More than 6 million coronavirus vaccine doses were reported administered Saturday-Sunday 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 the adult population – has received at least one dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And more vaccines could be on the way – 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.
“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, executive vice president of BioPharmaceuticals R&D.
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.
Also in the news:
►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: 123.2 million cases and 2.71 million deaths. More than 156.7 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 124.4 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.
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Funeral homes knew something was wrong before COVID-19 became a crisis
Funeral home operators knew as early as January 2020, before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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, who is 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.
Kamala Harris visiting Florida to promote stimulus package
Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Jacksonville, Florida, on Monday to tout the administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus plan.
It will be her first visit since crisscrossing Florida last fall during the presidential campaign. Details of next week’s visit were not yet revealed. But Harris’ stop in the Sunshine State is part of the administration’s “Help is Here” tour to highlight what it says are the benefits of the American Rescue Plan that President Joe Biden signed into law on March 11.
The Democratic National Committee on Monday unveiled billboards in Miami and Tampa to remind voters that Florida’s two U.S. senators, Republicans Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, opposed the measure.
– Antonio Fins, Palm Beach Post
Sen. Rand Paul dismissive of Fauci’s mask messages
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday continued his clash with Dr. Anthony Fauci over whether vaccinated Americans should continue to wear masks. “Sorry Dr Fauci and other fearmongers, new study shows vaccines and naturally acquired immunity DO effectively neutralize COVID variants,” Paul tweeted. “Good news for everyone but bureaucrats and petty tyrants!”
The GOP senator and Fauci tangled at a Senate hearing last week, with Paul dismissing as “theater” Fauci’s claims that vaccinated Americans should continue to wear masks. Fauci cited questions over the impact of virus variants on vaccines. Fauci pressed his case Friday, saying on “CBS This Morning” on Friday that Paul’s claim that mask wearing was unnecessary was “dead wrong”.
Miami Beach declares state of emergency because of spring breakers
Miami Beach’s entertainment district will remain in a state of emergency because an influx of spring breakers has inundated the city. A curfew went into effect at 8 p.m. Saturday and will last at least until the same time Tuesday, Miami Beach Interim City Manager Raul Aguila said. All restaurants, bars, and businesses are required to be closed by 8 p.m.
“At the peak of spring break, we are quite simply overwhelmed in the entertainment district,” Aguila said. “Folks, this is not an easy decision to make. We are doing that to protect the public health and safety.”
Pressure grows for White House to issue reopening guidelines for borders
On the anniversary of the United States’ closing of its borders to its neighbors to the north and south, lawmakers and families across the country separated by the border continue to languish with no clear end in sight. “This has been a year of struggle for binational families,” said Devon Weber, founder of Let Us Reunite, a campaign of 2,200 families lobbying the U.S. government for greater travel exemptions for communities separated by the border shutdowns.
“Your life is in limbo and it’s extremely frustrating. Heartbreaking is the word that comes to mind,” Weber said of the situation affecting families on both sides of the border. Each month during the pandemic, border restrictions have been reauthorized with no clear end.
– Matthew Brown
Schools testing for virus to allow in-person class: ‘It’s worth it’
As part of the push under President Joe Biden to reopen schools, the administration announced last week that it would make $10 billion available for K-12 schools to expand coronavirus screening of staff and students. Quick, rapid antigen tests that offer results in 15 minutes, like the ones used at McSwain Union Elementary School in Northern California, are likely to be adopted more broadly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week released new recommendations in tandem with Biden’s school-testing initiative. Biden administration officials say more details are coming, but the lack of national coordination so far has states and districts charting their own paths.
Schools that already set up testing regimes adopted different practices. Medical technology companies have raced to meet their needs with testing products and services. Health experts are split on what tests are best. And some staff and students’ families have balked at testing.
Public health experts are optimistic widespread vaccination will drive case counts lower, but testing remains critical to track new cases and variants that might make the virus more contagious or deadly.
“It’s something that would have made a world of difference months ago,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “And it will make a world of difference if we can do it today.”
– Erin Richards, Ken Alltucker
Telemedicine’s boom may not end with pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has changed many aspects of the American health care system, but nothing changed quite as drastically as the rise of telemedicine. While virtual care existed before COVID-19, the practice boomed after state-mandated stay-at-home orders and has since remained strong.
Prior to the pandemic, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts received about 200 telehealth claims per day. That number reached up to 40,0000 claims per day from April to May 2020, and the insurer is still receiving about 30,000 claims per day almost a year later, according to spokesperson Amy McHugh. Athenahealth, a health tech company, released an interactive dashboard that delivered insights on telehealth trends from 18.4 million virtual appointments by 60,000 providers.
“The pandemic has necessitated a new era in medicine in which telehealth appointments are a core aspect of the patient-provider relationship,” said Jessica Sweeney-Platt, the company’s vice president of research and editorial strategy.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
Contributing: Morgan Hines and Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; The Associated Press