The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Nectar Gan, CNN

Updated 8:11 PM ET, Wed March 17, 2021
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12:04 p.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Disneyland plans to reopen on April 30

From CNN's Frank Pallotta,

Jae C. Hong/AP
Jae C. Hong/AP

It's been a long year for Disneyland fans, but "The Happiest Place On Earth" is finally set to reopen its doors.

The Disney resort, which houses Disneyland and its sister theme park California Adventure, plans to reopen with limited capacity on April 30, the company announced Wednesday.

Disneyland, the company's flagship theme park located in Anaheim, California, has been closed more than a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The day all of us have long been waiting for is almost here," Ken Potrock, president of the Disneyland Resort, said in a statement Wednesday. "We're excited to have more than 10,000 cast members returning to work as we get ready to welcome our guests back to this happy place."
11:53 a.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Massachusetts expects to hit 1 million residents fully vaccinated within next 24 hours

From CNN's Taylor Romine

Boston Public Schools employees line up as they wait for a vaccine clinic to open on Sunday.
Boston Public Schools employees line up as they wait for a vaccine clinic to open on Sunday. Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Massachusetts is expecting to hit one million fully vaccinated residents within the next 24 hours, Gov. Charlie Baker announced today. 

During a visit to a vaccine distribution site, Baker said that there are currently 946,306 people fully vaccinated. He also said that 1.6 million have received a first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and 63,000 have received a dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

This comes as the state announced Wednesday morning that they would open vaccine eligibility to people 16 and over starting April 19, which was made possible by an increase in vaccines from the federal government.

"The news about the arrival of more vaccine from the federal government means we will be able to move faster to get doses to our residents, and this is long overdue and welcome," Baker told reporters. 

The seven-day average positivity rate for the state is currently at 1.86%, and the rate has been under 2% for the last several weeks, he said.

Note: This information was provided by the state health department and may not line up directly with JHU’s Covid Tracking project.

11:19 a.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Covid-19 vaccine coverage has been lowest in more vulnerable counties in the US, CDC study finds

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

In the first two and half months of Covid-19 vaccine distribution in the US, counties considered to have high social vulnerability had lower vaccine coverage than counties considered to have low social vulnerability, according to a study published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The CDC social vulnerability index identifies communities that may need additional support during emergencies based on 15 indicators across four categories: socioeconomic status, household composition, racial/ethnic minority status and housing type. Counties were split equally between high, moderate and low social vulnerability.

By March 1, nearly 52 million vaccine doses had been administered in the US, and about 15.1% of the population had received at least one dose. But vaccination coverage was about 2 percentage points higher in counties with low social vulnerability (15.8%) than in counties with high social vulnerability (13.9%). The differences were largely driven by socioeconomic disparities, particularly differences in the share of the population with a high school diploma and per capita income. 

Only five states – Arizona, Montana, Alaska, Minnesota and West Virginia – had higher coverage in counties with high social vulnerability than in counties with low social vulnerability based on the overall index. 

Best practices in these states included prioritizing racial/ethnic minority groups in early vaccine coverage, actively monitoring barriers to vaccination, directing vaccines to vulnerable communities, offering free transportation to vaccination sites and collaborating with community partners and tribes, according to the study. 

The CDC says that achieving vaccine equity – not just equality – is an important goal, requiring “preferential access and administration to those who have been most affected” beyond proportionate distribution based on population.  

Despite disproportionate incidence of Covid-19 among non-English speaking communities and people with a disability, equal vaccination coverage was observed in these metrics for communities with both high and low social vulnerability.

Also, higher coverage in counties with larger shares of older adults is consistent with prioritization strategies. But disparities linked to access to a vehicle were “unexpected and warrants further investigation,” according to the CDC. 

The CDC social vulnerability index does not include all factors that may be used to identify disparities. Internet access, for example, is not measured. Also, population-based measures do not assess individual-level vulnerability, and vulnerabilities may vary within counties. Finally, vaccine priority groups varied by state, which may drive some differences.

 

11:29 a.m. ET, March 17, 2021

CDC’s ensemble forecast now projects up to 574,000 US Covid-19 deaths by April 10

From CNN's Ben Tinker

Faces of victims of COVID-19 are projected onto the Brooklyn Bridge during “A COVID-19 Day of Remembrance” memorial service on March 14, in New York City.
Faces of victims of COVID-19 are projected onto the Brooklyn Bridge during “A COVID-19 Day of Remembrance” memorial service on March 14, in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

An ensemble forecast published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now projects there will be 554,000 to 574,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by April 10.

Unlike some individual models, the CDC’s ensemble forecast only offers projections a few weeks into the future.

The previous ensemble forecast, published March 10, projected up to 571,000 coronavirus deaths by April 3.

At least 536,925 people have already died from Covid-19 in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

10:50 a.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Here's what Covid-19 case counts look like in states loosening coronavirus restrictions

From CNN’s Amanda Watts 

People visit Fort Lauderdale Beach in Florida on March 14.
People visit Fort Lauderdale Beach in Florida on March 14. Larry Marano/Shutterstock

Several states are actively loosening restrictions meant to curb coronavirus, including lifting mask mandates and welcoming spring breakers.

Here's a snapshot of what the Covid-19 data shows in three of those states. 

Mississippi 

  • New cases across the state of Mississippi are up 19% from last week, according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU) data. 
  • Right now, the state sees an average of 463 new cases per day. The state had been experiencing a steep decline in new cases for weeks, but for the last eight days, the state has seen an increase in new cases.  
  • On March 2, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced, “Starting tomorrow, we are lifting all of our county mask mandates and businesses will be able to operate at full capacity without any state-imposed rules.” On March 3, the state was seeing an average of 541 new cases per day, according to JHU. Although the average of new cases is lower, cases had been falling rapidly when the mandate was lifted and that trend has now turned around. 

Texas

  • The state sees an average of 4,722 new cases per day, according to JHU. Like much of the US, the state has been seeing a steep decline in new cases since late January. 
  • In early March, Gov. Greg Abbott announced the state would lift its mask mandate on March 10. On that day, the state was seeing a 32% drop in new cases from the week before. While the state is still seeing a decline in cases, the margin has narrowed to a 10% decrease from the week before. 
  • 235 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant have been identified in Texas, according to the CDC. That’s the sixth-highest number in the nation. 

 

Florida

  • Florida currently sees an average of 4,527 new cases per day, according to JHU. The seven-day average of new cases has been declining steadily and consistently since mid-January. 
  • The state leads the United States for the most B.1.1.7 variant cases reported, according to the CDC. Florida has reported 738 cases of the variant – which totals 15% of all cases reported in the US, CDC data shows. 
  • Over the weekend, tourists flocked to the Sunshine State for spring break. Large crowds packed the beaches and restaurants were full. 
  • Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said the situation is concerning. “The problem is that that we have too many people coming, we have too many people that want to just let loose in ways that are unacceptable, and we have a pandemic including really I think, ground zero for the variant. So, you know there is a lot of things to be concerned about,” Gelber told Jim Scuitto on CNN Newsroom on Tuesday.

10:58 a.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Massachusetts general public will be eligible for Covid-19 vaccines starting April 19

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

A person receives the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on February 16.
A person receives the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on February 16. Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced that as of April 19, people ages 16 and older will be eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine. 

In announcing the timelines for remaining eligibility groups, the governor said:

  • As of March 22, residents 60 years of age and older, and certain workers, will become eligible.
  • As of April 5, residents 55 years of age and older, and residents with one certain medical condition, will be eligible. 

The governor said this week that the state is receiving a modest increase in supply of first doses, amounting to approximately 170,000, which includes an unexpected 8,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

10:36 a.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Global Covid-19 cases are rising, but deaths are declining, WHO says 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

A health worker prepares to take swab samples at a mobile Covid-19 testing center in Mumbai, India, on February 11.
A health worker prepares to take swab samples at a mobile Covid-19 testing center in Mumbai, India, on February 11. Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images

Global cases of Covid-19 increased by 10% over the past week, but deaths are declining, according to the weekly epidemiological update from the World Health Organization published Tuesday. 

Globally cases increased 10% over the past week to over three million new reported cases, according to the report. The number of new cases peaked in early January, then declined in the week beginning Feb. 15. They have now increased for the past three weeks. 

All WHO regions have reported a rise in new cases apart from Africa. 

New deaths have continued to decline, the report said. They are now under 60,000, down from a peak of over 95,000 deaths in the week beginning Jan. 18. The last time that deaths were this low was four months ago. 

This week, deaths rose in two WHO regions: the Eastern Mediterranean and the Western Pacific. 

Over 80% of the new reported cases and deaths come from the Americas and Europe. 

Brazil reported the highest number of new cases – just over 494,000 – followed by the US, France, Italy and India. 

 

 

10:22 a.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Benefits of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine outweigh its risks and vaccinations should continue, WHO says

From CNN's Jamie Gumbrecht

A health worker in Rome shows how she prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on March 8.
A health worker in Rome shows how she prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on March 8. Alessandra Tarantino/AP

After several European Union countries temporarily suspended the use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, the World Health Organization said Wednesday that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh its risks and vaccinations should continue.

The statement follows reports of rare blood clotting disorders in people who have received the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. WHO notes that it’s routine for countries to signal potential adverse events during extensive vaccination campaigns, and it doesn’t necessarily mean the events are linked to the vaccination.

“Vaccination against COVID-19 will not reduce illness or deaths from other causes,” WHO said. “Thromboembolic events are known to occur frequently. Venous thromboembolism is the third most common cardiovascular disease globally.”

The statement said WHO is in regular contact with the European Medicine Agency and regulators around the world, and its Global Advisory Commission on Vaccine Safety is “carefully assessing” the latest safety data.

“Once that review is completed, WHO will immediately communicate the findings to the public,” it said.

 

9:33 a.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Covid-19 cases rising significantly in 14 US states over past week

From CNN’s Brandon Miller

Covid-19 cases are rising by more than 10% in 14 states this week compared to last week, with half of those states rising by more than 20%.

While nationally the number of new cases has continued to decline – though at a much slower rate over the past three weeks compared to late January and February – the trend is not down for all states. 

One month ago, on Feb. 17, there were only 3 states showing increases of 10% or more (North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska).

Michigan cases are increasing the fastest, at more than 50% this week compared to last, with Delaware (39%), Montana (34%), Alabama (31%) and West Virginia (29%) in the Top 5.

The 14 states increasing by more than 10% are:

  1. Michigan
  2. Delaware
  3. Montana
  4. Alabama
  5. West Virginia
  6. New Hampshire
  7. Hawaii
  8. Mississippi
  9. Maine
  10. Nevada
  11. Connecticut
  12. North Dakota
  13. Idaho
  14. Maryland