March 16 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, CNN

Updated 0719 GMT (1519 HKT) March 17, 2021
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5:59 p.m. ET, March 16, 2021

New Covid-19 cases are at least 10% higher in some states, but still down in US overall

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

In 15 states, new Covid-19 cases reported over the past seven days are at least 10% higher than a week ago, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

In two of those states – Minnesota and Michigan – cases are more than 40% higher than they were a week ago. 

New Covid-19 cases are still trending down in the United States overall, and weekly case counts in these 15 states haven’t been increasing for long. The seven-day average of new cases has only been higher than the week before for seven days or less in each of those states, except for Michigan, a CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows.

Typically, experts say that more sustained data – at least a couple weeks – is needed to identify a trend. But as newer, more contagious variants become more prevalent in the US, catching early warning signs may be key to limiting continued spread. 

CNN has reported the Biden administration is closely monitoring data and investing resources to prevent and prepare for a fourth surge.

There is no clear link between case growth and variant prevalence in states. Despite having the largest number of coronavirus variants recorded by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida has seen a 16% drop in cases compared to last week. However, the US notably lags in genetic sequencing and only tests a very small portion of samples for the presence of coronavirus variants.

6:07 p.m. ET, March 16, 2021

Florida governor makes recommendations for how state should spend federal stimulus money 

From CNN's Pamela Kirkland

The Florida Channel
The Florida Channel

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a new round of budget recommendations on Tuesday outlining how the state should spend the latest round of federal relief funds. 

During a news conference in Tallahassee, DeSantis recommended a one-time $1,000 bonus be paid to every first responder in the state for their work during the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to the $208 million to first responders, the recommendations include giving the state’s unemployment CONNECT system $73.2 million, and $50 million for infrastructure. 

The governor also announced an additional $50 million dollars to boost Florida’s tourism industry.

“I think that with the advent of these vaccines, you’re already seeing people feel really good about traveling again about doing some of this stuff. There’s a lot of pent-up demand,” DeSantis said. “We obviously want Florida to be the beneficiary of that when people start getting back into the mix on enjoying themselves, on traveling.”

He said the state is expecting to receive between $9 to $10 billion from the federal government, but the governor is only proposing to spend $4.1 billion. Those recommendations will be sent to the Florida statehouse.

He also complained that the state is getting less money in stimulus spending than “blue states.”

“All in all, we're getting the short end of the stick, make no mistake about it, but we'll be getting the job done for the people of Florida," he said.

6:04 p.m. ET, March 16, 2021

Everyone 16 and older will be eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine starting April 1 in Montana

From CNN's Jennifer Selva

Paramedic Alex Baukus administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a patient at the Park County Health Department COVID-19 vaccination clinic for seniors 80 years and older on January 28, in Livingston, Montana.
Paramedic Alex Baukus administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a patient at the Park County Health Department COVID-19 vaccination clinic for seniors 80 years and older on January 28, in Livingston, Montana. William Campbell/Getty Images/FILE

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte announced that all Montanans 16 years of age and older will be eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine on April 1. 

The governor made the announcement during an afternoon news conference, pointing out that projections a month ago showed availability to this group being as late as mid-July.

“This week nationwide we will receive about 16 million doses, and in the first week of April that supply will increase to about 22 million doses per week,” Gianforte said. “So we have greater supply, that’s whey we’re expanding distribution and making the vaccine available to all Montanans.” 

As of Tuesday morning the state had administered 367,000 doses, with more than 142,000 Montanans fully immunized.

5:57 p.m. ET, March 16, 2021

UK adviser says Europe's "abundance of caution" on AstraZeneca vaccine is "very dangerous"

From CNN's AnneClaire Stapleton

European countries are only looking at the narrow question of where to suspend the AstraZeneca vaccine right now and aren’t considering the wider dangers associated with the decision, Dr. Peter Openshaw, an adviser to the UK government on pandemic viruses, told CNN.

“They haven't been asked to address the wider issue of what this is going to do to vaccine competence or vaccine rollout or whether it might cause thousands of people to die from Covid. I think on the wider question, I think this abundance of caution is actually very dangerous indeed,” said Openshaw, professor of medicine at Imperial College London.

Some context: At least 16 European countries have suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and three more have suspended use of certain batches of the vaccine. 

Regulators including the European Medicines Agency (EMA) say there is no known link between the vaccine and blood clots, and that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks.

WHO is expected to make a statement on the AstraZeneca vaccine as soon as Tuesday. EMA is due to make a statement on Thursday.

5:07 p.m. ET, March 16, 2021

AstraZeneca vaccine “did not show protection” against variant found in South Africa, study says

From CNN’s Michael Nedelman

A small study of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in South Africa said the vaccine “did not show protection against mild-to-moderate Covid-19” due to the variant widely circulating there, according to results published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The results were announced in early February by the University of Oxford and posted to a preprint server days later. They played a key role in South Africa scaling back its rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine last month.

The study did not show efficacy of the vaccine against the variant — also known as B.1.351 — because the numbers of people infected in the vaccine and placebo groups were not significantly different from each other.

The study included roughly 2,000 HIV-negative people with a median age of 30, evenly split between vaccine and placebo groups. Of the 42 total participants in the study who developed Covid-19 more than two weeks after the second dose, all but three were found to have the B.1.351 variant. 

The study also tested the blood of some vaccinated participants against live and engineered viruses in the lab, demonstrating that their antibodies had a more difficult time neutralizing the variant.

In response to earlier announcements of these results in February, AstraZeneca said it still believed its vaccine may protect against severe disease and hospitalization caused by the variant. However, this study of predominantly young, healthy people was unable to evaluate whether the vaccine would be effective to those ends. 

“There were no cases of hospitalization for severe Covid-19 observed in the study,” the study authors wrote.

In a different preprint last month, the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine showed overall 66.7% efficacy against symptomatic disease starting two weeks after the second shot, based on an analysis of more than 17,000 trial volunteers in the UK, Brazil and South Africa.

5:02 p.m. ET, March 16, 2021

California governor Newsom defends Covid-19 response amid recall effort

From CNN's Josiah Ryan


California's Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom today defended his administration's pandemic-related decisions as efforts to recall him continued to gather steam. 

"It's been a difficult year," acknowledged Newsom, when CNN's Jake Tapper pointed out that many Californians who support his recall believe his lockdown measures were too harsh. 

"In hindsight, you know, we're all experts," continued the governor. "....I think we saved thousands and thousands of lives."

"There's a bright light at the end of the tunnel, but I'm deeply mindful and deeply respectful to all the anxieties that people have felt over the last year," he added.

Nearly 1.5 million verified signatures are required to put the question of recalling Newsom on the ballot, and Wednesday marks the deadline for turning in the necessary signatures.

As of today, all indications pointed to Newsom's opponents reaching that goal, turning this sixth attempt to oust him via recall in two years into a credible threat to his political fortunes. 

Newsom told Tapper he is talking the recall seriously, but characterized its proponents as members of right-wing militia groups, conspiracy theorists and White supremacist groups. 

"All you need is about a quarter of the people that voted for Donald Trump to get this recall petition to the voters this November, so I'm anticipating it goes on (the ballot). We're taking it very seriously," Newsom told Tapper.

4:36 p.m. ET, March 16, 2021

Get caught up. Here's what you need to know about the Covid-19 pandemic today.

It's just after 4:30 p.m. ET in the US. Vaccine doses continue to roll out across the country and President Biden is making his pitch to Americans about his Covid-19 relief bill.

If you're just getting caught up, here's what to know about the pandemic today:

  • Vaccine progress: Nearly 111 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the US, the CDC said. Nearly 22% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine, and nearly 12% of the population are fully vaccinated, CDC data shows.
  • Variants: France is experiencing “what looks like a kind of third wave” of the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Jean Castex said. He 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.” 
  • Cases: Asymptomatic or undiagnosed Covid-19 infections in US may have been twice the official count, according to a study published Tuesday in the medical journal JAMA. The scientists estimate that 15.9 million asymptomatic or undiagnosed infections had occurred in the US as of September 30.
  • Covid relief: President Biden and Vice President Harris are on the road this week talking to people across the country about the American Rescue Plan. 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.
  • 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. Gelber also criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for restricting local and city leaders to enforce mask mandates. The TSA screened 6.4 million people at airports across the country between Thursday and Monday, the biggest five-day period of pandemic air travel.
  • AstraZeneca: At least 15 EU and associated countries have suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine over fears about blood clots. The European Union’s Commissioner for Health Tuesday urged countries to use all their vaccine doses. The agency has repeatedly said the benefits the vaccine outweigh the risks.

4:25 p.m. ET, March 16, 2021

Delaware will open vaccines to anyone with moderate-risk health conditions and people 50 and older

From CNN's Konstantin Toropin

Delaware will allow pharmacies to begin vaccinating anyone in the state who is 50 years or older and doctors and hospitals to vaccinate anyone with a high or moderate-risk medical condition, Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said in a statement.

Eligible medical conditions include cancer, serious heart conditions, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to a state website. Several lifestyle conditions like obesity and being a cigarette smoker are on the list as well.

"We are making a strong push through the end of March to vaccinate the remaining seniors 65+ and frontline essential workers who want a vaccine, and are excited to be able to begin reaching other vulnerable Delawareans,” Rattay said in the statement.

The state also announced that on March 23, it will open its Covid-19 vaccination waiting list to any ​Delawarean 50 or older. Being added to the waiting list means that the state contacts you when an appointment is available rather than having to find one yourself.

4:07 p.m. ET, March 16, 2021

Apple updates its maps to display Covid-19 vaccination sites – just ask Siri

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

Apple Maps, an application on iPhones, iMacs and other Apple products, has been updated to include Covid-19 vaccination locations, the tech giant announced on Tuesday. 

To help people find Covid-19 vaccines, Apple updated the app with Covid-19 vaccination location data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vaccine Finder, a web-based system of vaccination providers.

Apple said in a statement that Apple Maps users can find Covid-19 vaccination locations in their area by searching in the app or asking Siri, "Where can I get a Covid-19 vaccination?"

Apple also noted that Apple Maps includes Covid-19 testing locations as well.

"Last year, Apple updated Apple Maps to display COVID-19 testing sites in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United States," the statement said.

Apple's announcement comes just a day after Facebook rolled out a Covid-19 vaccine locator tool on its social media platform.