This article was updated April 11, 2021, at 11:41 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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U.S. Gives Record Number of COVID-19 Vaccines on Saturday
April 11, 11:41 a.m.
The U.S. hit a record high of administering 4.6 million doses in one day on Saturday, and health officials want that number to continue to climb.
“Amazing Saturday! +4.63M doses administered over total yesterday, a new record!” Cyrus Shahpar, MD, the COVID-19 data director for the White House, wrote in a post on Twitter.
“More than 500K higher than old record last Saturday,” he said. “Incredible number of doses administered.”
The U.S. has shipped more than 237 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and 117 million people have received at least one dose, according to the latest CDC tally updated on Saturday. More than 70 million people, or about 21% of the population, are considered fully vaccinated.
“To end this pandemic, this is what we have to do — we’ve got to step up and help protect one another,” Vivek Murthy, MD, the U.S. Surgeon General, said during a White House briefing on Friday.
“That’s why today I’m asking everyone to do two things: One, get vaccinated as soon as you can,” he said. “And two, help the people you care about get vaccinated as well.”
Michigan Pauses Classes, Sports Amid COVID-19 Surge in Midwest
April 11, 11:35 a.m.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called for a two-week suspension of in-person high school classes, youth sports, and indoor dining on Friday to tamp down a surge in COVID-19 cases, according to The Associated Press.
Michigan is facing the country’s highest rate of coronavirus infections, and daily case numbers are beginning to increase across the Midwest. Whitmer encouraged residents to avoid gatherings and choose outdoor activities rather than indoor activities to slow the spread of the virus.
“We have to do this together. Lives depend on it,” she said during a news conference. “We’re going to have some tough weeks ahead. So I’m asking everyone — please, take this seriously.”
COVID-19 hospitalizations have quadrupled in Michigan during the past month, the AP reported, and are reaching the peak levels from a year ago. Some hospitals have postponed non-emergency services again. In addition, the seven-day average of new daily deaths has been increasing for two weeks.
“Because we are seeing so many cases a day, our public health system is overwhelmed,” Joneigh Khaldun, MD, the chief medical executive for Michigan, said during the news conference.
Public health officials in Minnesota also warned about COVID-19 transmission in youth sports on Friday, according to CNN, including club sports and school-affiliated sports.
COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and ICU admissions are also increasing in Ohio.
Across the country, COVID-19 hospitalizations are increasing for ages 18-64, particularly in the upper Midwest, CNN reported. The rise in cases and hospitalizations is linked with the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the UK and is now the dominant coronavirus strain in the U.S.
The CDC has reported more than 19,550 B.1.1.7 cases, according to the latest tally updated on Thursday. Florida has reported nearly 3,500 cases, which is the highest total in the country, followed by Michigan with more than 2,200 cases.
“This B.1.1.7 variant…is more contagious, and I think there’s just fatigue from this pandemic out there, so a lot of people don’t wear masks, don’t social distance, so we’ve basically taken a step back in Michigan,” Paul Offit, MD, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told CNN.
“It’s really frustrating because we’re almost there,” he added. “We have to hang in there for the next two months and we’re not doing that.”
Japanese Doctors Perform First Living Donor Lung Tissue Transplant to COVID-19 Patient
April 9, 5:05 p.m.
Doctors in Japan performed the world's first lung transplant from living donors to a recovered COVID-19 patient whose lungs were severely damaged, according to CNN.
At Kyoto University Hospital, a team of 30 medical personnel conducted an 11-hour surgery on Wednesday to give a woman lung tissue from her husband and son.
“We demonstrated that we now have an option of lung transplants (from living donors),” Hiroshi Date, MD, a thoracic surgeon at the hospital who led the operation, said during a news conference on Thursday.
COVID-19 can cause severe lung damage in some patients with severe disease. Around the world, patients have received transplants for their recovery, but this case was the first to use lung tissue from living donors, the hospital said. Date said the operation provides hope for patients with severe lung damage after COVID-19, CNN reported.
The patient, who was identified as a woman from Japan's western region of Kansai, contracted COVID-19 near the end of 2020. She spent 3 months on a life support machine that acted as an artificial lung, the hospital said. However, her lungs were so damaged that they weren't functional or treatable, and she needed a transplant to live.
Her husband and son offered to donate part of their lungs, the hospital reported. Her husband donated part of his left lung, and her son gave part of his right lung, according to The Associated Press.
The husband and son are in stable condition, and the woman remains in intensive care, the AP reported. She's expected to leave the hospital in about 2 months and return to her normal life in about 3 months, the hospital said.
Several Vaccine Sites Pause Johnson & Johnson Shot After Adverse Reactions
April 9, 4:50 p.m.
Several vaccine sites across the U.S. paused administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine this week after adverse reactions were reported, according to The Associated Press.
On Thursday, three vaccination sites in North Carolina closed temporarily after several people had immediate reactions. Sites in Colorado, Georgia, and Iowa also paused after multiple people reported adverse reactions.
“There is no reason to believe there is anything wrong with the vaccine itself, and other individuals who have received the J&J vaccine should not be concerned,” Kathleen Toomey, MD, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, said in a news release on Friday.
Georgia health officials paused the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after eight people had reactions at the Cumming Fairgrounds, which is about 40 miles northeast of Atlanta. One person was evaluated at a hospital and released, and the others were monitored at the site and sent home.
“We are looking into what happened and what may have caused the reactions, including the conditions at the fairgrounds such as heat and the ability to keep the site cool,” Toomey said.
Some of the reactions, such as nausea and dizziness, were consistent with common reactions associated with any vaccine, the Georgia Department of Public Health said in the news release. However, due to the number of people affected, Johnson & Johnson shots were paused for evaluation.
In North Carolina, multiple people fainted after receiving a Johnson & Johnson vaccine at sites near Raleigh and Chapel Hill, the AP reported. At least 26 people experienced adverse reactions, and four were taken to hospitals for further examination.
In Colorado on Wednesday, 11 people reported adverse reactions after a Johnson & Johnson shot, the AP reported. Two people were taken to a hospital.
The CDC evaluated the incidents in Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, and North Carolina and found reports of dizziness, lightheadedness, and rapid breathing, Kristen Nordlund, a CDC spokeswoman, told the AP.
The CDC investigated the vaccine lots and hasn't found any reason for concern. Federal health officials said it was safe to resume administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the AP reported in another story on Friday.
In North Carolina, public health officials said they'd administer the Pfizer shot at the PNC Arena in Raleigh on Friday, the AP reported. At the clinics in Chapel Hill, officials plan to resume appointments for the Johnson & Johnson shot on Saturday. In nearby Hillsborough, officials said they would offer the Moderna vaccine on Friday and look for ways to better identify people with a history of fainting around needles. They also plan to provide additional support by offering drinks and snacks, and not moving patients to a separate observation area.
“We believe that the J&J vaccine is safe,” Alan Wolf, a spokesman for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told the AP.
“Very few people (less than 1%) who have received this vaccine at our clinics have reported lightheadedness or fainting,” he said.
CDC Director: All Schools Should Fully Open This Fall
April 8, 11:30 a.m.
All schools should be open for in-person learning this fall, even if not all kids are vaccinated, Rochelle Walensky, MD, the CDC director, said Wednesday.
“We should anticipate, come September 2021, that schools should be full-fledged in person and all of our children back in the classroom,” she told ABC News.
Some children should become eligible for a vaccine by mid-May, Walensky said. Pfizer released new data last week that indicated its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for children between ages 12-15, she added, and now the FDA will need to authorize the vaccine for those ages.
Moderna is also conducting studies in teens and pre-teens, and Walensky said she hopes both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be available for ages 12 and older by this summer. Johnson & Johnson will also begin pediatric clinical trials in upcoming months.
However, Walensky said she doesn't anticipate a vaccine being authorized for children under age 12 before the end of 2021. At the same time, she said parents and teachers should expect a full return to in-person classes whether children are fully vaccinated or not.
“We can vaccinate teachers, we can test, there's so much we can do,” she added.
Nearly 80% of pre-K through grade 12 teachers, school staff, and childcare workers received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot by the end of March, the CDC announced on Tuesday.
On March 2, President Joe Biden directed states to make teachers, school staff, and childcare workers eligible for vaccination priority. Many states held school-specific vaccination events and local programs to prioritize these workers, the CDC said.
More than 2 million teachers, school staff, and childcare workers were vaccinated through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program during March, according to CDC estimates. Another 5 to 6 million workers received vaccines through state programs.
Skin Reactions to COVID-19 Vaccines Aren't Dangerous, Study Says
April 7, 4:35 p.m.
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccines can cause several kinds of skin reactions, but these reactions go away quickly and aren't dangerous, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Researchers studied 414 patients with vaccine skin reactions from Dec. 24, 2020, to Feb. 14, 2021. The median age of the patients was 44, 90% were female, and 78% were white, the study says. The cases were reported by doctors including dermatologists, nurses, and other health care workers.
The best news is that none of the reactions were life threatening, Esther Freeman, MD, PhD, the senior author of the study, toldUSA Today.
“People can get full-body rashes, and that can be surprising and a little scary, but these patients did extremely well, recovered, and were able to go back and get their second dose,” said Freeman, who is director of global health dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“For people whose rashes started 4 or more hours after getting the vaccine, 0% of them went on to get anaphylaxis or any other serious reaction. Zero is a nice number."
Skin reactions can occur about a week after a shot, the study said. Any reaction -- on the skin or otherwise -- that occurs less than 4 hours after the shot may be an allergic reaction and is a cause for alarm, doctors say.
The most common reaction was a rash at the injection site, sometimes called COVID arm or Moderna arm. About 95% of the reactions in the study occurred to people who got the Moderna vaccine. Few people who had this reaction after the first shot had it after the second, the study said.
Redness and swelling on the feet and hands, known as COVID toe, also occurred in a few patients. It's uncomfortable, “but it's not a reason to not get the second dose,” Freeman told USA Today.
Other reactions were an all-body rash often described as “measles-like;” shingles outbreaks in people who had chickenpox as children; and skin swelling in people who have had dermatologic fillers as a cosmetic treatment.
“If you've had facial filler, it doesn't mean you shouldn't get the vaccine,” Freeman said.
People can feel reassured about getting the second vaccine dose, she said.
“Even if you have a pretty impressive rash after the vaccine, as long as it didn't start within 4 hours of vaccination you should feel comfortable getting the second dose,” she said.
Clinical trials on the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines reported few cases of skin reactions. The study did not include the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which had not been approved at the time of the study.
Nearly Half of New COVID-19 Cases Reported in 5 States
April 7, 2021, noon ET.
Almost half of the new coronavirus cases in the U.S. are now being reported in five states.
Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania reported 196,400 -- or 44% -- of the nation's 453,000 COVID-19 cases during the latest 7-day period, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 30 states are reporting seven-day averages of fewer than 1,000 new cases per day.
The five states account for 22% of the nation's population. The concentration of new cases has prompted some public health officials and elected leaders to call for additional COVID-19 vaccine doses in these areas, the AP reported, but the Biden administration hasn't indicated that it will change policies on vaccine distribution.
“More vaccine needs to be where the virus is,” Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, an epidemiologist at the University of California at San Francisco, told the Associated Press.
Michigan tops the list with the highest number of daily cases, according to the Johns Hopkins data. The 7-day average is higher than 6,100, which has been increasing for the past 2 weeks.
New York is close behind Michigan with about 6,000 new daily cases. Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for a larger vaccine distribution for the state's large population.
“The more supply we get, the easier it will be,” de Blasio said during a press briefing on Tuesday.
“We still need to keep pushing this to the federal government, to the manufacturers, to the state,” he said. “We still need supply, supply, supply, but things are really getting better.”
In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy said vaccine shipments to the state were up 12% during the past week, though he questioned whether that's enough.
“We constantly look at, OK, we know we're going up, but are we going up per capita at the rate we should be, particularly given the amount of cases that we've gotten?” he said during a press briefing on Monday.
The U.S. has distributed 219 million vaccine doses, and 108 million people have received at least one shot, according to the latest CDC tally updated on Tuesday. About 63 million people, or 19% of the population, are considered fully vaccinated.
The nation is on track to give half of all U.S. adults at least one COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this weekend, according to CNN. As of Tuesday, about 42% of ages 18 and older have received one dose, according to CDC data.
“We do have to remember that there are 100 million-plus adults that still haven't been vaccinated,” Andy Slavitt, a White House senior adviser for the COVID-19 response, told CNN on Tuesday. “They're not there yet, and you don't win the war until you bring everybody over with you.”
Texas Joins States Banning COVID-19 'Vaccine Passports'
April 7, 11:35 a.m. ET.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order on Tuesday that bans government-mandated “vaccine passports” that show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, becoming the latest governor to voice opposition to “vaccine passport” requirements.
The order prevents state agencies or organizations that receive state funding from mandating someone to receive a vaccine or provide proof of vaccination to receive services.
“As I have said all along, these vaccines are always voluntary and never forced,” Abbott said in a video announcement posted on social media.
“Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives,” he added.
On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order that bans government agencies from issuing documentation to certify someone's COVID-19 vaccination status and prevents businesses from requiring documentation.
This week, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee also announced his opposition to vaccine passports.
“I oppose vaccine passports. The COVID-19 vaccine should be a personal health choice, not a government requirement,” he wrote in a post on Twitter on Tuesday.
“I am supporting legislation to prohibit any government-mandated vaccine passports to protect the privacy of Tennesseans' health information and ensure this vaccine remains a voluntary, personal decision,” he added.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson similarly voiced his opposition on social media as the Missouri Senate took action on legislation that would ban COVID-19 vaccine passports in the state.
“I do NOT support a vaccine passport and have no intention of implementing one in the State of Missouri,” Parson wrote in a post on Twitter on Monday.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves also said that he disapproves of the idea.
“I don't support vaccine passports. I don't think it's necessary and I don't think it's a good thing to do in America,” Reeves said on CNN's “State of the Union” on Sunday.
Discussions and policies around “vaccine passports” could become a new cultural divide during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The New York Times. Airlines are testing the CommonPass app to bring the travel industry back, and some event and entertainment venues are considering digital passes to help customers feel safe.
New York, for instance, launched the Excelsior Pass for sports and entertainment venues. The Miami Heat became the first team in the NBA to create special “vaccinated only” sections. Several universities, such as Brown, Cornell, and Rutgers, have said they will require proof of vaccination for students in the fall.
So far, the Biden administration has declined to get involved in the matter. The CDC already provides a paper card to those who get vaccinated, and private companies are making their own apps or websites for venues, restaurants, and businesses.
“The government is not now nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said during a press briefing on Tuesday.
“There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential,” she said.
However, Psaki said the administration will provide guidance on concerns around privacy, security, and discrimination with COVID-19 vaccines and documentation but didn't have an “exact date” for when that guidance would be available.
Insufficient Ventilation Could Spread COVID-19 Indoors, Study Says
April 6, 12:05 p.m. ET.
Poor ventilation could have led to airborne transmission of COVID-19 in a restaurant in Guangzhou, China, that infected 10 people in three families, according to a new study published in Building and Environment.
To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the researchers wrote that indoor spaces should prevent overcrowding, open windows or doors, and ensure adequate air distribution.
“Leading health authorities have recognized the importance of airborne transmission in special settings since October 2020,” they wrote. “However, the effective minimum ventilation rate for avoiding airborne transmission remains unknown.”
The research team analyzed an outbreak that occurred in Guangzhou which was linked to three unrelated families. Local health officials learned that the families ate lunch at the same restaurant on Chinese New Year's Eve on Jan. 24, 2020. The three families sat at adjacent tables in a crowded section of the restaurant, and a person at the middle table was considered the index COVID-19 case who began experiencing symptoms later that day. During the following two weeks, 9 other people in the three families tested positive.
The three families hadn't met previously and didn't have close contact during the meal other than sitting near each other in the restaurant, with some sitting back-to-back. None of the restaurant workers or other 68 patrons at 15 other tables contracted the virus.
The research team obtained a video recording and seating arrangement from the restaurant and looked at the restaurant's air conditioning system across five zones of the establishment. Using the original table setup, they tested the dispersion of a warm tracer gas, which acts like exhaled virus droplets, to simulate the spread of droplets in the restaurant. They found that the measured ventilation rate was .9 L/s per person, which is lower than recommended standards.
The seating area where the three families sat was found to be covered by one air conditioning unit. The simulation showed that the droplets exhaled from the index person rose into the air and were carried to the other tables by the air conditioning. The droplets also reached other nearby tables but were dispersed by the other four air conditioners in the room. The three affected tables were in a recirculation zone, or bubble, that had a higher concentration of droplets, the researchers wrote.
Patrons had a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 if they were exposed to a higher concentration of droplets and had longer exposure, the researchers wrote. The three families shared the same space for 53-75 minutes. The restaurant workers had short exposure times in the recirculation zone while the infectious person was present, which could explain why none of them tested positive, the authors wrote. In addition, the patrons at other nearby tables had short overlap times with the infectious person.
Ultimately, the researchers concluded that the contaminated recirculation bubble can't solely explain the outbreak. The low ventilation, lack of outdoor air supply and close distance between the tables appeared to contribute to the droplet dispersion among those who were infected. The restaurant was crowded due to Chinese New Year's Eve and had added extra tables to accommodate the higher number of customers.
“It is important to note that our results do not indicate that long-range airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 can occur in any indoor space, but rather that transmission may occur in a crowded and poorly ventilated space,” the study authors wrote.
“A sufficiently high ventilation flow-rate reduces the contribution of airborne transmission to a very low level, whereas a low ventilation flow-rate leads to a relatively high contribution of aerosols to transmission,” they added.
Biden to Move Up Vaccine Eligibility Deadline to April 19
April 6, 10:55 a.m. ET.
President Joe Biden is scheduled to announce on Tuesday that he's shifting the deadline for states to make all U.S. adults eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine to April 19.
Biden originally called on states to open up eligibility for all adults by May 1, and many states have already done so. Now the deadline is moving up by about two weeks.
Biden said last week that 90% of adults will be eligible to get a vaccine by April 19 and that they could receive one within five miles of their home under an expanded vaccination plan. All 50 states have announced when they plan to open vaccines to all adults, with 36 states already open to ages 16 and older, according to CBS News.
By April 19, 12 more states and the District of Columbia will open eligibility. The two remaining states — Hawaii and Oregon — were slated for May 1, and Biden's announcement may change their plans according to NBC News.
On Tuesday, Biden is scheduled to visit a vaccination site in Alexandria, Virginia, and give remarks about the state of U.S. vaccinations from the White House, CNN. reported. He's expected to speak about the 150 million doses that have been administered during his first 75 days in office, with the goal of reaching 200 million shots during his first 100 days.
The U.S. has distributed 207 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, and 107.5 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the latest CDC tally updated on Monday. About 62 million people have received two doses or are considered fully vaccinated, which is about 18.8% of the population, the CDC reported.
Cruise Association Unhappy with New CDC Guidance
April 5, 6:10 p.m.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new technical guidance on Monday that moves the cruise industry closer to being back in business.
While saying vaccination is important, the CDC recommends but does not require that passengers, ship crews, and port personnel get vaccinated soon as possible.
“Cruise lines must have measures in place to ensure those involved in transport are not exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 and follow all CDC requirements to prevent interaction of disembarking crew with the public,” the CDC said. “Additionally, CDC recommends that all eligible port personnel and travelers (passengers and crew) get a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available to them.”
The CDC calls for daily instead of weekly reporting of COVID cases, implementing routine testing of crew members, and setting up simulated voyages so new protocols can be practiced, Cruise lines must set up relationships with medical facilities in ports in case passengers become sick.
No timetable was listed. The guidance is an update of an October “conditional sailing order,” or CSO.
The New York Times reported that Norwegian Cruise Line went a step further on Monday and submitted a letter to the CDC saying it wants to resume cruises from U.S. ports in July and will require passengers and crew to be vaccinated.
An industry organization, Cruise Lines International Association, on Monday said the updated CSO was “disappointing.”
“The new requirements are unduly burdensome, largely unworkable, and seem to reflect a zero-risk objective rather than the mitigation approach to COVID that is the basis for every other US sector of our society,” the CLIA said in a statement.
Saying the rules will keep tens of thousands of people out of work, the CLIA urged the Biden administration “to consider the ample evidence that supports lifting the CTO this month to allow for the planning of a controlled return to service this summer.”
Walgreens Hasn't Been Spacing Pfizer Doses 21 Days Apart
April 5, 5:25 p.m.
The Walgreens pharmacy chain has not been following government guidelines on timing between the first and second doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, the New York Times reported.
The Pfizer shots should be spaced 21 days apart, but Walgreens has been scheduling the second dose for 28 days later, the Times said.
Twenty-eight days is the time recommended between doses of the Moderna vaccine, which Walgreens also administers.
Kevin Ban, MD, Walgreens' chief medical officer, told the Times that using the 28-day wait time was “the easiest way to stand up the process based on our capabilities at the time.”
The CDC asked Walgreens to start using the 21-day wait period, said Kate Grusich, a CDC spokeswoman.
Ban said the pharmacy chain will start using the recommended spacing on the Pfizer shots soon, perhaps as soon as the end of the week.
The CDC says waiting more than 21 days between the Pfizer shots will not wreck the vaccine's effectiveness.
"If it is not feasible to adhere to the recommended interval and a delay in vaccination is unavoidable, the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be administered up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose," the CDC website says. "Currently, only limited data are available on efficacy of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines administered beyond this window."
Health officials have debated whether it's a good idea to wait even longer to give the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines so that a greater number of people can have at least one dose.
Kent Sepkowitz, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Memorial Sloan Kettering, told CNN on Monday that the decision to delay a second dose may come down to available supply.
"If the stockpile is running low, then yeah, I think we ought to optimize 'pretty good' vaccination for more people than 'super-duper' protection for fewer," Sepkowitz said.
If there's no shortage, he recommended staying with the two-dose regimen.
California Reports First Case of Double Mutation Variant From India
April 5, 10:43 a.m. ET.
Researchers at Stanford University have identified a case of a new coronavirus variant with two mutations, which was first detected in India last month. The variant was found in a patient in the San Francisco Bay Area, university officials announced on Saturday.
“We believe this is the first described case with this variant in the United States,” Lisa Kim, a spokeswoman for Stanford Health Care, told NBC News in a statement.
The variant has two mutations in the spike protein of the coronavirus that allows it to attach to cells. Indian health officials first detected the variant last month. The “double mutation” could be of concern if the variant is more transmissible or deadly, but health officials have not yet called it a “variant of concern.”
“There is no definite evidence that this double variant is more virulent or causes more severe disease,” Dean Winslow, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Stanford University, told NBC Bay Area.
So far, the CDC has focused on three variants of concern -- B.1.1.7 first identified in the UK, B.1.351 first identified in South Africa, and P.1 first identified in Brazil. The U.S. has reported more than 12,500 B.1.1.7 cases in 51 states and territories, according to the latest CDC tally updated on April 1. The CDC has also reported 323 B.1.351 cases and 224 P.1 cases.
Health officials are watching the new variant in India. COVID-19 cases decreased across the country from September through the winter but surged again in February, according to The Associated Press. By the end of March, record highs were being reported in cases and deaths again.
On Monday, India recorded its highest tally of the pandemic with more than 103,000 new cases in one day, according to The New York Times. More than half of the cases were in the state of Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai, where officials ordered shops, movie theaters, markets, and restaurants to close except for essential services.
Public health officials are encouraging people to get vaccinated to protect against COVID-19 variants. The U.S. has shipped 207 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and more than 106 million people have received at least one dose, according to the latest CDC tally updated on Sunday. More than 61 million people, or 18.5% of the population, are considered fully vaccinated.
Researchers believe the three vaccines authorized in the U.S. should provide some protection against the variant with two mutations.
“Most people will mount an immune response,” Winslow said. “Maybe it will not protect against an all-out infection, but at least it will protect against moderate or severe disease.”
U.S. Government Directs Johnson & Johnson to Run Vaccine Plant
April 4, 12:10 p.m.
Federal health officials on Saturday put Johnson & Johnson in charge of a vaccine manufacturing plant in Baltimore that contaminated 15 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and ordered the plant to stop making AstraZeneca doses, according to The New York Times.
The move came days after federal health officials discovered that the plant mixed up ingredients from the two vaccine companies. Emergent BioSolutions, a contract manufacturer, had been making both the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines at the plant.
The Department of Health and Human Services directed Johnson & Johnson to place new leadership at the plant to oversee production and manufacturing, the newspaper reported.
“Johnson & Johnson is assuming full responsibility regarding the manufacturing of drug substance for its COVID-19 vaccine at the Emergent BioSolutions Inc. Bayview facility,” the vaccine company wrote in a statement on Saturday.
“Specifically, [Johnson & Johnson] is adding dedicated leaders for operations and quality, and significantly increasing the number of manufacturing, quality and technical operations personnel,” the company wrote.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has received FDA authorization in the U.S., but the AstraZeneca vaccine hasn't. The 15 million contaminated Johnson & Johnson doses weren't released for distribution, The New York Times reported, and officials are now evaluating whether other batches were contaminated. In addition, AstraZeneca will find a new site to manufacture its vaccine, the newspaper reported.
Emergent's coronavirus vaccine production line hasn't yet been certified by the FDA, so vaccines made there can't be distributed yet, according to The Washington Post. The doses made at the plant have been set aside while the FDA reviews the plant.
The FDA “takes its responsibility for helping to ensure the quality of manufacturing of vaccines and other medical products for use during this pandemic very seriously,” Janet Woodcock, MD, the acting FDA commissioner, told the newspaper in a statement on Saturday.
At the same time, Woodcock said the ultimate responsibility falls to Johnson & Johnson to ensure quality control.
“It is important to note that even when companies use contract manufacturing organizations, it is ultimately the responsibility of the company that holds the emergency use authorization to ensure that the quality standards of the FDA are met,” she said.
California to Allow Indoor Concerts, Sporting Events
April 3, 1:40 p.m.
With case counts falling and vaccination rates climbing, California plans to loosen restrictions to allow people to attend indoor concerts, theater productions, and sporting events in almost all the counties in the state.
The change takes effect April 15 and would still restrict seating capacity depending on where a county falls in the state's four-level risk designation: purple for widespread COVID risk, red for substantial risk, orange for moderate risk, and yellow for minimal risk, according to a news release from the California Department of Public Health.
Big population centers like San Francisco, Santa Clara County and Los Angeles County are in the orange tier, the Associated Press reported. Only three counties -- San Joaquin, Merced, and Inyo -- are still in the most-restrictive purple tier.
Ben Bleiman, chairman of the California Music and Culture Association, told AP that venues will accept the crowd restrictions, though they need full capacity to ultimately survive.
“On the one side you have the thrill and the joy of reopening,” he said, noting that on the other hand “there's some dread that something's going to go wrong.”
At live performance venues with a capacity of 1,500 or less, red counties can allow 10% or 100 people, orange counties can allow 15% or 200 people, and yellow counties can allow 25% or 300 people. Capacity can increase if all guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination. Indoor performances are not allowed in purple counties.
At live performance venues of 1,501 and more, red counties must require testing or proof of vaccination and capacity is capped at 20%. Capacity is limited to 10% or 2,000 people in orange counties and 10% or 2,000 people in yellow counties. Capacity at larger venues in orange and yellow counties can increase to 35% and 50%, respectively, if attendees are tested or show proof of full vaccination.
Advance ticket purchases are required and the events are limited to state residents. Social distancing and other safety measures are required.
Similar restrictions will be placed on private events or meetings such as conferences or receptions.
"Today's update to the Blueprint for a Safer Economy is a result of the progress we are making both in vaccinations and in controlling the spread of COVID-19," said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency. "By following public health guidelines such as wearing masks and getting vaccinated when eligible, we can resume additional activities as we take steps to reduce risk."
California, the most populous state, has been hit hard by the COVID pandemic. As of April 1, there have been 3.5 million confirmed cases and more than 58,000 COVID-related deaths, according to the state Department of Public Health. Those are the most in the nation in those categories.
But the COVID-19 statistics are rapidly improving. More than 18 million doses of vaccine have been administered and 6.5 million people are fully vaccinated.
As of March 29, the state COVID-19 dashboard recorded a 7-day average case rate of 4.4 per 100,000 people, down from 112.6 on Jan 8. No deaths were reported on April 1, compared to 771 on Dec. 23. There were about 2,500 hospitalized COVID-19 patients on April 1, down from more than 21,000 in mid-January.
MLB Postpones Mets-Nationals Series After Nationals COVID-19 Outbreak
April 2, 5:15 p.m .
Major League Baseball announced Friday afternoon that the New York Mets-Washington Nationals three-game weekend series has been postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak.
The decision came a day after the MLB pushed back the Mets-Nationals season-opening game on Thursday after multiple Nationals team members tested positive this week. The league said Friday that it needed more time for follow-up testing and contact tracing.
“We're moving forward in the most safe and professional way that we can,” Mike Rizzo, the general manager for the Nationals, said Friday in a video call with reporters.
“Our No. 1 priority is the safety of our players, their families, our staff and the fans,” he said.
The Mets will play their first game of the season on Monday in Philadelphia, according to The New York Times, and the Nationals are scheduled to host the Atlanta Braves on Monday if their players test negative and are cleared to play.
Nine players, including the positive cases, and one staff member are in quarantine. The players who tested positive can't return until at least 10 days after their positive tests, and those in close contact can't return for seven days. The nine players in quarantine would be replaced with alternate-site players if the Nationals play on Monday.
MLB officials said Friday that the league had conducted more than 14,000 tests during the past week, the newspaper reported. Three Nationals players and a staff member not associated with the Nationals tested positive through Thursday, and then a fourth Nationals player tested positive on Friday.
Since the beginning of spring training, the MLB has conducted nearly 93,000 tests and found 38 positives, including 28 players and 10 staff members.
The Mets-Nationals series will be made up throughout the rest of the season, according to ESPN. On Friday, Rizzo said he hopes the Nationals will receive clearance from the MLB to hold segmented, socially-distant workouts on Saturday.
“To me, it's a safety issue and we've got to get these guys' blood flowing,” he added. “We've got to get them moving around so they don't go into the season going from zero to 100 mph without preparation for the last couple of days.”
FDA Authorizes Fuller Vials for Moderna's COVID-19 Vaccine
April 2, 4:45 p.m.
The FDA authorized Moderna to add more coronavirus vaccine doses into its vials on Thursday, bumping the range up to between 11 - 15 doses that can be extracted.
The FDA approved new vials from Moderna that can contain up to 15 doses, and the agency said the current 10-dose vials can safely extract up to 11 doses.
“Ultimately, more vaccines getting to the public in a timely manner should help bring an end to the pandemic more rapidly,” Peter Marks, MD, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.
The move is anticipated to further increase U.S. vaccine supply in the coming weeks and could speed up Moderna's delivery timeline, according to The New York Times. Moderna has pledged to deliver 200 million doses by the end of May and 300 million by the end of July.
In anticipation of the FDA's approval, Moderna had already begun producing vials with more doses, the newspaper reported. The FDA told the company six weeks ago that it was in favor of increasing the number of doses. Moderna will begin shipping the 15-dose vials in the coming weeks, the company said in a statement on Thursday.
“We are committed to constantly learning and improving to facilitate easier administration of our COVID-19 vaccine for medical staff and accelerate immunization programs,” Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of Moderna, said in the statement.
The FDA evaluated data from Moderna that showed how many doses could be safely extracted from the different vials and updated its fact sheet for health care providers to help frontline workers understand how many doses they can extract based on the type vial used.
Biden Administration Launches Vaccination Ad Campaign
April 2, 11:32 a.m.
The Biden Administration kicked off an advertising and public education campaign Thursday to encourage more Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Called “We Can Do This,” the campaign includes creating a large “community corps” of local leaders and public figures to speak out in favor of vaccination, using social media postings to spread the word, and airing advertisements aimed at communities that are lagging in vaccinations.
Vice President Kamala Harris and Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy introduced some of the local leaders Thursday during a virtual kickoff event.
“You are the people that folks on the ground know and rely on and have a history with,” Harris said at the kickoff, according to The Washington Post. “And when people are then making a decision to get vaccinated, they're going to look to you.”
The Community Corps includes more than 275 organizations ranging from the American Medical Association to the National Football League, faith leaders, and individuals such NFL players Orlando Pace and Chester Pitts, comedian George Lopez, political commentator Ana Navaro, and retired figure skater Michelle Kwan.
“Research shows that, when making the decision to get vaccinated, people want to hear from people they trust, such as medical professionals, their own family and friends, and leaders in the community,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a news release.
“The Community Corps was created to provide those trusted messengers with consistent and accurate information about COVID-19 to empower as many Americans as possible to become messengers to share the importance of vaccination in their community.”
The Biden Administration announced last week nearly $10 billion would be spent to increase vaccine access and “vaccine confidence” through the media and personal outreach, but didn't offer any details.
The first television ads aired on Thursday and will run through April, HHS said.
Besides buying ad time on cable and national broadcast networks, HHS has made “multi-million dollar ad buys” in Black and Spanish-language media and outlets aimed at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and Tribal populations, the agency said.
Sarah Palin Tests Positive, Urges People to Wear Masks
April 1, 5:20 p.m.
Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate, has tested positive for the coronavirus and strongly urges others to follow safety measures, such as wearing face masks.
In a statement reported by People, the 57-year-old mother of five said one of her daughters woke up recently without a sense of smell or taste, had a positive test, and quarantined in isolation.
"I then observed symptoms in my son Trig, who curiously is the most enthusiastic mask-wearer, and after our numerous negative tests over the year, he tested positive," Palin said.
"Children with special needs are vulnerable to COVID ramifications [Trig was born with Down syndrome], so with a high fever he was prescribed azithromycin, which really seemed to help, and I increased amounts of vitamins I put in his puréed food."
She and Trig, 12, isolated together and overnight she developed symptoms such as muscle soreness and loss of smell and taste.
"That day I finally tested positive — like millions of other Americans," she told People.
She was not specific about when she took the test. Palin encouraged others to take the coronavirus seriously.
"I strongly encourage everyone to use common sense to avoid spreading this and every other virus out there," Palin said.
"There are more viruses than there are stars in the sky, meaning we'll never avoid every source of illness or danger ... But please be vigilant, don't be frightened, and I advise reprioritizing some personal time and resources to ensure as healthy a lifestyle as you can create so when viruses do hit, you have at least some armor to fight it."
Biden Criticizes Texas Rangers' Plan to Fill Stadium Seats
April 1, 4:55 p.m.
Baseball season began Thursday, and the Texas Rangers are the only Major League Baseball Team aiming for 100% capacity in its home opener.
President Joe Biden is no fan of that idea.
"Well, that's a decision they made. I think it's a mistake," Biden said in an interview with ESPN. "They should listen to Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, the scientists, and the experts.”
The Rangers can have 100% capacity at the team's home opener on Thursday because of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to reopen the state with no COVID-19 restrictions.
Globe Life Field in Arlington can hold about 40,000 fans. Team officials say safety measures such as mask wearing will be enforced at the stadium for all games, though Abbott lifted the statewide mask mandate.
After opening day, seating will be reduced. Distanced seating will be offered in some sections of the stadium through April and May, the team said on its website.
“We're not going to have the social distance seats available for Opening Day because we made a commitment to everybody [season ticket holders] that they could hold tickets if we would allow them for the proper Opening Day,” said Joe Januszewski, the Rangers' executive vice president and chief revenue and marketing officer. “We're going to honor that, so in order to do that, obviously we would be at a full capacity.”
The Rangers' plan to unveil Globe Life Field for the 2020 season was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. The 2020 National League Championship Series and the World Series were played at Globe Life Field with limited attendance last fall.
No other MLB team is shooting for 100% capacity at any game yet.
CBS Sports reported every team's seating plans and noted that many teams will allow 20% to 25% attendance. Another Texas team, the Houston Astros, will allow 25% capacity -- about 10,300 fans -- at Minute Maid Park, CBS Sports said.
The coronavirus has already caused one postponement. The Washington Nationals' opening day game against the New York Mets on Thursday night was postponed because of COVID-19 issues, Major League Baseball announced.
In the ESPN interview, Biden also encouraged all MLB players to get vaccinated.
“I would say I'm President of the United States and I got vaccinated. I don't have an unimportant job. Would I take the vaccine if I thought it was going to hurt me?” Biden said.
How many people have been diagnosed with the virus, and how many have died?
According to Johns Hopkins University , there are more than 135.5 million cases and more than 2.93 million deaths worldwide.
How many cases of COVID-19 are in the United States?
There are more than 31.15 million cases in the U.S. of COVID-19, and more than 561,800 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University .