March 24 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, CNN

Updated 0717 GMT (1517 HKT) March 25, 2021
38 Posts
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6:13 p.m. ET, March 24, 2021

Indiana expects to reach 1 million fully vaccinated on Wednesday

From CNN's Kelsie Smith

Patients arrive to receive the the single-dose Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine during the state's first mass vaccination clinic at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Friday, March 5, in Indianapolis.
Patients arrive to receive the the single-dose Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine during the state's first mass vaccination clinic at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Friday, March 5, in Indianapolis. Darron Cummings/AP

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said the state expects to hit a major milestone of one million Indianans fully vaccinated on Wednesday. 

"Whether that's a two-dose to the arm or a one dose [Johnson & Johnson] we'll hit today, one million," said Holcomb during a news conference Wednesday. "We are not just on the road to recovery we are onward and upward." 

As of Tuesday night, nearly 19% of eligible Indianans have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and 32% of the state population has received at least one dose, said State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box. 

The state plans to open vaccine eligibility to all individuals age 16 and older starting March 31.  

Additionally, Holcomb said the state will continue to operate mass vaccination sites. Starting April 1, a vaccination site at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will open for 16 days, where the state expects to administer 96,000 vaccinations.

5:20 p.m. ET, March 24, 2021

Benefits of AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh any rare reactions, WHO chief scientist says

From CNN’s Ryan Prior, Emmet Lyons and Arnaud Siad

A health worker prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at the San Giovanni Bosco Hospital in Turin, Italy, on March 19.
A health worker prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at the San Giovanni Bosco Hospital in Turin, Italy, on March 19. Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images

Reports of extremely rare blood clots should not deter governments from distributing the AstraZeneca vaccine to their citizens, according to the World Health Organization’s Chief Scientists Soumya Swaminathan. 

The vaccine’s reputation is being hit in public perception due to news coverage, Swaminathan said.

“This is what happens when science is played out on the front pages of newspapers and television channels,” Swaminathan told CNN on Wednesday. “We scientists are used to reading these papers once they are peer-reviewed and published in scientific journals. We are not used to science by press release, but that’s what’s happening now.” 

She noted that the vaccine has already been widely deployed, with 20 million doses administered in Europe, 30 million in India, and another 10 to 15 million in Africa. 

“And there's definitely no relationship between the more common clotting disorders or thrombotic events and the vaccine. What the WHO recommended is that the benefits of this vaccine clearly outweigh the risks,” she said.

Meanwhile, the WHO is continually monitoring data coming in every day about whether the current vaccines are effective against several major variants gaining prevalence around the world, Swaminathan said. 

“Currently our recommendation is to go ahead with the available vaccines as we learn more, and of course, we are working with manufacturers as they develop the next version of their vaccines,” she explained. “So we might have vaccines next year, for example, that will address the variants in addition to the original strain. And that’s something for which WHO is involved in a global coordination.” 

Swaminathan said new European Union proposals for stricter export controls on Covid-19 vaccines are a “self-defeating exercise.”

On Wednesday, EU commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis announced that the EU has proposed tighter controls on the export of Covid-19 vaccine doses.

“We really want to focus on identifying what are those obstacles, roadblocks, what are those supply chain issues that can be solved? But, again, this needs working together,” Swaminathan said.

“It needs leaders, it needs the CEOs of the companies to reach out to each other, including many companies in the developing world, which are available and eager and wanting to participate in this effort. So these are the kind of solutions we need to look forward to increase supplies rather than, you know, fighting and putting in export bans, which is really ultimately a self-defeating exercise,” she said.


4:42 p.m. ET, March 24, 2021

CDC declines cruise industry request to lift no-sail order

From CNN's Maggie Fox

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declined to act on a cruise industry request to lift its no-sail order Wednesday, saying current rules will stay in effect until November.

The Cruise Lines International Association said it had asked the Biden administration to lift the no-sail order for cruise ships by early July, saying that timeline “is in line with President Biden’s forecast for when the United States will be ‘closer to normal.’”  

The CDC said its order would stay in place.

“On October 30, 2020, CDC issued Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) that remains in effect until November 1, 2021. Returning to passenger cruising is a phased approach to mitigate the risk of spreading Covid-19. Details for the next phase of the CSO are currently under interagency review,” the CDC said in a statement to CNN.

4:13 p.m. ET, March 24, 2021

Biden announces $81 billion in funding to reopen schools as part of Covid-19 relief bill

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Joe Biden speaks during a press conference at the White House on March 23, in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden speaks during a press conference at the White House on March 23, in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden announced the release of $81 billion in funding from the Covid-19 relief bill for school reopenings Wednesday, part of the administration’s efforts toward getting the majority of schools opened in his first 100 days in office and addressing inequity caused by the pandemic.

“I’m really proud to announce that starting today, states will begin receiving nearly $130 billion in school funding that we included in the American Rescue Plan. In fact, $81 billion of those dollars will be arriving today to those schools,” Biden said during a virtual summit on school reopening hosted by the Department of Education.

Biden called on states to take the next steps, saying, “I need states to move quickly to get these resources down to the school districts and put them to work.”

The President also reiterated his message that “help is here.”

“Help is here for schools to purchase PPE, hire additional personnel like nurses, counselors, custodial staff, improve ventilation and sanitation, avoid devastating layoffs and give students extra support,” he said, adding, “Help is here to help students make up for lost time and lost learning. Unless we act quickly, this pandemic could have a devastating long term impact on our kids who have gone through this, including on their mental health.”

More on the funds: The administration is releasing funding for schools as part of the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, on Wednesday. The bill included $122 billion in relief for Pre-K to 12 schools, and two-thirds of those funds, totaling $81 billion, “will be made available to states immediately,” the Department of Education said in a statement.

The funds, the statement said, will “support their efforts to get students back in the classroom safely for in person learning, keep schools open once students are back, and address the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of all students.”

The additional one-third of funding, per the Department of Education, “will become available after states submit the plans they are developing and implementing for using (emergency relief) funds to safely reopen schools and meet the needs of students to the Department.”

Part of the funding for schools will be used to address educational inequity that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona outlining inequity in the return to in-person learning.

Vice President Kamala Harris expressed concern for students disproportionally impacted, explaining how the funding could help address those challenges.

“We're all worried about our students falling behind, especially those who attend schools that are underfunded and under-resourced, and especially our students who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Those who are learning English, students with disabilities, students without access to broadband, students who are food insecure and so many more,” Harris said.

The money for schools, she said, includes “evidence-based interventions that will help bridge the gaps in learning and meet social and emotional needs in the wake of the pandemic.”

One specific measure aimed at addressing that is summer learning and enrichment opportunities, with Biden calling on states, school districts, and community partners to work together on the matter.

3:15 p.m. ET, March 24, 2021

EU and UK working together to "expand vaccine supply"

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

A health worker administers a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in London, on Tuesday, March 23.
A health worker administers a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in London, on Tuesday, March 23. Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

The European Union and the United Kingdom are working together on specific steps “to create a win-win situation and expand vaccine supply,” they said in a joint statement on Wednesday. 

“We are all facing the same pandemic and the third wave makes cooperation between the EU and UK even more important,” the statement read. “We have been discussing what more we can do to ensure a reciprocally beneficial relationship between the UK and EU on COVID-19.”

"Given our interdependencies, we are working on specific steps we can take – in the short, medium and long term – to create a win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all our citizens,” they said. 

The statement goes on to say that global cooperation not just between the two, but with all countries will be key to overcoming this pandemic and future challenges, with the two sides vowing to continue discussions. 

2:14 p.m. ET, March 24, 2021

Covid-19 testing will need to continue "forever," infectious disease expert says

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

People with Covid-19 symptoms will need to be tested for Covid-19 well into the future, University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy director Michael Osterholm said Wednesday.

“We’re going to need to test people who have potentially clinically compatible symptoms with Covid-19 forever,” Osterholm said during a webcast on the state of Covid-19 testing hosted by Axios.

"This virus is not going away around the world,” he said. “Remember, we have billions of people in low-income countries, some in middle-income countries, who will never have access to vaccines, and where those cases are occurring in those countries, we’ll also see variants spread out.”

Osterholm said testing would also be helpful in tracking the effectiveness of vaccines and determining the need for booster doses.

2:22 p.m. ET, March 24, 2021

Pace of Covid-19 vaccinations has doubled in less than two months, CDC data shows

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

Covid-19 vaccine doses are prepared at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, Massachusetts, on March 19.
Covid-19 vaccine doses are prepared at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, Massachusetts, on March 19. Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Almost 130.5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the United States, according to data published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reported that 130,473,853 total doses have been administered – about 77% of the 169,223,125 doses delivered.

That’s nearly 2.3 million more doses reported administered since yesterday, for a seven-day average of about 2.5 million doses per day.

A month ago, the seven-day average was about 1.5 million, with about 1 million fewer doses being administered per day, according to a CNN analysis of CDC data. And in less than two months, the pace of vaccination has doubled.

About 26% of the population – almost 85.5 million people – have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 14% of the population – more than 46 million people – are fully vaccinated, CDC data shows. A third of adults and about 70% of seniors have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

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

1:43 p.m. ET, March 24, 2021

Go There: CNN answers your questions about the EU's proposal to tighten Covid-19 vaccine export controls

The European Union is proposing tighter Covid-19 vaccine export controls, which could affect the US and the UK. 

The tougher export controls would see vaccine shipments assessed based on the destination country's rate of vaccinations and vaccine exports.

CNN's Melissa Bell has the latest from Paris, France.


2:21 p.m. ET, March 24, 2021

Few rapid antigen Covid-19 tests meet WHO standards, review finds 

From CNN’s Nadia Kounang

A health worker processes a rapid antigen Covid-19 test on February 23, 2021 in Naumburg, Germany.
A health worker processes a rapid antigen Covid-19 test on February 23, 2021 in Naumburg, Germany. Ronny Hartmann/AFP/Getty Images

A new large scale international review of rapid Covid-19 tests finds that few of them meet the World Health Organization’s minimum acceptable performance standards. 

There are two kinds of rapid tests – molecular tests, including PCR, which are considered to be the gold standard of molecular diagnostics; and rapid antigen tests, which detect proteins of the virus. Proponents of rapid tests say these diagnostics can be utilized to quickly screen individuals as businesses and society continue to re-open. Airlines already are already employing rapid tests to screen passengers for flights. 

When looking at the antigen tests, the independent research group Cochrane, a collaborative of researchers and health professionals from 130 countries, found the were best used within the first week after someone began experiencing symptoms. In those conditions, the tests correctly identified 78% of people with Covid-19. Overall, when used to test among people who were symptomatic, rapid antigen tests positively identified 72% of people who had Covid-19. 

When the antigen tests were used among people who were asymptomatic, the tests were much stronger at ruling out infection than identifying it. The tests correctly identified a negative Covid-19 finding about 99% of the time in people who just had Covid-like symptoms or no symptoms at all. However, when tested among people with a positive Covid-19 diagnosis, the rapid antigen tests only identified them correctly 58% of the time. 

The reviewers also found a wide discrepancy in accuracy among the tests – ranging from 34% to 88%. The WHO’s minimum standards require a test to identify at least 80% of people with an infection and 97% of those without an infection. The SD Biosensor STANDARD Q and the Abbott Panbio antigen tests were identified as the two most accurate tests reviewed. 

When looking at the rapid PCR tests, the researchers found that on average they positively identified an infection 95% of the time, and correctly identified a negative diagnosis 99% of the time. However, the researchers noted that there were limitations to these findings, because most of the studies evaluated looked just at the Abbot ID Now and Xpert press rapid PCR tests. There wasn’t enough data to evaluate when the tests were most precise relative to symptom onset.