One out of three Americans fully vaccinated for COVID-19, CDC says

(Reuters) – The United States has fully vaccinated 110,874,920 people for COVID-19 as of Friday morning, accounting for 33.4% of the population, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday.

The country has administered 254,779,333 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country and distributed 327,124,625 doses.

Those figures are up from the 251,973,752 vaccine doses the CDC said had gone into arms by May 6 out of 324,610,185 doses delivered.

The agency said 150,416,559 people had received at least one dose as of Friday.

The CDC tally includes two-dose vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, as well as Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine as of 6:00 a.m. ET on Friday.

A total of 7,808,441 vaccine doses have been administered in long-term care facilities, the agency said.

(Reporting by Dania Nadeem in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

Global COVID-19 death toll more than double official estimates – IHME

(Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic has caused nearly 6.9 million deaths across the world, more than double the number officially recorded, a new analysis from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimated.

Deaths go unreported as most countries only record those that occur in hospitals or of patients with a confirmed infection, the report showed.

The IHME is an independent health research organization that provides comparable measurement of the world’s health problems and has been cited in the past by the White House and its reports are watched closely by public health officials.

The reported COVID-19 mortality is strongly related to the levels of testing in a country, the IHME said.

“If you don’t test very much, you’re most likely to miss COVID deaths,” Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said in a briefing call with journalists.

IHME estimated total COVID-19 deaths by comparing anticipated deaths from all causes based on pre-pandemic trends with the actual number of all deaths caused during the pandemic.

In the United States, the analysis estimated COVID-19 related deaths of more than 905,000. Official figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday estimated 575,491 deaths due to the novel coronavirus.

The CDC did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the report.

The report only includes deaths caused directly by the virus, not deaths caused by the pandemic’s disruption to healthcare systems and communities.

“Many countries have devoted exceptional effort to measuring the pandemic’s toll, but our analysis shows how difficult it is to accurately track a new and rapidly spreading infectious disease,” Murray said.

(Reporting by Dania Nadeem in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

CDC advances plan for resumption of U.S. passenger cruise operations

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has begun a key step for the eventual resumption of U.S. cruise industry operations by issuing new technical instructions.

In October, the CDC issued Conditional Sailing Order for operators, which acted as a guidance for a phased resumption of cruise ship passenger operations.

On Wednesday, it announced two new phases and said operators now have all necessary requirements needed “to start simulated voyages before resuming restricted passenger voyages and apply for a COVID-19 conditional sailing certificate to begin sailing with restricted passenger voyages.”

The CDC said on April 28 it was “committed” to the resumption of cruise industry passenger operations by mid-summer as it issued some clarifications of its earlier order.

The agency also released the COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate application, “the final step before restricted passenger voyages.”

The new guidance includes eligibility and requirements for conducting a trial voyage in preparation for restricted passenger voyages and for CDC cruise ships inspections during simulated and restricted passenger voyages.

Once cruise ships operators receive approved COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate applications, they will be permitted to sail with passengers.

The Cruise Lines International Association, which represents Carnival Corp, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises, said Wednesday it was reviewing the CDC’s latest instructions. The association said last week it was optimistic that CDC “clarifications show positive progression—and, importantly, a demonstrated commitment to constructive dialogue, which is key to restarting cruising.”

The group added “plenty of work remains in order to achieve our mutual goal of responsible resumption from U.S. ports this summer.”

Florida and Alaska have filed a lawsuit seeking to force the CDC to immediately allow the resumption of cruise operations.

The CDC said COVID-19 vaccines “play a critical role in the safe resumption of passenger operations, but not all cruise ship operators have announced plans to mandate passenger vaccinations.”

The agency said it “recommends that all port personnel and travelers (passengers and crew) get a COVID-19 vaccine.”

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

U.S. judge throws out pandemic-related moratorium on evicting renters

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) -A federal judge on Wednesday threw out the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide moratorium on evictions, delivering a setback to Americans hit hard financially by the coronavirus pandemic.

Washington-based U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich said the “plain language” of a federal law called the Public Health Service Act, which governs the response to the spread of communicable diseases such as COVID-19, blocked the CDC’s moratorium.

The moratorium had been scheduled to lapse on June 30.

The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The National Association of Realtors welcomed the judge’s decision, saying a better solution would be to help tenants pay rent, taxes and utility bills.

“With rental assistance secured, the economy strengthening and unemployment rates falling, there is no need to continue a blanket, nationwide eviction ban,” the group said.

Friedrich’s decision, which the government could appeal, provides temporary relief for landlords struggling with delinquent tenants and vacancies.

At least 43 states and Washington, D.C., have imposed their own temporary halts on residential or business evictions, though the protections are far from uniform.

A separate eviction and foreclosure moratorium for federally financed housing from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development expires on June 30.

The CDC moratorium was issued last September, during former President Donald Trump’s administration, and had been extended three times, most recently in March under President Joe Biden’s administration.

It covered renters who expected to earn less than $99,000 a year, or $198,000 for joint filers, or who reported no income, or received stimulus checks. Renters must swear they are doing their best to make partial rent payments, and that evictions would likely leave them homeless or force them into “shared” living quarters.

Landlords and real estate trade groups that challenged the moratorium in court said the CDC lacked the power to impose it, and unlawfully took away their right to deal with delinquent tenants.

Friedrich, a Trump appointee, said there was “no doubt” Congress intended to empower the CDC to combat COVID-19 through a range of measures, such as quarantines, but not a moratorium.

“The court recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic is a serious public health crisis that has presented unprecedented challenges for public health officials and the nation as a whole,” Friedrich wrote. “The pandemic has triggered difficult policy decisions that have had enormous real-world consequences. The nationwide eviction moratorium is one such decision.”

Other courts have been divided over the moratorium, with some also finding the CDC exceeded its authority, though none formally blocked its enforcement.

According to the White House, one in five renters had fallen behind on rent as of January, while the CDC has said more than 4 million adults who are behind feared imminent eviction.

The National Association of Realtors told the Biden administration in January that 40 million Americans had fallen behind on rent, with $70 billion of missed payments by the end of 2020.

(Reporting by Tim Ahmann and David Shepardson in Washington, Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. FDA set to authorize Pfizer COVID-19 shot for ages 12-15 early next week – NYT

(Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is preparing to authorize Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE’s COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents aged between 12 and 15 years by early next week, the New York Times reported on Monday, citing federal officials familiar with the agency’s plans.

An approval is highly anticipated after the drugmakers said in March that the vaccine was found to be safe, effective and produced robust antibody responses in 12- to 15-year-olds in a clinical trial.

Responding to a Reuters request for comment, the FDA said its review of expanding the vaccine’s emergency use authorization is ongoing, but did not provide further details.

The vaccine has already been cleared in the United States for people aged 16 and above.

Pfizer declined to comment on the NYT report.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said earlier in April that the vaccine could be approved by mid-May.

If an approval for the 12-15 year old’s is granted, the CDC’s vaccine advisory panel will likely meet the following day to review the clinical trial data and make recommendations for the vaccine’s use in adolescents, the report added.

A potential approval of the vaccine would boost the country’s immunization drive and help allay fears of parents anxious to protect their children from COVID-19.

Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson are also testing their vaccines in 12- to 18-year old’s, with data from Moderna’s trial expected to come soon.

Pfizer and Moderna have also launched trials in even younger children, aged six months to 11 years old. Both companies have said they hope to be able to vaccinate children under 11 as soon as early 2022.

(Reporting by Trisha Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)

New U.S. COVID cases fall for third week, deaths lowest since July

(Reuters) – New cases of COVID-19 in the United States fell for a third week in a row, dropping 15% last week to 347,000, the lowest weekly total since October, according to a Reuters analysis of state and county data.

Nearly a third of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated as of Sunday, and 44% has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Michigan again led the states in new cases per capita, though new infections fell 26% last week compared with the previous seven days, the Reuters analysis showed. New cases also fell in Colorado and Minnesota, the states with the next highest rates of infection based on population.

Health officials have warned that more contagious variants of the coronavirus are still circulating, such as the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the United Kingdom and partly responsible for the surge in Michigan.

In Oregon, where the B.1.1.7 variant is now the dominant strain, the governor last week placed nearly half the state’s counties in the extreme risk category for COVID-19, banning indoor dining and restricting capacity at other businesses.

Oregon reported a 1.2% rise in new cases last week to about 5,600, double the weekly cases seen in early April.

Nationally, deaths from COVID-19 fell 3% to 4,819 in the week ended May 2, the fewest deaths in a week since July.

The average number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals fell 8%, the first weekly decrease after rising or holding steady for four weeks.

Vaccinations fell for a second week in a row, dropping 12% after falling 14% in the previous week.

(Graphic by Chris Canipe, writing by Lisa Shumaker, editing by Tiffany Wu)

Exclusive: Biden set to ban most travel to U.S. from India to limit COVID-19 spread

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to impose new travel restrictions on India starting Tuesday in light of the COVID-19 epidemic, barring most non-U.S. citizens from entering the United States, a White House official told Reuters.

The new restrictions are on the advice of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are imposed “in light of extraordinarily high COVID-19 case loads and multiple variants circulating in India,” the official said. A formal announcement is expected on Friday and the policy will take effect on Tuesday, May 4 at 12:01 am ET (0401 GMT).

Biden in January issued a similar ban on most non-U.S. citizens entering the country who have recently been in South Africa. He also reimposed an entry ban on nearly all non-U.S. travelers who have been in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland and 26 countries in Europe that allow travel across open borders.

The policy means most non-U.S. citizens who have been in one of those countries – and now India – within the last 14 days are not eligible to travel to the United States. China and Iran are also both covered by the policy.

Second only to the United States in total infections, India has reported more than 300,000 new cases daily for nine days in a row, hitting another global record of 386,452 on Friday.

Total deaths have surpassed 200,000 and cases are nearing 19 million – nearly 8 million since February alone – as virulent new strains have combined with “super-spreader” events such as political rallies and religious festivals.

Medical experts say real numbers may be five to 10 times higher than the official tally.

Other countries have imposed similar travel restrictions on India, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Singapore, while Canada, Hong Kong and New Zealand have suspended all commercial travel with India.

Permanent U.S. residents and family members and some other non-U.S. citizens are permitted to return to the United States under the order.

(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Fully vaccinated people can unmask outdoors in some cases: U.S. CDC

(Reuters) – Fully vaccinated people can safely engage in outdoor activities like walking and hiking without wearing masks but should continue to use face-coverings in public spaces where they are required, U.S. health regulators said on Tuesday.

The updated health advice comes as more than half of all adults in the United States have now received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The release of these new guidelines is a first step at helping fully vaccinated Americans resume activities they had stopped doing because of the pandemic, while being mindful of the potential risk of transmitting the virus to others,” the CDC said.

Wearing face masks has been considered by experts as one of the most effective ways of controlling virus transmission. With most COVID-19 transmission occurring indoors, and vaccinations on the rise, the use of masks outdoors has been under public debate for weeks in the United States as Americans look to enjoy the benefits of being fully vaccinated.

New COVID-19 cases have dropped 16% in the last week as the U.S. surpassed 140 million people having received at least one shot of authorized vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine.

This was the biggest percentage drop in weekly new cases since February, according to a Reuters analysis of state and county data.

SMALL OUTDOOR GATHERINGS

The agency said fully-vaccinated Americans can safely dine outdoors with friends from multiple households at restaurants and attend small outdoor gatherings with a mixture of fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

CDC continues to recommend masking for crowded outdoor events such as parades and sporting events and indoor visits to the hair salon, shopping malls, movie theaters and houses of worship.

The agency classified activities as “red,” “yellow” and “green” based on level of safety for unvaccinated people.

It said unvaccinated people can also walk and run unmasked with household members outdoors safely and attend small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated family and friends.

Data on whether vaccinated people can spread infection to those who did not receive their shots is limited and the CDC warned that people should evaluate risk to friends and family before going out without masks.

This is an update to the CDC’s guidance, which in March said people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can meet without masks indoors in small groups with others who also have been inoculated.

(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Caroline Humer and Bill Berkrot)

U.S. administers 230.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines – CDC

(Reuters) – The United States has administered 230,768,454 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country as of Monday morning, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday.

The figure is up from the 228,661,408 vaccine doses the CDC said had gone into arms by Sunday out of 290,692,005 doses delivered.

The agency said 140,969,663 people had received at least one dose while 95,888,088 people are fully vaccinated as of Monday.

The CDC tally includes two-dose vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, as well as Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine as of 6:00 a.m. ET on Monday.

A total of 7,791,592 vaccine doses have been administered in long-term care facilities, the agency said.

The number of vaccine doses delivered remained at 290,692,005, as of Monday morning as shipments are not always sent on Sundays, according to the CDC.

(Reporting by Trisha Roy in Bengaluru)

J&J stands ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccine in Europe as regulators weigh risks

By Manas Mishra and Carl O’Donnell

(Reuters) -Johnson & Johnson said on Tuesday it stands ready to resume rolling out its COVID-19 vaccine in Europe, where the region’s medical regulator said the benefits of the shot outweigh the risk of very rare, potentially lethal blood clots.

Use of the company’s one-dose vaccine was temporarily halted by U.S. regulators last week after the rare brain blood clots combined with a low blood platelet count were reported in six women, prompting the company to delay its rollout in Europe.

Europe’s health regulator, the European Medicines Agency, on Tuesday recommended adding a warning about blood clots with low blood platelet count to the vaccine’s product label, but said the benefits of the one-dose shot outweigh its risks.

J&J earlier on Tuesday said it was set to resume vaccinations in Europe and was working with European countries to resume ongoing clinical trials for its shot.

“It’s an extremely rare event. We hope by making people aware as well as putting clear diagnostic and therapeutic guidance in place that we can restore the confidence in our vaccine,” said J&J’s Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels.

The United States is also reviewing a handful of potential cases of severe side effects in addition to those that led to the pause.

“The outcome of the vaccine review is important for overall global vaccination efforts, given J&J’s vaccine does not have the extreme cold storage requirements of the mRNA vaccines,” Edward Jones analyst Ashtyn Evans said, referring to vaccines from Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc with partner BioNTech SE.

Meanwhile, J&J is working with U.S. regulators to get clearance for its Baltimore-based vaccine production plant, owned by Emergent BioSolutions Inc, and expects feedback in the coming days. Emergent shut down production at its plant earlier this month after manufacturing errors ruined millions of J&J doses in March.

“We are remediating what we need to remediate. We think that will lend itself to a positive outcome,” said J&J Chief Financial Officer Joseph Wolk during a call to discuss quarterly results. He said J&J “should know more in the next couple of days.”

Nearly 8 million people had received the J&J vaccine in the United States prior to the halt.

J&J said it would fulfill its commitments to ship 200 million doses in Europe and 100 million in the United States.

The company said it recorded $100 million in COVID-19 vaccine sales. J&J has said the vaccine will be available on a not-for-profit basis until the end of the pandemic.

An advisory committee to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to meet on Friday to address the pause after it delayed making any recommendations in a meeting last week and called for more data.

Johnson & Johnson reported first-quarter earnings that exceeded Wall Street expectations and raised its dividend payouts to shareholders.

The company said it expects a big improvement in sales from its medical device business in the second quarter of 2021 compared with a year earlier, when COVID-19 lockdowns took a toll.

J&J slightly raised its full-year adjusted profit forecast and now sees earnings of $9.42 to $9.57 per share, up from its prior view of $9.40 to $9.60 per share.

Total sales rose 7.9% to $22.32 billion, beating estimates of $21.98 billion.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra, Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru and Carl O’Donnell in New York; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Bill Berkrot)