California plans to drop its tier system and open up the state June 15 if vaccine supply remains steady and coronavirus metrics continue to decline, officials said Tuesday. Everyday activities will be allowed, businesses will open with “common sense” risk-reduction measures,” state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said.
“Our hospitalizations have been steadily decreasing for months,” he said. “We have consistently low and improving metrics.”
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the launch of mobile vaccination teams armed with one-shot, Johnson & Johnson jabs that will target some of the hardest-to-reach New Yorkers. The vans and buses will be equipped with four to six vaccinators each, bringing doses to communities most in need, including neighborhoods identified by the city’s Task Force for Racial Inclusion and Equity as being hardest-hit by the virus and histories of socio-economic disparity.
“We’re doing all we can to get as many shots in arms as possible,” de Blasio said. “We’re going above and beyond to reach every New Yorker … to help our city recover one dose at a time.”
Also in the news:
►President Joe Biden is moving up his deadline to April 19 for states to make all U.S. adults eligible for a coronavirus vaccine, a White House official confirmed to USA TODAY. Biden previously announced that 90% of adults would be eligible by April 19 – and have a vaccination site within five miles.
►New York and Maryland on Tuesday joined the growing list of states allowing anyone over 16 to sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations. Twelve states joined the list Monday.
►New research suggests that protection from the Moderna vaccine lasts at least six months. The report Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine echoes what Pfizer said last week about its vaccine.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 30.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 555,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 132 million cases and 2.8 million deaths. At least 207 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 167 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: People across the country also spoke with USA TODAY about their emotions after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Here are their stories.
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Put down the Lysol, disinfectant probably isn’t needed, CDC says
The run on Lysol and other disinfectants may finally be over. Disinfection to reduce transmission of COVID-19 at home is probably not needed unless someone in your home is sick or if someone who is positive for COVID-19 has been in your home within 24 hours, the CDC says in new guidance. Cleaning with a household cleaner that contains soap or detergent reduces the amount of germs on surfaces and, in most situations, removes most virus particles on surfaces, the guidance says.
“Clean high-touch surfaces regularly (for example, daily) and after you have visitors in your home,” the guidance says.
Researchers identify ‘double mutant’ virus variant in California
At least one case of a COVID-19 variant that contains two worrisome mutations has been documented in California. It’s called a “double mutant” because the spike protein of the virus contains two mutations – one that is found in a variant tied to California and another that is commonly found in a variants tied to South Africa and Brazil, said Dr. Benjamin Pinsky, the medical director of the Clinical Virology Laboratory for Stanford Health Care.
“So far we’ve sequenced one case, and confirmed that indeed it is one of these variants – these ‘double mutant’ variants – that was recently identified out of India,” Pinsky said in an interview with ABC7 News Bay Area.
The effect of combining the two mutations in a single virus variant has not been well documented, but both of the mutations are believed to be more transmissible, Pinsky said. Vaccines, however, are expected to continue to be effective at preventing severe illness.
– Joel Shannon
Americans are now dying of COVID-19 at less than half the pace they were a month ago, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. The 5,453 U.S. deaths from the disease in the week ending Monday is down from 12,263 who died in one week a month earlier – and down from 21,383 in one week just two months ago.
Experts says the U.S. vaccination effort largely aimed at the most vulnerable people is helping curb fatalities. But The news isn’t all good – the United States continues to report high levels of cases. The 452,636 cases reported in the week ending Monday was up 20% from two weeks earlier.
– Mike Stucka
Michigan public health officials say 246 people tested positive for the virus two weeks or more after becoming fully vaccinated – and three have died. Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for state health department, told USA TODAY in an email that the positive tests a very small fraction of 1% of the 1.7 million vaccinated across the state. Two of the three deaths occurred within three weeks of completing the vaccine, she said. All three were 65 or older.
“While the majority of the population develops full immunity within 14 days of completion of their vaccine series, a small proportion appear to take longer to mount a full antibody response,” Sutfin wrote.
Walgreens has been administering the second dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine a week after federal guidelines say it is ideally delivered, but the chain will change its policy to come into line with the government’s recommendations. While the extra time is not feared to be a problem, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked the drugstore chain to follow its guidelines, the New York Times reported. Until now, Walgreens had been administering the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine four weeks after the first, the company confirmed Monday to USA TODAY. Federal guidance is three weeks.
“We have been automatically scheduling patients’ second doses to occur a minimum of 28 days following their first dose to ensure that no dose is administered earlier than the authorized intervals and patients are able to complete the series vaccination,” Walgreens spokesperson Rebekah Pajak said in an email.
The company is improving its scheduling system to allow people beginning this week to set their second dose appointment at the three-week timeframe, Pajak said.
– Nathan Bomey
California now has the lowest coronavirus infection rate in the country – months after the state saw a winter surge that made it the epicenter of the pandemic.
Gov. Gavin Newsom bragged on Twitter about the low infection rate. The Golden State is the only in the country with a rate under 2%, according to data released by Health and Human Services for the last week in March. The state saw a 1.7% positivity rate.
Los Angeles County, similarly, has seen drastic drops in the number of COVID cases after the area – the most populous county in the entire country – became overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases over the winter.
At the start of the pandemic, California was applauded for its quick actions to curb the spread of the virus, but the strict measures quickly became unpopular. The frustration grew over the winter when the state saw a sudden surge in cases. At one point, the state had a nearly 20% positivity rate. The grievances led to more supporters of recall effort against the governor.
1.2 million people have contracted COVID-19 in the state and more than 23,000 people have died.
Contributing: The Associated Press