March 18 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Brett McKeehan and Kara Fox, CNN

Updated 3:48 AM ET, Fri March 19, 2021
34 Posts
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4:25 p.m. ET, March 18, 2021

Biden says the US will meet goal of 100 million Covid-19 vaccines administered on Friday

From CNN's DJ Judd

President Joe Biden speaks on the national vaccination efforts in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 18.
President Joe Biden speaks on the national vaccination efforts in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 18. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Biden just announced his administration is on track to hit 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered.

"I am proud to announce that tomorrow, 58 days into our administration, we will have met my goal of administering 100 million shots to our fellow Americans," Biden said in White House remarks. "That's weeks ahead of schedule. Even with the setbacks we faced during the winter storms."

Biden said his administration would seek to administer 100 million doses in his first 100 days in office during the transition in December. Friday is Biden's 58th day in office.

Biden added that “next week, we’ll announce our next goal” on vaccinations.

By the numbers: A total of 115,730,730 Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the United States since the first Covid-19 vaccine was authorized for emergency use in December, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Watch here:

3:27 p.m. ET, March 18, 2021

Spain to resume use of AstraZeneca vaccine next Wednesday

From CNN's Al Goodman

A nurse fills a syringe with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Vigo, Spain, on March 13.
A nurse fills a syringe with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Vigo, Spain, on March 13. Miguel Riopa/AFP/Getty Images

Spain will resume administering the AstraZeneca vaccine next Wednesday, Health Minister Carolina Darias announced at a nationally televised news conference Thursday, after the European Medicines Agency said it was "safe and effective."

Cyprus, Italy and France also said they planned to resume using the vaccine following the EMA announcement Thursday. 

Darias said that health experts from Spain's 17 regional governments, which administer the vaccines against Covid-19, will meet this weekend to make a proposal on which parts of the population should get the AstraZeneca vaccine starting next Wednesday.

On Monday, the Spanish Health Ministry will meet with the regional health department chiefs, for final approval, about the population segments to be the AstraZeneca vaccine.

3:25 p.m. ET, March 18, 2021

France will impose new Covid-19 restrictions starting Friday

From CNN's Barbara Wojazer

French Prime Minister Jean Castex, left, and French Health Minister Olivier Veran deliver a joint press conference in Paris on March 18.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex, left, and French Health Minister Olivier Veran deliver a joint press conference in Paris on March 18. Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

In an attempt to tackle rising coronavirus infections, France will impose new coronavirus restrictions in 16 areas around the country, including the greater Paris and Nice areas, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said Thursday. 

The new measures – which go into effect Friday at midnight – will last at least four weeks but are less restrictive than measures imposed in March and November of last year.

“Our choice, to be less restrictive on possibilities to leave one’s home, will need to go hand in hand with real caution,” Castex said. 

“This is clearly about allowing for people to be outside, but not to go to friends’ homes to have a party or meet with many people without social distancing or a face mask. We know that it is in that kind of situation that the virus prospers,” he added. 

People will be encouraged to work from home. People will be allowed to go outdoors to walk or exercise but must have an approval “certificate,” and cannot go further than 10km (about six miles) from their home or travel between regions without a valid reason. However the night time curfew – currently in effect from 6 p.m. local – will be moved to 7 p.m. when the new measures come into effect Friday.

Schools and universities will remain open. Essential businesses will remain open – and these will now include book shops and music shops. 

“Our conviction is that if new measures are necessary, we need to keep the same coherence, and prefer a pragmatic, proportionate, territorialized approach,” Castex said.

3:05 p.m. ET, March 18, 2021

66% of US adults age 65 and older have received at least one shot of Covid-19 vaccine, CDC data shows

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

A medical worker draws COVID-19 vaccine from its vial during a public vaccination event at Washington National Cathedral on March 16 in Washington, DC.
A medical worker draws COVID-19 vaccine from its vial during a public vaccination event at Washington National Cathedral on March 16 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

About 116 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States, according to data published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reported that 115,730,008 total doses have been administered – about 77% of the 151,108,445 doses delivered.

That’s about 2.7 million more administered doses reported since yesterday, for a seven-day average of about 2.5 million doses per day.

About 22.7% of the population – 75 million people – have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 12.3% of the population – about 41 million people – have been fully vaccinated.

Among Americans 65 and older, 66.3% have now received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, and 38.6% are now fully vaccinated

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

2:41 p.m. ET, March 18, 2021

1 person enters intensive care every 4 minutes in France, prime minister says

From CNN's Schams Elwazer

French Prime Minister Jean Castex speaks during a press conference in Paris on March 18.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex speaks during a press conference in Paris on March 18. Martin Bureau/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the coronavirus pandemic is “accelerating considerably” and said it was “becoming clearer and clearer that it’s a third wave.”

The prime minister explained that at the moment, one person is entering intensive care every four minutes in France with Covid-19.

He said what is even more worrying is that – compared to previous waves – people being hospitalized with the disease are younger and healthier.

Castex said France recorded 35,000 new infections Thursday, a rise of 23.6% in the last week, and that the variant identified in the UK accounts for three quarters of cases.

1:47 p.m. ET, March 18, 2021

Italy and Cyprus will resume use of AstraZeneca vaccine Friday

From CNN's Antonia Mortensen and Chris Liakos

A medical worker fills a syringe from a vial of the British-Swedish AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine on March 9 at the National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo Da Vinci in Milan, Italy.
A medical worker fills a syringe from a vial of the British-Swedish AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine on March 9 at the National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo Da Vinci in Milan, Italy. Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

Italy and Cyprus announced plans to resume use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday following a recommendation by the European Medicines Agency Thursday that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks.

Italy’s medicines regulator, AIFA, considers that “the reasons behind the precautionary ban on the use of vaccine batches, issued on March 15, 2021, no longer exist,” according to the Italian Health Ministry press office.

On Friday “as soon as the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) releases its opinion, AIFA will proceed to revoke the ban on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, thus allowing a complete resumption of the vaccination campaign starting at 15.00,” the statement added. 

In a government statement, Cyprus said, “Following today’s scientific conclusion from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which clarifies that after a thorough investigation there is no link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and the thrombo-embolic events reported by EU countries and that the vaccine is considered safe and effective, the Ministry of Health announces that from tomorrow, March 19, 2021, vaccinations with the AstraZeneca vaccine will resume."

1:38 p.m. ET, March 18, 2021

Boris Johnson says he'll receive AstraZeneca's vaccine tomorrow

From CNN's Schams Elwazer

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at Colham Manor primary school during a constituency visit on March 18 in Uxbridge, England.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at Colham Manor primary school during a constituency visit on March 18 in Uxbridge, England. Leon Neal/Getty Images

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson continued to reassure the British public about the safety of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, saying that he himself will receive the vaccine on Friday.

The UK’s medicines regulator has confirmed that “the benefits of the vaccine in preventing Covid far outweigh any risks and people should continue to get their vaccine when asked to do so,” Johnson said at Downing Street. 

“It’s also very important for our European friends that today the European Medicine’s Agency came to a clear scientific conclusion – and I quote – 'this is a safe and effective vaccine.'”

What we know: Earlier today, the European Medicines Agency concluded that the AstraZeneca vaccine "is safe and effective in preventing Covid-19 and its benefits continued to be far greater than its risks.”

Dr. Sabine Straus, chair of the EMA’s Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC), said the committee “has found no evidence of a quality of batch issue.”

“The committee also concluded that the vaccine is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of thromboembolic events, or blood clots,” EMA Executive Director Emer Cooke said.  

However Cooke added that the agency “cannot rule out definitely a link” between blood clot cases and the vaccine.

1:09 p.m. ET, March 18, 2021

Biden administration in talks to send 2.5 million AstraZeneca vaccines to Mexico and 1.5 million to Canada

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Kylie Atwood and Betsy Klein

President Joe Biden walks toward Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on March 16 in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden walks toward Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on March 16 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Thursday that the US has 7 million releasable doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, and the Biden administration is working to finalize plans to lend 2.5 million doses to Mexico and 1.5 million to Canada. 

Biden could announce the agreement upon finalization as soon as Friday. CNN reported Wednesday night that negotiations between the US, Mexico and Canada were ongoing. If the agreement comes together, it would be the first time the US has shared vaccines directly with another country. 

Several European countries have temporarily halted the rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine over a small number of blood clot concerns. The European Medicines Agency said Thursday that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine “is safe and effective in preventing Covid-19 and its benefits continued to be far greater than its risks.” The committee however could not “rule out definitively” a possible link to a rare blood clotting disorder.

Biden has met virtually with both Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. During both conversations, his counterparts pressed him on the need for more vaccines in their countries. The Biden administration has so far maintained the stance that they would not share vaccines until all Americans could be vaccinated. 

Mexican government officials pressed Biden officials on helping with vaccine supply during conversations between both parties regarding the surge on the southern US border. It was part of a broader discussion and not necessarily an exchange of one for the other, an official told CNN. 

The US has a limited amount of AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine in stockpile, but the vaccine has not been authorized for emergency use in the US yet. AstraZeneca has been approved for use in both Canada and Mexico. 

The Biden administration will eventually share excess vaccines — beyond the AstraZeneca doses — and does not see joint efforts alongside US allies as precluding them from unilaterally donating vaccines to other countries down the road, according to the senior administration official.

1:00 p.m. ET, March 18, 2021

CDC expected to update its physical distancing guidelines for schools tomorrow

From CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen and Maggie Fox

Director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Rochelle Walensky testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, March 18.
Director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Rochelle Walensky testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, March 18. Anna Moneymaker/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to update its physical distancing guidelines for schools from 6 feet to 3 feet on Friday, an administration official confirms to CNN.

US health officials have pointed to a study published last week that showed “no significant difference” in rates of Covid-19 at Massachusetts public schools that had implemented social distancing rules of more than 3 feet apart compared to those with rules to stay more than 6 feet apart.

“Indeed, because six feet has been such a challenge there, science has leaned in and there are now emerging studies on the question between three feet and six feet,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told Sen. Susan Collins during a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Thursday.

“This is an urgent issue,” Walensky said.