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March 31 coronavirus news

March 31 coronavirus news

What you need to know

  • Beijing accuses Washington of “political manipulation” as the US, along with 13 other nations, raised concerns over WHO’s report into the origins of Covid-19.
  • Clinical trial results of Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine showed its efficacy is 100% and it is well tolerated in youths ages 12 to 15, the companies said.
  • The UK defends widespread use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as Germany limits its use to people over the age of 60 as a precautionary measure, following reports of more than 30 blood clots in younger age groups.

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

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Peru will enter total lockdown Thursday to curb spread of Covid-19

Peru will enter a total lockdown starting Thursday through Easter Sunday to try curb the spread of the pandemic, the Peruvian government announced Wednesday.

The total lockdown includes a 24-hour curfew, ban on the use of private vehicles, and only one person per household is allowed to leave home for essential shopping, according to a statement from the Peruvian Council of Ministers.

Domestic flights and inter-city public transport will also stop, the statement read.

The announcement comes as Peru is experiencing a resurgence in Covid-19 cases just days ahead of the first round of presidential elections, scheduled for April 11. 

Peru has reported at least 1,533,121 Covid-19 cases and at least 51,635 Covid-related deaths, according to data collected by John Hopkins University.

Massachusetts to receive more than 100,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine

Massachusetts will be receiving more than 100,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine when nationwide shipments resume next week, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday.

“I can’t tell you how important that is,” Baker said. “And as I’ve said before, thank God Pfizer and Moderna were there when they were there, but the difference between two doses and one dose is not just convenience, it’s also capacity.”

“I think for many of us, this is a big sign, a big statement, and we have heard many times that it’s coming, but it’s coming. This is a big sign that things are actually starting to get here,” the governor added.

Baker said it would be up to the state to absorb the growing federal supply and make sure doses get into people’s arms.

"Quality" issue at Baltimore vaccine plant delays some of Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine

Employees work in a lab at Emergent Biosolutions, which is manufacturing vaccines for AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson on February 8,  in Baltimore, Maryland.

Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday it had found a quality problem at a Baltimore plant helping manufacture its coronavirus vaccine under contract.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that workers at Emergent, the Baltimore plant that has been making Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, accidentally mixed up some of the ingredients, ruining as many as 15 million potential doses of vaccine and delaying US Food and Drug Administration authorization of the plant. 

Johnson & Johnson said in a statement to CNN Wednesday that the quality control process at the plant identified “one batch” of drug substance that did not meet quality standards. The batch in question was a part of test run and quality check. The site is not yet authorized by the FDA to make the drug substance used in the vaccine.

“This batch was never advanced to the filling and finishing stages of our manufacturing process,” the emailed statement from the company said.

None of the lost doses impact the company’s goal of delivering 20 million Covid-19 vaccine doses in March. For that, the company said Wednesday, it is on track.

“This is an example of the rigorous quality control applied to each batch of drug substance. The issue was identified and addressed with Emergent and shared with the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA),” the statement said.

“Quality and safety continue to be our top priority. Therefore, as we continue to work with FDA and Emergent toward the Emergency Use Authorization of the Emergent Bayview Facility, Johnson & Johnson is providing additional experts in manufacturing, technical operations and quality to be on-site at Emergent to supervise, direct and support all manufacturing of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine. In coordination with the US Department of Health & Human Services, these steps will enable us to safely deliver an additional 24 million single-shot vaccine doses through April,” the statement added.

The FDA told CNN it is “aware of the situation, but we are unable to comment further” and referred CNN back to Johnson & Johnson. The manufacturer, Emergent, also referred CNN back to Johnson & Johnson.  

Last week: The Biden administration expressed some doubts the company could meet its self-imposed deadline, but by Friday, the administration seemed more confident that Johnson & Johnson would meet its goal, as White House coronavirus coordinator Jeffrey Zients said, “they appear on track to meet that goal with at least 11 million doses delivered next week.”

The FDA authorized Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine in late February, but the company had struggled to ramp up production and failed to meet earlier production timelines that had been laid out in its contract with the federal government.

The Biden administration has worked with all three authorized vaccine manufacturers to ramp up the supply of the Covid-19 vaccines. President Biden used the Defense Production Act to acquire new materials and equipment and brokered a rare partnership between Johnson & Johnson and pharmaceutical rival Merck & Co., to make more vaccines. That vaccine supply won’t be available until later in the year.

In February, Johnson & Johnson also said it had been working to expand its own manufacturing capacity and was expanding the number of third-party vaccine manufacturers with which it was working.

Covid-19 led to a global increase in stillbirths, maternal mortality, new study says

The Covid-19 pandemic had a significant and negative impact on pregnant women and their infants, according to a global review of studies that examined the collateral impact of the pandemic on pregnancy outcomes.

The study published Wednesday in the journal the Lancet, found that stillbirths and maternal deaths increased by nearly a third, according to pooled data from 40 studies that covered 17 countries. 

The number of women who needed surgery for an ectopic pregnancy - when the fertilized egg grows outside a woman’s uterus that, left untreated, can cause life-threating bleeding - increased almost six-fold between January of 2020 and January 2021.

The researchers from St. George’s University of London determined that many of these problems may stem from the lack of access women had to medical care during the pandemic. Hospitals were overburdened with Covid-19 patients and some women may have been reluctant to go to the doctor, concerned about exposure to Covid-19. 

The number of women who reported symptoms of depression also increased, according to six of the 10 studies the researchers evaluated. Rates of maternal anxiety were also higher. 

More context: Globally, the one rate that didn’t change much is the number of pre-term births. Pooled data from higher-income countries, though, showed a 10% reduction in preterm births. It’s unclear why. The rate stayed the same in low- and middle-income countries.

“It is clear from our study and others that the disruption caused by the pandemic has led to the avoidable deaths of both mothers and babies, especially in low- and middle-income countries,” said lead author Dr. Asma Khalil, a professor of obstetrics at St. George’s University of London. “We urge policymakers and health care leaders to prioritize safe, accessible, and equitable maternity care within the strategic response to the pandemic and aftermath, to reduce adverse pregnancy outcomes worldwide.”

Dr. Denise Jamieson called the results of this study “concerning.” Jamieson did not work on the study but is the James Robert McCord Chair in Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory University and a member of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Covid OB Expert Work Group.

“Overall, this provides compelling evidence that the effects of the pandemic go well beyond the effects of Covid infection,” Jamieson said. “It shows that there are far-reaching adverse effects on maternal and infant health that may last long beyond the pandemic.”

Jamieson said scientists saw a similar pattern of problems in countries that were impacted by the Ebola epidemic that started in 2013. 

“This is a pattern we’ve seen before,” Jamieson said. “When you have an infectious disease that consumes a lot of healthcare resources and affects large segments of the population, maternal and infant health suffer.”

Italy makes coronavirus vaccines mandatory for health care workers 

The Italian government has made the coronavirus vaccine mandatory for all health care and pharmacy workers, according to a new decree passed on Wednesday. 

In a statement, the government said the measure was introduced to protect medical staff, patients and vulnerable people who are at a risk of infection.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza said there was “great satisfaction” on the decree’s passing, adding that winning the “health battle is a prerequisite for a real restart of the country.” 

Health care workers who refuse the vaccine will be reassigned where possible to not be in contact with patients. However, sanctions can include not being paid, according to Labour Minister Andrea Orlando who provided details at the end of a cabinet meeting on Wednesday night.

The decree also protects those who administer the vaccine by excluding them of criminal liability as long as the inoculation has been carried out in accordance with instructions set by the health ministry. 

The Italian government has also extended coronavirus restrictions until the end of April. The only exception will be for students up to 14 years old who will have to return to school even if they are in a “red zone,” the strictest three-tier system Italy has adopted to curb the spread of the virus.

According to the latest data from the Italian health ministry there has been an increase of at least 23,904 coronavirus cases on Wednesday and at least 467 deaths over a 24-hour period. 

This brings the total number of cases to at least 3,584,899 since the start of the pandemic. 

CDC warned the UK variant would become dominant by March, and there's evidence it has

Mounting evidence suggests the more contagious coronavirus variant first identified in the UK, which experts believe is partly driving an uptick of cases in places like Michigan, may already be dominant across the US.

“I think we are there,” said William Lee, vice president of science at Helix, a company whose tests have identified a large share of variant cases across the country. “But at the end of the day, it’s hard to say for sure,” given gaps and delays in the data.

Lee is one of the authors of a study published Tuesday in the journal Cell estimating that the variant, known as B.1.1.7, would cause the majority of Covid-19 cases in the US by March 19. 

According to that study, B.1.1.7 cases are expected to double every week and a half as a percentage of the country’s total coronavirus cases. The study also concluded the variant was introduced several different times to the US, as early as late November. The study’s conclusions were based on testing data through February.

Lee said that there’s strong evidence the variant is already responsible for a majority of cases in states like Florida, Michigan and Georgia — with a number of others close on their heels, like Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Texas and Southern California. However, Helix’s data does not include robust samples from a number of other states, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest regions.

While officials with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention won’t yet say whether the variant is dominant, its scientists previously predicted this would be the case by now. 

In January, a CDC study predicted that the variant would exhibit “rapid growth in early 2021, becoming the predominant variant in March.” At the time, the variant was assumed to account for less than 0.5% of cases. 

“B.1.1.7, we know from our most recent data, is about 26% of circulating virus right now,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a briefing Wednesday. This appears to be based on preliminary data of samples collected in the two weeks leading up to March 13, according to CDC’s website. “It is starting to become the predominant variant in many US regions,” she added.

A CDC spokesperson told CNN Wednesday that “national prevalence estimates are inherently delayed by a few weeks.” While the present-day picture of the variant is “unclear,” they said the agency expects to share its projections “in the near future,” based on mathematical modeling that’s currently underway.

Nearly 12,000 cases of the variant have been identified in 49 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, per the CDC. The agency said this does not represent the total number of such cases circulating in the US, but rather just those that have been found by analyzing positive samples.

Florida and Michigan lead the country in these raw numbers. 

Kentucky will open vaccine eligibility to people 16 and older next week

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced the state will be moving up opening Covid-19 vaccine eligibility to Kentuckians 16 and older from April 12 to April 5.

Beshear said the state decided to move up its vaccination schedule because a number of other states are seeing increasing Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, and because Kentucky is seeing open vaccine appointments across the state that it wants to fill

“So, starting on Monday, if you’re 16 and up, you qualify to get this vaccine, no other limitations out there. So, make sure you make your plan to get your shot of hope,” the governor said Wednesday.

Beshear also announced that Kentucky’s Department of Corrections is now scheduled to receive extra Johnson & Johnson vaccines on either April 2 or April 5, which will cover all interested inmates as soon as next week. He noted that the Kentucky State Penitentiary and Western Kentucky Correctional Complex will hold off on vaccines for the moment, as they are currently recovering from an outbreak.

Nursing homes see a 96% decline in Covid-19 cases since vaccines rolled out in late December

Nursing homes have seen a 96% decline in new Covid-19 cases since vaccines started rolling out in late December, according to a new analysis from the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL).

By March 7, the country saw the lowest number of weekly cases and deaths since Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has been tracking them, according to the report published Tuesday. With 547 deaths the week of March 7, deaths were down 91% since December.

Since December, nursing home cases have been declining at a much faster rate than community cases, the group’s analysis showed.

“We are not out of the woods yet, but these numbers are incredibly encouraging and a major morale booster for frontline caregivers who have been working tirelessly for more than a year to protect our residents,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL, said in a statement. “This trend shows that when long term care is prioritized, as with the national vaccine rollout, we can protect our vulnerable elderly population.”

AHCA/NCAL represents more than 14,000 nursing homes and long-term care facilities around the country. The facilities provide care for about five million people a year. 

Trial of Moderna’s variant-specific Covid-19 vaccine has begun, US health institute says

The clinical trial for Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine designed to protect against the B.1.351 variant, first identified in South Africa, has begun, the US National Institutes of Health said Wednesday.

First shots have been administered as part of Phase 1 of the trial that is taking place in the Atlanta, Cincinnati, Nashville, and Seattle areas.

The trial aims to enroll around 210 participants.

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, current available vaccines should be “adequate” against the variant, but NIAID is continuing its work with Moderna on this trial “out of an abundance of caution.”

The variant-specific vaccine is also an mRNA vaccine that targets spike proteins, like Moderna’s original vaccine, but the targeting takes into account the mutations that distinguish the B.1.351 variant. 

The trial will be enrolling people who have already received Moderna’s initial vaccine as well as people who are so far unvaccinated. Participants will be split into eight different vaccine cohorts that will test different dosages and combinations. Some participants will receive only the variant-specific vaccine or the general vaccine, while some will be testing a combination regimen of the two. 

Johnson & Johnson says it met goal to deliver 20 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to US government by March

Johnson & Johnson told CNN that it has met its goal to deliver 20 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to the US government by the end of March. 

Last week, the Biden administration expressed some doubts the company could meet its self-imposed deadline, but by Friday, the administration seemed more confident that J&J would meet its goal, as White House coronavirus coordinator Jeffrey Zients said, “they appear on track to meet that goal with at least 11 million doses delivered next week.”

The US Food and Drug Administration authorized J&J’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine in late February, but the company had struggled to ramp up production and failed to meet earlier production timelines that had been laid out in its contract with the federal government. 

The Biden administration has worked with all three authorized vaccine manufacturers to ramp up the supply of the Covid-19 vaccines.

President Biden used the Defense Production Act to acquire new materials and equipment, and brokered a rare partnership between J&J and pharmaceutical rival Merck & Co., to make more vaccines. That vaccine supply won’t be available until later in the year. 

In February, J&J also said it had been working to expand its own manufacturing capacity and was expanding the number of third-party vaccine manufacturers with which it was working.

Michigan plant packaging Johnson & Johnson vaccine gets OK to work in Europe 

Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing (GRAM), the company that is doing some of the fill and finish work for the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Covid-19 vaccine in the US, was given the certification it needs to provide commercial services to the European market, the company said Wednesday.

The Grand Rapids, Michigan-based company was recently audited by the Dutch Health and Youth Care Inspectorate and was issued a European Union Good Manufacturing Practices certificate. That’s the last official piece of paper it needs to work in Europe. 

However, J&J would not confirm if it will work with GRAM in Europe. J&J announced Monday that it will supply Europe with 200 million Covid-19 vaccines this year.

Fill and finish are the last two steps in the manufacturing and packaging process for vaccines. The first J&J doses that went out immediately after the US Food and Drug Administration authorized the vaccine in February came from the GRAM plant. 

Last year, the company expanded and added a new 60,000 square foot facility with new rapid vial filling equipment. 

In August, GRAM signed a $160 million deal with the US Department of Defense and the US Department of Health and Human Services to expand the US capacity for manufacturing and the distribution of vaccines and therapeutics in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. GRAM got the emergency authorization to do the fill and finish work on the J&J Covid-19 vaccine in the US in February.

GRAM said it will continue its expansion and open a new finishing center sometime later this spring.  

University of Pittsburgh orders shelter-in-place for all students due to rising Covid-19 cases

The Cathedral of Learning is seen on the University of Pittsburgh's main campus.

The University of Pittsburgh is implementing a shelter-in-place for its main campus for 9:00 p.m. Wednesday, according to an official university email sent to students, faculty and staff.

“This action is being taken to respond to a consistent increase in positive cases among students,” the email said. “With the presence of the U.K. variant, B 1.1.7., on campus and in Allegheny County, the COVID-19 Medical Response Office (CMRO) is concerned that this trend will continue. Of significant concern is that the increase in positive cases since the end of last week is now among our residence hall students.”

The news comes on the heels of a Tuesday report that there are confirmed positive Covid-19 cases in 13 of the university’s residence halls, along with 30 new positive cases between students and staff. A March 26 release confirmed 50 new cases the week before, 42 of which were detected in students.

The shelter-in-place will remain effect “until the CMRO advises that it is safe to lift,” the memo said. Students are being advised to leave their rooms only to “attend classes, labs, or clinical in person; pick up food; exercise safely; work when necessary; and shop for essentials and medical needs,” and on-campus dining will be available to students through takeout options.

CDC ensemble forecast estimates a decline in projected deaths by April 24

An ensemble forecast published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now projects there will be 565,000 to 585,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by April 24.

The agency’s forecast has shown a general decline in projected deaths in the past weeks.

The current forecast projects up to 566,617 deaths by April 10. That’s about 7,000 fewer deaths than expected by that date, based on a projection from two and a half weeks ago.

The lower estimate in the current forecast projects around 4,100 new deaths per week between now and April 24, while the upper limit of the forecast projects 9,900 new deaths per week over that time frame.

The US has seen 6,960 new deaths in the last seven days. 

About 1 in 6 US residents are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, CDC data shows

A nurses draws a Moderna vaccine dose from a vial at the Cameron Grove Community Center on March 25 in Bowie, Maryland.

More than 150 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the US, according to data published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The CDC reported that at least 150,273,292 total doses have been administered, about 77% of the 195,581,725 doses delivered. 

That’s about 2.7 million more doses reported administered since yesterday, for a new record seven-day average of more than 2.8 million doses per day. 

About one in six US residents – nearly 55 million people – are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and about 29% of the population – more than 97 million people – have received at least one dose, CDC data shows. 

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

French President calls for another national lockdown as Covid-19 cases surge

The Larragana family watch French President Emmanuel Macron addressing the nation in Ascain, France, on March 31.

In a televised address to the nation, French President Emmanuel Macron said France risks “losing control” over the spread of Covid-19 without new national measures.

He said France would be extending the regional “reinforced slow-down” restrictions, already in place in 19 areas of the country, to all of France for four weeks.

Under the “limited lockdown,” curfews will remain in place, domestic travel will be limited and people will be asked to work from home. The new lockdown measures will start on April 3 and last through May 2.

“These rules will be extended to the entire metropolitan territory from this Saturday evening and for four weeks,” Macron said. “If we make this choice to extend them to the entire metropolitan territory, it is because no metropolitan area is now spared,” he added. 

Macron said the new UK variant has created an “epidemic within an epidemic” and it is more contagious and deadly. Almost 44% of all Covid-19 patients in intensive care units are under the age of 65 he said. France has made the “right choices” so far but in the past few weeks the vaccine has “accelerated” and “things have changed.” 

Starting Saturday all schools will be closed for three weeks. On April 26, kindergarten and primary schools can reopen. Middle schools and high schools can reopen on May 3, Macron said.

“These last weeks we are facing a new situation. We have entered a race of speed,” the French president said as the number of patients in ICUs exceeded 5,000 on Tuesday – a first since April 2020. “We must therefore set ourselves a new framework for the coming months,” he added. 

Macron said thanks to vaccinations, the country can see a way out of this crisis. “A total of 250,000 professionals are now ready to contribute to this national effort to vaccinate 7 days a week,” he added.

Yemen receives first Covid-19 vaccines as infections surge

An employee unloads boxes from a plane that carried Yemen's first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines, via the international COVAX facility, at the airport of Yemen's southern port city of Aden on March 31.

Yemen has received its first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines via the international COVAX facility, the World Health Organization Yemen announced today.

It comes a week after the country’s coronavirus committee urged the government to declare a public health state of emergency amid a rise in infections.

The shipment included 360,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccination, as well as 13,000 safety boxes and 1.3 million syringes. 

It is the first shipment of an expected 1.9 million doses that Yemen is set to received through COVAX during 2021. 

COVAX is an entity run by a coalition that includes the Vaccine Alliance known as Gavi and WHO. It is funded by donations from governments, multilateral institutions and foundations with a mission to buy coronavirus vaccines in bulk and send them to poorer nations that can’t compete with wealthy countries in securing contracts with major drug companies.

“The ministry of health will start targeting health workers and frontline health workers who are more exposed the virus of course,” United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund Representative Philippe Duamelle said. “Vaccines work, vaccines save lives, now let’s start getting people vaccinated”, he added.

“This shipment represents an important step in the fight against COVID-19 in Yemen. It will help save lives, including of those at highest risk of serious disease, and will help protect the health system. These safe and effective vaccines will be a gamechanger, but for the foreseeable future we must continue wearing masks, physically distance and avoid crowds,” WHO representative Dr. Adham Ismail said

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) last week warned of a “dramatic influx of critically ill Covid-19 patients,” in Yemen, and urged for greater assistance from aid groups and donor countries.

Go There: CNN is in Atlanta as parents grapple with students' return to the classroom

This morning, Pfizer/BioNTech announced today its Covid-19 vaccine showed 100% efficacy in youths ages 12 to 15. Shortly after, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona is “very confident” that children will be back in school for in-person learning in the fall.

CNN’s Ryan Young was in Atlanta as parents and students grapple with a return to school.

Watch more:


European Union regulator stands behind use of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine

A health worker prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid, Spain, on March 24.

The European Union’s medicines regulator says there is “no scientific evidence” to support restricting AstraZeneca vaccine to certain age groups. 

The European Medicine Agency’s (EMA) executive director Emer Cooke said in a virtual press conference that independent experts have looked at the cases, alongside scientists, to determine if there was any underlying risk factor that makes people more susceptible to blood disorders. They were not able to find any specific risk factors.

This comes after German Chancellor Angela Merkel limited AstraZeneca vaccine to people over 60 on Tuesday, following reports of a rare blood clot in the brains of 31 people since having a first dose. 

“Two weeks ago on the 18th of March we gave an interim update of the assessment, and we concluded at the time that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalization and death outweigh the risks of side effects, and our position has not changed,” Cooke said.

“[The] Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee, a committee responsible for assessing the safety of medicines, continues to review all the data available and will aim to reach a scientific conclusion on the signal next week,” she continued.

Cooke added that the EMA continue to monitor all the scientific evidence available on effectiveness and safety of Covid-19 vaccines and will issue recommendations based on robust evidence.

When asked about Germany’s decision to restrict age limits, Cooke said they were asking their experts to evaluate if they can come to an age or gender based association, adding that Germany’s decision was a matter for the German government to take and not one for a regulator.  

Earlier on Wednesday, the head of the World Health Organization’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals reiterated the benefit-risk assessment for the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine saying it still weighs very heavily in favor of its use.

CDC releases new Covid-19 guidance for adult day service centers

The director of the US Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, announced on Wednesday that the CDC is releasing new Covid-19 guidance for adult day service centers. 

“These centers provide important social and health services to community-dwelling adults age 65 and older, as well as to adults any age living with disability,” Walensky said during a White House coronavirus press briefing.

“We know these populations are at high risk for severe Covid-19 disease and this guidance will help center administrators and staff protect themselves and adults receiving their services by promoting and engaging in preventative behaviors that reduce Covid-19 spread and help maintain healthy operations and environments in these facilities,” she added.

The guidance promotes a range of preventative behaviors and facility practices in adult day services settings, including guidelines on hygiene, building operations, shared spaces and transport. 

Here’s what the guidance said: 

  • The CDC suggests limiting nonessential services and visitors, like volunteers and family members.
  • It encourages health screenings, signage encouraging the practice of preventative measures like wearing a mask and social distancing, modifying facilities’ layouts, and isolating staff and participants with symptoms or who may have had close contact with someone with Covid.
  • It also offers a protocol for isolating and transporting an individual with symptoms, as well as guidance on notifying health officials and close contact.
  • A section in the guidelines related to centers’ activities suggests staggering activities and meals, as well as creating pods for center participants.
  • Another section related to food and dining suggests serving individually plated meals or grab and go meals instead of self-serve options.

White House pleads with governors and mayors to maintain or reinstate mask mandates to "save lives"

A sign hangs outside of Chipotle on March 3.

The White House’s senior Covid-19 response adviser, Andy Slavitt, on Wednesday urged governors, mayors and local leaders to listen to President Biden and maintain or reinstate mask mandates to “save lives.” 

“We need to keep case numbers down so we can save lives and give people the chance to get vaccinated in April, May and June so we can enter the summer on the strongest footing possible,” Slavitt said at a White House Covid-19 briefing. 

“Now in the weeks ahead, that it will take to get everyone vaccinated for all of this effort, we need a simple thing of every governor, mayor and local leader, and that is to heed what the President is asking in return, simply to maintain or to reinstate mask mandates,” he continued.

“Together we can win this race and save lives,” Slavitt said. 

On Monday, Biden called for mask mandates to be maintained or reinstated across the country in order to keep Covid-19 cases down. “Please. This is not politics,” the President said.  

Biden’s comments came after Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a virtual White House briefing on Monday that she had a feeling of “impending doom” as Covid-19 were on the rise again.

“Right now, I’m scared,” Walensky said, sounding the alarm.

Austria likely to order 1 million Sputnik V vaccines "as early as next week"

Vials of the Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine are seen in Gaza City on March 25.

Austria is likely to order one million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine ”as early as next week,” the office of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in a statement to CNN Wednesday. 

“We are in the final metres and a Sputnik order can probably be placed as early as next week,” Kurz said in the statement, after he met with Russian Ambassador to Austria , Dmitrii Liubinski, in Vienna.

Austria is hoping to make up for shortfalls in other vaccines ordered through the European Union, particularly from Astra-Zeneca.

”I am very happy about the binding delivery commitment. If we order Sputnik, we will still receive 300,000 doses in April; 500,000 doses in May; and 200,000 doses in early June. A very prompt delivery would therefore be possible here,” Kurz said. But the two countries ”are still in the detailed coordination stage” after weeks of discussions, he added. A data room has been set up and negotiations are ongoing between Austria’s health ministry and the procurator-fiscal with the Russian side.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently reviewing an application for approval of Sputnik V in the EU. 

Member states of the European Union have the authority to approve vaccines unilaterally, even if EMA has yet to authorize.

White House announces 3 more mass vaccination sites

The White House on Wednesday announced the addition of three new federally-supported mass vaccination sites, which will be located in Tennessee, Wisconsin and Maryland, as part of the Biden administration’s ongoing efforts to address vaccine distribution inequity. 

“The first is in Memphis, Tennessee, at the Pipkin Building at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. The second is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the Wisconsin Center. And the third is in Greenbelt, Maryland, at the Greenbelt metro station,” White House senior Covid-19 adviser Andy Slavitt said Wednesday. 

Each site will be capable of administering 3,000 vaccine doses per day, and will open next week, per Slavitt. 

There are now 30 total federally-supported mass vaccination centers, 25 of which are now fully operational, according to Slavitt. The White House announced new sites in Missouri and Indiana earlier this week, and previously-announced sites in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington state are now fully operational. 

Iraq reports highest number of daily Covid-19 cases since start of pandemic

On Wednesday, Iraq’s Ministry of Health reported at least 6,664 Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours. This is the highest number of coronavirus cases since the start of pandemic,

The total number of Covid-19 cases in Iraq is now 850,924.

The ministry reported 37 new coronavirus related deaths, bringing the total number of recorded deaths in Iraq to 14,323 since the start of the pandemic.

There are currently 77,041 Covid-19 patients hospitalized across the county, among them 468 cases in intensive care units.

Covid-19 was third leading cause of death in US last year, CDC confirms in early data

Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States last year, after heart disease and cancer, according to provisional data released on Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The CDC found the US death rate increased by 15.9% between 2019 and 2020. 

Early data showed that the top 10 leading causes of death in 2020 were:

Heart disease Cancer Covid-19 Unintentional injury Stroke Chronic lower respiratory disease Alzheimer’s disease Diabetes Influenza and pneumonia Kidney disease

Researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics analyzed death certificate data from the National Vital Statistics System, taking a close look at deaths among US residents between January and December of 2020.

“COVID-19 was the third leading underlying cause of death in 2020, replacing suicide as one of the top 10 leading causes of death,” the researchers wrote in the report. Suicide previously was the tenth leading cause of death but was bumped off the list for 2020 as deaths due to Covid-19 climbed. 

The researchers report found that about 3.36 million deaths occurred last year. Covid-19 was reported as the underlying cause or a contributing cause of death for nearly 378,000 – or about 11.3% – of those deaths. The data showed that heart disease caused 690,882 deaths and cancer caused 598,932 deaths.

The data also showed that, overall, death rates were highest among the Black and Native American or Alaska Native communities, adults aged 85 and older and men. The Covid-19 death rate specifically was highest among Hispanics, according to the CDC report.

The data is provisional – and so numbers and death rates might change as additional information is received. Since investigating causes of death takes time, final data for a given year are typically published about 11 months after the end of the calendar year.

In January, CDC statisticians shared with CNN that Covid-19 was likely the third leading cause of death in the United States for last year.

Life expectancy in the United States also dropped a full year in the first half of 2020, according to a provisional report published by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics in February. 

The report shows that US life expectancy fell to 77.8 years, back to what it was in 2006.

You can read the full report here.



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