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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7:48 p.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Covid-19 reinfections are rare, but seem more common for people 65 and older, study finds

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

Covid-19 reinfections are relatively rare, but it’s more common for people 65 and older to get infected more than once, according to a study published Wednesday in the Lancet medical journal.

Scientists from Denmark’s Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Prevention noted that most people who have had Covid-19 seemed to have protection from reinfection for about six months. When they looked at the demographics of who was getting infected again, it was mostly people 65 and older.

They looked at the reinfection rates among 4 million people during the second surge of Covid-19 from September through Dec. 31, and compared that to the infection rates during the first surge between March and May. Ultimately, they found that of the 11,068 people who tested positive during the first surge, only 72 tested positive again during the second.

The older age group seemed to have only about 47% protection against repeat infection, compared to younger people who seemed to have about 80% protection from reinfection. The finding is not completely unexpected, since as people age their immune systems weaken.

This study is in keeping with earlier work. Other studies have found that the reinfection rate was less than 1% and immunity could last five to six months following a Covid-19 infection.

The researchers said this particular study reinforces the need for everyone to get vaccinated, particularly those who are older and more likely to have serious Covid-19 infections.

7:03 p.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Go There: CNN is in Rome with the latest on the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine suspensions 

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

Europe's medicines regulator, meanwhile, has said there's "no indication" that the vaccine has caused blood clots, as the list of countries temporarily halting the vaccine's rollout over safety concerns continues to grow. 

CNN correspondent Melissa Bell reports from Rome on the latest.


4:31 p.m. ET, March 17, 2021

New York has administered 7 million Covid-19 vaccines, governor says

From CNN’s Alec Snyder

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo receives a Covid-19 vaccine on Wednesday.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo receives a Covid-19 vaccine on Wednesday. Seth Wenig/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Hours after receiving his own shot, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday that the state has administered its 7 millionth Covid-19 vaccination.

The state has fully vaccinated “about two million New Yorkers,” Cuomo said, whether through 145 community-based pop-up sites, 14 state mass vaccination sites, six mass vaccination sites in partnership with the federal government or at one of 52 churches doing vaccinations across New York.

Fifteen new pop-up sites, eight of which will be at churches, will open in the near future, Cuomo said. 

On Monday, the state’s final five yellow zone clusters will be lifted, Cuomo said. Those five zones will rescind their orders for specific guidance and will then follow overall state guidance moving forward.

To note: These numbers were released by the New York State Department of Health and may not line up exactly in real-time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services.

3:50 p.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Education secretary won't say if Biden would mandate vaccinations for teachers

From CNN's DJ Judd

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, flanked by White House press secretary Jen Psaki, speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House on Wednesday.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, flanked by White House press secretary Jen Psaki, speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House on Wednesday. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona wouldn’t say if the administration would support mandating vaccinations for educators before they could return to work.

“At this point vaccination is available for educators. I'm proud that the President prioritized educators to be vaccinated, because we know that when that's not the case, it's more likely that schools will close due to quarantining," he told reporters on Wednesday.

In remarks earlier this month, President Joe Biden announced his administration would order states to prioritize educators in vaccination efforts, announcing he was “using the full authority of the federal government” to direct states to move teachers and school staff to the front of the line.

“We want every educator, school staff member and childcare worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March,” Biden said two weeks ago.

“It's critically important that we vaccinate as many as possible, and we promote the benefits of the vaccination, to make sure we have safe school communities,” Cardona said. “So, the message really is, if you're able to get a shot, get a shot and, you know, that's a strategy to help keep our schools open.”

On getting kids back in the classroom: Cardona said Wednesday that if the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updates its guidance to allow for less social distancing, it would potentially get more students in school. 

“If it does go to three feet, it'll provide more opportunities, potentially for students to enter our schools, which is the goal,” Cardona said in a White House briefing. 

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said earlier on Wednesday that the CDC plans to issue new guidance allowing less social distancing in schools. Walensky said the agency is looking at studies that indicate physical distancing of 3 feet is sufficient to keep students and teachers safe in school.

3:30 p.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Michigan health official lays out factors contributing to state's Covid-19 case spike 

From CNN’s Adrienne Broaddus and Rebekah Riess

There is a long list of factors contributing to the current spike in Covid-19 cases in Michigan, according to Dr. Jennifer Morse, medical director for the Mid-Michigan District Health Department.

Rolling back Covid restrictions, a prison outbreak, Covid fatigue, failure to wear masks, hopefulness with the vaccines, and the B.1.1.7 variant have caused new infections to spike, Morse told CNN. 

Morse also said state transportation data shows Michiganders are making more trips, as some parts of the state are showing pre-pandemic levels of travel. 

When asked if she was worried Michigan would regress instead of making more progress in the fight against Covid-19, Morse told CNN, “I am very fearful that it will, but my one hope is that we have been really aggressively vaccinating and have been working through the different categories for vaccination quite well. And my hope is that that will help to keep if from climbing as rampantly as it did back in the fall.” 

According to Morse, the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, has been identified in 31 counties across Michigan, with 420 cases out of over 725 total cases being reported within the Michigan Department of Corrections.

“It is really growing upward,” she said, adding that the state has one identified case of the B.1.351 variant, first identified in South Africa.


3:23 p.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Brazil's new health minister promotes social distancing but won't commit to changing policy

From Rodrigo Pedroso and Jennifer Deaton

Dr. Marcelo Queiroga, left, succeeded Eduardo Pazuello, right, as Brazil's minister of health on Tuesday.
Dr. Marcelo Queiroga, left, succeeded Eduardo Pazuello, right, as Brazil's minister of health on Tuesday. Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images

Brazil's outgoing and incoming health ministers promoted social distancing as a measure to reduce the national Covid-19 death rate in the country but would not commit to formally changing Brazil's current pandemic policy, during a joint ceremony in Rio de Janeiro. 

Speaking during a ceremony marking the delivery of 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the Bio-Manguinhos plant, the newly appointed Health Minister Dr. Marcelo Queiroga said, "We will be able to reduce the current level of deaths through two main methods. First, social distancing will reduce the circulation of the virus. Second, through an improvement in the capacity of our hospital services."

They did not specify how they would accomplish the latter objective.

The Brazilian public biomedical center FioCruz delivered the first batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine produced in Brazil with the imported input of the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) of the vaccine.

FioCruz director Mauricio Zuma, who also spoke during the ceremony, estimated that the biomedical center will deliver around 6 million vaccine doses per week to the government starting next month. 

Zuma said that he expects to deliver a total of 100 million doses by the end of July and said that FioCruz trusted in the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is under study by the European Medicines Agency due to a possible link with thromboembolic events.

3:23 p.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Powell says price increases after US stimulus will have only "transient effects on inflation"

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said inflation will tick-up because of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill and the one-time increases in prices “are likely to have only transient effects on inflation."

At a press conference following the Fed’s two-day meeting, Powell noted, "the economy is a long way from our employment and inflation goals." 

Powell also said the Fed has been supporting the bond market by purchasing hundreds of billions of dollars of Treasuries. With the Fed anticipating much stronger-than-expected economic growth thanks to stimulus, vaccines and other factors, some on Wall Street wonder whether the Fed would start winding down those purchases.

"Is it time to start talking about talking about tapering?" Reuters' Howard Schneider asked Powell at his press conference.

"Not yet," Powell said to a chuckle. "We've said that we would continue asset purchases at this pace until we see substantial further progress. And that's actual progress, not forecast progress."
2:46 p.m. ET, March 17, 2021

IRS plans to delay this year's tax filing deadline to mid-May, official says

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The Internal Revenue Service plans to delay this year's tax filing deadline by roughly a month, to mid-May, according to an official familiar with the plans.

The official said the decision was made in order to allow filers more time to navigate tax situations complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawmakers, led by Democratic Reps. Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, had urged the move, citing the pandemic.


2:41 p.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Biden administration announces $2.25 billion initiative to take on Covid-19 health equity issues

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

The Biden administration announced Wednesday a new $2.25 billion initiative to address health equity issues related to Covid-19.

The grant, funded through the US Department of Health and Human Services, will expand health services to help reduce Covid-19-related health disparities. 

The money will fund programs to improve and increase access to testing and contact tracing among vulnerable populations, including communities of color and among people who live in rural communities. These communities have been underserved and are at higher risk for more severe Covid-19 disease. 

Money will also be used to improve infection control and will help fund partner programs that can advance health equity and better address the social determinants of health that make Covid-19 a much bigger challenge for these communities.

“Everyone in America should have equal opportunity to be as healthy as possible,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement. “This investment will be monumental in anchoring equity at the center of our nation’s COVID-19 response—and is a key step forward in bringing resources and focus to health inequities that have for far too long persisted in our country.”

The grant funding will be provided over two years.