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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6:33 p.m. ET, March 18, 2021

"If we get the overwhelming population vaccinated, we're going to be in good shape," Fauci says

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill on March 18 in Washington, DC.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill on March 18 in Washington, DC. Susan Walsh/Pool/Getty Images

The US may well need to vaccinate children against coronavirus to achieve true herd immunity, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday.

The nation's lead infectious disease expert said people are too focused on the question of herd immunity in the first place.

“I think we should be careful about wedding ourselves to this concept of herd immunity because we really do not know precisely, for this particular virus, what that is,” Fauci told a Senate hearing.

Fauci said he has been estimating that anywhere between 70% and 85% of the population would need to be vaccinated or otherwise immune to the virus to get to the point of herd immunity – when the virus could not spread easily in the population. 

“If it is that we would probably have to get more children, and I believe as we get high school students vaccinated in the fall, we'll be able to reach that,” Fauci said during a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. 

More importantly, he said, was steady vaccination of the US population.

“Every day we get two to three more million and we get closer and closer to where we want to be,” said Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “We don't really know what that magical point of herd immunity is, but we do know that if we get the overwhelming population vaccinated, we're going to be in good shape. We ultimately would like to get and have to get children into that mix.”

More context: New variants of the virus that are more contagious and that may help the virus evade the effects of the vaccine are an important factor, Fauci pointed out.

He has said that vaccinating as many people as quickly as possible is the best way to prevent the rise of more variants – because viruses evolve when they infect people.

“We are doing a good job now — up to 2 to 3 million vaccinations per day. If more get vaccinated, literally every day that goes by and more and more people get vaccinated, we can stay ahead of what I would consider a race between our ability to vaccinate people and the emergence of variants,” Fauci said.

6:24 p.m. ET, March 18, 2021

Kentucky will ease curfew for bars and restaurants starting Friday, governor says

From CNN's Gisela Crespo

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during a briefing on March 18.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during a briefing on March 18. Governor Andy Beshear/Facebook

Kentucky is easing the curfew for bars and restaurants by an hour starting Friday, Gov. Andy Beshear said.

These establishments will be able to serve until midnight and close at 1 a.m. local time, he said during a news conference.

Beshear said the capacity for bars and restaurants will remain at 60%.

Some context: The announcement comes as Kentucky reported its lowest Covid-19 positivity rate, 3.23%, since July 3, according to the governor. 

"Hopefully, this is a little bit of relief given the positive movement of where we are right now as a state with vaccines going up and cases going down," Beshear said.  

4:58 p.m. ET, March 18, 2021

Go There: CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta answers your questions about coronavirus and schools

President Biden's Covid-19 relief plan provides $125 billion to public K-12 schools and $2.75 billion to private schools to help them reopen.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta answered questions from readers on the latest updates surrounding coronavirus and the reopening of schools.

Here's what he said:

4:25 p.m. ET, March 18, 2021

Biden says the US will meet goal of 100 million Covid-19 vaccines administered on Friday

From CNN's DJ Judd

President Joe Biden speaks on the national vaccination efforts in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 18.
President Joe Biden speaks on the national vaccination efforts in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 18. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Biden just announced his administration is on track to hit 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered.

"I am proud to announce that tomorrow, 58 days into our administration, we will have met my goal of administering 100 million shots to our fellow Americans," Biden said in White House remarks. "That's weeks ahead of schedule. Even with the setbacks we faced during the winter storms."

Biden said his administration would seek to administer 100 million doses in his first 100 days in office during the transition in December. Friday is Biden's 58th day in office.

Biden added that “next week, we’ll announce our next goal” on vaccinations.

By the numbers: A total of 115,730,730 Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the United States since the first Covid-19 vaccine was authorized for emergency use in December, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Watch here:

3:27 p.m. ET, March 18, 2021

Spain to resume use of AstraZeneca vaccine next Wednesday

From CNN's Al Goodman

A nurse fills a syringe with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Vigo, Spain, on March 13.
A nurse fills a syringe with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Vigo, Spain, on March 13. Miguel Riopa/AFP/Getty Images

Spain will resume administering the AstraZeneca vaccine next Wednesday, Health Minister Carolina Darias announced at a nationally televised news conference Thursday, after the European Medicines Agency said it was "safe and effective."

Cyprus, Italy and France also said they planned to resume using the vaccine following the EMA announcement Thursday. 

Darias said that health experts from Spain's 17 regional governments, which administer the vaccines against Covid-19, will meet this weekend to make a proposal on which parts of the population should get the AstraZeneca vaccine starting next Wednesday.

On Monday, the Spanish Health Ministry will meet with the regional health department chiefs, for final approval, about the population segments to be the AstraZeneca vaccine.

3:25 p.m. ET, March 18, 2021

France will impose new Covid-19 restrictions starting Friday

From CNN's Barbara Wojazer

French Prime Minister Jean Castex, left, and French Health Minister Olivier Veran deliver a joint press conference in Paris on March 18.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex, left, and French Health Minister Olivier Veran deliver a joint press conference in Paris on March 18. Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

In an attempt to tackle rising coronavirus infections, France will impose new coronavirus restrictions in 16 areas around the country, including the greater Paris and Nice areas, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said Thursday. 

The new measures – which go into effect Friday at midnight – will last at least four weeks but are less restrictive than measures imposed in March and November of last year.

“Our choice, to be less restrictive on possibilities to leave one’s home, will need to go hand in hand with real caution,” Castex said. 

“This is clearly about allowing for people to be outside, but not to go to friends’ homes to have a party or meet with many people without social distancing or a face mask. We know that it is in that kind of situation that the virus prospers,” he added. 

People will be encouraged to work from home. People will be allowed to go outdoors to walk or exercise but must have an approval “certificate,” and cannot go further than 10km (about six miles) from their home or travel between regions without a valid reason. However the night time curfew – currently in effect from 6 p.m. local – will be moved to 7 p.m. when the new measures come into effect Friday.

Schools and universities will remain open. Essential businesses will remain open – and these will now include book shops and music shops. 

“Our conviction is that if new measures are necessary, we need to keep the same coherence, and prefer a pragmatic, proportionate, territorialized approach,” Castex said.

3:05 p.m. ET, March 18, 2021

66% of US adults age 65 and older have received at least one shot of Covid-19 vaccine, CDC data shows

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

A medical worker draws COVID-19 vaccine from its vial during a public vaccination event at Washington National Cathedral on March 16 in Washington, DC.
A medical worker draws COVID-19 vaccine from its vial during a public vaccination event at Washington National Cathedral on March 16 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

About 116 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States, according to data published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reported that 115,730,008 total doses have been administered – about 77% of the 151,108,445 doses delivered.

That’s about 2.7 million more administered doses reported since yesterday, for a seven-day average of about 2.5 million doses per day.

About 22.7% of the population – 75 million people – have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 12.3% of the population – about 41 million people – have been fully vaccinated.

Among Americans 65 and older, 66.3% have now received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, and 38.6% are now fully vaccinated

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

2:41 p.m. ET, March 18, 2021

1 person enters intensive care every 4 minutes in France, prime minister says

From CNN's Schams Elwazer

French Prime Minister Jean Castex speaks during a press conference in Paris on March 18.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex speaks during a press conference in Paris on March 18. Martin Bureau/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the coronavirus pandemic is “accelerating considerably” and said it was “becoming clearer and clearer that it’s a third wave.”

The prime minister explained that at the moment, one person is entering intensive care every four minutes in France with Covid-19.

He said what is even more worrying is that – compared to previous waves – people being hospitalized with the disease are younger and healthier.

Castex said France recorded 35,000 new infections Thursday, a rise of 23.6% in the last week, and that the variant identified in the UK accounts for three quarters of cases.

1:47 p.m. ET, March 18, 2021

Italy and Cyprus will resume use of AstraZeneca vaccine Friday

From CNN's Antonia Mortensen and Chris Liakos

A medical worker fills a syringe from a vial of the British-Swedish AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine on March 9 at the National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo Da Vinci in Milan, Italy.
A medical worker fills a syringe from a vial of the British-Swedish AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine on March 9 at the National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo Da Vinci in Milan, Italy. Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

Italy and Cyprus announced plans to resume use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday following a recommendation by the European Medicines Agency Thursday that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks.

Italy’s medicines regulator, AIFA, considers that “the reasons behind the precautionary ban on the use of vaccine batches, issued on March 15, 2021, no longer exist,” according to the Italian Health Ministry press office.

On Friday “as soon as the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) releases its opinion, AIFA will proceed to revoke the ban on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, thus allowing a complete resumption of the vaccination campaign starting at 15.00,” the statement added. 

In a government statement, Cyprus said, “Following today’s scientific conclusion from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which clarifies that after a thorough investigation there is no link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and the thrombo-embolic events reported by EU countries and that the vaccine is considered safe and effective, the Ministry of Health announces that from tomorrow, March 19, 2021, vaccinations with the AstraZeneca vaccine will resume."