April 21 coronavirus news

By Sophie Jeong, CNN

Updated 0704 GMT (1504 HKT) April 26, 2021
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5:35 p.m. ET, April 21, 2021

The CDC is putting together further guidance for vaccinated Americans, White House says

From CNN"s DJ Judd 

White House senior adviser for Covid-19 response Andy Slavitt told CNN the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are “in the process of putting together further guidance” for vaccinated Americans.

He added the CDC is “not always going to be as fast as everybody wants them to be, because they like to study the data and make sure that they're, generally speaking, not putting things out that they will have to take back.” 

“But I'm quite confident that over the next couple of weeks and months, those questions will be answered, those guidelines will absolutely loosen. And they're going to be science-based but also hopefully very practical like you said,” Slavitt told CNN.

Slavitt also touted the White House’s newly announced efforts to counter plateauing vaccination rates by offering incentives for businesses to allow their employees to get vaccinated.

“One of the things that's changing most rapidly is we have vaccinated the lion's share of people over 65, and we're doing pretty well with people over 50 – this week we have started to move in earnest to vaccinate working Americans," he said.

6:34 p.m. ET, April 21, 2021

Only 2 "breakthrough" infections among hundreds of fully vaccinated people, new study finds

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

For fully vaccinated people, the risk of still getting Covid-19 – described as "breakthrough infections" – remains extremely low, a new study out of New York suggests.

Among 417 employees at Rockefeller University who were fully vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna shots, two of them or about .5%, had breakthrough infections later, according to the study published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"We have characterized bona fide examples of vaccine breakthrough manifesting as clinical symptoms," the researchers wrote in their study. "These observations in no way undermine the importance of the urgent efforts being taken at the federal and state levels to vaccinate the U.S. population. They also lend support to efforts to advance a new vaccine booster (as well as a pan-coronavirus vaccine) to provide increased protection against variants."

The researchers, from Rockefeller University, found that coronavirus variants with several differences from the original virus caused the breakthrough infections.

A variant that infected one of the patients had the mutation E484K, which was first found in the B.1.351 variant originally identified in South Africa. E484K has been called an "escape mutant" because it has shown it might be able to escape some of the antibodies produced by coronavirus vaccines. One of the mutations found in both study participants' infections included D614G, which emerged early in the pandemic.

One of the breakthrough infections was in a healthy 51-year-old woman who received her second dose of the Moderna vaccine on February 19. Nineteen days later, she tested positive for Covid-19 on March 10 after developing symptoms.  

The other breakthrough infection was in a healthy 65-year-old woman who received her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on February 9. She later learned that her partner, who was unvaccinated, tested positive for Covid-19 on March 3. In the following days, the woman developed symptoms of her own. She tested positive for Covid-19 on March 17. 

More research is needed to determine whether similar findings related to breakthrough infections or variants would emerge among a larger group of participants from various parts of the United States.

For context: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told CNN last week that the agency has so far received less than 6,000 reports of breakthrough coronavirus infections among more than 84 million people fully vaccinated nationwide.

Correction: The percent of employees at Rockefeller University who were fully vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna shots and had breakthrough infections later was .5%. This post has been updated with this information.

3:02 p.m. ET, April 21, 2021

Covid-19 infection rates in the US are still too high, Fauci says

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

Areas with low infection rates might safely roll back Covid-19 restrictions, but nationwide rates are still too high, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN on Wednesday. 

“When you’re in an area that has that degree, where the risk of infection is so low, obviously you’re going to see pulling back on many of the restrictive public health measures that we all want to go away,” Fauci said. 

“If a particular region is really, really very low and doing really, really well, certainly I think there will be a differential in being able to say one can do certain things or not,” he said. “We think about and talk about these things every single day.”

Fauci said he expects the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to eventually roll back some of its guidance as more people become fully vaccinated, “provided the level of infection starts going down.”

“I don’t anticipate the CDC is going to be making recommendations to loosen things up when we’re having an average of 60,000 infections per day,” he said. 

2:40 p.m. ET, April 21, 2021

Biden: US remains on track for July 4 goal of small gatherings as long as Americans "don't let up" 

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Biden said during remarks on Wednesday afternoon that the US is still on track to meet his goal of having small gatherings on Independence Day as long as Americans remain vigilant and continue to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“Back on March 11, I outlined a vision of what America could look like by the 4th of July – an America that was much closer to normal life that we left behind more than a year ago. We remain on track for that goal. In the weeks since then, more than 120 million have been given – since I announced the July 4th proposal. More of our kids are back in school and after a long and painful year, more grandparents are able to hug their grandkids again,” Biden said during his remarks marking the administering of 200 million coronavirus vaccine doses in the US.

Biden urged Americans to continue wearing masks and to get vaccinated before the end of May.

“We all need to mask up until the number cases go down, ‘til everyone has a chance to get their shot. To Americans 16 years and older: it’s your turn now. Now. So go get your vaccine before the end of May. We can do this. And we’ll do this as long as we don’t let up,” the President said.


2:47 p.m. ET, April 21, 2021

Biden on sending vaccines abroad: "We don’t have enough to be confident to send it abroad now"

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

President Biden said the US is in the process of assisting countries with Covid-19 vaccines, and said there isn't "enough to send it abroad now."

"We're in the process of doing that," Biden said.

"We're looking at what is going to be done with some of the vaccines that we are not using. We want to make sure they are safe to be sent, and we hope to be able to be of some help and value to countries around the world," Biden said.

"We have talked to our neighbors," Biden continued. "The prime minister of Canada, we helped a bit there. We're going to try to help some more, but there's other countries as well that I'm confident we can help including in Central America and so — but it's in process. We don't have enough to be confident to send it abroad now. I expect we're going to be able to do that."


2:33 p.m. ET, April 21, 2021

"Wait no longer" to get vaccinated, Biden says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

President Biden encouraged all Americans to get vaccinated to protect themselves against Covid-19.

"To put it simply, if you've been waiting for your turn, wait no longer. Now is the time for everyone over 16 years of age to get vaccinated," Biden said.

Noting that "the broad swath of American adults still remain largely unvaccinated," Biden outlined two reasons why all Americans need to get vaccinated: to save lives and to protect communities.

Vaccines will be available at nearly 40,000 pharmacies across the nation, Biden said.


2:20 p.m. ET, April 21, 2021

Biden: "No working American should lose a single dollar" by taking time off to get vaccinated

From CNN's Betsy Klein


President Biden urged US businesses to give their employees paid time off to get vaccinated, touting a tax credit that can offset the costs of that time off.

"As we move into the vaccination campaign focused on working-age adults, one concern I have heard from so many Americans is that they can't afford to take the time off to get vaccinated or lose a day's work because they are feeling slightly under the weather after their shot, " Biden said in White House remarks.

"I'm announcing a program to address that issue nationwide. I'm calling on every employer, large and small, in every state to give employees the time off they need, with pay, to get vaccinated," he continued.

"No working American should lose a single dollar from their paycheck because they choose to fulfill their patriotic duty of getting vaccinated," Biden said.

Biden pointed to two businesses that are already doing their part to incentivize vaccinations, including the grocery store Kroger offering its employees $100 to get vaccinated and a small hair salon in Ohio where the receptionist helps its customers schedule their appointments.

The President said that to make sure the "policy comes at no cost to small or medium-sized businesses, with fewer than 500 employees," the IRS will be posting instructions for how employers can get reimbursed for the cost of providing paid leave to employees getting vaccinated.

"That reimbursement, which comes through a tax payment, is thanks to the program I launched in the American Rescue Plan. So, again, every employee should get paid leave to get a shot. Businesses should know they can provide it without a hit to their bottom line," Biden said. "There's no excuse for not getting it done."


CNN's Jeremy Diamond and Phil Mattingly contributed reporting to this post.

3:31 p.m. ET, April 21, 2021

More than 100 Covid-19 cases reported in shelters following St. Vincent volcano evacuations

From CNN's Hira Humayun

The eruption of La Soufriere volcano in Saint Vincent on April 9, 2021.
The eruption of La Soufriere volcano in Saint Vincent on April 9, 2021. Zen Punnett/AFP/Getty Images

Following the recent volcanic eruptions in St. Vincent and evacuations that followed, shelters on the island have seen more than 137 cases of Covid-19, said Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa Etienne, at Wednesday’s media briefing.

“The recent volcanic eruptions in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have led to evacuations with thousands of people currently living in shelters. More than 137 Covid cases have been reported in shelters thus far and we expect more new infections in the coming weeks,” she said.

Etienne went on to explain the state of the pandemic elsewhere in the Caribbean, saying Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic continue to drive the most infections. Smaller island nations like Bermuda, Aruba and Curacao are reporting a rise in Covid-19- related deaths, she added.

Expanding further across the region, “Nearly every country in central America is reporting a rise in infections,” Etienne, said, highlighting where cases are increasing in South America.

“Cases are accelerating in Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia and Uruguay. Argentina has also seen a rapid growth of new infections and has assumed the third highest case count in our region.”

An exception is Chile, where after the strengthening of public health measures, there has been a plateau in cases, according to Etienne.

More than 1.5 million new Covid-19 cases and nearly 40,000 Covid-related deaths were recorded in the past week in the Americas, Etienne said.  These figures include the United States and Canada, in addition to Central and South America.

“Over [the] weekend the world reached a tragic milestone — more than 3 million people have lost their lives to Covid. And nearly half of these deaths happened right here in the Americas,” she added.

Etienne also highlighted the inequity when it comes to access to vaccines and said the Latin America and Caribbean region has “the greatest need for vaccines” and that PAHO advocates the region be prioritized when it comes to vaccine distribution.

“We call on all countries that have more vaccines than they need, to donate them to countries that need them the most; particularly the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, in the Americas that have borne the brunt of the epidemic,” she said.

2:33 p.m. ET, April 21, 2021

Biden announces US will cross 200 million Covid-19 vaccines administered under his administration today

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt and DJ Judd

White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients, right, listens as President Joe Biden speaks about COVID-19 vaccinations at the White House, Wednesday, April 21, 2021, in Washington.
White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients, right, listens as President Joe Biden speaks about COVID-19 vaccinations at the White House, Wednesday, April 21, 2021, in Washington. Evan Vucci/AP

President Biden said that the US would cross his administration’s goal of 200 million Covid-19 vaccines administered in his first 100 days.

"When tomorrow's vaccination numbers come out, it’ll show that today, we did it. Today we hit 200 million shots on the 92nd day in office. 200 million shots in 100 days, in under 100 days actually. It's an incredible achievement for the nation,” Biden said in remarks from the White House South Court Auditorium.

He noted that his administration's original goal was to administer 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days in office.

"At the pace we were moving when I took office, it would have taken us more than 220 days, almost seven months, seven and a half months, to reach 200 million shots,” Biden said Wednesday. “Instead of marking this milestone in April, we would not have seen it until early September, at the earliest.”

“I'm proud of the work my administration has done to getting Americans vaccinated. But more than that. I'm proud of the American people,” Biden continued.

Note: Today’s US Centers for Disease Control vaccination numbers put the United States at 198.4 million doses administered under Biden’s administration, but these figures mark doses reported as of 6 a.m. ET this morning, and there is always a delay in reported doses vs. the total that has actually been administered.