This article was updated June 12, 2021, at 10:35 a.m. ET.
The United States leads the world in cases of COVID-19. We'll provide the latest updates on coronavirus cases, government response, impacts to our daily life, and more.
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TSA Breaks 2 Million Mark in Airport Screenings
June 12, 2021, 10:35 a.m. ET.
The Transportation Security Administration said 2,028,961 people passed through airport security checkpoints on Friday – another sign that the United States is returning to pre-pandemic norms.
That’s the first time the TSA has topped the 2 million mark since the pandemic was declared in March 2020, the agency said in a news release. The number of Friday travelers represents 74% of travel volume versus the same day in 2019 and is 1.5 million more travelers than the same day in 2020, the TSA said.
“The growing number of travelers demonstrates this country’s resilience and the high level of confidence in COVID-19 counter measures, to include ready access to vaccines,” Darby LaJoye, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the TSA Administrator, said in the release. “TSA stands ready to provide a safe and secure screening process as part of the overall travel experience.”
The TSA said it used to screen 2 million to 2.5 million people daily before the pandemic. After the COVID surge early last year, airport screenings dropped to a low of 87,534 on April 13, 2020. By mid-May 2021, the TSA’s average daily volume for screenings was approximately 65% of pre-pandemic levels.
The advent of the national vaccination program turned things around. Daily screenings have risen steadily and have topped 1 million every day since March 11, 2021, TSA statistics show.
Vaccinations have also climbed. The CDC says 64% of American adults and 52% of the total population has gotten at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, and 54% of adults and 43% of the total population is fully vaccinated.
Travel numbers will go up with the summer season, the TSA says.
“TSA advises passengers to arrive at the airport with sufficient time to accommodate increased screening times as traveler volumes approach, and in some cases surpass, pre-pandemic levels at certain airports,” the agency said.
The TSA still has a face mask mandate for airports, planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation through Sept. 13.
The CDC continues to recommend that people don’t travel nationally or internationally unless they’re fully vaccinated.
2 Passengers Test Positive for COVID-19 on Celebrity Millennium Cruise
June 11: 4:40 p.m.
Two passengers on the Celebrity Millennium cruise ship tested positive for COVID-19 during end-of-cruise testing on Thursday, according to CNN.
The two guests don’t have any symptoms and are in isolation. They’re being monitored by a medical team, Royal Caribbean Group said on Thursday. The two guests, who are from the U.S., shared a stateroom on the seven-day cruise from St. Maarten.
“We are conducting contact tracing, expediting testing for all close contacts and closely monitoring the situation,” the cruise line said in a statement.
The Celebrity Millennium was the first major cruise ship with North Americans aboard since the pandemic began last year. The ship set sail on June 5 and made port stops in Aruba, Barbados, and Curacao, CNN reported.
The ship had “fully vaccinated crew and guests” and followed CDC guidelines, according to the news release. All guests were required to show proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departing St. Maarten.
Among the 600 passengers on board, more than 95% were fully vaccinated, CNN reported. Children under age 12 who couldn’t yet receive vaccinations were required to show a negative test.
The two passengers’ tests came back positive during end-of-cruise testing, which is completed 72 hours before passengers return to the U.S., Jonathon Fishman, a Celebrity Cruises spokesperson, told USA Today.
The ship was docked in Curacao, and the two passengers remained on board in isolation, Fishman said. The ship will return to St. Maarten on Saturday to disembark, and the two passengers will stay in St. Maarten until they test negative for COVID-19, according to ABC News. The cruise line will help them to make plans to go home at the appropriate time, the news outlet reported.
In addition, the passengers’ close contacts were confirmed negative after being tested again, Fishman told USA Today on Friday.
“The situation demonstrates that our rigorous health and safety protocols work to protect our crew, guests and the communities we visit,” according to the news release.
Celebrity Cruises, which is based in Miami and owned by Royal Caribbean Group, received CDC approval last month to sail the first ship from the U.S. with paying passengers on board, according to The Washington Post. Vaccines will be required for everyone who is 16 and older, the company said. The ship is scheduled to leave Fort Lauderdale on June 26.
Moderna Seeks FDA OK for Adolescent COVID Vaccine
June 11, 2:42 p.m.
Moderna has filed for emergency use authorization from the FDA to give its vaccine to adolescents aged 12-17, the company said in a news release.
If Moderna receives authorization, it would become the second vaccine distributed to adolescents in the United States. The Pfizer vaccine was authorized in May for use in children aged 12-15.
“We are encouraged that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was highly effective at preventing COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 infection in adolescents,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in thenews release on Thursday. “We have already filed for authorization with Health Canada and the European Medicines Agency and we will file with regulatory agencies around the world for this important younger age population.”
Moderna announced in late May that its COVID-19 vaccine was safe and appears to be effective in children ages 12 to 17.
The company released early results from a clinical trial that enrolled 3,732 adolescents, including two-thirds who received two doses. Blood tests showed that the vaccine created an immune response similar to that in adults.
President Joe Biden has said that getting adolescents vaccinated is a key part of his plan to bring the COVID pandemic under control.
The two-dose Moderna vaccine saw approval for adults18 years of age and older in mid-December. The Pfizer vaccine was approved that same month for people 16 and older. The one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was approved for emergency use in February, is a single-shot option for those who are 18 and up as well
COVID-19 Vaccine Rates Lag Behind in Southern States
June 10, 5:15 p.m.
COVID-19 vaccination rates are lagging behind in the South, particularly in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, which have the lowest rates in the country, according to The New York Times.
Although COVID-19 cases and deaths have dropped significantly nationwide, public health officials have expressed concerns that the coronavirus could surge again in states with low vaccination rates. Fewer than half of the adults in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi have received a COVID-19 dose, which means coronavirus variants could spread as restrictions are lifted.
“A lot of people have the sense, ‘Oh, dodged that bullet,’” Jeanne Marrazzo, MD, director of the infectious diseases division at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told the newspaper.
“I don’t think people appreciate that if we let up on the vaccine efforts, we could be right back where we started,” she said.
The South contains eight of the 10 states with the lowest vaccination rates, according to the latest CDC update on Wednesday. Public health officials have cited several reasons why that’s the case, The New York Times reported, such as vaccine hesitancy, and challenges with health care access and transportation.
In contrast, 13 states in the Northeast and West Coast have administered vaccines to at least 70% of adults, CDC data shows. President Joe Biden has set a goal to vaccinate 70% of U.S. adults with at least one dose by July 4. As of this week, the country is on pace to reach about 68% by the summer holiday, The New York Times reported.
“I certainly don’t expect us to get to 70% by Fourth of July. I don’t know that we’ll get to 70% in Alabama,” Karen Landers, MD, Alabama’s assistant state health officer, told the newspaper.
“We just have a certain group of people, of all walks of life, that just aren’t going to get vaccinated,” she said.
Officials are also paying attention to the expiration dates of the vaccines. With a three-month shelf life, millions of doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will expire this month, The New York Times reported. More than 57,000 doses could expire in Arkansas, as well as thousands in Tennessee.
To pick up the pace of vaccinations, towns are promoting local clinics and offering vaccine incentives such as a drive around the Talladega Superspeedway, the newspaper reported. Rural communities are also creating mobile vaccine sites that can meet people at churches or workplaces when they lack time or transportation.
“We’ve always been slightly behind the rest of the country when it comes to infrastructure,” Mark Stevens, the director of special projects for the First Tennessee Development District, which retrofitted two vans as mobile vaccine sites, told the newspaper.
“And I’d argue that the vaccine is a critical piece of infrastructure,” he said.
Biden Administration Will Donate 500 Million COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Worldwide
June 10, 5 p.m.
The Biden administration will buy and donate 500 million Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses in an effort to inoculate more of the global population, according to The Washington Post.
An initial 200 million doses will be distributed between August and the end of this year, with the remaining 300 million to come during the first half of 2022. The doses will be reserved for low- and middle-income countries and distributed by Covax, the WHO-backed initiative to share COVID-19 vaccines across the world.
President Joe Biden officially announced the deal on Thursday ahead of the Group of Seven summit in the U.K. Joined by Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, Biden said the donation would “supercharge” the battle against the coronavirus, according to Reuters. Pfizer is supplying the doses at a “not-for-profit” price in a $3.5 billion deal with the U.S.
“The United States is providing these half billion doses with no strings attached. No strings attached,” Biden said. “Our vaccine donations don’t include pressure for favors or potential concessions. We’re doing this to save lives.”
The three-day G-7 summit, scheduled to take place Friday through Sunday, will include discussions about the pandemic, the economy, and climate change, according to CNBC. Biden’s donation announcement is expected to spur other G-7 leaders to donate as well.
Biden added that G-7 leaders will announce the “full scope of our commitment” to address the pandemic on Friday, according to NBC News.
Previously, the Biden administration said it would share 80 million vaccine doses worldwide by the end of June, The Washington Post reported. Last week, the White House provided plans for how it would allocate 25 million doses, with about 19 million going to Covax. The other 6 million will be shared directly with countries under severe COVID-19 outbreaks, such as India. The 500 million Pfizer doses will come in addition to the 80 million already pledged.
The calls to share vaccines have grown stronger in recent weeks as COVID-19 cases have declined in the U.S. and surged in other countries, the newspaper reported. More than half of the populations in the U.S. and U.K. have been vaccinated, as compared with less than 2% in Africa.
Covax plans to deliver 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of the year, with the goal of inoculating 20% of the population in countries of need, the newspaper reported, though it may not meet that goal. So far, the initiative has delivered about 82 million doses to 129 countries.
Biden has tapped Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, to handle the U.S. global vaccination strategy, the newspaper reported. Zients has worked on the Pfizer deal for more than a month, and the White House wanted to announce it during the G-7 summit.
“These Pfizer doses will go to many countries,” Thomas Bolyky, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and director of its global health program, told The Washington Post.
“The big question is, in what order and in what amount?” he said. “That will have significant bearing on what the public health impact of the commitment will be.”
How many people have been diagnosed with the virus worldwide, and how many have died?
According to Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 175 million cases and more than 3.77 million deaths worldwide.
How many cases of COVID-19 are in the United States?
There are more than 33.43 million cases in the U.S. of COVID-19 and more than 599,000 deaths, according Johns Hopkins University.