Duke University, already operating under lockdown to combat a rise in coronavirus infections, on Tuesday reported 231 cases from last week, almost as many as the school had the entire fall semester.
“This was the highest number of positive cases reported in a single week,” the school said in a statement. “The individuals who tested positive have been placed in isolation, while those identified as potential contacts have been placed in precautionary quarantine.”
The school issued a “stay in place” order on Saturday, requiring students living in Duke-provided housing to remain in their residence hall room or apartment at all times except for essential activities related to food, health, or safety. Students living off campus are required to stay there except for a few exceptions.
“This (stay-in-place) action is necessary to contain the rapidly escalating number of COVID cases among Duke undergraduates, which is principally driven by students attending recruitment parties for selective living groups,” the university said.
Also in the news:
►Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., is calling on President Joe Biden to declare “National COVID-19 Vaccination Awareness Day” as a one-time federal holiday to promote and encourage vaccination efforts nationwide.
►China has approved a fifth vaccine for emergency use, a three-dose vaccine with one month each between shots. China has been slow in vaccinating its population of 1.4 billion people, with 65 million doses administered. Most went to health care workers, those working at the border or customs, and specific industries.
►A year after Italy became the first country to impose a nationwide lockdown, the country imposed another one on Monday as cases and hospitalizations rise.
►Additional Greek Life chapters at DePaul in Illinois have since been identified as having attended a weekend St. Patrick’s Day party that violated city COVID-19 guidelines, school newspaper The DePaulia wrote Monday.
►More states are allowing all adults to get vaccinated. Mississippi joined Alaska on Tuesday in opening the vaccine eligibility flood gates. And Connecticut is preparing to open to all ages over 16 starting April 5.
►Support is rolling in for a San Antonio man whose Noodle Tree restaurant was vandalized with racist graffiti days after he spoke out against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to rescind a statewide mask mandate.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 29.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 535,600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 120 million cases and 2.65 million deaths. More than 135.8 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and nearly 110 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Vaccine passports should be free, private and secure, the White House has said. But who will be issuing them?
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Moderna begins testing vaccine with kids as young as 6 months
Moderna has given the first COVID-19 vaccine doses to children under 12 years of age, the company announced Tuesday. The Massachusetts-based biotech company intends to recruit 6,750 healthy kids under 12 years old for the trial. “This pediatric study will help us assess the potential safety and immunogenicity of our COVID-19 vaccine candidate in this important younger age population,” said Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna.
The company joins Pfizer and BioNTech in starting trials for children 6 months and older, after data showed the vaccines are effective in older adults.
“If I were part of the FDA I would certainly want to be very convinced about the safety of a vaccine before I approved its use in children,” Dr. Cody Meissner a pediatric infectious disease expert at Tufts Children’s Hospital said in October, when Pfizer started pediatric trials. “The pattern of disease is very different in children, and lumping them in with adults would cause me some discomfort.”
Hagler’s widow: Marvelous Marvin did not die from reaction to vaccine
The widow of Marvelous Marvin Hagler dismissed as “nonsense” Internet rumors that her husband, the former middleweight champion who died over the weekend, died from a reaction to the coronavirus vaccine. The speculation appeared to spread after an Instagram post from fellow former boxer Thomas Hearns, who was one of Hagler’s rivals in the ring. The anti-vaccine contingent ran with the story, prompting Kay Hagler to post her message.
“For sure wasn’t the vaccine that caused his death,” Kay Hagler posted in the Marvelous Marvin Hagler Facebook fan group. “My baby left in peace with his usually smile and now is not the time to talk nonsense.”
– Chris Bumbaca
In pandemic, smallest joys can have biggest impact
The pandemic took so much this past year – more than we are capable of grasping, let alone tallying. It took jobs and experiences, weddings and graduations, safety and certainty. It took the ground below our feet. It took many people we love. But the pandemic gave, too. It granted time, and many people relished it. People found new hobbies, new perspectives, new connections. Some people found themselves. USA TODAY heard from more than a dozen people who said even among the horror and loss, they felt grateful for the pandemic’s unexpected gifts. The smallest joys, they said, had a big impact. Read more here.
– Alia E. Dastagir
Money time: Happy St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day is the day when the green from those latest stimulus payments will actually flow into many savings and checking accounts. There’s been some confusion lately as to when people will have access to their cash via direct deposit after seeing some “pending” action relating to the third stimulus payments on their bank accounts this weekend. Social media buzz heated up as some consumers complained about why the money wasn’t readily available.
“Banks holding stimulus payments so they can collect the overnight interest on the money should be a crime,” wrote @goldietaylor on Twitter, editor-at-large for the Daily Beast. The tweet had 4,875 retweets. NACHA, which oversees direct deposit activity, say doth protest.
“There is no mystery where the money is from the time the first payment file was transmitted on Friday, March 12 to when all recipients will have access to the money on Wednesday — it is still with the government,” Nacha said in a statement.
– Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press
Back to school, 6 feet apart? 3 feet might be good enough, study shows
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is exploring whether children need to be seated 6 feet apart in schools. The 6-feet spacing guideline is “among the biggest challenges” schools face in returning to classrooms, said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
A study published last week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases suggested that, if masks are worn, students can be seated as close as 3 feet apart with no increased risk to them or teachers. Illinois and Massachusetts are among states already allowing 3 feet of distance, and others including Oregon are considering it.
Dan Domenech, executive director of AASA, a national superintendents group, said he expects to see more states and schools move to the 3-feet rule in coming weeks.
“There are districts that have been doing 3 feet for quite some time without experiencing any greater amount of infection,” he said.
Sweden on Tuesday joined a growing number of European nations and suspended use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine citing a link to blood clots the company and other experts say likely are unrelated to the vaccine. Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Denmark are among nations that have put use of the vaccine, a collaboration between the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant and Oxford University. The World Health Organization has urged countries to continue using the vaccine, saying there’s no evidence of a connection to blood clots. The WHO has scheduled a meeting of its safety experts for Tuesday to address the topic.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, told Reuters that data on the vaccine was being reviewed by independent U.S. monitors to determine whether the shot is safe and effective. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration could complete its reviews and issue an emergency use authorization next month if all goes well, he said.
If you get the choice, which COVID-19 vaccine should you choose? For now, experts are clear — the best vaccine is the one about to go into your arm. But as the supply of vaccine expands, it’s possible Americans eventually might find someone asking, “Which vaccine do you want?”
The answer for most people will still be “Whatever’s available.” That said, there are differences that could play a role, though doctors are unanimous all three currently authorized vaccines work extremely well to protect against severe disease, hospitalization and death. Read about the difference here.
As COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues, hesitancy among vulnerable communities, including Hispanic people, is piqued – and history is unearthed.
Throughout the 20th century, about 20,000 women and men were sterilized in California alone under state eugenics policies, according to researchers, including University of Michigan professor Alexandra Minna Stern. The policies targeted patients of state-run asylums or group homes. A disproportionate number were Hispanic.
Angelina Zayas, a pastor at Grace and Peace Community Church that serves Chicago’s majority-Hispanic Belmont Cragin enclave, says many Puerto Rican women in her community are afraid to take the COVID-19 vaccine, citing memories of the sterilizations and experiments.
“The biggest one is fear,” said Zayas, who is Puerto Rican herself. “That’s something that they remember, which affects their judgment in getting the vaccination. They’re like, ‘Well, how can I trust?'” Read more here.
– Nada Hassanein
Vaccine passports should be a thing. But who will issue them?
The federal government shouldn’t be involved in verifying that people have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the White House says, but whatever process is developed should be free, private and secure.
As more people are vaccinated, both here and around the world, it will likely become more important to provide proof of vaccination – to get on a plane or a cruise ship, hold certain jobs, or even enjoy a night out. Israel already has a “green card” to prove people have been vaccinated.
While Americans need a way to reliably demonstrate that they’ve been vaccinated, the government shouldn’t be the one issuing such a certification, said Andy Slavitt, White House Senior Advisor for COVID-19 Response.
“It’s not the role of the government to hold that data,” Slavitt said.
– Elizabeth Weise and Karen Weintraub
Winter storm interrupts vaccinations in Colorado, Wyoming
After a “crippling” winter storm dumped up to 4 feet of snow in the Rocky Mountains — closing roads and canceling flights — the storm raced into the Midwest and sparked thunderstorms in the South. The result? Interference with COVID-19 vaccines, officials said.
Federal officials shut down vaccine shipments to the region as the storm neared so the vials packed in dry ice wouldn’t spoil during mail delays, Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti said. The storm also was keeping many people from getting to vaccine locations, Deti noted.
“We think they’ll be at least a couple of days,” Deti said. “Nobody is quite sure when things will be cleared and reopened.”
Contributing: The Associated Press