March 18 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Brett McKeehan and Kara Fox, CNN

Updated 0748 GMT (1548 HKT) March 19, 2021
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11:24 a.m. ET, March 18, 2021

AMC Theatres will have 98% of their US locations open tomorrow

From CNN’s Alison Kosik

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

AMC Theatres, the world's biggest movie theater chain, announced that 98% of its theaters in the US will be open on Friday, with even more theaters opening a week later.

 “It was exactly one year ago that we closed all AMC locations in the United States,” said AMC CEO and President Adam Aron, in a news release.

 “As we have done at all of locations around the country, AMC is reopening and operating with the highest devotion to the health and safety of our guests and associates,” he said.

AMC says it expects 52 of its 54 locations in California will be open. That list includes two brand new theaters in the Los Angeles area.

11:12 a.m. ET, March 18, 2021

New York City mayor gets the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

From CCNN's Kristina Sgueglia

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio just received the Johnson & Johnson vaccination during his Covid-19 briefing. It was administered by the city's Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi.

He said he could “barely feel” the shot, adding “really I’m not joking you.”

He joins the over three million who have received vaccinations in New York City, “on track” he says to hit the five million goal the city intends to hit by June, so long as the supply remains. 

“That was easy,” he said. 

“I have total faith in the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, that’s why it’s now in my arm,” he said 
10:50 a.m. ET, March 18, 2021

Finland reports highest weekly number of new Covid-19 cases since start of pandemic

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

Finland has recorded the highest weekly number of new Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, the country's Ministry of Social Affairs and Health said Thursday in a statement.

"Between 8 and 14 March, a total of nearly 4,800 new cases were recorded in Finland, showing an increase of over 300 cases from the previous week," the ministry said, adding that, the incidence of new cases was 86 per 100,000 inhabitants, up from 80 the previous week.

Because the situation has "worsened considerably" throughout the country, "it is justified that regions maintain and proactively increase comprehensive and effective ways to prevent infections and to ensure the capacity of the healthcare system."

The ministry also said that the Covid-19 situation "remains difficult" in the southern region of Uusimaa, which includes the greater Helsinki area, and Southwest Finland region, which includes the historic city of Turku. 

In these regions, "over the past few weeks, the need for specialized healthcare and particularly the need for intensive care have increased considerably."

10:29 a.m. ET, March 18, 2021

US agency targets early April for restaurant and independent live venue relief

From CNN’s Vanessa Yurkevich

The Small Business Administration is targeting an early April roll out of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Grant, the agency said Thursday.

The $28.6 billion fund, passed as part of the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, will provide funding for restaurants and bars that have suffered pandemic related losses. Establishments must have less than 20 locations to qualify.

The SBA historically acts as a lending institution, working though lenders and banks to process loans to businesses. Instead, this grant program will be distributed directly to businesses from the SBA. The agency says it is building a new automated system in order to accept the grant applications.

The proposed timeline for the Restaurant Relief Fund is swift compared to the roll out the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant – $16 billion fund aimed at helping live venue spaces. That grant was passed as part of the December stimulus bill. However, it is also scheduled to roll out in early April, the agency announced last week.

The agency said it is hiring additional staff to review both grant programs.

10:24 a.m. ET, March 18, 2021

British regulator maintains there's no evidence AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood clots

From CNN’s Sharon Braithwaite

Jens Schlueter/Getty Images
Jens Schlueter/Getty Images

There is no evidence the AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood clots, a British medical regulator said Thursday, advising people to continue getting the vaccine.

The statement from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency comes shortly before the European Medicines Agency is expected to announce the results of an emergency review of the vaccine. 

“The available evidence does not suggest that blood clots in veins (venous thromboembolism) are caused by COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca. This follows a detailed review of report cases as well as data from hospital admissions and GP records,” the MHRA said.

"The MHRA’s advice remains that the benefits of the vaccines against COVID-19 continue to outweigh any risks and that the public should continue to get their vaccine when invited to do so."

10:08 a.m. ET, March 18, 2021

WHO "particularly worried' about Covid-19 situation in Balkans and Central Europe 

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

The World Health Organization said it is "particularly worried" about the Covid-19 situation in the Balkans and Central Europe. 

"We are particularly worried about the epidemiologic situation in the Balkans, as well as many other countries around Central Europe," Catherine Smallwood, Senior Emergency Officer at WHO Europe, said during a news conference Thursday. 

The current situation is "most acute in parts of the region that were successful in controlling the disease in the first six months of 2020. It is in central Europe, the Balkans and the Baltic states where case incidence, hospitalizations and deaths are now among the highest in the world," WHO Europe director Hans Kluge said. 

Kluge noted that case incidence in the region "continues its increasing trend and is moving eastwards. We have now seen three consecutive weeks of growth in Covid-19 cases with over 1.2 million new cases reported last week across Europe.” 

The WHO's European region includes 53 countries, as well as Russia and several Central Asian nations. 

While many countries around Europe are currently under "a partial or full nationwide lockdown," some are gradually easing their Covid-19 restrictions, Kluge said. 

"Some are doing so based on the assumption that increasing vaccination uptake in countries would immediately lead to an improved epidemiological situation. Such assumptions are too early to make. Let there be no doubt about it, vaccination by itself – particularly given the varied uptake in countries – does not replace public health and social measures," Kluge said. 

"Vaccines work, and will eventually allow a return to a new normal," he added. 

 

10:06 a.m. ET, March 18, 2021

Biden will address administration's progress on 100 million shots goal today

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond 

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

This afternoon President Biden will address the progress his administration has made in reaching the goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office, a White House official told CNN.

The US is on the cusp of reaching that milestone before Biden hits 60 days in office — even though Biden set that number as a new goal during his primetime address last week.

More than 113 million coronavirus shots have been administered in the US to date.

Of those, more than 96 million have been administered since Biden took office on Jan. 20.

At least 16.5 million vaccine doses had been administered in the US by the end of the day on Jan. 20, according to the CDC.

10:01 a.m. ET, March 18, 2021

WHO working on "smart digital certificate," official says

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

World Health Organization European director Hans Kluge, speaks during a joint press conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 27, 2020.
World Health Organization European director Hans Kluge, speaks during a joint press conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 27, 2020. Ida Guldbaek Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images

The World Health Organization is working on "a smart digital certificate," WHO Europe director Hans Kluge said, making a point of distinguishing it from a “vaccine passport.” 

"We encourage very strongly – as with any vaccine – that there is a documentation, whether this is paper-based or preferably digital. And that's why WHO is working on a smart digital certificate,” Kluge said during a news conference Thursday. 

“But this is something different than a passport. We do not encourage at this stage that getting a vaccination is the determining whether you can travel internationally or not. It should not be a requirement," Kluge said.

Kluge cited several reasons for the distinction:

  • First, an ethical one: "There is a global shortage of vaccines. So this would increase the inequities, and if there's one thing that we learned from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is that the vulnerable people got hit disproportionally." 
  • Second, he said, there is scientific reason: "We are not sure yet how long the immunity lasts.” And, he said, people who have been vaccinated may still be able to transmit the infection.
  • Third, there is a "practical reason." Kluge said that, as WHO is working within an "international trusted framework, we have to document whether people got the vaccine." 

Kluge’s comments come a day after the European Commission unveiled its proposal for a "Digital Green Certificate," or vaccine passport, to allow for safe and free movement within the EU during the pandemic.

9:59 a.m. ET, March 18, 2021

Spring breakers need to think about their effects on residents during pandemic, Miami mayor says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said controlling spring break crowds is a “tremendous challenge.”

Suarez, a Republican, said that leaders and residents have worked hard for months to decrease Covid-19 spread, but that may not translate for visitors. 

“We've spent a lot of time and energy and gotten all of our major indicators down. Obviously, spring break brings a flood of tourists and they may not be thinking as conscientiously as the people who stay here and have to deal with other repercussions later,” Suarez said on CNN’s “New Day.”

“They may not be as careful. They, obviously, want to have a good time. When they're having a good time, they may not be as concerned about how their actions are impacting others. … We've been trying to work together to message it correctly and make sure that people know they need to be safe as they have fun,” he said. 

Suarez also said that while he has publicly disagreed with some of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decisions during the Covid-19 pandemic, he has to “commend him in a sense” because the economy in his city is not feeling the repercussions as much as others across the country.

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