May 12 coronavirus news

By Veronica Rocha, Elise Hammond and Melissa Mahtani , CNN

Updated 1:32 AM ET, Thu May 13, 2021
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1:29 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

The Americas reported more than 1.2 million new Covid cases last week

From CNN’s Claudia Rebaza

The Americas reported more than 1.2 million new Covid-19 cases and almost 34,000 related deaths last week.

With nearly 40% of all global deaths attributed to the region, it’s a clear sign that “transmission is far from being controlled," the Pan American Health Organization’s director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, said Wednesday.

Assessing the pandemic evolution across the region, Etienne warned that even as countries like the US and Brazil have reported a reduction in cases, Canada is seeing higher rates of infections than the US and Cuba continues to drive most new infections in the Caribbean.

In South America, Covid-19 cases are increasing in areas of Guyana and Bolivia that border with Brazil while Colombia is expected to see steep rises following days of protests in the country, Etienne said. 

The region’s health systems continue to struggle across the region, Etienne told reporters. “Nearly 80% of our intensive care units are filled with Covid patients and numbers are even more dire in some places,” she said.

In Chile and Peru, 95% of intensive care unit beds are occupied, the majority, by Covid patients, Etienne said. In Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, where 96% of ICU beds are being used, authorities have tightened restrictions to avoid the collapse of hospitals, the PAHO director added.

Brazil has reported waiting lists for ICU beds, according to Etienne.

India’s B.1.617 Covid variant has been detected in six countries in the region with specific cases mainly among travelers, Sylvain Aldighieri, PAHO’s incident manager, told journalists during PAHO’s weekly briefing.

More than 114 million people have been fully vaccinated in the Americas, PAHO officials said.

1:24 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

Pharmacies and pediatricians can help vaccinate teens and children against Covid-19, CDC says

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Pharmacies, pediatricians and health clinics can help vaccinate children and teens against coronavirus, a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official told the agency’s vaccine advisers Wednesday.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is considering whether to recommend that teens and children age 12-15 be given the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. The US Food and Drug Administration extended its emergency use authorization for the vaccine to the younger age group on Monday.

One consideration is whether it’s feasible to give the vaccine to that age group. The CDC’s Dr. Sara Oliver said a subcommittee of ACIP, called the working group, found a wide range of sites would be available.

“Increasing access to primary care providers serving adolescents has the benefits of utilizing trusted providers for providing information and education about Covid vaccines, as well as vaccinating against Covid,” Oliver told ACIP. 

Sites provided by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency that provides health services to uninsured and otherwise vulnerable groups and that is helping vaccination efforts, are another resource for kids, Oliver said. 

“Pharmacies and HRSA sites have a wide footprint across the nation, and can rapidly expand to provide Covid vaccines for adolescent school-based vaccinations, have the benefit of reaching adolescents in their own communities, as well as being trusted sources of information for communities,” Oliver said.

Federally qualified health centers are another potential place to vaccinate children and teens, she said.

While there is no federal law requiring parental or caregiver consent for vaccinating minors, states and territories do have laws that must be followed, Oliver said.

1:18 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

More teens hospitalized for Covid-19 than for flu, CDC says

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

More adolescents have been hospitalized for severe coronavirus disease than are usually hospitalized for influenza, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

It’s a clear sign that Covid-19 can be dangerous to children and teens, and an argument for vaccinating children as young as 12, the CDC’s Dr. Sara Oliver told a meeting of CDC’s outside vaccine advisers. 

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is holding a public meeting to discuss whether to recommend Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for use in youths as young as 12. The US Food and Drug Administration extended its emergency use authorization for the vaccine in 12-15-year-olds Monday.

“Adolescents 12 to 17 years of age are at risk of severe illness from Covid-19,” Oliver told the meeting. “There have been over 1.5 million reported cases and over 13,000 hospitalizations to date among adolescents 12 to 17 years.”

A comparison of hospitalization rates from past annual influenza epidemics shows more children and teens have been hospitalized because of Covid than for flu, Oliver said.

“Overall the hospitalization rate for Covid in this population is higher than the influenza-associated hospitalization rate for the same age group during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic,” she said. The Covid hospitalization rate for 12-17-year-olds has also been significantly higher for Covid than it was for flu in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, she said.

The committee is scheduled to vote at 2:45 p.m. ET.

1:24 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

Biden administration has distributed $2.7 billion of relief funds to 21,000 restaurants across nation

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Michael Regan looks on during the daily press briefing at the White House on May 12 in Washington, DC.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Michael Regan looks on during the daily press briefing at the White House on May 12 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Biden administration has distributed $2.7 billion of relief funds to 21,000 restaurants across the country as part of the recently-launched Restaurant Revitalization Fund, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday. 

As of Wednesday, the US Small Business Administration had received more than 147,000 applications from women, veterans and socially and economically disadvantaged business owners requesting a total of $29 billion in funds, Psaki told reporters at a White House briefing. 

She said businesses that qualify for grants should expect to receive the funds within two weeks. 

The $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund was established as part of the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill the President signed into law earlier this year.

The fund will provide restaurants with up to $10 million per business in funding to match their pandemic-related revenue losses, with no more than $5 million per physical location, according to the SBA. The minimum award is $1,000.

The SBA will prioritize funding applications from small businesses owned and run by women, veterans and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals for the first 21 days of the program, according to the White House. After those initial 21 days, the applications will work on a first-come, first-served basis.

12:59 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

Italian prime minister supports US call for suspension of Covid-19 vaccine patents

From CNN’s Livia Borghese and Arnaud Siad

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi speaks during a session at the Italian Chamber of Deputies in Rome on May 12.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi speaks during a session at the Italian Chamber of Deputies in Rome on May 12. Riccardo Antimiani/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Italian Prime minister Mario Draghi supports a “temporary, limited and well-defined suspension” of Covid-19 vaccine patents, and supports the position of the United States on the matter, he said on Wednesday.

Speaking to the Lower Chamber of the Italian Parliament, Draghi said that the position of the US “must be shared” and that “a temporary, limited, well-defined suspension – the experts in the sector tell me – should not constitute a disincentive”. 

However, he added “there is obviously a risk that must be avoided, namely that the suspension of patents represents a disincentive to the research and production of other vaccines.

He elaborated further, saying “there is a substantial imbalance between the position of some large pharmaceutical companies, which have received massive government subsidies, and that of the poorest countries in the world, which either do not have access or have no money to buy vaccines.”

Draghi also urged the United States and the United Kingdom to first “remove the substantial block on exports.”

On May 5, US President Biden said the US would support the easing of patent rules on Covid-19 vaccines, potentially expanding global supplies, as a devastating wave envelops India and calls grow louder for rich countries to narrow the gap with the developing world.

The World Health Organization has also called for patents on Covid-19 vaccines to be temporarily lifted until the global health crisis is under control.

However, Germany is resisting momentum to lift patent protection for coronavirus vaccines, saying Thursday that a US decision to support such waivers "has significant implications for vaccine production."

12:44 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

Kids are making up larger proportion of Covid-19 cases now, CDC says

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Children and teens are starting to make up a larger proportion of coronavirus cases now than earlier in the epidemic, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is holding a public meeting to discuss whether to recommend Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for use in youth as young as 12. The US Food and Drug Administration extended its emergency use authorization for the vaccine in 12-15-year-olds Monday.

The CDC’s Dr. Sara Oliver said children and teens are starting to account for a larger share of new coronavirus infections. “In April, 9% of cases were aged 12-17 years, which actually represents a larger proportion of cases than adults 65 and older,” she told the ACIP meeting.

“However, we note that diagnosed and reported cases are an underestimate,” she added. Adjusted estimates, she said, showed 22 million children ages 5-17 had been infected with coronavirus, accounting for 19% of all infections. The CDC has said the official count of diagnosed coronavirus cases underestimates the true count.

Early in the pandemic, older adults accounted for more cases, Oliver said. Now, as more adults are vaccinated, children and teens are making up a larger share of infections.

The committee is scheduled to vote at 2:45 p.m. ET.

12:55 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

New York has administered 17 million vaccine shots statewide, governor says

From CNN’s Brian Vitagliano

People stand in line to receive the Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination site at Grand Central Terminal train station on May 12 in New York City.
People stand in line to receive the Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination site at Grand Central Terminal train station on May 12 in New York City. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday the state had a positivity rate of 1.1%, calling it "great news"

“Yes, we are doing great, no we have not fully conquered the Covid beast,” Cuomo said.

He said that the state recorded 26 new deaths from Covid-19.

The state has administered 17 million vaccine shots statewide, with 50% of New Yorkers being fully vaccinated, according to the governor.

The governor announced from Friday to Wednesday the state will be offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) hubs. Each person who receives a shot will get a seven-day NFTA Metro pass ticket. 

“We have to get on with life, we have to reopen but we have to do it smart,” Cuomo said.

On Memorial Day, beaches and pools statewide will be open with 6-foot social distancing, the goal is to have 100% capacity at beaches and pools by the Fourth of July, the governor said.

Note: These numbers were released by the city’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.

12:17 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

California will effectively end mask mandate when state fully reopens next month, governor says

From CNN’s Stella Chan

California Gov. Gavin Newsom holds a news conference on May 11 in Los Angeles.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom holds a news conference on May 11 in Los Angeles. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

California will effectively end its mask mandate next month when it fully reopens its economy after more than a year of Covid-19 restrictions, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

In an on-camera interview with KTTV Los Angeles reporter Elex Michaelson posted on Twitter, the governor was asked, “Are we looking at masks after June 15?”

“No. Only in those settings that are indoor – only in those massively large settings where people around the world, not just around the country, are convening, and when people are mixing in real dense spaces,” Newsom replied. “Otherwise, we’ll make guidance recommendations, but no mandates and no restrictions on businesses large and small.” 

California currently requires the use of masks in indoor settings outside of one’s home, including on public transportation, regardless of vaccination status. However, fully vaccinated people are not required to wear masks outdoors, except when attending crowded events.

Last month, state health officials announced the June 15 target date to fully reopen the state amid falling Covid-19 infection rates and low hospitalizations, shelving its color-coded tier system that dictates reopening by county based on infection rates.

California's mask mandate, however, would remain in place at least "in the short run," Newsom said at the time. 

Spokespersons for the governor’s office and California Department of Public Health did not respond to CNN requests for comment Wednesday.

11:34 a.m. ET, May 12, 2021

US Secret Service recovers $2 billion in fraudulently obtained Covid-19 relief funds

From CNN's Whitney Wild

Federal officials from the US Secret Service have helped recover around $2 billion in fraudulently obtained Covid-19 relief funds, and seized more than $640 million from accused fraudsters, the agency said Wednesday. 

One year into the pandemic, the Secret Service has opened 690 cases regarding unemployment insurance fraud, on top of another 720 Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Paycheck Protection Program fraud investigations and inquiries.

"The amount of unemployment insurance benefits provided in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in the history of the nation's unemployment insurance system," said Larry Turner, the acting inspector general for the Labor Department. "Unfortunately, the significant increase in benefits made the program a target for those seeking to defraud government programs."

In a recent hearing in front of House lawmakers, Secret Service Director James Murray said the agency's approach to recovering stolen funds has evolved over the last year from stopping scams to building robust prosecutions. Murray also noted the size of the Covid-relief packages from Congress is extraordinary and the work to root out fraud will continue long after the virus slows.

"We've probably made more than 120 arrests specific only to Covid fraud," Murray said. "This is not something that is going to go away. The size of these packages are so notable and the opportunities that exist are going to be persistent, we're going to be addressing Covid fraud for many years to come."

In March, the Justice Department announced federal investigators identified more than $500 million in fraud and charged 474 people with crimes related to stealing from Covid-relief designated funding.

Among the top targets by prosecutors were fraudsters trying to steal from the Paycheck Protection Program, with people running schemes ranging from exaggerating their business expenses to concocting fake companies to get funding. In one Texas case, a man pleaded guilty to seeking $24.8 million in PPP Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans using the names of 11 different companies to make loan applications to 11 lenders. 

He managed to obtain $17.3 million in forgivable loans and used the money to buy homes, jewelry and luxury cars.