March 30 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Angela Dewan, Christopher Johnson, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 0700 GMT (1500 HKT) March 31, 2021
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3:28 p.m. ET, March 30, 2021

European Commission says more work is needed to understand Covid-19 origins

From CNN’s James Frater and Zahid Mahmood

The European Commission has called a World Health Organization-led report on coronavirus origins a “helpful first step,” but says further work is need to understand the origins of coronavirus and its transmission to humans.

“This will require further and timely access to all relevant locations and to all relevant human, animal and environmental data available, including data from the first identified COVID-19 cases and cases picked up by surveillance systems, as well as further serologic testing of blood samples,” the commission said in a statement.

“The identification of the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus will require full and transparent cooperation by all WHO Member States and a collaborative effort by scientists from various disciplines.”

The WHO released a new 120-page report on Tuesday listing four commonly discussed scenarios for the virus’ introduction to humans, dismissing two of them as unlikely. It did not give evidence to support the lab leak theory. 

The statement added that a better understanding of the virus is essential to support the international response to pandemics, including equitable access to vaccines and treatments. 

“Ultimately, pandemic preparedness is not only about response capacities; it is above all about how countries act when a threat arises,” the commission said.

The governments of the United States Australia, Canada, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom jointly expressed concern about WHO's study into the origins of Covid-19 in China and called for independent and fully transparent evaluations with access to all relevant data in the future.

3:20 p.m. ET, March 30, 2021

German vaccine experts recommend AstraZeneca only be given to people over 60

From Inke Kappeler, Chris Liakos and Lindsay Isaac

Germany’s vaccine committee, STIKO, has recommended AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine only be used in people aged 60 and over. 

The recommendation comes after reports of “rare but very severe thromboembolic side effects,” in 31 people following the first dose. The symptoms occurred four to 16 days after the shot, mainly in people younger than 60, according to Germany’s Paul Ehrlich Institute – the country's medical regulatory body. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Health Minister Jens Spahn are expected to hold a news conference Tuesday evening in Berlin to address the recommendation.  

STIKO will issue further guidance on whether to administer a second dose to people under 60 who have already had their first shot.

The AstraZeneca vaccine started being administered in Germany in February. 

CNN reached out AstraZeneca which gave the following statement:

"We respect the decision taken by STIKO in their advisory capacity for use of vaccines in Germany.
Patient safety remains the Company’s highest priority. Investigations by both the UK Medicines & Products regulatory agency (MRHA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) were not able to establish a causal relationship between the vaccine and clotting events, however, the EMA concluded that for very rare cases of serious cerebral thromboembolic events with thrombocytopenia a causal link with the vaccine is not proven but deserves further analysis.
Regulatory authorities in the UK, European Union, the World Health Organization have concluded that the benefits of using our vaccine to protect people from this deadly virus significantly outweigh the risks across all adult age groups. The benefit risk profile of the vaccine was reaffirmed in the EMA’s monthly safety update published earlier today
Tens of millions of people have now received our vaccine across the globe. The extensive body of data from two large clinical datasets and real-world evidence demonstrate its effectiveness, reaffirming the role the vaccine can play during this public health crisis. 
AstraZeneca continues to analyse its database on tens of millions of records for COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca to understand whether these very rare cases of blood clots associated with thrombocytopenia occur any more commonly than would be expected naturally in a population of millions of people. We will continue to work with German authorities to address any questions they may have."
3:17 p.m. ET, March 30, 2021

US Covid-19 vaccine coverage is lower in counties with higher risk, new analysis finds

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

Counties with the highest levels of vaccine coverage are those that already had the lowest levels of Covid-19 community transmission, an indication that vaccines are not always getting to where they are most needed, according to a new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation. 

Vaccination rates in counties that have had the worst Covid-19 case and death rates, lag behind counties that have had the lowest case and death rates by about one percentage point, on average. 

The analysis also found that the average rate of vaccination is lower in counties with certain underserved and high-risk populations that have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19, including some racial and ethnic groups, those with high-risk medical conditions and those with high social vulnerability.

  • In counties with a large share of Black residents, the average vaccination rate is less than 14%, compared to 16.4% in counties with a low share of Black residents.
  • Similarly, in counties with large Hispanic representation, the average vaccination rate is 15%, compared to nearly 16% in counties with a low share of Hispanic residents.
  • Counties where more than half of residents have high-risk medical conditions – including chronic kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes and obesity – have an average vaccination rate of 14%, nearly three percentage points lower than average rates in counties with a low share of people with high-risk medical conditions.
  • And in counties with high rates of poverty, the average vaccination rate is about 14%, compared to nearly 18% in wealthier counties.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, counties that voted for President Biden have higher coverage than those that voted for Trump, consistent with evidence of vaccine hesitancy among Republican voters. Urban counties also have lower vaccination coverage than non-metro counties.

However, average vaccine coverage is higher in counties with large shares of residents age 65 or older. 

More on the analysis: the Kaiser Family Foundation used county-level vaccination coverage first published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week. Vaccination rates represent the share of total county population that has been fully vaccinated. About three-quarters of US counties were included in the analysis. 

Overall, about 16% of all US residents have been fully vaccinated, according to the latest data from the CDC. 

 

3:10 p.m. ET, March 30, 2021

All 50 US states have now released plans to open Covid-19 vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older

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

All states nationwide have now announced when they plan to open up coronavirus vaccinations to everyone eligible under the vaccines' US Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorizations — if they haven't done so already. 

Arkansas is the most recent state to announce plans to expand vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 and older, starting on Tuesday.

A dozen other states already also have expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 and older: Alaska opened up vaccinations to anyone 16 and older on March 9, Mississippi on March 16, West Virginia expanded on March 22, Utah on March 24, Georgia on March 25, and Arizona opened vaccination to anyone over 16 who can get to state-run sites in three counties as of March 24. 

Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio, North Dakota, Louisiana and Kansas expanded to anyone 16 and older on March 29. Several states that already announced plans to open up vaccine eligibility by early May have changed their timelines to open up in late March or early April. 

Below is the timeline for when those and other states have said they will open vaccination eligibility to the general public:

  • March 30: Minnesota
  • March 31: Indiana, South Carolina
  • April 1: Montana, Connecticut
  • April 2: New Hampshire
  • April 5: Michigan, Tennessee, Idaho, Iowa, Florida, Nevada
  • April 7: North Carolina
  • April 9: Missouri
  • April 12: Illinois, Kentucky
  • April 15: California
  • April 19: Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island
  • April 27: Maryland
  • April, no set date: New Mexico, Virginia, Colorado, Wyoming
  • May 1: Wisconsin, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, Nebraska, Hawaii, Delaware, Alabama, Pennsylvania, New Jersey

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

2:59 p.m. ET, March 30, 2021

Wisconsin will open up Covid-19 vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older next week

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Everyone 16 and older in Wisconsin will be eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine starting on Monday, Gov. Tony Evers announced today.

“The best news is that our supply continues to be steady,” Evers said. “We’re confident in our vaccine providers and we are confident in Wisconsin.”

More than one million Wisconsin residents have now completed their vaccine series, according to Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk for the Department of Health Services. Wisconsin has administered at least 2,753,146 doses as of today, and 75% of people age 65 and older have received at least one shot.

“It’s important to remember that there’s more than hope and spring weather in the air. This pandemic is not over,” Evers warned. “Last week we saw a rise in our seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases for the first time in three weeks, and just in the last five days, more than 2,000 Wisconsinites have tested positive for Covid-19.”

Note: These numbers were released by the state's public health agency, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services.

2:53 p.m. ET, March 30, 2021

Biden signs extension for Paycheck Protection Program into law

From CNN's Jason Hoffman 

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Biden signed the PPP Extension Act of 2021 into law on Tuesday, sitting behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.

Biden, flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and small business administrator Isabella Guzman, praised the bipartisan nature of extending the Paycheck Protection Program, which will keep thousands of small businesses open according to the President.

“Today I'm proud to sign the extension, which I'm gonna do in a second, of the Paycheck Protection Program. It is a bipartisan accomplishment,” Biden said. “Nearly 90,000 businesses are still online, and there's money left. Without somebody signing this bill today there are hundreds of thousands of people who could lose their jobs, and small family businesses that might close forever.”

The law extends the application deadline, originally set to expire on March 31, to May 31, and provides an additional 30-day period for the Small Business Administration to process applications that are still pending.

Biden also spoke about the inequity that small businesses faced during the first round of the PPP, saying many Hispanic and Black small businesses didn’t receive PPP funding.

“We're pushing lenders to raise the game and provide more help to many small businesses, you know, particularly, Hispanic, as well as African American small businesses are just out of business because they got bypassed the first time around,” Biden said.

2:47 p.m. ET, March 30, 2021

More than 5,000 Covid-19 patients are in ICUs in France – the most in nearly a year

From CNN's Pierre Bairin

A patient infected with the Covid-19 is carryed by a stretcher bearer in an intensive care unit of the Hopital Delafontaine in the Saint-Denis surburb of Paris, on March 29.
A patient infected with the Covid-19 is carryed by a stretcher bearer in an intensive care unit of the Hopital Delafontaine in the Saint-Denis surburb of Paris, on March 29. Thomas SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images

For the first time since April last year, more than 5,000 Covid-19 patients are in intensive care units in France.

According to French health agency data released Tuesday, there are at least 5,072 Covid-19 patients being treated in ICUs, an increase of 98 patients since Monday.

In the Paris region alone, there are currently 1,521 patients in ICUs, an increase of 43 people in 24 hours

There are currently 28,510 Covid-19 patients in hospital countrywide. 

2:24 p.m. ET, March 30, 2021

Arkansas governor will lift statewide mask mandate tomorrow

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson plans to lift the state's mask mandate on Wednesday, according to his office.

The governor first issued a mask mandate for the state in July, requiring masks be worn in all indoor areas.

He is expected to make that announcement as well as provide an update on vaccine eligibility.

Arkansas is the only state that has not yet shared when it plans to open up vaccines for people 16 and older.

President Biden has directed all states to open up vaccine eligibility for all adults by May 1.

2:08 p.m. ET, March 30, 2021

Hollywood's Universal Studios will reopen for California residents next month

From CNN's Richard Davis

AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images
AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images

Universal Studios Hollywood announced Tuesday that it will reopen and resume operations beginning on April 16. 

Most rides will be running at that time, with others opening at a later date due to compliance of government restrictions, according to a news release.   

“We are incredibly thrilled to finally be able to open Universal Studios Hollywood, return team members to work and welcome guests back to enjoy our amazing rides,” said Karen Irwin, president and COO of Universal Studios Hollywood. 

“It has been a very challenging year and we are overjoyed to have arrived at this moment,” Irwin said. 

The company will continue to work with local health and government officials on health and safety procedures including controlled capacity, physical distancing and required face coverings.  

Only California residents may visit the theme park at this time, the company said.