May 21 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 7:56 p.m. ET, May 21, 2021
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7:30 p.m. ET, May 21, 2021

Covid-19 deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean top 1 million

From CNN’s Samantha Beech and Claudia Rebaza

A cemetery worker digs a grave for a Covid-19 victim at Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on May 19. 
A cemetery worker digs a grave for a Covid-19 victim at Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on May 19.  Mario Tama/Getty Images

Latin America and the Caribbean have recorded more than 1 million deaths known to be related to Covid-19, a CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows.

As of Friday, Latin America and the Caribbean have reported a total of at least 1,000,071 deaths due to Covid-19.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) director, Carissa F. Etienne, described the death toll as a “tragic milestone” in a statement Friday. The PAHO puts the death toll in Latin America and the Caribbean slightly higher, at 1,001,781. It has called on the world to intensify efforts to improve the region’s access to vaccines.

CNN’s analysis is based on figures from Johns Hopkins and local health ministries as of 7 p.m. ET Friday. The data for Latin America and the Caribbean includes the following countries: Brazil, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Panama, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Haiti, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Cuba, Uruguay, Jamaica, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda and Belize. The region includes other countries and territories, but they have had few or no coronavirus deaths.

The PAHO said almost 89% of the deaths occurred in five countries: Brazil (44.3%), México (22.1%), Colombia (8.3%), Argentina (7.3) and Peru (6.7%). Three percent of the deaths were concentrated in Central America and 1% in the Caribbean.

“More than one million lives have been cut short because of Covid-19. This is a tragic milestone for everyone in the region,” said Etienne. “This pandemic is far from over, and it is hitting Latin America and the Caribbean severely, affecting our health, our economies, and entire societies. Yet only about 3% of our citizens have been vaccinated.”

More than 153 million people have been immunized in the Americas, but only 21.6% of these are in Latin America and the Caribbean, the PAHO said.

“We urge countries with extra doses to consider donating a significant portion of these to the Americas, where these life-saving doses are desperately needed and will be promptly used,” Etienne said.

Etienne also called on those in the region to observe public health measures, including wearing masks, social distancing, hand hygiene, and ventilating closed spaces when possible. She urged people to get vaccinated when called on by national governments, adding, “Vaccines are safe and effective and a major tool to stop this pandemic.”

6:54 p.m. ET, May 21, 2021

Vermont will lift remaining restrictions if Covid-19 vaccination rate reaches 80%, governor says

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott announced on Friday that all of the state's Covid-19 pandemic restrictions can be lifted if the state’s vaccination rate reaches 80% of eligible residents, even ahead of his July 4 target date, according to a release from his office. 

According to the release, nearly 75% of eligible Vermonters have already received at least one dose of the vaccine.

“So, here’s my challenge to Vermonters,” Scott said. “If we hit 80 percent, I’ll lift any remaining restrictions and mandates — that day.”

The governor said in order to reach the 80% threshold, Vermont needs to vaccinate 27,954 more of its residents.

“Let’s keep our momentum going. Let’s finish strong. Let’s continue to show the nation, and the world, what this brave little state is capable of,” Scott added.

5:21 p.m. ET, May 21, 2021

Germany will require UK arrivals to quarantine for 2 weeks

From CNN's Lauren Kent

A plane at Heathrow Airport on February 26, in London.
A plane at Heathrow Airport on February 26, in London. Hollie Adams/Getty Images

Germany has declared the United Kingdom an area of "variant of concern," requiring travelers entering the country from the UK to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival, according to the latest update from Germany's public health authority the Robert Koch Institute.

British nationals who are not residents in Germany were already prohibited from entering the country, except for urgent travel.

"The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland incl. all British Overseas Territories, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands is considered as an area of variant of concern," RKI said in guidance released Friday. 

"Persons entering the Federal Republic of Germany from a high incidence area or area of variant of concern must have proof of testing immediately upon entry," the RKI guidance said. "Following a stay in an area of variants of concern, the duration of quarantine may not be shortened. The obligation to quarantine coming from any kind of risk area will initially be in force until 30 June 2021."

According to the UK's latest public health data, cases of the B1.617.2 variant — first identified in India — have risen in the UK by over 160% in one week. A total of 3,424 cases of the variant were reported this week, according to a Public Health England (PHE) update published Thursday evening.

Germany has a travel ban in place for countries with virus variants of concern, meaning that airlines and railway companies are barred from transporting people from those countries to Germany, with the exception of people who are German citizens and residents or passing through German airports. 

4:06 p.m. ET, May 21, 2021

California will lift capacity and distancing requirements on June 15

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

A customer wears a face mask as they lift weights inside a Planet Fitness Inc. gym on March 16, in Inglewood, California.
A customer wears a face mask as they lift weights inside a Planet Fitness Inc. gym on March 16, in Inglewood, California. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

California will drop all capacity limits for businesses and social distancing requirements when the state fully reopens on June 15 after more than a year of lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic, state health officials announced Friday.

The new guidelines, outlined by state Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly, come as the state records fewer Covid-19 infections, and nearly half its eligible population is vaccinated. And while California will mostly return to a state of pre-pandemic normalcy, it will keep mask mandates in place for those unvaccinated, in line with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, and require vaccine verification for some very large gatherings.

For large outdoor events, like concerts and sports with more than 10,000 attendees, the state advises a system to verify vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test. If an attendee is not vaccinated, or opts out of a test, wearing a mask will be recommended. For indoor events, the threshold drops to 5,000 attendees where those without proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test will be required to wear a mask, according to Ghaly.

So-called vaccine passports are not being considered at this time, Ghaly said.

Over 35 million vaccine doses have been administered to date in California and the state continues to push availability, bringing efforts deeper into communities and incentivizing shots. In one such effort, the Los Angeles Lakers are offering a chance to win pair of season tickets to adults who get their first shot this weekend.

“Californians who want a vaccine should have a fairly easy time getting on at this point,” Ghaly noted.

California health officials plan to continue closely tracking Covid-19 case rates after dropping most restrictions, but remain confident the state is in a good position to move forward.

"It's not that we won't see Covid cases moving forward, it's not that we won't see even some isolated outbreaks, but we do have the tools to be able to manage that and we have the ultimate tool, vaccination, to be able to help keep those opportunities for outbreaks to occur to a minimum and keep any spread pretty contained," Ghaly said.

Workplaces will be subject to Cal/OSHA requirements, which are expected to be updated June 3. Travel guidelines will also align with CDC recommendations, including potential restrictions on places that have serious outbreaks.

3:44 p.m. ET, May 21, 2021

Oregon establishes million-dollar contest to encourage Covid-19 vaccination

From CNN’s Andy Rose

A healthcare worker prepares COVID-19 vaccine doses at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center on December 16, 2020, in Portland.
A healthcare worker prepares COVID-19 vaccine doses at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center on December 16, 2020, in Portland. Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Oregon is the latest state to hope the possibility of cold, hard cash will encourage vaccine-hesitant people to change their minds.

“How about a chance to win a million dollars?” Gov. Kate Brown said in a news conference Friday.

The new contest, which will be administered by the Oregon Lottery, will automatically enter Oregonians age 12 and older who have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose by June 27. One person who is at least 18 years old will be randomly drawn to receive the million-dollar prize. “The Take Your Shot Oregon Campaign is a way to thank Oregonians for stepping up and keeping our communities safe,” the governor said.

In addition to the top prize, there will be separate $10,000 prizes for one vaccinated adult in each of Oregon’s 36 counties. Finally, the names of five vaccinated minors will be drawn who will each receive a $100,000 Oregon College Savings Plan scholarship. Employees of certain government agencies and their families will be ineligible.

2:58 p.m. ET, May 21, 2021

CDC guidance on summer camps expected to be issued soon, White House adviser says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Andy Slavitt, the White House senior adviser on Covid-19 response, speaks during an interview on May 21.
Andy Slavitt, the White House senior adviser on Covid-19 response, speaks during an interview on May 21. CNN

As the US heads into summer, Andy Slavitt, the White House senior adviser on Covid-19 response, encouraged parents to get their kids vaccinated if they are eligible.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working on guidance for summer camps now, Slavitt said, and he expects recommendations to be issued “soon.”

For children under 12, “the CDC will make sure we have, I believe, common-sense guidelines available for kids, given the update they put out last week on masks,” Slavitt told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. 

Guidance on whether to wear masks in classrooms in the fall will also be coming out in the near future, Slavitt said. 

Slavitt’s 19-year-old son still has long-haul coronavirus symptoms. While his family is confident he will fully recover, Slavitt said it underscores the uncertainty of the virus and why it’s so important for young people to get vaccinated. 

Also, Slavitt said it’s “too early to know yet” about booster shots, but the administration is prepared for any scenario. 

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

Italy will loosen Covid-19 restrictions in some areas starting Monday

From CNN's Nicola Ruotolo

Italy will loosen coronavirus restrictions in some areas on Monday, as the country moves all regions to "yellow zone" measures, said Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza on Friday. 

Italy’s Covid-19 alert system includes four levels: white, yellow, orange and red. Currently, most of the country is already classified as yellow, with the only exception being the Vale d’Aosta in northwest Italy where the alert level is orange.

Speranza said in a Facebook post that the easing of restrictions in some areas is a result of the good practices of the Italian people and of the country's vaccination campaign. Nearly 30 million doses have been administered so far, with 16.25% of the population having both doses. 

For the first time since last year, Italy's Covid-19 hospitalizations fell below 10,000, according to health ministry data released Friday. Italy recorded at least 5,218 new coronavirus cases and 218 further deaths on Friday. 

1:33 p.m. ET, May 21, 2021

School Covid-19 testing programs can preserve in-person learning days and extracurriculars, CDC study finds

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

School-based programs to test for Covid-19 in students could preserve in-person instruction and help extracurriculars continue, according to a study published Friday in the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 

The report from researchers in Utah detailed two state programs, called Test To Play and Test to Stay. Under Test to Play, students were tested for Covid-19 every 14 days in order to be allowed to continue extracurriculars. In Test to Stay, school-wide testing was implemented in response to outbreaks, as opposed to a switch to remote instruction. 

Both programs were facilitated by the Utah Department of Health. Over half of Utah’s high schools participated in Test to Play, while 13 schools used Test to Stay. 

Over the course of the study, 59,552 students were tested as part of the two programs. Only 3.2% of students tested returned a positive test result. 

Researchers credited these programs with preserving 95% of planned athletic events, and for saving an estimated 109,752 days of in-person instruction among all the students tested in participating schools. 

“By identifying 1,886 cases among students, Utah’s testing programs likely helped reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission in schools and communities through isolation of students with diagnosed infections and quarantine of contacts,” researchers said. 

Study authors suggested health departments increase community messaging efforts to encourage schools to participate in testing programs, and said Utah’s programs could serve as an example for states looking to implement similar protocols. 

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

Go There: CNN reports from Miami as one of the largest post-pandemic US food festivals takes shape

As more and more states drop their mask mandates, one of the largest post-pandemic food festivals to come back in the US is taking place this weekend.

The South Beach Wine & Food festival expects 30,000 people to attend. Event organizers say they have numerous Covid-19 safety measures and protocols in place.

CNN correspondent Leyla Santiago reports from Miami and answers viewers' questions.