The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Nectar Gan, CNN

Updated 0011 GMT (0811 HKT) March 18, 2021
18 Posts
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11:29 a.m. ET, March 17, 2021

CDC’s ensemble forecast now projects up to 574,000 US Covid-19 deaths by April 10

From CNN's Ben Tinker

Faces of victims of COVID-19 are projected onto the Brooklyn Bridge during “A COVID-19 Day of Remembrance” memorial service on March 14, in New York City.
Faces of victims of COVID-19 are projected onto the Brooklyn Bridge during “A COVID-19 Day of Remembrance” memorial service on March 14, in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

An ensemble forecast published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now projects there will be 554,000 to 574,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by April 10.

Unlike some individual models, the CDC’s ensemble forecast only offers projections a few weeks into the future.

The previous ensemble forecast, published March 10, projected up to 571,000 coronavirus deaths by April 3.

At least 536,925 people have already died from Covid-19 in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

10:50 a.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Here's what Covid-19 case counts look like in states loosening coronavirus restrictions

From CNN’s Amanda Watts 

People visit Fort Lauderdale Beach in Florida on March 14.
People visit Fort Lauderdale Beach in Florida on March 14. Larry Marano/Shutterstock

Several states are actively loosening restrictions meant to curb coronavirus, including lifting mask mandates and welcoming spring breakers.

Here's a snapshot of what the Covid-19 data shows in three of those states. 


  • New cases across the state of Mississippi are up 19% from last week, according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU) data. 
  • Right now, the state sees an average of 463 new cases per day. The state had been experiencing a steep decline in new cases for weeks, but for the last eight days, the state has seen an increase in new cases.  
  • On March 2, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced, “Starting tomorrow, we are lifting all of our county mask mandates and businesses will be able to operate at full capacity without any state-imposed rules.” On March 3, the state was seeing an average of 541 new cases per day, according to JHU. Although the average of new cases is lower, cases had been falling rapidly when the mandate was lifted and that trend has now turned around. 


  • The state sees an average of 4,722 new cases per day, according to JHU. Like much of the US, the state has been seeing a steep decline in new cases since late January. 
  • In early March, Gov. Greg Abbott announced the state would lift its mask mandate on March 10. On that day, the state was seeing a 32% drop in new cases from the week before. While the state is still seeing a decline in cases, the margin has narrowed to a 10% decrease from the week before. 
  • 235 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant have been identified in Texas, according to the CDC. That’s the sixth-highest number in the nation. 



  • Florida currently sees an average of 4,527 new cases per day, according to JHU. The seven-day average of new cases has been declining steadily and consistently since mid-January. 
  • The state leads the United States for the most B.1.1.7 variant cases reported, according to the CDC. Florida has reported 738 cases of the variant – which totals 15% of all cases reported in the US, CDC data shows. 
  • Over the weekend, tourists flocked to the Sunshine State for spring break. Large crowds packed the beaches and restaurants were full. 
  • Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said the situation is concerning. “The problem is that that we have too many people coming, we have too many people that want to just let loose in ways that are unacceptable, and we have a pandemic including really I think, ground zero for the variant. So, you know there is a lot of things to be concerned about,” Gelber told Jim Scuitto on CNN Newsroom on Tuesday.

10:58 a.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Massachusetts general public will be eligible for Covid-19 vaccines starting April 19

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

A person receives the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on February 16.
A person receives the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on February 16. Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced that as of April 19, people ages 16 and older will be eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine. 

In announcing the timelines for remaining eligibility groups, the governor said:

  • As of March 22, residents 60 years of age and older, and certain workers, will become eligible.
  • As of April 5, residents 55 years of age and older, and residents with one certain medical condition, will be eligible. 

The governor said this week that the state is receiving a modest increase in supply of first doses, amounting to approximately 170,000, which includes an unexpected 8,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

10:36 a.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Global Covid-19 cases are rising, but deaths are declining, WHO says 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

A health worker prepares to take swab samples at a mobile Covid-19 testing center in Mumbai, India, on February 11.
A health worker prepares to take swab samples at a mobile Covid-19 testing center in Mumbai, India, on February 11. Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images

Global cases of Covid-19 increased by 10% over the past week, but deaths are declining, according to the weekly epidemiological update from the World Health Organization published Tuesday. 

Globally cases increased 10% over the past week to over three million new reported cases, according to the report. The number of new cases peaked in early January, then declined in the week beginning Feb. 15. They have now increased for the past three weeks. 

All WHO regions have reported a rise in new cases apart from Africa. 

New deaths have continued to decline, the report said. They are now under 60,000, down from a peak of over 95,000 deaths in the week beginning Jan. 18. The last time that deaths were this low was four months ago. 

This week, deaths rose in two WHO regions: the Eastern Mediterranean and the Western Pacific. 

Over 80% of the new reported cases and deaths come from the Americas and Europe. 

Brazil reported the highest number of new cases – just over 494,000 – followed by the US, France, Italy and India. 



10:22 a.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Benefits of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine outweigh its risks and vaccinations should continue, WHO says

From CNN's Jamie Gumbrecht

A health worker in Rome shows how she prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on March 8.
A health worker in Rome shows how she prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on March 8. Alessandra Tarantino/AP

After several European Union countries temporarily suspended the use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, the World Health Organization said Wednesday that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh its risks and vaccinations should continue.

The statement follows reports of rare blood clotting disorders in people who have received the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. WHO notes that it’s routine for countries to signal potential adverse events during extensive vaccination campaigns, and it doesn’t necessarily mean the events are linked to the vaccination.

“Vaccination against COVID-19 will not reduce illness or deaths from other causes,” WHO said. “Thromboembolic events are known to occur frequently. Venous thromboembolism is the third most common cardiovascular disease globally.”

The statement said WHO is in regular contact with the European Medicine Agency and regulators around the world, and its Global Advisory Commission on Vaccine Safety is “carefully assessing” the latest safety data.

“Once that review is completed, WHO will immediately communicate the findings to the public,” it said.


9:33 a.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Covid-19 cases rising significantly in 14 US states over past week

From CNN’s Brandon Miller

Covid-19 cases are rising by more than 10% in 14 states this week compared to last week, with half of those states rising by more than 20%.

While nationally the number of new cases has continued to decline – though at a much slower rate over the past three weeks compared to late January and February – the trend is not down for all states. 

One month ago, on Feb. 17, there were only 3 states showing increases of 10% or more (North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska).

Michigan cases are increasing the fastest, at more than 50% this week compared to last, with Delaware (39%), Montana (34%), Alabama (31%) and West Virginia (29%) in the Top 5.

The 14 states increasing by more than 10% are:

  1. Michigan
  2. Delaware
  3. Montana
  4. Alabama
  5. West Virginia
  6. New Hampshire
  7. Hawaii
  8. Mississippi
  9. Maine
  10. Nevada
  11. Connecticut
  12. North Dakota
  13. Idaho
  14. Maryland


10:14 a.m. ET, March 17, 2021

WHO advisory group recommends Johnson & Johnson vaccine for all adults age 18 and older 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

A person receives a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine in Thornton, Colorado, on March 6.
A person receives a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine in Thornton, Colorado, on March 6. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization released its interim recommendations for the use of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine for people age 18 and older, based on advice from its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on immunization, who met on Monday. 

“After reviewing the evidence, we have a vaccine that shows to be safe and it shows to have the necessary efficacy to be recommended by us for use in people above the age of 18 without an upper age limit,” said Dr. Alejandro Cravioto, chair of SAGE, during a briefing Wednesday. 

Cravioto said that the fact that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single dose vaccine is “a regular advantage in the sense of having the capacity to vaccinate more people, but no different in reality in its capacity to protect against severe disease or death or hospitalization than all the other ones that we have already reviewed and recommended.” 

There is currently not enough data on pregnant women to assess the risks of the vaccine to the group, the SAGE recommendations say, but in the interim, pregnant women should receive the vaccine if the benefit of being vaccinated outweighs the potential risks, for example if a pregnant women is a health worker or has comorbidities that place them in a high risk group for severe Covid-19. 

The document also points out that there have been no safety issues identified following the vaccination of more than 1,600 women against the company’s Ebola vaccine which is based on the same platform.  

SAGE recommends that people who have already been infected with SARS-CoV-2 should still be vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but that they wait for up to six months before getting it in order to give others a chance to get their first doses. However, in countries with high circulation of variants of concern, Cravioto said that they recommend that people who have already been infected not wait more than a week or two to be vaccinated. 

“In the countries where there is a high spread of the variants, and in countries where we now have information about the use of this vaccine to control SARS-CoV-2 caused by these variants, we recommend that you use it,” Cravioto said, giving data coming out of the US, Europe, South Africa and Brazil as examples.

As with other vaccines, SAGE recommends that groups who are disproportionately at risk of being infected and who live in environments where the virus circulates at a much wider capacity are vaccinated first, Cravioto said. 

They do not recommend the vaccine for people who are traveling and do not recommend any type of certificate for traveling, he said.  

SAGE has already made recommendations on the Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines. 

8:27 a.m. ET, March 17, 2021

European Union unveils plans for vaccine passports

From CNN's James Frater

Stella Kyriakides, European commissioner for health and food safety, speaks at a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, on February 17.
Stella Kyriakides, European commissioner for health and food safety, speaks at a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, on February 17. Aris Oikonomou/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The European Commission has unveiled its proposal for a "Digital Green Certificate", or vaccine passport, to allow for safe and free movement within the EU during the pandemic.

The certificate will confirm that a person has been vaccinated against Covid-19, has received a negative test result or has recovered from Covid-19 that can be used across all EU Member States, the Commission announced on Wednesday.

The certificate can also be used in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway as well as Switzerland and will “be open to initiatives being developed globally”, the Commission said in a fact sheet sent to CNN.

The proposal was unveiled as the Commission called on Member States to prepare for a “coordinated approach to a gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions” when the epidemiological situation allows, ahead of a meeting of European leaders on March 25.

“Today we are proposing a common EU approach that will lead us on the way to our goal of re-opening the EU in a safe, sustainable and predictable way. The situation with the virus in Europe is still very challenging and confidence in decisions taken are crucial. It is only through a joint approach that we can return safely to full free movement in the EU, based on transparent measures and full mutual confidence,” Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety said in a press release.

The Digital Green Certificate will contain a QR code with a digital signature “to protect it against falsification. When the certificate is checked, the QR code is scanned and the signature verified,” the Commission fact sheet said.

Each issuing body (e.g. a hospital, a test centre, a health authority) has its own digital signature key and all of these are stored in a secure database in each country.

The European Commission will build a gateway where all certificate signatures can be verified across the EU.

Member States should issue vaccination certificates regardless of the type of COVID-19 vaccine, the Commission proposed. And people who have been vaccinated before the Digital Green Certificate is put in place should have the possibility to obtain the necessary vaccination certificate.

No exact end date was given for the certificates, with the Commission saying they will be suspended once the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the end of the international public health emergency caused by COVID-19.

The Commission is working to ensure the certificates are compatible with systems in third countries outside the EU, it said.

7:57 a.m. ET, March 17, 2021

Iceland will allow vaccinated tourists

From Sharon Braithwaite in Pisa, Italy

Iceland will open its borders to vaccinated visitors, including those from non-Schengen countries, the government said Tuesday in a statement.

The government announced that "all those who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to travel to Iceland without being subject to border measures, such as testing and quarantine"

Until now, "this exemption has only applied to those presenting certificates from the EU/EEA Area but will now apply equally to everyone who can provide proof of a full vaccination with a vaccine that has been certified for use by the European Medical Agency as well as requirements defined by the Chief Epidemiologist of Iceland and Icelandic regulations. Certificates from the World Health Organization (WHO) are also accepted for vaccines the WHO has validated."

From March 18, this exemption will apply to citizens outside the Schengen area, including the UK and USA, the government added.

The exemption also applies to those who can provide valid proof of prior infection, it said.