March 19 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 0644 GMT (1444 HKT) March 22, 2021
33 Posts
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5:28 p.m. ET, March 19, 2021

North Dakota will make Covid-19 vaccine available to general public March 29

From CNN's Jen Christensen

The North Dakota Department of Public Health said Friday that the Covid-19 vaccine will be available to the general public starting March 29.

The department encouraged people who are in the earlier categories of eligibility not to put off getting an appointment to get one.

“As the state prepares to make the vaccine available to the general public, it’s important for people included in Phases 1A, 1B or 1C to be vaccinated now, as they are at highest risk for severe COVID-19 or being exposed to COVID-19,” said Molly Howell, the department’s immunization director. 

As of Friday, 27% of North Dakotans had at least one dose of the vaccine, and 16% have been fully vaccinated, according to the state.

5:42 p.m. ET, March 19, 2021

Georgia has administered more than 3 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine 

From CNN's Kay Jones and Jessica Jordan

A member of the Georgia National guard helps manage traffic at a COVID-19 mass vaccination site at the Delta Flight Museum, Monday, February 22, in Atlanta. The state has four sites located around Georgia.
A member of the Georgia National guard helps manage traffic at a COVID-19 mass vaccination site at the Delta Flight Museum, Monday, February 22, in Atlanta. The state has four sites located around Georgia. John Bazemore/AP/FILE

More than 3 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Georgia, according to the state's health department.

In a news release, the Georgia Department of Public Health said that one million residents over the age of 65, which is 72% of the population in that age range, have received at least one dose. The dashboard showed that over 1.1 million people have received both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.  

"Georgia continues to make significant strides in protecting our most vulnerable citizens in the fight against Covid-19, with 72% of our seniors receiving at least one dose," Gov. Brian Kemp said in the release. "This targeted, data-driven approach to prevent hospitalization and death at the hands of the virus, coupled with increases in supply from the federal government, has allowed the state to move quickly in expanding vaccination criteria."

The state also said that they have administered one million doses over the past 19 days. 

4:01 p.m. ET, March 19, 2021

Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson announce agreements to deliver 138 million vaccine doses to Brazil

From CNN's Rodrigo Pedroso in São Paulo

Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson announced on Friday that they signed deals with the Brazilian health ministry to provide a total of 138 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to the country.

Pfizer will deliver 100 million doses by the end of September, according to a press release from the company. On Monday, the health ministry said they expect to receive 13.5 million Pfizer doses in the second quarter of 2021 and 86.5 million in the third.

Brazil’s health agency Anvisa has not yet approved emergency authorization for Johnson & Johnson, though the health ministry already said it expects to receive 16.9 million doses from the company by the end of August and another 21.1 million by the end of November.

Johnson & Johnson did not specify their timeline for delivering the 38 million doses in their press release announcing the agreement.

Brazil has so far approved three vaccines for emergency use during the pandemic, those by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Sinovac.

The vaccine announcement comes as Brazil continues to report record daily numbers. Just on Wednesday, the country saw its largest daily jump in cases since the start of the pandemic — 90,303 new cases.

3:19 p.m. ET, March 19, 2021

Biden thanks CDC staff for work fighting Covid-19: "We owe you a gigantic debt of gratitude"

From CNN's DJ Judd

Patrick Semansky/AP
Patrick Semansky/AP

President Biden thanked staff at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today for their role in combatting the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We owe you a gigantic debt of gratitude, and we will for a long, long, long time, because, I hope this is the beginning of the end of not paying attention to what's going to come again and again and again and again,” Biden said during brief remarks following a briefing at CDC headquarters in Atlanta.

“We can build all the walls and we can get the most powerful armies in the world — we cannot stop, we cannot stop these viruses, other than be aware where they are and move quickly on them when we find them,” he added.

“I just want you to have some confidence that it's not only the vice president, I, and the whole team, the whole Covid team writ large, committed, but the American people have moved. The American people have moved, this is a bipartisan effort now.” 

The President went on to tout his Covid-19 relief bill and the support he said the plan has garnered from the public across the country. No Republicans ultimately supported the administration’s Covid relief bill in the House or Senate, forcing Democrats to pass the legislation through reconciliation with a simple majority.

"Well, we didn't get any help in the Senate or the House, but there’s 55% of a Republicans in America supporting it, you have 90-something% of the Democrats, 80-something—the point is, the public is thankful to you, because it's about science, that's what they understand they understand," Biden said.

In closing, Biden told the CDC staff, “You've changed things, you’ve change them in a way that are going to make everybody healthier in this country. And when we have a crisis, you're prepared to meet it. Because you speak truth and science to power.”

After Biden’s remarks, Vice President Kamala Harris took the opportunity to laud Biden for his commitment to science that driven his administration’s response to the pandemic, telling CDC staff, “everyone here knows, before the President was President, he was dedicated to science.” 

“The President takes calls with leaders around the world, we talk with people around the world, and they have named their Centers of Disease Control after this Center of Disease Control,” Harris said, adding the American CDC serves as a template for other nations. 

“You all are a model for the world around what can be done based on a pursuit of that which will uplift and improve human condition in life.”

3:21 p.m. ET, March 19, 2021

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson receives first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine

From CNN's Nada Bashir

Frank Augstein/Pool/AP
Frank Augstein/Pool/AP

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson received the first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine on Friday.

“I've just received my first Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine dose. Thank you to all of the incredible scientists, NHS staff and volunteers who helped make this happen,” he tweeted.

“Getting the jab is the best thing we can do to get back to the lives we miss so much. Let's get the jab done,” Johnson added.

He urged people to get a vaccine, telling reporters after receiving his first shot that it is the “best thing” for all. 

“I literally did not feel a thing, it was very good, very quick. I cannot recommend it too highly,” Johnson said.

“Everybody, when you do get your notification to go for a jab, please go and get it. It is the best thing for you, the best thing for your family, and for everybody else,” he added.

Johnson was seen leaving Gassiot House Outpatient Centre at London’s St Thomas’ Hospital on Friday evening after receiving his first dose.

Johnson was previously admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital in April 2020 for coronavirus and remained in intensive care for three nights. The prime minister later released a statement thanking National Health Service staff who cared for him.

2:47 p.m. ET, March 19, 2021

Germany's Merkel says she would take AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Nada Bashir

Michael Sohn/AP
Michael Sohn/AP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she herself “would get vaccinated with AstraZeneca” when called to get the vaccine, adding that the government’s motto to tackle the coronavirus pandemic is “vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate.”

The chancellor's remarks come as Germany recommences its rollout of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine on Friday, a day after the European Medicines Agency [EMA] reaffirmed that the vaccine is both “safe and effective” in preventing coronavirus and “not associated with an increase in the overall risk of thromboembolic events, or blood clots.” 

Speaking during news conference following Berlin’s vaccination summit, Merkel said the government was right to impose a temporary suspension on the rollout of the vaccine in order to guarantee its safety.

2:00 p.m. ET, March 19, 2021

CDC's new school guidance reducing distance relies on masking and other measures, director says

From CNN’s Maggie Fox and Nick Neville

New Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that relaxes recommendations for distancing from 3 feet to 6 feet for many kids relies heavily on schools using other measures, including universal masking and contact tracing, the agency's director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said Friday.

The CDC announced the new guidance earlier Friday and Walensky outlined it at a White House coronavirus briefing. 

“Today, CDC is pleased to update our recommendations for physical distancing between students and classrooms in our K- 12 operational strategy,” Walensky said. In elementary schools, CDC recommends students remain at least 3 feet apart in classrooms where everyone is wearing a mask.

“In middle and high schools, CDC is also recommending that students be at least three feet apart in classrooms where everyone is wearing a mask, and the community level of risk is low, moderate or substantial. Because Covid-19 is spread more likely among older students, CDC recommends that middle and high school students should be at least 6 feet apart in communities where Covid-19 risk is high, unless cohorting is possible,” she added.

But this only works if schools are taking other steps, too, she said.

“These include universal and correct use of masks, physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory etiquette, cleaning to maintain healthy facilities and diagnostic testing with rapid and efficient contact tracing in combination with isolation in quarantine and in collaboration with local health departments,” Walensky said.

Three studies done in Utah, Missouri and Florida helped inform the changed guidance, she said. A study done by Florida health officials and the CDC found that resuming school in person did not increase infection rates.

“Importantly, this study also found that Covid-19 rates were higher among students in school districts that did not have mandatory mask use policies in place,” Walensky said.

1:56 p.m. ET, March 19, 2021

UK variant is more deadly and contagious, Fauci says

From CNN's Nick Neville and Maggie Fox

White House
White House

One of the new coronavirus variants that’s rapidly spreading in the US is both more contagious and likely more deadly as well, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday.

The spread of the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the UK means vaccination is more important than ever, as are measures such as mask use and social distancing, Fauci said during a White House briefing.

It was first spotted in Colorado at the end of December, said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Since then it has been detected in 50 jurisdictions in the United States, and likely accounts now for about 20 to 30% of the infections in this country. And that number is growing."

“Of concern is that there are about 50% increase in transmission with this particular variant that has been documented in the UK and there's likely an increase in severity of disease if infected with this variant,” added Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden.

“In a couple of UK studies, this one looking at over 54,000 matched pairs of participants in the UK in which one person was infected with the B.1.1.7 and another one with the previously circulating variant, there was a 64% increased risk of death for those with the B.1.1.7,” Fauci told the briefing. He showed a second study that indicated a 61% higher risk of death with B.1.1.7.

But vaccines appear to protect well against B.1.1.7 and treatments such as monoclonal antibodies also appear to work against this particular variant, Fauci noted.

“The way we can counter 1.1.7, which is a growing threat in our country, is to do two things: To get as many people vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible with the vaccine that we know works against this variant and, finally, to implement the public health measures that we talk about all the time and that was on Dr. [Rochelle] Walensky's slide — masking, physical distancing, and avoiding congregant settings, particularly indoors,” he said.
1:39 p.m. ET, March 19, 2021

CDC director: Teachers unions have been "very respectful" of science behind new school distancing guidance

From CNN's DJ Judd and Kaitlan Collins

White House
White House

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN Friday that teachers’ unions have been “very respectful” of the CDC’s commitment to following science in rolling out new distancing guidance at schools.

Earlier today she announced that low levels of in-school coronavirus transmission in three states helped persuade the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to lower its distancing guidelines for many schools from 6 feet to 3 feet. 

“First, let me just acknowledge what the teachers have had to do this year and the context of Covid-19 and how they have had to evolve their thinking and their curricula, and how they teach their students in through in truly an overwhelming and challenging time,” Walensky told CNN Friday. “I've spoken to the teachers' unions — they know that we need to follow the science and to make our guidance based on that science, and they've been very respectful of that.”

In a statement, Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, expressed concern over the new guidance, writing, "We are concerned that the CDC has changed one of the basic rules for how to ensure school safety without demonstrating certainty that the change is justified by the science and can be implemented in a manner that does not detract from the larger long-term needs of students.”