Biden delivers national address about Covid-19

By Ben Westcott, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 9:52 p.m. ET, March 11, 2021
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2:18 p.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Biden signs $1.9 trillion Covid relief package into law

From CNN's Clare Foran, Katie Lobosco and Tami Luhby

Pool
Pool

President Biden just signed his sweeping $1.9 trillion Covid relief package into law.

The passage of the bill yesterday marked the first major legislative achievement of the new administration and a Congress that is now under full Democratic control, with narrow majorities in the House and Senate.

Key features of the relief package include:

  • Up to $1,400-per-person stimulus payments that will send money to about 90% of households (Use our calculator to see if you'll qualify for a stimulus check.)
  • $300 federal boost to weekly jobless benefits
  • An expansion of the child tax credit of up to $3,600 per child
  • $350 billion in state and local aid, as well as billions of dollars for K-12 schools to help students return to the classroom, to assist small businesses hard-hit by the pandemic and for vaccine research, development and distribution.
  • Extends a 15% increase in food stamp benefits through September
  • Helps low-income households cover rent

The bill arrived at the White House last night, a White House official said, and Biden decided he wanted to sign it as soon as possible. He was originally expected to sign the bill tomorrow afternoon.

Biden is slated to deliver remarks later today at 8 p.m. ET to commemorate the milestone of one year since Covid-19 shut down much of the US and is expected to discuss the next phase of his pandemic response.

Read more about what is in the bill here.

1:44 p.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Where European countries stand on AstraZeneca's vaccine following reports of blood clots

From CNN's Schams Elwazer

Medical personnel prepares a syringe for vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine at the Region Hovedstaden's vaccine center in Copenhagen, Denmark, on February 11.
Medical personnel prepares a syringe for vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine at the Region Hovedstaden's vaccine center in Copenhagen, Denmark, on February 11. Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images

Some European countries have suspended the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine while the European Union's medicines regulator investigates whether the shot could be linked to a number of reports of blood clots.

Here's a look at where things stand across the continent:

Countries in Europe completely suspending use of AstraZeneca vaccine:

  • Denmark: On Thursday, the country suspended the vaccine's use for 14 days as a “precautionary measure” as it investigates “signs of a possible serious side effect in the form of fatal blood clots” after one Danish person died after inoculation, according to Danish health officials. 
  • Norway: On Thursday, Norway chose to “pause” inoculations with the AstraZeneca vaccine following report of a death in Denmark. A statement from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health also noted that there have been reported cases of blood clots shortly after receiving a Covid-19 vaccination in Norway but “mainly in the elderly where there is often another underlying disease as well.” 
  • Iceland: The country suspended use of the vaccine although there had been no reports of patients developing blood clots in the country. They are waiting for advice from the European Medicines Agency. 

European countries suspending use of specific AstraZeneca vaccine batches: 

  • Austria: Earlier this week, Austria suspended the use of vaccine batch ABV5300. This was after a person was diagnosed with multiple thrombosis and died ten days after vaccination – and another was hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism but has now recovered, according to the EU’s medicines regulator, the EMA. 
  • Lithuania, Estonia, Luxembourg, and Latvia: These countries have also suspended use of batch ABV5300. 
  • Italy: On Thursday, the Italian medicines agency, AIFA, decided to “ban” doses from AstraZeneca vaccine batch ABV2856 following “some serious adverse reactions” in recipients. They did not specify details of the reactions. 

How other European countries are reacting:

  • UK: On Thursday, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said in a statement, “this is a precautionary measure by the Danish authorities. It has not been confirmed that the report of a blood clot was caused by the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine. People should still go and get their COVID-19 vaccine when asked to do so.” 
  • Spain: Health Minister Carolina Darias said the country has not reported any case and called for caution while the matter is being reviewed by the European Medicines Agency. 
  • Netherlands: The Dutch health minister said Thursday that there is no reason to stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine. “Our experts say: There is no cause for concern, we can simply continue vaccinating,” Health Minister Hugo de Jonge told reporters Thursday. “It’s about something that happens after vaccination, not because of vaccination,” de Jonge said.
  • France: Health Minister Olivier Véran said Thursday that were was “no need to suspend the use” of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. Veran pointed out that there was no proven additional risk linked to coagulation.

Read more:

1:33 p.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Swedish Crown Princess Victoria and husband test positive for Covid

From CNN's Zahid Mahmood

Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and husband Prince Daniel Westling visit the headquarters of AstraZeneca pharmaceutical on September 10, 2015 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and husband Prince Daniel Westling visit the headquarters of AstraZeneca pharmaceutical on September 10, 2015 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Prince Daniel Westling have tested positive for Covid-19, according to a statement from the Swedish Royal Court on Thursday. 

The statement said the couple immediately isolated themselves after experiencing “mild symptoms” of a cold along with their children Princess Estelle and Prince Oscar.

“Contact tracing is initiated under the supervision of the Physician to His Majesty The King,” according to the statement, which was issued in both Swedish and English. 

The couple did not attend Thursday’s events, according to the statement, including a memorial service at Drottningholm Palace Chapel which was instead attended by Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia.

Friday’s Name Day celebration of the Crown at the Royal Palace is also canceled, the statement said. 

Crown Princess Victoria married Prince Daniel Westling – who was previously not royalty –in 2010 during a four-day wedding celebration at Stockholm Cathedral. 

1:12 p.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Public health measures are key to declines in Covid-19 cases, Dr. Sanjay Gupta says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

CNN
CNN

More than 529,000 Americans have died from Covid-19 since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic one year ago — with up to a projected 571,000 to die by early April — a number that Dr. Sanjay Gupta calls “numbing.”

“This should not feel normal,” Gupta told CNN’s John King. “… So many of these deaths were preventable.”

Gupta said that vaccines are not solely responsible for the downward trend in coronavirus cases.

“As wonderful as the vaccines are, what ends up bringing these things down, what has worked in the United States at various times — what has worked in so many places around the world — are basic public health measures. I think that’s one of the biggest lessons of all this. We want science to rescue us, understandably, but that shouldn't mean we lean away from public health measures,” Gupta said. 

He used the example of South Africa, which experienced a large surge in cases from a variant in the winter, but has since flattened the curve. Less than 1% of the country has been vaccinated so far, according to Gupta.

“That steep decline is not because of vaccines, that is another reminder, even with one of these concerning variants, that basic public health measures work. So we want the vaccine, we want science to rescue us, but South Africa should remind us of what is possible even without those vaccines,” he said. 

Gupta is optimistic as the US moves ahead through the spring and summer, he said. 

“Going into summer, we'll have a lot of people vaccinated, and we'll get to that herd immunity,” he said.

1:00 p.m. ET, March 11, 2021

9 people in Virginia who were mistakenly given empty syringes have now received Covid-19 vaccines

From CNN's Melissa Alonso and Rebekah Riess

WWBT
WWBT

At least nine customers who were mistakenly administered empty syringes at a Kroger Covid-19 vaccine clinic in Virginia on Monday later "returned to the clinic and have received the vaccine," according to Cheryle Rodriguez, public information officer for the Virginia Department of Health.

"The Kroger healthcare provider realized that the syringes used on the patients were not prefilled," Rodriguez said in a statement to CNN on Thursday. Patients were contacted, rescheduled for appointments, and received the vaccine, said Rodriguez. 

"Kroger is taking steps to ensure that similar incidents don't occur in the future," the statement said. 

Carrie Hawes told CNN affiliate WWBT that she went in on Monday to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and got a call the next day to inform her of the mistake.

"My initial reaction was shock and surprise, and a little anxiety," she told WWBT.

Hawes was able to get the real vaccine at the clinic about two hours after getting the call.

1:02 p.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Biden will sign the Covid-19 relief bill this afternoon instead of tomorrow

From CNN's Betsy Klein and Kaitlan Collins

President Joe Biden speaks during an event at the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on March 10 in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden speaks during an event at the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on March 10 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Biden will be signing the Covid-19 relief bill at 1:30 p.m. ET today, according to an updated schedule from the White House. A White House press briefing will take place at 2 p.m. ET.

The bill arrived at the White House last night, a White House official says, and Biden decided he wanted to sign it as soon as possible. Biden was originally expected to sign the bill on Friday afternoon.

The President will later deliver remarks at 8 p.m. ET to commemorate the milestone of one year since Covid-19 shut down much of the US.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a tweet that a "signing event" for the Covid-19 relief bill will also take place tomorrow.

White House chief of staff Ron Klain tweeted that congressional leadership will be at the White House Friday for the signing celebration.

More on the bill: The House of Representatives voted yesterday to approve the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, paving the way for Biden to sign his top legislative priority into law and deliver aid to most American households amid the pandemic.

Key features of the plan include up to $1,400-per-person stimulus payments that will send money to about 90% of households, a $300 federal boost to weekly jobless benefits and $350 billion in state and local aid, as well as billions of dollars for K-12 schools to help students return to the classroom, to assist small businesses hard-hit by the pandemic and for vaccine research, development and distribution.

CNN's Clare Foran, Katie Lobosco and Tami Luhby contributed reporting to this post.

12:44 p.m. ET, March 11, 2021

UN secretary general urges vaccinations for all people on one-year Covid anniversary

From CNN's Richard Roth

Secretary General of United Nations António Gutierrez speaks to press at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City on March 10.
Secretary General of United Nations António Gutierrez speaks to press at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City on March 10. Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

One year after Covid-19 was deemed a pandemic, the United Nations top leader says there is some light at end of tunnel but urges vaccinations must go for all people.

"One full year into the COVID-19 pandemic, our world has faced a tsunami of suffering. So many lives have been lost. Economies have been upended and societies left reeling. The most vulnerable have suffered the most. Those left behind are being left even further behind," Secretary-General António Guterres said in his statement.

"It has been a year of empty office buildings, quiet streets and closed schools in much of the world. I commend women, men and young people everywhere for adapting to work, learn and live in new ways. I honour health workers for their dedication and sacrifice and all other essential workers who have kept societies running.  I salute all those who have stood up to the deniers and disinformation, and have followed science and safety protocols. You have helped save lives."

Guterres went on to say that he is “deeply concerned” some low income countries have not received one dose of the vaccine.

“Only together can we end this pandemic and recover. Only together can we revive our economies. And then, together, we can all get back to the things we love,” he said.

12:42 p.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Oklahoma drops mask mandate and all restrictions on events

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Thursday that the state will have no restrictions on events and no longer require face masks in state buildings.

"Because of the progress we've made. I'll be issuing a new executive order tomorrow," said Stitt. "The standard for normal cannot be zero cases, in Oklahoma the standard for normal is freedom. The freedom to worship, the freedom to go to work and earn a paycheck, the freedom to visit your loved ones in nursing homes."

"As long as I'm governor, I will protect the freedoms of Oklahomans," he said. 

Stitt said he still encourages residents to wear face masks. 

12:30 p.m. ET, March 11, 2021

UK becomes 5th country to top 125,000 Covid-19 deaths 

From CNN's Zahid Mahmood and Niamh Kennedy

Coronavirus deaths in the United Kingdom topped 125,000 Thursday, with the government recording 181 new deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

It becomes the fifth country to reach that number of Covid-19 deaths, and the smallest of the group, according to Johns Hopkins University data. 

The UK has one of the highest death rates per capita in the world, with 188.33 per 100,000 residents, JHU data shows.

On Jan. 26, the UK became the fifth country in the world to reach 100,000 deaths following the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, according to JHU data.

Here is a look at how the UK's figures compare to other countries: