CDC releases new guidelines for Americans vaccinated against Covid-19

By Ben Westcott, Brett McKeehan, Kara Fox, Mike Hayes and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 8:03 PM ET, Mon March 8, 2021
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10:15 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

CDC: More people in US fully vaccinated than people who have had the disease since the pandemic began

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

There are now more people in the United States who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 than the total number of confirmed coronavirus infections the country has seen so far during the pandemic, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Numbers posted to the CDC website on Sunday show that more than 30 million people in the United States have received both their first and second doses of Covid-19 vaccine.

Specifically, as of Monday, 30,686,881 people have received two doses, according to the CDC. 

That number is more than the nearly 29 million Covid-19 cases that have been reported in the United States so far, according to Johns Hopkins University data as of Monday morning. Experts maintain the actual number of total infections is likely underreported and much higher.

 

11:19 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

New York City high schoolers can go back to the classroom for in-person learning on March 22

From CNN's Elizabeth Stuart

Students arrive at Stuyvesant High School in New York, on October 1, 2020.
Students arrive at Stuyvesant High School in New York, on October 1, 2020. Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg/Getty Images

New York City's public high schools will reopen for in-person learning on March 22 the Department of Education said Monday, the final group of the largest school district in the country to be welcomed back to school buildings.

There are about 55,000 students in grades 9-12 and 17,000 staff members returning, according to the department. The students returning had previously opted for in-person learning.

All of the city's 488 high schools will reopen, and about half of them will have all or most of their students in class five days a week. The department said that number will continue to increase.

Middle school students returned for in-person learning on Feb. 25, while elementary school students returned in the fall.

The department is also announcing that the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) will return in the beginning of April.

"Competitive play will resume in May and for the first time will continue throughout the summer," said acting press secretary Danielle Filson. To participate in PSAL, weekly testing and masks will be required and there will be no spectators allowed. The League will be open to both in-person and remote students.

10:12 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Hospitals in Paris ordered to cancel up to 40% of scheduled procedures

From CNN's Pierre Bairin and Antonella Francini in Paris

Hospitals across Paris have been asked by a regional health agency to prepare to cancel up to 40% of the scheduled medical procedures in order to free up intensive care beds. The goal is to free 1,577 critical care beds, the Paris region health agency confirmed to CNN on Monday.

According to the government statistics, the occupancy of ICU bed by Covid-19 patients in the Paris region has been increasing steadily to 83.7% on Sunday up from 71% just a week ago.

Nationwide, 3,743 Covid-19 patients are currently in an ICUs, the highest number since the beginning of the year.

10:10 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

CDC guidelines for fully vaccinated people to be announced at today’s White House Covid-19 briefing

From CNN's Elizabeth Cohen

A patient receives a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine on March 6, in Thornton, Colorado. 
A patient receives a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine on March 6, in Thornton, Colorado.  Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will release long-awaited guidelines for people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 at today's a White House Covid-19 briefing, according to an administration official.

We're not exactly sure what will be in the new guidelines, but we'll be covering their release here at 11 a.m. ET.

Some background: Over the past two weeks, Walensky and Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s senior medical adviser, have underscored the need for guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated. 

In early February, Fauci said vaccination is not a "free pass to travel.”

Another administration official told CNN that the guidelines won’t be prescriptive for every situation – for example, whether it’s okay to go bowling or ride on a bus once you’ve been vaccinated.

“It’s impossible to get to that level of detail. We can’t predict every situation that human beings will be in,” the official said. “What we can do is give principles for people to think through. It will give people the means to think through it, and then they can choose what level of risk they wish to take.”  

8:53 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Air travel levels are at their highest since early January, TSA stats show

From CNN's Pete Muntean

Travelers walk through Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, on March 2.
Travelers walk through Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, on March 2. Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images

Air travel levels are the highest they have been since the holidays. New TSA numbers show almost 1.3 million people were screened at airports on Sunday — the highest since Jan. 3. 

The new number, 1,277,719, comes on a non-holiday weekend. In pre-pandemic times, air travel would typically tick up in March following a lethargic February, but this could be a sign of rising demand as more people are vaccinated for Covid-19. Experts did anticipate an uptick in pandemic air travel for spring break trips.

Sunday’s number follows three air travel days of near or more than 1 million passengers: 991,547 people flew Saturday, 1.1 million Friday, and 1.1 million Thursday, meaning more than 4.5 million people flew over the 4 days.

“It’s a nice sign. It’s nice to see those numbers. Obviously, TSA is seeing it. We’re seeing it as well, but we need to see more of it to really say that we’re in that full recovery mode,” American Airlines COO David Seymour told CNN last week. 

10:10 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

European Commission President says more vaccines are coming, stresses EU "cohesion"

From CNNs Claudia Otto in Berlin

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a press conference on February 26, in Brussels, Belgium.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a press conference on February 26, in Brussels, Belgium. Alexandros Michailidis/Pool/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has addressed the European Union's sluggish vaccine rollout, saying that by next month, a lot more vaccines will be available.

Speaking to German newspaper “Stuttgarter Nachrichten,” on Sunday, von der Leyen said that "science has virtually overtaken industry with its record time in vaccine development," and that "we all underestimated that ramping up stable mass production involves considerable risks."

Von der Leyen's comments come as the European Union's 27-nation vaccine strategycontinues to splinter as member states turn to nations outside the bloc to boost a faltering rollout plagued by supply issues, contract skirmishes and sluggish takeup.               

"Eliminating bottlenecks in raw materials or in supply chains as quickly as possible was harder and bumpier than expected. That's why it was very slow at the beginning. Things have improved significantly. In January, around 20 million doses were delivered, in February around 30, and for March we expect around 50. From April, according to the manufacturers' plans, volumes could double again, partly because further vaccines are about to be approved," she said.

“The lesson from all this is, we need to have production capacity on hand for pandemics. And cohesion in a crisis is important. I can't even imagine how things would look in Europe today if a few large countries now perhaps had vaccines and most of the smaller member states had been left empty-handed for the time being," she said.

"That would have torn Europe apart and destroyed the single market on which we all live," she said, adding: "That's why I remain deeply convinced that the European approach was the right one."

7:41 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Syrian President and his wife test positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Eyad Kourdi and Mostafa Salem

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma al-Assad have tested positive for coronavirus, a Syrian presidential statement said on Monday, according to Syrian State TV Ikhbariya. 

"After feeling mild symptoms similar to those symptoms with the Covid-19 virus, Mr. President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma al-Assad conducted a PCR examination, and the result showed that they were infected with the virus,” the statement said. 

“They are in good health and in stable condition, and they will continue their work during their home quarantine period that will last for two or three weeks,” the statement added Ikharbiya said. 

The country has recorded 1,063 deaths and 15,981 cases from the virus so far, according to data by Johns Hopkins University.

7:18 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Belgium eases lockdown restrictions as doctors face suspension for spreading disinformation

From CNN's James Frater

As Belgium begins to lift some of its lockdown restrictions, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has stressed that vaccinations remain a key to exiting the pandemic.  

“It is abundantly clear that vaccination remains crucial,” De Croo said on Friday, when he announced the plan to exit lockdown. 

“There is actually no real exit plan,” he said, “the real exit plan that is the vaccination plan.”  

From March 8, people can meet with up to 10 others outside, but social distancing measures still need to be adhered to and faces mask must continue to be worn.  

The Prime Ministers comments on the importance of the vaccine rollout come as the Belgian Order of Physicians – a body that all doctors must be registered with in order to practice medicine -- has warned it will take a stricter approach to doctors who question the effect of coronavirus vaccines. 

Doctors will face “severe action against spreading information, mostly by way of social media, which does not comply with the current state of scientific knowledge,” the order's Vice-President Dr. Michel Deneyer told CNN on Friday.

Dr. Deneyer warned that “disinformation may have disastrous consequences" and that “it is beyond doubt that doctors have to collaborate for the planned vaccination program.” 

The success of Belgium’s vaccination campaign and achieving the national target of vaccinating 70% of the adult population, “depends highly on the (lasting) trust of the population and of the medical corps,” he said.

“The population has great faith in the family doctor, in the pharmacist, in the experts. Their advice is followed," Deneyer added.

Any doctor found spreading disinformation will face a disciplinary hearing before one of the order's ten local "provincial Councils” and risks up to two months suspension, he explained.

Deneyer said that “a few physicians” had already been suspended, but was unable to confirm exact numbers, citing confidentially.

6:22 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

32% of global destinations are closed to international tourism as governments tighten restrictions: UN report

From CNN's Kara Fox

One in three destinations worldwide are now completely closed to international tourism, according to a new report from the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

The ninth UNWTO Travel Restrictions Report, published Monday, said that the emergence of new Covid-19 variants has “prompted many governments to reverse efforts to ease restrictions on travel, with total closures to tourists most prevalent in Asia and the Pacific and Europe.”

The report presents a comprehensive overview of the regulations in place in 217 worldwide destinations.

It found that:

  • As of the beginning of February, 32% of all destinations worldwide (69 in total) are completely closed for international tourism.
  • Of these, around just over half (38 destinations) have been closed for at least 40 weeks.
  • At the same time, 34% of worldwide destinations are now partially closed to international tourists.
  • Regional differences with regards to travel restrictions remain. Of the 69 destinations where borders are completely closed to tourists:
  • 30 are in Asia and the Pacific
  • 15 are in Europe
  • 11 are in Africa
  • 10 are in the Americas
  • 3 are in the Middle East
  • Growing numbers of destinations worldwide now require international tourists to present a negative PCR or antigen test upon arrival and also provide contact details for tracing purposes.
  • 32% of all worldwide destinations now have the presentation of such tests as their main requirement for international arrivals often combined with quarantine, while the same amount have made tests a secondary or tertiary measure.

2020 was the worst year on record for global tourism, with international arrivals dropping by 74%, according to data published by the UNWTO in January.

There were 1 billion fewer international arrivals at global destinations in 2020 than in the previous year, due to an "unprecedented fall in demand and widespread travel restrictions," it said.