The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Julia Hollingsworth, Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN

Updated 2323 GMT (0723 HKT) March 22, 2021
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1:05 p.m. ET, March 22, 2021

West Virginia opens vaccine eligibility to everyone over the age of 16

From CNN’s LaCrisha McAllister 

Residents wear protective masks in the observation area after being vaccinated at a West Virginia United Health System Covid-19 vaccine clinic in Morgantown, West Virginia on March 11
Residents wear protective masks in the observation area after being vaccinated at a West Virginia United Health System Covid-19 vaccine clinic in Morgantown, West Virginia on March 11 Justin Merriman/Bloomberg/Getty Images

West Virginia will open vaccines eligibility to everyone in the state over the age of 16, Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday. 

“Today I am announcing we are officially opening up our vaccine eligibility to all West Virginians over the age of 16, beginning right now,” he said. “We do not want to take our foot off the gas, and we continue prioritizing all those 65 years of age and older, let’s get everybody in this state vaccinated.”

What the numbers look like: There have been 12 additional Covid-19-related deaths since Friday and 276 new positive cases in the last 24 hours in West Virginia, the governor said.

There are 198 people hospitalized and 67 people in intensive care units, said Justice, marking an increase to the numbers that Justice reported at last Monday’s news conference. Last week, Justice said that there were 210 new positive cases, 151 people hospitalized, and 50 people in ICU. 

Justice also announced that all fairs and festivals will be allowed to resume on May 1, but all mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing precautions are still in place.  

“Unless there is a real big backslide, we want to have the festivals,” he said.
1:03 p.m. ET, March 22, 2021

Second batch of Covid-19 stimulus checks will be issued this week, Biden administration announces

From CNN's Betsy Klein

The second batch of Covid-19 stimulus checks will be issued this week, the Biden administration announced Monday.

Many of these payments will come via paper check or prepaid debit card and additional batches will be made weekly going forward, according to a statement from the US Department of the Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service and the Bureau of the Fiscal Service.

“For taxpayers receiving direct deposit, this batch of payments began processing on Friday and will have an official pay date of Wednesday, March 24, with some people seeing these in their accounts earlier, potentially as provisional or pending deposits,” the statement read. “A large number of this latest batch of payments will also be mailed, so taxpayers who do not receive a direct deposit by March 24 should watch the mail carefully in the coming weeks for a paper check or a prepaid debit card, known as an Economic Impact Payment Card, or EIP Card.” 

The statement pointed people to the Get My Payment tool on IRS.gov to check whether their payment has been scheduled.

The payments of up to $1,400 per person began disbursement earlier this month after President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill into law.

Families will receive an additional $1,400 per dependent, so a couple with two children could receive up to $5,600. Unlike prior rounds, families will now receive the additional money for adult dependents over the age of 17.

The full amount goes to individuals earning less than $75,000 of adjusted gross income, heads of households (like single parents) earning less than $112,500 and married couples earning less than $150,000. But then the payments gradually phase out as income goes up.

Use our calculator to see what you can expect to get.

1:29 p.m. ET, March 22, 2021

Nearly 3.3 million Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in New York City, mayor says

From CNN's Laura Ly

Healthcare workers administer Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines at a vaccination site in the Bronx borough of New York on February 5.
Healthcare workers administer Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines at a vaccination site in the Bronx borough of New York on February 5. Angus Mordant/Bloomberg/Getty Images

New York City has administered 3,295,812 Covid-19 vaccines to date, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.

He said the city expects to see an increase in their vaccine supply beginning in April.

The mayor said Monday that he believes no further Covid-19 restrictions should be lifted in the city until more data is collected about case trends and about the Covid-19 variants that have been identified. 

“If we see numbers going in the wrong direction…we would put different options back on the table,” de Blasio said.

2:10 p.m. ET, March 22, 2021

New York will lower vaccine eligibility to 50 starting Tuesday, governor announces

From CNN's Anna Sturla

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will allow individuals ages 50 and above to be eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine starting on Tuesday, lowering the current vaccine eligibility age from 65.

Cuomo made the announcement at Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon (in Westchester County) saying that the church would become a vaccine center on Tuesday.

The Rev. Al Sharpton also joined Monday morning's event remotely to thank the governor for his work on the vaccine rollout, and encouraged everyone to get out and get their vaccine appointments.

Gov. Cuomo will hold a Covid Q&A later in the afternoon, his office said. The timing will be announced later today.

Monday's event marked another closed press event for the embattled governor wherein he focused on expanding vaccine access and received praise from community and faith leaders. He again did not address the multiple accusations and investigations into his behavior, nor were they directly referenced by anyone who spoke at the event, although the speakers were clear to voice their support for the governor repeatedly.

12:16 p.m. ET, March 22, 2021

White House won't confirm whether Johnson & Johnson will reach 20 million vaccine doses by end of March

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

White House Senior Adviser Andy Slavitt
White House Senior Adviser Andy Slavitt White House

The White House has not yet confirmed whether Johnson & Johnson will deliver 20 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to states by the end of the month — which is a little more than a week away.

"At this point in time, I don't want to commit to what's going to happen over the course of the coming week. We'll leave that to the company," Andy Slavitt, White House Covid-19 senior adviser, said on Monday.

Slavitt added that he doesn't think the company will be far away from reaching the numbers it has projected.

Some more context: Johnson & Johnson has pledged 20 million doses to the United States by the end of March, but only about 4.3 million doses have been delivered to states, according to data reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday. 

"We are obviously working very closely with the company. We are going to see a nice increase in Johnson & Johnson this week, and we should have more information around the first week in April to report on how they've done," Slavitt said during a White House briefing on Monday.

"Obviously, they’ve got a lot of increases that they need to be committed to doing," Slavitt said. "We'll continue to keep everyone posted."
12:05 p.m. ET, March 22, 2021

White House is encouraging governors and private sector to "slow down the relaxation"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

The White House is encouraging governors, as well as the private sector, to maintain or reimpose coronavirus restrictions as new case rates remain high and some states are lifting guidelines. 

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the administration is working to “slow down the relaxation.” But some states have lifted restrictions on restaurant capacity and other retail businesses in recent weeks, with some states relaxing mask mandates.

“We are looking at these data, we're reaching out to individual states, trying to encourage them. We are having weekly governors’ calls. We're doing outreach with states, territories to encourage them to look at their case data, to look at what's happening with the variants and to do as much outreach as we can to try and slow down the relaxation,” Walensky said in response to a question from CNN’s Jeremy Diamond.

Senior Covid-19 adviser Andy Slavitt reiterated that the White House believes “it's a mistake to get rid of mask mandates” and that the administration is doing “concerted” outreach to the private sector.

He added, “Obviously, governors have certain authority there, but so do corporations, so do employers, so do individuals, and we're making concerted efforts to make sure that people know that whether or not there's a mandate in place, it's in people's strong interest, strong interest to continue to wear a mask, until such time as people have had a chance to be vaccinated.”

3:33 p.m. ET, March 22, 2021

Brazil official calls president a "psychopathic leader" who made "unbelievable mistakes" in Covid-19 crisis

From CNN's Julia Chatterley and Hira Humayun

Sao Paulo State Governor Joao Doria
Sao Paulo State Governor Joao Doria CNN

Brazil's Sao Paulo state Gov. Joao Doria called Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro a "psychopathic leader" and criticized the president's response to the Covid-19 pandemic in an interview with CNN's Julia Chatterley on Monday.

"We are in one of those tragic moments in history when millions of people pay a high price for having an unprepared and psychopathic leader in charge of a nation," he said on CNN's First Move.

Doria said much of the deaths from the virus in Brazil could have been avoided if Bolsonaro had "acted with the responsibility that the position gives him." He added that Bolsonaro made "unbelievable mistakes, the biggest one was having a political dispute with the governors who are trying to protect the population." 

Bolsonaro has repeatedly opposed lockdowns and restrictive measures and has criticized governors and mayors for implementing them. He has also been seen greeting crowds of his supporters during the pandemic, without wearing a mask, and has advocated for drugs like hydroxychloroquine to treat the virus- a drug which has no proven effectiveness in combatting Covid-19.

The governor went on to say that he is facing the biggest challenge of his life as governor of Brazil's most populous state and that he had to restructure the healthcare system in "record time" and look for ways to mitigate the economic crisis that hit the country during the pandemic. He spoke about the gravity of the state of hospitals and ICUs in Sao Paulo, saying they have already tripled the number of ICU beds and this month will open 12 field hospitals in the state.

On vaccinations, the governor said of 90% of the vaccines in Brazil are produced by the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo — linked to the Sao Paulo government — and that by the end of August, they will have made 100 million vaccines available across the country. "It is still not enough," he said, adding that the federal government in March started buying vaccines while Sao Paulo state began in April of last year.

The second wave of Covid-19 is ripping through Brazil, pushing hospitals and ICUs toward collapse and claiming record numbers of daily deaths.

While a new variant of the coronavirus spreads throughout the country, many Brazilians continue to defy mask mandates mobility restrictions following the example of President Jair Bolsonaro, who recently said people need to "stop being sissies" and "whining" about the virus.

Brazil has reported a total of 11,998,233 Covid-19 cases and 294,042 Covid-19 related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the country's health ministry.

Read more about the situation in BrazilNo vaccines, no leadership, no end in sight. How Brazil became a global threat

11:40 a.m. ET, March 22, 2021

Biden administration announces its opening another federally-run community vaccine center

From CNN's Betsy Klein

The Biden administration on Monday announced the creation of another federally-run community vaccination center, part of its continued efforts toward promoting vaccine equity.

“Today we're taking another step in building an equitable and efficient response. The state of Washington will receive its first federal community vaccination site,” White House Covid-19 senior adviser Andy Slavitt said Monday.

The site, a drive-through center at the Central Washington State Fair Park in Yakima County, will provide up to 1,200 shots per day, Slavitt said.

The Yakima County vaccination center is the 22nd such federally-run site, which, per Slavitt, deliver a combined nearly 100,000 shots per day and are aimed at targeting inequity.

“All of the sites are in areas defined by the CDC is having a high social vulnerability rating. In fact, against a backdrop of inequity in vaccine distribution generally, and the severe toll taken by the virus on people of color, in federal vaccination centers, over 60% of the shots have gone to people of color,” he said, noting that Yakima County has been “particularly hard hit” during the pandemic compared to the rest of the state.

11:36 a.m. ET, March 22, 2021

CDC director warns coronavirus variants could spark “another avoidable surge”

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Dr. Rochelle Walensky
Dr. Rochelle Walensky White House

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said she's worried the United States could see "another avoidable surge" of Covid-19 if mitigation measures – such as mask-wearing, physical distancing and avoiding crowds or travel – are not followed.

"As I've stated before, the continued relaxation of prevention measures while cases are still high and while concerning variants are spreading rapidly throughout the United States is a serious threat to the progress we have made as a nation," Walensky said during a White House Covid-19 briefing on Monday.

"Increasingly, states are seeing a growing proportion of their Covid-19 cases attributed variants," Walensky said, adding that for instance, two newly identified variants – B.1427 and B.1429 – are estimated to account for 52% of cases in California, 41% in Nevada and 25% in Arizona.

The B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, is estimated to be responsible for 9% of cases in New Jersey and 8% in Florida, Walensky said.

"We are at a critical point in this pandemic, a fork in the road, where we as a country must decide which path we are going to take," Walensky said. "We must act now, and I am worried that if we don't take the right actions now, we will have another avoidable surge – just as we are seeing in Europe right now and just as we are so aggressively scaling up vaccination."