June 17 coronavirus news

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

Updated 2358 GMT (0758 HKT) June 17, 2021
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7:38 p.m. ET, June 17, 2021

Researchers present more evidence coronavirus vaccines protect against variants

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

There’s more evidence that at least some of the current coronavirus vaccines protect people against the ever-changing variants of coronavirus.

Tests done using the blood of both people who had recovered from Covid-19 and those who had been vaccinated with Moderna’s vaccine showed big differences in how the immune system responded to mutations in the virus, Dr. Allison Greaney of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington told a meeting of federal vaccine advisers.

“We know that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is evolving to evade antibody immunity,” Greaney told a meeting of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, which advises the US Health and Human Services Department. 

“What we found for the Moderna-1273 mRNA vaccine was that, overall, that antibody immunity elicited by this vaccine to be less affected by single mutations,” Greaney said.

The team, which is tracking viral mutations and their effects, made artificial versions of mutant virus and tested them against samples of blood. While some mutations caused a 30-fold loss of antibody effectiveness against the virus in the blood of people who had recovered from an infection, the loss of efficacy was far lower in the blood of people given two doses of Moderna vaccine, she said.

In some samples, there was no effect on the immunity – which suggested that the vaccine stimulates a broad immune response that covers the current mutations, she said.

“This suggests that the vaccine-elicited antibodies are much more broad and are less affected by single mutations,” Greaney told the meeting.

Federal officials have been urging Americans to get vaccinated quickly to stop the virus from circulating and acquiring the mutations that help it evade the immune system. Tests such as those done at the University of Washington lab support the idea that people who have been infected will be more vulnerable to catching variant versions of the virus than vaccinated people will be. 

6:54 p.m. ET, June 17, 2021

California ends mask requirements for fully vaccinated workers

From CNN's Sarah Moon

A masked server waits on a customer at Langer's Deli in Los Angeles, California on June 15.
A masked server waits on a customer at Langer's Deli in Los Angeles, California on June 15. Jill Connelly/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Fully vaccinated Californians won’t have to wear masks in the workplace after state regulators voted Thursday to end mask requirements and the governor immediately signed an executive order to allow the changes to quickly take effect.

The new rule adopted by the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), which passed 5-1, ended weeks of confusion and aligned workplace rules with the state Covid-19 guidelines, allowing fully vaccinated employees to be unmasked indoors. No face coverings will be required outdoors, regardless of vaccination status.

Cal/OSHA Deputy Chief Eric Berg explained in the board meeting that masks could still be required during outbreaks. In addition, N95 respirator masks must be provided upon request for employees who work indoors or with other people. 

While it is not required for employers to retain copies of vaccination cards, employers must document vaccination status. Self-attestation by employees will be allowed.

Physical distancing requirements were also eliminated under the new rule.

Just moments after Cal/OSHA voted to adopt the revised Covid-19 standards, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order so the rules could take effect more quickly than the standard 10-day review period.

“Cal/OSHA’s revisions align with the latest guidance from the California Department of Public Health – based on guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – on face coverings and eliminate physical distancing requirements, except for certain employees during outbreaks,” Newsom’s office said in a statement. 

 

5:46 p.m. ET, June 17, 2021

CDC vaccine advisers reschedule Covid vaccine meeting because of Juneteenth holiday

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

A meeting of vaccine advisers to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was scheduled for Friday has been rescheduled because of the Juneteenth holiday.

President Biden signed a bill into law Thursday establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day and a federal holiday. Because that’s Saturday this year, the holiday falls on Friday. 

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices was scheduled to meet Friday to discuss two questions about Covid-19 vaccines – whether booster shots might be needed, and whether a rare heart inflammation called myocarditis, seen mostly in young men and boys, might be linked to some of the Covid-19 vaccines.

They’ll combine those discussions into another scheduled meeting later this month. 

“The June 18, 2021 COVID-19 meeting is being rescheduled due to the observation of the Juneteenth National Independence Day holiday. The discussion will be rescheduled to be included as part of the June 23-25 ACIP meeting,” the CDC said.

 

3:39 p.m. ET, June 17, 2021

Michigan governor says the state will open at full capacity on Tuesday

From CNN's Camille Furst

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during press conference at Troy Babes in Toyland in Troy, Michigan, on June 14.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during press conference at Troy Babes in Toyland in Troy, Michigan, on June 14. Rodney Coleman-Robinson/Detroit Free Press/USA Today Network

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday that the state will open at full capacity on Tuesday, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

The state will no longer set capacity limits or require masks in either indoor or outdoor settings.

Whitmer said "today is a day we've all been looking forward to, as we can safely get back to normal day-to-day activities and put this pandemic behind us."

The announcement comes as Michigan reports that half of its residents have been fully vaccinated and more than 60% have received at least one shot, according to the state's Covid-19 vaccine dashboard.

Whitmer announced in the press release that some orders will remain in effect to "protect vulnerable populations in corrections, long-term care and agriculture."

"Our top priority going forward is utilizing the federal relief funding in a smart, sustainable way as we put Michigan back to work and jumpstart our economy," Whitmer said. "We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure that Michigan's families, small businesses and communities emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever before."
3:33 p.m. ET, June 17, 2021

Rhode Island will end indoor capacity restrictions beginning on June 18

From CNN’s Sahar Akbarzai 

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee speaks during a press conference on June 17.
Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee speaks during a press conference on June 17. WJAR

Beginning June 18, Rhode Island will loosen some Covid-19 restrictions, according to Gov. Dan McKee.

The capacity and restrictions on indoor settings such as night clubs, and saunas and whirlpools will be removed. The governor said he urges individuals who are not vaccinated to still wear their masks in indoor settings, while masks requirements for those fully vaccinated have already been removed in most indoor and outdoor settings. 

To encourage Covid-19 vaccination, the governor announced that Uber is partnering with United Way, a nonprofit organization in Rhode Island, to provide 10,000 free rides to vaccination sites across the state. 

By the numbers: There are 606,630 people fully vaccinated with the Covid-19 vaccine in Rhode Island, and 1,238,796 total doses of the vaccine have been administered so far, according to the state’s Covid-19 dashboard. 

2:46 p.m. ET, June 17, 2021

Ohio will end its Covid-19 emergency declaration tomorrow

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine will end the Covid-19 emergency declaration on Friday.

During a news conference Thursday, DeWine said the state had already “basically lifted almost all of the orders” implemented due to Covid-19 and now the state of emergency for Ohio will be lifted tomorrow.

DeWine said this doesn’t mean the pandemic is over, but his state is headed in the right direction.

“Hospitalizations are down, cases are down, positivity numbers are down,” he said. “But that is being driven by the people who are vaccinated. And the people who are not vaccinated still run a very, very significant risk.”

The governor also loosened restrictions on visitations to nursing homes and assisted living facilities. DeWine said the state will no longer dictate how visits to these centers are conducted.

“For example, you will no longer need to schedule visits,” he said. “Nor will there be a state requirement that you can only have two visitors at a time.” 

DeWine announced the fourth round of winners in the Vax-a-Million Covid-19 and scholarship lottery. Residents “still have the opportunity to register, still have the opportunity to get the shot,” before the fifth and final drawing next week, he said. 

2:39 p.m. ET, June 17, 2021

1 million doses of Moderna vaccine will arrive in Toronto this evening

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

One million doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine will arrive in Toronto, Canada, Thursday evening, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

The vaccine doses are part of the 80 million dose commitment announced by the administration in May, he said during a press briefing Thursday.

Earlier today, White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said the US would be increasing the number of Covid-19 vaccine shipments each week as it plans to distribute doses to other countries.

“The process to export the 80 million takes partnership and coordination with the receiving governments, but that’s well underway now. On Tuesday, doses landed in Mexico. Today, doses are landing Canada. And yes, importantly doses will be shipped to Brazil in the coming weeks,” he added. 

2:48 p.m. ET, June 17, 2021

White House expected to announce plan to distribute 55 million vaccines

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

White House
White House

White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said on Thursday that the federal government will announce a plan to distribute 55 million Covid-19 vaccines with other countries in the coming days, less than two weeks before the Biden administration’s self-imposed deadline to distribute the doses around the world. 

The White House had previously set its own deadline for distributing 80 million US vaccine doses globally by the end of June and announced where the initial 25 million would be allocated earlier this month

“We will be allocating the full 80 million, so remaining 55 million given that 25 million has already been allocated, in the coming days, with shipments coming out as soon as countries are ready to receive the doses. There are complex logistics here, coordinating with medical agencies in the host countries, regulatory bodies. Obviously, we want to make sure that when the doses arrive that the ancillary supplies are in place – the needles, the syringes, the alcohol pads – so that we can make sure that we get needles into arms right away,” Zients said. 

“There will be an increasing number of shipments each and every week as we ramp up these efforts. The process to export the 80 million takes partnership and coordination with the receiving governments, but that’s well underway now. On Tuesday, doses landed in Mexico. Today, doses are landing Canada. And yes, importantly doses will be shipped to Brazil in the coming weeks,” he added. 

2:13 p.m. ET, June 17, 2021

White House won't give direct answer about if country with meet July 4 vaccination goal

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

Rhode Island Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Griego works in a coronavirus mass-vaccination site at the former Citizens Bank headquarters in Cranston, Rhode Island, on June 10.
Rhode Island Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Griego works in a coronavirus mass-vaccination site at the former Citizens Bank headquarters in Cranston, Rhode Island, on June 10. David Goldman/AP

During a Covid-19 response team briefing on Thursday, White House senior adviser Jeff Zients would not directly answer a question as to whether the Biden administration expects to meet its goal of having 70% of American adults with at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine by July 4.

“I'll start by saying, you know, getting vaccinated is as important as it's ever been. Those who are vaccinated are protected. Those who are not are not protected. And the Delta variant just reminds us all that we need to not only get the first dose, but for those who only have one dose and they're on a two-dose regimen to complete their vaccination, as soon as possible,” Zients said. “We've made tremendous progress.”

More than 167 million American adults – 64.7% – have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In recent weeks, the number of people getting vaccinated has dropped significantly.

“We are going to get to 70%, and we're going to continue across the summer months to push beyond 70%, for the reasons that I just talked about,” Zients said. “You have to get vaccinated in order to be protected against Covid-19, the Delta variant and any other variants that might come down the road.”