The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Jessie Yeung and Brett McKeehan, CNN

Updated 0306 GMT (1106 HKT) March 6, 2021
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11:53 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

CDC director says guidance for people who have been vaccinated will be released "soon"

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Dr. Rochelle Walensky speaks during the White House Covid-19 briefing on March 5.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky speaks during the White House Covid-19 briefing on March 5. The White House

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the agency's guidance for people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 is still in the works and coming soon.

"These are complex issues and the science is rapidly evolving. CDC is working to ensure that the communication we release on this guidance are clear and that the American public can act on them," Walensky said during Friday's virtual White House briefing.

The guidance had been expected to release this week. 

"Our goal and what is most important is that people who have been vaccinated and those not yet vaccinated are able to understand the steps they can take to protect themselves and their loved ones," Walensky said. "We will be releasing this guidance soon."

11:47 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Arizona vaccinates more than 2 million people

From CNN's Konstantin Toropin

Motorists get vaccinated for Covid-19 at a drive-thru vaccination site in Glendale, Arizona, on January 12.
Motorists get vaccinated for Covid-19 at a drive-thru vaccination site in Glendale, Arizona, on January 12. Ross D. Frankli/AP

Arizona has administered more than two million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine as of this morning, according to a statement from the state's Department of Health Services. 

"As of this morning, 2,016,512 doses had been administered to 1,312,951 individuals, including 711,074 who have received both doses," the statement said.

As of the last census, Arizona had a population of 7.2 million people, making the 1.3 million vaccinated people about 18% of the state's population.

“This is certainly a milestone, but there is plenty of work ahead and millions more Arizonans in need of vaccination,” Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said in the statement. 

Almost a quarter of all the vaccine doses were given out at large, state-run sites around Phoenix and one in Tucson, the statement noted.

The announcement comes on the heels of Arizona's Governor, Doug Ducey, issuing an executive order that requires schools to offer in-person learning by March 15 earlier this week.

1:04 p.m. ET, March 5, 2021

FEMA will support two new vaccination sites in Atlanta and Cleveland

From CNN's Betsy Klein

The Biden administration announced two new Federal Emergency Management Agency-supported high-volume vaccination sites in Georgia and Ohio, part of ongoing efforts to quickly ramp up its ability to get shots into arms as vaccine supply is expected to increase.

FEMA will support vaccinations at the Mercedes Benz stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Wolstein Center in Cleveland, Ohio, White House senior Covid adviser Andy Slavitt said at Friday’s Covid briefing. 

The sites will each have the capacity to deliver 6,000 shots per day.

The announcement is another effort to distribute vaccines more equitably, with Slavitt noting that both “sit in neighborhoods hit hard by the pandemic” and the arenas are “well-known in the community.”

The two additional sites brings the total of FEMA-supported sites to 18 sites across seven states with the ability to administer more than 60,000 shots per day, per Slavitt.

11:39 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Mask mandates and restricting restaurant dining tied to fewer Covid-19 cases, CDC study shows

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Customers wear face masks while standing in line at a Costco store in Wheaton, Maryland, on April 16.
Customers wear face masks while standing in line at a Costco store in Wheaton, Maryland, on April 16. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In counties where the state requires masks, Covid-19 case and death rates slow down, and in counties where states allow on-site restaurant dining, case and death rates appear to speed up, according to a new study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The research, published by the CDC on Friday, takes a close look at changes in the growth rates of Covid-19 cases and deaths in counties before and after state-issued mask mandates were implemented and restaurant dining was allowed from March through December 2020.

The researchers found that, from March 1 to Dec. 31, requiring people to wear a mask outside their home or in retail businesses and restaurants was tied to a 0.5 percentage point decrease in the daily growth rate of Covid-19 cases up to 20 days after the mask mandate was implemented. Decreases up to 1.8 percentage points were seen up to 100 days later

Mask mandates were associated with a 0.7 percentage point decrease in daily rates of Covid-19 deaths up to 20 days after implementation and decreases of up to 1.9 percentage points up to 100 days later, respectively, the researchers found.

For restaurant dining, changes in daily growth rates for Covid-19 cases and deaths were not statistically significant up to 40 days after restrictions were lifted, according to the study.  

But allowing on-premises restaurant dining was associated with 0.9, 1.2 and 1.1 percentage point increases in cases up to 60, 80 and 100 days, respectively, after restrictions were lifted, the researchers found. Allowing on-premises dining was associated with 2.2 and 3 percentage point increases in the Covid-19 death growth rate 61 to 80 and 81 to 100 days, respectively, after restrictions were lifted.

"Mask mandates and restricting any on-premises dining at restaurants can help limit community transmission of COVID-19 and reduce case and death growth rates. These findings can inform public policies to reduce community spread of COVID-19," researchers from the CDC and University of Nevada wrote in the paper. 

More on the study: The study did not control for other Covid-19 safety measures in counties and states that could have influenced the data, and the analysis did not differentiate between indoor and outdoor dining.

The study comes at a time when several states are expanding business capacity and lifting or preparting to lift mandates for people to wear masks – with Texas and Mississippi joining those states this week.

10:50 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Swiss government will provide free Covid-19 tests for everyone in the country

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy

The Swiss government is set to provide free coronavirus tests for everyone in the country as it moves forward with plans to ease restrictions. 

A statement from the Federal Swiss Council said they hoped to "massively strengthen testing to accompany the planned relaxation of restrictions."

"To bring about an increase in tests, the government proposes that the state takes care of the cost of all tests." 

Non-essential shops were the first to reopen in Switzerland on Monday with the Swiss government set to assess on March 12 whether outdoor dining may resume beginning March 22.

The Swiss government currently finances tests in schools, nursing homes and areas where flare ups of the virus have been detected.

Schools and businesses should test their staff and students regularly "in order to detect as soon as possible the flare ups of the coronavirus" the government said.

Businesses who regularly test their employees may be able to bypass the close contact quarantine requirement the government added.

As soon as self-testing is found to be "sufficiently reliable" the Swiss government hopes to offer five tests to each person per month.

The testing campaign is set to cost the Swiss government over a billion Swiss francs with a final decision to be taken March 12 following a discussion with the cantons. 

10:37 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Chile's president hopes to vaccinate country's adult population by end of June

From CNN's Rob North

CNN
CNN

The President of Chile says he hopes to have vaccinated the country’s adult population by the end of June, with five million of the most risky cases vaccinated by the end of the month.

Speaking exclusively to CNN's Julia Chatterley, Sebastián Piñera said, “We started negotiating the acquisitions of vaccines in April, May, and by now we have secured more than 36 million doses and that is enough to cover our whole population.��

“Our immunization program is a sound and solid one…we have vaccines and have capacity to distribute vaccines all over the country, to every corner of the country. Yesterday we vaccinated more than 300,000 people in one day. That’s why we are really pushing the process because we want to vaccinate our population as soon as possible," he said.

“We are working hard to get herd immunity, and we hope to have it by midyear, before the end of June,” Piñera added.

Chile has largely been using the Chinese Sinovac vaccine which the President insists is safe, saying it was “approved by our own family health institute, we have made sure that it is safe and efficient. We sent our own people to China to confirm that it is safe and secure and therefore we’re confident.”

Piñera also called for greater international cooperation to tackle future pandemics, including strengthening the World Health Organization. He said “This pandemic has shown with two super powers, China and the US, instead of collaborating, they face each other, it doesn’t work. We need more collaboration, need better institutions.”

8:57 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Miami Beach mayor "very concerned" about potential spring break Covid-19 surge

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Miami Beach, Florida, Mayor Dan Gelber is bracing for a possible coronavirus spike if people who’ve been stuck in their homes for a year visit his city during spring break. 

“We’re very concerned. You know, a lot of things are happening simultaneously. You have the variant down here, and we still are having sometimes dozens of deaths a day in our county,” Gelber said on CNN’s “New Day.” 

“And at the same time, we’ve got incredibly cheap round-trip tickets for 40 bucks from anywhere in the Northeast down here, discounted rooms and people who have been really…pent up and wanting to get out with no other place to go than here. So we are very worried that there's going to be a convergence of people here and a real problem in the aftermath of that.” 

While there is ample outdoor dining and hotels have been following guidelines, Gelber said that gatherings at bars “might become the kinds of super-spreaders that I think we saw a year ago.” 

Gelber said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has hampered his ability to give out fines, so police officers and ambassadors are handing out masks. The city is also enforcing a curfew and a noise ordinance.  

“I would love to have the governor's voice urging people to be responsible, but we really don't have that right now,” he said. 

Watch:

9:11 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

The US added 379,000 jobs in February, signaling the recovery is finally gaining steam

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

A 'now hiring' sign in posted in front of a Taco Bell restaurant on February 5, in Novato, California.
A 'now hiring' sign in posted in front of a Taco Bell restaurant on February 5, in Novato, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The US economy added 379,000 jobs last month, far more than economists had expected, signaling the labor market recovery is finally gaining steam.

The unemployment rate — which only counts people who are actively seeking jobs and not those who have dropped out of the workforce entirely — inched down to 6.2% from 6.3% in January. Economists had predicted it would stay flat. 

Economists agree that the official jobless rate is likely under-reporting how many people are actually unemployed as a result of the pandemic.

 

8:07 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

WHO chief warns against vaccine nationalism and the "me first" approach

From CNN's Zamira Rahim

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is pictured at a press conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in July 2020.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is pictured at a press conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in July 2020. Fabrice Coffrini/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned countries to abandon the "me first" approach to vaccines in an opinion article for The Guardian.

"Of the 225m vaccine doses that have been administered so far, the vast majority have been in a handful of rich and vaccine-producing countries, while most low- and middle-income countries watch and wait," Ghebreyesus said.
 "A me-first approach might serve short-term political interests, but it is self-defeating and will lead to a protracted recovery."

It's not the first time Ghebreyesus has made such a plea.

"I need to be blunt: the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure -- and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world's poorest countries," he said, while speaking at WHO headquarters in Geneva on January 18.

WHO is co-leader of the COVAX initiative, which is aimed at distributing vaccines to low-income countries who cannot easily purchase them directly from manufacturers.

But even among wealthier nations trouble is brewing, with Europe in particular struggling with disrupted vaccine supplies.

"The future is ours to write. Let’s not be held back by politics, business as usual or those who say we can’t," Ghebreyesus wrote in The Guardian, adding that the world should make sure "no country is left behind."