The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Jessie Yeung, Kara Fox, Kareem Khadder, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT) March 2, 2021
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2:27 p.m. ET, March 1, 2021

Nearly 77 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in US, according to CDC data

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

A person receives a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in Inglewood, California, on February 26.
A person receives a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in Inglewood, California, on February 26. Eric Thayer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Nearly 77 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States, according to data published Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The CDC reported that 76,899,987 total doses have been administered – about 80% of the 96,402,490 doses delivered.

That’s about 1.7 million more administered doses reported since yesterday, for a seven-day average of more than 1.8 million doses per day.

More than 15% of the population – about 50.7 million people – have now received at least one dose of vaccine. Nearly 8% of the population – nearly 25.5 million people – have been fully vaccinated with both shots, CDC data shows.

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

2:05 p.m. ET, March 1, 2021

Senate Democratic leaders want members to hold firm against "lethal" GOP amendments on Covid relief bill

From CNN's Manu Raju and Ted Barrett

 Al Drago/Getty Images
Al Drago/Getty Images

Senate Democratic leaders are urging their caucus to stick together and fend off GOP amendments that could alter key elements of the $1.9 trillion relief plan when it heads to the floor later this week, a plea aimed at keeping together a fragile Democratic coalition in order to send the bill to President Biden's desk by mid-March.

Senators are walking into a legislative minefield later this week since the relief bill is being considered under budget reconciliation rules that allow a free-flowing amendment process, meaning senators can force votes on as many amendments as they like. That means if two Democrats break ranks, they could amend the bill with the backing of 49 Republicans.

But Democratic leaders want their caucus to hold the line against amendments that could alter the core of the bill and ultimately derail the chances of getting the sweeping measure out of both chambers by March 14 — when jobless benefits are set to expire for millions of Americans.

Asked if he wanted his caucus to hold the line against GOP amendments, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told CNN: "Certainly [against] any amendments that we think will be disruptive of the reconciliation process — maybe more."

Durbin added of the GOP amendments: "There are some that could be lethal. So we have to take it very seriously.”

It's unclear which amendments could peel away Democratic support, but party leaders and the White House have their eyes in particular on a handful of their more centrist members, including Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Angus King of Maine.

Whether there could be some changes around the margins of the bill remain to be seen. And already the Senate is poised to make one major change: Scrapping the $15 federal minimum wage included in the House-passed bill since it was ruled by the Senate's parliamentarian as outside the scope of the chamber's rules of budget reconciliation.

Some House liberals want the presiding officer of the Senate, potentially Vice President Kamala Harris, to simply ignore the parliamentarian's ruling and keep the minimum wage in the bill.

But Durbin threw cold water on that idea, which is also opposed by a number of senators in both parties and by the White House.

"I don't think that's going to work," Durbin said. "I hope we think very seriously about dealing with the minimum wage in a different venue."

Yet pursuing the wage hike outside of budget reconciliation would require 60 votes to overcome a GOP filibuster, something highly unlikely to succeed.

Given the divisions within the Senate Democratic Caucus over the $15 hourly wage mandate, Durbin conceded that the parliamentarian's decision made passage of the overall bill "less complicating," while calling the ruling "disappointing."

1:22 p.m. ET, March 1, 2021

White House says Biden is not considering sharing Covid-19 vaccine supply with Mexico

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that President Joe Biden is not considering sharing part of the US coronavirus vaccine supply with Mexico.

On Sunday, CNN reported that Obrador was expected to ask Biden to share some of the US Covid-19 vaccine supply, according to a Mexican government official briefed on plans for the conversation. 

Ahead of a virtual bilateral meeting between Biden and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador Monday afternoon, Psaki was asked whether Biden is considering sharing part of the supply with the country. 

“No,” Psaki responded during a press briefing. “The President has made clear that he is focused on ensuring that vaccines are accessible to every American. That is our focus.”

The press secretary said the Biden administration is focused on economic recovery and ensuring that Mexico and Canada are safe enough to open their borders to the US.

“(T)he administration's focus is on ensuring that every American is vaccinated. And once we accomplish that objective, we're happy to discuss further steps beyond that,” Psaki added.

1:16 p.m. ET, March 1, 2021

Go There: CNN answers your vaccine questions as Johnson & Johnson's single-dose shot rolls out

Johnson & Johnson's single-dose coronavirus vaccine is now the third Covid-19 shot approved for use in the US, with some 3.9 million doses to be distributed as early as Tuesday.

CNN's Pete Muntean was live at a UPS facility in Kentucky as the new vaccine rolls out, answering your questions.

Watch more:

1:12 p.m. ET, March 1, 2021

Biden will meet virtually with Democratic senators today to pitch his Covid-19 relief bill

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Biden arrives at the Roosevelt Room of the White House to address the nation about the Covid relief bill on February 27.
President Biden arrives at the Roosevelt Room of the White House to address the nation about the Covid relief bill on February 27. Samuel Corum/Pool/Getty Images

President Joe Biden continues to engage with the Senate amid this week’s efforts to pass his top legislative priority, a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill. The clock is ticking to get the bill passed and signed into law before unemployment insurance expires for millions of Americans on March 14.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday the White House is “evaluating day by day what the needs are” for Biden’s engagement with Democrats, as well as Republican senators that could be persuaded to vote for the package. 

Biden will be meeting via Zoom “with a number of Democratic senators this afternoon,” she said.

“We’ve reserved time in his schedule to ensure that he can be engaged, roll up his sleeves and be personally involved in making calls, having more Zoom meetings, potentially having people across the Oval Office to get this across the finish line,” she said, adding that she expected Biden “to be very involved personally.”

Her comments come after White House director of public engagement Cedric Richmond told Axios on HBO that he is still meeting with Republicans and said that “possibly, maybe even probably,” a Republican will vote for it.  

Psaki also said Monday that the White House does not intend to challenge a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian that will not allow the $15 minimum wage provision to be in the Senate version of the bill. 

A decision for Vice President Kamala Harris to override the parliamentarian’s ruling would “also require 50 votes,” and is “not an action we intend to take,” she said.

Psaki reiterated Biden’s campaign promise to raising the minimum wage and suggested they will be looking for the “best vehicle” to do so. 

 

12:51 p.m. ET, March 1, 2021

First truck carrying Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrives at UPS shipping facility

From CNN's Pete Muntean and Greg Wallace 

The first UPS truck carrying the Johnson & Johnson vaccine just arrived at the carrier’s Worldport hub in Louisville, Kentucky. The company says deliveries will start Tuesday for the eastern half of the country.

More trucks carrying the vaccine are expected to arrive at the facility throughout the day Monday.

UPS says two people will unload vaccine shipments by hand onto more than 150 miles of conveyer belt where machines will sort vaccine packages in 13 minutes time. Packages will then be loaded onto UPS cargo planes along with regular, everyday packages— even though vaccine shipments are getting priority over other packages.  

UPS head of healthcare Wes Wheeler told CNN in an interview that the network has plenty of capacity to carry the new vaccine. The company has already shipped tens of millions of Pfizer and Moderna doses. 

“The pressure was really high in December heading into peak season, of course. We had much more volume than we normally have,” Wheeler said. “But now we’re in a steady state, and adding another vaccine really is not a big problem for us. We have plenty of capacity, and we know exactly how to handle the data.” 

Some more context: The White House said Monday 3.9 million doses are going out in this initial wave of shipments. Johnson & Johnson said Monday the goal is to distribute 20 million doses of the vaccine by the end of this month.

12:31 p.m. ET, March 1, 2021

Distribution of Johnson and Johnson vaccine "should be even across communities," White House says 

From CNN's DJ Judd

Boxes containing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are loaded into a truck in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, on March 1.
Boxes containing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are loaded into a truck in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, on March 1. Timothy D. Easley/Pool/Getty Images

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who chairs the White House coronavirus equity task force, told CNN Monday that while there are benefits to the newly approved Johnson & Johnson single-dose Covid-19 vaccine that make it appealing for treating marginalized and hard-to-reach communities, “overall, you know, we do think that the distribution again should be even across communities.”

Over the weekend, the CDC’s Dr. Sara Oliver told the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices that a single-dose vaccine has an advantage, particularly in settings where a second dose “would be challenging,” and could be used to help protect the homeless, people in the justice system, and those with limited access to health care like people who are homebound or live in rural areas.

Still, to ensure that the vaccine is spread across all communities, Dr. Nunez-Smith told CNN, "we will be tracking biometrics such as zip code and social mobility to see where vaccines are going.”

Should it arise that any one vaccine is being deployed in a disproportionate manner to one community over another, Nunez-Smith said, “we’re here provide support and technical assistance to pivot and intervene and correct if and when needed.”

12:07 p.m. ET, March 1, 2021

White House says scheduling a vaccine appointment "remains too difficult in too many places"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

The White House holds a Covid-19 press briefing on Monday, March 1.
The White House holds a Covid-19 press briefing on Monday, March 1. The White House

The White House expressed concern Monday amid ongoing issues facing many Americans who are now eligible for Covid-19 vaccines but still struggling to set up vaccination appointments, suggesting the federal government may step in to provide support to states.

“Scheduling an appointment is too difficult – remains too difficult – in too many places,” White House Covid response team coordinator Jeff Zients said during Monday’s virtual Covid briefing.

He said that “things have gotten better” in some states and localities, suggesting, “The pharmacy systems are often better at scheduling appointments."

“But overall, too many Americans are suffering frustration, taking up way too much time to schedule an appointment,” Zients said.

Despite the increase in vaccine supply and vaccination sites, Zients said the administration is looking to help states improve their website capacities, as well as “lower tech solutions that the federal government might be able to provide,” including call centers and people who can help navigate the system.

As of now, Zients acknowledged, “Scheduling remains, for far too many people, too frustrating, and we need to make it better.”

WATCH:

12:48 p.m. ET, March 1, 2021

31 states plus DC are now allowing teachers to get Covid-19 vaccines

Compiled by CNN's Yon Pomrenze, Evan Simko-Bednarski and Elizabeth Stuart

Three more states have started allowing all or some teachers and school staff to receive the Covid-19 vaccine starting today, bringing the total to 31 states plus Washington, DC.

The additional states are Louisiana, Mississippi and Connecticut. Though some states have announced they are prioritizing teachers, vaccine availability remains a concern across the country. Several other states have announced they will open up vaccination appointments to educators later this month.

There are 19 states where teachers are still not eligible to receive the vaccine as a specific group — although some educators might fall into the current age group that state is vaccinating.

Here are the states where all or some teachers are eligible:

  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arizona
  4. Arkansas
  5. California
  6. Colorado
  7. Connecticut
  8. Delaware
  9. Hawaii
  10. Idaho
  11. Illinois
  12. Iowa
  13. Kansas
  14. Kentucky
  15. Louisiana
  16. Maryland
  17. Michigan
  18. Minnesota
  19. Mississippi
  20. Nebraska
  21. Nevada
  22. New York
  23. North Dakota
  24. Ohio
  25. Oregon
  26. Pennsylvania
  27. Tennessee
  28. Utah
  29. Virginia
  30. West Virginia
  31. Wyoming
  32. Washington, DC

Here are the states where teachers are not yet eligible:

  1. Florida
  2. Georgia
  3. Indiana
  4. Maine
  5. Massachusetts
  6. Missouri
  7. Montana
  8. New Hampshire
  9. New Jersey
  10. New Mexico
  11. North Carolina
  12. Oklahoma
  13. Rhode Island
  14. South Carolina
  15. South Dakota
  16. Texas
  17. Vermont
  18. Washington
  19. Wisconsin