Healthcare workers treat patients inside a Covid-19 ICU at a field hospital in the Heliopolis favela of Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 19.
Schools can allow social distancing of
three feet, rather than six currently, between students in classrooms, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday in what is expected to be a boost to a reopening of schools nationwide. New York City announced as a result its schools will expand
President Joe Biden said the U.S. may be able to administer
200 million doses of vaccine in the first 100 days of his presidency. Florida lowered the age limit for receiving vaccines to 50 as of Monday after making progress in inoculating older groups.
Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to
accelerate Germanys vaccination drive, seeking to recover from the suspension of the AstraZeneca shot. Brazil reported record new cases for the third day this week.
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Brazil Passes Record Again (5:11 p.m. NY)
Brazil reported record new cases for the third day this week as officials scramble to halt another deadly wave of the virus.
Latin Americas largest nation reported 90,570 new infections on Friday, pushing the number to 11,817,390. The Health Ministry also reported 2,815 deaths in the last 24 hours, totaling 290,314.
As part of the effort to curb the pandemic, the Brazilian government signed contracts to purchase 100 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine and 38 million doses of the single-use immunizer produced by Janssen.
Biden Says Vaccine Goal May Double (4:39 p.m. NY)
President Joe Biden said the U.S. may be able to administer
200 million doses of vaccine in the first 100 days of his presidency, twice the initial goal that he reached Friday.
The U.S. may be able to double it if it keeps its current pace of vaccinations, Biden told reporters at the White House when asked Friday about his 100-million shot goal. But weve met the goal and continue to move forward.
Biden has said he may make public a new goal next week.
U.S. Air Travel Hits Pandemic High (4:34 p.m. NY)
The number of U.S. passengers checking in through security hit the
highest in a year this week, according to Transportation Security Administration data. The TSA is consistently seeing more than 1 million people a day pass through checkpoints. Traffic was half of that level just two months ago.
N. Dakota to Open Shots to All Adults (4:15 p.m. NY)
North Dakota said it would join about
a dozen other U.S. states and open vaccinations up to all adults, the Department of Health announced. Eligibility will be expanded on March 29. So far, 27% in North Dakota have gotten at least one shot, with 16% vaccinated fully. President Joe Biden has set May 1 as the deadline for states to offer vaccines to all adults who want them.
NYC to Expand In-Person Schooling (3:10 p.m. NY)
New York City schools will expand in-person instruction to include more students after guidance from the CDC recommended three feet of separation between children would be sufficient to prevent contagion in classrooms. The U.S.s largest school system has been operating under a hybrid schedule in elementary and middle-schools, along with rigorous testing requirements.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will begin a new opt-in period next week for all students and their families to elect to return to their school buildings and finish the remaining third of the school year in person. The city plans to begin offering in-person learning to the additional students starting in April, starting with elementary-school and special education students.
Venezuela May Get Vaccine Funding (3 p.m. NY)
As part of a rare deal between Venezuelas government and the opposition, some $30.3 million of the countrys offshore funds that were frozen under U.S. sanctions will be used to pay for coronavirus vaccines.
The shots should arrive in the coming months through the World Health Organizations Covax initiative, according to the opposition. The Pan American Health Organization and Unicef will have strict supervision over how the shots are deployed.
The accord contemplates paying $18.2 million for the first shipment of vaccines and $12.1 million for the cold chain equipment that is missing in many of the countrys hospitals which face constant blackouts.
Virus Origin Report Expected Next Week (2:12 p.m. NY)
The team of international scientists that traveled to Wuhan, China to study the possible origins of the pandemic is on track to publish its report next week, according to one of the members.
The different time zones and translations needed mean it takes time to finalize the report, Peter Ben Embarek said at a WHO briefing.
Theres nothing unusual in that, Ben Embarek said. But were hoping and were well underway to be able to release the report next week. But again, without 100% guarantee.
The world is on track for a fourth consecutive week of increased new cases, and theyre rising in most regions, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, calling the trends worrying amid the impact of variants, the opening up of societies and the inequitable vaccine rollout.
Merkel Pledges Faster Vaccine Campaign (2:04 p.m. NY)
Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to
accelerate Germanys vaccination drive, seeking to recover from this weeks temporary halt of AstraZenecas shot over blood-clot concerns.
With Europe facing a virus resurgence from France to Czech Republic, Merkel laid out a vista of getting a grip on the crisis, citing the availability of three vaccines after regulators gave the all-clear for the AstraZeneca and the expected arrival of a fourth shot by Johnson & Johnson.
Starting in April, we want to get faster and more flexible, and we will be able to do that, Merkel said during a virtual news conference.
Mumbai Hits Record Cases (1:55 p.m. NY)
Indias financial hub Mumbai reported 3,062 new infections on Friday, the highest ever tally since the pandemic gripped the nation a year ago. The city is reporting almost 14 positive cases for every 100 tests, up from four last month. India added almost 40,000 new cases Friday — the highest one-day jump since the end of November — a potential new wave that could undermine a nascent economic recovery.
Greece to Offer Free Weekly Tests (1:54 p.m. NY)
Greece will provide from the end of March a free Covid-19 rapid test each week for all citizens who have social security numbers, Akis Skertzos, deputy minister responsible for the coordination of government work said Friday. As part of an easing of lockdown measures, hair and nail salons, archaeological sites and parks will reopen from March 22, Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias also said Friday. A nighttime curfew will now begin at 9 p.m. at weekends instead of 7 p.m., the same start time as on weekdays, he said. The move is effective March 20. All other lockdown measures are extended until March 29.
Ireland Resumes Astra Shots (1:52 p.m. NY)
Irish authorities gave the all clear to resume using the AstraZeneca vaccine, five days after suspending its use. There have been no reports of serious clotting events out of 117,000 doses given in Ireland, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn said in an emailed statement. Authorities now recommend the AstraZeneca shot for all people age 18 and older. Previously it wasnt used for anyone over age 70.
Idaho House Recesses for Outbreak (1:24 p.m. NY)
The Idaho House of Representatives will go into to recess until April 6 after five members – four Republicans and one Democrat – tested positive for Covid-19, the Associated Press reported. The Republican-led House has been advancing a bill that would ban local governments from requiring masks, AP reported. There is no statewide mask mandate in Idaho.
Amid a recent spike in cases, Idaho has the U.S.s third highest positive test rate, CDC data show.
Vaccines Dont Raise Clot Risk: WHO (12:16 p.m. NY)
Available data dont suggest any overall increase in clotting following the administration of Covid inoculations, a World Health Organization expert group said Friday. Reports of blood clots after vaccinations are in line with the expected number of diagnoses of such conditions.
The group reiterated that the AstraZeneca shots benefits outweigh its risks.
N.J. Cases Tick Up (11:48 a.m. NY)
New Jerseys positive test rate is climbing, with a 7.5% average over seven days — the second highest nationally — just as the state raises indoor capacity limits and relaxes other rules. The state recorded 287 cases per 100,000, exceeding New Yorks rate of 243, according to March 17 data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Starting today, Governor Phil Murphy lifted the indoor crowd cap to 50% for restaurants, spas, gyms and other businesses. He also lifted a ban, in effect since last year, on interstate outdoor sports competitions. But at a Wednesday virus update, Murphy warned that if he saw knucklehead behavior he would shut down anyone crossing the line and putting the health and safety of their patrons and communities at risk.
New Jersey on Thursday reported 3,830 cases, the highest since Jan. 30, according to state health department data. State officials have attributed the rise to the arrival of more virulent strains.
Detroit Suffers in Michigan Surge (11:38 a.m NY)
Michigans resurgent outbreak, possibly stoked by a virus variant first detected in the U.K., is turning Detroit into a national Covid-19 hot spot.
Cases in Detroit increased 63% during the week ended Tuesday and hospital admissions for Covid rose by 32% last week, according to CDC data. Both increases led major U.S. metro areas with comparable data series. Cases in Flint increased 61%.
Michigan is second only to Florida in the number of cases attributed to virus mutations, most of which involve the U.K. variant. Michigan is lowering its vaccine eligibility age to 50 on Monday.
CDC Relaxes Rules on Schools (11:14 a.m. NY)
Schools can allow social distancing of
three feet, rather than six currently, between students in classrooms, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday in what is expected to be a boost to reopening of schools nationwide.
The CDCs long-awaited guidance on how schools can safely reopen comes after lawmakers and parents have become increasingly concerned about returning to in-person education to help with childrens learning and social development after some students have had virtual classes for a year or more.
Ukraine Capital to Lock Down (10:44 a.m. NY)
Ukraines capital Kyiv will tighten restrictions for three weeks starting Saturday after a jump in new coronavirus cases. Theaters, cinemas, museums and non-essential shops will be closed; restaurants will be open only for takeaway; schools will switch to online learning after spring break. More than 3,450 people are in hospitals with Covid-19, occupying 74% of available beds in the city. Hospitalization rates doubled since January.
Florida Lowers Age Limit for Vaccinations (9:29 a.m. NY)
Florida will expand vaccine eligibility by 10 years to people aged 50 and over starting on Monday. The state is nearing 70% of seniors vaccinated with a high-water mark in the state of about 75%, Governor Ron DeSantis said on Friday in Tallahassee.
He said he expected demand to be less among younger age groups. That is consistent with the findings in national surveys, including the Feb. 15-23 survey for the KFF Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor.
Sweden Investigating Two Deaths (8:18 a.m. NY)
The Swedish Medical Products Agency is
investigating the deaths of two people who recently received the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, Radio Sweden reported.
A woman in her 60s died at a hospital in Lund in late February, while a man, also in his 60s, died two weeks after being vaccinated, according to the article. Both had received the Astra shot.
Baylor College of Medicine Dean Peter Hotez explains the dangers linked to what he calls European nations abysmal handling of AstraZeneca Plcs vaccine. He also comments on virus variants and the challenge of inoculating the developing world during an interview on Bloomberg Surveillance. (
Scandinavia Stays Cautious on Astra Shot (4:05 p.m. HK)
The European Medicines Agencys assertion that AstraZenecas vaccine is safe and effective
fell flat in Scandinavia, where countries are keeping the company on hold until local authorities complete their own reviews.
Sweden, Denmark and Norway put out statements shortly after the EMAs reassurances were made public late on Thursday. All three said they expect to make a decision next week, pending the outcome of national reviews of Astras vaccine.
EU Seeks to Reset Vaccine Campaign (3:25 p.m. HK)
The European Union has a chance to put its Covid-19 inoculation push
back on track after a chaotic week of vaccine suspensions, health scares and export-ban threats that sacrificed precious time.
Armed with an all-clear for AstraZenecas vaccine from EU regulators, leaders must get a grip on a vaccine drive thats lagging behind the U.S. and the U.K. and potentially delaying an economic recovery. The rising pace of cases and a renewed four-week lockdown in parts of France underscore the urgency of the threat.
WATCH: European regulators say the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe, but will people still take it?
With assistance by Ian Fisher, Stephen Treloar, Ian Wishart, Suzi Ring, Marthe Fourcade, Lars Erik Taraldsen, Paul Tugwell, Anton Wilen, Vincent Del Giudice, Daryna Krasnolutska, Elise Young, Corinne Gretler, Jeanette Rodrigues, Peter Flanagan, Alex Vasquez, and Rachel Gamarski
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