April 20, 2021

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One-third of US adults have been jabbed; Florida to allow all adults to get vaccinated: Live COVID-19 updates

6 min read

The American coronavirus death toll could have stayed under 300,000 if by last May the nation had adopted firm mask, social distancing, and testing protocols, a University of California, Los Angeles economics professor estimates.

The U.S. death toll exceeds 540,000 and is continuing to rise. Andrew Atkeson projects a final fatality level of around 672,000 before vaccines vanquish the crisis. Without a vaccine, 1.27 million would have died, Atkeson estimated in a report released Thursday at the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity conference.

“Public efforts at disease control can save a lot of lives over the long run by controlling disease while we wait for a vaccine or a cure,” Atkeson told The Brookings Institution. “We have a tremendous opportunity to learn from international experience with COVID on how to do that without tanking the economy.”

The report comes as America’s long stretch of declining daily coronavirus cases appears to be ending – and some states are seeing rapid increases even as one-third of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccination shot.

Also in the news: 

  • AstraZeneca released updated information on its COVID-19 clinical trial Wednesday evening, showing an effectiveness rate of 76% instead of the 79% rate it claimed earlier in the week.
  • Poland reported a record daily number of new coronavirus cases for the second day in a row as the prime minister prepared to give details of harsher restrictions for the Easter period.
  • •German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the European Union’s problems with getting coronavirus vaccines have underscored the need for the bloc to redouble its vaccine production efforts. Merkel acknowledged that the vaccination rollout in Germany has not gone as quickly as hoped.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 30 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 545,200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 124.9 million cases and 2.74 million deaths. More than 169.2 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 130 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: A growing share of Americans would feel safe resuming activities such as dining out or flying within a few weeks of their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, but 25% to 30% would wait until the nation reaches herd immunity, according to a Harris Poll survey for USA TODAY. Read the full story.

USA TODAY is tracking COVID-19 news. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Infection rate again rising: ‘I don’t think you can declare victory’

The U.S. is reporting a seven-day average of about 55,000 new cases per day, up 3% from the previous week, the CDC reports. The country is also reporting about 4,600 new hospitalizations and nearly 1,000 deaths per day. And the U.S. surpassed 30 million coronavirus cases Wednesday afternoon, once again reaching a dubious milestone much faster than any other country. 

“When you’re at that level, I don’t think you can declare victory,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said during the briefing. “We are at the corner. Whether or not we’re going to be turning that corner remains to be seen.”

There are positive signs. About 2.5 million Americans are being vaccinated each day, according to Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for COVID-19 response. And the CDC reported that more than 130 million vaccine shots have been administered, and 18% of the U.S. adult population is completely vaccinated.

Florida joining growing list of state allowing all adults to get vaccinated

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday he will eliminate the age restriction for COVID-19 vaccines as of April 5. And starting Monday, anyone 40 and up can make an appointment for the vaccine. President Joe Biden has instructed states to allow all adults access to vaccines by May 1.

“Florida’s Senior First vaccine strategy is paying off,” DeSantis said in a pre-recorded video announcing the decision. He said more than 3.2 million seniors 65 and older, over 70%, have been vaccinated.

Louisiana announced this week it will provide access to anyone 16 and older who wants to schedule an appointment starting Monday, and Idaho Gov. Brad Little said eligibility will be open to all state residents 16 and up starting April 5.

Jeffrey Schweers, Florida Capital Bureau

Philippine’s Duerte demands probe of vaccine list: ‘Always the favored few’

The Philippines president has ordered at least nine city and town mayors investigated for possible charges after they reportedly jumped ahead of a priority list led by 1.7 million health workers and got injected with COVID-19 vaccine amid a shortage in supply. President Rodrigo Duterte said in a televised meeting Wednesday night with key Cabinet members that aside from the mayors, other well-known people were allowed to jump to the front of the line. 

“We were told by the WHO country representative, `if you do not follow the list of priority, you might lose the assistance of the WHO,’’’ Duterte said. “It wasn’t followed because I heard even the son of an actress got it. It’s always the favored few.”

Billions from relief bill heading to states, health centers for vaccines 

Community health centers will receive more than $6 billion from the federal government to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines, testing and treatment for vulnerable populations, the administration announced Thursday. An additional $3 billion will be distributed to states, territories and some large cities for initiatives intended to increase vaccine access, acceptance and uptake. Another $330 million will go directly to support community health workers.

The funding comes primarily through the recently passed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

Maureen Groppe

34% of US adults have had at least one jab; half the others don’t want it

In the U.S., 34.1% of adults report having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and those who aren’t vaccinated and would get the shot say they are relatively brand agnostic, according to a new survey by Survey Monkey on vaccine hesitancy.

Meanwhile, 66% of people willing to get the shot would be up for the Moderna vaccine, while 70% are willing to get the Pfizer vaccine and 67% are willing to get the J&J vaccine. But just 51% of people still unvaccinated say they would get it if offered to them.

Reports: Gov. Cuomo’s family got priority testing early in pandemic

 In the early months of the pandemic, when COVID-19 tests were scarce, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to make the testing available to those most in need. Turns out that included his family members and other well-connected people close to his administration, according to reports Wednesday night. Both The Washington Post and the Times Union in Albany reported that Cuomo’s office arranged coronavirus testing for his family, including his CNN anchor brother, Chris Cuomo, and other influential people with close Cuomo ties.

The testing was conducted at times at people’s homes and in part by Dr. Eleanor Adams, an epidemiologist who was a special adviser to the state Health Department, the reports said, citing unnamed sources. The Times Union, which first reported the details, said Adams’ trips including going to the Long Island home of Chris Cuomo, who announced in late March 2020 that he was positive for COVID-19 and detailed his battle with the virus nightly on his show – on which the governor often appeared last year.

The governor’s office did not deny the reports but said the state was trying to test as many people as possible.

– Joseph Spector, Democrat and Chronicle

Facebook, Twitter urged to crack down on vaccine hoaxes

A dozen state attorneys general on Wednesday called on Facebook and Twitter to take more aggressive action against conspiracy theories, hoaxes and lies that are undermining public confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines.

“The people and groups spreading falsehoods and misleading Americans about the safety of coronavirus vaccines are threatening the health of our communities, slowing progress in getting our residents protected from the virus, and undermining economic recovery in our states,” the letter from Connecticut Attorney General William Tong and 11 other Democratic state attorneys general said. “We call on you to take immediate steps to fully enforce your companies’ guidelines against vaccine misinformation.”

The letter to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey also cited research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate and Anti-Vax Watch showing that a small number of anti-vaccine accounts are responsible for falsehoods about the safety of the vaccines that have reached more than 59 million on Facebook, Instagram, Google’s YouTube and Twitter.

Jessica Guynn

Data from three new studies show real-world vaccine effectiveness

Data on front-line health care workers in TexasCalifornia and Israel suggest vaccines are effective in preventing coronavirus infections in real-world settings, according to three new studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine Tuesday.

“For those who were fully vaccinated, the infection rate was extremely low,” Fauci said during a briefing Wednesday, calling the studies “a real proof positive of the importance of vaccination.”

  • At the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, only four of more than 8,000 fully vaccinated employees tested positive for COVID-19 as of late January, according to health system officials. “The effect of vaccination on the preservation of our workforce has been dramatic,” hospital officials wrote. 
  • Among health care workers at the University of California, San Diego and the University of California, Los Angeles, the risk of testing positive for COVID-19 after vaccination was about 1%, according to health system officials. 
  • At Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem, officials found vaccinations among health care workers “resulted in a major reduction of new cases of COVID-19 among those who received two doses of the vaccine, even when a surge of the B.1.1.7 variant was noted in up to 80% of cases.” 

Contributing: The Associated Press

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