March 3 coronavirus news

By Zamira Rahim, Kareem Khadder, Hannah Strange and Jessie Yeung, CNN

Updated 2:17 AM ET, Thu March 4, 2021
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6:11 p.m. ET, March 3, 2021

More research suggests coronavirus variant first seen in UK can drive a new surge of infections

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Researchers published more evidence Wednesday that the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant first seen in the UK is more contagious than older circulating versions of the virus and said it’s likely to drive a large new surge of infections without much faster vaccination and more shutdowns, as well.

This particular variant has been seen in at least 82 countries, including 44 US states, plus Washington, DC and Puerto Rico. It is also designated VOC 202012/01 – meaning the first variant of concern to have been identified in December of 2020.

Nicholas Davies of the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and colleagues took a broad and deep look at the spread of the variant across England. One important measure they looked at is reproductive number – how many other people each infected person infects, on average.

“Using a variety of statistical and dynamic modeling approaches, we estimate that this variant has a 43–90% higher reproduction number than preexisting variants,” they wrote in a report published in the journal Science. “Without stringent control measures, including limited closure of educational institutions and a greatly accelerated vaccine roll-out, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths across England in 2021 will exceed those in 2020,” they wrote.

“VOC 202012/01 appears unmatched in its ability to outcompete other SARS-CoV-2 lineages in England,” they added. “Concerningly, VOC 202012/01 has spread globally and exhibits a similar transmission increase (59–74%) in Denmark, Switzerland, and the United States.”

By mid-February, B.1.1.7 accounted for 95% of new coronavirus infections in England. Increased transmissibility is the best explanation for the spread of the variant, they said, and they also couldn’t find evidence it was any more deadly or any more likely to cause severe disease. But they said it’s too early to say for sure it’s not any more harmful, and other studies have indicated it might be.

To keep up, England would need to be fully vaccinating 2 million people a week, they said, and even then, school closures or other measures might be needed. Fewer than 1 million people in England have been fully vaccinated so far, according to the UK government. In the US, close to 27 million people have received both doses.

6:07 p.m. ET, March 3, 2021

Seven-day average of Covid-19 vaccines administered surpasses 2 million per day

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

A nurse administers the second dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine on March 3, in Los Angeles, at the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet independent living center.
A nurse administers the second dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine on March 3, in Los Angeles, at the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet independent living center. Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

 

About 80.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States, according to data published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reported that 80,540,474 total doses have been administered, about 75% of the 107,028,890 doses delivered.

That’s about 1.9 million more administered doses reported since yesterday, for a seven-day average of more than 2 million doses per day for the first time.

About 16% of the population — nearly 53 million people — have now received at least one dose of vaccine and more than 8% of the population – about 27 million people — have been fully vaccinated with both shots, CDC data shows.

Note: Data published by the CDC may be delayed, and doses may not have been given on the day reported.

6:05 p.m. ET, March 3, 2021

Fauci calls states' decision to lift Covid-19 control measures "ill-advised"

From CNN's Ryan Prior

The decision by governors of states such as Texas and Mississippi to lift mask mandates and restrictions on large gatherings was “ill-advised,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday.

"It is really quite risky to do that, for the simple reason that if you look at the amount of infection that there is in the community right now, even though the slope is coming down sharply, if you look at the last seven-day average, it's (plateaued),” Fauci said during a town hall meeting broadcast on Facebook Live with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

“That is a dangerous sign, because when that has happened in the past, when you pull back on measures of public health, invariably you've seen a surge back up. So we really don't want to claim premature victory,” he added.

"Right now their level of community spread is between 55 and 70,000 cases per day," Fauci said. "In order to pull back on all public health measures, you want that level to be remarkably low — very, very low. And 60 to 70,000 per day is definitely not low."

5:39 p.m. ET, March 3, 2021

Johnson and Johnson vaccine will be prioritized for educators, Georgia governor says

From CNN's Juan Alejandro Olarte-Cortes, Angela Barajas and Lindsay Benson 

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp CNN

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said he expects the state to receive 83,000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which will be prioritized for educators to expedite a full return to the classroom.  

The rest of the vaccines will go to adults with developmental disabilities, and parents and caregivers of children with developmental disabilities and complex medical conditions.  

"Every student belongs in the classroom, five days a week, full time, as soon as possible. That is my expectation moving forward. And we look forward to partnering with local districts to ensure that this happens very quickly," Kemp said during a news conference in Atlanta on Wednesday.   

Kemp said the expanded eligibility will include approximately a million more Georgians. Half a million of this population includes teachers, bus drivers, and other school staff.  

The state is also opening five additional mass vaccination sites. With four sites already in operation, the state expects to increase its weekly capacity to 45,000 doses at all locations. 

"We've now given at least one dose to over 860,000 Georgians over the age of 65, which is a group that accounts for 77% of Georgia's deaths due to Covid-19," Kemp said.

The governor said the sites will begin to operate on March 17.

"As of today, over the last 28 days we have administered 1.1 million vaccine doses," Kemp said.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that Georgia ranks below the national average in vaccine distribution per 100,000 people. 

5:28 p.m. ET, March 3, 2021

Michigan will expand Covid-19 vaccine eligibility to people age 50 and older

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Michigan is expanding Covid-19 vaccine eligibility to people age 50 and older with medical conditions or disabilities and caregiver family members and guardians who care for children with special health care needs starting Monday, according to a release from the state.

Starting March 22, vaccine eligibility will then expand even further to include all individuals age 50 and older, the release said.

According to the state, this follows President Biden’s announcement that ramped-up Covid-19 vaccine production will provide enough doses for 300 million Americans to be vaccinated by the end of May.

“The more people we can get the safe and effective vaccine, the faster we can return to a sense of normalcy,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. “I urge all eligible Michiganders to get one of the three COVID-19 vaccines to protect you, your family and your community. We’ve already administered over 2.3 million doses to Michiganders of all races and backgrounds, and yesterday’s announcement that our national supply will be enough to protect all Americans by the end of May is incredible news.”
5:03 p.m. ET, March 3, 2021

New Mexico health officials urge residents not to follow Texas' lead in loosening Covid-19 restrictions

From CNN's Anjali Huynh

Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase
Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase New Mexico Department of Health

New Mexico health officials urged residents not to follow neighboring state Texas’ lead in loosening Covid-19 restrictions during an update today. These warnings come as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced yesterday that the state would remove its statewide mask mandate.

“Please, please don't take your lead from another state,” Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase said during the briefing. 

“We know that masks, social distancing six feet apart, staying home whenever possible, keeping your hands clean, we know all of these things work. We do not believe, and we repeat, we do not believe this is the time to back off on any of those restraints,” Scrase said.

Officials have not implemented travel quarantine restrictions on Texas or other states, but Scrase said they would “certainly consider revisiting” the possibility of implementing one should case numbers worsen in neighboring states like Texas. 

While New Mexico received 17,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week, officials said in a briefing today that the state will not receive more doses of this vaccine during the next few weeks. Health Secretary Tracie Collins credited the delay to the company working on production, saying that the state expects to get an updated number of incoming Johnson & Johnson vaccines at the end of March. 

More than 609,000 Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in New Mexico, officials said. Twenty-three percent of residents have received their first vaccine dose and 13% are fully vaccinated.

4:39 p.m. ET, March 3, 2021

Pandemic control measures must continue, leading infectious disease group says

From CNN's Ryan Prior

The use of masks, social distancing, hand washing and avoidance of large gatherings must continue in the US to control the spread of Covid-19, according to a statement from the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

"All of these measures together will bring us closer to ending the pandemic," said Dr. Barbara Alexander, the president of ISDA, in the statement. "Abandoning them now will postpone the day we can put Covid-19 behind us."

Although case counts have decreased in recent weeks, only about 10% of Americans have been vaccinated, and new emerging variants have shown themselves to be more transmissible versions of the novel coronavirus.

"We can't forget the lessons this pandemic has taught us, or its terrible toll, and we must not relinquish the ground we've gained," Alexander said.

The organization called on leaders and policymakers to contribute to the likelihood of success defeating the virus by "following public health guidance and providing appropriate resources."

4:44 p.m. ET, March 3, 2021

Louisiana health official calls decision on masks in Texas and Mississippi "dangerous and self-defeating"

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch

Louisiana's state health officer, Dr. Joseph Kanter, tweeted that lifting mask mandates in neighboring states of Mississippi and Texas is dangerous.

“Don’t be fooled,” Kanter tweeted, replying to local news article on the lifting of the mandates, “This is a dangerous and self-defeating move.”

In his tweet, Kanter went on to say, “If you spend time in TX or MS, avoid indoor spaces with maskless patrons. Not worth the risk.”

Some more context: On Wednesday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the state would move into a modified phase 3 reopening plan; but the statewide mask mandate would remain in effect.

4:28 p.m. ET, March 3, 2021

Head of Gavi vaccine alliance says it's delivered 10 million doses to 14 countries

From CNN's Pamela Boykoff

Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO of vaccine alliance Gavi
Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO of vaccine alliance Gavi CNN

Dr. Seth Berkleythe CEO of vaccine alliance Gavi, said 10 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have now been delivered to 14 countries as part of the COVAX initiative, with at least 10 million more expected to be delivered in the next week. 

“Yes, not enough doses and not as quick as we would like it. It took us 83 days from the first jab in UK to the first jab in Africa, but now we're off to try to get as much of this out as we can,” he told CNN’s Richard Quest. 

COVAX is a program coordinated by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organization. Their goal is to promote fair and equitable access to vaccines around the world.

Berkley said he was happy to see President Biden’s effort to bring Johnson & Johnson and Merck together to produce vaccines and he wants to see more of it.

“That's the type of cooperation we need to have with every company anywhere in the world who has the ability to do this production,” he said.