March 23 coronavirus news

A nurse vaccinates a man in Alabama, where state data shows a stark disparity in vaccination rates among its Black and White residents.
'We are trying to live': Black community calls for vaccine equity
03:10 - Source: CNN

What you need to know

  • The Biden administration will loan about 4 million of its AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Canada and Mexico as the company awaits official usage approval in the US.
  • US safety board expresses concern AstraZeneca may have included outdated information in its latest vaccine trial announcement.
  • Germany will go into hard lockdown over Easter as Covid-19 infections soar.

Our live coverage has ended for the day. Follow the latest on the pandemic here.

30 Posts

Brazil records its highest number of daily Covid-19 deaths since the pandemic started

Brazil on Tuesday recorded 3,251 new deaths due to Covid-19 – its highest daily death toll since the pandemic began and the first time it has posted more than 3,000 coronavirus-related deaths in a day, according to the country’s health ministry.  

Brazil’s Covid-19 death toll now stands at 298,676, with the previous record of highest daily deaths coming only last week.  

Additionally, 82,493 new cases of coronavirus were also reported across the country, bringing the total country cases registered so far to 12,130,019.  

Concerns about AstraZeneca vaccine data don't seem to be related to safety, WHO says 

The concerns raised about AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine efficacy data don’t seem to be related to safety, the World Health Organization (WHO) told CNN in a statement Tuesday. 

AstraZeneca announced Monday that US trial data on its Covid-19 vaccine showed 79% efficacy against symptomatic disease and 100% efficacy against severe disease and hospitalization. It was a news release and not the official release of data to be used by the US Food and Drug Administration in determining whether to grant emergency use authorization for the vaccine.

In a statement released Tuesday, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) highlighted concerns raised by the trial’s Data and Safety Monitoring Board that AstraZeneca used outdated information from the trial. 

“As we understand it, the NIAID concerns seem related to efficacy data, not safety,” WHO said. “WHO has neither seen the data from the AZ clinical trials in the US, nor specifics about NIAID concerns.”  

WHO said its emergency use listings and advisory group recommendations for AstraZeneca vaccines from SKBio and Serum Institute of India stand. 

“We will look forward to the scientific review of the clinical trials in the US, Chile, and Peru,” WHO added. 

All Georgia residents 16 and older can receive a vaccine starting Thursday

A woman gets a COVID-19 shot at the mass vaccination site located at the Delta Flight Museum, Monday, February 22, in Atlanta.

All Georgians age 16 and older can receive the Covid-19 vaccine starting Thursday, the state announced ahead of a scheduled news conference this afternoon. 

Gov. Brian Kemp will receive his vaccination on Friday, his press secretary Mallory Blount told CNN. 

Vaccinations were previously open in Georgia to people 55 and older, those with certain medical conditions, caregivers or with specific essential jobs.  

Georgia has administered over two million first doses of vaccine, according to the state Department of Health. 

Georgia is home to the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International. The state has a population of more than 10.5 million people, according to the US Census Bureau. 

Here's a timeline for when some US states will begin expanding Covid-19 vaccine eligibility

Three states have expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to anyone over 16, and at least 19 more plan to open up to people 16 and older by the end of April.

Alaska opened up vaccinations to anyone 16 and older on March 9, Mississippi on March 16, and West Virginia expanded on March 22. Oklahomans 16 and older can get vaccinated through the Chickasaw Nation’s vaccination program, but not yet through the state’s program. 

Below is the timeline for when some other states have said they will open vaccination eligibility to all people over the age of 16:

  • March 24: Utah and state-run sites in certain Arizona counties
  • March 29: Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio, North Dakota
  • April 1: Montana
  • April 5: Connecticut, Michigan
  • April 9: Missouri
  • April 12: Illinois
  • April 19: Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island
  • April 26: Idaho
  • April 27: Maryland
  • April, no set date: New Mexico, Virginia, Iowa
  • May 1: Wisconsin, Oregon, South Dakota
  • May 3: South Carolina
  • May or later: Nebraska, Kansas, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Delaware

For all states currently vaccinating anyone over 16, people ages 16 or 17 can only receive a Pfizer vaccine, as it is the only option authorized for use in that population so far. Moderna’s and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines are authorized for use in adults 18 and older.

CDC hopes to study 13,000 pregnant women for each authorized coronavirus vaccine

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it hopes to enroll about 13,000 pregnant people for each of the three authorized coronavirus vaccines to see how pregnancy might affect vaccine safety. 

The agency will use existing and new safety monitoring systems, including its V-safe pregnancy registry, a CDC spokesperson told CNN Tuesday.

“We are leveraging existing systems to assess safety, as well as rapidly established new systems, to capture this information and we’re committed to doing it, and CDC is committed, to getting pregnant women the information that they need,” a CDC spokesperson told CNN.

V-safe is a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after people receive a Covid-19 vaccine. The V-safe COVID-19 pregnancy registry is for V-safe users who are willing to provide additional data and information to participate in further study through telephone interviews. 

As of March 22, 60,448 pregnant women have registered with the V-safe health database and 3,612 of them have additionally joined the V-safe pregnancy registry. The CDC is building the infrastructure to follow these women and add more participants to study, and noted that most women who have been contacted to participate agree to join, the spokesperson told CNN. 

Registry staff will call participants multiple times during their pregnancies and when the baby is about 3 months old. During these check-ins, mothers will be asked questions about medical and obstetric history, pregnancy complications, birth outcomes, and obstetric and they will be asked for access to their medical records to get a bigger picture and more detailed and technical information that participants may not recall, a CDC spokesperson told CNN.

Virginia will loosen statewide Covid-19 restrictions starting April 1, governor says

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday announced he is rolling back restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings starting next week. 

“Starting on April 1, we will make some limited and targeted changes to our Forward Virginia guidelines,” Gov. Northam said at a briefing Tuesday. 

“Social gatherings may have up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors,” said Northam.

“Entertainment venues will be able to operate at 30% of capacity [with] up to 500 people indoors, outdoor venues can have up to 30%,” Gov. Northam said.

The number of spectators allowed for outdoor recreational sports will increase to 500, while indoor recreation will be capped at 100 people, said Northam.

“Recreational sporting events indoors and outside will be limited to 30% of capacity,” added Northam. 

“You need to wear a mask and follow other guidelines and safety protocols,” said the governor. 

“To be very clear, we are not simply throwing the doors open,” stressed Northam.

“If we continue to be careful, wearing our mask in public, washing our hands, keeping our distance and getting vaccinated, I expect our case counts will keep going down,” said Northam.

FDA will allow plant to ship Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which should boost supply of the single-dose shot

Catalent, the fill and finish plant in Bloomington, Indiana, that is helping to produce Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, said Tuesday it received an OK from the US Food and Drug Administration to ship the vaccine.

Catalent has been producing doses for the past couple months as Johnson & Johnson promised to deliver 20 million of its single-dose vaccine to the US government by the end of the March. 

Catalent had dedicated a line specifically to fill vials of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and hired 300 additional staff to work 24/7 to produce it — but it needed FDA authorization to ship the product. 

“Today, Catalent is proud to announce the FDA has provided Emergency Use Authorization for our biologics site in Bloomington, Indiana, to produce and ship millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine,” a statement emailed to CNN said. “The site recently completed a major expansion and scale-up activities on a dedicated, high-speed vial-filling line to support the production of this important vaccine, and Catalent remains on track to meet the supply commitments of our agreement with Johnson & Johnson.”

Catalent would not say how many millions of Johnson & Johnson vaccines it would be able to ship immediately. A spokesperson for the company told CNN it would be up to J&J to disclose that number. Asked by CNN how many doses would be available, Johnson & Johnson did not provide specifics.

Biden administration officials, meanwhile, told CNN this week they were not confident that Johnson & Johnson would be able to meet its self-imposed deadline to deliver 20 million coronavirus vaccines by the end of March. Johnson & Johnson has said it is on target to meet that goal.

Johnson & Johnson only had 4 million doses ready to ship when it was authorized by the FDA at the end of February. An additional 1.2 million doses have gone out since, meaning the company must have another 14.8 million ready in the next week to meet its goal. 

White House officials said Tuesday 4 million more J&J doses would be allocated this week.

White House told US governors there will be 27 million vaccine doses "across all channels" this week

White House press secretary Jen Psaki gave the latest update on vaccine doses available, saying there will be 27 million doses allocated across all channels this week.

Psaki said White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients made the announcement on the weekly call with governors on Tuesday. 

“Today in our weekly governors call, he (Zients) announced that we will have 27 million doses allocated across all channels this week. Of those 27 million doses, four million will be Johnson & Johnson. Two thirds of the 27 million doses will be going to states and jurisdictions and the rest will go to other channels such primarily the pharmacy program which has been very successful and we’ve been increasing supply to,” Psaki said.

Last week, the White House said there were more than 22 million doses being sent to all channels.

“This means that in 63 days since taking office we’ve more than tripled vaccine output,” Psaki added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gets his coronavirus vaccine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been vaccinated against coronavirus, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told CNN on Tuesday. 

“Putin was vaccinated against the coronavirus. (He) feels good. Tomorrow he has a full working day,” Peskov told CNN. 

No video or images of the vaccination process were immediately made available. Earlier, the Kremlin said it would not be a public event.

No information was provided on which coronavirus vaccine Putin had, but earlier the Kremlin said it would be one of the three approved Russian vaccines. 

Two states have fully vaccinated 1 in 5 residents, CDC data shows

Registered Nurse Morgan James loads a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 19.

More than one in five residents have been fully vaccinated in two states – New Mexico and Alaska – according to data published Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In New Mexico, more than one third of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine.

Nationally, nearly one in seven people – about 45.5 million people – have been fully vaccinated, and more than a quarter of the population – nearly 84 million people – have received at least one dose of vaccine, CDC data shows.

The CDC reported that 128,217,029 total doses have been administered – about 78% of the 164,300,795 doses delivered.

That’s about 1.7 million more doses reported administered since yesterday, for a seven-day average of about 2.5 million doses per day.

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

Texas to extend vaccine eligibility to all adults March 29

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a drive-thru clinic in Robstown, Texas, on January 26. 

Starting March 29, Texas will open access to the Covid-19 vaccine to all adults, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) said Tuesday.

“We are closing in on 10 million doses administered in Texas, and we want to keep up the momentum as the vaccine supply increases,” Imelda Garcia, Texas DSHS associate commissioner for laboratory and infectious disease services and the chair of the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, said in a press release. “As eligibility opens up, we are asking providers to continue to prioritize people who are the most at risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death – such as older adults.”

While eligibility is now open, DSHS has directed vaccine providers to prioritize people 80 years old and older, the press release said.

Next week, according to the release, DSHS will launch a website to allow people to register for vaccinations through some public health providers and also launch a toll-free number for people who cannot use the website.

Sao Paulo state registers record-breaking death toll over 24 hours

Workers carry out the burial of a Covid-19 victim at the Vila Formosa Cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 11.

The State of Sao Paulo registered a total of 1,021 deaths in 24 hours, according to the state health secretary on Tuesday. The figure is the highest registered since the beginning of the pandemic.

The deadliest day for the state in terms of the pandemic was seven days ago, on March 16, when 679 people died in 24 hours. In total, 68,623 people in São Paulo have lost their lives to Covid-19.

The health system is also close to collapse, with 91.9% of the intensive care unit beds in the state occupied. On Monday, there were 29,039 Covid-19 patients hospitalized in Sao Paulo, 12,168 of them in intensive care unit beds. On March 1, the number of hospitalized patients was 15,977, almost half the current number.

On Monday, the Council of Municipal Health Secretariats of Sao Paulo warned that 54 cities only have enough oxygen for the rest of the week.

In a news conference on the same day, governor João Doria announced a partnership with a private beverage company to build an oxygen plant in Ribeirao Preto, one of Sao Paulo state’s biggest cities.

In an interview with CNN’s Julia Chatterley on Monday, Brazil’s Sao Paulo state Governor Joao Doria called Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro a “psychopathic leader” and criticized the president’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“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.”

Some more background: 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.

Brazil now has over 12 million cases of coronavirus in the country, according to data from the health ministry.

CNN’s Julia Chatterley and Hira Humayun contributed reporting to this post.

New York City’s office workers will return to work on May 3, mayor says

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a press conference on Tuesday.

New York City’s work force will return to work on May 3 the city’s mayor announced Tuesday.

This applies to those who don’t already work in front line positions and work in offices.

“We’re going to make it safe,” NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said, adding their return “sends a positive message about this city moving forward.”

New York City has vaccinated over 3.4 million the Mayor said, as the state opens up eligibility to those 50 years and older.

NYC is expecting a “major boost” in vaccine supply starting in the first week of April which will be “crucial” in “pumping up the vaccinations,” the Mayor said.

As more people are vaccinated against Covid-19, Americans are going out more, poll finds 

People gather in Washington Square Park on Sunday, March 21, in New York City. 

As more Americans get vaccinated against Covid-19, the number of people who are going out is increasing, according to new poll results from Axios-Ipsos published Tuesday.    

Compared to a month ago, the number of people who have gone out to eat or visit friends and family are up 12 and 9 percentage points respectively, according to the poll which was conducted March 19 to 22 and made up of 995 American adults age 18 and over.  

The number of Americans who have dined out at a restaurant — 45% — is the highest since the first wave of the Axios-Ipsos poll. At the same time, the number of people who believe that dining out poses a large risk to health and well-being has gone down to 23% compared to 33% a month ago. 

Those who have visited friends or relatives — 48% — is the highest since October. 

The highest number of Americans since last May have visited a non-grocery retail store —54%.  

The number of Americans who said they were staying home and avoiding others as much as possible is at 67% — down 7 points from one month ago and at the lowest point in 11 months. Forty-four percent are saying they’re maintaining 6 feet of distance whenever they do leave the house, down from 54% a month ago. 

Also going down is the number of Americans who believe that returning to their normal pre-coronavirus life poses a large or moderate risk — 59%. This is down seven points from a month ago and 11 points from the end of 2020. 

In some cases, the unvaccinated are driving the shift in behavior. For example, 52% of unvaccinated respondents say they’ve visited with friends or relatives in the last week, compared with 41% of people who have gotten the vaccine. 

Safety measures aren’t being completely abandoned, more than 7 in 10 still wear a mask whenever they leave the house and 80% said that they will continue to do so even after being vaccinated. Sixty-three percent will also continue to social distance after vaccination.

This is happening as more Americans are being vaccinated. Thirty-six percent of respondents now say they’ve had the vaccine, up 11 percentage points from two weeks ago. Nine out of 10 respondents said that they knew someone who had been vaccinated.  

The number of Americans saying that they are “not at all likely” to get a first generation Covid-19 vaccine — around 1 in 5 — remains steady. When asked why, most of the responses were centered around wanting more research or information, a lack of trust in the vaccine and the government and/or feeling that they were healthy, and it isn’t needed.

AstraZeneca stands by its US trial results following expert group's concern

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca stood by the results of its US-based clinical trial on Tuesday, a day after the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) expressed concern that the data from the trial may have been “outdated” and “incomplete.”

“The numbers published yesterday were based on a pre-specified interim analysis with a data cut-off of 17 February,” the company said in a statement.

“We have reviewed the preliminary assessment of the primary analysis and the results were consistent with the interim analysis. We are now completing the validation of the statistical analysis,” it added.

“We will immediately engage with the independent data safety monitoring board (DSMB) to share our primary analysis with the most up to date efficacy data. We intend to issue results of the primary analysis within 48 hours,” the statement concluded.

The DSMB is an independent expert group that sees trial data before the pharmaceutical companies, the doctors running the trials, or even the US Food and Drug Administration. They have the power to advise a company of positive interim findings or to halt a trial over safety concerns. That’s what happened to the AstraZeneca trial in September after a study participant developed neurological symptoms, for example.

More context: The DSMB had expressed concern over AstraZeneca’s announcements on its latest findings, according to a statement posted early Tuesday by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“Late Monday, the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) notified NIAID, BARDA, and AstraZeneca that it was concerned by information released by AstraZeneca on initial data from its COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial,” the statement said. 

“The DSMB expressed concern that AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data.
“We urge the company to work with the DSMB to review the efficacy data and ensure the most accurate, up-to-date efficacy data be made public as quickly as possible.”

Early Monday, AstraZeneca issued a press release saying its Covid-19 vaccine showed 79% efficacy against symptomatic disease and 100% efficacy against severe disease and hospitalization, citing long-awaited US trial data. The latter figure was based on five events in the placebo arm, NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a coronavirus briefing Monday.

Last year, the National Institutes of Health appointed a common DSMB to monitor Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials that were being funded by the federal government — including AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. This DSMB has 10 to 15 members with specialties, including vaccine development, statistics and ethics.

Fauci says “unforced error” on AstraZeneca data could create doubt about Covid-19 vaccine

Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on March 18, in Washington, DC.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said an AstraZeneca news release may have contained misleading information about its Covid-19 vaccine efficacy — “an unforced error” that may create doubt about what is likely a good vaccine.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases posted a statement early Tuesday saying that the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) for the trial expressed concern over AstraZeneca’s announcements on its latest findings for its Covid-19 vaccine. 

Early Monday, AstraZeneca had issued a news release saying its Covid-19 vaccine showed 79% efficacy against symptomatic disease and 100% efficacy against severe disease and hospitalization, citing long-awaited US trial data. 

When the DSMB saw the press release, “they got concerned and wrote a rather harsh note to them – and with a copy to me – saying that in fact they felt that the data that was in the press release were somewhat outdated and might in fact be misleading a bit, and wanted them to straighten it out,” Fauci told ABC’s Robin Roberts on Tuesday. “On the basis of that, we put out the release that you just showed that essentially told the company, they better get back with the DSMB and make sure the correct data get put into a press release.” 

The fact is, he said, the AstraZeneca vaccine “is very likely a very good vaccine,” and this situation does nothing but cast doubt about the vaccines and maybe contribute to vaccine hesitancy.

Fauci said this was not necessary and that the data are “really quite good, but when they put it into the press release, it wasn’t completely accurate.” 

The fact that the DSMB picked up on this discrepancy was an example of a safeguard around vaccines, Fauci said.

AstraZeneca said in a statement Tuesday it will “immediately engage with the independent data safety monitoring board (DSMB) to share our primary analysis with the most up to date efficacy data. We intend to issue results of the primary analysis within 48 hours.”

Watch Dr. Fauci respond to AstraZeneca’s news release:

01:29 - Source: CNN

It's been a year since the UK's first Covid-19 lockdown. Here's how the country is remembering the victims.

Tuesday marks one year since UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the country’s first lockdown.

Johnson took to Twitter to reflect on the anniversary, expressing his condolences to the pandemic’s victims and conveying how the year has “taken a huge toll on us all.”

He added that everyone in the country had played a part in battling the virus as the nation looks to the easing of restriction in the coming months.

Many across the UK observed a minute of silence at midday (8 a.m. ET) as part of a day of reflection. People are also being encourage to light their doorsteps at 8 p.m. (4 p.m. ET) to mark the anniversary.

Prince Charles said the country has been “inspired,” “humbled” and “moved beyond words by the sacrifices” of the last 12 months.

“Ladies and gentleman, over the past year our country has been through a trial which has tested our resolve and our resilience in countless ways,” the heir to the throne said in a video message posted on his official Clarence House twitter feed on Tuesday. “We have all been inspired by the resourcefulness we have witnessed, humbled by the dedication shown by so many, and moved beyond words by the sacrifices we have seen.”

“We are emerging from this time with a renewed confidence in one another and with a strengthened faith in our society richly diverse in its many communities and cultures but united in its commitment to the common good and the welfare of others, particularly those most vulnerable. As we do as, it is right that we pause to remember those whose lives have been so tragically cut short,” he added.

Biden administration not confident Johnson & Johnson will meet 20 million vaccine goal by end of month

A nurse administers a Johnson & Jonson Covid-19 vaccine on March 15, in Louisville, Kentucky.

Officials in President Biden’s administration are not confident that Johnson & Johnson will meet its self-imposed deadline to deliver 20 million coronavirus vaccines by the end of March, despite optimistic statements from the company.

Administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to comment on internal discussions, said they aren’t willing to guarantee those millions will be ready within the next week.

They’re hopeful, but not positive, because the delivery schedule has not accelerated in the way officials had hoped, one told CNN.

The US Food and Drug Administration granted Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine emergency use authorization nearly a month ago, but the company has struggled to ramp up production, been slow to submit paperwork and failed to meet production timelines laid out in the company’s contract with the federal government. 

Despite efforts by the federal government to compress production timelines, Johnson & Johnson only had four million doses ready to ship when it was authorized by the FDA at the end of February. An additional 1.2 million doses have gone out since, meaning the company must have another 14.8 million ready in the next week to meet its goal.

With only days left to deliver, administration officials are hedging their bets on whether Johnson & Johnson will deliver based on past behavior.

“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, the White House’s Covid-19 senior adviser, told reporters Monday.

Johnson & Johnson told CNN Monday that it is still on track to meet its March deadline. In February, the company promised at a congressional oversight subcommittee hearing to “deliver enough single-doses by the end of March to vaccinate more than 20 million Americans.”

After the federal government provided $450 million to support Research and Development, the government announced in August it would pay Johnson & Johnson another $1 billion for 100 million doses of its potential coronavirus vaccine.

Under that contract, Johnson & Johnson was scheduled to have 37 million doses ready by the end of March and 100 million by the end of June. 

India to open Covid-19 vaccinations for all individuals over age 45