April 22 coronavirus news

By Nicholas Pearce, Ivana Kottasová and Sophie Jeong, CNN

Updated 0703 GMT (1503 HKT) April 26, 2021
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1:41 p.m. ET, April 22, 2021

US federal officials weigh extending mask mandate on mass transit

From CNN's Greg Wallace

A face mask and social distance advisory sign at the Los Angeles International Airport, Friday, April 9.
A face mask and social distance advisory sign at the Los Angeles International Airport, Friday, April 9. Kirby Lee/AP/FILE

Federal officials are currently considering whether to renew the transportation mask requirement that expires next month, an official familiar with the discussions told CNN.  

The early February order from the Transportation Security Administration applies to applies to airplanes, buses, trains and ferries, and transportation hubs like airports. It is set to expire in less than three weeks on May 11.  

The agency is currently consulting with health experts, said the official, who declined to predict whether the order will be renewed or allowed to expire.   

TSA has received nearly 2,000 reports alleging violations from across the multiple modes of transportation, the official said. The agency disclosed in mid-February that it had received “fewer than 1,000” reports alleging non-compliance.  

The agency has also reached the point of sending citations to alleged violators, the official said. The official could not say how many have been issued. There are multiple investigatory and review steps before a citation is ultimately issued.   

Voices within the aviation industry that had pushed both the Biden and Trump administrations for such an order called for a renewal this week. They said the Biden administration’s order in February added teeth and consistency to a patchwork of local orders that applied to buildings like airports, and company policies requiring masks on airplanes and other vehicles.   

“We do think it should maintain the mask mandate,” Nick Calio, who leads the industry association Airlines for America, said at a Senate hearing on Wednesday. “It has helped considerably on airplanes and in airports.”

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, said the government can support her members enforcing the order by “making it very clear to the public” that masks remain a requirement.  

Some governors have rescinded orders or allowed mask requirements in their states to expire. President Biden has taken a different approach. Soon after taking office in January, he directed the TSA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Transportation Department, and other agencies to require masking.  

At the Wednesday hearing, Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, who has been photographed not properly wearing a mask on aircraft, said passengers should do so “until the government changes the requirement.”   

“It does seem, though, sometime in the future that this thing needs to end,” Wicker added.    

Dr. Leonard Marcus, who has studied coronavirus transmission on airplanes at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Wicker that the circulation of variants makes it difficult to say how long masks will be needed in enclosed spaces.  

“For sure when we’re on the plane, when we’re going through the airport buildings, when we’re indoors, let’s keep those masks on,” Marcus said. “We want to make this crisis end as soon as possible.”

12:19 p.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Go There: Send CNN's Sanjay Gupta your questions about the US vaccine rollout 

President Biden touted the anticipated milestone of the United States administering 200 million coronavirus vaccine shots since he took office and urged businesses to give their employees paid time off to get vaccinated as health officials now warn vaccine supply will likely outstrip demand in the next few weeks.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be live with latest on the vaccine rollout. What are your questions? Submit them in in the form below.

12:38 p.m. ET, April 22, 2021

UAE suspends all inbound flights from India due to Covid-19 surge

From CNN's Hamdi Alkhshali 

Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images
Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images

The United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and the National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA) announced the suspension of all inbound flights for national and international carriers coming from the Republic of India. They said it was a precautionary and preventive health measure to limit the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The decision to suspend flights came after studying and evaluating the epidemiological situation in the friendly Republic of India and within the framework of continuous coordination and cooperation with all relevant authorities inside and outside the country that continuously monitor developments in the situation to maintain the security and safety of civil aviation," the GCAA said in a statement.

Cargo flights between the two countries will continue as usual, the statement added.

The travel ban includes inbound transit passengers with exception of transit flights coming to the UAE and heading to India, the GCAA said.

The agency indicated that people traveling from India via other countries must have been in those countries for at least 14 days to be allowed to enter the UAE. This rule will go into force as of 23:59 local time on April 24 for 10 days, and it will be extended if needed.

The GCAA confirmed that nationals of the UAE and diplomatic missions between the two countries – including official delegations, businessmen's planes and golden residence holders – are excluded from this ban, provided they take preventive measures that include a 10-day quarantine and a PCR test at the airport as well as another test on the fourth and eighth days of entering the country. The period of their PCR test will also be reduced from 72 hours to 48 hours before flying, provided that the tests are issued by accredited laboratories using acceptable QR Codes.

9:23 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

US jobless claims fell more than expected last week and hit a pandemic low

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

Claims for unemployment benefits went down more than expected last week.

Another 547,000 American workers filled jobless claims last week, adjusted for seasonal swings. It was a new low for claims since the pandemic started and fewer than analysts surveyed by Refinitiv expected. 

Economists are confident that the labor market recovery will gather speed as the economy reopens fully and more people get vaccinated. But jobless claims rose in two of the past three weeks, stressing that the road to recovery will be bumpy.

Claims for pandemic unemployment assistance, which provides benefits for people like the self-employed who aren't eligible for regular state benefits, rose slightly to 133,319 without seasonal adjustments.

Added together, just under 700,000 people filed for benefits last week without seasonal adjustments.

Meanwhile, the count for continued jobless claims — the number of people filing for at least two weeks in a row — also fell, albeit at a slower pace. In the week ended April 10, continued claims stood at nearly 3.7 million.

9:42 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

American Airlines says its recovery is beginning, but the pandemic "far from over"

From CNN's Pete Muntean

Ross D. Franklin/AP
Ross D. Franklin/AP

American Airlines lost $2.7 billion in the first quarter of 2021 and the airline’s top executives stress “the pandemic is far from over.”

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom told employees in a company-wide memo that while it flew 24 million passengers in the first quarter, its revenues are still down 53% compared to pre-pandemic figures in 2019. 

“We have to continue to fight like never before,” the memo said. “Customers are returning to travel and there is no doubt the pace of the recovery is accelerating.”

Transportation Security Administration figures show air travel remains at 60% of pre-pandemic levels despite a surge that began last month. TSA screened more than 1.1 million people at airports on Wednesday, the 42nd straight day of figures higher than one million. 

8:56 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Germany will impose lockdowns on high-infection areas under new law

From CNN’s Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

Demonstrators attend a protest rally against the government's measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic, near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, on Wednesday, April 21.
Demonstrators attend a protest rally against the government's measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic, near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, on Wednesday, April 21. Markus Schreiber/AP

Germany will impose lockdowns on areas with high coronavirus infection rates under new law approved by the upper house of parliament on Thursday.

The law is designed to end a patchwork approach by the country's 16 federal states, giving German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government more powers to fight a third wave of pandemic.

Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is set to sign the new legislation into law shortly. 

The law — set to become effective next week or even sooner —enables Germany's government to impose curfews between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. local time, as well as limiting private gatherings, sports and shop openings, in all areas registering more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents in one week. 

Schools will close and return to online lessons if the virus incidence exceeds 165 cases per 100,000 residents.

The proposal sparked protests from opposition parties in parliament and in the capital Berlin, where hundreds took to the streets. 

The new law comes into effect as Germany reaches its highest number of new Covid-19 infections since January. 

On Thursday, Germany recorded an increase of 29,518 new coronavirus cases within the last 24 hours, according to data from the country's agency for disease control and prevention, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). The reported death toll in Germany has risen by 295, bringing the death toll to 80,893. 

The country is now reporting a total of 3,217,710 known Covid-19 cases and the seven-day incidence rate stood at 161.1 cases per 100,000 people. 

As of Thursday, nearly 22% of Germans have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine — and nearly 7% received their second coronavirus vaccine shot, the latest data from the RKI shows. German Health Minister Jens Spahn on Thursday said that he expects to offer coronavirus shots to all adults from June.

8:09 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Do you need to wear a mask outside? Dr. Sanjay Gupta answers.

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta answered viewer questions about wearing masks outdoors, eating indoors and vaccination numbers on CNN's "New Day."

 

Q: Do people need to wear masks outside, particularly those who are vaccinated?

A: The vast majority of Covid-19 transmission is not happening outdoors, according to Gupta. Less than 10% of cases happen outside and it is nearly 19 times more likely for transmission to occur indoors, he said. 

“For the most part, you don't need to wear a mask outdoors,” Gupta said.

But people need to use “common sense,” he said, and should consider if they will be clustered together and the case rate in their area.

“The real question you need to try to answer: what is the likelihood I'm going to breathe in someone else's air? That's basically it. The number of people, type of setting … and what is the overall viral spread in their community,” Gupta said. 

Q: How safe is it to eat inside a restaurant?

A: Ventilation and crowding are the big concerns with indoor dining, according to Gupta. 

“I think most places in the country, certainly full capacity indoor dining, I can't imagine that it would be advised. It's just still too risky. There's still too great a chance that you're going to actually potentially be exposed to the virus,” he said. 

Gupta said he would advise people to be cognizant of limited capacity dining and the rate of transmission in their area before heading indoors to eat. 

Q: If people remain hesitant on getting vaccinated, will the pandemic last longer?

A: Gupta said we may “dip in and out” of herd immunity as more people get vaccinated while others refuse to do so. 

“We may still dip into herd immunity over the summer in part because, you know, the virus will just start to dissipate a little bit with the warmer weather, more people being outside, you may not get as much spread. But we could see a resurgence then in the fall,” he said. 

“The real question we're trying to ask is how many people out there have an immunity to this virus?” Gupta added, which is made up of those who’ve been vaccinated — but also those who’ve been infected with the virus, a number that Gupta said we may never fully know. 

Watch:

8:25 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

EU declines option to buy 100 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses

From CNN's Pierre Bairin and Arnaud Siad

Doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are seen at a doctor's office in Deisenhofen, Germany, on March 31.
Doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are seen at a doctor's office in Deisenhofen, Germany, on March 31. Lennart Preiss/AFP/Getty Images

The European Union is declining an option to order an additional 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine from AstraZeneca, a spokesman said Thursday.

The move follows months of public criticism of the drug maker by European officials.

The European Commission did not exercise the option to buy the doses and the deadline for it has now passed, Commission spokesperson for health Stefan de Keersmaecker said.

The Commission is focusing on getting delivery of the 300 million doses it initially ordered, he said.

"In the first quarter, 30 million doses were delivered, which is less than what was contractually expected. For the second quarter, the contract provided for 180 million doses. The company said it was able to deliver 70 million doses," he said.

European officials have been publicly furious that AstraZeneca has delivered fewer doses than the EU says it ordered, prompting the bloc to impose export restrictions on doses manufactured in the EU. The company has cited delays in production. 

The news comes a day after Norway announced that it will send 16,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Iceland, according to a statement from the Icelandic Directorate of Health.

7:31 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do not appear to pose serious risk during pregnancy, new study suggests

From CNN Health’s Jessica Firger

The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines don’t appear to pose any serious risks during pregnancy, an early analysis of real-world data from the United States shows.

The analysis only looked at Pfizer and Moderna shots, which are both based on newer mRNA technology, so the findings are not relevant to vaccines such as those made by like AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson. 

The new data, along with existing research showing mRNA vaccines are effective in pregnant and breastfeeding people, suggest that the benefits of the vaccines outweigh the risks.

The analysis, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at the data of more than 35,000 pregnant people who had reported their health status through CDC reporting systems, including a smartphone app, and followed up with a group of 3,958 pregnant participants who had received an mRNA vaccine. 

It found that adverse outcomes, including pregnancy loss and preterm births, were not significantly higher in people who had been given a vaccine.

Read the full story here.