President Joe Biden said Monday that 90% of American adults will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines by April 19, and vaccination sites would be within five miles of an individual’s home.
Biden’s new timeline beats his previous May 1 goal for nationwide eligibility by nearly two weeks. The remaining 10% of the population would be eligible by that time, he said.
“More vaccines, more sites, more vaccinators, all designed to speed our critical work,” said Biden, who also announced that the federal government would distribute a record 33 million vaccine doses this week.
The president’s remarks came hours after a top public health official described a “recurring feeling I have of impending doom” as infections once again are on the rise in a country that leads the world with more than 30 million coronavirus cases.
The Biden administration is racing against the spread of virus variants that may fuel another surge in cases, especially with states loosening restrictions that helped limit transmission but also hurt the economy.
Biden urged governors who have lifted mask mandates to reinstate them, and he warned Americans that the battle against the virus is not over and could actually reverse course, so they need to remain vigilant and adhere to safety measures.
“If we let our guard down now,” he said, “we could see a virus getting worse, not better.”
Earlier Monday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a White House briefing that daily infections are up 10% from a week ago. Hospitalizations are once again on the rise, she said, and deaths, a lagging indicator, averaged nearly 1,000 per day last week after four consecutive days below 850.
Walensky also expressed concern about increasing travel, saying Americans should limit trips to essential occasions, and a general easing in pandemic restrictions across the nation.
“Right now I’m scared,” a shaken Walensky said. “When we see that uptick in cases what we have seen before is that things really have a tendency to surge and to surge big. I just worry that we will see the surges that we saw over the summer and the winter again.”
There was other good news on the vaccine front: The double-shot vaccines sweeping across the nation reduce the risk of infection by 80% after just a single dose two or more weeks after vaccination, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Also in the news:
►The Maryland-based biotech company Novavax has reached a deal with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline and the British government to produce up to 60 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate in the U.K., where it would also be distributed. The Novavax vaccine has not been authorized for public use but has shown promising results in clinical trials.
►Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is quarantining for a second time after being exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. Kemp, who was vaccinated Friday but is not considered immune yet, also had to quarantine in late October.
►Moderna said Monday that it has shipped the 100-millionth dose of its COVID-19 vaccine to the federal government. More than 67 million doses of its vaccine have been administered in the U.S., according to the CDC.
►Australia’s third-largest city, Brisbane, has entered a three-day lockdown after the coronavirus was found spreading in the community.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 30.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 549,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 127.5 million cases and 2.79 million deaths. More than 180.6 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 145.8 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: How this small town of 16,000 near the U.S.-Canada border has given out 50,000 vaccines.
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One shot of Moderna, Pfizer vaccines highly effective
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are highly effective against COVID in a real-life setting even with only one shot, a CDC study finds. The vaccines reduce the risk of infection by 80% from a single dose two or more weeks after vaccination, and 90% following a second dose, according to a CDC study released Monday. The agency looked at the effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines among nearly 4,000 health care personnel, first responders and other essential workers in six states from Dec. 14, 2020, to March 13, 2021.
“This study shows that our national vaccination efforts are working,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. “These findings should offer hope to millions of Americans receiving COVID-19 vaccines each day and to those who will have the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated in the weeks ahead.”
– Adrianna Rodriguez
New York joins list of states expanding eligibility, but some lag in vaccination rate
In announcing expanded vaccine eligibility nationwide Monday, President Joe Biden lauded governors for taking similar steps in their states. New York joined the list with news that all residents 30 and older would be allowed to get vaccinated starting Tuesday, and those 16 and older on April 6.
Ten states are opening eligibility to all adults this week, and overall, 46 states and the District of Columbia have pledged to meet Biden’s initial goal of having all adults eligible by May 1. According to Biden, vaccine distribution will increase to a new high of 33 million this week.
But of the 28 states that have either opened up eligibility to all or will do so in the next two weeks, 17 have below-average adult vaccination rates, according to figures available Sunday from the CDC.
“Where you are in line kind of depends on where you live,” said Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “There does not seem to be a consistent rationale.” Read more here.
Stuck in Mexico: Americans who test positive can’t come home right away
Travelers don’t need a COVID-19 test to fly to Mexico, but they can’t board a flight back to the U.S. from any international destination without showing a negative test taken no more than three days before departure or proof of recovery from COVID. Travelers who have been stuck say they were told they faced 10 to 14 days in isolation.
When the requirement was announced Jan. 12, travelers rushed to cancel plans or shift their vacation plans to U.S. vacation spots that don’t require COVID tests. But the bookings rebounded as some hotels announced free testing and a free quarantine stay if they tested positive.
Korey Mudd’s positive test extended the honeymoon with his wife, Alisha, in Mexico for nine nights longer than planned.
“Ultimately, we had pushed it off so many times already, we decided we were going to go ahead and go for it,” he said. “It would have been better just to stay home.” Read more here.
– Dawn Gilbertson
Florida’s variant cases more than double, CDC report says
Florida, which was already the country’s hardest-hit state for two kinds of coronavirus variants, more than doubled its tally of variants in a report released Sunday by the CDC. Florida had reported 1,075 variant cases through Thursday. Sunday’s report added another 1,255, bringing the state to 2,330.
The U.S. as a whole reported another 2,303 variant cases Sunday, more than double the worst increase ever seen in the thrice-weekly CDC updates. The previous record was set on Tuesday.
That brings the country to 10,985 known coronavirus variants, a tally that more than doubled in the last two weeks as new coronavirus cases overall in the U.S. stopped their extended decline.
Most of the variant cases in Florida and the U.S. overall are of B.1.1.7, which was first seen in the United Kingdom, spreads more easily and may be more likely to kill its victims. But Florida also nearly doubled its case count of P.1, a variant first seen in Brazil, adding another 19 cases to reach 42.
– Mike Stucka
Contributing: The Associated Press