March 3 coronavirus news

By Zamira Rahim, Kareem Khadder, Hannah Strange and Jessie Yeung, CNN

Updated 0717 GMT (1517 HKT) March 4, 2021
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5:28 p.m. ET, March 3, 2021

Michigan will expand Covid-19 vaccine eligibility to people age 50 and older

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Michigan is expanding Covid-19 vaccine eligibility to people age 50 and older with medical conditions or disabilities and caregiver family members and guardians who care for children with special health care needs starting Monday, according to a release from the state.

Starting March 22, vaccine eligibility will then expand even further to include all individuals age 50 and older, the release said.

According to the state, this follows President Biden’s announcement that ramped-up Covid-19 vaccine production will provide enough doses for 300 million Americans to be vaccinated by the end of May.

“The more people we can get the safe and effective vaccine, the faster we can return to a sense of normalcy,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. “I urge all eligible Michiganders to get one of the three COVID-19 vaccines to protect you, your family and your community. We’ve already administered over 2.3 million doses to Michiganders of all races and backgrounds, and yesterday’s announcement that our national supply will be enough to protect all Americans by the end of May is incredible news.”
5:03 p.m. ET, March 3, 2021

New Mexico health officials urge residents not to follow Texas' lead in loosening Covid-19 restrictions

From CNN's Anjali Huynh

Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase
Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase New Mexico Department of Health

New Mexico health officials urged residents not to follow neighboring state Texas’ lead in loosening Covid-19 restrictions during an update today. These warnings come as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced yesterday that the state would remove its statewide mask mandate.

“Please, please don't take your lead from another state,” Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase said during the briefing. 

“We know that masks, social distancing six feet apart, staying home whenever possible, keeping your hands clean, we know all of these things work. We do not believe, and we repeat, we do not believe this is the time to back off on any of those restraints,” Scrase said.

Officials have not implemented travel quarantine restrictions on Texas or other states, but Scrase said they would “certainly consider revisiting” the possibility of implementing one should case numbers worsen in neighboring states like Texas. 

While New Mexico received 17,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week, officials said in a briefing today that the state will not receive more doses of this vaccine during the next few weeks. Health Secretary Tracie Collins credited the delay to the company working on production, saying that the state expects to get an updated number of incoming Johnson & Johnson vaccines at the end of March. 

More than 609,000 Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in New Mexico, officials said. Twenty-three percent of residents have received their first vaccine dose and 13% are fully vaccinated.

4:39 p.m. ET, March 3, 2021

Pandemic control measures must continue, leading infectious disease group says

From CNN's Ryan Prior

The use of masks, social distancing, hand washing and avoidance of large gatherings must continue in the US to control the spread of Covid-19, according to a statement from the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

"All of these measures together will bring us closer to ending the pandemic," said Dr. Barbara Alexander, the president of ISDA, in the statement. "Abandoning them now will postpone the day we can put Covid-19 behind us."

Although case counts have decreased in recent weeks, only about 10% of Americans have been vaccinated, and new emerging variants have shown themselves to be more transmissible versions of the novel coronavirus.

"We can't forget the lessons this pandemic has taught us, or its terrible toll, and we must not relinquish the ground we've gained," Alexander said.

The organization called on leaders and policymakers to contribute to the likelihood of success defeating the virus by "following public health guidance and providing appropriate resources."

4:44 p.m. ET, March 3, 2021

Louisiana health official calls decision on masks in Texas and Mississippi "dangerous and self-defeating"

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch

Louisiana's state health officer, Dr. Joseph Kanter, tweeted that lifting mask mandates in neighboring states of Mississippi and Texas is dangerous.

“Don’t be fooled,” Kanter tweeted, replying to local news article on the lifting of the mandates, “This is a dangerous and self-defeating move.”

In his tweet, Kanter went on to say, “If you spend time in TX or MS, avoid indoor spaces with maskless patrons. Not worth the risk.”

Some more context: On Wednesday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the state would move into a modified phase 3 reopening plan; but the statewide mask mandate would remain in effect.

4:28 p.m. ET, March 3, 2021

Head of Gavi vaccine alliance says it's delivered 10 million doses to 14 countries

From CNN's Pamela Boykoff

Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO of vaccine alliance Gavi
Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO of vaccine alliance Gavi CNN

Dr. Seth Berkleythe CEO of vaccine alliance Gavi, said 10 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have now been delivered to 14 countries as part of the COVAX initiative, with at least 10 million more expected to be delivered in the next week. 

“Yes, not enough doses and not as quick as we would like it. It took us 83 days from the first jab in UK to the first jab in Africa, but now we're off to try to get as much of this out as we can,” he told CNN’s Richard Quest. 

COVAX is a program coordinated by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organization. Their goal is to promote fair and equitable access to vaccines around the world.

Berkley said he was happy to see President Biden’s effort to bring Johnson & Johnson and Merck together to produce vaccines and he wants to see more of it.

“That's the type of cooperation we need to have with every company anywhere in the world who has the ability to do this production,” he said.

3:57 p.m. ET, March 3, 2021

Novavax experimental coronavirus vaccine 50% effective against variant in South Africa, study finds

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

A vial of the Phase 3 Novavax coronavirus vaccine is seen ready for use in the trial at St. George's University hospital in London Wednesday, October 7, 2020. 
A vial of the Phase 3 Novavax coronavirus vaccine is seen ready for use in the trial at St. George's University hospital in London Wednesday, October 7, 2020.  Alastair Grant/AP/FILE

A trial in South Africa of an experimental coronavirus vaccine made by US vaccine maker Novavax shows the vaccine is about 50% effective against a variant that’s now the dominant strain in that country. It also shows that the vaccine offers better protection from the new variant than antibodies from people previously infected with coronavirus.

The researchers say their findings, which had been shared previously in a statement from Novavax, show the importance of quick and widespread vaccination to prevent the worse spread of variants.

The team led by Tulio de Oliveira of the University of KwaZulu-Natal was conducting a mid-size, Phase 2 safety and efficacy trial of the vaccine in about 4,000 volunteers in South Africa when the B.1.351 variant was by far the most common circulating type of virus.

“The NVX-CoV2373 vaccine was efficacious in preventing Covid-19, which was predominantly mild to moderate and due to the B.1.351 variant, while evidence of prior infection with the presumptive original SARS-CoV-2 did not confer protection against probable B.1.351 disease,” they wrote in a preprint report. That report hasn’t been peer reviewed but it has been posted online.

“Among 94% of participants without HIV, vaccine efficacy was 60.1%. The study was not powered to detect efficacy in the small population of people living with HIV,” they wrote. Overall efficacy in preventing symptomatic infection was about 50%. 

About 30% of the volunteers had evidence of a previous coronavirus infection when they enrolled. When these volunteers got placebo shots, they were just as likely to catch coronavirus as those who got real vaccine, the researchers reported. That’s evidence that previous infection with a different variant provides little protection against B.1.351. 

“This finding has significant public health implications for pandemic modeling, control strategies, and vaccine development and deployment efforts,” the team wrote in the preprint posted Wednesday.

But the vaccine did provide protection against the new variant – although much lower than the 89% efficacy shown in a more advanced, Phase 3 trial in the UK.

Novavax plans to apply for US Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine sometime in the second quarter of this year. It’s testing 30,000 volunteers in the US and Mexico for that application.

The company has said it is already working on booster shots to help its vaccine protect against newly emerging variants of the coronavirus.

3:45 p.m. ET, March 3, 2021

Arizona governor orders schools to reopen to in-person learning by March 15

From CNN's Konstantin Toropin

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has issued an executive order that requires schools to offer in-person learning by March 15, according to a statement from the governor's office.

"More than half of Arizona’s schools are open and offering in-person options," Ducey said in his statement. "More schools need to follow their lead and pave the way for equitable education options for every Arizona student."

Ducey emphasized that the CDC and "numerous health officials have said time and time again that schools are safe and kids can go back to the classroom."  

The order mandates that schools return to in-person learning by March 15, or after Spring Break, according to the governor's statement.

The statement says a parent or guardian may choose to continue virtual learning for their child.

The order makes an exception for middle and high schools located in counties with “high” transmission of Covid-19, as defined by the CDC. The statement noted that this currently includes three Arizona counties: Coconino, Yavapai, and Pinal. 

"The CDC is clear that there is a safe pathway for all schools to open at any transmission level, and to stay open if they implement proper mitigation strategies," the governor noted. 

This announcement comes a day after nearby Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced he would be lifting the mask mandate and "opening Texas 100 percent."

3:40 p.m. ET, March 3, 2021

Texas school and childcare personnel now eligible to receive Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN’s Chris Boyette

The Texas Department of State Health Services said Wednesday that school and childcare workers would now be eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, following a directive from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

"Last night, DSHS received a letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services directing states to expand eligibility to include people who work in school and child care operations. The federal directive defined the people eligible as 'those who work in pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools, as well as Head Start and Early Head Start programs (including teachers, staff, and bus drivers) and those who work as or for licensed child care providers, including center-based and family care providers,'" Texas Department of State Health Services Said in a statement.

“Providers are encouraged to continue their efforts to vaccinate older adults since the burden of COVID-19 falls most severely on people age 65 and older,” the Texas statement continued.



3:22 p.m. ET, March 3, 2021

Go There: CNN answers viewers' questions about the rollback of Covid-19 restrictions in Texas

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced he is lifting the state's mask mandate and allowing businesses to open at 100% capacity beginning on March 10, despite health officials' warnings.

CNN correspondent Lucy Kafanov was live in Houston answering viewers' questions.