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The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

Updated 10:06 PM EST, Fri March 5, 2021
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What you need to know

  • A dispute over vaccines is resurging in Europe after Italy blocked the export of AstraZeneca shots to Australia amid anger over EU delivery delays.
  • Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine, the third Covid-19 shot authorized for use in the US, is being administered this week.
  • The US House passed a version of President Biden’s massive Covid-19 stimulus bill. The legislation is now being debated in the Senate. Follow the latest on the bill here.
  • India’s home-grown Covaxin vaccine is 81% effective, early data shows.

Our live coverage has ended for the day. Follow the latest on the pandemic here.

36 Posts

Colorado governor extends Covid-19 mask mandate

Colorado Governor Jared Polis speaks to the media at a mass COVID-19 vaccination event in Denver, on January 30.
Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images
Colorado Governor Jared Polis speaks to the media at a mass COVID-19 vaccination event in Denver, on January 30.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order Friday once again extending the requirement that most people in Colorado “wear a medical or non-medical face covering” due to the Covid-19 pandemic for another 30 days.

The order says that while there are indications that the efforts to “mitigate the effects of the pandemic, prevent further spread, and protect against overwhelming our health care resources” are working, “We must continue to take measures to facilitate reopening the economy while protecting public health by taking steps to incorporate best practices to protect individuals from infection.” 

The statewide mask mandate first went into effect July 16 and has been extended ever since.

Infectious diseases expert on relaxing Covid-19 restrictions: "We're walking into the mouth of the monster"

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, speaks with Jake Tapper.
CNN
Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, speaks with Jake Tapper.

It is a mistake to relax coronavirus restrictions when more contagious and possibly more dangerous virus variants are circulating in the US, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said Friday

“We’re walking into the mouth of the monster,” Osterholm told CNN’s Jake Tapper. 

Osterholm cited the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the UK.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 2,672 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in 46 states Thursday. In Europe, by the time the variant accounted for about 50% of cases, those populations had a major surge of cases, Osterholm said. 

“We literally are sitting on top of that, at a time when instead of actually getting better prepared for it, we’re opening up and inviting the virus in,” Osterholm said.

California will allow amusement parks, concert and sports venues to reopen from April 1

An aerial view of a closed Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California, on October 20, 2020.
Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
An aerial view of a closed Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California, on October 20, 2020.

All of California’s amusement parks — including Disneyland, Magic Mountain and Universal Studios — along with sports and concert venues will be allowed to reopen with limited capacity starting April 1, state Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly announced Friday.

“We feel like now is the appropriate time to begin to reintroduce these activities in some fashion, and in a guarded way, in a slow and steady way,” Ghaly said in a teleconference.

Theme parks, sports and concert venues have been shuttered in California for nearly a year to reduce spread of the coronavirus

For an amusement part to reopen, the spread of Covid-19 in each county where a theme park is located must be reduced enough to advance out of the state’s most restrictive reopening tier. California has four color-coded tiers with purple being the most stringent. As of Friday, Los Angeles and Orange counties, home to Disneyland and Universal Studios, remained in the purple tier. Both will likely advance to a less restrictive tier in the next week or two.

For theme parks located in the red tier, attendance will be limited to 15% of capacity, and only California residents will be allowed to reserve admission to the parks. California remains under a statewide travel advisory asking residents to remain within 120 miles from their homes. There will be a time limit on indoor rides, though most are fairly short and already socially distanced. Thrill-seekers will be generally required to queue up outside and enter in groups

“Today’s announcement from the Newsom Administration is very encouraging news for California’s amusement parks. Parks now have a framework to safely and responsibly reopen. We appreciate the Administration’s willingness to work with the State’s theme parks on the finer details of the plan so parks can responsibly reopen soon, putting people safely back to work and reinvigorating local economies,” said Erin Guerrero, Executive Director for California Attractions and Parks Association.

Attendance at outdoor sporting events and concerts, will also be allowed beginning April 1 with up to 20% capacity for venues located in the red tier, 33% in the orange tier, then 67% capacity in the least restrictive yellow tier, according to California economic advisor DeeDee Myers. Rules will be in place limiting concessions along the concourse and throughout the stadium seating areas.

Vaccination could allow US to reach herd immunity by late summer, according to CNN analysis          

A medical worker loads a syringe with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at Kedren Community Health Center in Los Angeles on February 16.
Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images
A medical worker loads a syringe with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at Kedren Community Health Center in Los Angeles on February 16.

The pace of Covid-19 vaccine administration in the US continues to improve, each day bringing the country closer to herd immunity – the point at which enough people are protected against a disease that it cannot spread much.

This week, President Biden said the US will have enough vaccine for every adult by the end of May, and a CNN analysis of federal data shows that herd immunity is likely not far behind.

At the current pace of about two million shots per day – the latest seven-day average of doses administered reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – the US could reach herd immunity by late summer through vaccination alone. It will likely be even sooner, if factoring in individuals who may have some natural immunity due to prior infection. 

Herd immunity thresholds for Covid-19 are only estimates at this point. But experts generally agree that somewhere between 70% and 85% of the population must be protected to suppress the spread, a range that Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has recently cited. 

More than 8% of the population – nearly 28 million people – is already fully vaccinated, according to the latest data from the CDC. 

If vaccination continues at its current rate and the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna were the only options available, 70% of the US population could be fully vaccinated by mid-September. 

But the US Food and Drug Administration recently authorized the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine for emergency use, and the company has promised to deliver 100 million doses to the US in the first half of the year. 

At the current pace of about two million doses per day, including 100 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 70% of the US population will be fully vaccinated around the end of July and 85% by mid-September, according to a CNN analysis.

The CDC estimates that more than a quarter of the population may have been infected by Covid-19, bumping the share of the population already protected up to nearly a third. Assuming there’s no overlap between people with natural immunity and those protected through vaccination, herd immunity could be reached as early as June. 

Experts note that some new variants threaten progress, potentially lessening protection offered by vaccines and skirting some degree of natural immunity, and vaccine hesitancy may also create some limitations.

COVAX delivered 20 million doses to world’s poor in first week of distribution, WHO director-general says

An international program set up to get coronavirus vaccines to the world delivered 20 million vaccine doses to 20 countries in the first week of distribution, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s director-general, said Friday.

“This was a landmark week for COVAX with the first vaccinations starting in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire,” Tedros told a news conference. “In total, COVAX has delivered 20 million doses of vaccine to 20 countries.”

Next week, COVAX will deliver 14.4 million vaccine doses to an additional 31 countries, Tedros said, bringing the total number of countries reached by COVAX to 51.

COVAX is a global vaccine initiative run by a coalition that includes the Vaccine Alliance known as Gavi and WHO, and is funded by donations from governments, multilateral institutions and foundations. Its mission is to buy coronavirus vaccines in bulk and send them to poorer nations that can’t compete with wealthy countries in securing contracts with the major drug companies.

On Wednesday, Ghana became the first country to receive Covid-19 vaccines through COVAX. Ghana received 600,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine on Wednesday, according to CNN.

In addition to Ghana and Ivory Coast, Angola, Cambodia, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gambia, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Moldova, Nigeria, Philippines, South Korea, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan and Uganda also received vaccine doses from COVAX this past week, Tedros said.

While the announcement is reason for some optimism, there is urgent need to increase production if COVAX is to meet its goal of delivering 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021, Tedros said.

“This is encouraging progress,” Tedros said. “But the volume of doses being distributed through COVAX is still relatively small. The first round of allocations covers between 2 and 3% of the population of countries receiving vaccinations through COVAX, even as other countries make more rapid progress toward vaccinating their entire population within the next few months. One of our main priorities now is to increase the ambition of COVAX now to help all countries end the pandemic. This means urgent action to ramp up production.” 

Arizona governor lifts occupancy limits on business, but keeps mask rules in place

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey speaks during a press conference at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix on December 16, 2020.
David Wallace/The Arizona Republic/USA Today Network
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey speaks during a press conference at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix on December 16, 2020.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced he is lifting occupancy limits on business in a new executive order announced today.

Ducey’s new order, which applies to “restaurants, gyms, theaters, water parks, bowling alleys, and bars providing dine in services,” removes occupancy percentage limitations, a statement from his office explained.

Additionally, according to the statement, spring training and Major League Sports will have the ability to operate after getting a safety precaution and physical distancing plan approved by the state’s Department of Health Services

However, the new order keeps in place physical distancing and mask protocols, but local officials will still be “precluded from implementing extreme measures that shut down businesses.”

Ducey cited “7 weeks of declining cases in Arizona and the distribution of more than 2 million vaccines” as part of the reason for the move.

“Today’s announcement is a measured approach; we are not in the clear yet,” Ducey said in his statement. 

“We need to continue practicing personal responsibility,” he added. 

The relaxing of regulations follows a Wednesday executive order that required Arizona schools to offer in-person learning by March 15.

Earlier this week, nearby Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced he would be lifting the mask mandate and “opening Texas 100 percent” while Mississippi also lifted its county specific mask mandates.