May 26 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 12:09 AM ET, Thu May 27, 2021
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2:21 p.m. ET, May 26, 2021

10 US states have reached Biden's goal of vaccinating 70% of adults against Covid-19, CDC data shows

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

A member of the U.S. Armed Forces administers a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a FEMA community vaccination center on March 2 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
A member of the U.S. Armed Forces administers a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a FEMA community vaccination center on March 2 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mark Makela/Getty Images

Ten states have now reached the Biden administration’s goal to vaccinate at least 70% of adults against Covid-19 by July 4 with at least one dose, according to data published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Pennsylvania is the latest state to reach this benchmark, joining Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Vermont.

In the United States, more than 165 million people – about 49.7% of the population – has received at least one dose of vaccine, and nearly 132 million people – about 39.7% of the population – are fully vaccinated, CDC data shows.

Overall, 289,212,304 total doses of vaccine have been reported administered, about 80% of the 359,849,035 total doses delivered.

That’s about 1.4 million more doses reported administered since Tuesday, for a seven-day average of about 1.7 million doses per day.

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

2:17 p.m. ET, May 26, 2021

Switzerland will further ease coronavirus restrictions on Monday

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy

Switzerland will further ease coronavirus restrictions on Monday, allowing indoor dining to reopen and no longer requiring people to work from home, the government said in a statement released Wednesday.

"The Federal Council is going further than proposed in the consultation, particularly with regard to events, private gatherings and restaurants. In so doing, it is responding to the improved epidemiological situation," the Swiss Federal Council said in the statement. "Coronavirus case numbers are continuing to fall. In addition, most cantons will have completed vaccinating people at especially high risk by the end of the month."

As of Monday, restaurants will once again be able to serve guests indoors with a maximum of four people per table, according to the statement. Additionally, restaurants no longer have to close between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

For public events, the limit on indoor gatherings will increase from 50 people to 100 people, and the limit on outdoor gatherings will increase from 100 people to 300 people.

For private gatherings, the Swiss Federal Council is increasing the limits from 10 to 30 people for indoor gatherings, and from 15 to 50 people outdoors.

"Working from home will be a recommendation rather than a requirement for businesses that carry out weekly testing. A return to the office should be gradual so as not to jeopardise the vaccination process of staff," the government statement added.

The Federal Council will also begin piloting public events from June 1.

2:00 p.m. ET, May 26, 2021

Go There: CNN reports on US travel ahead of Memorial Day weekend and ongoing mask mandates for passengers

As the US continues to reopen, more than 37 million people are expected to travel for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Under federal law, travelers are still required to wear masks when using public transportation, including travel by commercial plane, which could potentially set up more conflicts and fights over mask policy during the busy weekend.

CNN’s Pete Muntean was live from Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia. Watch his report:

1:34 p.m. ET, May 26, 2021

Fauci: It's in the "enlightened self-interest" of the US to help the world get Covid-19 under control

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a hearing  on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 26.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 26. Sarah Silbiger/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday that he thinks with the high rate of vaccinations in the United States, the country will get the Covid-19 pandemic under control “within a period of a few months.” To bring the pandemic to its end in the world, the US will need to help.

“A global pandemic requires a global response,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said. He and several other leaders of the National Institutes of Health were in front of the committee to discuss the agency’s proposed budget. Fauci said there’s always a danger that with the virus spreading in the rest of the world, it could create variants that might undermine the protectiveness of the current Covid-19 vaccines. 

“Not only do I think it’s a humanitarian, moral responsibility, but it’s in what I call ‘the enlightened self-interest’ for us to do that,” Fauci said.
1:10 p.m. ET, May 26, 2021

Biden tasks intelligence community to report on Covid-19 origins within 90 days

From CNN's DJ Judd

President Biden is tasking the intelligence community to "redouble their efforts" in assessing the origins of Covid-19 and report back within 90 days.

In a statement on Wednesday, Biden said he asked National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in March to “task the Intelligence Community to prepare a report on their most up-to-date analysis of the origins of COVID-19, including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.”

“As of today, the U.S. Intelligence Community has ‘coalesced around two likely scenarios’ but has not reached a definitive conclusion on this question,” Biden writes. “Here is their current position: ‘while two elements in the IC leans toward the former scenario and one leans more toward the latter – each with low or moderate confidence – the majority of elements do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other."

In Wednesday’s statement, the President also says he’s now calling for the intelligence community to “redouble their efforts” and report back within 90 days, and in the meantime, “to keep Congress fully apprised of its work.”

“The United States will also keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence,” Biden writes.

During yesterday’s Covid-19 briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, fielded questions on the origin of Covid-19, telling reporters, “Many of us feel that it is more likely that this is a natural occurrence, as has happened with SARS-CoV-1, where it goes from an animal reservoir to a human. But we don't know 100 percent the answer to that, and since this is a question that keeps being asked, we feel strongly – all of us – that we should continue with the investigation and go to the next phase of the investigation that the WHO has done.”

1:12 p.m. ET, May 26, 2021

Variants and people not getting vaccinated keep CDC director up at night

From CNN’s Jacqueline Howard

Emerging coronavirus variants, people not getting vaccinated against Covid-19 and health disparities all keep Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, awake at night.

Walensky said that during a Wednesday subcommittee hearing of the House Committee on Appropriations. Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro had asked both Walensky and Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC's principal deputy director, what keeps them up at night.

"Variants, and the concern that people won't get vaccinated and the fact that we're not serving everybody in the country equally," Walensky responded.

Schuchat, who announced last week that she will be retiring after serving 33 years at CDC, said, "I think we have to remember the rest of the world and that while it's getting better here there are many places at risk– so until we're all out of this, none of us are out of this."

1:25 p.m. ET, May 26, 2021

7 health officials spoke in the US Senate today. They want an investigation into how the pandemic started.

From CNN's Jen Christensen

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, speaks during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on May 26 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, speaks during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on May 26 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Stefani Reynolds/Pool/Getty Images

All seven leaders from the National Institutes of Health who spoke before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday agreed there should be further investigation into any possible connection the Wuhan Institute of Virology might have to the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I think the most likely reason, mechanism by which SARS-CoV-2 arose was a natural process of transfer from an animal to humans, but it is certainly possible that other options might have occurred, including a possible lab leak. We just don’t have evidence to be able to say what that likelihood is,” NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins told the committee.

SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus that causes Covid-19.

Joining Collins was Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr. Diana Bianchi, director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; Dr. Ned Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute; Dr. Gary Gibbons, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; Dr. Eliseo Perez-Stable, director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities; and Dr. Bruce Tromberg, director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.

The World Health Organization has completed the first phase of its investigation. The US is encouraging the agency to investigate more.

1:00 p.m. ET, May 26, 2021

Covid-19 cases and deaths are plateauing at alarming high levels in the Americas

From CNN’s Claudia Rebaza

Covid-19 cases and deaths are plateauing at an alarming high levels in the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, said Wednesday.

Last week, the region reported over 1.2 million new Covid-19 cases and 31,000 deaths, figures that remain unchanged over the last few weeks, Etienne said.

“Latin American countries also represented the top five highest mortality rates worldwide” last week, Etienne also warned.

During PAHO’s weekly briefing and assessing the pandemic’s evolution, Etienne highlighted Cuba after it continues to report significant new infections.  

Central American countries such as Costa Rica, Panama and Belize are also seeing spikes as well as Honduras “where ICU beds are over 80% capacity,” Etienne said. 

“We are also concerned about increasing trends and hospitalizations in Haiti,” Etienne told reporters 

In South America, while countries such as Chile, Peru and Paraguay have reported declines in new cases, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil are seeing new cases on the rise. Bolivia has also reported “a drastic increase in cases and deaths," Etienne explained.

Asked about the presence of the Indian variant across the region, PAHO’s Incident Manager Sylvain Aldighieri said cases have been detected in 10 countries in North, Central and South America and mostly linked with international travelers. 

Regarding the slow vaccination rollout in the Americas, PAHO’s director urged once again the global community to help expand the region’s vaccine coverage.

“In our region of nearly 700 million people, just 37 million have been fully vaccinated against Covid. I hope you agree that this is completely unacceptable,” Etienne stated.

 

1:16 p.m. ET, May 26, 2021

There's no timeline on when we'll know how Covid-19 started, Fauci says

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a hearing  on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 26.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 26. Stefani Reynolds/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

It’s hard to determine when exactly scientists will figure out what started the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham asked at what point it would be more likely Covid-19 came from lab if an intermediate host could not be identified.

Fauci gave the example of a disease such as Ebola; the first outbreak was reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976. Scientists believe that fruit bats are natural hosts of the Ebola virus, but it’s still not clear what the intermediate host is. Scientists do not believe Ebola started in a lab, Fauci said.

“I don’t think we can give a time element on that yet, senator, for the simple reason, we still have not yet confirmed what the host is from Ebola,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “It’s been many years now since the original Ebola outbreaks and we haven’t yet nailed that down.”

Graham asked Fauci if there had ever been a pandemic that started in a lab.

“To our knowledge, no,” Fauci said.

Fauci and members of the Biden administration have been calling for the continuation of an investigation into the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic. Earlier this month, Fauci said he is not convinced that the pandemic originated naturally.