May 20 coronavirus news

By James Griffiths and Adam Renton, CNN

Updated 7:59 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021
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7:01 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Miami-Dade schools reinstate outdoor mask policy after backlash from teachers' union

From CNN's Yon Pomrenze

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho speaks during a news conference on Thursday, May 20.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho speaks during a news conference on Thursday, May 20. Wilfredo Lee/AP

Miami-Dade County Public Schools paused its plans to relax outdoor masking rules for the rest of the school year after backlash from the teachers' union, which claimed that any changes needed to be agreed upon by them first.

On Tuesday, the school district tweeted from its official account that, “Effective immediately, starting tomorrow, students engaging in outdoor activities such as physical education or recess during the school day, will not be required to wear masks.”

The decision came with just 15 school days left in the year, which ends on June 9.

The response from the teachers union was swift. In a statement a few hours after the tweet, United Teachers of Dade (UTD) Karla Hernández-Mats stressed how few days are left in the school year and that “our educators believe it would be more prudent and less disruptive to have our students continue wearing face masks on our school campuses.”

During a school board meeting on Wednesday, UTD Vice President Antonio White went further, saying he felt “blindsided” by the new policy and that the UTD agreement with the school district “clearly states that all employees, students and visitors in worksites, shall be required to wear face coverings” and that “this language is not something that can be unilaterally changed.” 

In response, Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the policy was “based on a lot of commentary from a lot of parents, and in some cases, a lot of students, and even in some cases teachers” and that the district’s task force of public health experts and medical experts unanimously signed off on it – but that they have paused implementation of the policy to discuss the policy with the union.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Carvalho said those conversations were still ongoing and that “we hope to move forward with a recommendation from the task force for the benefit of our students and our teachers.” 

Meanwhile, on Thursday afternoon the tweets with the new policy were deleted.

6:20 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Rhode Island governor moves state's reopening to Friday

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee
Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee WJAR

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee announced the state’s Covid-19 reopening guidelines will now be effective May 21, a week earlier than originally planned, according to a release from the governor’s office.

“The number of Rhode Islanders fully vaccinated and those with at least one dose — more than 400,000 Rhode Islanders — puts the Ocean State in a strong position to reopen safely on May 21,” McKee said. “We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to reset Rhode Island and I trust that our business community and neighbors will respond respectfully and courteously as we navigate this next phase.”

Starting Friday, no physical distancing will be required, and restrictions will be lifted on indoor dining, bars, houses of worship, retail, gyms, offices, pools, and casinos. 

According to the release, establishments will be allowed to, but are not required to, supplement the new guidelines with their own rules regarding mask wearing, proof of vaccination, testing, and other mitigations.

McKee said mask requirements will remain in place for all youth sports, indoor and outdoor, though the policy will be reassessed on July 1. Adult sports won’t have restrictions and will follow the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance.

Rhode Island is maintaining status quo regarding Covid-19 guidelines in three key sectors, including health care congregate care, and youth and school-based events, McKee said.

5:59 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Holland America restarts cruises from Seattle to Alaska in July

From CNN’s Andy Rose

The Holland America Line Inc. Noordham cruise ship passes through the Tarr Inlet in Glacier Bay, Alaska, on Friday, July 12, 2019.
The Holland America Line Inc. Noordham cruise ship passes through the Tarr Inlet in Glacier Bay, Alaska, on Friday, July 12, 2019. Tim Rue/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Holland America Line says it will begin offering cruises from Seattle to Alaska again starting July 24. Their plans are contingent on approval from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We feel like it’s now or never to give ourselves a chance to bring cruising back to Alaska this year,” Holland America Line president Gus Antorcha said in a statement.

Holland America’s plans follow passage of a federal law that temporarily suspends a requirement for Alaska-bound cruise ships to stop in Canada. That country is still banning cruise travel, effectively prohibiting US cruises to Alaska without the waiver. The measure passed both houses of Congress with bipartisan support.

Holland America says it will have 10 Alaska cruises on the Nieuw Amsterdam departing from Seattle this year, with the last on Oct. 2. Stops will include Juneau and Ketchikan.

The cruise line says it expect regular dining service and entertainment to be available in the cruises, but all passengers must be fully vaccinated, and there may be social distancing requirements.

5:22 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Washington state will close half of its mass vaccination sites next week

From CNN’s Andy Rose

Washington National Guard personnel prepare to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to patients at Town Toyota Center on January 26, in Wenatchee, Washington.
Washington National Guard personnel prepare to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to patients at Town Toyota Center on January 26, in Wenatchee, Washington. David Ryder/GettyImages/FILE

The Washington state Department of Health announced Thursday that two of its four Covid-19 mass vaccination sites will close on May 28. The state will focus instead on mobile vaccine clinics.

“This transition isn’t closing a door to vaccine opportunity but opening several new ones that will allow for more equitable vaccine access in the future,” Health Secretary Dr. Umair Shah said in a statement.

Closing on May 28 are vaccination sites in Ridgefield and Kennewick, while a site in Wenatchee will transition to the control of the local health district. The state’s mass vaccination site in Spokane will remain open.

“In areas where mass vaccination sites are closing, there will still be multiple vaccine providers nearby that will continue to administer the COVID-19 vaccine,” the Department of Health said in a news release.

4:37 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

J&J continues to investigate the need and timing for a booster for its Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Jen Christensen

Johnson & Johnson said Thursday that it continues to investigate a potential booster for its Covid-19 vaccine.

“Ensuring long-term, durable protection against COVID-19 will be essential in curbing the pandemic. We have ongoing and planned trials that will aid our assessment of the need for, and timing of, booster doses of our vaccine,” according to an emailed statement J&J sent to CNN on Thursday. 

The J&J Covid-19 vaccine, along with Pfizer, Moderna, and four others, are being tested as a seasonal booster in a study called Cov-Boost being conducted by the UK’s National Institute for Health Research and the University of Southhampton. 

“Janssen is pleased to be contributing to the Cov-Boost clinical trial, the first study to provide vital data on the use of different vaccines as a booster to further protect against COVID-19 and the new variants of concern,” the J&J statement said.


4:43 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Here are the latest numbers on severe breakthrough Covid-19 cases from the CDC

From CNN’s Jamie Gumbrecht

As of May 10, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had received reports of 1,359 hospitalized or fatal Covid-19 cases among fully vaccinated people. Such cases are rare; at that time, more than 115 million people in the United States were full vaccinated.

Among those 1,359 severe breakthrough cases, 1,136 – 84% – were hospitalized and 223 – 16% – were fatal. The CDC said 1,080 – 79% – were among people 65 and older. The reports came from 46 US states and territories.

As of mid-May, CDC is no longer publishing data on all Covid-19 breakthrough cases; only severe cases that result in hospitalization and death will be detailed on the CDC’s website. The definition of a breakthrough case – a confirmed Covid-19 case at least two weeks after a second dose of Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines or a single dose of  the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – hasn’t changed. 

The CDC says the number of Covid-19 vaccine breakthrough infections is likely an undercount and data may not be complete, but the reports can help identify patterns.

“Vaccine breakthrough cases occur in only a small percentage of vaccinated people,” the agency notes. “To date, no unexpected patterns have been identified in the case demographics or vaccine characteristics among people with reported vaccine breakthrough infections.”

4:22 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Fauci: "We don't know" when a booster vaccine may be needed

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid and Michael Nedelman

The timeline for needing a booster shot is currently unclear, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Despite predictions that a booster may be warranted within a year, the bottom line: “We don’t know,” Fauci told CNN Thursday.

His comments echoed ones he made earlier in the day to The Washington Post during a live event, when he said a rise in breakthrough infections may be the “trigger” for booster vaccinations, but it’s difficult to map out when that may happen.

“We're preparing for the eventuality that we might need boosters, but I think we've got to be careful not to let the people know that inevitably, X number of months from now, everyone's going to need a booster. That's just not the case,” Fauci said at the event. “We may not need it for quite a while.”

He also told the Post that immunity from vaccines may help avoid a surge in cases later this year.

If the US reaches President Biden’s goal of 70% of adults receiving their first shot by July 4, that may prevent cases from surging, “provided we continue to get people vaccinated at the rate we have now,” he said.

“I don't think we should be that concerned right now about how long they’re effective,” Fauci said. “I think they will be effective long enough that we will get to the point where we are not going to be necessarily worrying about a surge.”

These comments appear to contrast those made during an Axios interview Wednesday, when he said a booster could be warranted within a year’s time. Scientists at a number of companies that make Covid-19 vaccines have also predicted needing boosters within the same time frame – but the scientific community is not in widespread agreement on this. 

“We’re making extrapolations” from incomplete data, Fauci explained to The Washington Post. 

So far, studies have shown that mRNA vaccines – Pfizer and Moderna – maintain more than 90% efficacy six months after getting vaccinated. And scientists say it’s likely much longer; this is just as far as the data take us.

Other studies have looked at antibodies in the lab. While a decline is expected over time, Fauci told the Post “the steepness of that slope is unclear right now.”

Experts say it is also unclear how these antibody levels correlate with real-world immunity, and to what extent other parts of the immune system – such as T cells – could factor into this protection.

4:23 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Eiffel Tower will reopen on July 16

From CNN's Barbara Wojazer

 Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images
 Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

The Eiffel Tower will reopen to the public on July 16, according to the official Eiffel Tower website.

Visitors will be able to book online from June 1, according to the website.

The latest: On Thursday, Prime Minister Jean Castex said France will make all adults eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations from starting May 31.

More than 21.5 million French people — 41% of the adult population — have gotten at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the latest health ministry data released Wednesday.

3:15 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Vaccination rates rise in Ohio after Vax-a-Million lottery announcement, health officials say

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Covid-19 vaccination rates in Ohio rose in one week, following the announcement of the Vax-a-Million lottery, according to a news release from the state's Department of Health.

"The Vax-a-Million campaign has helped drive an increase in vaccination rates among Ohioans 16 and older by more than 28%" since it was announced on May 13, according to the release.

Vaccinations for that age group had "dropped by 25% the weekend of May 7 to May 10, compared to the weekend of April 30 to May 3," the release said. Vaccination rates "increased by 28% for the same age group from May 14 to May 17," according to the release.

“This dramatic increase in vaccinations indicates that the Vax-a-Million drawing has been impactful in creating momentum for vaccinations throughout Ohio,” said Stephanie McCloud, director of the Ohio Department of Health.

“We are grateful that the drawings are helping spur Ohioans to take this important measure to protect their health, their loved ones, and their community. Vaccines are our best tool to return to the lives we remember from before the pandemic," said McCloud.

Ohioans aged 18 or older who have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine are eligible to win one of five $1 million prizes once they opt into the program, CNN reported.

The first lottery drawing will be on May 24.