More than 3 million coronavirus vaccine doses were reported administered across the nation on back-to-back days for the first time as the pace of vaccinations continues to increase across the nation.
Almost one-quarter of the entire U.S. population – and almost one-third of adults – has received at least one dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, warned that data on new cases and hospitalizations indicates numbers are again rising in the Northeast and Upper Midwest.
“The apparent leveling off of cases and hospital admissions, after the consistent decline in early January through the end of February, I consider to be very concerning,” she said.
A surge could be coming if Americans do not continue wearing masks, socially distancing and adhering to other restrictions, she said.
“Believe me, I get it, we all want to return to our everyday activities and spend time with our family, friends and loved ones,” she said. “But we must find the fortitude to hang in there for just a little bit longer.”
Also in the news:
►Krispy Kreme is providing a sweet incentive to encourage vaccinations – free doughnuts through the end of 2021. Starting Monday, consumers who show a valid COVID-19 vaccination card at locations nationwide will get a free Original Glazed doughnut. The freebie is valid at all 369 Krispy Kreme shops in 41 states.
►Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose failure to get vaccinated for COVID-19 was criticized as contributing to the country’s high level of vaccine hesitancy, said he will get inoculated Tuesday. Only 4.3% of Russia’s 146 million people have received at least one vaccine dose.
►On Sunday, Florida became the first state to have more than 1,000 known cases of coronavirus variants. The U.S. reported another 834 variant cases since Thursday alone and now has 6,638 known cases; almost 6,400 of them are of the B.1.1.7 type, the one first found in the United Kingdom, CDC data shows.
►Students in California classrooms can sit three feet apart instead of six under new guidelines adopted by the state, which follows Friday’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.
►1 in 4 Americans in recent weeks have seen someone blame Asian American people for the coronavirus epidemic, a new USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll finds. The nationwide survey was taken Thursday and Friday, in the wake of last week’s mass shooting in Georgia of eight people, six of them women of Asian descent.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 29.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 542,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 123.5 million cases and 2.71 million deaths. More than 156.7 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 126.5 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: From grade school to graduate school, developing young minds in close physical proximity halted abruptly in mid-March 2020. Here’s what happened next.
Vice President Kamala Harris returned to Jacksonville, Florida, on Monday, the first time traveling to the state since she was on the campaign trail last October. She was in Jacksonville to spread President Joe Biden’s “Help is Here” message for the $1.9 trillion federal relief package that was his administration’s first major legislative victory.
While there, she toured a COVID-19 vaccination site to see U.S. Navy personnel prepare shots and then sat down with local leaders at Feeding Northeast Florida to hear how the pandemic worsened long-standing hunger problems.
Harris did not announce any new programs and she largely steered clear of questions about how Florida is handling the pandemic, other than to say it was a “good thing” that Gov. Ron DeSantis lowered the eligibility age to 50 and up for getting the vaccine.
Harris said the American Rescue Plan is aimed at helping those whose lives were upended by the pandemic, such as those who found themselves in food pantry lives over the past year.
“The work you all have been doing is extraordinary,” Harris said. “I’m certain that history is going to show that this was a moment of extreme crisis that challenged us, and there were the heroes that just showed up.”
– David Bauerlein, Florida Times-Union
Miami Beach’s entertainment district will remain in a state of emergency with an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew four days a week possibly through April 13 as authorities try to manage an influx of unruly spring breakers who have inundated the city.
The curfew went into effect Saturday at 8 p.m. and was intended to last until Tuesday. But raucous, mostly maskless crowds have had several confrontations with police, resulting in more than 1,000 arrests since spring break began and prompting city commissioners Sunday to authorize City Manager Raul Aguila to extend the curfew for up to three weeks.
With coronavirus restrictions lifted in Florida, Aguila said many people from other states were coming in “to engage in lawlessness and an ‘anything goes’ party attitude.” He said most weren’t patronizing the businesses that badly need tourism dollars and instead merely congregating by the thousands in the streets.
Under the emergency order, all restaurants, bars, and businesses are required to be closed by 8 p.m.
“If we could have well-behaved tourists in the evening, it’d be great, but we haven’t had that,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told USA TODAY. “I don’t want the behavior we’re seeing, obviously.”
At some spring break towns, COVID-19 protocols are more a suggestion than a mandate.
— Morgan Hines
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that all state residents age 50 and above would be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine starting Tuesday.
The next day, Arizona will make vaccines available to anyone 16 and older at the sites it operates in Maricopa, Pima and Yuma counties, the state health department and Gov. Doug Ducey announced.
They are the latest in a growing number of states making vaccines more widely available as the national supply increases. The federal government is now distributing an average of more than 3 million doses a day, and President Joe Biden has said he will direct all states to remove eligibility requirements for adults by May 1.
Alaska and Mississippi have already opened vaccinations to all adults, and several other states have said they will do so in the coming weeks. They include Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan, Massachusetts, Nevada, Connecticut, Iowa, Utah and Illinois.
AstraZeneca said Monday that advanced trial data from a U.S. study on its vaccine shows it is 79% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 and 100% effective in stopping severe disease and hospitalization. The U.S. study comprised 30,000 volunteers, 20,000 of whom were given the vaccine while the rest got dummy shots.
Investigators said no increased risk of blood clots was found. Use of the AstraZeneca vaccine was suspended in several European countries last week amid reports of blood clots in a small number of patients, but the European Medicines Agency subsequently said the vaccine was safe and effective.
“We are preparing to submit these findings to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and for the rollout of millions of doses across America should the vaccine be granted U.S. Emergency Use Authorization,” said Mene Pangalos, a company spokesman.
The CDC will spend $2.25 billion over the next two years to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on high-risk and underserved communities, not only racial and ethnic minorities but also people in rural areas, the agency announced.
A new program will provide funding to public health departments so they can enhance their testing and contract tracing, implement mitigation and preventive measures against the coronavirus and improve their data collection, among other goals.
“This investment will be monumental in anchoring equity at the center of our nation’s COVID-19 response – and is a key step forward in bringing resources and focus to health inequities that have for far too long persisted in our country,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
The notion that more than 2.7 million deaths worldwide – so far – could be the result of a lab accident has been met with skepticism and derision by many journalists and scientists who often portray it as a crackpot conspiracy theory fueled by former President Donald Trump’s China-bashing rhetoric. Without question, the lab-leak theory has been politically and racially weaponized in ugly ways. But that rhetoric needs to be separated from legitimate questions about lab safety that are deserving of investigation.
Labs in Wuhan may not have played any role in the origin of the pandemic, but a year later no source has been found, and the world deserves a thorough, unbiased investigation of all plausible theories conducted without fear or favor. Read more here.
– Alison Young
Funeral home operators knew as early as January 2020, before the CDC began notifying the general public, that something new was killing people. The operators knew before COVID-19 was ever listed as a cause of death, Maine funeral home operator Jeffrey Pelkey says.
Pelkey, 54, recalled an unprecedented day when two elderly couples, both from local nursing homes, arrived within 24 hours. Soon cemeteries closed, concerned about the risk for their workers. Funeral homes became storage facilities for the dead, waiting to be buried.
“It was almost like a reality television series hit us that we didn’t sign up for,” Pelkey said.
— Hadley Barndollar, USA TODAY Network
Contributing: Morgan Hines and Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; The Associated Press