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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5:56 p.m. ET, March 5, 2021

California will allow amusement parks, concert and sports venues to reopen from April 1

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

An aerial view of a closed Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California, on October 20, 2020.
An aerial view of a closed Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California, on October 20, 2020. Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

All of California’s amusement parks — including Disneyland, Magic Mountain and Universal Studios — along with sports and concert venues will be allowed to reopen with limited capacity starting April 1, state Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly announced Friday.

“We feel like now is the appropriate time to begin to reintroduce these activities in some fashion, and in a guarded way, in a slow and steady way,” Ghaly said in a teleconference.

Theme parks, sports and concert venues have been shuttered in California for nearly a year to reduce spread of the coronavirus

For an amusement part to reopen, the spread of Covid-19 in each county where a theme park is located must be reduced enough to advance out of the state’s most restrictive reopening tier. California has four color-coded tiers with purple being the most stringent. As of Friday, Los Angeles and Orange counties, home to Disneyland and Universal Studios, remained in the purple tier. Both will likely advance to a less restrictive tier in the next week or two.

For theme parks located in the red tier, attendance will be limited to 15% of capacity, and only California residents will be allowed to reserve admission to the parks. California remains under a statewide travel advisory asking residents to remain within 120 miles from their homes. There will be a time limit on indoor rides, though most are fairly short and already socially distanced. Thrill-seekers will be generally required to queue up outside and enter in groups

“Today’s announcement from the Newsom Administration is very encouraging news for California’s amusement parks. Parks now have a framework to safely and responsibly reopen. We appreciate the Administration’s willingness to work with the State’s theme parks on the finer details of the plan so parks can responsibly reopen soon, putting people safely back to work and reinvigorating local economies,” said Erin Guerrero, Executive Director for California Attractions and Parks Association.

Attendance at outdoor sporting events and concerts, will also be allowed beginning April 1 with up to 20% capacity for venues located in the red tier, 33% in the orange tier, then 67% capacity in the least restrictive yellow tier, according to California economic advisor DeeDee Myers. Rules will be in place limiting concessions along the concourse and throughout the stadium seating areas.

4:44 p.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Vaccination could allow US to reach herd immunity by late summer, according to CNN analysis          

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

A medical worker loads a syringe with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at Kedren Community Health Center in Los Angeles on February 16.
A medical worker loads a syringe with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at Kedren Community Health Center in Los Angeles on February 16. Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images

The pace of Covid-19 vaccine administration in the US continues to improve, each day bringing the country closer to herd immunity – the point at which enough people are protected against a disease that it cannot spread much.

This week, President Biden said the US will have enough vaccine for every adult by the end of May, and a CNN analysis of federal data shows that herd immunity is likely not far behind.

At the current pace of about two million shots per day – the latest seven-day average of doses administered reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – the US could reach herd immunity by late summer through vaccination alone. It will likely be even sooner, if factoring in individuals who may have some natural immunity due to prior infection. 

Herd immunity thresholds for Covid-19 are only estimates at this point. But experts generally agree that somewhere between 70% and 85% of the population must be protected to suppress the spread, a range that Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has recently cited. 

More than 8% of the population – nearly 28 million people – is already fully vaccinated, according to the latest data from the CDC. 

If vaccination continues at its current rate and the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna were the only options available, 70% of the US population could be fully vaccinated by mid-September. 

But the US Food and Drug Administration recently authorized the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine for emergency use, and the company has promised to deliver 100 million doses to the US in the first half of the year. 

At the current pace of about two million doses per day, including 100 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 70% of the US population will be fully vaccinated around the end of July and 85% by mid-September, according to a CNN analysis.

The CDC estimates that more than a quarter of the population may have been infected by Covid-19, bumping the share of the population already protected up to nearly a third. Assuming there’s no overlap between people with natural immunity and those protected through vaccination, herd immunity could be reached as early as June. 

Experts note that some new variants threaten progress, potentially lessening protection offered by vaccines and skirting some degree of natural immunity, and vaccine hesitancy may also create some limitations.

3:24 p.m. ET, March 5, 2021

COVAX delivered 20 million doses to world’s poor in first week of distribution, WHO director-general says

From CNN’s Christopher Rios

An international program set up to get coronavirus vaccines to the world delivered 20 million vaccine doses to 20 countries in the first week of distribution, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization's director-general, said Friday.

“This was a landmark week for COVAX with the first vaccinations starting in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire,” Tedros told a news conference. “In total, COVAX has delivered 20 million doses of vaccine to 20 countries.”

Next week, COVAX will deliver 14.4 million vaccine doses to an additional 31 countries, Tedros said, bringing the total number of countries reached by COVAX to 51.

COVAX is a global vaccine initiative run by a coalition that includes the Vaccine Alliance known as Gavi and WHO, and is funded by donations from governments, multilateral institutions and foundations. Its mission is to buy coronavirus vaccines in bulk and send them to poorer nations that can't compete with wealthy countries in securing contracts with the major drug companies.

On Wednesday, Ghana became the first country to receive Covid-19 vaccines through COVAX. Ghana received 600,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine on Wednesday, according to CNN.

In addition to Ghana and Ivory Coast, Angola, Cambodia, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gambia, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Moldova, Nigeria, Philippines, South Korea, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan and Uganda also received vaccine doses from COVAX this past week, Tedros said.

While the announcement is reason for some optimism, there is urgent need to increase production if COVAX is to meet its goal of delivering 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021, Tedros said.

“This is encouraging progress,” Tedros said. “But the volume of doses being distributed through COVAX is still relatively small. The first round of allocations covers between 2 and 3% of the population of countries receiving vaccinations through COVAX, even as other countries make more rapid progress toward vaccinating their entire population within the next few months. One of our main priorities now is to increase the ambition of COVAX now to help all countries end the pandemic. This means urgent action to ramp up production.” 
2:58 p.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Arizona governor lifts occupancy limits on business, but keeps mask rules in place

From CNN's Konstantin Toropin

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey speaks during a press conference at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix on December 16, 2020.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey speaks during a press conference at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix on December 16, 2020. David Wallace/The Arizona Republic/USA Today Network

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced he is lifting occupancy limits on business in a new executive order announced today.

Ducey's new order, which applies to "restaurants, gyms, theaters, water parks, bowling alleys, and bars providing dine in services," removes occupancy percentage limitations, a statement from his office explained.

Additionally, according to the statement, spring training and Major League Sports will have the ability to operate after getting a safety precaution and physical distancing plan approved by the state's Department of Health Services

However, the new order keeps in place physical distancing and mask protocols, but local officials will still be "precluded from implementing extreme measures that shut down businesses."

Ducey cited "7 weeks of declining cases in Arizona and the distribution of more than 2 million vaccines" as part of the reason for the move.

“Today’s announcement is a measured approach; we are not in the clear yet," Ducey said in his statement. 

"We need to continue practicing personal responsibility," he added. 

The relaxing of regulations follows a Wednesday executive order that required Arizona schools to offer in-person learning by March 15.

Earlier this week, nearby Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced he would be lifting the mask mandate and "opening Texas 100 percent" while Mississippi also lifted its county specific mask mandates.

2:19 p.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Italy has recorded more than 3 million coronavirus cases since the the pandemic began

From CNN's Nicola Ruotolo

Italy has recorded more than 3 million coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, according to the latest figures released by the Italian Health Ministry on Friday.

The data shows a daily increase of 24,036 cases in the past 24 hours, the highest daily rise since Dec. 4. This brings the total figure of people who have been infected with the virus to at least 3,023,129.

The number of new deaths reported from Covid-19 is 297, bringing the total in Italy to 99,271.

The country is seeing a rise in cases because of the variants present in the country, especially the UK variant which has become prevalent. Studies have shown that on Feb. 18 it represented 54% of the cases.

With the number of infections rising, the country’s R rate has increased and now has increased past 1, sitting at 1.06. 

Italian authorities have tried to curb the spread of the virus by tightening restrictions in some regions. On Tuesday, the government ordered all schools in the country’s worst-hit coronavirus hotspots to close from March 6 until 6 April.

1:42 p.m. ET, March 5, 2021

UK health secretary announces almost 110 million dollars in support for mental health

From CNN's Zahid Mahmood

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock speaks at the government coronavirus briefing at Downing Street on March 5 in London.
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock speaks at the government coronavirus briefing at Downing Street on March 5 in London. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced an amount equivalent to $109 million dollars to boost support for mental health services, in particular for young people who he says the pandemic has been an “anxious time.” 

"Monday will be a long-awaited day for many people, but for some it's also a moment of unease and anxiety,” Hancock said.

“Growing up is tough enough even at the best of times so in these very difficult times it’s been even tougher. Home schooling, being unable to meet up with friends, not having regular sport and being stuck at home.”

Hancock added the government has worked hard at keeping mental health services open during the pandemic and the new funding will benefit up to three million people. 

“We will be working hard to make sure people get access to the support they need [in schools] and expanding mental health access to the support the need in the community too,” he said.

Hancock commented on the UK’s vaccination success where as of midnight last night 21.3 million people have been vaccinated. Hancock also previewed the first phase of Monday’s restrictions lifting on care homes.

“I am just so pleased that we are re able to re-open care homes to visiting. We’ve put in place a really careful policy, so each care home resident will be able to register a single regular visitor, who will be tested, and wear PPE but will be able to visit,” he added.

1:46 p.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Go There: CNN answers viewers' questions about Mississippi's roll back of Covid-19 restrictions

Mississippi, like Texas, has already rolled back its mask mandate and lifted Covid-19 restrictions, despite warnings from health officials against reopening too soon. 

The CDC director urged people to keep masking and distancing "regardless of what states decide." President Biden, meanwhile, criticized states such as Texas and Mississippi for lifting their Covid-19 restrictions against pleas from top public health officials, accusing those in power of "Neanderthal thinking."

CNN's national correspondent Ryan Young was live outside a vaccination center in Jackson, Mississippi, reporting about the state's mass vaccination efforts and answering viewers' questions about the Covid-19 restrictions lifted in the state.

WATCH:

12:15 p.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Mexico will begin using China’s Sinovac coronavirus vaccine

From CNN’s Natalie Gallon

A vial of the Sinovac vaccine against COVID-19 is pictured at the Habitat nursing home in Medellin, Colombia, on February 26.
A vial of the Sinovac vaccine against COVID-19 is pictured at the Habitat nursing home in Medellin, Colombia, on February 26. Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP/Getty Images

Mexico will begin to administer China’s Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine starting this weekend, the country’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, said.

“Good news: we received the Certificate of Analysis for the Sinovac vaccine. It can be applied from this weekend throughout the country,” Ebrard said on his official Twitter account Friday. 

Sinovac will be the fourth vaccine to be administered in Mexico as the country is already using Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZenica and Sputnik V.

The country's latest figures: Mexico continues to have the third largest death toll in the world with at least 188,866 Covid-19 deaths and 2,112,508 confirmed cases according to Johns Hopkins University, though the country has started to see a decline in both.

They have administered a total of at least 2,676,035 doses throughout the country according to Mexico’s Ministry of Health.

 

12:05 p.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Czech Republic asks Germany, Poland and Switzerland for help treating its Covid-19 patients 

From CNN’s Ivana Kottasova

The Czech government has asked Germany, Poland and Switzerland for help in treating coronavirus patients by allowing them to be transferred there, according to statement from the Health Ministry released on Friday.

The Czech Health Ministry stated that the already high number of newly infected patients continues to rise in the country and that many hospitals have ran out of capacity, with only 14% of intensive care unit beds currently available

“We are in a situation nobody wanted to end up in," Czech Health Minister Jan Blatny said in the statement. 

"Despite increasing hospital capacities to the maximum possible, despite maximizing the use of health care staff and despite their enormous effort, we have reached the limit. Hospitals in some regions have already ran out of capacities and are no longer able to provide adequate care without the help of other health care facilities," he added.

No patients have been transferred yet, the Czech Health Ministry confirmed. 

The government also announced it has called some medical and health care students to begin working in hospitals to help with staff shortages.