Joe Biden pushes for vaccine eligibility for all adults

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Hours after signing a massive coronavirus relief law, President Joe Biden commemorated the anniversary of the nation’s shutdown during the pandemic Thursday night.

While Biden encouraged the nation to work together and “get vaccinated when it is your turn,” he also made sure to acknowledge the grief and loss of the entire nation, which has suffered around 530,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

Almost one in five Americans – 19% – says they have lost a relative or close friend to the coronavirus. This is the result of a new survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. For Black (30%) and Hispanic (29%) respondents, the numbers were significantly higher, another example of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on minority groups.

“All of this has cost so many of us a terrible cost,” said Biden. “Because we’re basically a people who want to be together … but this virus kept us apart.”

Biden also announced that he will order all states, territories and tribes to enable all adults to register for their vaccines by May 1. A date he said is much earlier than expected.

Also in the news:

► As of April 1, domestic travelers to New York will no longer need to be quarantined, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Thursday, although the state continues to recommend it as an “extra precaution”.

►The US is again reporting fewer than one COVID-19 deaths per minute, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. The US reported fewer than 400,000 new infections in the week leading up to Wednesday, a value that has not been reached since mid-October.

►The European Medicines Agency has approved Johnson & Johnson’s unique COVID-19 vaccine. This means that the 27 states of the European Union will receive a fourth approved vaccine to combat the pandemic, as well as offers from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford.

► New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Friday that the city of Auckland, along with the rest of the country, would have no restrictions other than the constant obligation to wear masks on public transport and airplanes.

📈 Today’s numbers: In the United States, over 29.2 million coronavirus cases and more than 530,700 deaths have been confirmed, according to Johns Hopkins University. The global total: More than 118.5 million cases and 2.62 million deaths. More than 131.1 million vaccine doses have been distributed and 98.2 million administered in the United States, according to the CDC.

📘 What we read: USA TODAY’s panel of experts has different definitions of what ending the pandemic means. But they agree it’s getting closer.

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

According to the company, the Novavax vaccine is 96.4% effective against the original strain

Another COVID-19 vaccine candidate appears to be 96.4% effective against mild, moderate and severe illnesses caused by the original COVID-19 strain in a UK study.

On Thursday, Novavax, a Gaithersburg, Maryland-based biotechnology company, reported in a final analysis of more than 15,000 patients in the UK that the overall effectiveness of the vaccine was 89.7% and slightly decreased due to the B.1.1.7. Tribe first discovered in the country. The company also released results from the smaller South African study that exposed participants to the variant discovered and circulated there, which showed around 55.4% effectiveness in 2,665 participants.

However, in both studies, the vaccine was 100% effective in preventing serious illness and death.

A third study in the US announced that it had recruited its 30,000 planned participants by the end of February, but will not publish the results for a few months.

Record growth for UK variant in USA

The US reported a record increase of 437 cases of coronavirus variants on Thursday since the previous report just two days earlier, a USA TODAY analysis of the CDC data shows. Variant cases are increasing rapidly, even if coronavirus infections have occurred regularly in most of the country.

South Dakota reported its first two cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, first seen in the United Kingdom, leaving Vermont as the only state with no known variant case.

There are now 3,701 cases of variant B.1.1.7 in the US, which are by far the most common in the country. The number has doubled since Feb. 24, with Florida leading the way at 690.

– Mike Stucka

CVS expands the COVID-19 vaccine to 12 more states

A day after Target announced that CVS pharmacies were supplying vaccinations in more than 600 of its stores, the drugstore chain announced that it would continue to increase the number of pharmacies that offer vaccinations and expand access to more states.

CVS said appointments in the “newly activated states” will be available for booking starting Saturday, March 13th.

The new states are: Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah, and Vermont. After previously expanding to New York and Pennsylvania, CVS announced that it will also deliver vaccines in New York City and Philadelphia.

Karen Lynch, president and CEO of CVS Health, said in a statement Thursday that the company is “increasing its number of active businesses and expanding into additional states as soon as possible.” She said the company has the capacity to manage 20 to 25 million shots a month.

CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Kroger, and other major retailers with pharmacies started giving their first doses of COVID-19 vaccine in February as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention manage the program.

– Kelly Tyko

Contributor: The Associated Press