May 21 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 7:56 p.m. ET, May 21, 2021
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8:12 a.m. ET, May 21, 2021

More than 3,000 cases of black fungus detected across 5 Indian states

From CNN's Esha Mitra in New Delhi

At least 3,207 cases of black fungus, or mucormycosis, have been reported across five Indian states: Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Telangana and Gujarat.

Maharashtra reported more than 2,000 cases, according to the Indian Ministry of Health last week.

About 573 cases have been detected in Madhya Pradesh, according to the state’s chief minister Shivraj Chauhan on Wednesday.

The minister has also asked that a task force be formed to monitor the disease in the state, the state’s department of information tweeted on Tuesday.

At least 115 cases have been detected in Haryana and 150 in Telangana, according to state health officials, and at least 369 cases have been found in one Gujarat hospital.

“We now have a new challenge of black fungus. We need to be cautious and prepare for it,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday, while addressing a gathering of doctors in his constituency Varanasi in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

At least seven states — Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Odisha, Haryana, Gujarat and Karnataka — have declared the disease a notifiable disease in accordance with the central government’s advisory to collect data on the number of cases reported.

More on black fungus: In early May, doctors in India began raising the alarm about a rise in mucormycosis. Many of those being infected are coronavirus patients, or those who have recently recovered from Covid-19, whose immune systems have been weakened by the virus or who have underlying conditions — most notably diabetes.

4:38 a.m. ET, May 21, 2021

South Korea to allow in-person nursing facility visits for the fully vaccinated 

From CNN's Gawon Bae in Seoul, South Korea

South Korea will allow in-person visits at nursing facilities starting June 1 if either the patient or the visitor is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, Second Vice Health Minister Kang Do-tae said during a briefing Friday.

If both the patient and the visitor wear masks and sanitize their hands, they are allowed to hold hands, Kang added.

Since the initial ban on nursing facility visits in March 2020, restrictions were occasionally eased when daily cases in South Korea remained low, but visitors and patients still had to be in separate spaces unless patients were in critical condition or close to death.

When visiting a facility where vaccination numbers are low, the unvaccinated visitor needs to comply with additional Covid-19 testing for the safety of other patients, Kang explained.

South Korea's outbreak: South Korea saw 561 new Covid-19 cases from Thursday, including 542 local transmissions, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

The country has reported 134,678 total coronavirus cases and 1,922 related deaths.

Current social distancing measures in South Korea will be extended by three weeks until June 13, Kang added.

Kang said it is difficult to ease the measures until 13 million people receive at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, which South Korea hopes to achieve by the end of June.

As of Friday, a total of 3,772,599 people have received the first dose of a vaccine and 1,482,842 people have completed a second dose, KDCA said in a news release Friday.

4:31 a.m. ET, May 21, 2021

India advises states to report cases of "black fungus" to the central government

From CNN’s Esha Mitra in New Delhi

Indian states have been advised to declare mucormycosis -- also known as black fungus -- as a “notifiable disease” so data may be collated at a national level, Lav Agarwal secretary of the Indian Ministry of Health said at a news conference Thursday.

At least seven states including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Odisha, Haryana and Karnataka have already done so, according to respective state government authorities.

In the past few weeks, thousands of black fungus cases have been reported across the country, with hundreds hospitalized and at least 90 dead.

Many of those being infected are coronavirus patients, or those who have recently recovered from Covid-19, whose immune systems have been weakened by the virus or who have underlying conditions -- most notably diabetes.

Black fungus commonly affects the sinuses or lungs after inhaling fungal spores in the air, and can also affect the skin after a surface injury like a cut or burn. Symptoms depend on where in the body the fungus is growing, but can include facial swelling, fever, skin ulcers and and black lesions in the mouth.

Request for supplies: With hospitals across the country facing a shortage of the drug used to treat black fungus, citizens across India have taken to Twitter to ask for help.

Bhavya Reddy, a resident in India's southern Telangana state, said her father was diagnosed with black fungus on April 26 -- the same day he recovered from Covid.

"Once he started to recover (from Covid) his face started to swell," Reddy said. "When the swelling did not reduce, (doctors) told us to get the injection."

The hospital did not have supply of Amphotericin B, and she had to appeal to the state's chief minister to receive vials of the drug, she said. Once the medicine was secured, her father underwent an endoscopic sinus surgery to relieve the swelling.

At least 150 cases of black fungus have been detected in Telangana, according to the state’s director of health and family welfare.

Ahmedabad Civil Hospital in Gujarat state has 369 patients with black fungus. On average, 25 to 30 surgeries are performed daily, according to J. V. Modi, medical superintendent at the hospital. 

What the government is doing: India's government has acknowledged there has been a shortage of Amphotericin B, the drug used for treating black fungus.

Mansukh Mandaviya, a junior minister of the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, tweeted on Thursday adding that five companies in India have been approved to produce the drug, in addition to an existing six.

Read more about black fungus:

1:49 a.m. ET, May 21, 2021

India surpasses 26 million Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Swati Gupta in New Delhi

Medical staff transfer a Covid-19 patient to a hospital in New Delhi on May 18.
Medical staff transfer a Covid-19 patient to a hospital in New Delhi on May 18. Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images

India reported 259,551 cases of Covid-19 Friday, bringing the country's total caseload past 26 million. The country has recorded roughly 1 million cases since Monday. 

Friday's tally brings India's total number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 26,031,991, according to figures from the Indian health ministry.

India also reported 4,209 new virus-related deaths. The number of fatalities reported each day in the country have been consistently above 3,000 since April 28. India’s total coronavirus death toll stands at 291,331.

The country has seen a slight drop in new daily cases in the past week following several weeks of more than 300,000 infections per day.

A total of 191.8 million vaccine doses have been administered since the country began its vaccination program on January 16. On Thursday, India distributed 1,456,088 vaccine doses. 

1:51 a.m. ET, May 21, 2021

South Korea grants conditional approval for Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine 

From CNN's Yoonjung Seo in Seoul, South Korea

Moderna vaccines are prepared for application at a United States military vaccination centre at Camp Foster on April 28, in Ginowan, Japan. 
Moderna vaccines are prepared for application at a United States military vaccination centre at Camp Foster on April 28, in Ginowan, Japan.  Carl Court/Getty Images

South Korea granted conditional approval for Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine on Friday, according to Food and Drug Safety Minister Kim Ganglip.

Two rounds of 0.5 ml of the Moderna vaccine can be administered to people age 18 or older, with a four-week interval between the first and second shot.

Moderna’s vaccine is the fourth Covid-19 vaccine to be approved in South Korea, after AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

Kim said the approval comes with the condition that the company submits a final report about clinical trials.

South Korea has fully vaccinated just 2.5% of its population, according to CNN's vaccine tracker.

1:19 a.m. ET, May 21, 2021

New York and Maryland follow Ohio in creating Covid vaccine lottery

From CNN's Theresa Waldrop, Rebekah Riess and Melissa Alonso

New York and Maryland both announced lotteries on Thursday for people who get vaccinated against Covid-19, joining Ohio, which last week announced drawings to give away millions of dollars in a bid to boost flagging vaccination rates in the state.

New Yorkers who get vaccinated next week from Monday to Friday will be given a lottery ticket with a chance to win as much as $5 million, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news briefing Thursday. 

And starting on Tuesday, the Maryland Lottery will randomly select a vaccinated Marylander for a $40,000 prize every single day, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday. 

The Maryland drawings will be held for 40 days through July 3, and on July 4, a winner will get a grand prize of $400,000, Hogan said.

"So it's a total of $2 million in prize money for a vaccinated Marylander," Hogan said. "Entry is very simple -- all you have to do is get vaccinated for Covid-19 here in Maryland, be a Maryland resident and be 18 or older. Anyone 18 and older who has already been vaccinated for Covid-19 in the state of Maryland, at any time, is also eligible for these prizes and will automatically be entered to win."
"So remember Maryland -- get your shot for a shot to win," Hogan said.

Read the full story:

1:17 a.m. ET, May 21, 2021

White House unable to continue $300 weekly pandemic unemployment benefits that GOP governors are slashing

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny and Tami Luhby

The Labor Department has exhausted its options for continuing to pay an extra $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits to jobless people in the 22 GOP-led states that are ending them early, an administration official told CNN Thursday.

Roughly 3.6 million out-of-work Americans will forgo a total of $21.7 billion in benefits as a result of the state actions, according to an analysis by The Century Foundation. Texas, Indiana and South Carolina are among those terminating the pandemic jobless programs early.

"There is nothing we can do," the official said, adding that the department has tried to figure out a solution. "Taking away their lifeline isn't going to help anything."

Over the past two weeks, a succession of Republican governors has opted to terminate one or more of the programs contained in the historic federal expansion of the unemployment system. They have cited workforce shortages and the improving economy as the reasons behind their decisions. 

The enhanced payments -- which Congress first approved in its massive coronavirus relief plan in March 2020 and twice extended -- are keeping Americans from returning to the labor market, the governors say. At least four states will offer return-to-work bonuses instead.

In addition to providing the $300 weekly supplement, lawmakers expanded benefits to freelancers, the self-employed, independent contractors and certain people affected by the pandemic and extended the duration of payments for those in the regular state unemployment program. 

Those collecting regular state benefits, which typically last 26 weeks, will continue to receive those payments but will not get the $300 boost. However, those in the other two programs -- the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs -- will lose all their benefits.

Read the full story:

1:33 a.m. ET, May 21, 2021

New York Yankees' breakthrough infections demonstrate the Covid-19 vaccine works. Here's why

From CNN's Keri Enriquez

In one week, there were nine cases of Covid-19 in fully vaccinated members of the New York Yankees organization: one player, three coaches and five team staff. The revelation has led to questions about vaccine efficacy and fears of super-strength variant strains. 

But experts say these cases show the vaccine is working, and testing remains a useful tool.

A Major League Baseball spokesperson confirmed to CNN Wednesday that eight of those nine cases were asymptomatic. Each of the nine were fully vaccinated -- it had been at least 14 days since their single dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.

Dr. Costi Sifri, an infectious disease physician and hospital epidemiologist at the University of Virginia, said the news of the ballplayers is evidence that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine works.

"It's preventing serious infections in those staff and players with the Yankees," Sifri said. "Those infections that occurred, the so-called breakthrough infections, importantly were for the most part mild to moderate infections." 

No one in this group has ended up severely ill or in need of hospitalization. However, finding so many breakthrough cases in one spot does say something about testing.

Expected, but still uncommon: In the general population, breakthrough Covid-19 infections are rare. As of April 26, 9,245 breakthrough cases were identified out of some 95 million fully vaccinated people at the time, the CDC said.

Many of these breakthrough cases are so mild that as of last week, the CDC is no longer tracking them. 

"We are shifting from tracking all breakthroughs -- inclusive of breakthroughs for people who had mild disease -- to instead focusing on tracking breakthroughs involving people who were hospitalized or who died," a CDC spokesperson said.

The Yankees cases, eight asymptomatic and one mild, would not meet the new criteria.

Read the full story: