May 17 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Brad Lendon, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Veronica Rocha, Livvy Doherty and Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNN

Updated 0002 GMT (0802 HKT) May 18, 2021
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7:48 p.m. ET, May 17, 2021

More than 1.6 million people in Connecticut have been fully vaccinated

From CNN’s Sahar Akbarzai 

People receive their second dose of the Moderna covid-19 vaccine at a mobile Covid-19 vaccination clinic in Bridgeport, Connecticut on April 20.
People receive their second dose of the Moderna covid-19 vaccine at a mobile Covid-19 vaccination clinic in Bridgeport, Connecticut on April 20. Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

More than 1.6 million people in Connecticut have been fully vaccinated and over 3.5 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered so far, according to the state’s Covid-19 dashboard. 

The state will loosen its mask restrictions for fully vaccinated people starting May 19, but will still require face coverings in settings such as health care facilities, public and private transit, schools, and correctional facilities, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said. 

“We’re gonna keep the masks on in schools a little bit longer, those young kids haven’t been vaccinated in child care,” Lamont said about masks in schools. 

Some businesses as well as state and local governments may to choose to require masks even after May 19, Lamont said.  

7:16 p.m. ET, May 17, 2021

Biden praises creation of Covid-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

President Joe Biden speaks about distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, in the East Room of the White House, Monday, May 17.
President Joe Biden speaks about distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, in the East Room of the White House, Monday, May 17. Evan Vucci/AP

President Biden has applauded the creation of an interagency Covid-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force from the Department of Justice on Monday.

“Through this task force, the Justice Department will work with other agencies to investigate and prosecute domestic and international criminals intent on exploiting relief programs for personal and financial gain — and recover stolen funds,” Biden wrote.

The President also announced that he directed the implementation coordinator of the American Rescue Plan “to build on his team’s ongoing efforts by launching a new Initiative on Identity Theft Prevention and Public Benefits.” 

“Together with the Office of Management and Budget, this team will bring a whole-of-government approach to develop recommendations to help stop these criminal syndicates before they can prey on relief funds that belong to the American people,” he wrote.

6:50 p.m. ET, May 17, 2021

Indiana will end participation in federal pandemic unemployment programs next month

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced today that Indiana will end its participation in all federally funded pandemic unemployment insurance programs on June 19.

“There are help wanted signs posted all over Indiana, and while our economy took a hit last year, it is roaring like an Indy 500 race car engine now. I am hearing from multiple sector employers that they want and need to hire more Hoosiers to grow,” Holcomb said in a release from his office, noting that Indiana’s unemployment rate, which jumped to more than 17% at the height of the pandemic, has recovered to 3.9%.

“Eliminating these pandemic programs will not be a silver bullet for employers to find employees, but we currently have about 116,000 available jobs in the state that need filled now,” the governor added. 

In addition to notifying those affected about the reinstatement of work search requirements, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development will now notify impacted unemployment insurance claimants about the discontinuation of the federal pandemic benefits, the release said.

5:59 p.m. ET, May 17, 2021

DC mayor lifts mask mandate, says most Covid restrictions will be rolled back Friday

From CNN's Aaron Pellish

Washington DC mayor's office
Washington DC mayor's office

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced today fully vaccinated people are no longer required to wear masks outside or inside many locations effective immediately, echoing guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued last week.

"Previously before we had a vaccine, the best way to protect yourself was to wear masks social distance and wash your hands frequently. Now of course your best protection is to be fully vaccinated,” Bowser said at a news conference. “So what it means for us beginning today as that fully vaccinated people only need to wear their mask or social distance in places where it is required.”

DC will still require residents to wear masks in schools, health care facilities, transportation hubs, homeless shelters and correctional facilities. Bowser also said passengers on public transportation must continue to wear masks. Bowser also stressed local businesses may require residents to wear masks and that DC residents should respect the rules put in place by those businesses.

Bowser also reiterated guidance initially announced last week on the relaxing of public gathering restrictions. DC will lift capacity limits and other restrictions for most businesses and public spaces effective at 5 a.m. Friday. Restrictions on nightclubs, sports stadiums and entertainment venues with greater than 2,500 capacity will be lifted June 11.  

The mayor released new data from DC Health showing total Covid cases, positivity rate and hospital capacity all decreasing in the city.

5:05 p.m. ET, May 17, 2021

CVS and Target will no longer require fully vaccinated customers to wear face masks

From CNN's Alison Kosik

Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images/FILE
Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images/FILE

CVS pharmacy and Target both announced Monday they will no longer require fully vaccinated guests to wear face masks inside their stores following new guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC announced last Thursday that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors or outdoors, except under certain circumstances. 

In a statement on its website, however, Target says face coverings continue to be “strongly recommended for guests and team members who are not fully vaccinated.” Target also says it will continue social distancing throughout its stores.

In its statement, CVS says customers who are not fully vaccinated are asked to continue wearing face coverings, and employees are required to do so while at work.

The companies join other retailers, including Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Costco, and Starbucks, in dropping mask mandates following the CDC's updated guidance.

4:39 p.m. ET, May 17, 2021

Europe sees delays in delivery of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Jen Christensen

Johnson & Johnson said it is working closely with the European Union and member states to supply 200 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine.

An EU official told Reuters Monday that supply problems are leading the company to cut the number of deliveries in half this week. J&J has shipped less than 10% of the number it is supposed to deliver in the first quarter under the company’s contract with the EU, according to Reuters. The delay should only be temporary, since the company said it will be able to increase its supply when it brings in new plants to help make the vaccine. 

“We continue to work closely with the European Commission and Member States and remain committed to supplying 200 million single-shot doses of our Covid-19 vaccine to the European Union, plus Norway and Iceland, to help bring an end to this global pandemic,” the company said Monday in an emailed statement to CNN. “We expect our supply to increase over time as manufacturing sites fully activate throughout the year.”

J&J said it sent the first deliveries of its Covid-19 vaccine to the EU on April 12. The initial plan was to start shipping the vaccines April 1, but there were production issues and then the vaccine was paused over safety concerns. The company said it will be bringing more manufacturing facilities online. It did not give a timeline on when those facilities will start making the Covid-19 vaccine. 

J&J said to CNN that in addition to its manufacturing facility in the Netherlands, 10 other plants will be brought online to help with production. Vaccines for Europe have been made in the US and in Leiden, in the Netherlands, but a plant in Baltimore that the company expected to have online to help with production still does not have US Food and Drug authorization to do so.

“We are working around the clock to develop and broadly activate our manufacturing capabilities to supply our Covid-19 vaccine worldwide,” the company statement said.
4:23 p.m. ET, May 17, 2021

The global vaccine alliance welcomes US plans to share 20 million doses with COVAX

From CNN’s Saskya Vandoorne

The Global Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) welcomed US president Biden’s announcement on Monday that the US would share an additional 20 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines with COVAX – the worldwide vaccine sharing initiative – on top of the 60 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses the US has already committed to sharing by July 4.

“These doses will provide a substantial boost to global efforts to protect the most at-risk groups everywhere in the world and we look forward to working with the U.S. Government to finalize details of this announcement in the coming days,” a spokesman for Gavi said in a statement Monday.

“Every time an excess dose is put to use protecting those that need them most puts us one small step closer to bringing the pandemic under control,” the spokesman added.

Some more context: COVAX has suffered severe shortfalls caused by the disruption to Indian vaccine exports. It had hoped to deliver 170 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines by this week to low-income countries but is expected to have a shortfall of 105 million doses, according to UNICEF, a partner with COVAX. 

Gavi urged countries with surpluses to share doses to meet immediate supply needs.

3:11 p.m. ET, May 17, 2021

Tanzania sets roadmap to combat Covid-19 after downplaying pandemic for over a year 

From CNN's Bethlehem Feleke and Larry Madowo

A Covid-19 special committee established by Tanzania's new president Samia Suluhu Hassan has recommended restrictions to curb a looming third wave in the country, according to a statement from the committee published on Monday.

The committee has recommended the country begin procuring Covid-19 vaccines and join the worldwide vaccine sharing initiative COVAX, backed by the World Health Organization. The statement offered a priority vaccine rollout plan that would target frontline workers, adults over 50 and those who are immunocompromised.

The special committee also recommended the government resume public health information on the Covid-19 situation in Tanzania, including reporting cases. The East African nation stopped reporting Covid-19 cases in late April 2020 under the leadership of the late president John Magufuli. The former president was an ardent denier of Covid-19's presence in the country, at one point stating that the country had defeated the virus through prayer.

Tanzania was hit by "two major waves" of Covid-19 since the outbreak in March 2020, the committee acknowledged. It warned that the country was under the threat of a possible third wave.

Some background: The extent of Tanzania's Covid-19 crisis since the outbreak is largely unknown since the government stopped releasing data and downplayed the threat of the virus. Earlier this year, the US Embassy among other organizations in the country warned that Covid-19 cases in the country were surging. Until now, Tanzania had no plans to receive any Covid-19 vaccine, despite qualifying for the COVAX scheme. The government had previously encouraged its citizens to pursue herbal and steam treatments to combat the virus.

The committee urged the government to "provide accurate information on the Covid-19 disease to the public and the World Health Organization."

Suluhu received the report but did not indicate if or when the restrictions would be implemented. 

3:59 p.m. ET, May 17, 2021

New Jersey will keep indoor public mask requirement, governor says

From CNN’s Anna Sturla

New Jersey Governor's office
New Jersey Governor's office

New Jersey lifted its quarantine requirement for travelers from out of state, even as the state will continue requiring masks in indoor public spaces, Gov. Phil Murphy announced during a news conference Monday.

While masks are still required for indoor public spaces, Murphy said he will sign an executive order on Monday that will lift the state's mask mandate for outdoor public spaces, effective immediately.

The governor held back judgment of neighboring states like New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he would be following the recent US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance allowing vaccinated people to unmask in some indoor settings.

"I don't know how we can expect workers to be able to tell who is vaccinated from who isn't, and it is unfair to put the burden on business owners and frontline employees to police every patron," Murphy said.

New Jersey schools will also reopen for full in-person instruction next school year, with the governor saying that he will allow his executive order allowing remote instruction under certain circumstances to expire at the end of this school year. This will effectively remove the option for full-time remote learning, according to the governor.

Murphy said that he hoped the 30-day extension of the public health emergency he signed on Friday would be its last, and would be replaced with an alternative by the state legislature.

The reopening moves come after 3,867,148 New Jerseyans have been fully vaccinated, the majority of those within the state. There were 490 new positive PCR tests, and 66 presumed positive antigen tests, Murphy reported.

There were at least 827 patients in hospitals and 13 deaths, according to Murphy.

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.