U.S. Exceeds 500,000 Deaths; U.K. Has Opening Plan: Virus Update

A half-million Americans are now dead as a result of the novel coronavirus that first hit U.S. shores just a little more than a year ago, a sad milestone that’s left families mourning nationwide.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared the end of the pandemic is “in sight” for England, as he set out his aim to ease lockdown rules in a series of stages over the next four months.

New findings in the U.K. show that shots provide a high level of protection against infection and illness after a single dose. The U.S. said drugmakers won’t have to perform giant efficacy trials for new vaccines or booster shots developed to combat new variants.

  • Global Tracker: Cases exceed 111.6 million; deaths pass 2.4 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 206 million shots given worldwide
  • U.S. Spotlight: Testing average drops 35% from January peak
  • How the vaccines will change our lives: Podcast
  • Tracking the efficacy of Covid stimulus on the U.S. economy
  • Can a vaccinated person still spread the Coronavirus?: QuickTake

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on cases and deaths.

U.S. Passes Grim Milestone of 500,000 Dead (4:48 p.m. NY)

U.S. deaths passed the 500,000 mark on Monday.

Global deaths related to Covid-19 have surpassed 2.46 million, with the U.S. leading all countries with more than twice the number recorded by the next closest, Brazil, according to Bloomberg’s virus tracker. Hospitalizations and deaths have fallen since peaking in early January as treatments have improved, a rising number of Americans have gotten natural immunity from surviving the virus, and more people are getting shots of vaccines produced by either Moderna Inc. or the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE team.

Moderna Gets Positive Feedback on Dose Shift (3:50 p.m. NY)

Moderna Inc. has received positive feedback from U.S. regulators on a proposal to expand the number of doses of its Covid-19 vaccine in each vial, the company said, a move that could help expand supplies.

In prepared testimony for a Congressional hearing on Tuesday, Moderna said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could allow it to put as many as 15 doses of its Covid-19 shot into each vial. Currently, its vials hold 10 doses.

NYC Movie Theaters to Reopen at 25% (3:10 p.m. NY)

Movie theaters in New York City will be allowed to open starting on March 15, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

Theaters can open at 25% capacity, with no more than 50 people per screening, he said during a virus briefing. Masks must be worn, and assigned seating will be required, Cuomo said. The theaters must be properly ventilated as outlined in state health regulations, he said.

Cinemas have been allowed to operate at limited capacity in other parts of the state.

Connecticut Lowering Vaccine Age to 55 (2:50 p.m. NY)

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said the state will expand vaccine eligibility to people between the ages of 55 to 64 on March 1. Eligibility will expand by age tiers in the following weeks: ages 45 to 54 would be eligible March 22, age 35 to 44 on April 12 and 16 to 34 on May 3.

FDA Outlines Faster Path for Variant Shots (1:20 p.m. NY)

Drugmakers won’t have to perform giant efficacy trials for new vaccines or booster shots developed to combat new variants of the coronavirus, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.

In documents released by the agency Monday, it said a determination of effectiveness for new vaccines against variants should be based on so-called immunogenicity studies, in which researchers give vaccines to people and then conduct lab tests to measure the immune response the vaccine produces in their blood. These tests, similar to what is done for annual flu shots, are far simpler to conduct than the massive efficacy studies needed for clearance of the initial vaccines.

Cuomo Tours Vaccine Megasite in Brooklyn (12:05 p.m. NY)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo touted the state’s largest community-based coronavirus vaccination site at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, which will serve one of the areas hardest hit by the pandemic.

The site will open on Wednesday, and appointments during the first week of operations will be reserved for those living in areas with low vaccination rates, Cuomo said. It’s part of an effort to fight vaccine hesitancy and bring the shots to communities underserved by traditional health-care institutions. The site will administer 3,000 vaccines a day, for a total of 21,000 a week, he said.

U.S. Exceeds 500,000 Deaths; U.K. Has Opening Plan: Virus Update

Puerto Rico Allows Some Schools to Reopen (11:30 a.m. NY)

Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi signed an executive order Monday allowing schools that meet certain criteria to resume in-person classes starting March 1. In a press conference, Pierluisi said schools would have to be certified by the Health Department, guarantee social distancing and operate at no more than 50% capacity in order to reopen. The Education Secretary will announce which of the island’s schools are eligible to reopen Thursday.

CDC Study Finds Covid Spread in Schools (11 a.m. NY)

Covid-19 spread among dozens of students and teachers in a Georgia school district in December and January, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Students sat less than 3 feet (1 meter) apart in classrooms with plastic dividers where greater physical distancing wasn’t possible. Several clusters may have occurred during small group instruction where teachers were close to students. The district required students to wear masks but “specific instances involving lack of or inadequate mask use by students likely contributed to spread,” according to the report.

Johnson Sets Plan for June U.K. Reopening (10:40 a.m. NY)

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to reopen England’s stores and outdoor hospitality from mid-April, as he set out his aim to fully restart the economy from June 21.

In a statement to Parliament, Johnson set out four steps to carefully reopen the country after its lockdown, warning there would need to be at least five weeks between each to judge the impact on infections and deaths.

U.S. Exceeds 500,000 Deaths; U.K. Has Opening Plan: Virus Update

Johnson is already facing pressure to move faster, after the economy endured its worst recession in more than 300 years. Government guidance asking people to work from home where possible will remain in place for another four months, and the request will be examined as part of a review of social-distancing measures.

Vaccines Show Positive Results After 1 Dose (10:35 a.m. NY)

New findings in the U.K., the first country in the western world to roll out Covid-19 vaccines, show the shots provide a high level of protection against infection and illness after a single dose.

Initial data in medical workers show one dose of the Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE vaccine reduces the risk of infection by more than 70% — or 85% after the second dose — according to Public Health England. The findings suggest the shot helps interrupt transmission, yet it’s unclear how much, officials said.

U.S. Exceeds 500,000 Deaths; U.K. Has Opening Plan: Virus Update

WHO Hopeful But Cautious (9:40 a.m. NY)

The last six weeks have seen a “positive decline” in the spread of the virus worldwide, the WHO’s Emergencies Program head Mike Ryan told Ireland’s RTE Radio. Still, he cautioned against reopening after lockdowns too soon. Vaccines appear to protect against severe illness in almost all cases, including from variants, he added, even if it’s not yet clear that they halt transmission.

France’s Nice Braces for Lockdown (9:15 a.m. NY)

Authorities ordered a lockdown on the next two weekends along the coastline of the Alpes-Maritimes region of southeastern France, including the city of Nice, to stem rising infections.

Germany Weighs Spending Boost (7:45 a.m. NY)

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is weighing as much as 50 billion euros ($61 billion) in additional debt spending to fight the impact of the virus. The funding — equivalent to about 1.5% of German gross domestic product — reflects an initial estimate, and it’s still unclear if the money will be needed in the end, according to a people familiar with the discussions.

Merkel aims to develop a plan that will pave the way for a cautious reopening, even as infection rates tick up.

Italy Extends Travel Ban (7:30 a.m. NY)

Italy extended a ban on movement between the country’s 20 regions to March 27, Ansa newswire reported. Mario Draghi’s new government is trying to step up a vaccination campaign to counter the pandemic, while maintaining a system of restrictions based on regional spread of the virus.

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