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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9:31 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Epidemiologist says he's concerned Covid-19 variants in US may "beat us at the vaccination game"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Even as Covid-19 vaccinations ramp up in the US, epidemiologist Michael Osterholm says the country is at a “perfect-storm moment.”

One year since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic, Osterholm expressed caution as the B.1.1.7 variant — first reported in the United Kingdom — has “transmission unlike I've seen any at all since this pandemic began” in some areas.  

“Over 50% now of all the viruses coming from Florida, Texas, and Georgia, in fact, are this B.1.1.7 variant,” said Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, on CNN's "New Day."

Health officials in New York City say two variants — B.1.1.7 and B.1.526, first reported in New York — account for half of new cases. And Houston health officials announced that the B.1.1.7 variant has been identified in over half of the city’s wastewater treatment plants.

“The bottom line is study after study shows that it is more transmissible. And, remember, this is coming at us at the very same time we're opening up America as if there is nothing else happening,” Osterholm said.

Some governors, like Gov. Greg Abbott in Texas, have lifted mask mandates and fully opened businesses. 

“We’re inviting the virus to go wherever it may want over the course of the next week. So this is the challenge we have, this is all kind of a perfect-storm moment. Will this increase transmissibility? Will this more serious illness with us opening up — at the same time doing more vaccination — how will this all play out? And I think the dynamics of the virus right now, I'm afraid, are going to beat us at the vaccination game,” he said. 

9:27 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

AstraZeneca says "patient safety is the highest priority"

From CNN's Chris Liakos

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca said patient safety was its “highest priority” as multiple European countries suspend use of its Covid-19 vaccine.

In a statement Thursday, AstraZeneca said: “Patient safety is the highest priority for AstraZeneca. Regulators have clear and stringent efficacy and safety standards for the approval of any new medicine, and that includes COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca. The safety of the vaccine has been extensively studied in phase III clinical trials and peer-reviewed data confirms the vaccine is generally well tolerated.”

Iceland, Norway and Denmark on Thursday said they were suspending all use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as they investigate reports of blood clots in some patients who were inoculated.

Several other European countries have suspended use of specific batches of the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

9:12 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Iceland and Norway suspend use of AstraZeneca vaccine pending investigation

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad and James Frater

A medical personnel holds an ampoule with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Copenhagen, Denmark, on February 11.
A medical personnel holds an ampoule with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Copenhagen, Denmark, on February 11. Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images

Iceland and Norway are suspending the use of all AstraZeneca vaccines as the European Medicines Agency investigates reports of a patient in Denmark dying of blood clots after being inoculated, the Icelandic Directorate of Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said on Thursday.

Speaking to CNN, Kjartan Njálsson, assistant to the director of health in Iceland, said that although there had been no reports of patients developing blood clots in the country, they are waiting for advice from the European Medicines Agency. “It’s the lack of data right now that concerns us,” he added. 

Meanwhile, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health issued a statement saying the country had also chosen to “pause” inoculations with the AstraZeneca vaccine following report of a death in Denmark as a result of a blood clot.

The Norwegian statement also notes 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.”

Neither Norway nor Iceland have indicated how long the suspension will last.

Some more background: Earlier on Thursday, Denmark decided to suspend for 14 days the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as a “precautionary measure” as it investigates “signs of a possible serious side effect in the form of fatal blood clots,” Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said.

Although several European countries have this week suspended use of vaccines from a specific batch of doses – batch ABV5300 – following reports of blood clots in a few patients, Denmark, Iceland and Norway are the first to pause use of all AstraZeneca vaccines.

On Wednesday, the European Medicines Agency said there was “currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine.”

Italy on Thursday “as a precaution” decided to ban use of vaccine doses from AstraZeneca batch ABV2856 due to “adverse reactions” but did not provide any further details on what those reactions might be.

8:37 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Yesterday was the busiest Wednesday at US airports since the holidays, TSA data shows

From CNN's Pete Muntean

Air travel levels are already surging even as health experts warn against spring break trips.

The Transportation Security Administration screened 955,177 at America’s airports yesterday— the busiest Wednesday for air travel since the winter holidays. Wednesdays are typically slow days for air travel. 

“Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be slower days at checkpoints,” said TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein in a tweet. “Travel volume tends to pick up each Thursday as the weekend approaches.”

This weekend could be another big one for air travel after last weekend when 5.6 million travelers flew in five days, the busiest commercial airlines have been this year.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still recommending Americans avoid travel, even if they have received a Covid-19 vaccination. 

8:38 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

EU agency recommends approval for Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine

This July 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows a vial of the Covid-19 vaccine in Belgium.
This July 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows a vial of the Covid-19 vaccine in Belgium. Johnson & Johnson/AP

The European Medicines Agency – the European Union's medicines regulator – recommend approval on Thursday for the single-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. 

“After a thorough evaluation, EMA’s human medicines committee (CHMP) concluded by consensus that the data on the vaccine were robust and met the criteria for efficacy, safety and quality,” the EMA said in a statement. 

The vaccine is the fourth to be authorized for use in the EU, following Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Moderna. 

8:26 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

A year ago, Fauci said the pandemic would get worse. He didn't realize it would be this deadly.

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Anthony Fauci listens to US President Joe Biden, out of frame, during a visit to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, on February 11.
Dr. Anthony Fauci listens to US President Joe Biden, out of frame, during a visit to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, on February 11. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

One year since the World Health Organization described Covid-19 as a pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Thursday that while he warned a year ago that things would get worse, he didn’t realize it would be anything close to the number of deaths the US actually had.

“I have to tell you quite honestly, Savannah, it would have shocked me completely,” to know that, Fauci told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie on the "Today" show.

“I knew we were in for trouble, and you remember, you go back, I said it then, we better be really careful. In fact, that day at a congressional hearing, I made the statement things are going to get much worse before they get better, and that was at a congressional hearing a year ago today, it was March 11, 2020, I said that. But I did not in my mind think that much worse was going to be 525,000 deaths,” he told Guthrie. 

A year ago today, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a global pandemic.

8:56 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Biden will mark Covid-19 anniversary in first prime-time presidential address. Here's what you need to know.

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

US President Joe Biden waits to speak during a visit to the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on February 10.
US President Joe Biden waits to speak during a visit to the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on February 10. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Biden is expected to deliver his first prime-time address from the White House on Thursday night to commemorate the anniversary of the Covid-19 shutdown.

The address is scheduled to air live at 8 p.m. ET.

Here are key things to know about tonight's speech:

The speech's focus: Biden says he plans to talk about the next steps to address the pandemic.

"Tomorrow night, I'm going to (deliver a) prime-time address to the American people and talk about what we've been through as a nation this past year, but more importantly, I'm going to talk about what comes next," Biden said on Wednesday. "I'm going to launch the next phase of the Covid response and explain what we will do as a government and what we will ask of the American people."

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said earlier this week that the President will also "discuss the many sacrifices the American people have made over the last year and the grave loss communities and families across the country have suffered."

She said Biden looks forward to "highlighting the role that Americans will play in beating the virus and moving the country toward getting back to normal."

What's special about the speech? Biden's scheduled address to the nation will take place exactly one year after President Trump delivered remarks to the country after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic.

Since the pandemic began, more than 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and more than half a million Americans have died because of it.

The coronavirus pandemic has rocked the US economy, challenged the American health care system in unprecedented ways, halted travel, squeezed supply chains and changed the way many Americans work and learn.

Biden's speech comes on the heels of the final passage of his top legislative priority: the $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package. He's expected to sign the package into law on Friday.

How can I watch it? The address will be broadcast on CNN, CNN en Español and CNN International, with access to the livestream on CNN.com's homepage and across mobile devices via CNN's apps for iOS and Android, and simulcast on SiriusXM Channels 116, 454 and 795.

It can also be viewed on CNNgo (at CNN.com/go on your desktop, smartphone and iPad, and via CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Android TV, Chromecast, Roku and Samsung Smart TV). The speech will be available on demand to subscribers via cable/satellite systems, CNNgo platforms and CNN mobile apps.

9:17 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

CVS is now providing Covid-19 shots through federal program in 29 states and Puerto Rico

From CNN's Samira Said

A worker at a CVS in Eastchester, New York, checks in a person with an appointment to receive the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine on February 12.
A worker at a CVS in Eastchester, New York, checks in a person with an appointment to receive the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine on February 12. Gabriela Bhaskar/Bloomberg/Getty Images

CVS is now providing Covid-19 vaccinations through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program in 29 states and Puerto Rico, the pharmacy chain said in a press release Thursday. 

This is nearly double the 17 states where CVS was previously offering vaccinations. 

 “We’re increasing the number of active stores and expanding to additional states as fast as supply allows," said Karen S. Lynch, President and Chief Executive Officer, CVS Health in the statement. 

Appointments in the newly activated states and jurisdictions will start to become available for booking on Saturday, March 13, CVS said. 

CVS now offers vaccinations in nearly 1,200 stores in: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia.  

Not every CVS location in these states will be offering vaccinations, and eligibility requirements in each jurisdiction still apply. 

The Biden administration announced last week that Federal Retail Pharmacy Program participants would prioritize teachers and child care workers. 

"From March 3 to March 10, this population accounted for more than 30 percent of COVID-19 vaccine appointments at CVS Pharmacy locations," according to CVS' statement. 

7:42 a.m. ET, March 11, 2021

Austin mayor tells Texas attorney general he won't rescind the city's mask mandate

From CNN’s Chris Boyette and Kay Jones

Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown responded to threats from the Texas Attorney General on CNN on Wednesday night. 

On Wednesday afternoon, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had sent a letter to Adler and Brown saying he would sue unless the public health mask order issued in Austin and Travis County was rescinded by 6 p.m. CST, as CNN previously reported.

Adler told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night that they were "not going to rescind anything."  

He said that Dr. Mark Escott, Austin Chief Medical Officer and Interim Health Authority and Public Health Medical Director for the City of Austin and Travis County, said that masks should be mandated when people leave their homes and are around others in public. 

"The orders that he put into place last summer are still in place," Adler told Cooper. "They're still enforceable here in the city." 

Travis County Judge Andy Brown told CNN's Erin Burnett earlier Wednesday that Paxton knew they wouldn't respond before the deadline he imposed, and it was "meaningless" to start this. 

"He is the one who is supposed to know what the Open Meetings Act is and there is honestly no way we could comply with it today," Brown said. 

He also said that Paxton is "confused about the law" and that the issue at hand is not the same thing as when the Texas Supreme Court backed a challenge to curfew orders in December. 

"Ken Paxton is over here tweeting about lawsuits," Brown told Burnett. "If he wanted to do something, he could come this weekend and we would put him to work as a volunteer." 

Adler told Cooper that Paxton tweets at him a lot and he tries "not to engage at that level".��

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order rescinding the statewide mask mandate and allowing all businesses to open without restrictions starting Wednesday, but Escott announced Tuesday that masks remain required in Austin to protect from the spread of Covid-19.