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 5 miles of an individual’s home.
Biden’s new timeline beats his previous goal of nationwide eligibility by May 1 by nearly two weeks.
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 trying to win the race against the spread of virus variants that may propel another surge in cases, especially with states loosening restrictions that helped limit transmission but also hurt the economy. Biden said a record 33 million vaccine doses will be distributed this week.
“More vaccines, more sites, more vaccinators, all designed to speed our critical work,” Biden said.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC director, said at a morning White House COVID-19 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 and a general easing in restrictions across the nation.
“Right now I’m scared,” an emotional 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:
►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.
►San Diego Comic-Con organizers announced on the official website that a “Comic-Con Special Edition” would be held as a three-day in-person event starting the Friday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 26, and continuing to Nov. 28. Last year’s event was canceled because of the pandemic.
►Australia’s third-largest city, Brisbane, will enter a three-day lockdown Monday evening after the coronavirus was found spreading in the community.
►The United Kingdom, which has the most COVID-19 deaths in Europe but has enjoyed more success with its vaccination program, is replacing its stay-at-home mandate with a message to stay local, allowing small outdoor gatherings and sports.
►COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective at protecting pregnant women and likely provide protection for their babies as well, according to a new study.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 30.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 549,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 127.3 million cases and 2.78 million deaths. More than 180.6 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 143.4 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
Why vaccinations are open to all in some states and not others
As a growing number of states have removed eligibility requirements for getting vaccinated, it’s become less clear why some are acting faster than others. Mississippi, which eliminated requirements in mid-March, ranks near the bottom in the share of adult residents who have been vaccinated. In fact, 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