given time to transition from emergency operations until Aug. 15, Hogan said.

12:26 p.m. ET, June 15, 2021

US sees lowest weekly number of new Covid-19 cases in children in a year

From CNN's Jen Christensen

With about 14,500 new cases, the US saw the lowest number of new weekly Covid-19 cases among children in a year, since June 2020, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Children were nearly 19% of the new cases reported late last week. Since the start of the pandemic, over 4 million children have tested positive as of June 10.

Children made up between 6% and 19.7% of those who were tested for Covid-19 according to the states that reported numbers, and 5.1% to 34.7% of children tested were positive for the coronavirus, depending on the state.

Children are still considered much less likely than adults to develop severe symptoms of Covid-19 or to die from the disease. 

Children represented 1.4% to 3.2% of total reported hospitalizations for Covid-19, based on the information provided by 24 states and New York City. Only 0.1%-1.9% of all cases of Covid-19 in children required hospitalization. 

Eight states among the 43 that provided data on Covid-19 mortality reported zero children have died from Covid-19.

12:21 p.m. ET, June 15, 2021

Massachusetts ends state of emergency and announces vaccine lottery

From CNN's Anna Sturla

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. Source: Pool via WVCB

Gov. Charlie Baker announced the Massachusetts VaxMillions Giveaway to encourage residents to become vaccinated against Covid-19 during a news conference on Tuesday.

Tuesday also marked the end of Massachusetts' state of emergency, while Covid-19 cases had declined by 99% since their peak in January, Baker said.

Massachusetts' Covid-19 Command Center will also be ending, and the state's medical advisory board held its last formal meeting last week, he added.

As part of the vaccine lottery, fully vaccinated adults stand to win one of five $1 million prizes, while residents ages 12 to 17 may win one of five scholarships. Residents can begin entering on July 1, with drawings taking place once a week beginning in late July, according to the governor's office.

At least 80% of adults have received at least one vaccine dose, with more than 4 million Massachusetts residents fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, the governor said.

12:14 p.m. ET, June 15, 2021

Nearly a quarter of Covid-19 patients have a post-Covid condition, study finds 

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Nearly a quarter of Covid-19 patients, 23.2%, had at least one post-Covid condition 30 or more days after their initial diagnosis, according to a new white paper study from FAIR Health posted on Tuesday.  

While post-Covid conditions were found to a greater extent in patients who had more severe Covid-19, they were also found in a “substantial” share of asymptomatic cases. 

Half of patients who were hospitalized with Covid-19 had a post-Covid condition 30 days or more after their initial diagnosis, as did 27.5% of those who had symptoms but were not hospitalized and 19% who were asymptomatic. 

The five most common post-Covid symptoms were pain, affecting 5.1% of patients; breathing difficulties, 3.5%; hyperlipidemia, 3%; malaise and fatigue, 2.9%; and hypertension, 2.4%. While these were the five most common overall, the rankings did change by age group. For example, among 0- to 18-year-olds, pain and breathing difficulties were the top two conditions, but intestinal issues replaced hyperlipidemia as the third most common. 

The nonprofit FAIR Health looked at nearly 2 million people who had a Covid-19 diagnosis between February and December 2020, from a database of over 34 billion private health care claim records.

FAIR Health says the study was not formally peer-reviewed, but was evaluated by an independent academic reviewer. The organization says it believes this is the largest population studied for post-Covid conditions.

Most of the post-Covid conditions studied were more common in females. However, there were 12 conditions which were more commonly experienced by males. 

One of these, cardiac inflammation, the researchers call “notable” as the age distribution was skewed towards a younger cohort. The largest share — 25.4% — of patients reporting this condition were in the 19- to 29-year old age group, a number which was also disproportionate to the age group’s share of Covid patients overall. 

Four mental health conditions were also evaluated as post-Covid conditions: anxiety, which was associated with the highest percentage of patients in all age groups, followed by depression, adjustment disorders and tic disorders.  

When it came to risk of death 30 or more days after initial diagnosis, patients who were hospitalized and discharged had the highest percentage of deaths — 0.45% of these patients died. For symptomatic, non-hospitalized patients, 0.02% of patients died and 0.01% of asymptomatic patients died.  

Regardless of how severe their Covid-19 was, males were more likely to die 30 or more days after initial diagnosis, with 57%, 53% and 55% of these deaths happening among hospitalized, non-hospitalized symptomatic and asymptomatic males, respectively. 

11:41 a.m. ET, June 15, 2021

White House will host a July 4 celebration to mark "independence from the virus" 

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

The South Lawn of the White House is seen in Washington, D.C., on May 4.
The South Lawn of the White House is seen in Washington, D.C., on May 4. Erin Scott/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The White House will host a celebration for thousands of essential workers and military families on July 4 on the South Lawn to mark the US’s “independence from the virus,” according to a White House official. 

The White House is also encouraging state and local partners to host their own events across the nation to celebrate the progress the country has made in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The National Mall will be open for the traditional July 4 fireworks. 

President Biden had set July 4 as the deadline for a return to normalcy in the US, saying in March that he was hopeful Americans would be able to gather with family and friends to celebrate the holiday. The President has also set a goal of vaccinating 70% of US adults with at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, but the country is not currently on track to reach that goal. 

The AP was first to report the news. 

12:08 p.m. ET, June 15, 2021

US donates batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines to Mexico

From CNN's Karol Suarez

A shipment of Johnson & Johnson vaccines are delivered at Toluca International Airport in Toluca, Mexico, on June 15.
A shipment of Johnson & Johnson vaccines are delivered at Toluca International Airport in Toluca, Mexico, on June 15. Secretaria de Relaciounes Exteriores

Mexico has received a batch of 1,350,000 Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine doses donated by the US, officials from both countries have confirmed. 

Early Tuesday, Mexico's Director for North America Affairs, Roberto Velasco Álvarez, and the Chargé d'affaires at the US Embassy in Mexico, John S. Creamer, received the shipment from the US at Toluca International Airport. 

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador thanked President Joe Biden for the vaccines in his daily briefing, saying, "Thanks to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for this donation, this gesture of solidarity."

López Obrador said the single-dose J&J vaccines would be distributed across 39 municipalities along the Mexico-US border, adding more doses were needed.  

"As they will not be enough, we're requesting that they send us another [shipment of the] same amount of 1,350,000 doses to vaccinate people along the border: [in] Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, [all] 39 municipalities," he said. 

Mexico has to date received over 47 million Covid-19 vaccine doses and has so far administered almost 38 million, according to Mexico’s Health Ministry.