May 18 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 0003 GMT (0803 HKT) May 19, 2021
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7:58 p.m. ET, May 18, 2021

Fauci says human nature may make unvaccinated people reluctant to follow new CDC mask guidance

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

Human nature may make those who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 reluctant to follow the new mask guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.

The CDC announced last week that people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 no longer need to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors or outdoors, in most circumstances.

“We already know through human nature that when you say, ‘You don't have to wear a mask if you're vaccinated,’ people who are not vaccinated are going to be reluctant to walk around with a mask, because that means, ‘I'm not vaccinated,’” Fauci told reporters at an event hosted by Italian Ambassador to the US, Armando Varricchio.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, emphasized that the solution is for everyone to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Fauci, who is of Italian descent, was awarded Italy’s Cavaliere di Gran Croce Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana — Knight Grand Cross of Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.

7:14 p.m. ET, May 18, 2021

Delayed second dose of Pfizer vaccine produces strong antibody response in elderly, study finds

From CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas and Maggie Fox

Vials of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine are seen at a mobile vaccination clinic at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA on May 14 in Los Angeles.
Vials of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine are seen at a mobile vaccination clinic at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA on May 14 in Los Angeles. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

A small study of elderly people finds that delaying a second dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for three months produces an even stronger antibody response than giving it on the recommended schedule of three weeks after the first dose.

But it’s not clear whether that translates into stronger protection in real life – and the delayed vaccination schedule resulted in lower levels of immune system cells that are involved in long-term protection from disease, the researchers in Britain reported.

The findings are published on a pre-print online server called medRxiv and have not been peer-reviewed.

Dr. Helen Parry of the University of Birmingham and colleagues studied 172 volunteers 80 and older who got Pfizer/BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine either as the company recommends – two doses given three weeks apart – or on a delayed schedule of two doses given 12 weeks apart. Britain initiated the delayed vaccine schedule to try to stretch a limited vaccine supply and get more first doses to more people.

Some researchers have argued that delaying the second dose of vaccine can be expected to produce a stronger immune response than a shorter interval.

“We demonstrate that both approaches generate high levels of antibody response but peak values are 3.5-fold higher with the extended-interval protocol,” Parry’s team wrote.

But the shorter, three-week interval produced stronger cellular responses, they said. It’s not clear what that means for long-term immunity, they added.

“Our findings confirm previous studies showing that the three-week standard-interval BNT162b2 regimen elicits strong antibody responses in older people,” they concluded. “It will be important to assess how antibody levels are maintained over longer periods and this is likely to define the potential need for booster vaccines in this vulnerable age group."

The researchers have not studied whether people who get a delayed second dose are more or less likely in real life to become infected with coronavirus.

“The data in this preprint, from a sizeable study of older people, suggest that delaying the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine from three weeks to 12 weeks has the advantage of substantially enhancing the antibody response at the cost of slightly reducing the cellular immune response,” immunologist Eleanor Riley of the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved in the research, said in a statement. 

“Nevertheless, both regimens induce significant antibody and cellular immune responses and, when taken together with the emerging clinical efficacy data, suggest that there is no detriment in delaying the second dose of the vaccine.”

5:48 p.m. ET, May 18, 2021

Norwegian Cruise Line resumes selling tickets to Alaska

From CNN’s Chris Boyette

The Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Norwegian Bliss cruise ship passes through John Hopkins Inlet in Glacier Bay, Alaska, on July 11, 2019.
The Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Norwegian Bliss cruise ship passes through John Hopkins Inlet in Glacier Bay, Alaska, on July 11, 2019. Tim Rue/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Norwegian Cruise Line has resumed selling tickets for voyages to Alaska aboard the ship Norwegian Bliss to be scheduled for August until the end of the season, according to a statement from the cruise line.

“We remain optimistic that by working with the CDC and local port and government authorities in the destinations we visit that we will be able to resume safe cruising in the U.S. this summer,” the statement said.

The cruise line cited recent legislation, which temporarily relieves restrictions from the Passenger Vessel Services Act on large cruise ships sailing in Alaska. The Passenger Vessel Services Act requires foreign-flagged ships to stop in at least one foreign port when sailing between two US destinations.

Cruises in US waters came to a halt last March following a No Sail Order from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention due to the Covid-19 pandemic.


4:54 p.m. ET, May 18, 2021

House passes bill to counter rise in anti-Asian hate crimes amid the pandemic

From CNN's Clare Foran and Manu Raju 

The House voted to pass legislation intended to counter a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes amid the coronavirus pandemic. The vote was 364-62 with 62 Republicans voting against it.

The legislation, known as the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, was introduced by Democratic Rep. Grace Meng of New York and Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. It passed the Senate by an overwhelming vote of 94-1 last month. 

President Biden has voiced his support and now that it passed the House, it will be cleared for his signature. 

The bill would create a new position at the Justice Department to expedite review of potential Covid-19-related hate crimes and incidents reported at the federal, state or local level. 

It would also direct the departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to work with community-based organizations to issue guidance raising awareness of hate crimes during the pandemic, and would require the US attorney general to issue guidance to work with state and local law enforcement agencies to establish online reporting of them.

4:56 p.m. ET, May 18, 2021

Oregon relaxes mask rules, but mandate continues indoors unless vaccination is proven

From CNN’s Andy Rose

Following last week’s guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Oregon Health Authority says they will no longer require masks in most indoor public places.

However, unlike many states, the change will not apply to locations that do not verify people’s vaccination status.

“In public settings where vaccination status is not checked, masks will still be required,” the OHA announced Tuesday.

“Masks continue to save lives and protect people who are not vaccinated. However, last week’s announcement from the CDC emphasizes the point that safe and effective vaccines are the very best way to protect people from getting and spreading COVID,” OHA Director Patrick Allen said in a written statement.

The state’s new rules do not prohibit businesses from imposing their own more restrictive rules, which means even fully vaccinated people may still be required to wear masks in some places. Businesses that refuse to check the vaccination status of their customers will be have to continue requiring masks.

4:06 p.m. ET, May 18, 2021

60% of adults have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, CDC data shows

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

Alex Telfort receives a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from Delores Fye, a licensed practical nurse, at the UHealth's pediatric mobile clinic on May 17 in Miami.
Alex Telfort receives a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from Delores Fye, a licensed practical nurse, at the UHealth's pediatric mobile clinic on May 17 in Miami. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

More than 158 million people have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, according to data published Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 60% of adults in the US have now received at least one shot and nearly 48% of adults are fully vaccinated. Among seniors, nearly 85% have received at least one shot and about 73% are fully vaccinated.

Overall, 275,535,207 total doses have been reported administered, about 80% of the 346,672,525 doses delivered.

That’s about 1.1 million more doses reported administered since Monday, for a seven-day average of about 1.8 million doses administered per day. The average seven-day pace of doses administered has been falling for more than a week and below 2 million shots per day for five days.

Seven states have reached the Biden administration’s goal to vaccinate at least 70% of adults with at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine by July 4 — Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Vermont — and 18 states have fully vaccinated at least half of their adult residents.

Note: Data published by the CDC may be delayed, and doses may not have been administered on the day reported.

3:22 p.m. ET, May 18, 2021

US Defense Department to reduce vaccination support team sizes

From CNN's Michael Conte

The US Department of Defense announced they will be reducing the size of the 30 teams that are providing support to community vaccine centers in the coming days and weeks.

“Several DOD-supported community vaccine centers will be mission complete – in other words, done – and will begin reducing personnel as the sites reassess the size of the vaccination support teams that are going to be needed,” said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby at a briefing to reporters.

 DOD personnel has administered 15 million vaccines over 900 sites, according to Kirby.

3:11 p.m. ET, May 18, 2021

Texas governor bans state government agencies from mandating masks

From CNN’s Hannah Sarisohn

Students wearing face masks work on computers at Tibbals Elementary School in Murphy, Texas, on December 3, 2020.
Students wearing face masks work on computers at Tibbals Elementary School in Murphy, Texas, on December 3, 2020. LM Otero/AP

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order today prohibiting state governmental entities such as counties, school districts, and public health authorities from requiring mask-wearing, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

The executive order allows public schools to continue current mask-wearing guidelines through June 4. However, after June 4, no student, teacher, parent, or staff member can be required to wear a mask on school grounds, according to the order.

Local governmental entities attempting to impose a mask mandate can be subject to a fine of up to $1,000, the release said.

The order exempts state-supported living centers, government-owned or operated hospitals, state department of justice facilities and county and municipal jails, according to the release.

"Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities. We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans' liberty to choose whether or not they mask up,” Abbott said in the release.

Abbott’s order comes less than a week after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated guidance allowing vaccinated people to be both outdoors and indoors without a mask in most cases. Texas lifted its statewide mask mandate on March 2.

2:07 p.m. ET, May 18, 2021

Oxford scientist: “Morally wrong” to vaccinate kids before high risk citizens in poorer countries

From CNN’s Eleanor Pickston

It is “morally wrong” for children in wealthier countries to be offered a Covid-19 vaccination before those at high risk in poorer countries, Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, told UK lawmakers on Tuesday. 

Professor Pollard, who heads the group which helped develop the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, said that the overall aim of a global vaccination programme in a pandemic, is to “stop people dying” and that priority groups are known to be over 50s, those with health conditions and healthcare workers. 

“We are in a situation at the moment where there are many unvaccinated people in the world but not enough doses for everyone yet. But there are many unvaccinated people in the world, whilst people whose risk is extremely low of disease are being vaccinated, including children, who have near-to-zero the risk of severe disease or death,” Pollard told the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus. 

Referring to the deadly coronavirus wave in parts of South Asia, Pollard commented that the “inequity is absolutely plain to see,” with medical staff facing “the most appalling circumstances, they’re not working in a situation where there’s an NHS to support them.”

“It feels completely wrong to be in a situation morally where we were allowing that to happen, whilst in many countries vaccines are being rolled out to younger and younger populations at very, very low risk,” Pollard added. 

The comments come just a day after UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs that the UK now has enough Pfizer vaccine for all children over 12, if it is clinically approved for 12 to 18s. 

The world has “lost the direct line of sight of what we’re trying to do to end the pandemic, and that’s to stop direct pressure on health systems, and that’s not just here in the UK, that’s in all countries, and you only do that by focussing the doses you have on those who are at risk of going into hospital,” Pollard concluded.