March 16 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, CNN

Updated 0719 GMT (1519 HKT) March 17, 2021
19 Posts
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12:22 p.m. ET, March 16, 2021

Ohio will open vaccines to those 40 and older starting Friday, governor says

From CNN's Konstantin Toropin

Director of Nursing Crystal Jones prepares doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine in Athens, Ohio, on March 9.
Director of Nursing Crystal Jones prepares doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine in Athens, Ohio, on March 9. Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced today that Ohio will offer the Covid-19 vaccine to anyone 40 and older starting on Friday and promised to expand to anyone over the age of 16 on March 29.

Dewine said during a news conference today that anyone with cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, or obesity, will also be eligible for the vaccine on Friday.

The two new eligibility groups means that "about 1.6 million new Ohioans" will be eligible for a vaccine shot on Friday, according to DeWine. 

DeWine was in Cleveland announcing the opening of Ohio's first FEMA-coordinated mass Covid-19 vaccination clinic, located at Cleveland State University's Wolstein Center. 

The location is able to handle 1,500 people per day now but, "assuming that everything is working fine," in several days it will be vaccinating 6,000 people per day, according to DeWine. 

Cuyahoga County Executive, Armond Budish, stressed the location's role in reaching communities of color and minorities at the press conference. 

Budish said that state vaccine registration data for the Wolstein Center shows that "people of color, specifically Black and brown people, are registering at a much lower rate than white people."

"That has to change, it comes down to a matter of life and death," he said.

Budish said that the reason for the disparity comes down to barriers in getting to the location as well as a lack of trust in the government.

Budish said that the county is working with local organizations like the Urban League, the NAACP, as well as churches and community centers, to try and overcome the distrust.

12:36 p.m. ET, March 16, 2021

France is seeing signs of a “third wave” in pandemic, prime minister says

From CNN's Eva Tapiero

French Prime Minister Jean Castex speaks during a session at the National Assembly in Paris, on March 16.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex speaks during a session at the National Assembly in Paris, on March 16. Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

France is experiencing “what looks like a kind of third wave” of the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Jean Castex told lawmakers Tuesday.  

Speaking at the French National Assembly, the prime minister said the country has seen a rise in cases of new coronavirus variants, warning that the third wave has been “characterized by variants, a lot of them.” 

“The so-called British variant is taking an increasingly important place,” he added. 

Castex is set to participate in a televised interview on Tuesday evening, in which he is expected to speak about the coronavirus pandemic. 

11:36 a.m. ET, March 16, 2021

South African regulator grants provisional approval for Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 

From CNN's Amy Cassidy & David McKenzie

The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine has been provisionally approved for use in South Africa, but will remain under surveillance for efficacy and safety. 

The South Africa Health Products Regulatory Authority announced on Tuesday: “SAHPRA has approved the Section 21 application for the Pfizer/Biontech Comirnaty Vaccine.

The statement added: “This approval is subject to conducting a post Section 21 authorization efficacy and safety surveillance.”

South Africa has ordered 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, however a date on when the doses will arrive in the country has so far not been announced. 

11:21 a.m. ET, March 16, 2021

Miami Beach is seeing crowds "that want to just let loose in ways that are unacceptable,” mayor says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

This spring break, Miami Beach is seeing “too many people coming that want to just let loose in ways that are unacceptable,” Mayor Dan Gelber said, adding that it is concerning with the pandemic still on and the threat of the variants looming large.

Experts have told the mayor that it could easily spread elsewhere, he said Tuesday.

“We don’t want it because honestly it’s not healthy for our residents. And we certainly don’t want to be a hub of a problem that affects other communities locally or elsewhere,” he told CNN.

Gelber also criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for restricting local and city leaders to enforce mask mandates.

“The problem is that the message people are getting from the governor and others is that they shouldn’t have to worry about this. And that’s the hardest thing,” Gelber said. “They’re getting mixed messages, including from the most prominent voice in the state.”

Watch more:

11:21 a.m. ET, March 16, 2021

Savannah mayor says the city is “wide open” for St. Patrick's Day, encourages masking and social distancing

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos

Savannah is “wide open” for St. Patrick's Day celebrations this year, the city's Mayor Van Johnson told reporters on Tuesday, while urging Covid-19 mitigation efforts to be upheld.

“It’s important to note that Savannah is wide open. We’ve been wide open. And the way we stay open is to require the use of mask,” Johnson said highlighting how important St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are to the local economy.

Last year, Savannah's St. Patrick's Day festival and parade were canceled by Johnson due to the pandemic.

Despite the pandemic and a city-issued mask mandate, thousands of residents and tourists, some maskless and many not socially distanced, packed Savannah’s streets and businesses over the weekend. 

Johnson said he was “irritated” by some instances of national news coverage comparing his city to Miami Beach, another destination being flooded with tourists, because “we have worked very hard to keep Savannah open” by masking. The mayor acknowledged he observed “lively” and maskless patrons at local establishments, a reality he feared would lead to “super-spreader” occurrences.

Johnson said Savannah Police were out in force visiting establishments selling alcohol and enforcing city and state ordinances. Johnson said police performed 48 inspections and issued 23 citations to 19 establishments that were in violation over the weekend.

Johnson said his expectation of businesses is they would comply with the city ordinances and require masks. Johnson issued a mask mandate for Savannah in July of 2020.

Police and city’s Covid-19 Taskforce estimate they have given out over 18,000 masks, the mayor said.

Savannah will open its first mass vaccination site on Wednesday. 

11:09 a.m. ET, March 16, 2021

Asymptomatic or undiagnosed Covid-19 infections in US may have been twice the official count, study suggests

From CNN's Ryan Prior

The number of US adults who have contracted the novel coronavirus could be twice the number reflected in the official case count, according to a study published Tuesday in the medical journal JAMA.

Because many people who become infected with Covid-19 do not experience symptoms, researchers at the Clinical Reference Laboratory designed a large-scale study to test for the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in otherwise healthy US adults. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes Covid-19. 

The researchers enrolled 61,910 self-reported "well" participants. They tested their blood for antibodies to fight SARS-CoV-2, and found that 4,094 – or 6.6% – of them were positive, despite never reporting that they experienced symptoms.

The scientists used that information to estimate that 15.9 million asymptomatic or undiagnosed SARS-CoV-2 infections had occurred in the US as of September 30, 2020.

By contrast, the total number of confirmed positive cases was just over 7.2 million at the end of September, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The researchers said the results of their study validate the need for ongoing population-wide surveillance testing for Covid-19.

10:53 a.m. ET, March 16, 2021

Europe is fighting a third wave of Covid-19. Here's the latest from across the continent.

From CNN's Mitchell McCluskey

A woman walks around the empty Piazza di Spagna during the first day of lockdown in Rome, Italy, on March 15.
A woman walks around the empty Piazza di Spagna during the first day of lockdown in Rome, Italy, on March 15. Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Europe is combatting a third wave of coronavirus infections, leading some officials to restrict travel and hospitals to reallocate their resources. 

If you're just reading in, here's what you need to know about the pandemic to start your morning:

  • AstraZeneca rollout paused in some countries: The World Health Organization is set to convene today to discuss the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine as a growing number of European countries have temporarily halted the rollout of the vaccine due to reports of a handful of cases of blood clots in people who have received the shot. The suspensions go against the advice of international medical agencies, which say there's no evidence the vaccine is linked to clotting and that rollouts should continue while the reports are investigated. 
  • Italy imposes new lockdown: Italy has entered another lockdown after a surge in coronavirus cases, caused by the emergence of several new variants. In "red zone" regions, people will be unable to leave their houses except for work or health reasons, with all non-essential shops closed. In "orange zones," people will be banned from leaving their town and their region — except for work or health reasons — and bars and restaurants will only be able to do delivery and take-away service. The new measures, which effect half of Italy's 20 regions, went into effect on Monday and are set to last until April 6.
  • Crowding in French hospitals: France is facing a rise in hospitalizations, causing around 100 Covid-19 patients to be evacuated to regions where ICUs were less crowded, French officials said. Hospitals in Paris had already canceled many operations in order to focus on Covid-19 patients. Health minister Olivier Véran said a coronavirus patient was being admitted to their intensive care units every 12 minutes in Paris.
10:39 a.m. ET, March 16, 2021

European Medicines Agency verdict on AstraZeneca vaccine expected Thursday

From CNN’s Sarah Dean in London  

AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines are stored in a fridge at a vaccination center in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France, on Tuesday, March 16.
AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines are stored in a fridge at a vaccination center in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France, on Tuesday, March 16. Bob Edme/AP

European Medicines Agency executive director Emer Cooke says “as far as she understands” the outcome of the AstraZeneca review will come on Thursday afternoon. 

“I want to also stress that at present, there is no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions. They have not come up in the clinical trials, and they're not listed as known or expected side events with this vaccine. In clinical trials, both the vaccinated people and the people who received the placebo, have shown, small, some very small numbers of blood clot developments,” Cooke said.

The Agency also said it's worried there may be an effect on the trust of vaccines because of its current investigation into AstraZeneca, but its executive director stressed “our job is to make sure that the products we authorize are safe and we can be trusted by the European citizens.”

Speaking at a digital press conference on Tuesday, Cooke added:

"I have to stress again that trust in the safety and efficacy in the vaccine we have authorized is paramount to us. Our job is to ensure we can maintain trust in these vaccines based on a proper scientific evaluation and this is why we have put such high priority on coming to a clear conclusion based on the evaluation of the cases coming in as we speak and whether or not there is a causal event.”

10:24 a.m. ET, March 16, 2021

Biden travels to Pennsylvania today to promote his Covid relief plan. Here's the latest on the law's roll out.

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden launches a sales effort Tuesday that he says is critical to convincing Americans that government can make their lives better as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the country.

The "Help is Here" road show, which spans the country from coast to coast and includes travel by the first lady, vice president, second gentleman and Cabinet members, is partly designed to claim political credit for the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that no Republicans voted for but which remains overwhelmingly popular among Americans.

At a small business outside Philadelphia, Biden today will trumpet the economic assistance offered by his administration to help shore up pandemic-addled sectors. Vice President Kamala Harris meanwhile is promoting the law today in Denver, Colorado.

The $1.9 trillion bill also sends billions to state and local governments, expands the child tax credit and delivers direct payments up to $1,400 to individuals.

But he'll also make the case more broadly that big government, when functioning properly, is a good thing.

"We have to prove to the American people that their government can deliver for them," Biden said Monday as he explained how the White House planned to roll out the massive new law. "That's our job," he said. "That's our responsibility."

More on the law's roll out: Many of the states that administration officials are visiting this week are critical electoral battlegrounds and the law's popularity among the American people is helping Biden and his surrogates promote the plan to Americans eager for relief.

A smooth rollout of the new law will be essential for maintaining its majority support among Americans. There were positive signs on that front this weekend as direct stimulus payments began hitting Americans' bank accounts.

But officials say there are still potential hiccups ahead, including administering the expanded child tax credit through the IRS and getting billions of dollars to state and local governments efficiently and without waste.

Biden on Monday named Gene Sperling, a top economic official in previous Democratic administrations, to oversee the implementation efforts.

Here's a guide of what Americans can expect from the law.