May 19 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth and Adam Renton, CNN

Updated 8:02 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021
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7:35 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021

US needs to help mobilize global Covid-19 vaccine production to save millions of lives, Fauci says

From CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas

Bowdoin College
Bowdoin College

The US needs to help mobilize global Covid-19 vaccine production to save millions of lives, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the US is doing well in the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines to its own citizens.

“We have a real, real challenge and a mission to get the rest of the world vaccinated,” he added at an event hosted by Bowdoin College.

Fauci said its necessary to mobilize global vaccine production capability, so there isn’t a two-to-three-year lag for people in low- and middle-income countries to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

“Because that will literally mean a million deaths, if we wait that long – and maybe more –and that's unacceptable,” he said.

The US needs to work with other wealthy countries like the UK, Australia and Canada, to “get those plants that are making vaccines revved up to make billions of more doses,” he added.

It’s possible for the US to vaccinate younger people and support vaccinations in low- and middle-income countries at the same time, Fauci noted Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation. 

7:26 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021

Food and commercial workers union cautions against retailers ending mask requirements

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

After supermarket chain Kroger announced today that fully vaccinated employees and customers no longer need to wear masks in the company’s stores, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, which represents 1.3 million essential food and retail workers, cautioned against “the growing trend” of major retailers ending mask requirements for vaccinated customers and employees.

UFCW is calling on the CEOs of retailers to take action to “reassure the public that the majority of those in stores will still wear masks to keep shoppers and workers safe given ongoing COVID risks.”

“America’s grocery workers are still facing daily COVID risks on the frontlines so that all our families can put food on the table as the pandemic continues. These essential frontline workers have been forced to play mask police throughout the pandemic with many shoppers not following COVID safety standards. Now, they are being asked to be the vaccination police,” UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a statement.

“With more than 200 million Americans still not fully vaccinated, now is not the time to let our guard down,” Perrone added.

6:39 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021

FDA: Pfizer vaccine can now be stored at standard refrigeration temperatures for up to a month

From CNN’s Amanda Sealy

Leon Neal/Getty Images/FILE
Leon Neal/Getty Images/FILE

The US Food and Drug Administration approved a label change for Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine to allow storage of its product for up to one month at normal refrigeration temperatures.

“This change should make this vaccine more widely available to the American public by facilitating the ability of vaccine providers, such as community doctors’ offices, to receive, store and administer the vaccine,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement Wednesday.

“Based on a review of recent data submitted by Pfizer Inc. today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is authorizing undiluted, thawed Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine vials to be stored in the refrigerator at 2°C to 8°C (35°F to 46°F) for up to 1 month. Previously, thawed, undiluted vaccine vials could be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days,” the FDA said in the statement.

For long-term storage, the label for Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine says it should be stored in ultra-cold freezers between -80 degrees Celsius to -60 degrees Celsius until the expiry date printed on the label. 

6:17 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021

Vaccines that use spike proteins will be critical to end the pandemic, former CDC director says

From CNN’s Jessica Firger

Coronavirus vaccines based on a platform known as a protein subunit will be important for stopping the pandemic, former US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield predicts.

The vaccine platform, which is being developed and tested by Maryland-based biotech company Novavax and others, uses a specific isolated spike protein from coronavirus particles to elicit an immune response. 

“Eventually, we (have) got to approve the protein platforms. I think the protein platforms are ultimately going to be the most important platforms for the world,” Redfield said during an interview Tuesday on SiriusXM Doctor Radio’s “Doctor Radio Reports.”

“They're inexpensive, they don't have difficult refrigerating requirements, the technology is straightforward, and you can add in different ways for different populations to make sure their immune response is in the thresholds you want. So I actually think you're going to see the protein vaccines over the next 24 months really become very important globally. But all three platforms, the adeno platform, the mRNA platform and the protein are all strong platforms and they all have equivalency in their ability to prevent death and hospitalization," he said.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use messenger RNA or mRNA to elicit immunity, while Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, and one made by AstraZeneca but not yet authorized in the US, uses an adenovirus to deliver genetic material and prompt an immune response.

5:46 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021

Utah House passes bill to ban mask mandates in schools

From CNN's Elizabeth Stuart

Utah's House on Wednesday passed a bill that prohibits public schools and universities in the state from requiring mask mandates after the end of this school year.

The bill also prohibits colleges and universities from requiring proof of a vaccination unless it allows for medical and religious exemptions. So far, CNN has not tracked any colleges or universities in Utah that are requiring students to be vaccinated for Covid-19 before the fall semester begins.

The bill passed 50-24, with one member absent or not voting. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox had asked for Wednesday's special session to be called to have this issue and others considered by lawmakers.

Rep. Val Peterson, the bill's sponsor, called it a "return to some normalcy."

According to the bill, schools will be banned from "requiring a face covering to participate in or attend instruction, activities, or in any other place on the campus of the institution after the end of the spring semester in 2021."

There is nothing in the bill which would prevent students or teachers from wearing a mask if they wished to do so.

Salt Lake City School District announced Tuesday it will require masks on campuses through the end of the 2020-21 school year, which ends June 7.

"We've come too far to let go of proven safety practices like mask-wearing with just a few days left in the school year," Superintendent Larry Madden said in a tweet. "The last thing we want to do is increase risk in our city just as school is about to be let out for the summer."

5:39 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines reduce asymptomatic Covid-19 spread in nursing homes, data says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Residents get the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Emerald Court senior living community in Anaheim, California on Friday, January 8.
Residents get the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Emerald Court senior living community in Anaheim, California on Friday, January 8. Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register/Getty Images/FILE

The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines both reduce asymptomatic and symptomatic coronavirus infections among vulnerable nursing home residents in the real world, according to new data.

The incidence of Covid-19 has decreased over time among both vaccinated and unvaccinated residents in 280 nursing homes across 21 states, researchers wrote in a letter to The New England Journal of Medicine Wednesday.

The researchers – from Brown University in Rhode Island and long-term care provider Genesis HealthCare in Pennsylvania – examined data on 18,242 nursing home residents who received at least one dose of vaccine as of mid-February and 3,990 residents who were unvaccinated as of March 31. Among those who had received at least one dose, 13,048 completed two doses. 

The residents were tested every three to seven days, the researchers said.

The incidence of Covid-19 dropped among those who had received at least a first dose, from 4.5% of vaccinated residents within two weeks after receiving a first dose to 1.4% between 15 and 28 days later, the researchers found.

Among the residents who completed two doses, coronavirus infections were seen among 1% of them within two weeks after receiving the second dose compared with 0.3% after two weeks, the data showed.

Among the unvaccinated residents, coronavirus infections were seen among 4.3% of them within two weeks after the first vaccination clinic began to 0.3% 42 days later.

"Our observation of a reduced incidence of infection among unvaccinated residents suggests that robust vaccine coverage among residents and staff, together with the continued use of face masks and other infection-control measures, is likely to afford protection for small numbers of unvaccinated residents in congregate settings," the researchers wrote. 
5:02 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021

100 million doses of J&J vaccine are held up in FDA inspection, manufacturing CEO says

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images/FILE
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images/FILE

Emergent BioSolutions CEO Bob Kramer testified Wednesday that it was his understanding that the US Food and Drug Administration has “for the past week or two” been inspecting some of the material that Emergent had already produced for Johnson & Johnson‘s Covid-19 vaccine, to see if it is safe. This would be for a total of about 100 million doses that Emergent made the material for before manufacturing at the plant was put on pause.

“The FDA is evaluating, to my understanding, the doses that are, that have been manufactured for both drug substance, that, most of which has been provided to J&J,” Kramer said. 

The plant has not yet been granted Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA, meaning no doses produced by this facility have been distributed.

In late April, the FDA said the vaccines that Emergent had already manufactured would undergo additional testing before being cleared for distribution. 

“For the vaccines already manufactured, the products will undergo additional testing and will be thoroughly evaluated to ensure their quality before any potential distribution. We will not allow the release of any product until we feel confident that it meets our expectations for quality,” said an FDA statement on April 21. 

That vaccine material, Kramer said, has passed all of his company’s control measures and is ready for potential release if the FDA gives the OK. 

“As far as I understand, there have been requests for some additional testing on all of those lots and doses, that have been provided by J&J to the FDA, and it's under their evaluation right now,” Kramer said at the hearing. 

4:45 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021

Telling fully vaccinated people to wear masks reinforces vaccine hesitancy, former CDC director says

From CNN’s Jessica Firger

Dr. Robert Redfield, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the CDC’s new mask guidance for fully vaccinated people is a step in the right direction, but that the agency’s decision to wait to issue the guidance contributed to vaccine hesitancy. 

“I'm happy that CDC made the move to move to alternative mitigation recommendations for vaccinated versus unvaccinated individuals,” Redfield said during an interview on SiriusXM Doctor Radio’s Doctor Radio Reports. “I don't know how much damage was done in terms of reinforcing vaccine hesitancy, but when I talk to people on the street, they do almost universally come to me and say, ‘Well, I guess since people are still wearing masks that are vaccinated, I guess they must know that these vaccines don't work as well as we think.’”

Redfield added that early in the pandemic he was a strong advocate for not shutting down schools and industries due to the spread of coronavirus, but instead “to keep them open in a safe, responsible way.”

“I think it's important. I've argued all along that we didn't have to sacrifice our economy to control this pandemic,” he said.

“I was always disappointed that it was an either/or, rather than a partnering together and learning how to do it safe and responsibly. And obviously the mitigation steps, including masks, was a critical component of that," he added.

Redfield said the CDC’s new guidance is appropriate because it’s backed by science.

“If you've been vaccinated, I personally don't believe you need to wear a mask, and I do think you could be a billboard for letting the rest of the American public know that we believe these vaccines really work,” he said.

4:33 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021

Business coalition seeks to address the dire exodus of women in the workplace 

From CNN’s Alison Kosik and Kate Trafecante

coalition of businesses, including McDonald’s, JP Morgan Chase and Uber, have teamed up to support women, whose exodus from the labor market have alarmed leading economists and corporate executives.  

The coalition, Time’s Up Care Economy Business Council, calls on the business community to create workplaces that support women in the wake of the impact of the pandemic.  

According to economists from Moody’s Analytics, some 440,000 prime-age women workers are now sitting on the sidelines because of pandemic-related child care responsibilities.

The council says the situation for women of color has been especially dire, “as they endure crisis levels of unemployment.”

The unemployment rate for adult Black women remained high, at 8.6%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

The group says it is assembling a coalition of companies “spanning every industry” to “push for the creation of a comprehensive care infrastructure at this critical moment."