The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

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See how vaccine-hesitant GOP participants react to Covid-19 focus group
04:08 - Source: CNN

What you need to know

  • The Biden administration will loan around 4 million of its AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Canada and Mexico as the company waits for official usage approval in the US.
  • AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine showed 79% efficacy against symptomatic disease in a new, US-based clinical trial, the company said Monday.
  • Brazil’s health system remains near collapse amid a coronavirus surge, with intensive care units in almost all of its states reaching at least 80% capacity.

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

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British government will ban travel outside the United Kingdom

The British government has drafted legislation that will forbid travel outside of the United Kingdom, with rule breakers facing a penalty of nearly $7,000. 

The travel ban is part of a set of restrictions the UK government published on Monday, as it sets its roadmap for leaving the current lockdown.

The restrictions come into force March 29.

The law says:

“No person may, without a reasonable excuse—
(a) leave England to travel to a destination outside the United Kingdom, or
(b) travel to, or be present at, an embarkation point for the purpose of travelling from there to a destination outside the United Kingdom.”

The document goes on to indicate those who attempt to travel “without a reasonable excuse” will be issued a fixed penalty notice worth $6,932.40.

These restrictions do not apply to travel within the common area, which includes the rest of the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland.

Exceptions to the ban apply when it is “reasonably necessary” for a person to work, study, provide charitable services, fulfill a legal obligation, sell or rent property and for some child care, medical or family reasons. 

AstraZeneca plans quick Covid vaccine delivery if it wins FDA go-ahead 

Drug giant AstraZeneca hopes to be able to deliver 50 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine within a month if it gains US Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization, a top official told CNN Monday. 

“We plan to submit to the FDA in the first half of April, assuming the FDA is very supportive of our submission. After an approval from the FDA, we will instantly release 30 million doses in that first phase, and then in the same month another 20 million,” Ruud Dobber, president of AstraZeneca’s biopharmaceuticals business unit, told CNN in a statement.

AstraZeneca released Phase 3 trial results Monday that showed the vaccine it developed with Britain’s Oxford University was 79% effective against symptomatic disease and 100% effective against severe disease and hospitalization. The results are based on trials involving 32,449 volunteers in the US, Peru and Chile.

The vaccine has been in use in the UK since last year.

Ontario declares it's in a third wave of the pandemic

People are seen on a beach near Toronto on March 21.

Ontario, Canada’s largest province, declared it was at the beginning of a third wave of the pandemic Monday, pointing to increasing case counts, hospitalizations and variants of concern. 

“We’re in the third wave. The numbers are slowly going up, they’re not going as fast as predicted by the modelers,” said Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s top doctor. “We’re now starting to see impacts on our hospital rates, our ICU admissions are up again, our hospital admissions are up again.”

The news was sobering in a province where the majority of residents have been in some state of lockdown since late last year. 

Canadian public health officials also warned that the vaccine rollout would not occur quickly enough to halt what could be a potentially devastating third wave of the pandemic in some areas of the country, further stressing hospital capacity.  

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said in a statement on Monday that Covid-19 activity “has leveled off at a high level since mid-February and average daily case counts are now on the rise” throughout the country.

“While vaccine programs accelerate, it will be important to maintain a high degree of caution. Any easing of public health measures must be done slowly with enhanced testing, screening, and genomic analysis to detect variants of concern,” she said. 

Ohio vaccine availability can open to everyone 16 and older for providers needing to fill appointments

Ohio vaccine providers having trouble filling appointments can now open them up to anyone 16 and older, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday.

Earlier this month, DeWine announced vaccine availability would open to everyone 16 and older on March 29. 

DeWine also announced changes to health orders regarding visitations in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities will now be required to allow visitation for their residents, DeWine said.

Vaccinated residents will now be allowed, when wearing a mask, to have physical touch with their visitors, residents can also have visitation in their private rooms and visitations must be allowed to be a minimum of 30 minutes long, he added. 

The list of compassionate care visit examples has also increased, DeWine said. Vaccinated staff will be required to have regular Covid-19 testing once a week, and unvaccinated staff must be tested two times a week, he added. If an outbreak occurs at one of these facilities, visitations will be limited, DeWine said.  

Just two weeks ago, the total cases of Covid-19 variants was 32, now there are 173 variant cases, Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Chief Medical Officer of the Ohio Department of Health said.  

Note: These numbers were released by the state’s public health agency, 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.

None of the known variants have reached the threshold of "variant of high consequence," CDC says

None of the coronavirus variants that are known to be circulating in the United States are classified as “variants of high consequence” or currently near that level, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“At this time, none of the known SARS-CoV-2 variants rise to the level of high consequence, and none are close to that threshold,” CDC spokesperson Jade Fulce told CNN in an email on Monday. SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus that causes Covid-19.

The CDC classifies coronavirus variants by three levels: variant of interest, variant of concern, or variant of high consequence. The B.1.1.7, B.1.351, P.1, B.1.427 and B.1.429 variants circulating in the United States are currently classified as variants of concern.

A variant of high consequence “is included in the new classification system so that health officials can be prepared to respond appropriately in the event that a SARS-CoV-2 variant crosses that threshold,” Fulce said.

To be classified as a “variant of high consequence,” a variant of concern would need to show evidence that it causes more severe disease and hospitalizations, vaccine effectiveness may be reduced against it, or it has significantly reduced susceptibility to therapeutics, among other factors, according to the CDC.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned in a White House briefing on Monday that the variants are still concerning – and she urged people to keep following Covid-19 mitigation measures.

“The continued relaxation of prevention measures while cases are still high and while concerning variants are spreading rapidly throughout the United States is a serious threat to the progress we have made as a nation,” Walensky said.

“Increasingly, states are seeing a growing proportion of their Covid-19 cases attributed to variants,” Walensky said. “I am worried that if we don’t take the right actions now, we will have another avoidable surge.”

Turkey records highest number of Covid-19 cases so far this year

A health worker holds a coronavirus test in Ankara, Turkey, on December 29.

Turkey reported 22,216 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours – the highest daily case number in 2021, according to Turkish health ministry data released on Monday.

The ministry reported 117 new deaths bringing the total number fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic to 30,178.

The country is facing a spike in new infections following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, including partial reopening of schools and indoor dining since early March.

Over all 1,644 people are in critical condition, according to the health ministry. Hospital bed occupancy is at 53.8% and adult intensive care unit occupancy is at 65%, the ministry said.

Turkey’s highest single-day increase in new cases since the beginning of the pandemic was in December 2020 when it recorded more than 33,000 new infections in a single day.

Global Covid-19 cases increase for fifth consecutive week, WHO official says 

Maria van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead for coronavirus response, said Monday that global cases of Covid-19 have risen for the fifth consecutive week, and that WHO is seeing worrying trends in Europe, as well as number of areas.

“Four of our five WHO regions are seeing an increase in transmission,” she said at a news briefing. “This is the fifth week in a row globally that we have seen an increase in transmission. In the last week, cases have increased by 8%.” 

There was a 12% increase in Europe, van Kerkhove said, adding that it is driven by several countries across the region and by the B.1.1.7 variant, which is starting to circulate in many countries in the eastern part of Europe. 

The Southeast Asia region has seen a 49% increase in cases, largely driven by increases in India and a number of other countries. 

The eastern Mediterranean region has seen an increase of 8%. 

The Western Pacific region has seen an increase of 29%, largely driven by an increase in cases in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. 

“The Americas and Africa have seen a slight decline in the last seven days,” she said. “But, overall, we’re seeing increasing trends and these are worrying trends.” 

Van Kerkhove said that in Europe and across a number of countries there is a combination of factors associated with transmission increases, including pressure for the countries to open up and difficulties with individuals and communities complying with proven control measures.

Venezuela will receive two Cuban vaccine candidates in April

Vials of the Abdala vaccine candidate are seen during a press conference in Havana, Cuba, on March 19.

Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced two of Cuba’s vaccine candidates would arrive in Venezuela in the first week of April.

“We will participate in phase three of their clinical trials heading to this vaccine’s mass production,” he said during a news conference on Sunday.

Maduro said 30,000 doses of Soberana 02 and 30,000 doses of Abdala will come into the country. Both vaccine candidates are in phase 3 clinical trials.

“I thank President Diaz Canel, the Cuban Public Health System, Army General Raúl Castro, and thank you for incorporating Venezuela in these trials; we’re together creating the answers and solutions of our Caribbean Latin America,” Maduro said.

On March 4, Sacha Llorenti the executive director of ALBA-TCP (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Peoples’ Trade Treaty), a regional bloc of left leaning Caribbean and Latin American countries, announced the creation of a vaccine bank for its member countries. Cuba and Venezuela are both members of ALBA and the delivery of the vaccines will take place through the organization according to Cuban state media.

The vaccine bank is for member states to use if they are in need and vaccines developed in Cuba will have priority to be part of the bank.

UK administers 30 million Covid-19 vaccine shots

A clinical pharmacist prepares to administer the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on March 12 in London.

More than 30 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have now been administered in the UK, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Monday. 

This total figure includes first (27,997,976) and second doses (2,281,384). The government publishes these figures on its online dashboard daily. 

Hancock tweeted that the “vaccine rollout is showing the best of Britain”.

See the tweet:

Arizona is opening vaccine appointments to residents 16+ on Wednesday

Residents in Arizona aged 16 and above will be eligible to get a Covid-19 vaccine starting this Wednesday at state-operated sites in Maricopa, Pima and Yuma counties, according to a news release from the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS).

“Our goal has been and remains to get vaccine into the community as quickly, widely and equitably as possible,” said Gov. Doug Ducey. “Given a thorough review of vaccination data, anticipated vaccine supply, and current demand among prioritized groups, now is the time to take this critical next step.” 

ADHS director Dr. Cara Christ says they anticipate “more and more” vaccine reaching Arizona in the coming weeks which allowed them to expand prioritization.

So far Arizona has administered 2,904,159 doses of Covid-19 vaccine and 1,136,413 residents are fully vaccinated.

According to the release, as of Monday morning there were 58,000 appointments available.

Nearly 1 in 4 people in the US have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, CDC data shows

More than 126.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States, according to data published Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The CDC reported that 126,509,736 total doses have been administered – about 81% of the 156,734,555 doses delivered. The CDC last updated total doses delivered on Saturday; CNN has reached out to the CDC to learn more about this.

That’s about 2 million more doses reported administered since yesterday, for a seven-day average of about 2.5 million doses per day.

About 1 in 4 people in the US – nearly 83 million people – have received at least one dose of vaccine, and more than 1 in 8 – about 45 million people – have been fully vaccinated, CDC data shows.

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

New York City reopened 488 high schools today, mayor says

Mayor Bill de Blasio said all 488 high schools under the New York City Department of Education have reopened for in-person learning across the city, with at least half of those schools providing in-person instruction five days per week.

De Blasio said city officials have been following the latest US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for a safe reopening.

The city has set a new “opt-in” period from March 24 to April 7 to allow more students to “opt-in” to in-person learning if they wish. De Blasio also said that the NYC’s schools district has received $130 million in stimulus funding and it is being disbursed to schools. 

With approximately 1.1 million students, New York City is the largest school district in the United States, according to the NYC Department of Education.

There are currently about 315,000 total students of all grades returning to in-person learning, and about 55,000 high school students who have returned to in-person school on Monday, spokesperson Danielle Filson said Monday.

NYC Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter added that the “opt-in” period is meant to give school administrators a chance to see how many additional students wish to return in the near-future so they can make appropriate preparations.

“We want every single child who wants to attend school in person to have the opportunity to do so,” Porter said, adding that the school district has the capacity to welcome more students in-person while still maintain CDC recommendations on social distancing.

Porter also told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Monday that she estimates that around 80 to 90% of NYC students will return to classrooms in the fall.

“We want to get as close to 100% in-person in the fall, but we also know we have to honor the choices and decisions our families are making,” Porter said.

Jordan reports highest number of Covid-19 deaths since start of pandemic

Jordan on Monday reported the highest number of deaths since the start of the pandemic, registering 109 new deaths, according to figures announced by the country’s health ministry.

Jordan also recorded at least 9,269 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, one of the highest daily tallies since the start of the pandemic.

Last week, the country with a population of about 10 million, surpassed half a million cases.

Jordan is facing its worst wave of the pandemic. Government officials blame the surge on the variant first identified in the UK and on people’s lack of adherence to regulations.

There has been a lot of concern about the healthcare sector’s ability to deal with the high number of infections — with several hospitals and intensive care units (ICUs) dedicated to COVID cases in the kingdom either close to or reaching capacity.

Earlier this month the government re-imposed restrictions including a Friday lockdown, extended the nighttime curfew, and shut down nightclubs, bars, pools, gyms and parks. It also suspended Friday prayers and Sunday church mass.

The government has said it is doing all it can to avoid another full lockdown because of the impact on the economy and people’s livelihoods.

Meanwhile, vaccines have been slow to arrive to the kingdom where just over 650,000 people have registered on an online platform to get inoculated. 

As of March 21, Jordan vaccinated at least 209,278 people since the start of the vaccination campaign launched in mid-January. Jordan has been administering the Sinopharm, Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines. It has also issued emergency use authorization for Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

Government officials have said they are working “night and day” to secure more vaccines from various sources. 

Jordan has reported a total of 544,724 Covid-19 cases and 5,985 Covid-19 related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the country’s health ministry.

West Virginia opens vaccine eligibility to everyone over the age of 16

Residents wear protective masks in the observation area after being vaccinated at a West Virginia United Health System Covid-19 vaccine clinic in Morgantown, West Virginia on March 11

West Virginia will open vaccines eligibility to everyone in the state over the age of 16, Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday. 

“Today I am announcing we are officially opening up our vaccine eligibility to all West Virginians over the age of 16, beginning right now,” he said. “We do not want to take our foot off the gas, and we continue prioritizing all those 65 years of age and older, let’s get everybody in this state vaccinated.”

What the numbers look like: There have been 12 additional Covid-19-related deaths since Friday and 276 new positive cases in the last 24 hours in West Virginia, the governor said.

There are 198 people hospitalized and 67 people in intensive care units, said Justice, marking an increase to the numbers that Justice reported at last Monday’s news conference. Last week, Justice said that there were 210 new positive cases, 151 people hospitalized, and 50 people in ICU. 

Justice also announced that all fairs and festivals will be allowed to resume on May 1, but all mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing precautions are still in place.  

Second batch of Covid-19 stimulus checks will be issued this week, Biden administration announces

The second batch of Covid-19 stimulus checks will be issued this week, the Biden administration announced Monday.

Many of these payments will come via paper check or prepaid debit card and additional batches will be made weekly going forward, according to a statement from the US Department of the Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service and the Bureau of the Fiscal Service.

“For taxpayers receiving direct deposit, this batch of payments began processing on Friday and will have an official pay date of Wednesday, March 24, with some people seeing these in their accounts earlier, potentially as provisional or pending deposits,” the statement read. “A large number of this latest batch of payments will also be mailed, so taxpayers who do not receive a direct deposit by March 24 should watch the mail carefully in the coming weeks for a paper check or a prepaid debit card, known as an Economic Impact Payment Card, or EIP Card.” 

The statement pointed people to the Get My Payment tool on to check whether their payment has been scheduled.

The payments of up to $1,400 per person began disbursement earlier this month after President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill into law.

Families will receive an additional $1,400 per dependent, so a couple with two children could receive up to $5,600. Unlike prior rounds, families will now receive the additional money for adult dependents over the age of 17.

The full amount goes to individuals earning less than $75,000 of adjusted gross income, heads of households (like single parents) earning less than $112,500 and married couples earning less than $150,000. But then the payments gradually phase out as income goes up.

Use our calculator to see what you can expect to get.

Nearly 3.3 million Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in New York City, mayor says

Healthcare workers administer Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines at a vaccination site in the Bronx borough of New York on February 5.

New York City has administered 3,295,812 Covid-19 vaccines to date, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.

He said the city expects to see an increase in their vaccine supply beginning in April.

The mayor said Monday that he believes no further Covid-19 restrictions should be lifted in the city until more data is collected about case trends and about the Covid-19 variants that have been identified. 

“If we see numbers going in the wrong direction…we would put different options back on the table,” de Blasio said.

New York will lower vaccine eligibility to 50 starting Tuesday, governor announces

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will allow individuals ages 50 and above to be eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine starting on Tuesday, lowering the current vaccine eligibility age from 65.

Cuomo made the announcement at Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon (in Westchester County) saying that the church would become a vaccine center on Tuesday.

The Rev. Al Sharpton also joined Monday morning’s event remotely to thank the governor for his work on the vaccine rollout, and encouraged everyone to get out and get their vaccine appointments.

Gov. Cuomo will hold a Covid Q&A later in the afternoon, his office said. The timing will be announced later today.

Monday’s event marked another closed press event for the embattled governor wherein he focused on expanding vaccine access and received praise from community and faith leaders. He again did not address the multiple accusations and investigations into his behavior, nor were they directly referenced by anyone who spoke at the event, although the speakers were clear to voice their support for the governor repeatedly.

White House won't confirm whether Johnson & Johnson will reach 20 million vaccine doses by end of March

White House Senior Adviser Andy Slavitt

The White House has not yet confirmed whether Johnson & Johnson will deliver 20 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to states by the end of the month — which is a little more than a week away.

“At this point in time, I don’t want to commit to what’s going to happen over the course of the coming week. We’ll leave that to the company,” Andy Slavitt, White House Covid-19 senior adviser, said on Monday.