March 9 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Kara Fox, and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 0803 GMT (1603 HKT) March 10, 2021
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8:37 a.m. ET, March 9, 2021

Some Covid-19 "long-haulers" may originally have no symptoms at all, study suggests

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

People who at first experience no symptoms when they have Covid-19 may still go on to become "long-haulers" – meaning they may develop and experience long-term symptoms later, according to early research, which has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

The pre-print paper, posted online to the medical server last week, found that nearly a third of Covid-19 patients who were reporting symptoms more than 60 days after testing positive initially experienced no symptoms when first testing positive, making them asymptomatic.

"There has been conflicting information regarding whether asymptomatic individuals go on to become long-haulers, and roughly 32% of those reporting symptoms at day 61+ in our study were initially asymptomatic at the time of SARS-CoV-2 testing," researchers from various institutions in the United States wrote in the paper. SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus that causes Covid-19.

The new study included data from the electronic health records of 1,407 Covid-19 patients in California who were never hospitalized during their coronavirus infection.

More on the study: The researchers analyzed the Covid-19 symptoms patients reported during the first 10 days of their infection and then at least 61 days later, which was the criteria used to define "long-haulers." The researchers found that 27% of the patients reported symptoms at least 61 days later.

More women than men experienced lingering symptoms at least 61 days later, the researchers found, and the most prevalent symptoms were: chest pain, shortness of breath, anxiety, abdominal pain, cough, low back pain and fatigue. The researchers also found all age groups were represented among the "long-haulers."

 The researchers noted in their paper that "these long-term consequences of becoming a long-hauler are unclear, and further research is urgently needed to corroborate our findings."

8:42 a.m. ET, March 9, 2021

5.6 million people flew over the last 5 days, TSA data shows

From CNN's Pete Muntean

Travelers walk through Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, on March 2.
Travelers walk through Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, on March 2. Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images

The last five days are the busiest air travel has been over such a stretch since the holidays. The Transportation Security Administration just reported it screened 1.1 million people at airports on Monday, meaning 5.6 million people have traveled by air over the last five days.

The new numbers come as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling people to still not travel, even if they are fully vaccinated against coronavirus — and as health experts are worried about a spike in the virus after upcoming spring break trips. 

The airline industry insists that flying is safe regardless of whether people are vaccinated or not. More than two dozen travel industry trade associations and unions sent a letter to the Biden administration Monday saying that it should work with the industry to come up with standard traveler health records as a way to bring back travel.

8:11 a.m. ET, March 9, 2021

Kremlin denies Russia undertaking disinformation campaign against covid vaccines  

From CNN’s Anna Chernova and Zahra Ullah in Moscow 

A healthcare worker prepares a Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Washington, DC, on Monday, March 8.
A healthcare worker prepares a Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Washington, DC, on Monday, March 8. Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Russia has never participated and will not participate in disinformation campaigns against Covid-19 vaccines, the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday. 

Speaking to journalists on a conference call, Peskov said statements claiming that there is a Russian campaign working to undermine confidence in Covid-19 vaccines used in the US are “absurd” and “have no basis at all.”

“We do not understand the reasons for such statements. We intend to continue to explain patiently and very consistently that such messages are absurd,” Peskov said.

On Sunday, a State Department spokesperson told CNN that online platforms directed by Russian intelligence are spreading disinformation about two of the coronavirus vaccines being used in the US.

Peskov said there is a broad discussion across the globe about coronavirus vaccines in general and Russia has always been against politicizing covid vaccines. 

“We have always been against politicizing any vaccine-related issues in any way. It is necessary to test the vaccine first, and as soon as its effectiveness is confirmed, to produce as much as possible of it in order to save the world from coronavirus and save as many human lives as possible,” he said. 

Peskov also said that despite its efficacy, the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, has been subject to criticism, adding it sometimes happens under the guise of objectivity and at other times “completely without any attempt to pretend to be objective, just sweeping criticism.”

“Russia never participated and is not going to participate in an information campaign against any other vaccines. On the contrary, by the way, it is the Russian Federation that is now involved in collaboration with other vaccine companies in order to make a more effective product,” Peskov added. 

7:51 a.m. ET, March 9, 2021

US airline industry pushes back on CDC guidance that says vaccinated people should avoid travel

From CNN's Pete Muntean

A person walks through LaGuardia Airport in New York, on March 6.
A person walks through LaGuardia Airport in New York, on March 6. Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

The airline industry is pushing back against new US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention guidelines that fully vaccinated people should still avoid travel.

In a new statement, industry group Airlines For America insists being on board a plane poses a low risk of coronavirus infection because of heavily filtered air and federally mandated mask wearing. "We remain confident that this layered approach significantly reduces risk," the group said.

The announcement comes after the CDC said those who are vaccinated can meet with others who are vaccinated and even low-risk people who aren't vaccinated but should still avoid travel.

"Every time there's a surge in travel, we have a surge in cases in this country," said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky during Monday's White House coronavirus response briefing.

Health experts remain concerned that upcoming spring break travel will lead to an uptick in coronavirus infection rates.

This is the second pandemic-related disagreement between the airline industry and the new Biden administration.

The transportation industry pushed back hard earlier this year when the CDC was considering requiring that domestic air travelers get tested for coronavirus at the start of their trip. The White House met with airline CEOs, and the idea fell apart.

An airline industry source told CNN that it is urging the CDC to publicly release the criteria it will use to adjust travel guidance.

7:19 a.m. ET, March 9, 2021

Lab studies suggest Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can protect against Brazil variant

From CNN's Kara Fox and Meera Senthilingam

Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance/Getty Images
Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance/Getty Images

A new study suggests that the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine can protect people against the concerning coronavirus variant first identified in Brazil.

Blood serum samples from people who had received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine “efficiently” neutralized a version of the virus engineered to carry the same mutations as the variant, known as the P.1.

For the study, published by the New England Journal of Medicine on Monday, researchers at Pfizer, BioNTech and the University of Texas Medical Branch genetically engineered the virus to create versions carrying mutations found in a range of coronavirus variants, including P.1.
They tested them against blood samples taken from 15 people 2 or 4 weeks after they had received a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as part of a clinical trial.
The team found that the blood samples were able to neutralize the Brazil variant “roughly” as well as it could neutralize an earlier strain of the virus from January 2020. 

The P.1 variant is suspected of fueling a resurgence of coronavirus cases in Brazil. It was found in 42% of samples in one survey carried out in Manaus and cases have since emerged in countries including the US, the UK and Japan.  

The P.1 variant has mutations in common with the variant first identified in South Africa that are thought to make it more contagious and possibly able to evade immunity from vaccines -- though this new study suggests the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may still be effective.

Pfizer previously reported findings that blood samples also neutralized variant B.1.351, first reported in South Africa. The study found neutralization was still “robust but lower."

In February, Pfizer said that there is no evidence in real life that the South African variant escapes the protection offered by its vaccine but that they were working on developing a booster shot and an updated vaccine.

"Nevertheless, Pfizer and BioNTech are taking the necessary steps, making the right investments, and engaging in the appropriate conversations with regulators to be in a position to develop and seek authorization for an updated mRNA vaccine or booster once a strain that significantly reduces the protection from the vaccine is identified," Pfizer said in a statement at the time.

6:37 a.m. ET, March 9, 2021

US lawmakers want more research on coronavirus pandemic's mental health toll

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

US lawmakers are calling for research into the coronavirus pandemic's impact on mental health.

Democratic senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Tim Kaine of Virginia exclusively told CNN that they plan to introduce the Covid-19 Mental Health Research Act on Tuesday afternoon. The legislation would direct $100 million annually for five years to the National Institute of Mental Health to fund research on the mental health consequences of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko and Republican Rep. John Katko, both of New York, will introduce the House version of the legislation, according to Klobuchar's office.

"Health care workers have led our communities through this crisis, with many feeling acute stress and anxiety," Klobuchar said in a statement to CNN.

"Children, adolescents, and seniors have also been uniquely impacted. To understand how we can best support them -- and all Americans -- through this difficult time, we must assess the scope of this mental health crisis and take steps to promote recovery and healing," she said.

The proposed bill would provide support to research that examines the pandemic's toll on mental health, especially for health care workers. Other funding would support post-pandemic mental health response and suicide prevention.

Tonko said that focusing on mental health will be part of "rebuilding America" after the pandemic, especially for medical professionals and emergency responders.

"Every day they show up to work, they risk exposure to this deadly virus and shoulder an unimaginable emotional burden for us, all to keep our families and communities safe. We need to do more to support them and make sure we work to understand even the hidden costs they are bearing," he said, adding that he urges his colleagues in the House and Senate to push the legislation forward.

One study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry in February, found that emergency department visits related to mental health, suicide attempts, overdoses, intimate partner violence and suspected child abuse were generally higher during the pandemic last year than during the same period the year before.

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6:15 a.m. ET, March 9, 2021

Gymnastics test event ahead of the Tokyo Olympics is cancelled

From CNN’s Aleks Klosok

Carl Court/Getty Images
Carl Court/Getty Images

The Artistic All-Around World Cup in Tokyo, which was also set to serve as a test event for this summer’s Olympics, has been cancelled due to the pandemic, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) announced on Tuesday.

The event, which had been scheduled for May 4 at the Ariake Gymnastics Center, was meant to conclude this year’s All-Around World Cup series.

The cancellation, though, of two earlier events in Stuttgart (Germany) and Birmingham (England) has led to the scrapping of the series from Olympic qualifying.

“For this reason, the decision has been taken to cancel the World Cup in Japan, especially given the current travel restrictions and difficulties worldwide as well as the measures taken by the Japanese authorities to limit the rate of coronavirus infections in the country ahead of the Olympic Games,” the FIG said in a statement.

The FIG added that Tokyo 2020 would instead hold an operational test event at the venue on May 4 in the form of a national gymnastics event.

The Olympic games are set to open on July 23, with the Japanese government determined to hold the games as scheduled.

Japan and the International Olympic Committee plan to implement strict countermeasures against covid-19 during the games, including quarantine, testing, use of PPE, and vaccinations.

4:47 a.m. ET, March 9, 2021

The first case of the South African Covid-19 variant has been discovered in Michigan -- in a child

From CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian

Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Bureau of Laboratories said that the first case of the B.1.351 Covid-19 variant has been identified in the state.

The variant, which was first identified in South Africa, has been detected in a male child, according a statement issued by the agency on Monday evening.

The child is living in Jackson County, an area approximately 80 miles west of Detroit.

The case marks the only known case in Michigan at this time, however it is possible that there are more that have not been identified, according to the statement.

Researchers are currently investigating the Jackson County case to determine close contacts and if there are additional cases associated with the case, it said. 

“We are concerned about the discovery of another variant in Michigan, although it was not unexpected,” said Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun, the MDHHS' Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy Director for Health and Human Services.

As of Monday, Michigan has also identified 516 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the UK, in 23 jurisdictions.

2:44 a.m. ET, March 9, 2021

A safer future is just months away. But don't give up on Covid safety measures yet, former CDC director says

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

A safer future is just a few months away, but it's crucial that Americans keep practicing Covid-19 safety precautions and heeding health officials' advice as the country works to vaccinate more people, one expert told CNN on Monday.

"We're not done yet, Covid isn't done with us. The variants are still a risk," Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. "You don't declare victory in the third quarter."

Americans should continue wearing masks and avoiding indoor crowded spaces -- "where the virus can spread rapidly," according to Frieden -- as officials track the variants circulating in the US and, among them, the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant that was first detected in the UK.

Experts say that variant is now rapidly spreading across the US and, according to the CDC, will likely become the predominant variant this month. Epidemiologist Michael Osterholm warned earlier this week the variant could help fuel another dangerous surge in just several weeks' time.

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