March 12 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 4:52 p.m. ET, March 15, 2021
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8:40 p.m. ET, March 12, 2021

Los Angeles County to reopen indoor dining, movie theaters Monday

From CNN's Alexandra Meeks

Outside view of the closed AMC Theater, amid the coronavirus pandemic, May 12, 2020, in Burbank, California.
Outside view of the closed AMC Theater, amid the coronavirus pandemic, May 12, 2020, in Burbank, California. Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images/FILE

Indoor dining at restaurants in Los Angeles County will be allowed to reopen Monday up to 25% capacity after being closed countywide for nearly nine months, the Los Angeles Department of Public Health (LAPDH) announced at a news conference Friday.

Movie theaters will also be permitted to reopen with up to 25% maximum capacity.

The announcement comes amid declining case levels and after California health officials said two million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered to people in the most under-resourced communities across the state, allowing L.A. County to move from the purple tier, the most restrictive in the state's coronavirus reporting system, to the red tier. 

Restaurants in L.A. County that plan on reopening for indoor dining Monday must follow certain protocols to maintain proper safety and social distancing rules, the department said.

There must be eight feet of distancing between indoor dining tables, air conditioning systems must be evaluated and are in good working order, and ventilation must be increased to the greatest extent possible. The maximum number of guests at each table at indoor and outdoor tables will be six people.

On Monday, L.A. County will also permit museums, zoos and aquariums to reopen indoors with up to 25% maximum occupancy while gyms, fitness centers, yoga studios, and dance studios can reopen indoors with up to 10% maximum occupancy, all with masking required. 

By the numbers: Los Angeles County has administered more than 2.7 million doses of the vaccine since receiving their first doses, officials said. Next week, the county expects to receive an additional 260,000 doses. 

7:51 p.m. ET, March 12, 2021

Given what we know now about the pandemic, the US should have shut down earlier, Fauci says

From CNN’s Christopher Rios

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Axios that, given what he knows now about the pandemic, he would have recommended shutting the country down much earlier.

Fauci told Dan Primack on an Axios Re:Cap podcast episode released Friday, reflecting on decisions made in the first months of the pandemic. 

“Obviously, if we knew then that this was a virus that was capable of spectacularly efficient spread, particularly among people who have no symptoms they’re spreading it, then you would have said, we should shut the country down now,” Fauci said. 

Fauci said such a recommendation would have been poorly received at the time.

“You know what would have happened, people would have looked at me like I was crazy. ‘What are you talking about, shut the country down? We’ve only had a few cases.’ But if we knew then that we had clear and efficient spread predominantly by people who were not symptomatic, if we knew that as fact," he said.

But there wasn’t enough evidence early on to justify such a measure, Fauci said.  

6:43 p.m. ET, March 12, 2021

CDC removes three-month cap on fully vaccinated people skipping quarantine after Covid-19 exposure

From CNN’s Michael Nedelman

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention removed language from its guidance this week referencing a three-month limit to fully vaccinated people being able to skip quarantine after a coronavirus exposure.

Previously, the agency said on its website that fully vaccinated people could skip quarantine after a Covid-19 exposure if they were within three months of their final vaccine dose. They must also remain asymptomatic.

Fully vaccinated means at least two weeks have passed since receiving a final dose of Covid-19 vaccine, whether that is two shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

CNN has reached out to the agency for comment.

CDC announced its first iteration of these guidelines a month ago. At the time, a spokesperson told CNN that the guidance mirrored what the agency had recommended last year for people who had become infected with Covid-19 in the last 90 days. She noted the agency wasn't suggesting vaccines were expected to wear off after 90 days, and that the CDC was continuing to evaluate that timeline as it got more information.

On its website, CDC notes that guidance for fully vaccinated people "will be updated and expanded based on the level of community spread of SARS-CoV-2, the proportion of the population that is fully vaccinated, and the rapidly evolving science on COVID-19 vaccines.”

The quarantine exemption does not apply to people who live in "non-healthcare congregate settings” such as prisons or group homes, even if they are vaccinated.

6:34 p.m. ET, March 12, 2021

Treasury Department confirms first batch of Covid relief payments being processed today

From CNN's Ross Levitt

The Treasury Department confirmed the first batch of payments under the American Rescue Plan are being processed today and that some could be delivered this weekend.

“The Treasury Department – through the Internal Revenue Service and the Bureau of the Fiscal Service – enacted an operational plan to begin processing the first batch of these payments today, which some recipients will start receiving as early as this weekend, and with more receiving this coming week,” the department said in a statement. 

CNN has previously reported that $1,400 stimulus checks will start going out this weekend. 

The Treasury Department said further payments to millions of Americans will go out in the coming weeks.

6:17 p.m. ET, March 12, 2021

Report: AstraZeneca will seek US authorization for its Covid-19 vaccine in March or early April

From CNN's John Bonifield

Empty phials of the Astra-Zeneca Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Brest,  France, on March 12.
Empty phials of the Astra-Zeneca Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Brest, France, on March 12. Fred Tanneau/AFP/Getty Images

AstraZeneca expects to ask the US Food and Drug Administration to authorize its Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use in March or early April, sources with knowledge of the company's ongoing clinical trial told Reuters.

The company's phase 3 clinical trial completed enrollment in January and includes more than 32,000 volunteers, the sources said. They said at least 150 people in the trial have had Covid-19, and that the data will be used to determine the vaccine's efficacy.

AstraZeneca declined to confirm the dates, telling CNN in a statement: "The US phase III study results are necessary for the FDA’s evaluation of an EUA request for our vaccine. We expect data from our US Phase III trial to be available soon, in the coming weeks, and we plan to file for emergency use authorization shortly thereafter."

In February: Ruud Dobber, an AstraZeneca executive vice president and president of the company’s biopharmaceuticals business unit, told congressional lawmakers the company would have 30 million doses of its two-shot vaccine available in the beginning of April, which could be released "instantly" if the vaccine is authorized.

He said 50 million doses would be available to the US at the end of April – a figure AstraZeneca reaffirmed to CNN on Friday.

Biden administration Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said Friday that the US has a “small inventory” of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, in the event it is authorized.

4:42 p.m. ET, March 12, 2021

Washington governor orders schools to offer in-person instruction by April

From CNN's Konstantin Toropin

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has announced that he is ordering school districts in his state to provide an in-person instruction option by April 5.  

"By April 5, all students in grades kindergarten through [6th grade] must have the opportunity to engage in an on-site hybrid model of instruction, and by April 19, all other K through [12th grade] students must be provided a hybrid model of instruction," Inslee said on Friday during a news conference. 

“More than half of our schools have returned to some form of in-person instruction, but there are still hundreds of thousands of students who have not had access to in-person learning,” the governor tweeted on Friday.

Citing concerns over the rise in mental health issues with children, he tweeted, “Now is the time for all schools to return to in-person learning.”

However, Inslee said that he will still require all schools to offer both in-person "and a remote learning option for those who prefer to remain in remote learning mode.”

3:35 p.m. ET, March 12, 2021

US tops 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

Syringes with doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine await recipients at a vaccination site at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza on March 11, in Los Angeles.
Syringes with doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine await recipients at a vaccination site at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza on March 11, in Los Angeles. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

More than 101 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States, according to data published Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The tally includes doses administered since the first shot on December 14, 2020.

More than 2.9 million more doses were reported administered since yesterday, marking a new daily record. The seven-day average of reported doses administered is about 2.3 million.

Overall, the CDC reports that 101,128,005 doses have been administered – about 76% of the 133,337,525 doses delivered.

More than 1 in 10 people in the US – about 35 million people – are now fully vaccinated, and about 1 in 5 people – nearly 66 million people – have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

Note: Data published by the CDC may be delayed, and doses may not have been given on the day reported.

4:01 p.m. ET, March 12, 2021

Biden: Stimulus package is "only the beginning" and puts workers first in revitalizing economy

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

President Biden touted his $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus bill, saying it “changes the paradigm” for workers in the United States. 

“For the first time in a long time, this bill puts working people in this nation first,” Biden said in remarks during a Rose Garden speech today.

The President said that “we’ve seen time and time again” that trickle-down economics does not work.

“This time, it’s time that we build an economy that grows from the bottom up and the middle out,” he said. 

The American Rescue Plan represents a rebuilding of the working class, “the backbone of this country,” he added.

Biden added that he views the legislation as “only the beginning” of his administration’s efforts, and there is more work to be done. 

“We're not finished yet. Conditions can change. The scientists have warned us about new variants of this virus, and the devil is in the details of implementing this legislation,” he said.

“It's one thing to pass the American Rescue Plan. It's going to be another thing to implement it. It's going to require fastidious oversight to make sure there's no waste or fraud and the law does what it's designed to do, and I mean it. We have to get this right. Details matter, because we have to continue to build confidence in the American people that their government can function for them and deliver,” Biden added.

Watch his speech:

4:02 p.m. ET, March 12, 2021

Biden: "This legislation includes the biggest investment in childcare since WWII"

 Alex Wong/Getty Images
 Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Biden highlighted portions of his administration’s massive $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, particularly the impact it will make on families, during an event at the White House's Rose Garden this afternoon.

"This legislation extends unemployment insurance by $300 a week until September. It's going to help 11 million Americans who were days from losing that benefit. This legislation includes the biggest investment in childcare since World War II. That's not just hyperbole. That's a fact. It's a fact," Biden said.

More on the bill: The bill provides direct payments worth up to $1,400 per person to married couples earning less than $160,000, heads of households earning less than $120,000 a year and individuals earning less than $80,000 a year.

Individuals earning less than $75,000 will receive the full $1,400. Married couples earning less than $150,000 a year will receive $2,800 — and families with children are eligible for an additional $1,400 per dependent. Heads of households earning less than $112,500 a year will also receive the full $1,400 plus another $1,400 per dependent.