March 24 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, CNN

Updated 0717 GMT (1517 HKT) March 25, 2021
16 Posts
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9:18 a.m. ET, March 24, 2021

CDC’s ensemble forecast now projects up to 578,000 US Covid-19 deaths by April 17

From CNN’s Ben Tinker

An ensemble forecast published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now projects there will be 558,000 to 578,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by April 17.

Unlike some individual models, the CDC’s ensemble forecast only offers projections a few weeks into the future. The previous ensemble forecast, published March 17, projected up to 574,000 coronavirus deaths by April 10.

At least 543,849 people have already died from Covid-19 in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

9:19 a.m. ET, March 24, 2021

Biden expected to announce new US vaccination goal tomorrow

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins 

President Biden is expected to announce his new vaccination goal tomorrow, according to two sources familiar with the plans. 

Last week, Biden hinted he could double his original goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days, which he cleared long before that date.

In recent days, Biden has consulted with his advisers and health experts on what a new, realistic goal would be and plans to announce it Thursday. 

Biden is also expected to host his first formal news conference tomorrow.

9:19 a.m. ET, March 24, 2021

South Korean president assures safety of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine after his first does

From CNN’s Gawon Bae in Seoul.

In this image provided by the South Korean Presidential Blue House, President Moon Jae-in receives a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Seoul on March 23.
In this image provided by the South Korean Presidential Blue House, President Moon Jae-in receives a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Seoul on March 23.  South Korean Presidential Blue House/Getty Images

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday tweeted, “I got the vaccine, and you can trust it,” roughly 31 hours after receiving the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday morning to assure the safety of the vaccine.

Moon said that he had a mild fever late Tuesday night and took an aspirin just in case, but he did not feel uncomfortable or have a headache. He added that he felt refreshed in the morning while the vaccine seems to have no impact on his high blood pressure.

The president also shared the conditions of those who received the vaccine with him: The first lady had a mild fever, he said, but it was slighter than with the flu vaccine. 

He said that all 11 people, including himself, the first lady and nine members of the delegation that were vaccinated together, had either similar mild reactions or none at all.

“Depending on the person, some had heavier symptoms, but there is not much to worry about since it is the process of forming immunity,” he added. He urged people to end controversies over the safety of the vaccine.

Background: In an unusual statement released early Tuesday, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said the independent board that reviews data from multiple Covid-19 vaccine candidates has raised concerns about AstraZeneca's announcement of efficacy data from its vaccine trial.

"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," said the NIAID statement released early Tuesday.

On Monday, the company had 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 total cases of severe disease or hospitalization in people who received the placebo, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a coronavirus briefing Monday.

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca stood by the results of its US-based clinical trial on Tuesday, 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.
11:10 a.m. ET, March 24, 2021

7 in 10 people hospitalized for Covid-19 have not fully recovered 5 months after discharge, UK study finds

From CNN’s Meera Senthilingam

Seven in 10 people hospitalized for Covid-19 have not fully recovered five months after discharge, a new study finds.

The patients continued to experience concerns with their mental and physical health, with 1 in 5 people developing a new disability, and a similar number either not working or having to change jobs due to their health, according to findings by UK researchers.

The people most likely to have persistent symptoms were middle-age White women who developed severe Covid-19, and who had at least two conditions that put them at greater risk of severe disease, such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease.

“Our results show a large burden of symptoms, mental and physical health problems and evidence of organ damage five months after discharge with COVID-19,” Rachael Evans, an associate professor at the University of Leicester and respiratory consultant at Leicester’s hospitals, said in a statement.

“It is also clear that those who required mechanical ventilation and were admitted to intensive care take longer to recover. However, much of the wide variety of persistent problems was not explained by the severity of the acute illness – the latter largely driven by acute lung injury – indicating other, possibly more systemic, underlying mechanisms,” she said.

More on the study: The UK-wide study analyzed 1,077 people who were discharged from hospital between March and November 2020, who developed Covid-19. Among them, 67% where White, 36% were women and 50% had at least two conditions that put them at risk of severe disease.

When the participants were followed up five months later, only 29% of people said they felt fully recovered, while more than 90% of people had at least one persistent symptom, and most experienced an average of nine ongoing symptoms.

The ten most common symptoms were muscle pain, fatigue, physical slowing down, impaired sleep quality, joint pain or swelling, limb weakness, breathlessness, pain, short-term memory loss, and slowed thinking, according to the study.

Mental health was also affected, with more than 25% of people having clinical symptoms of anxiety or depression and 12% having symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

8:26 a.m. ET, March 24, 2021

Merkel says confusion over Easter restrictions were ‘singularly and alone my mistake’

By CNN's Stephanie Halasz and Angela Dewan

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks in Berlin on March 24.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks in Berlin on March 24. Stefanie Loos/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was rescinding an order to label the Thursday and Saturday before Easter “rest days," amid criticism of a tough five-day lockdown announced for the Easter holiday.

The change means businesses will no longer be forced to close on the Thursday and Saturday, though other restrictions on social contact and gatherings will remain. Businesses will be closed as usual on the public holidays of Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.

Germany is currently battling a surge in infections.

Her initial orders were based on good intentions, Merkel said at a hastily organized press conference at the German Chancellery Wednesday, acknowledging the changes needed weren’t possible with such little notice. 

Merkel asked the nation for forgiveness and said the confusion over the Easter lockdown was “singularly and alone my mistake.”

8:20 a.m. ET, March 24, 2021

Poland reports highest number of Covid-19 deaths and cases since start of the pandemic

From CNN's Antonia Mortensen in Milan, Italy

Poland on Wednesday reported the highest number of daily deaths since the start of the pandemic, registering 575 new fatalities, according to figures announced by its health ministry.

The country also recorded 29,978 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, one of the highest daily tallies since the start of the pandemic.

Poland has reported a total of 2,120,671 Covid-19 cases and 50,340 Covid-19 related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the health ministry.

8:41 a.m. ET, March 24, 2021

More US states expanding coronavirus vaccine eligibility to general population

From CNN’s Ashley Ahn, Jacqueline Howard, and Virginia Langmaid

A health care worker prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine in Charleston, West Virginia, on March 18.
A health care worker prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine in Charleston, West Virginia, on March 18. Stephen Zenner/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Five US states have expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to anyone aged 16 and older, and at least 20 more plan to do so by the end of April.

List of states: Alaska opened up vaccinations to anyone aged 16 and older on March 9, while Mississippi and West Virginia did so on March 16 and March 22 respectively. Utah and state-run sites in certain Arizona counties expanded eligibility on March 24. Oklahomans ahed 16 and older can get vaccinated through the Chickasaw Nation’s vaccination program, but not yet through the state’s program.

For all states currently vaccinating anyone aged 16 and older, people aged 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 those aged 18 and older.

Timeline for other states: Below is the timeline for when those and some other states have said they will open vaccination eligibility to all people aged 16 and older:

March 25: Georgia

March 29: Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio, North Dakota

April 1: Montana

April 5: Connecticut, Michigan, Tennessee

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: California, Nebraska, Kansas, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Delaware

8:28 a.m. ET, March 24, 2021

Second French minister hospitalized as ICUs are overrun

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman and Saskya Vandoorne in Paris

France's Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot attends an event in Paris on February 11.
France's Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot attends an event in Paris on February 11. Francois Mori/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

France’s Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot was admitted to hospital after contracting Covid-19, her spokesperson told CNN Wednesday, the second government minister hospitalized with the virus this week. The 74-year-old had received her first dose of the vaccine on March 17.

Labor Minister Élisabeth Borne, 59, was hospitalized with Covid-19 on Monday and was discharged on Wednesday, according to a ministry press release. 

“I am relieved,” Borne tweeted as she left hospital. She tested positive for the virus on March 1.

Covid lockdown: France is in the throes of a third wave of the coronavirus, with new lockdown restrictions implemented in 16 areas last Friday. 

Non-essential businesses have been closed in the most impacted areas of France, where people have been forbidden to go further than 10km from their home or travel between regions without a valid reason.

The new measures are less restrictive than those imposed in March and November of last year, Prime Minister Jean Castex acknowledged when he announced them last week. 

“Very clearly, the messages haven’t got through. The confusion of the weekend has led to more distrust,” Jean-François Timsit, ICU chief at the Paris’ Bichat hospital, said on France Inter radio on Wednesday, referring to backtracking over travel permits as he criticized the complicated nature of the restrictions. 

“We should have put the brakes on earlier," he added in the interview.

Recalling that positive Covid-19 cases now could require hospitalization in the coming weeks, Timsit said: “The next month is going to be hellish.” 

“We’ve got several difficult weeks ahead of us,” French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on BFMTV Wednesday morning, adding: “Covid is once again taking a kind of expansion, it is very worrying.”

Easter restrictions: The minister said in the interview that there will be no easing of restrictions for the Easter weekend, although church services will be allowed to go ahead outside of the night-time curfew. He also encouraged the French public “not to gather together over the coming weekends.”

“We must limit them,” the minister said of Easter celebrations. “They must stay within the strict family intimacy of the home, of the apartment, and we should not receive friends, family, nor travel.”

7:16 a.m. ET, March 24, 2021

Bolsonaro surprises Brazilians with a sharp change in tone as country records its highest daily Covid-19 deaths

From journalist Fernanda Wenzel in Porto Alegre 

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro attends an event in Brasília on March 22.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro attends an event in Brasília on March 22. Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images

In a sharp change in tone, President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday said his government will make this year "the year of vaccination for Brazilians." 

In a three-minute announcement that aired on national radio and television, Bolsonaro sympathized with the families of Covid-19 victims and said Brazil will return to normalcy "very soon." 

The President underlined that a coronavirus variant is posing a new challenge in the country and insisted that his government had always taken "important steps to fight both coronavirus and the economic chaos." 

Bolsonaro claimed he has always been in favor of Covid-19 vaccines and recalled the contracts his government signed with Oxford-AstraZeneca, Sinovac, Pfizer, and Janssen. He had consistently affirmed that Brazil would adopt any vaccine approved by the country's regulator, he insisted, "and it was done."

He went on to say that Brazil will soon be self-sufficient in domestic production of vaccines. "We do not know for how long we will have to face this disease, but national production will guarantee that we can vaccinate Brazilians every year, regardless of the variants that may arise." 

His announcement came the day Brazil recorded 3,251 new deaths due to Covid-19 -- its highest daily death toll since the pandemic began.  

Background: The speech was a shift from the approach Bolsonaro has taken since the beginning of the outbreak. The President has never encouraged precautionary measures against Covid-19, such as the use of masks.

Last year, he prohibited the country's health ministry from buying the CoronaVac vaccine, calling it the "Chinese vaccine" and "Doria's vaccine," referring to Joao Doria, the governor of Sao Paulo and his political enemy. Bolsonaro himself hasn't yet been vaccinated against coronavirus and previously said he would not take a shot. 

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, which has no proven effectiveness in combatting Covid-19.