April 1 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, CNN

Updated 6:38 a.m. ET, April 2, 2021
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2:22 a.m. ET, April 1, 2021

Queensland lifts lockdown early for Greater Brisbane

From CNN's Chandler Thornton

The government of the Australian state of Queensland said a three-day lockdown for Greater Brisbane would end a few hours early Wednesday, after the state reported only one new local Covid-19 case overnight.

The snap lockdown was set to end at 5 p.m. Thursday but will be lifted at noon instead to prepare for Easter weekend travel, Queensland State Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

"Easter is good to go," Palaszczuk said.

Some restrictions will remain in place for Queensland until April 15. Queenslanders must still carry a mask when leaving home and wear masks in indoor places and stay seated in pubs and restaurants. Gatherings are limited to 30 people and dancing is not allowed in public venues.

2:18 a.m. ET, April 1, 2021

US nursing homes see a 96% decline in Covid-19 cases since vaccines rolled out in late December

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

Executive Director Patricia Gustin greets residents entering the dining room at a nursing home in Anaheim, California, on March 8.
Executive Director Patricia Gustin greets residents entering the dining room at a nursing home in Anaheim, California, on March 8. Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register/Getty Images

Nursing homes have seen a 96% decline in new Covid-19 cases since vaccines started rolling out in late December, according to a new analysis from the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL).

By March 7, the country saw the lowest number of weekly cases and deaths since Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has been tracking them, according to the report published Tuesday. With 547 deaths the week of March 7, deaths were down 91% since December.

Since December, nursing home cases have been declining at a much faster rate than community cases, the group’s analysis showed.

“We are not out of the woods yet, but these numbers are incredibly encouraging and a major morale booster for frontline caregivers who have been working tirelessly for more than a year to protect our residents,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL, said in a statement. “This trend shows that when long term care is prioritized, as with the national vaccine rollout, we can protect our vulnerable elderly population.”

AHCA/NCAL represents more than 14,000 nursing homes and long-term care facilities around the country. The facilities provide care for about 5 million people a year. 

2:16 a.m. ET, April 1, 2021

CDC warned the UK variant would become dominant by March, and there's evidence it has

From CNN’s Michael Nedelman and Christopher Rios

People spend time in the sun near the Daytona Beach fishing pier in Florida, on March 24.
People spend time in the sun near the Daytona Beach fishing pier in Florida, on March 24. Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/Sipa USA

Mounting evidence suggests the more contagious coronavirus variant first identified in the UK, which experts believe is partly driving an uptick of cases in places like Michigan, may already be dominant across the US.

“I think we are there,” said William Lee, vice president of science at Helix, a company whose tests have identified a large share of variant cases across the country. “But at the end of the day, it's hard to say for sure,” given gaps and delays in the data.

Lee is one of the authors of a study published Tuesday in the journal Cell estimating that the variant, known as B.1.1.7, would cause the majority of Covid-19 cases in the US by March 19. 

According to that study, B.1.1.7 cases are expected to double every week and a half as a percentage of the country’s total coronavirus cases. The study also concluded the variant was introduced several different times to the US, as early as late November. The study’s conclusions were based on testing data through February.

Lee said that there’s strong evidence the variant is already responsible for a majority of cases in states like Florida, Michigan and Georgia -- with a number of others close on their heels, like Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Texas and Southern California. However, Helix’s data does not include robust samples from a number of other states, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest regions.

While officials with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention won’t yet say whether the variant is dominant, its scientists previously predicted this would be the case by now. 

In January, a CDC study predicted that the variant would exhibit “rapid growth in early 2021, becoming the predominant variant in March.” At the time, the variant was assumed to account for less than 0.5% of cases. 

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