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
8 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
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.

Read more:

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.

Read more:

5:31 a.m. ET, March 9, 2021

Italy becomes sixth country to surpass 100,000 Covid-19 deaths

From CNN’s Nicola Ruotolo in Rome

A Civil Protection member walks past the coffins of Covid-19 victims in Ponte San Pietro, Italy, on April 7, 2020.
A Civil Protection member walks past the coffins of Covid-19 victims in Ponte San Pietro, Italy, on April 7, 2020. Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

Italy’s coronavirus death toll topped 100,000 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University data, making it the sixth country to record a death count above six figures.

Italian Health Ministry data showed the country registered a further 318 deaths in the 24 hours to Monday, bringing its total number of fatalities during the pandemic to 100,103.

On Monday, Prime Minister Mario Draghi recalled how a year ago on March 10, Italy was the first Western country to declare hard lockdown measures.

“We would never have thought that a year later we would still be facing a similar emergency and that the official death toll would have approached the terrible threshold of 100,000 dead,” he said in a video message to a gender equality conference.

“The pandemic has not yet been defeated, but with the acceleration of the vaccination plan, a way out is not far away,” Draghi said, thanking Italian citizens for their patience and discipline, especially those suffering economic consequences from the crisis.

He said the country is seeing a rise in cases. In the past 24 hours, 13,092 new infections were recorded, and ICU occupancy is up to 2,700, 95 more than a day earlier.

Almost 5.5 million vaccine doses have been administered in the country, but Draghi aims to speed up the vaccination schedule.

5:29 a.m. ET, March 9, 2021

"There are no shortcuts," WHO director-general says ahead of pandemic's first anniversary

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference on July 3, 2020, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference on July 3, 2020, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. Fabrice Coffrini/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned about squandering the progress that has been made around the world Monday, ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thursday will mark 12 months since the UN health agency declared the crisis a pandemic.

“Right now, WHO’s focus is on supporting all countries to end the pandemic, including with vaccines and the public health measures that have been the bedrock of the response for 15 months,” Tedros said during a news briefing in Geneva.

“We have come so far, we have suffered so much, and we have lost so many. We cannot -- we must not -- squander the progress we have made.” 

Tedros said the tools to control the pandemic exist, but they must be used consistently and equitably. “Science, solutions and solidarity remain our guide. There are no shortcuts,” he added.

2:24 a.m. ET, March 9, 2021

CDC releases highly anticipated guidance for people fully vaccinated against Covid-19

From CNN's Jen Christensen

New guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can safely visit with other vaccinated people and small groups of unvaccinated people in some circumstances, but there are still important safety precautions needed.

"Covid-19 continues to exert a tremendous toll on our nation. Like you, I want to be able to return to everyday activities and engage with our friends, families, and communities," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at the White House briefing Monday. "Science, and the protection of public health must guide us as we begin to resume these activities. Today's action represents an important first step. It is not our final destination.
"As more people get vaccinated, levels of Covid-19 infection decline in communities, and as our understanding of Covid immunity improves, we look forward to updating these recommendations to the public."

The CDC defines people who are fully vaccinated as those who are two weeks past their second dose of the Moderna and Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines or two weeks past a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. There is growing evidence that people who are vaccinated don't spread Covid-19, but scientists are still trying to understand how long vaccine protection lasts.

Read more: